In which the stage has been set, so enter the antagonist.
Jake is painting mushrooms with an eyedropper. This is for his science class. He’s sucking up to Keiko apparently, and Ben expresses the opinion that he could do something a little less ‘low-tech.’ This sounds extremely pejorative. Jake does express interest in learning to pilot a runabout, or doing a planetary survey in the Gamma quadrant, and the benefit of being the station commander is that Ben can just outright agree.
During the day-to-day running of the station, O’brien rings Sisko to tell him Jake has arrived, and is it just me or does O’Brien sound defeated and exhausted? Maybe it’s the result of his incarceration, but Ben made sure he got some leave after that whole ordeal. We can assume it’s the result of taking care of everything that broke in his absence, or we can keep the joke going and assume it’s because of Keiko. Anyway, Jake has invited Nog along to this father-son trip. Sisko is thrilled. But Jake is reaching out to Nog across species boundaries, so Sisko can hardly refuse.
Quark and Odo have one of their amazing conversations, this time about Quark wanting to get free advertising. Nog’s invitation gives Quark an in to change Sisko’s mind. Ben is going to have a great time. In fact, they haven’t even launched yet and Ben’s already fed up with Nog. Then Quark arrives and guilts Sisko into letting him join. He’s very good at it, and in no time they’re conducting a planetary survey.
A Planetary Survey means doing enough sensor sweeps to make sure nothing will immediately kill them, then wandering around on the surface without any MOPP gear. The planet is lush and green and devoid of natural predators. Quark sees a planet ripe for exploitation. After all, nature decays, but latinum is forever. Rule of Aquisition #102.
After rubbing some ointment on his tertiary sexual characteristics in public, Quark tries once again to get Sisko to let him use government resources for monopolistic purposes. Meanwhile, Jake and Nog are doing good work at their science project, and Quark may have gotten offended that Sisko thinks Ferengi eat all bugs. To be fair, “what, it’s mammal” probably wouldn’t fly in most human cultures, either.
Let’s talk about Quark’s reaction to nature. We can read this is a personal allergy, but it’s a little surprising that none of the humans we’ve ever seen in Starfleet have allergic reactions to anything that aren’t systemic threats. It could be inferred that Starfleet gives its personnel broad-range histamine blockers for away missions, and has perfected the technology so that it somehow only blocks actual threats. We might also infer that Quark, or even Ferengi in general, have fewer systemic programs that expose them to a wide variety of protiens at a young age, or maybe they have a strong anti-vaxxer movement. There’s no strong evidence so far, but that’s why it’s fun to think about.
Some hijinx ensue, the boys storm off, and Quark talks about Ferengi-Federation relations from the Ferengi point of view. They sense from humans nothing but scorn, but are interrupted by a lady with elf-ear-gill-things hurling a psychic ball of light at his chest and fleeing in terror from something called the Jem’Hadar. These quickly coalesce out of active-camoflauge suits and take everyone prisoner.
Jake and Nog come back to find the campsite deserted and Ben Sisko unreachable on comms. Jake locates the bootprints and goes off in search. Sisko and Quark and the alien are stuck in a purple circle in a cave. The security field is apparently lethal, but this may be more of a guess than a fact. The Jem’Hadar are just that kind of people, apparently. The alien woman, Eris, is surprised that Sisko has never heard of the Jem’Hadar. They are the footsoldiers of the Dominion, which we’ve heard of before. As it turns out, the Dominion seems quite a lot like the Federation, only without the option of refusing entry. Eris’ home planet was subjugated and… assimilated. Sisko lays out an escape plan. It involves taking off Eris’ suppression collar so she can break the force field. Jake and Nog follow the tricorder and find the cave entrance, and then just kind of worry for a while.
