Bashir reluctantly helps O’Brien clean up before Keiko is due to return after an extended absence.
At the family reunion, little Molly points to her mother’s belly and announces she has a little brother.
At the request of Kira and her mentor Porta, Sisko blesses a young couple. He’s not thrilled with his role as The Emissary, but Dax says she thinks she’d like being a religious icon.
A ragged-looking solar-sail ship emerges from the wormhole. On board is a mild, distinguished man who introduces himself as The Emissary.
The newcomer recounts an accident while sailing his lightship and being sucked into “a strange opening in the sky,” where The Prophets took the form of people he knew, comforted him, healed him, and sent him back. It seems just a few days ago to him, but two hundred years have passed.
When he gives his name, Akorem Laan, Kira recognizes him instantly — he’s a famous poet, whose works are still taught to schoolchildren.
He recognizes Kira’s name from the artist caste, and is surprised she’s wearing a military uniform.
Sisko seems convinced that the Bajoran prophecies make more sense if Akorem is indeed the Emissary, though Dax points out Sisko claims not to believe in the prophecies.
Bashir talks O’Brien into coming out for a drink. Quark fondly recalls reading to baby Nog: “See Brak acquire. Acquire, Brak, acquire!”
When Quark tells Worf Keiko is going to have another baby, Worf goes into fight-or-flight mode. “Now?” (A nod to TNG s5e15 “Power Play,” when he delivered Molly during an emergency.) He announces that when the baby is due, he plans to be off the station. “Far away.”
Odo needles Kira a bit about the apparent confusion over who is really the Emissary, but Kira sees no contradiction. “That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it, you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary.”
The plot thickens when Akorem announces his plan to restore the Bajoran caste system. He doesn’t plan to ask First Minister Shakaar to step down, but is convinced that by the next election, most Bajorans won’t want to re-elect a farmer. Sisko is not surprised to learn that Kai Winn supports Akorem’s social plans.
Kira is unnerved when a lower-caste Bajoran vacates her seat at the crowded replimat.
In a dream, Kai Opaka scolds Sisko on the Promenade. Bashir offers a medical explanation for the phenomenon, but notes that Bajorans see such an experience as a message from the Prophets.
Kira tries exploring her artistic side, but Porta mildly suggests the problem is that Kira is still wearing her military uniform.
O’Brien tries teaching Molly to play darts, but she’s more interested in coloring — alone. He playfully suggests some marital canoodling, but Keiko says she has specimens to catalog. O’Brien forlornly looks at the Irish warrior costume from his holosuite adventures with Bashir.
During a work meeting with Kira, Sisko is glum because the cultural shift will mean Bajor is less interested in joining the Federation, so Starfleet considers Sisko’s mission to be a failure. Kira makes things even more difficult by announcing her plans to resign her commission and apprentice herself to an artist.
O’Brien drops by Quark’s and sees Bashir halfheartedly playing darts with Morn. He sadly declines Bashir’s offer to visit the holosuite. “No, no, I’ve got to get home.”
Odo calls Sisko and Kira after a Bajoran monk is found dead from a fall on the Promenade. Kira’s mentor Porta admits that he pushed the monk, who is from an unclean caste.
Akorem says he regrets the unpleasantness but asserts he’s merely following the will of the Prophets. Sisko announces that he wants the role of Emissary back, and says the Prophets will decide.
We have another one of the disorienting encounters with the Prophets, who speak in the personas of multiple different characters. The upshot is Sisko asks the Prophets to send Akorem back to his original time.
The B plot wraps up with Keiko telling O’Brien that Bashir is depressed. “He’d never admit it, but he really misses you.”
“Poor guy,” sighs O’Brien, bravely missing the point. “No family to come home to.”
O’Brien won’t exactly admit anything either, but he gratefully tells Keiko, “I’m a lucky man,” thanking her for doing this emotional labor for him. Later, we see the two bros happily bickering about their latest medieval Irish battle.
Kira and Sisko update us on the situation on Bajor: Sisko has reclaimed his role as Emissary, and most people are relieved the caste system is not coming back after all.
It’s a nice touch that it’s Sisko, not Kira, who noticed that Akorem’s previously unfinished poem has now in fact been finished. And when Sisko agrees to bless a man’s daughter at rite-of-passage ceremony, we get the feeling that, perhaps for the first time, he actually means it.