325. Profit and Loss
FORMULA: We'll Always Have Paris + Cardassians + Unification
WHY WE LIKE IT: Garak, Garak, Garak.
WHY WE DON'T: The soap opera dialogue.
REVIEW: A Quark episode without the Ferengi? Of course it can work. Quark's being built as this ladies' man, especially when it comes to more exotic women, which relates to his character in a meaninful way - when he's making passes at Dax or Kira, he's not a creep with no hope in hell, he's a charmer used to getting his way with women. There's a difference, at least in his intention. He's the alien Riker. And for once in Trek, you can believe in this rogue's charms. Now enter the badly named Natime Lang (why use a human last name, it's just confusing, especially since she's the first Cardassian with a surname we meet), and old love that reveals Quark's heart of gold (he just doesn't like to spend that gold very much). It's unfortunate that the relationship doesn't go much further than clichéed soap opera, with the dialogue between them rather terrible. (There's a good Odo/Quark scene in there however.)
The element driving the A-plot however is the introduction of Cardassian dissidents who want to oust the military from government. This is a good way to lend ambiguity and complexity to the Cardassian people, though the same had been done to the Romulans not long before. The problem here is that the two dissident "leaders" are boring and stilted. I simply don't understand why they're a threat, but their mentor Natima isn't. How is she not a dissident leader?
Coming to the rescue of this episode is Garak, who's sudden appearance in Ops is as paradigm-shifting a moment as any. I can't decide if outing him this way means he's lost something as a character, but it's not like we really believed he was just a tailor, did we? The circumstances of his exile and the role he played on Cardassia still remain unknown to us. In any case, his fashion metaphors when describing Cardassia's politics are sublime, and it seems like the writers can't screw up his unique "voice". What comes across is that Garak has a love of the State, but also sees the bigger picture and has a vision for that State. In the end, he chooses that vision over his own selfish desires. Not that he was going to get his way, but killing Toran certainly doesn't advance his cause... or does it? If the dissidents come to power, they might remember his actions. Wheels within wheels.
LESSON: Nope, I can't hear the words "Professor Lang" without thinking of Superboy.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: DS9 hasn't mastered the art of the one-off romance yet, but additions to the Cardassian political landscape and the formidable presence of Garak save this one from total forgettability.