In a runabout, Kira bickers with a grumpy Odo.
Kira: You’re right. Next time we are invited out for dinner, I’ll make sure you are the one to say no.
Odo: I’d appreciate that.
There’s warmth under the snark on both sides, though as usual Kira isn’t aware of how much she means to Odo.
A distress call leads them to chase a Maquis raider into a plot contrivance particle field, and thanks to a commercial break and dialogue, the director didn’t have to show us the raider crashing and Kira and Odo pursuing the pilot into a cave (again with the caves). So far we’ve learned the plot contrivance particles are interfering with scanners, the transporter, and tricorders, so naturally the thing to do is split up, just long enough for Kira to get her foot stuck in what turns out to be a crystal formation that starts growing up her leg.
Back on the station, Nog says he’s completed a Ferengi rite of passage and now wants to buy an internship with Sisko. “I want to be the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Now, who do I see about getting a uniform?” Later, Nog witnesses his hard-working father Rom humbly take abuse from his boss and brother Quark, and snaps at Jake for treating his interest in Federation as a joke.
If this were a musical, this is where Nog would sing his “I wish” song about not wanting to be trapped like his father, but so far we can only intuit Nog’s motives. As the B-plot develops, Sisko has to decide whether he’s willing to write Nog a letter of recommendation.
As all efforts to free her fail, Kira distracts herself with humor and banter, but both are clearly worried. Tension mounts after the realization they are days away from getting help. what with the ongoing threat of the armed raider still loose in the caves, the random quakes, and the inexorable growth of the crystal.
Meanwhile, in the B plot, Sisko has Dax assign Nog to inventory a cargo bay, to see whether Nog is willing to put in the hard work, and also whether he might be tempted to steal any of the valuable items. Although Nog performs the task cheerfully and well, Sisko is still reluctant, and pushes Nog to explain why he wants to join Starfleet. Nog says his father is a mechanical genius, and he could be the chief engineer of a starship, but he chose instead to waste his time pursuing profits, working for Quark. “I may not have an instinct for business, but I have my father’s hands and my uncle’s tenacity. I know I’ve got something to offer, I just need the chance to prove it.” That’s enough for Sisko to back Nog’s application.
Kira is almost completely engulfed by the crystal; Odo is frustrated because the jimberjam he rigged up should have unflabbergasted the crystal but did not. Kira asks him to talk to her. He tells her a touching story about how he got his name; he had been found in his liquid form by Bajoran scientists who did not know he was sentient, so he was labeled as “unknown substance,” which was translated into a Cardassian phrase “odo’ital” meaning literally “nothing,” but “then I met you. [Beat.] And the others. Sisko, Dax, even Quark,” and who make him feel like a person when they say his name. Some well-timed moonquakes ramp up the emotional energy even more, and Kira, close to tears, orders Odo to save himself. He disobeys, and finally confesses that he loves her.
I remember when I first saw this episode thinking it was ill-placed just a week after Kira said her equally dramatic goodbye to Bareil, but on my rewatch I noticed that several times Odo says he’s sure something is not right. The next couple of plot twists I did not remember, and on my rewatch I can see how cleverly the in-world explanation accounts for details that made me roll my eyes at what seemed to be clunky plot contrivances.
I get that the writers wanted to end the A-plot back at the station. We had been told that a distress call would take two days to reach DS9, so presumably Kira and Odo had a long trip back in the ruanbout, during which Kira never apparently asked Odo for a report on what happened, because Odo has saved his infodump for when he and Kira are walking through the airlock back to the station.
The episode ends with the B-plot, after Quark refuses to let Nog “disgrace our family name” by joining Starfleet, and Rom has the chance to stand up for his son.
I started out only half-watching this episode because I remembered it as formulaic, but I ended up appreciating the character development and the world-building.