In the Defiant mess hall, Dax and Bashir give O’Brien friendly advice about parenting, and Dax and O’Brien warn Bashir not to sit in Worf’s favorite seat.
A Jem-Haddar sneak attack on DS9 has fragmented a docking pylon, and during the hectic scene that follows, the camera leaves Kira’s in-progress tactical report so we can hear Bashir, but then leaves him mid-triage. This episode is not focused on DS9, it’s about the “tough little ship.”
The Defiant rescues seven survivors from a severely damaged Jem’Hadar warship — not the one that just raided DS9. The oleaginous Weyoun (the first of many times that the versatile Jeffrey Combs plays the Dominion operative) is apologetic, even friendly. He shows little patience with the drug-addicted warriors and upbraids their leader, Omet’iklan, for not showing Sisko due respect.
After first flattering Sisko and offering to make him “absolute ruler of the Federation,” Weyoun reveals he, too, was pursuing the same raiders that attacked DS9.
Sisko is understandably wary, but the plot requires him to accept Weyoun’s story, that they should join forces to destroy a MacGuffin of incredible power (first encountered in TNG s2e11 “Contagion“) in the possession of a splinter faction of Jem’Haddar rebels.
Dax is incredulous, Odo is skeptical, O’Brien is a bit mouthy, and Worf frets that it’s dishonorable to keep the Jem’Hadar warriors in the dark about the Macguffin, but Sisko has already made up his mind.
Sisko next meets with Omet’iklan, making it clear that he, Sisko, is in charge of the operation. The Jem’Haddar leader doesn’t conceal his hatred of the Federation, but says he hates disloyal Jem’Haddar even more; he’s been ordered by Weyoun to elminate Jem’Haddar who disobeyed orders. While that’s as close as he comes to being chummy, he does provide helpful tactical information as Sisko plans the assault.
Omet’iklan’s second-in-command Toman’torax starts causally thowing shade at Odo, and after another soldier starts trash-talking Klingons, soon Worf and Toman’Torax are at each other’s throats. Sisko and Omet’iklan both order them to release each other.
Is that a glimmer of respect, as Omet’iklan sees Sisko take charge? Maybe, but after a training run Omet’iklan is frustrated that Federation crews put the mission at risk because they are too interested in protecting each other’s lives. Sisko pushes the matter, ordering Jem’Hadar and Federation personnel to train in mixed teams.
Omet’iklan reveals that his men know about the Macguffin, and even calls Weyoun “fool” for questioning their loyalty.
In a somewhat lighter scene, Dax and her teammate Virak’kara get to know each other.
Dax: So let me get this straight. No food, no sleep, no women. No wonder you’re so angry.
In the mess hall, O’Brien, Odo, Worf and Dax bond over their differences with the Jem’Haddar — although Odo shows some hint of empathy.
Meanwhile, Weyoun, who has been staring at Odo, is petulant and dismissive with his Jem’Haddar grunts, half-assing his way through a loyalty ritual before distributing white — the drug the Jem’Haddar are genetically bred to be addicted to.
Toman’Torax, apparently jazzed on his white, picks a fight with O’Brien. Worf defends O’Brien, which starts a brawl.
When Sisko breaks up the fight and demands to know who started it, Worf speaks up immediately. Toman’Torax also confesses. Omet’iklan and Sisko get the chance to demonstrate and debate their different methods of enforcing discipline,
Weyoun finally gets his moment to talk to Odo. Of course we don’t trust Weyoun, but in front of a Founder, Weyoun reveals himself as sincerely distressed by an unpleasant disorder. He relays the message that the Founders want Odo to “come home” to his people.
O’Brien and Dax discuss O’Brien’s habit of leaving a good-bye message for his wife and daughter. Dax spins a supportive story about her instincts telling her that O’Brien die in his bed at 140, surrounded by loved ones.
O’BRIEN: Do you really believe that?
DAX: Do you?
O’BRIEN: I’d like to.
DAX: That’s all that matters.
Knowing that Sisko will refuse, Worf tries to advise Sisko to stay on the ship for his safety from Omet’iklan’s threats. Knowing that Worf knew Sisko would refuse, Sisko is still touched at Worf’s loyalty.
Omet’iklan gives a speech to his men, proclaiming them all dead, and urging them to reclaim their lives through victory.
O’Brien, “very much alive and I intend to stay that way,” gives his own speech, to which Sisko adds, “Amen. Let’s get it done.”
The four acts that carefully built up to the finale raised the bar pretty high, and though the setting felt cramped, and the disloyal baddies looked silly and incompetent, turning off their personal cloaking devices so they could throw punches and get stabbed, the plot contrivance particle fields served the story well enough, and the dialogue and character interactions were all top notch. Some plot twists and character nuances I didn’t remember.
I kind of wish the goldshirts who died had at least gotten a few lines during the rest of the episode, perhaps trimming Weyoun’s initial infodump to make the necessary room. Of course we know all our leads will survive, but we don’t know whether it will turn out that Weyoun was lying and this is all a trap, or when Omet’iklan will try to make good on his promise to kill Sisko, or whether Odo might face yet another temptation.