DS9: S3E05: “Second Skin”

In which Kira is kidnapped, Garak is helpful, and Cardassia is probably doomed. 

Kira takes a potentially sensitive call in public because when the Cardassians left infosec was no longer top priority.

Kira takes a potentially sensitive call in public because when the Cardassians left infosec was no longer top priority.

Jadzia is no doubt still brooding over the knowledge that she has a murderer in her past she didn’t know about, and the conspiracy her homeworld has been perpetrating for a century. Quark is here to help. He guesses she’s been stood up, but really Kira’s just running late. Her banter with Quark is always great. Jadzia and Kira are going wind-sailing, assuming work permits. Which it probably won’t.

Kira gets a call from a historian about life at one of the Cardassian prisons. Kira is surprised, as she was never there… or was she? Records indicate she was, for seven days. They even have a picture, and up on the balcony where she couldn’t actually hear this conversation, some alien is lurking creepily.

Odo and Kira chat about what could possibly be going on. Kira has vivid memories of being holed up in caves with the Resistance back then, so they track down the others who were supposedly with her. The first guy even remembers her, so Kira’s going to go investigating. The fin-nosed alien is also going with, and she looks a little like the prosthetics used for the ensign-disguise in Allegiance.

Bashir and Garak get to have one of their chats. Garak laments his inability to travel as he once did, back when he was a little more directly involved with Cardassian black ops. Still, he’s safe on the station. Well, safe-ish.

Sisko gets another call from the Bajoran Central Archives. Kira has missed her appointment and is now missing. Next scene has Kira waking up in a Cardassian room, in a Cardassian face. I expect Kira will have a slightly differently-tempramented reaction to whoever did this than Troi did. A moment of horror, followed by quite a lot of rage. Her host says he’s brought her ‘back home to Cardassia.’ He seems to be claiming that she’s really Cardassian, a sleeper agent with altered memories, recently recovered from a long-term undercover mission. And he’s being very reasonable about the whole thing. After all, he is her mentor.

Kira has been awake for three minutes and is already done with this nonsense.

Kira has been awake for three minutes and is already done with this nonsense.

Kira is ‘actually’ Iliana Ghemor and was set to replace a Bajoran terrorist to infiltrate the resistance. Note the underlying conundrum – are we merely the sum of our memories? Having the question set up, we’ll now find out whether Deep Space Nine is going to hammer the point home, or simply let their characters react to it. She’s left with a datastick containing a statement she made before going under. Always make a statement to your future self before doing stuff like this.

The rest of the crew is now in the ‘detective work’ part of the plot. There’s an energy signature that could either have been a transporter trace or a weapons discharge. Meanwhile, as the state Propaganda Officer reads out some standard schmutter over the public viewscreens, Kira gets to entertain a visit from her father – Legate Tekeni Ghemor, and he’s definitely not being rational about the whole ‘daughter still not fully recovered from a decade of Manchurian Candidacy’ thing.

Bashir is closing down the infermary for the night, and Garak comes to him with some news about Kira, who is currently searching for surveillance devices. Legat Ghemor has enough clout for those to be turned off, and is understanding enough to bring her Bajoran food. He also seems to be throwing her for a loop in that he’d rather Cardassia have more artists than spies. She’s not buying it the story, but you can see moments here and there where the deconstruction of her image of all Cardassians as monsters continues.

Garak’s information is that Kira is being held by the Obsidian Order, and Sisko, Odo, and Garak are going to go check out Cardassia. Garak doesn’t want to go because he’s probably going to be killed, but Sisko counters with ‘the Bajorans want you off their station, I’m extorting your help if you want to stay.’ As we’ve noticed before, Sisko isn’t averse to a little rule-breaking if it gets the job done.

Kira is not responding to the memory-recovery treatments. If she doesn’t respond, the Order isn’t above actually torturing her, and her mentor Entek explains this carefully to Iliana’s father. During the debriefing, Kira is very blatantly lying to him. This is, of course, a puzzle. Either Kira really is Ilyana (and we have yet to see the message she recorded) and everything is as it seems, or she’s not. If she’s not, someone is mistaken, or went to great pains to set up a ruse. Who benefits? That is all.

