|Odo refuses to abandon the trapped Kira.|
Kira and Odo are returning to the station after checking security at a Bajoran border outpost, when they receive a distress call from a ship under Maquis attack. They pursue the surprisingly fast ship to an unstable moon, where interference forces them to land and search for their quarry on foot. They split up to search the area more quickly. But it isn't long before Kira calls for help. When Odo arrives, he discovers that her foot is encased in a crystal mass - one which is slowly spreading to encase her entire body!
Meanwhile, Nog has an unexpected request for Commander Sisko. He has just attained official Ferengi manhood, and the time has come for him to apprentice himself to a suitable role model. Surprisingly, he has not chosen Quark or a similarly venal Ferengi businessman. He has selected Sisko as his role model, and asks the commander to help him attain entrance as the first Ferengi in Starfleet!
Commander Sisko: Though taken aback by Nog's request, he is too thoughtful to simply disregard it. Once he realizes the young Ferengi is serious, he decides to set up a test for him - a difficult and tedious inventory for Nog to complete without help. He selects a cargo bay which has a lot of valuable material, in order to tempt Nog with an easy opportunity to steal. In short, he gives the Ferengi a chance to prove he's worthy of Starfleet, and then leaves his destiny entirely in his own hands.
Major Kira: Though this is Odo's episode, Kira gets a very strong role. Trapped in the crystal, we see her first being blase about the situation. It's an inconvenience, but not something life-threatening. When the crystal begins to expand, we see fear slipping through the surface. Visitor constricts her voice as the crystal spreads, giving the impression of Kira finding it increasingly difficult to breathe as she is encased.
Odo: Rene Auberjonois is always excellent, but here he is even more focused than usual. His interactions with Kira ring true throughout, from his peevishness at not being asked whether or not he wanted to attend a dinner to his determination to free her. We also learn more about his background, as Odo tells Kira the origin of his name - which in Cardassian, translates to "nothing." He tells Kira that he always felt it an appropriate name for him, until he met her and the others. Now, as he has become increasingly integrated with the crew, he says: "I no longer feel like nothing. I feel like me."
Nog: Aron Eisenberg gets a chance to show how good he is in this episode. The glimpse of Nog's life, as he watches Quark bullying his father for something that's Quark's own fault, is quite effective. Even before he says anything about his reasons, we are shown that Nog truly does have something to escape from. Ferengi society will allow him only to be an exploiter, like his uncle, or someone exploited, like his father. Through his friendship with Jake and his time in Keiko's school, he has seen that there are other options. He wants more, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get a chance to do more.
Deep Space 9 continues to show strength in its continuity. The previous episode saw Bajor signing a treaty with the Cardassians. This episode opens with a mention of that treaty - and signs that the Bajorans don't fully trust the Cardassians to honor it.
This is the second episode in a row to have an A plot/B plot structure in which the "B" plot has no connection with the "A" plot. The structure works much better than it did in Life Support. This is mostly due to tone. The last episode made a misguided effort to use the "B" plot as comedy relief - which ended up jarring with the tragedy of the "A" plot. This time, both plots maintain a serious tone. The stories may not feed each other, but they still feel like part of the same whole.
This is a big episode for Odo, perhaps even moreso than The Search. It's the first time he's directly revealed his growing feelings for Kira, and it's clear through Auberjonois' splendid performance how difficult it is for him to speak them aloud. His skill as an investigator is also highlighted. When an attempt to free Kira fails - one that should have worked - he realizes something about the situation is "off." From that moment, his instincts kick in and he is alert for discrepancies. He eventually finds them, with the results turning a strong character-centric episode into an equally strong arc episode.
With success in both its "A" and "B" plots, this is a particularly strong episode, and a "Must-See" within the overall context of the series.
Overall Rating: 9/10