|The Ops crew plan a Vegas casino heist...|
Vic Fontaine's nightclub has been taken over.
Back when Vic's holosuite program was created, a "jack-in-the-box" subroutine was buried deep in the code, intended to keep things from becoming stale. Gangster Frankie Eyes (Robert Miano), financed by a mafia godfather, has purchased the hotel and casino. His first act? Firing Vic and replacing him with scantily-clad dancers. Frankie also has Vic roughed up to try to force him to leave town.
The only way to return the club to normal is to defeat Frankie within the program, using means and methods that would have been available in 1962. And so the DS9 command crew decides to use Frankie's mafia connections against him. Mobster Carl Zeemo (Marc Lawrence) will be coming to pick up his monthly payment from Frankie. So all they have to do is steal that money from the safe in the casino's count room. A classic heist.
But planning a robbery is one thing - Actually pulling it off is something else entirely...
Capt. Sisko: Alone of the Ops crew, he has resisted going to Vic's. Kasidy gets him to reveal why: The real 1962 was not a good time for black people, who wouldn't even have been allowed in a place like Vic's unless they were janitors or performers. This idealized version of the past, one that ignores the very real struggles endured, offends him. With a push from Kasidy, he does end up joining in the plan to help Vic, and even enjoys a moment on stage at the end... But his best and most interesting scenes come in the first half, when he resists any contact with the holosuite.
Col. Kira: Gets close to Frankie by pretending to be the stereotypical gangster's moll, flirting constantly while pretending to be impressed by his money. Showing off, Frankie lets her visit the count room - allowing her to report back on the room's layout, its security, and the location of the safe. During the actual robbery, her role is to keep Frankie distracted so that he doesn't notice what the others are doing.
Kasidy Yates: When Sisko talks about the reason Vic's holosuite offends him, she does hear him out and doesn't belittle his reasons. But she does argue against him, framing helping Vic as helping a friend in need. She also insists that the colorblind nature of the holosuite program doesn't insult the harsh realities of history. "Going to Vic's isn't going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is it reminds us that we're no longer bound by any limitations, except the ones we impose on ourselves."
Vic Fontaine: The most obvious solution to this problem would be to simply reset the program. But doing so would be unthinkable, because it would wipe Vic's memory and all of his experiences. Previous episodes have established Vic as fully self-aware, and It's Only a Paper Moon ended with his program being allowed to run 24 hours a day, giving him the semblance of a "real life." Within the confines of his holosuite, he's as real as any of them; a solution has to be found that maintains his individuality. James Darren remains terrific in the role, retaining Vic's dignity even when the character is thrust into the role of victim.
A refreshing holodeck episode, in that it doesn't revolve around any kind of malfunction. The program is doing exactly what it was designed to do; it's the nature of the "jack in the box" that prompts the plot, rather than something external going wrong. This allows the episode to have fun with the period caper plot, rather than getting sidetracked with Technobabble to justify that plot.
This is, effectively, Deep Space 9 meets Ocean's Eleven, and the episode embraces that. Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler's script has great fun with the structure of a caper story, and plays fair with the audience throughout. The always-reliable Mike Vejar is in the director's chair, providing a visual flair that enhances the fun (including a slow-motion walk by the command crew to the holosuite when they prepare to put their plan into effect).
The episode is often funny, but it isn't a parody. This is largely a straight-up casino heist story, with both humor and drama arising naturally from the situation. Only a handful of scenes take place outside the holosuite - The brief but necessary explanation as to where "Frankie" came from, and the genuinely very good character moment when Sisko explains why he's so hostile toward this particular program. Outside of that, the episode sticks to the period setting, and both actors and show seem to have a great time taking a break from space opera to do a heist caper.
A thoroughly enjoyable bit of fluff, this probably represents Deep Space 9's last chance to relax and have fun before the heavy lifting of wrapping up the many ongoing plot threads. A success on that basis - And in my opinion, a good episode by any reasonable measure.
Overall Rating: 8/10.
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