The Assignment #StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch (Season 5, Episode 5) Keiko is not herself after a trip to Bajor’s haunted Fire Caves; Rom hopes to impress O’Brien

Rewatching ST:DS9

On a bustling morning in Quark’s, Rom sours his brother’s good mood by ordering human cuisine — O’Brien’s favorite breakfast. 

Bashir commiserates after he accidentally killed the plants Keiko entrusted to O’Brien. Little Molly tells her daddy, “You’re in trouble.”

Keiko seems strangely unmoved by the news. “They’re just plants.”

When Keiko tells her husband, “I’m not Keiko… do everything I tell you to do accurately, without question,” O’Brien thinks he’s headed for a lighthearted adventure in kinky role-playing, but we realize this is another “O’Brien must suffer” episode, because “Keiko” convulses and apparently dies, and then quickly wakes up, ordering him not to call for help or Keiko will die for real.

Whatever presence has possessed Keiko delivers a chilling monologue, revealing she knows everything Keiko knows, which means she knows O’Brien will try to trap her in a stasis field, and warns she only needs a split second to kill Keiko.

In their quarters, O’Brien is studying a PADD and discussing how he can flabberghast the station’s jimberjam as “Keiko” has instructed him when a cheerfully oblivious Bashir shows up with a peace offering — a plant for Keiko. The entity possessing Keiko is gracious and sweet, and lets slip that she’s planning a surprise birthday party for O’Brien. She seems to enjoy how uncomfortable all this makes O’Brien.

Rom, who usually works the night shift, is thrilled that he’s filling in for a sick member of the swing shift, but the other shift members give him a chilly reception. In a video call, O’Brien assigns what seems like busywork designed to keep his team out of his hair. Rom volunteers to help O’Brien (“I like phase-shifting reconfigurations!”) but an obviously preoccupied O’Brien declines.

While he gets started on the task his fake wife assigned, O’Brien asks the computer how long it would take to render Keiko unconscious. Even a phaser on stun would take .9 seconds, which O’Brien fears will be long enough for the impostor to act.

The fake Keiko seems to enjoy how O’Brien struggles to maintain the facade that he’s enjoying the birthday party. When Jake encourages him to make a wish on the birthday candle, O’Brien shoots a meaningful look at “Keiko,” who doesn’t flinch. 

Jake drops a random but obviously plot-point-laden question about whether Keiko saw “Pah-wraiths” in the Fire Caves, and of now of course know that Keiko is possessed by a Pah-wraith. (Though we don’t, as yet, now what exactly a Pah-wraith is.)

O’Brien tells the impostor he did what she wanted, but instead of releasing Keiko, she tells him what he has done so far was just a test; she’ll tell him his next task tomorrow, and insists they sleep in their bed together, so as not to make Molly suspsect anything.

The next morning, O’Brien wakes with his hand on her hip; she mocks the “weakness of you corporeal lifeforms.” 

Instead of sending Sisko an email, O’Brien tries to meet with him on the Promenade. Keiko suddenly appears on a balcony, and throws herself over it — obviously a warning to O’Brien.

There’s an investigation, and Odo asks a routine question about why O’Brien was on the Promenade when he was supposed to be unflabberghasting a jimberjam on level five, but O’Brien has kept his part of the bargain, and is angry that the wraith gives him only 13 hours to complete a reconfiguration task that he said would take 36 hours.

In front of Bashir, she taunts O’Brien by telling him to “Tell Molly I’ll be home soon… Don’t scare her,” and pulls him in for a big kiss.

When an overeager Rom shows up and and asks for more work, O’Brien thinks for a minute, then asks Rom to help him on a top secret Federation plan, so secret that everyone has to pretend they don’t know about the reconfigurations he will be doing.

In the middle of the night, Dax notices some “radiometric anomalies” that lead her to conclude there’s a saboteur on board. O’Brien seems to be just about ready to admit what’s going on when the Keiko-wraith makes a video call, having discharged herself from sickbay and now brushing Molly’s hair.

Molly: Ow! Mommy, that hurt!
Keiko-Wraith (glancing meaningfully at O’Brien): Oh, I’m sorry sweetie! 

To buy himself time, O’Brien leads the investigation team to Rom, and winks at him as the security crew hauls him away.

When Odo calls O’Brien to the holding cell to talk to Rom, the chief at first resists, but relents when Odo matter-of-factly reports it’s the captain’s orders.

O’Brien first orders the computer to disable all the surveillance equipment in Rom’s cell, and then has a long one-on-one with the nervous Ferengi, who has so far loyally refused to talk.

We get the infodump we’ve been waiting for. Rom realizes that the technobabbling they are doing will turn the station into a “massive chroniton  array aimed directly at the wormhole.” Conveniently, Leeta has told him all about the Pah-wraiths (including the etymology of their Bajoran name). They used to live in the womhole but were exiled by the aliens the Bajorans worship as the Prophets.

When Odo gets back to his task, he’s interrupted by a throat-clearing Odo, who notes the chief didn’t cover his tracks very well. After a bit of prevarication, and a knockout punch, O’Brien tells the Keiko impostor to join him in a runabout. She’s surprised he’s figured out the next stage in her plan, and doesn’t suspect that O’Brien has aimed the sparkly blue chroniton beam not at the wormhole, but at their runabout, and directly at her. 

Keiko wakes up herself, Sisko surprisingly patiently asks O’Brien for an explanation, we hear from Keiko what it was like being possessed by a wraith. 

In the final scene, we learn Rom has been promoted, and was out last night celebrating with his new day shift crewmembers. (“I think they like me.”)

Quark is still disgusted with his useless little brother’s weird and unprofitable obsession with engineering, but manages a polite, “I’m glad things are going so well for you.”

“No you’re not,” says Rom. “But thanks anyway, brother.”

I had never seen this episode before, and actually stopped watching after the teaser, in part because I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend my free time watching O’Brien’s wife suffer. I had to take another break after seeing little Molly face implied danger. 

Of course I know it’s just a story, and of course I know these characters won’t die, but I had trouble enjoying this show at first because of the hyper-empathy I felt for O’Brien’s plight. I felt the same way when I was a little kid watching black-and-white after-school reruns of Denis the Menace. I used to feel so anxious when it looked like Denis would be punished for something that clearly wasn’t his fault. Rather than sit through the commercial break and see how the episode turned out, I preferred to do something else — anything else.

Once Rom got involved with the A plot, I managed to sit through the rest of this episode, and ended up enjoying it.

I always feel bad for performers who have to jerk their bodies around because they’re being acted on by invisible forces (that will in post-production be represented by SFX). And to be honest I was distracted by some of the blocking and physical acting in this episode. Still, Rosalind Chao showed some serious acting chops as she flipped between a slightly exaggerated version of the real Keiko, and a noncorporeal entity who can’t quite decide whether she’s amused or disgusted by chocolates, nosebleeds, broken bones, and deep kisses.

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