The opening acts remind me why I cringe at all the Fergengi-focused episodes, and the great writing, the mix of comedy and drama, impressive performances, and the plot twists remind me why I end up admitting that yeah, that Ferengi-focused episode was pretty good.
A humming Sisko cooks up an analog dinner for Jake, who has arranged a date between his father and the freighter captain named Cassidy Yates.
It’s packed in the bar; in a dynamic scene full of choreographed bar-related action, Quark bickers with his brother Rom about nephew/son Nog, who’s studying for his Starfleet entrance exam, and laments that Federation values will be “the end of Ferengi civilization as we know it.”
A tall, proud-looking Ferengi (played by Jeffry Coombs) introduces himself as an agent of the Ferengi Commerce Association, and closes the bar.
After the opening credits, the FCA liquidator Brunt gives Quark another chance to update his financial disclosures. After he’s collected enough flattery and tips, Brunt explains Quark is being held accountable for “improper supervision of a family member” — his mother Ishka, who has been illegally earning profit.
Kira, Dak, Bashir and O’Brien pop in for bits of workplace sitcom humor; all amusing, but unrelated to the plot. Odo’s brief scene with Quark establishes that Quark intends to return to Ferenginar and force his mother to confess and make reparations. He reluctantly permits Rom to come along.
In the lobby of their mother’s home, Quark unenthusiastically goes through a legalistic and commercial ritual to welcome Brunt, as Rom tags along.
All the Ferengi men are horrified when “Moogie” appears wearing clothes. (From the Ferengi’s first awkward appearance in ST:TGN, it was established that the patriarchal Ferengi society is scandalized that Federation cultures treat women as equals.) She refuses to put her thumb print on a prepared confession, and Brunt gives Quark three days to get her to confess.
For some reason Sisko, who last week built a spaceworthy craft from ancient Bajoran plans, this week gives O’Brien lockpicking advice. On one level it’s a sitcom scene that features O’Brien and Bashir trying to break into Quark’s to retrieve their lucky dartboard (O’Brien: “We never said it was a *lucky* dartboard”), but the writers also slipped in the fact that O’Brien is having trouble getting through a lock Rom designed — which affords some dignity to Quark’s usually subservient little brother.
Quark is shocked to find Rom serving dinner. (“That’s mother’s job.”) Quark laments that his father was a failure, though Rom says, “I thought Father did all right.” As Quark and Ishka argue the merits of laying down the law vs. relishing in chaos, with a sentimental grin Rom sighs, “Gee, I wish Father were alive. Then it’d be just like old times. Sitting around the family table, eating tube grubs, discussing important issues of the day.”
For a moment, Ishka and Quark look at Rom, then look at each other, and then almost look at the camera — as if they are want us to share their disbelief in the depths of Rom’s derpiness.
And that’s where the episode’s real brilliance lies. The gross food, horrible teeth, ritual bribes and petty rivalries establish this Ferengi culture as “other” — a stark contrast to the delicious food, warm man-hugs, love of baseball, and wholesome matchmaking that we see in the “normal,” happy Sisko household.
But just when we’re comfortable with the idea that Ferengi culture is trash, we get a touching scene where Ishka recalls her late husband fondly. He was no good at earning profit, but he was a good husband, and a good father. That was enough for her, and enough for Rom, but Quark — who as one of the series leads, should be our viewpoint character — is horrified to hear the truth about his father’s financial failings.
But this is really Rom’s episode. Instead of his usual toadying pushover self, he shows some backbone — as he has in the past when it came to parenting Nog. He and Quark are soon at each other’s throats, knocking over the furniture, until Ishka grabs both of them by their lobes to stop the fight, and orders Rom to let Quark go to the authorities if he wants to.
Soon, Quark is in the waiting room at the Ferengi Commerce Association, ready to turn his mother in; he’s even feeling generous enough to buy Rom the right to sit in a chair. Rom has arrived with subversive news; he has talked their mother into sharing her money with Quark.
While this episode presents Quark as patriarchal and traditional, he loves money more than he loves tradition, so he’s willing to go along with with Rom’s brilliant compromise.
But we soon learn that Rom lied — Ishka, is presented as perhaps too proud of her money-making, had never agreed to share her money with Quark. Rom insists he won’t let this bickering destroy the family, and scolds Quark for disrespecting his mother, and scolds his mother — not for earning violating the taboo against women making money, but for not covering her tracks well enough to hide her deeds.
The whole dynamic of the scene shifts, as Ishka tells Quark Rom is sweet like his father, and bonds with Quark over their shared love of profit. She agrees to sign the confession and give back the money, and we can see the family unit is saved.
We return to DS9 to check in on Sisko and Yates chatting in the replimat. Sisko seems happy, but Yates seems to be making up an excuse to end the date early; she promised to listen to a streaming audiocast of a her little brother’s baseball game. We see Jake watching from an upper level as they warm up to each other, and the subtext is that Jake knew all along she was a fan, and couldn’t wait for them to discover what they had in common.
Back on Ferenginar, Quark manages to send Brunt away happy. Though Quark and Ishka can’t help sparring, this time the love is evident, and they part on good terms. The final plot twist shows that Rom knows his Moogie has only returned 1/3 of her profits. Though Rom doesn’t have the lobes for business, his respect for his mother’s unorthodox talents ensure that she will keep earning money for the family.