Rivals (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 11) A charming entrepreneur opens a casino to rival Quark’s

Rewatching ST:DS9

A man in a fancy suit charms a wealthy widow at Quark’s, as she reveals her secret investment plans. Just when Martus asks about a partnership, Odo apprehends him for a previous con.

O’Brien, in schlubby workout clothes, trundles into an angular, futuristic racquetball court and is crestfallen to find Bashir already there, doing fancy warmup exercises in a spiffy outfit. The good doctor cheerfully brags about being captain of his team in med school.

In a jail cell with Martus is an ill-looking humanoid with a blinking sphere that he plays with (it keeps making an alien kind of sad trombones sound to indicate “losing”) as he tells a sob story. Martus tries to ignore him, but when the gambling device pays a “winning” sound effect, and the alien dies peacefully, Martus pockets the macguffin.

OBrien vents to Keiko about his own bad luck and Bashir’s smarm. The good doctor laments to Dax that he feels bad because he respects O’Brien so much, but the chief was red-faced and furious and demanded a rematch.

After Odo frees Martus he considers selling the device to Quark, but when Quark shows too much interest in it, Martus hangs onto it.

Martus is lucky enough to find a second widow closing up her shop, and romances her into letting him opening up a casino to rival Quark’s. He even makes Rom a partner for 25% of the profits. When the first widow returns, Martus offers to fund her astroid-mining venture, on the promise of a 10x return in investment.

During a rematch, O’Brien snaps at Bashir for going easy on him. Soon, he is unconscious on the floor, having slipped on a ball. He’s quite crabby, and Bashir politely, sadly, tells him he’d rather not play again.

Dax is happily surprised that the computer found a file she was hunting for weeks ago, but Kira loses an evaluation report she’s been working on for weeks. When word arrives in Ops that the infirmary is filling up with an unusual number of people tripping, Kira dismisses the idea of luck, walks out of frame, and we hear a thud and an “Ow!”

At Club Martus, everyone in the crowded game floor, playing larger versions of the glowing gaming sphere, wins the jackpot at the same time. Martus has to pay everyone off. 

A little later, O’Brien and Bashir both walk into Quark’s, each having gotten an emergency call. They’re surprised when Quark announces he’s arranged a charity rematch, with half the proceeds going to Bajoran orphans. 

Dax loses the file she found, and we’re meant to notice that everyone else’s luck is changing. Sisko asks Dax to look into it.

Martus snaps at Rom; the second widow Martus had been charming finds him flirting with a waitress and throws him out; and Martus hands over all his remaining profits to the first widow. (The macguffin’s “sad alien trombones” effect informs us that this was a mistake.)

In a charming “suiting up for battle” scene, O’Brien is shirtless staring into the mirror in all his pasty-white dad-bod glory. Keiko hands him his gear, and he suits up with his game face on. Keiko assures him that win or lose, tonight there will be marital canoodling. He starts to march off.

Keiko: Miles, wait. A silk handkerchief, medieval Japanese design, scented with my perfume. (She leans in close, wrapping it around his head. They share a long kiss.) Kick his butt!

Quark tries to give Bashir a sleeping potion, and then tries to talk him into throwing the match. (Bashir declines.)

Through her observations of plot contrivance particles, Dax observes that something strange is happening to the laws of probability, but reports to Sisko that it’s too early in the episode for her to be able to say any more than that. (Or words to that effect.)

Martus worries that the first widow is late for a business appointment, and snaps at Rom, who quits in a huff.

The crowd at Quark’s is watching the grudge match on a big video screen. O’Brien is mopping the floor with Bashir, but instead of just enjoying it, the chief cuts the transmission to tell the doctor something’s wrong… he’s playing better than he’s ever played in his life. In fact, the ball comes flying back into his hand no matter where he throws it.

Dax connects the situation to her plot contrivance particles. Her tricorder leads her to Club Martus, and Sisko concludes the problem is being caused by the tabletop gambling devices.

It’s a silly low-stakes episode, which reminds me of the “cursed necklace” Hawaii episodes of The Brady Bunch. There’s no attempt to explain why the devices affect people’s luck, and all it takes to restore normalcy is phasering the macguffins out of existence. But the character development and world-building (Martus is an El-Aurian, the same race of “listeners” as Guinan) are enjoyable throughout, and the resolution of the Martus story delivers a few more satisfying twists.