|Quark negotiates with the Dosi.|
Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn) returns to the station with an opportunity for Quark. The Ferengi expansion into the Gamma Quadrant is about to begin, and Zek plans to establish a foothold through a negotiation with the Dosi. He wants Quark to be his chief negotiator - an opportunity for profit such as Quark has never before encountered.
But Pel (Helene Udy), a new employee at Quark's bar who has gained Quark's eye by having memorized every Rule of Acquisition, sees a potential problem with the Nagus' deal. Pel points out that if the negotiations fail, then Quark will be made the scapegoat. Quark decides he could use some help, and enlists the ambitious young Ferengi to act as his assistant.
But Pel hides a secret, one which could turn Quark's advantage upside-down...
Commander Sisko: Though he only appears briefly, he does get one very good scene opposite Zek. He lays out for Zek that if negotiations with the Dosi are going to occur on his station, then he wants those negotiations to be honest. He also stops Zek from turning his offer to Kira and Bajor into a sales opportunity, which earns him a compliment from the Nagus on his negotiating skills.
Dax: Over several lifetimes, she has developed a fondness for the Ferengi. She acknowledges all of Kira's statements about them. They are untrustworthy, they are misogynistic. But she admires their relentless pursuit of what they want, whatever they want, and she tells Kira that "they can be a lot of fun" - provided you remember to never turn your back on them.
Quark: The first half largely sees Quark reacting nervously to the responsibility he's been given. Once he follows the Dosi to the Gamma Quadrant to force the negotiations, he becomes much more assertive. He earns the respect of the Dosi by refusing to take "No" for an answer, and he earns the Nagus' respect as well. When Pel's secret is revealed, Quark stands up to the Nagus to allow Pel to move on, turning the Nagus' own words back on him to secure a reasonable resolution.
The Nagus: Wallace Shawn is a comedy treasure - something you wouldn't have realized watching The Nagus, an episode which cast him perfectly as the Ferengi Godfather, only to proceed to give him nothing funny to do. This episode makes up for some of that. The Nagus shows his shrewdness in an early scene with Sisko and Kira, as he makes Kira an offer for Bajor which immediately sets the major back a step. Quark and Pel eventually realize that the Nagus is hiding another agenda, as well, one which shows him as a long-term thinker... at least by Ferengi standards.
Rules of Acquisition is a direct sequel to Season One's The Nagus. I enjoyed this episode considerably more. Which isn't actually saying much - The Nagus had potential, but was too slow-paced to fulfill it. It ended up being one of only a handful of Deep Space 9 episodes I've disliked to date.
Rules of Acquisition is much better. It's also an important episode for the series' continuity. This is the episode that introduces The Dominion. "If you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, you have to do business with the Dominion," one of the Dosi tells Quark. We don't learn what the Dominion is in this episode, but the Nagus tells Quark that this entity is "the key to the Gamma Quadrant."
As a story, the episode itself is interesting, though not entirely successful. The comedy mostly works, thanks to strong performances by Armin Shimerman, Helene Udy, and Wallace Shawn. But it's not all played for laughs, as so many Ferengi episodes are. A twist involving Pel turns what looks to be a comedy episode into something a bit more serious, as issues of culture, identity, and bigotry are touched upon.
The comedy doesn't always sit comfortably alongside the more serious elements, though. Some of the pacing is uneven, particularly in the show's second half, and the subplot involving Kira and the Nagus appears to exist solely to take up some extra screentime as it goes nowhere and is quietly dropped at about the 30 minute mark. Much is also made of Dax's bond with Ferengi culture, an aspect of her character which seems to have been invented solely for this episode.
Still, it's an entertaining piece which attempts more than most Ferengi episodes have done. Worth viewing once, though I doubt it's one I'd rush to revisit any time soon.
Overall Rating: 6/10
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