In which a literary necessity is fulfilled, Deep Space Nine predicted snapchat filters, and the Founders play one level higher than you were expecting.
Meanwhile, back in the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, Odo is solid again after his people finally got around to issuing a summons. The method of that issuing is still undetermined, but presumably some changeling infiltrator touched him at some point to deliver the ‘virus’. Also, Gowron declared the Klingon invasion of Federation territory, and Odo remembered him as a Changeling.
The Ops crew are waiting for Sisko and team to return from a mission to converse with Starfleet HQ about the war – and they left in a runabout, not the Defiant, which has guard duty around the station. Worf demands they take the Defiant to go ‘rescue’ Sisko, given the station’s defenses. Kira sticks to Sisko’s orders, though, and just then the damaged runabout Rio Grande comes back in-system. Starfleet is sending a strike force into the Klingon Empire to ‘unmask’ Gowron, led by Sisko because years of being the Bajoran Space Pope have obviously prepared him for this kind of cover mission.
Quark’s is the same as ever, with our gracious host doing his best to cheer up Odo, and sadly he is failing. Odo is contemplating the bubbles in a bottle of beer and all the experiences he passed over as a changeling. It’s a rather novel take on ‘losing yourself at the bottom of a bottle,’ and Sisko’s trying to Duty Odo into joining him on the strike force. This is the episode where Sisko’s role is to convince Odo that Superpowers or Not, You Have Value.
In their meeting in the Wardroom, Worf indicates that the new location of Klingon HQ is a veritable fortress, and the fact that it’s guarded by 30 warships, in an asteroid field covered by a cloak-detecting tachyon grid, so even the Defiant can’t make it. Plus, given how obsessive the Klingons are about blood screenings, Gowrong probably knows a way around it, like Joseph Sisko suggested long ago. Worf suggests murder, to force him to revert to jelly. But Starfleet has another solution – some devices which emit polaron radiation to destabilize their form. However, there are appropriately dramatic constraints, and also who’s to say the Changelings didn’t solidify their mole once it was emplaced? Also, anyone exposed to the beam more than once (presumably without treatment) could die of radiation poisoning.
Sisko’s plan involves Dukat, his Bird of Prey, and his smarmy attitude towards Kira being shut down immediately when she tells him who the father of the baby she’s carrying is. Always nice to see Dukat at a loss for words – he plays it so well. He recovers, however, by making sure to express his gratitude that Kira won’t be putting on Klingon makeup and going behind enemy lines. On reflection, Sisko’s actually a pretty good choice for this, given who his mentor was.
Dukat wants a holographic record of everyone in makeup, while Damar offers the more pragmatic solution of ‘photon torpedo Klingon High Command.’ Of course, Damar wouldn’t have to deal with the political fallout of ‘not proving Gowron is a shapeshifter.’ Also, the asteroid is heavily shielded, so the plan is to sneak O’Brien, Odo, Worf, and Sisko in as candidates for the Order of the Bat’leth, Gowron’s elite guard. This’ll get them into the same room as Gowron, at least.
Bashir and Kira have a little discussion about one of the Starfleet crew budding and needing new quarters, and she reminds him that her pregnancy is his fault. A nice little touch, I feel. Aboard Dukat’s bird-of-prey, Worf is trying hard to drill the Klingon mental state into the rest of the strike force. Sisko almost gets it, apart from some specifics about how to keep your pinkie out when attacking someone, but Odo is still moping.
The first challenge comes in the form of a legitimate Klingon ship challenging them, and Dukat’s snapchat filter not working. Rather than relying on Worf to pass a bluff check, Dukat destroys the ship. Starfleet isn’t really known for their deception, after all. Once they get to the station, Dukat declares that he’ll be bugging out once they beam down – if the mission is successful, the war is over. If they fail, unspoken ominous trailoff. The Klingon ceremonial hall is full of Klingons drunkenly celebrating, and O’brien gets headbutted instantly. Sisko’s all in favor of blending in.
On Deep Space Nine, Jake is people watching with the eye of an author. Bashir stops by to buck him up a little before being called to the infirmary to deal with more battle casualties. Meanwhile, Sisko’s drinking bloodwine with the rest and gets to hear someone boasting about boarding a Federation starship and beheading the helmsman. Sisko is easy to provoke, but fortunately Klingons are forgiving as long as you tell them you beat the crap out of someone because they were in the way.
The night of drinking, feasting, and fighting is long, and the Starfleet officers are only still standing because they took an anti-intoxicant beforehand. However, the next problem is that Martok is here, and he knows our strike force personally. He lingers on them briefly, and once he passes over they go to set up the emitters, since Gowron will be expected shortly. And there’s the obligatory moment where Martok insists he recognizes O’Brien. While planting his device, Odo gets jostled and drops the emitter, and Worf has to bail him out, shortly before Gowron arrives.
Gowron salutes his candidates with shouting praise, and someone blocks Odo from planting his device, and Odo finally steps up while Gowron starts listing people off. Sisko is about to trigger it when Gowron calls his name. Rather than just press the button, Sisko goes up there to stand on the podium in front of either an insane warmonker who’s met him several times, or a Changeling who’s familiar with the faces of their opposition and seeing past surface form. It’s not Gowron who recognizes him, though. It’s Martok. And again, nobody just presses the button. Come on.
Later, Sisko’s strike force are in a holding cell and Martok is gloating. Kind of. Martok is a loyal Klingon and can’t express his opinion that they’re right, especially now that Gowron has destroyed the emitters. Amusingly, it’s because Real Gowron is more a politician than a warmonger, and now Gowron is more hawkish and not listening to strategists. Martok is in Damar’s camp – Gowron has to die, and he’ll release the strike force to do it.
Martok has to kill some of his own men for it, but he gets Sisko into striking distance of Gowron, but refuses to let Odo in. Worf enters into single combat with Gowron, and as he’s playing the part of a Klingon, he has to go with it. Or… Or Odo is right and Gowron still has his Klingon honor, but Martok is the one who’s been replaced. And the idea that Gowron was the changeling was planted in Odo’s head specifically to inflame tensions between the Klingon Empire and the Federation past the point of no return. Thus Odo proves to himself that he’s still useful even without his shapeshifting. Just in time, Odo reveals this, stops Worf from killing Martok in honorable combat, and gets Martok to reveal himself in a room full of Klingons with disruptors.
In the aftermath, Gowron is more or less genial, but there are political realities to consider – Klingons won’t give up on a fight, but Gowron will have a task ahead of him to wrangle the High Council into a ceasefire. And just because Sisko saved the Klingon Empire from changelings doesn’t mean he and Worf are any better friends. When resetting their faces, Bashir offers to give Odo a human face, but he’s finally comfortable in his own, unnaturally smoothed-out skin.