Quark scowls as a lucky customer cleans up at a dabo table. Jake blows a kiss at the attendant, who must be Mardah, his girlfriend (of whom we have heard but never seen).
Mardah encourages the customer to play one more round, which he loses. He aims to console himself with Marda’s attention, but she blows him off and sits with Jake.
She says Sisko asked her to dinner tomorrow. This is news to Jake.
An alien offers to sell Quark some salvage; he’s more interested in her company, but she talks him into the purchase. When Quark inspects a junk-strewn landing bay, he hears crying.
In the infirmary, we meet a foundling with forehead bumps. He seems healthy, but Bashir can’t identify the species. Dax suggests contacting a Bajoran orphanage, but Sisko is distracted, holding the baby. He tells Dax he misses Jake’s babyhood.
He tries to get a hug from Jake, but Jake is agitated and maybe a bit suspicious about tomorrow’s dinner.
In the infirmary, the baby now looks like he’s 10; he’s talking, says he’s hungry, and says he wants to learn.
Bashir suspects the boy has been genetically altered, because his cognitive abilities are developing “without any external stimuli.”
O’Brien is sifting through the salvage, but hasn’t found any clues to the boy’s origins. He and Sisko talk some dad talk, and we learn that because Mardah is 20 and Jake is 16, Sisko intends to put a stop to their relationship. “She’s a dabo girl and she’s dating my son,” gripes Sisko. “I don’t want to like her.”
Carrying a plant, Kira stops by Odo’s quarters. He meets her in the doorway and doesn’t invite her in. But this is the C plot, so Odo gets over his shyness pretty quickly and actually offers a warm invitation: “You’re always welcome here, Major.”
Odo says he no longer rests in his bucket; he just turns to liquid wherever he happens to be, and his quarters are now full of objects that help him practice his shape-shifting. Our favorite space misanthrope not only accepts Kira’s gift, but pots it in a place of honor — his bucket.
Bashir updates Dax on why he thinks their visitor is a product of genetic engineering. They are out in public at the replimat, not in the lab, because the script requires their visitor to rampage through the promenade deck and run into Odo. This is TV, so we need to see the visual of the young man encountering Odo for the first time, and bowing before a Founder. Dax tells Sisko they now know their guest is a Jem’Hadar.
Sisko reports that Starfleet wants the Jem’Hadar sent to a starbase for observation, but Odo objects, recalling how he himself was raised in a lab. Sisko agrees to stall, so that Odo can get to know the newcomer.
Bashir says their guest’s body seems to be addicted to an enzyme that it doesn’t naturally produce, but Bashir isn’t sure what. Odo tries to get the guest to smile, but the result is not encouraging.
No less tense is dinner with the Siskos. Mardah says her parents were killed during the occupation, she’s earned her own living since was thirteen, her siblings don’t approve of her career path, and that “It’s amazing how some people will judge you based on nothing more than your job.”
Jake tries to change the subject to writing, and we not only learn that Mardah is a promising writer, but that Jake has started writing poetry. Sisko seems satisfied letting Mardah tell him what she likes about his son.
In Quark’s junk pike, O’Brien has found a fancy container of vials. Odo notes that engineering soldiers who are addicted to a drug is a convenient way for the founders to maintain control over their troops.
The Jem’Hadar doesn’t need to stay in the infirmary, and asks to be near Odo. Apparently the Jem’Hadar are programmed to believe the Founders are superior. The guest gets very excited when Odo shows him a video of Jem’Hadar soldiers boarding the Defiant.
We’ve already seen many variations of “newcomer tries to fit in” episodes, and this one is pretty routine. There’s even a montage of sorts as the Jem’Hadar quickly advances in a holographic combat program.
Because I remember later episodes that explore the cloning / addiction story arcs, this story where the characters discover these plot points for the first time seems a bit slow.
Kira is shocked that Odo is encouraging their guest’s violent tendencies. Odo believes he is helping their visitor explore his free will. Kira warns Odo to be careful — she doesn’t think he’ll be able to overcome or counteract the Jem’Hadar’s programming.
Sisko informs Odo that Starfleet is sending a ship to pick up the Jem’Hadar, and our local Jem’Hadar decloaks, somehow armed, saying he’s taking Odo and leaving. The Jem’Hadar feels these other humanoids have done something to Odo, filling his mind with a false ideology. Odo is willing to go with him.
Sisko reluctantly lets them both go, reasoning that he’ll tell the admiral he would have had to kill the Jem’Hadar to keep him here.
We don’t know exactly what happened, but Odo — who in this episode delivered the big pro-identity speech that we might expect contains the message of the episode – returns a short time later, dejected; he tells Kira that she was right.