Just like last week’s episode, this week a hitherto unexplored pairing of main characters are motivated by scanner-confusing plot contrivance particles to beam down to a planet, and the teaser ends with the landing party facing an unhappy colonist’s weapon (which gets lowered almost as soon as the opening title sequence ends).
Protector Colyus explains that nothing much happens here in Grover’s Corners (no I mean River City, no I mean Mayberry, no I mean Yerida II), except that a few months ago people started disappearing. The elder Ruigan explains his daughter was the last to disappear, just a few hours ago. His little granddaughter Teya is wary of Odo, insisting her mother will return.
Odo bonds with the child, candidly answering her innocent questions that touch on his own isolation and loneliness. A big plot point happens when Tara disobeys an order because she simply cannot wait to scamper down a hill in order to hand Odo a flower.
The same young actress played the equally adorable Clara in TNG s5e22 “Imaginary Friend.” If her performance as Taya is a bit twee, there’s actually a good in-world explanation.
Odo and Dax convince Colyus that their investigation shows that everything the villagers know is being shaped by the device in the center town square. It needs to be switched off for maintenance.
Odo’s debate with Rurigan about how to proceed seems a bit out of place. Rurigan’s side of the conversation drops more backstory about The Dominion, and offers some bleak defeatism that, according to the script, prompts Odo to buck him up. In his spirited defense of illusion, Odo comes pretty close to being a mouthpiece for fandom. The optimism would have been more natural coming from Dax, but she’s just along for the ride — this episode is an Odo story.
The B plot back features Kira warning Quark not to start shenanigans while Odo is off the station, and then finding herself spending a lot of quality time with Vedek Bareil. In a C plot, Jake starts an apprenticeship with Chief O’Brien, and the two discuss differences between their own life goals and that of their respective fathers.
When I first saw this episode almost 30 years ago, I remember being amused by the final transformation effect; but this time around, because I was anticipating it, I could easily see how the shadows don’t line up. Still, it remains good enough to tell the story.