Quark has finally annoyed the Jem’Hadar sufficiently that one of them shows up. he turns off the entire force field ring and steps into the circle to talk to them. Worst guard ever, except that he might have a dozen buddies cloaked in the room waiting to pounce. He also drops some knowledge about the Founders. Eris believes the Founders are a myth, but the real knowledge here is that the Dominion is done allowing free trade in the Gamma Quadrant. The Jem’Hadar was also hoping to fight a Klingon to see if they’re all that. The Jem’Hadar guard is also critical of the Cardassian treaty, which shows a worrying level of intelligence-gathering.
Jake and Nog beam back up to the runabout, and I really like the kind of open-plan-shower concept for the runabout transporter pad. Also, it should come as no surprise that the computer’s heuristic linguistic algorithm has no trouble interpreting Jake’s casual orders. However, it can’t fly them back to the station without access codes to unlock the piloting control. It’s nice to know Sisko at least engaged the parking brake. So now it remains to be seen if Jake’s internship with O’Brien was enough for him to be able to hotwire a runabout.
Next shot is a purple scarab-like ship coming through the wormhole and a Jem’Hadar soldier beaming directly into Ops to deliver the information that Sisko is being detained for questioning indefinitely. His demands are simple – stay on your side, and the Dominion won’t indefinitely detain and probably execute anyone else.
Okay, so here’s where it’s important to note Jadzia’s response. The natives have just told the Federation and the Alpha quadrant as a whole to keep out, they’re not welcome. Her immediate first response is “hell naw, we go where we want.” No pause to contemplate a peace summit and hostage release negotiation. Straight to Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner. And to think Curzon Dax was a famed diplomat. To prove intention, the Jem’Hadar (who has a name and title I don’t feel like trying to spell) delivers a list of destroyed ships on a Bajoran datapad looted from the smoking remains of New Bajor.
Sisko has gotten the collar open, but now there are several locks. He tells Quark to try to pick the lock, and Quark goes off on him. His thesis is that although 24th-century humanity looks down on Ferengi for embodying the worse aspects of their past, the real truth is that Ferengi have never done half the horrible things humans have, like institutional slavery and industrial genocide.
Up on the runabout, Jake has stripped most of the circuitry out of the autopilot. Nog tries to help, and although his failure is humorous, he has even less training than Jake. When they finally get the autopilot and locking disabled, they can’t go back to the wormhole because they’ve disengaged the autopilot. These kids are going places. Not Starfleet Academy, but places. Except not places either, because they disabled the autopilot. Probably just crashing into the planet since the ship can no longer maintain orbit on its own.
The Galaxy-class Odyssey is in from the DMZ with Starfleet’s orders – suspend travel through the wormhole, arm up some runabouts, and go a-hunting. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if history looks back on this moment as the beginning of a war. Odo decides to join the rest of the senior staff in the rescue operation, if only to make sure Quark lands in his prison instead of the Dominion’s. The Odyssey and the runabouts meet up with the Rio Grande and O’Brien beams aboard to fix their ship and save Sisko.
One of Quark’s offhand remarks should be noted – he’s familair with other telepathic suppressors, but this one is much slimmer than he’s used to. I’m not sure why I keep getting surprised as there’s ample evidence that Star Trek has no problem with mind/machine interface technologies, but it’s just something to note. He manages to get the collar unlocked, and they effect their escape – Quark makes it a point to take the collar with him.
Upon their escape, the Jem’Hadar ships initiate a space battle, and immediately start wrecking the Odyssey. Somehow, Kira thinks a retrofitted runabout is going to help in this situation. O’Brien beams the adults to safety, and the expeditionary force heads for home, but can’t quite make it before the Odyssey’s secondary hull is kamikazi’d by one of the attack ships, destroying it with all hands.The Jem’Hadar and the Dominion really don’t like company.
In clean-up, Quark fills Sisko in on a little bit of a secret, and they show up on Ops to arrest Eris. Turns out the collar is a lock and no suppressor at all. Eris was supposed to escape with them and be a more, in a plot almost worthy of Michael Westin. Mike would have made the prop look better, though. Still, season two ends with the vague hints of a galactic superpower finally confirmed.