In a vision, Vedek Bareil exits the shrine on DS9 and sees a hanging monk and a sporty Kira. According to Kira, the hanging man is Bareil himself.
After the opening credits, a shirtless Bareil looks pensively out the window in DS9. He’s in Kira’s quarters, and their relationship has obviously advanced since we last saw them together. The two discuss how they will make time for each other in the likely event he is elected Kai.
On the promenade, we see Kai Winn telling smiling Bajoran children, “Honor the prophets, and they will always love you.” With cool charm, Bariel opines that the prophets’ love is unconditional. As they discuss the upcoming election, Kira gets snarky, and Winn ramps up the smarm, but Bariel remains completely cool.
An angry crowd forms around an old Bajoran man whom Kira identifies as “Secretary Kubus.” Odo recognizes and arrests him.
Bareil has another vision featuring Vedek Winn, Kai Opaka and Prylar Bek (the hanging monk); Bareil ends up holding a noose.
In a holding cell, Kubus defends himself, saying that if not for his actions the Cardassian occupation would have been even worse. He was exiled with other collaborators, but simply wants to come home before he dies. As the ranking Bajoran on the station, Kira says no.
Winn obliquely suggests that she will not oppose Bajor’s petition to join the Federation if Sisko will meet with her in the Vedek assembly “to celebrate our new friendship.” Sisko plays the game well; he’ll happily accept her invitation to address the assembly, but only after the election, since he doesn’t want to appear to be endorsing anyone and thereby influencing a Bajoran internal matter.
When Kira learns that Winn is trying to take Kubus off the station, she trades notes with Odo, and an infodump commences. Prylar (the monk from Bareil’s vision) confessed to giving the Cardassians the location of a resistance group that included Kai Opaka’s own son, who was killed in the resulting ambush. Because Winn is now sponsoring Kubus the collaborator’s return to Bajor, Kira is more than curious.
Winn reports Kubus has named Bareil as the perpetrator of that crime. Even though Kira is confident the word of a convicted collaborator won’t be enough to make the charge stick, she allows herself to be manipulated into investigating the incident, in return for Winn’s promise not to make the charges public until Kira has her chance to prove Bareil innocent.
They seem to be on the same side, but as a parting shot Kai sweetly warns Kira “never to speak to me with such disrespect again.”
Bareil assures Kira he had nothing to do with the massacre, but declines to share what Prylar said in confidence.
A self-absorbed Kira admits to Odo that she loves Bareil. She’s clueless about Odo’s brief kerflufflation, but he soon recovers and is all business.
It’s payday in the casino; Quark tries to shortchange a dabo girl — but he picks up and holds in his hand the exact number of latinum strips he shortchanged her. (When I played Pseudolous in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in college, I had to do exactly this same bit of business, shortchanging another character and then counting coins as I made up the difference — but my coins were much smaller and easier to conceal in my palm.)
At Odo and Kira’s urging, Quark reluctantly agrees to hack into sealed records of the Vedek Assembly and reports that a file they were seeking has been erased. O’Brien does his digital forensic magic to identify whoever erased the files. A TV-friendly database search starts with a partial retinal scan and then zooms out to reveal the identity of the owner of the retina — it’s Vedek Bareil.
Beriel has yet another vision, this time of himself as Kai. A vision of Prylar berates him. Bareil’s chest is embraced by gentle arms, but the arms don’t belong to Kira — surprise, they belong to Winn. Still in the vision, Kira stabs Bareil, who falls into the arms of Kai Opaka, who invokes the Prophets for his comfort.
The vision ends, and the real Kira confronts Bareil with what he knew she would learn. Bareil says “The truth is not always easy to recognize,” and affirms the morality of what Kira came to accuse him of doing — giving the Cardassians the location of the resistance cell they were hunting, and causing the death of Opaka’s son, in order to save thousands of civilians who would have been killed by the Cardassians trying to wipe out their target.
A radiant Winn, without a trace of gloating or smirking, reports that Bareil has withdrawn from the election, and professes empathy for how difficult the news must be for Kira to hear.
Convinced that Bareil is too honorable to have betrayed the resistance and then covered it up his guilt, Kira tells O’Brien they’re going back into the records.
On Bajor, Kira watches a procession of Vedeks exit a chamber; among them is Winn in a new costume — she is now the new Kai. She insists she’s not Kira’s enemy, and asks her to tell Sisko she’ll be too busy to meet with him next week as they had planned.
Kira then confronts Bareil, saying he forgot to erase the transit files that prove he was away on a personal retreat and couldn’t have been involved in the exposure of the cell that contained Kai Opaka’s son. Which leads Kira to reason that the guilty party must have been someone very important to Bareil. Of course, the collaborator was Kai Opaka herself.
Bareil is philosophical, saying that Kai Winn will “need our help” to lead the Bajoran people. A kiss from Kira assures him that they’re still together; and together, they head off to pay their respects to the new Kai.
A strong episode, emphasizing Bareil as pretty much too perfect for this world (he’s humble and hunky, and we should all have known he wouldn’t last much longer), and showcasing actress Louise Fletcher (best known as Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next) as the evil Kai that fans love to hate.