Quark receives a Bajoran earring that gets Kira pumped (for reasons we don’t know just yet).
Jake has successfully asked a Bajoran girl out on a date. “I can see you’re not ready to have this conversation yet,” Jake tells his nervous dad.
Kira asks Sisko to borrow a runabout, and only reluctantly tells him why. The earring belongs to the legendary resistance leader Li Nalas (that we’ve never heard of before), and she wants to rescue him from a Cardassian prison.
In a remote area of the station, O’Brien finds graffiti that Sisko identifies as referencing The Circle, an extremist xenophobic faction.
After an infodump session with Dax, Sisko agrees to loan the runabout to Kira, sending O’Brien to join her. Between O’Brien’s technobabble and Kira’s street smarts, the mission goes surprisingly well, and in the aftermath a supercilious Gul Dukat is shocked — shocked — to hear about these illegally detained prisoners of war. He even grandly frees the prisoners Kira and O’Brien weren’t able to rescue.
Li is impatient with the star-struck Bashir, who wants to talk to him about his heroic battles. Minister Jaro arrives from Bajor to scold Kira for risking war with Cardassia, though on a personal level he thanks Kira for bringing a war hero home.
Li is uncomfortable with the adoring crowds, but Jaro uses the occasion to inspire the Bajorans.
The B plot seamlessly develops the tensions introduced in the season 1 finale, and along the way jams in some character moments between Dax and Kira, Quark and Nog, and Jake and Sisko. The action sequences give O’Brien the chance to be quietly brave (it’s implied he volunteered for this risky mission), and Bashir’s over-eager love of adventure helps set up the next plot twist: a random alien freighter captain discovers a stowaway… it’s Li Nalas, trying to outrun his reputation.
Li gives one of the longest monologues I remember in Star Trek, in which he reveals himself as an unremarkable grunt who shot an unarmed Cardassian who was bathing in a river. This Cardassian happened to be a notorious Gul, and the desperate Bajoran resistance turned the story of Li’s chance encounter into an inspiring act of savage brilliance.
Sisko talks Li into accepting his role as a living legend. In the final scene, we see Li settling into his new role, and it’s a satisfying character arc, but the story isn’t over.
In the tag, we get the surprise news that Li will be taking Kira’s job.
“To Be Continued“