Picking up where s2e2 “The Circle” left off, as a coup threatens to topple the Bajoran provisional government, Sisko invites his staff to remain on the station despite the Federation’s evacuation orders.
Jake is distressed to learn that he and Nog are booked on different ships, heading in different directions. Nog insists their friendship will endure.
Keiko is angry that O’Brien is not leaving with his family, but staying with Sisko. (“He needs me.” “We don’t?”)
Kira wants to confront the Chamber of Ministers with evidence that the Cardassians are backing the coup, but Sisko can’t give her a runabout. Li suggests trying some old raiders mothballed in a lunar cave ten years ago.
Quark assures Rom he can make a fortune brokering seats for the hundreds of passengers that won’t all fit into the station’s three runabouts, and causes a panic because he “might have overbooked slightly.” Odo is disgusted, but still manages to spit out “I’ll miss you Quark,” to which Quark responds with a sincere, “Take care of yourself.”
Li encourages many Bajorans in the crowd to remain on the station, which leaves enough room on the runabouts for the non-Bajorans to escape. We learn that Rom has used Quark’s ticket to escape with a dabo girl, stranding Quark on the station. (And this is the moment that I realize the writers have finally figured out what to do with Rom, making him Quark’s foil rather than a thug or whipping boy.)
Leading the Bajoran assault team, General Krim is surprised to find no resistance from the Federation, and reigns in Colonel Day’s gung-ho eagerness to declare victory — as Sisko watches Die-Hardily through a grate. Jaro reminds Krim to capture Li Nalas alive, and promises Winn he will make her the next Kai (spiritual leader).
Dax and Kira find an old raider in a cave (again with the caves!) and head for Bajor with the crucial evidence. Dax is fussy and by-the-book, while Kira is thrilled to be the underdog, taking on two better-equipped craft in an old-school dogfight.
On my rewatch I note that we spend a lot of time looking backwards at the inside of the cockpit while a moving light gives the budget-friendly impression of motion. The banter between Kira and Dax during the action sequences is just delightful, so it doesn’t feel like we’re missing anything when they talk about and react to special effects an early 90s TV budget could only suggest.
Sisko, O’Brien and Bashir are also in good spirits, chatting about combat rations. Bashir captures a squad by hiding some of his team in barrels, Odo makes himself into a tripwire, Sisko traps another squad in a holosuite, and if only someone got dunked in a lake or got a pie in the face I’d say it was less like Die Hard and more like a low-budget summer camp movie. But the point is that Sisko is stalling, because he’s confident the coup will fall apart if Kira can deliver the evidence. In fact, Sisko’s master plan is to use the the supposed war hero Li to convince General Krim (who doesn’t know about Jaro’s ties to the Cardassians) to switch sides.
After Kira and Dax crash land, Kira passes out and wakes up in Bareil’s monastery, where he and Dax have already cooked up a plan to sneak into the Chamber of Minsters.
Is Winn really shocked to learn that the Cardassians were backing the coup? Or is she just really good at seeing which way the wind blows? (I confess I was listening to this part of the episode while driving, but it sounded to me like we’re supposed to accept that she really was taken aback by Jaro’s collusion.)
At any rate, General Krim honorably returns the station to Sisko. (“Well fought, sir.”) But there’s still time for a plot twist. (Remember the gung-ho second-in-command?)
After the pew-pew, Kira grumps at the bar wishing she could find more heroes like Li — unwilling to see herself as the very hero her people need. O’Brien starts to suggest that Kira might have inflated Li’s military genius, but Sisko cuts him off, saying he agrees with the heroic version of Li that will continue to inspire the Bajoran people.