A damaged shuttle brings three Cardassian civilians to the station. Natima is a professor who wants no trouble with the Bajorans and hopes she and her two students can be on their way quickly.
When Quark sees Natima on the promenade, his face lights up. The smack she gives him, and his elated reaction, hint at their very Casablanca-esque past.
We soon learn Natima’s shuttle wasn’t damaged in a meteor storm, it was fired on. She describes herself as a professor of politics. The student with the intense “Kubrick forward stare” is a nice touch, which helped keep me guessing about exactly what Natima was teaching. To the Cardassian military leaders, she’s a threat. Fearing for her life and the lives of her students, naturally she took them for a stroll on the promenade, instead of simply staying on their ship — because how else could the script contrive her chance meeting with Quark, and to have her presence noted by Garak? It’s no surprise that the Cardassian Central Command gets involved.
This episode actually features Odo reading a Mickey Spillane detective novel, so at first I was amused at the melodramatic dialogue.
Natima: I said I didn’t drink these anymore.
Quark: Because they remind you of me.
But once it dawned on me that the script was really casting Quark in the role of a noir hero, I watched the apparently sincerely intended Quark/Natima scenes with disbelief. I think the script could have done something with the idea that Natima was manipulating Quark for the sake of her political movement, so that Quark is a pathetic sad-sack because he fell for her, but the story asks us to accept the notion that they mutually, sincerely love each other.
Of course we know Natima has to be on that shuttle, but I kept expecting one or the other, or both, would reveal they were role-playing as part of a setup, which would justify the stylized acting and cheesy dialog.
The relationship between Odo and Quark develops nicely, as the ambition of a young Cardassian officer, Odo’s interest in black-market cloaking macguffin, and Garak’s unclear allegiances drive the plot in surprising directions.
I liked everything about this episode except the Quark/Natima romance, which is a cringeworthy misfire.