This episode turns into Kill Bill in 3... 2...

This episode turns into Kill Bill in 3… 2…

Entek calls for some evidence that might convince Kira. The Obsidian Order keeps everything, apparently. That warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? By this point, most of Cardassia probably has caverns of such warehouses running a few kilometers down. They even have the corpse of one Kira Nerys. I can see the case for keeping the corpse around until the end of this mission, in case the memories don’t recover easily. After this, though, it just gets creepy. Er. Creepier.

His story is starting to look a lot more plausible. The Obsidian Order seems likely to do this kind of thing, and, as I have already pointed out, the question is who benefits from them not just torturing information out of her? Obviously, it must be to the Order’s benefit somehow. Kira’s working on escaping, but trips a silent alarm that brings Legate Ghemora in to try to talk her down. She lays out the future – she won’t cooperate, the Order will interrogate her using more traditional methods, she’ll die. Legate Ghemor will never allow that to happen to his daughter, though. Family is everything on Cardassia. But at his urging, she’s at least going to watch the recording. The recording of Ilyana seems almost infantile, when compared with a war-hardened Kira.

Aboard the Defiant, Sisko and Odo yelling at Garak is interrupted by some patrol ships. I note that Sisko is the only actual officer wearing civilian clothes. I was thinking that this might be so he can talk on the viewscreen without betraying his Starfleet origins (and doesn’t that make him a spy) but apparently the ship is equipped with greenscreening technology and his image on the screen isn’t even wearing the same clothing. Maquis activity is on the rise, and they’re going to be stopped and boarded, but Garak is here to help with some top-level clearance. They’re older codes, but they check out. It’s a little surprise that after this, Garak still bothers to construct the lie about overhearing the codes.

Kira is definitely not handling this as well as Troi did.

Kira is definitely not handling this as well as Troi did.

The message has gotten Kira past snarky resistance and into mind-numbed horror. The questioning is getting a bit harsh, and the Legate comes in to throw his weight around and stop the madness. Nobody is really stopping to consider that Kira’s probably had at least two full Starfleet physical exams by Bashir since starting on the station, and whatever medical procedures the Resistance could have scraped together with stolen equipment. It seems probably that someone would have noticed if she was a Cardassian by now. These things may slip ones mind, though, in the moment. She’s… pretty broken at this point, and Legat Ghemor so loves his daughter he’s going to smuggle her out. Better she should live out the life she thinks is hers than he keep her and doom her. Hardly the temperament one might expect of one of the Cardassian Central Command.

Legate Ghemor has contacts that believe the Obsidian Order has grown too powerful, and have built networks that can smuggle Kira off Cardassia. And suddenly we know who benefits from this. The Legate is using his position in the Central Command to change the system from within, and Kira sees it. Entek is using Kira to expose the network. If Kira disappears from custody, they’ll know Ghemor’s true colors. Sadly, they were also listening in, because if you already have listening devices you believe are turned off, it’s a really simple matter for someone to turn them on.

Fortunately, Sisko, Garak, and Odo are here to ride to the rescue. Entek even recognizes Garak, and they have a few words which are more enlightening than any other single statement Garak has ever made. One gets the impression he considers himself a loyalist to whatever the True Spirit of Cardassia is. A patriot-in-exile. Not that that’s going to stop him from vaporizing Entek like he did Taran. Garak’s racking up quite a body count.

In the breakdown, they talk everything out, and there’s the possibility that Iliana is still out there, thinking she’s Bajoran and awaiting the recall orders. If she’s still alive, maybe she’s fallen in love. Maybe she’ll have a kid who’s half-Cardassian, and her relationship will be utterly destroyed by the revelation. The Legate is probably trying not to think about that on his way to political asylum. He also recommends Kira never, ever trust Garak. Nobody likes Garak.

Did we miss something awesome?