In which Odo makes a friend, gets someone killed, and proves just how futile the fight against the Founders is.
Odo and Miles are taking a runabout back from somewhere, and have just dropped out of warp. Odo bought a ‘knick-knack’ as a present for Kira – some nicely cut gem. Miles didn’t get Keiko anything, and tries to buy the chocolates Odo also bought. However, Odo refuses, and the matter is settled when the shuttle delivers a proximity warning. Something is swimming through space behind them, and gaining fast. It pulls up along side of them, then ahead of them, showing off, then vanishes after colliding with the hull. In fact, it’s apparently entered the shuttle somehow, and appears as a gelatinous mass coming through the… air vents? I mean, okay, it’s a changeling, comeplete with Odo’s particular deficiencies at lips and eyebrows, but I’m more concerned about what parts of the shuttle that are exposed to space are connected to the air vents. I guess if the Defiant can do it…
O’Brien is justly nervious, but the new guy doesn’t refer to himself as a founder, or even a changeling, but as a metamorph. He (which I will use because most species in Star Trek exhibit mild sexual dimorphism roughly in line with human forms, for in-universe reasons as well as out-of-universe ones) sensed Odo’s presence as another shapeshifter and has never met one before. He’s not a Founder, he’s one of the hundred infant changelings sent out to learn about the galaxy. O’brien isn’t doing a lot to challenge the distrust that changelings traditionally have for solids.
This changeling also isn’t infected with the changeling disease, and so can be shown to not be in contact with the Great Link. Odo manages to convince Sisko, on this basis, to let Laas the Metamorph out, under Odo’s custody. The experience has not fostered much to change anyone’s conceptions of the other side.
Laas is also old. He refers to Odo’s thirty years in human form as new. Laas is 200 years old… ish. Over time, Laas found that his local humanoids never fully accepted him, which created a rift between them and himself. That said, you can really take Laas’s speech about how different changelings are from solids as a ‘they all look the same to me, and they smell different’ sort of screed. However, Laas doesn’t, however, have the omnicidal mania that the Founders have developed over the millennia.
Laas, which means ‘changable’ his native language, will be staying in Odo’s quarters with his shapeshifter garden. Laas notices that Odo hasn’t been using it. Odo has instead been hanging around with Kira, which prompts Laas to explain about his own mate, and how they couldn’t have children, prompting their breakup. Laas is just a big old ray of sunshine, but he is raising important questions. At this time, Odo gets to teach Laas something – the Link. They go all Michael Fassbender in Alien Covenant.
After having the experience of the Link, Laas has had an epiphany that this is what it really means to be a changeling, and cuts through Odo’s self-deceptions – he’s only sticking around because of Kira, despite all his claims of principles. So durng his next conversation wth Kira, Odo has a whole bunch of Feelings that he’s trying not to let show. But he has to mention that they linked, and this might introduce a shot of doubt into Kira. After all, she can’t link with Odo the way Laas can.
Laas is bad at small talk. Like, really bad at it. Given his ability to blend in with a herd of migratory animals over the course of generations, you’d think he might be better at blending in with a wide variety of creatures, but perhaps humanoid communication is too complex to drop into that way. Aesthetically, Laas prefers baser, more honest animals, prompting O’brien to lash out and give Laas another opportunity to drive a wedge. There’s something about the way Odo exits the situation, too, addressing everyone by title. It’s his trademark formality, but a bit more biting.
Laas keeps pushing, next demanding that Odo link with him in public, then shaming him for not wanting to and not shapeshifting much. Also pointing out that the best-case scenario for him and Kira is that he gets to watch her grow old and die. Instead, he suggests they go out to find the other baby changelings and form a new Link, independent from the Founders and humanoids.
In relating the story later, Odo has to admit to Nerys that he didn’t say No out of hand, and she’s feeling insecure because Laas would even offer. After all, they linked.
When Odo returns to his quarters, they’re on fire. Rather, Laas is fire. Apparently, changelings can exist as fire. A chemical process. In the face of this revelation, Odo has to turn Laas down. He’s still set on having Odo join him, and offers to send for him once he finds some more. Odo counteroffers with the offer to stick around and try to learn to get along with him, at least as a prelude to meeting all the other changelings.
Sometme later, Laas is playing on the promenade as fog. Julian and Miles comment snidely, but when some Klingons drop by and start giving the fog the stinkeye, Odo asks that he keep a lower profile. The Klingons take objection to the presence of a Founder, since they don’t know otherwise, and there is an altercation that ends with Laas T-1000-ing one of the Klingons, leading to legal proceedings. It’s hard to claim self-defense when you literally get stabbed and don’t care. Also, Odo calls out the sudden Klingon interest in legal procedure.
Since things are about to go against Odo and Laas, and Martok, who does not appear on-screen this episode for some reason, also has asked that Odo not be in charge of Laas incarceration, because he was a witness and definitely not because they’re both Changelings. When he storms off, he gets a pep talk from Quark of all people. Well, ‘pep talk’ may be a bit strong. Quark, as someone who has to spend all his time on-station suppressing a lot of his nature/cultural upbringing, has some blunt and valid things to say about the wisdom in keeping your more esoteric traditions to yourself. Also about inbuilt instinct. I do, however, find it fascinating that in the 24th century, Ferengi, or at least Quark, are familiar with the concept of a Pride march.
It’s time for Odo to have a chat with Laas, who does not have much faith in monoform justice. He’s very calm about the whole thing, however. He’s looking toward being an object lesson for Odo. Next he goes to chat with Nerys, who’s trying to figure out what part of Odo is real, and triggering him to admit that he really does want to go out there. CoupleFight!
Nerys goes to talk to Laas next, and lets him out with a rendezvous point where he can meet Odo. She loves Odo, and if you love something, let it go. Afterwards, she claims to Sisko that he turned into plasma and made it through containment. Sisko orders an APB, and is not pleased with Odo’s cavalier attitude. Once they leave, Nerys fills him in on what actually happened, and sends him off.
Laas is waiting for Odo, but Odo still isn’t going with him. Now, Odo sees Laas’ attempts to tear him and Kira apart as more sad than spiteful. He’s been so many things but he hasn’t been in love. That’s probably what the Link would help with – a bunch of changelings sharing different experiences. At least they part amicably, if not with a last Link. Laas doesn’t want Odo’s assurances of what love is, it seems.
When Odo returns, he and Kira have a little deeper understanding of their love. He also tries out shapeshifting into an aereal lightshow, and Kira gets an Edward Scissorhands Dancing In The Snow moment. One problem – if changelings can also shapeshift into light then no force fields are ever going to stop them.