In which three ambassadors, O’Brien, and Lwaxana Troi adopt puppies.
A delegation of ambassadors are coming around to check out the Wormhole, and Sisko has foisted off the meet and greet responsibilities to the chipper young doctor who forgot to pack a dress uniform. One cannot but feel that Sisko is still subtly trying to annoy Starfleet sufficiently that they reassign him, but in a cautious enough way that he won’t feel like he’s abandoning his new calling as the Emissary. If that’s the plan, it’s working very well.
Oh, and Lwaxana Troi just lost, or had stolen, a valuable hair accessory. Since this is not the first time Lwaxana Troi has had to… ahem… deal with Ferengi, she goes right for the ear, because she probably hasn’t forgiven the species for the Incident with her daughter. She’s about to rip Quark’s ear off when Odo calmly strolls in to defuse the situation by reminding Lwaxana that she can scan for guilt and pointing out that Quark isn’t quite as hard-up as stealing hairpieces. He does, however, find an alien species that he describes as a ‘distant relative of Ferengi.’ Founder effect on an early colony, maybe? Pun definitely intended. Lwaxana is now infatuated with Odo, and enlists Bashir to help her hunt, trap, and capture him.
O’Brien has been struggling with the fusion power plant. The computer insists it’s operating within accepted parameters, even though it’s 13% below normal. Cardassian schematics accept a 20% variance. To put things in perspective, nobody blinked twice when fake-Picard asked Geordi to take the Enterprise engine from 93% to 95. He had to get a lot weirder before people started to notice. I digress. The Cardassian system of generating power is simply terrible, by Federation research-fetishist standards. The Federation is all about a science victory. O’Brien decides to do some percussive maintenance, completely ignoring the system manual guidelines automatically displayed for him. Instead, he commits to a multi-year project of replacing the station computer core chip by chip.
To add to the day, Bashir has failed in his task of keeping the ambassadors away from Sisko. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of neat new stuff coming through the wormhole to go into panic mode over. The Ops crew immobilizes it and starts the download, completely ignoring any cybersecurity implications of pulling alien code into what has been established as an objectively terrible system.
‘But,’ I hear you cry, ‘pulling code compiled for a foreign OS into a system shouldn’t be risky at all. It won’t be able to be read and executed by the system!’
Ah, how quickly you forget the lessons of the past. As a potential first-contact situation, the Ambassadors want to be present, and frankly if that’s not what they’re for then I really don’t know why they exist. Sisko doesn’t either. Odo seems to have found out, though. They’re for hitting on security chiefs. Like many, Odo simply has no idea what to do when caught in the sights of the Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed.
O’Brien is not remotely suspicious enough of how easy it is to download the probe data, and Sisko’s advice to Odo is to shhh, let it happen. Liquid back and think of Bajor. Lwaxana has even reserved them a holosuite, which lest you forget is traditionally sexual in nature, and both Odo and Quark know it. Instead, it looks like she’s going to follow Odo and assault him with a picnic.
I’d like to take a moment to discuss the turbolifts on the station. They are deathtraps. There’s no protective sheath or cage. There’s no mechanical safety that prevents the car from moving if you’re not all the way in it. There might be sensors, but we’ve seen how often things like that go wrong ont he Enterprise and the Cardassian-built and Cardassian-sabotaged Deep Space Nine is manifestly worse. Someone is going to die in one of these. Right now, probably, or whenever Odo enters his liquid cycle. Also, look. If the turbolifts fail, why would you have faith in the transporters?
O’Brien gets to work on rerouting the power flows to try to fix this mess, but even on a ship like the Enterprise it would take a few hours. Therefore, Odo has plenty of quiet time with Lwaxana in which to be disappointed by her definition of ‘quietly.’ Thus we witness kind of a brilliant insight into Lwaxana’s head.
To fill in some elipses in her never-ending soliloquy about her ex, we cut to Sisko, reassuring Bashir that yes, Bashir did get this assignment because sewage flows downhill. We also learn that Sisko has solved at least one other problem by punching – apparently some ambassadors to or of Starfleet are a bit hazy about the concept of consent and Sisko’s knuckles are apt teachers. O’Brien has also discovered something odd – the computer is being helpful and friendly, which is super weird. O’Brien has also noticed that each time he tries to leave Ops some crisis happens to bring him back. The computer is clingy. The probe has apparently impregnated Deep Space Nine’s library computer and the station is now demanding foot rubs and pickle ice cream.
Odo has now been stuck in that turbolift for four hours while O’Brien and team work on a solution and Bashir dodges ambassadors. Odo is now looking decidedly shiny by the time Lwaxana finishes her life story, and starts asking about Odo’s. A little late, though, since we’ve had the second reminder that Odo needs to revert to liquid and therefore he’s probably running against his time limit. He also has a pretty terrible childhood and being forced to relive it while facing down a decidedly inconvenient biological imperative is kind of terrible.
While the engineering team works on a solution, the rest of the ops team keeps it busy as they slowly lobotomize it in a very HAL-sings-Daisy-Bell moment. It’s unclear as to whether the computer blows up the habitat ring on purpose to fight back, or just loses control, and Bashir makes the terrible mistake of saving the ambassadors instead of just pushing them all into the fire so there will be no witnesses.
O’Brien finally hits on the solution – instead of starving the computer of resources, he finally builds a VM to let it run, based on the analogy of a puppy he used to have. Or putting too much air into a balloon.
Odo is melting. He doesn’t want Lwaxana to see him, and in order to get him to finally be who he is, she shows him her hair under the wig, and we get this great moment of Odo actually opening up before the CGI effects have to intrude, and Odo melts into her dress. It seems like shapeshifter-goo must have sufficient surface tension that he won’t stain.
Now that the personality crisis has been resolved, the engineering crisis doesn’t need to get delayed any further, and O’Brien successfully fixes the computer. As it turns out, saving the ambassadors has earned Bashir their gratitude and probably a commendation. And this time, when Lwaxana flirts at Odo, he’s slightly better at dealing with it.