DS9: S5E05: “The Assignment”

In which, when O’Brien plays spy, he has the decency to do it in the real world. 

"Listen, Rom, I just don't think you've given Gary Johnson a fair chance here."

“Listen, Rom, I just don’t think you’ve given Gary Johnson a fair chance here.”

You know, I can’t think of anything more indicative of ’90s television than that in the last episode the title was a quote from Ecclesiastes, and the title for this episode is like a Tommy Wiseau movie. How ’bout them thematic swings? Today, we open with Quark extolling the virtues of breakfast at his bar, and Rom comes in to have breakfast food after a long night on the maintenance shift. Quark laments his brother’s position doing scutwork instead of being exploited by his brother. Turns out the traditional Ferengi oppression-based model doesn’t work so well when there are other options that are better for the workers.

O’brien has killed Keiko’s plants, with Bashir’s help, and Miles is waxing poetic about how mad Keiko is going to be, and Molly and Bashir both don’t want to be there. But as it turns out, she doesn’t really care. They’re ‘just plants,’ says the botanist, with a surprising amount of perspective. She missed a few spots on her tour, but she got to visit the Fire Caves. Also, she’s not Keiko. She’s an energy being holding Keiko’s body hostage. Or she’s come up with a fun new bedroom game. I’m betting the latter – energy parasites are rarely so up-front about their agenda.

After she demonstrates her sincerity, they get down to brass tacks. His assignment is to reconfigure some communications arrays, and though he tries to play for time, the invader has access to Keiko’s knowledge and remembers what life used to be like back on the Enterprise. Play for time mostly denied – it doesn’t need much time to kill Keiko in the perfect hostage situation, which to me leaves one option: make it think he did what it wanted long enough to release control.

O’Brien starts planning, and hangs a lampshade on why the invader doesn’t just take over him instead. I say lampshade because at that moment the doorbell rings and Bashir arrives with an apology gift. The invader plays the part of Keiko well enough, and also spills the beans about Miles’ suprise part.

Rom has been promoted to swing shift, and he’s trying way too hard to fit in when O’Brien mercifully conferences in to interrupt and give them all assignments. The assignment he’s handing out is a big one, and does the most suspicious work himself. During this time, he discusses options with the computer. So far, no options are good enough, so the intense musical sting of Miles O’Brien performing maintenance begins.

You can tell she's posessed because she's smiling.

You can tell she’s posessed because she’s smiling.

Progress is made by the time he has to leave for the party. Keiko has dedicated her entire day to maintaining the charade, including cooking. Watching Miles be so uncomfortable really makes you wonder why the invader didn’t wait until after the party to drop this bomb – he would have a lot fewer opportunities to even accidentally raise suspicion just from being weird and awkward. Maybe it’s on a timetable. During the party, Jake asks if Keiko saw any Pah-wraiths in the fire caves, which is an old Bajoran legend. Or not, probably. Also, watching not-Keiko play with Molly makes him snap a glass, and she lets him know that the first task was just a test, and the real work is yet to come.

Before it’s time for him to cozy up to the almost-ceratinly pah-wraith inhabiting his wife, he asks for information about them, but there’s way too much information to get through. So he goes to sleep, and wakes up to more nightmare. The next day, she gives him his instructions, and he’s about to go to Sisko when she out-thinks him and falls off the balcony to prove she’s not bluffing. She also only gives him 13 hours to complete a 36-hour job, and makes him kiss her in front of Bashir just to torture him. Miles starts a countdown, has a brief interaction with Worf, and gets to work.

Five hours later, Rom is done with the assignment he was given, remarkably quickly, due to his Ferengi work ethic and social outcast status. Thus, O’Brien enlists him, under the guise of a secret Starfleet Intelligence mission, and after some brief Top Secret hijinx, the work montage begins. While he’s working in the pit at Ops at three in the morning, Dax interrupts him to bring him disturbing news about the wormhole. She was scanning it as the 24th century, science-officer equivalent of counting sheep and found some anomalous readings that point to a problem on the station. This calls for a conference wasting even more time!

The changes O’Brien has been making have been causing minor fluctuations, and as he gives a report on his sabotage he makes sure to emphasize that it’s doing no damage so far. But Odo, Dax, and Sisko quickly hone in on the maintenance staff as the only possible culprits. Just to twist the knife, Keiko lets Molly call him during the meeting, and it makes him give up Rom. He throws Rom a wink as he’s being dragged away, and then goes to finish the job. Rom does an admirable job of wasting Odo’s time, but then demands to talk to Miles, forcing him to start writing scripts on the fly.

Rom’s willing to hold out, but he does need to know why O’Brien wants to focus a chroniton beam at the wormhole. Since he hasn’t been worried about his wife and daughter, he’s been able to think about the larger implications of what they’re doing – which is turning the station into a death laser that will kill the wormhole aliens though temporal disruptions. This leads to some Nic-Cage-level deductive leaps of Bajoran Folklore, where it turns out the Pah Wraiths are the mythical enemies of the Prophets, banished to the Fire Caves, which Rom knows because he’s been listening to Leeta the Dabo Girl.

This is just to point out that Star Trek could totally have a Death Star Laser if they wanted one.

This is just to point out that Star Trek could totally have a Death Star Laser if they wanted one.

Miles leaves Rom to play distraction while he finishes the job, but Odo’s a good detective, and has put together Miles’ actions. He’s also lucky Odo likes to gloat and isn’t a changeling anymore. And now that he’s finished, he calls Keiko to the runabout pad to let her go back to the Wormhole over the temporal corpses of the Prophets… the blast will kill such creatures instantly. Like, before they would have time to kill any host body they might be riding around in. Whoever directed this scene had a very different conception of ‘instantly’ than the writers, but it all works out in the end. O’Brien gets the opportunity to explain himself and probably not face formal charges (since he did, after all, save the day and not kill any gods).

Afterwards, he and Keiko make up, and Rom’s gotten promoted for both his trustworthiness and his aptitude. Quark at least has the grace to pretend to be proud of his brother, but there’s only so much pretending one can do when someone orders pancakes.

 

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