In which Janeway moralizes, capitulates, and moralizes again.
Voyager is under attack by Kazon ships… sigh… again. The Kazon have been beaten back but the ship is, like, three rivets away from being debris, Sick Bay is overwhelmed, and one of Torres’ engineers died of console-to-the-face. The engineer was one of Chakotay’s people before they all joined Voyager, and now it’s time for a long talk about how things are meant to proceed. Like, should Voyager still be run as a Starfleet ship. Chakotay is apparently choosing to forget the time he decked a guy to prove that Maquis discipline wasn’t the correct way to go.
His argument isn’t a poor one – the Maquis are used to going it alone, without support from a massive infrastructure. As such, Chakotay is tacitly suggesting that Voyager lower its standards of conduct and moralism in favor of a pragmatic approach a little more often. Janeway strongly disagrees with this, but then she gets the Long Contemplative Stare Into the Distance.
Chakotay is giving a memorial service for the dead engineer, Curt Bandera, , the kind of man who liked to be on the underdog side of a fight and was loyal to his friends. After the service, one of the crew comes up and suggests maybe Voyager should give the Kazon what they want so they stop pursuing Voyager. She responds that she’d rather destroy the ship and either strand them all or kill everyone aboard. And now things get heated, where Janeway sees Chakotay’s criticism of her telling the crewman that outright as supporting his position of rolling over and capitulating. There’s gonna be a fight!
Chakotay suggests making an alliance with one or two factions of the Kazon, in kind of a Protection deal, and suggests that Janeway’s failure to consider that is more of a personal failing than a sound tactical assessment. Janeway goes to discuss the situation with Tuvok over a cup of spice tea, and he tells her that she’s probably going to have to compromise. He goes back to when he was a but a young rube and spoke out against Spock’s attempts to forge a Federation/Klingon alliance. Remember, Tuvok is older than he looks Cuz Vulcan, and was aboard the Enterprise-B and may have been a covert Federation operative during Picard’s tenure on the Enterprise. He suggests that by working with the Kazon, Voyager might be able to sow seeds of peace that might not be felt until far into the future. So now we’re perfectly fine with meddling in other cultures, I guess.
Having just changed her mind, Janeway is just as imperious as Picard ever was when his pronouncements are questioned, it’s just that it seems off because Janeway said literally the opposite thing yesterday and also last episode. Harry gets shot down and offered a chance to privately talk later. Neelix has some local information, but when Harry sarcastically suggests they crawl into bed with Seska and use her contacts, everyone else immediately agrees. They communicate with Nistram Majj Cullah and let him choose the meeting place, which is probably a trap.
Neelix is still trawling his haunts, which include a seedy dive bar with a dancer, and his old friend playing a matchstick puzzle for a night with the local stripper. However, Neelix gets bounced from the club before he can close the deal. Janeway, meanwhile, is deeply condescending to Majj Cullah. He sticks ‘crew exchange’ into the bargain, which is a dealbreaker on both sides. Seska is visibly upset at Cullah’s stubbornness, which probably means it’s all part of a plot.
Neelix has been ushered by some Kazon into what appears to be a refugee camp for some Trabe. Err, scratch refugee camp, it’s a prison camp, and their spokesman wastes no time in filling Neelix in on their escape plan. Of course, Neelix isn’t showing up for his rendezvous with Voyager, and you can tell that Tuvok is doing his best to forestall any rescue attempt.
The angry engineer from the funeral, Hogan, the one that Janeway shot down in the least politic way possible, is now entreating Torres to cross lines and work with Seska. This is definitely getting towards mutiny time, and Torres establishes herself firmly on the side of the Establishment.
Neelix and the Trabe see their chance and get ready to make a break for it when a distraction occurs, and it turns out to be the other group of Trabe, rescuing everyone from the planet just as Janeway decides to go after Neelix. Next we pile on a fleet of Kazon, except that they turn out to belong to the original owners this time, the Trabe. The Kazon stole everything they have from the Trabe, and it seems like that would make the Trabe a much better set of allies than the Kazon. I wonder how many babies the Trabe eat per day or whatever is going to make this deal go south.
There’s a really tragic history between the Trabe and the Kazon – the Kazon were repressed and pitted against each other until they rebelled and struck back. That the Trabe representative is really sad about this history makes him, if not his people, sympathetic. Well, that and the way the Kazon hold a grudge.
One of the Voyager crew is sending out a covert message to the Kazon, trying to pick that deal with Seska back up, and Janeway is second-guessing any diplomatic relations with the Trabe. Tuvok’s point is more salient – allying with the blood enemy of the Kazon may be a bad idea, but then again how much worse could it get? Then again, what’s even the benefit to be gained? The Trabe have ships and numbers. This wouldn’t help the rest of the Trabe. Instead, he asks that Voyager use its might added to the Trabe to force a peace conference.
Cullah and Seska argue about how all this went so wrong. He makes some idle threats but Seska informs him that she’s carrying his child, so she gets to say whatever she wants about his dumbass misogynistic decision-making. Now we get to wonder whose kid it really is. And she tells Cullah that he has to go or risk being left out, but to listen to the negotiations more than participate. To gather intel so he can be the one to wipe out the Trabe.
Neelix has some information that someone is going to sabotage the conference, but of course we’re going to go through with it anyway, just with that foreknowledge. They’ll keep their eyes open for anyone who tries to leave early, because that will be the person who planted the bomb, or whatever. The conference begins, and all five of the First Majjes stroll in to take their seats at the triangular table. Cllah remains the most openly hostile, but that may just because he knows Janway the best. He’s also got the history of a failed negotiation between them behind them. He monologues about not being able to trust a negotiation run by the Trabe and a woman, at which point the Trabe governor asks Janeway and Neelix to step outside so they can confer.
SO yeah, the Trabeset up a killing field so one of their raider-class ships could try to kill everyone in the room. Notably, they didn’t even use area-effect weaponry, just lasers. Perversely, I find this speaks rather well of his character. After all, he’s utter crap at planning duplicitous ambush. Back aboard Voyager, Janeway uses this as a teaching moment to remind everyone on the senior staff that this is why we have rules, damn it. And also Told Ya So.