Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Improbable Cause   Rewatch 
December 6, 2015 6:39 PM - Season 3, Episode 20 - Subscribe

Garak has a fire sale, and everything must go! And Odo is witness to yet another awkward reunion.

From Memory Alpha:

- Robert Lederman and David R. Long's original idea for this episode revolved around the punishment exacted upon Garak by the Obsidian Order for his killing of Entek in the episode "Second Skin". Garak realizes that someone is planning on assassinating him, so he blows up his own shop to ensure Odo gets involved. Although the producers loved the idea of Garak blowing up his own shop, they dropped the link to "Second Skin" and instead decided to connect the episode to another previous episode, this time "Defiant". Specifically, they chose to reveal exactly what the Obsidian Order was up to in the Orias system.

- The episode was originally a stand-alone episode, but the writers realized that the story's original ending was too weak, and decided to expand the plot to accommodate a second part. Initially, in Act 4 of the single episode script, Garak tells Bashir that if anything should happen to him, there is an isolinear rod behind a wall in his quarters which the doctor should give to Sisko. Then, at the end of the episode, with Garak and Odo trapped on the warbird, Garak tells Tain that if he doesn't let them go, the information on the rod will be revealed to Starfleet. As such, Tain releases them and the audience never find out what is on the rod. The writers hated this ending, as they felt it undermined an otherwise superb episode, but they were unable to come up with anything more satisfactory. As Ronald D. Moore points out, "Everything we tried was just a writer's device or a cliché or a convenience or a cheat." That was until Michael Piller, in his last decision as executive producer, suggested they turn the show into a two-parter. This necessitated a quick rewrite of the end of the episode so as to lead into part II.

- The second part of this two-parter, "The Die is Cast", was not the next episode to be shot. Because it was never intended to be a two-parter, pre-production on "Through the Looking Glass" was already well underway when "The Die is Cast" was green-lit. As such, the episodes were shot out of sequence and the airdates of this episode and "Through the Looking Glass" were flipped.

- While discussing the dining experience with Bashir, Garak misidentifies a Kobheerian for a Talarian. This was not the last time such an error would be made, as Sisko would later misidentify a Markalian as a Tarkalean.

"But the point is, if you lie all the time, nobody's going to believe you, even when you're telling the truth."
"Are you sure that's the point, doctor?"
"Of course, what else could it be?"
"That you should never tell the same lie twice..."

- Julian Bashir and Elim Garak, on the lesson of The Boy Who Cried Wolf

"Elim. I never thought I'd see your face again."
"I need to speak to Tain. It's urgent."
"You can't. He isn't here."
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. He left yesterday in a great hurry. He wouldn't tell me where..."
[Odo] "Maybe he realized that someone was coming after him."
"He's in trouble, isn't he? You have to help him, Elim. I know you're still bitter because of what happened between the two of you, but... you must help him, Elim."
"If you speak to him, tell him to contact me."
"Promise me. You help him."
"I promise."

- Garak, Mila, and Odo

"Is there anything you need me to do while you're gone?"
"Like what?"
"I don't know. Any unfinished business?"
"Actually, Doctor... there is something."
"Oh, what?"
"If you go into my quarters and examine the bulkhead next to the replicator, you'll notice there's a false panel. Behind that panel is a compartment containing an isolinear rod. If I'm not back within 78 hours, I want you to take that rod... and eat it."
"Eat it?"
(affirmatively) "Hm."
"You're joking."
"Yes doctor, I am."

- Bashir and Garak
posted by Halloween Jack (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
While I pretty much always enjoy watching DS9, this episode (and the next) are so, soooooo good... This, to me, is the core of the show - the conflict between two societies, Cardassia and Bajor, and the sophisticated, nuanced people caught up in that conflict. One of the things that is really fascinating to me about this show is that the Federation characters, while great, are secondary to pretty much ALL of the non-Federation characters. I commented a few episodes back that if you think of the trio of Spock-Kirk-Bones as being essential to TOS and Picard-Data-Worf as being essential to TNG, then Kira-Odo-Quark are the essential trio for DS9. Close behind those three is Garak and close behind Garak is Gul Dukat. Again, I really like Bashir, Dax, Sisko and O'Brien but they often feel like a "brand" necessity, something that will keep the show as part of the Star Trek universe.

There were lots of great lines in this episode. The "Boy Who Cried Wolf" exchange was terrific. I love that James Robinson always make the line delivery so light, when they come on as such clever reversals of how you expect a particular line of discussion to go...
posted by Slothrop at 7:29 PM on December 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

This is sort of an aside, but I was just watching the TNG two-parter "Reunification", and I realized that the show dips its toe into the world of the black market and how non-Federation powers conduct their business that strongly hints at what DS9 makes a core part of its world. The polish of the Enterprise and all the emphasis on preserving the integrity of the Federation are so far away from the grit of DS9's world. It's so refreshing. And further to Slothrop's point, this episode really beautifully dives into that question of how non-Federation superpowers act. It really makes Starfleet seem almost quaint.
posted by dry white toast at 7:41 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is exactly the sort of thing that I love about DS9--really clever characters (Odo and Garak) facing off and verbally dissecting each other, fantastic witty dialogue, and some dramatic war stuff that will have lasting consequences. Garak's decision here is a terrific ending to the first half. (And without getting into spoilers, Garak's story is tremendously sad on rewatch.)

