In which even DS9 has some stinkers.
Quark is truly impressed at one of his Dabo girls’ employee reports. It’s perfect in every respect, but Quark wants a bit more from her. Specifically, he want to sleep with her for a raise, or at least get a handy. This is evidently why Quark doesn’t have an HR department. Rom chooses this moment to burst in to tell Quark that he can’t get hold of anyone on Ferenginar, and worries that the Dominion might be invading.
In fact, the Grand Nagus is already here, along with Ishka. The Nagus has brought her, in clothes, because Zek has instituted some new rules, like an amendment giving females the right to wear clothes in public. Quark is horrified by the line of logic that would lead to females to be able to make profit, allowing them contribute to planetary GDP. That was the good news. The bad news is that this broad and sweeping reform shook things up a little much, upping the volume of buying and selling so much that the planetary market crashed, the Nagus was deposed, and Brunt is now Acting Grand Nagus until the FCA fully confirms him. So the Nagus needs Quark and Rom to help him reverse the coup.
Zek’s plan is to rub the FCA commissioner’s faces in Ishka’s vast financial acumen, because Ferengi aren’t stubborn at all. Also, Ishka wants a woman to be Grand Nagus, because Star Trek has to just keep twisting that knife. On the other hand, I do appreciate the tacit understanding that once Ferenginar was part of the wider community, it became inevitable that their downtrodden segments of the population would demand better treatment in line with the wider interstellar community. Once someone knows they can get rights, how do you convince them that they shouldn’t want them?
Rom recruits Leeta and Nog into his little cabal, and it starts with Nog, Quark, and Rom phone-banking for him, really unsuccessfully. None of the commissioners are interested, except one -Nilva, the chairman of Sluggo-Cola, a powerful but very hidebound corporation. However, just as they’re all working on rallying, Brunt shows up to gloat. And his servant stares down Zek’s servant in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit of background business. Extreme loyalty, those guys. Brunt knows about Nilva’s visit, and Quark kicks him out. I’d like to interpret this as evidence that Ferengi do seriously believe in private property and enterprise – the Nagus can ruin Quark with his influence and power, but until then, Quark still owns the bar and can kick out whoever he wants.
Quark is busy feeling sorry for himself, and his mom comes in to pester him, leading to Quark blaming her for this shakeup of Ferengi society, and the change-up that Zek has undergone. They really get into it when the family squabbles get going. The argument gets so heated that she passes out, or has a stroke. Quark doesn’t want to explain what happened, but after Bashir replaced her heart, she won’t stop saying “It’s all Quark’s fault” and he has to spill the beans.
They’re still under a deadline, they still need to meet with Nilva and convince him that there are brilliant Ferengi females who deserve the franchise. Brunt’s back to gloat again – a huge mistake, as he’s the kind of person who inspires people to new heights of inspiration just to shove it in his face. Well, I say ‘heights’ but what I mean is Quark in drag. And by drag, apparnetly I mean full, if temporary, reassignment surgery.
Now, I would like to point out a few things. Surgical procedures in the 24th century find it casual to replace most organs, with the possible exception of brain and nerve tissue. Even that’s come a long way. It is a standard procedure for first-contacts to include a member of a trained team being surgically altered to look like a member of that species. Espionage work regularly involves people having not only their appearance but their DNA altered to pass undetected, although these procedures are apparently somewhat less casual. However, this surgery was complete and healed in well under two days. Pretty sure we never see trans people in the Federation because they just walk into a doctor’s office, explain the problem, and get an outpatient procedure so they can continue on with their lives. That said, back to Quark in drag. It’s… not great. Let’s say it’s because Bashir wants it to be as easy as possible to reverse, but I’m not sure why they needed to go so hard on the hormone therapy. Also, I want to state for the record that Quark is only going along with this to spite Brunt, still generally doesn’t believe in the cause, and is self-sabotaging, which neatly ties up the simpering dialogue. Ugh. Congratulations, Voyager, you’re about to get a pass.
Rom gives Quark some pointers. Some very observant pointers. Some pointers so good that Leeta is starting to get worried about her husband. Rom is clearly better at the feminine acting, but Quark is the one with the lobes for business. Apparently, Quark looks pretty good for a Ferengi female, at least good enough for Zek to hit on him.
Nilva’s arrived early, so they need to buckle down to finish My Fair Lady-ing Quark. Nilva’s gregarious and pushy, and demands to be led directly to Zek. Brunt’s being unintentionally helpful by delaying the meeting a bit, but also Brunt gets to hear about Quark’s alter-ego Lumba, and get curious. Brunt is not invited to the first meeting, and Nilva wants to have dinner with Lumba… to evaluate her. Anyone not getting the dramatic irony payoff from the opening stinger yet?
Quark beings the explanation of an expanded market economy, starting with the very obvious doubling of the market base, but also helping Nilva see the brand new market about to open up and target it directly, with the most stereotypical of possible campaigns. Nilva’s almost convinced, but now he wants… dessert. You can always count on a Ferengi plotline to play sexual assault for laughs.
Mercifully, Brunt comes in to expose Quark (figuratively) as male, forcing Quark to double-down and show off the goods. It’s convincing enough for Nilva, with a nice nod to Some Like It Hot, and the plan has come off successfully, to Brunt’s eternal horror.
After the whole thing is over, Quark sits examining the ring Nilva gave Lumba, and getting very emotional about it. I really, really want to believe that Quark is trolling Odo here, but in one of those mixed-blessings things, this may simply be an episode that’s aged very poorly, very fast, due to some good solid social progress. I guess I can’t hate when Star Trek is too relevant and too out-of-touch. I’d rather our present outstrip their future. Oh, and after all that, Quark has Seen the Error of his Ways and un-harassed his waitress. Although when it turns out she found it interesting after all, it doesn’t take him too long to find the happy medium called ‘consent.’