Sisko is unimpressed by Jake’s botany science project, and offers to take him on a vacation through the wormhole to do a planetary survey, proving he’s learned absolutely nothing from O’Brien’s attempt to take a runabout on a vacation. Space Dad is flummoxed when Space Son announces he’s invited Nog to come along, too, and annoyed when Quark presents himself as Nog’s chaperone. Jake’s friendship with Nog is sincere, but Quark, who hopes that spending quality time with Sisko will help him negotiate using the station monitors to broadcast advertisements, pressures Sisko on the grounds that letting him come along would prove that not all Humans look down on Ferengi.
Soon Quark is complaining about bugs, humidity, and flowers, but Sisko is putting up with him for the sake of Jake. Father and son have a touching moment recalling old times, but Quark interrupts their reverie by catching himself on fire and shrieking. This earns a scolding from Sisko, which causes Nog to hiss at his uncle and run away. Jake pursues him, leaving Sisko and Quark to level up their conflict.
Quark: You don’t like Ferengis, do you?
Sisko: That’s not true.
Quark: All right, name one Ferengi you do like.
Quark: Aha! You see?
A humanoid woman charges into the camp, knocking Sisko over with some kind of energy blast from her torso. Sisko recovers quickly, and we learn the woman is running from “the Jem’Hadar.” A half dozen armed troopers turn off personal cloaking devices and appear in the camp.
Later, Jake and Nog find the camp empty and nobody answering combadge calls. Nog is for beaming back to the runabout, but Jake spots the soldiers’s footprints, and decides to use the tricorder to track the others.
In a cave (again with the caves), Sisko, Quark and the alien Eris are confined in a glowing energy ring. Tensions are high, and Sisko even threatens Quark with “I’m about to put my fist in your opinion,” but there’s plenty of time for an infodump. We learn that the Jem’Hadar are soldiers of The Dominion. When the Dominion leaders decided the telekinetic powers of Eris’s people were valuable, they conquered her planet. She escaped because she was off-world at the time.
When Sisko learns the Jem’Hadar put a collar around her neck to neutralize her telekinesis, he reasons that they have a chance to escape.
When the Jem’Hadar Talak’Talan drops by to annoy the prisoners, he won’t listen to Sisko’s request to speak to his leaders. Eris taunts the soldier, saying “The Founders” don’t exist. The guard laments he wishes he’d met Klingons or Cardassians instead of a Ferengi and a Human.
Jake and Nog beam back up to the runabout, but the computer won’t let Jake disengage the autopilot and fly back to the station for help. Jake realizes he’ll have to draw on what he learned during his brief time as Chief O’Brien’s intern.
Talak’Talan pays a visit to Deep Space Nine, where he casually beams onto Ops to report that Sisko and his party have been detained, and delivers a Bajoran PADD with a list of ships the Jem’Hadar have already destroyed. Seeing Kira’s reaction, Talak’Talan says, “You should be proud. I hear they fought well for a spiritual people.”
When Sisko gets the cover off the neck collar, he calls Quark over to pick the lock. Quark first gives a speech, saying that Humans dislike Ferengi because they (Humans) used to be greedy and profit-obsessed, but notes that the Ferengi never had slavery, concentration camps, or interstellar wars. “You see? We’re nothing like you. We’re better.”
Jake manages to disengage the autopilot so that they can leave orbit, but he’ll have to fly through the wormhole himself.
The Galaxy class starship Odyssey is at Deep Space Nine, checking in before going through the wormhole on a mission to collect Sisko. Because this is not a show about Captain Keogh and the Odyssey, Dax invites herself, Kira, O’Brien and Bashir along with the two remaining runabouts. Odo invites himself along too, claiming that he hates Quark, but “I’d rather see him in jail than in the hands of the Dominion.” (A very efficient scene — what Odo says about Quark develops the Odo/Quark friendship; Kira’s reaction to Odo’s dedication reveals her respect for Odo, and Odo’s reaction to that respect develops his so far unspoken interest in Kira.)
A nice SFX shot shows the two little guppy runabouts tagging along as the majestic Galaxy class ship cruises past the camera.
The little fleet comes out of warp near Jake and Nog’s runabout, and O’Brien beams over to take command of the ship. (As soon as I realized nobody suggested beaming the two civilian minors directly to the biggest and presumably safest ship on the mission, I knew the Odyssey was toast.)
Quark notes how how streamlined the telekinesis-blocking device is, and manages to get it unlocked. After Eris fires a glowing torso blob that disables the security screen, a completely invisible guard de-cloaks in order that Sisko can see him, punch him, and shoot him with his own rifle. Sisko tosses the rifle to Quark, who manages to shoot a second guard (who also de-cloaks first, because apparently these trained warriors can’t even smack a rifle out of a bartender’s hand while invisible….?)
The Jem’Hadar warships use a plot contrivance particle beam to technobabble the Odyssey’s shields, roughing it up considerably, but with the other two runabouts running interference, O’Brien manages to swing past the planet and beam up Sisko, Quark and Eris.
Everyone starts heading back to the wormhole, but one of the Jem’Hadar warships slams into the Odyssey. O’Brien is stunned at the unnecessary suicide run, but Sisko intuits the Jem’Hadar were sending a message about how far they’re willing to go.
A final twist happens back on the station, thanks to Quark noticing something odd about the collar Eris was wearing. She is not what she appeared to be, and the final episode of season 2 ends on an ominous note.
The writers made a token attempt to give Keogh and Dax a backstory, but the loss of the Odyssey would have been more meaningful if we’d seen Captain Keogh before. I recall a few passing references to the New Bajor colony that the Jem-Hadar have just destroyed, but there was no episode set on New Bajor, or dealing with unsavory characters trying to blend in with the colonists passing through DS9 on their way to New Bajor, or subplots about Quark making unsavory black market deals to supply the colonists. So the loss of New Bajor is also less meaningful than it could have been.
I can see how the writers feel constrained by the little runabouts; they are producing scripts that call for starships, but they still need to feature our main characters and let Sisko call the shots.