In addition to the dialogue cited above, I love these bits:

SISKO: Someone tried to kill you, Garak. Whoever it was may try again, so if I were you I would give this matter some serious thought.
GARAK: Well, let me see. I mean, there's the Nausicaan whose wedding suit I misplaced, and that Yridian I owe money to. And of course, there's always Major Kira.
BASHIR: This is serious, Garak.
GARAK: I'm being serious. I don't think she likes me.
ODO: She doesn't. But if she wanted you dead, you would be.


ODO: That's an interesting way of scrambling a signal.
GARAK: Yes, I thought you might appreciate it on an aesthetic level. Ah, here we are.
posted by creepygirl at 8:14 PM on December 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I haven't been watching most of the rewatch episodes because of the sheer number of times I've been at least partway through DS9. I had to fire this one up though: Garak is my favorite character in all of Trek, (not a compliment given lightly), and I love this two-parter.

Mostly what I noticed is that it holds up as well as I remember:
really clever characters (Odo and Garak) facing off and verbally dissecting each other, fantastic witty dialogue, and some dramatic war stuff that will have lasting consequences

That. So much. Plus, we get to see so *many* pairs of very smart characters interacting: I love the opening where Garak is clearly annoyed with Bashir, and offers that whole passive-aggressive analysis of human eating habits. I love how carefully constructed Garak's ruse is, down to using secret techniques of an enemy spy organization. I love watching Tain, obviously so proud of his former protege. I actually still tell the DS9 version of The Boy Who Cry Wolf to anybody who missed it.

I also enjoy watching Garak and Odo interact because they both break the usual Star Trek pattern of 'aliens who want to be more human.' Garak is the ur-Cardassian. He's not a product of the system, like so many of them. He's not an opportunist and self-promoter like Gul Dukat. Garak is a *true believer* in Cardassian values, and offers a great window into their culture. Odo is cynical, sharp and literally above many human foibles. It's more... hm. For lack of a better way to describe it, it's more science fiction-y than a lot of Trek, watching two decidedly non-human characters spar and compare viewpoints. It's a testament to their world building and character work that the whole thing flows so well.

DS9 wasn't perfect, but it was the closest Trek ever came to being what I *wanted* out of Trek, and this is such a fine example of that.
posted by mordax at 10:12 PM on December 6, 2015 [10 favorites]

This is such a terrific episode- even the perfumer/assassin seems fully realized for essentially a one-episode throwaway.

It's also great to see the actors having such a good time with their roles. There are a number of episodes where this is evident, and both Auberjonois and Robinson seem to be having real fun with their exchanges in this one.

"The truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:05 PM on December 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Not much to add to what people have already said. It's mostly really a Garak episode, although Odo is also pretty crucial; they seem to be playing a high-stakes game of chess for much of it, although Odo seems genuinely furious when he's confronting Garak about blowing up his own shop, as you'd expect he would be with anyone who'd pull a stunt like that on his station. There's also a pretty tense moment when Garak is trying to taunt Odo into revealing if there's anyone that he cares about; I think that it's quite likely that Garak already knows about Odo's crush on Kira.

Also, there's a reason why I pulled out the dialogue with Mira (it wasn't in the Memory Alpha summary). She'll appear again, and I'd also suggest that if you're a Garak fan, you look into reading A Stitch in Time, written by Andrew Robinson and based on a monologue that he used to do at conventions; it's quite good and worth the price (out of print, but available on Kindle).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:04 AM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Episodes like this are the reason for #GarakWatch.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:58 PM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think this is the episode with an absolutely superb bit of dialogue that I can't find online to quite. To paraphrase, Tain and a couple of Romulans enter the room where Garak and Odo are being kept, and Garak makes a snide quip about Tain working for his Romulan masters. Tain responds by pointing out that Garak only said that to create an awkward situation for Tain, so Tain would either have to speak against the Romulans to defend himself, thus causing tension between himself and the Romulans, or Tain would have to ignore the remark and take a hit to his dignity. In that moment we see that Tain is every bit as clever and sneaky as Garak, if not more so. He handily saved his own dignity, defused any tension with the Romulans and exposed Garak's remark as the desperate act it was. It's clever screenwriting, but it also says so much about the characters in that room.

I wish Robinson worked more these days. He was all over the place for years and years, but after this show he seemed to do a fast fade. I like to think he felt like it would hard to top this role, and went into semi-retirement. A role like Garak is hard to find, and Robinson was just terrific in it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:51 AM on December 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ursula Hitler (via IMDB):

Enabran Tain: [referring to Garak] Cunning, isn't he? He makes a racial slur within earshot of two Romulans, putting me in the position of either defending them, thus giving away my allegiance to them, or letting the comment pass, in which case he's managed to plant a seed of discord between us.

Odo: Frankly I don't find any of this interesting. You both go to such lengths to hide the true meaning of your words, you end up saying nothing.

Enabran Tain: I think you'll find when I have something to say, you won't have any trouble understanding it.
posted by marienbad at 3:40 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Didn't think to check IMDB. Sounds like I didn't remember it quite right; Garak was insulting the Romulans more than he was suggesting Tain was their flunky. That's actually a little less clever on Garak's part than I remembered! But Tain's response is still pretty clever, laying out exactly what Garak was going for.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:48 PM on December 16, 2015

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