WARNING: Not overly complicated spoilers for DS9's "A Simple Investigation" lie ahead.
In brief: Fairly by-the-numbers; not bad, but nondescript.
Brief summary: Odo meets a young woman targeted for assassination, and in the course of protecting her finds himself falling in love with her.
"A Simple Investigation"'s biggest problem is that it's predictable, almost to the extreme. Occasionally, predictability comes about because it's the logical consequence of events -- and when that happens, it's generally a positive thing. (Take "Hard Time" for an example within a show, and much of TNG's Klingon saga in its middle years for examples across episodes -- and B5 has made it something of a stock-in-trade.) The other side of predictability comes when it's using standard television cliches -- unfortunately, both within and outside Trek, that type of example is far more common, and it's the type to which "A Simple Investigation" belongs.
That predictability applies both to the plot and to much of the dialogue, unfortunately. On the dialogue side, for instance, as soon as Odo called Arissa's admission that she had no daughter "the first true statement you've said to me," I knew that her next line would be some form of "no, the bit about your bedroom eyes was true" -- and so it was. Likewise, it was a given that her initial story about her daughter was nonsense, and that her eventual romance with Odo was doomed to be short-lived. The only questions were in the details: exactly what
her situation was, and whether she'd be killed off or simply leave. (As soon as we were told she was a deep-cover agent for the Idanians, the answer to the latter became obvious: her "true" personality either wouldn't be interested or wouldn't be available. It's a better solution than killing her off, and it was nicely assembled, but still not the ideal solution in my view.)
That said, the idea of Arissa being a deep-cover opererative in a criminal organization with her original personality and memories being tucked away someplace else isn't a bad idea. I don't think we've ever actually seen someone's original memories hiding "on a data crystal" before, but given the number of body-jumping characters we've seen in Trek it's certainly not much of a stretch, and it's not bad to see the authorities actually using an effective deception for a change rather than simply the criminal element. As a result, the scenes where Arissa's true self was revealed were among the more intriguing of the show.
What was not intriguing was the final "rescue of Arissa" sequence, due to a host of "huh?" moments that just snapped me out of the drama repeatedly. First, if Odo and the Idanian agent were tracking a signal that gets weaker with time, they shouldn't have a problem keeping it once they've found it -- as they get closer the signal should strengthen to compensate. Second, the assassins whom I otherwise quite enjoyed watching seemed to get a sudden dose of idiocy as the doors opened -- kill Arissa and be done with it, then get out. Third, I have to wonder why Odo would stick to a humanoid form while attacking the assassins: he's used multiple "tentacles" in the past to good effect, and the last thing he'd want to do is give either of them a clear shot at him or at Arissa. No, thanks.
On a character level, I'm also less than satisfied. Most of it was basically "Odo gets seduced for the first time", and I suspect there are really three types of reaction to this. First, there's "it's about time; he's too attractive a character to leave out in the cold;" second, we have "ooh, icky"; and lastly, one might find "all well and good, but I'm not buying it." I'm in the third camp.
Basically, everything happened too fast. Last time Odo had romantic feelings for someone (namely Kira), it took him close to a year to admit it to anyone, and he never flat-out told Kira. This time, some mysterious woman says he has "bedroom eyes", and bam, he goes from bewilderment to interest in the space of a day or two? I think not. What's more, he's interested enough that he disregards his own code of ethics: he lets her go without filing charges and totally ignores her criminal background because she's told him "she wants out" -- despite the fact that she's already lied to him at least once. This does not strike me as Odo-like behavior. (If you want to claim that this is either Odo "on the rebound" from Kira or Odo dealing with the aftermath of having been a solid, that's your prerogative -- but I'd like to hear some evidence for either one.)
Now, Odo's later reason for helping her -- that he never had the courage to walk away from the Cardassians, and admires her for being able to walk away from the Orion Syndicate -- is a good one, and one I wish we'd seen dealt with a bit more. Had his interest been founded on that and then eventually grown, I'd probably be a bit less down on this latest attempt at giving Odo a romance -- as it is, I'm not so likely to.
I also have to wonder: why would Odo go to Bashir for counsel? The two have never seemed overly close before. I don't know to whom Odo would go (maybe Sisko), but Bashir seems unlikely. So far as I can tell, this was an excuse to show us Bashir's latest secret agent program -- which was amusing, certainly; the bit about the woman's hairdo not being mussed after a 20-thousand-foot parachute drop was priceless.
Additionally, as usual in just about any DS9 romance, this was used as an excuse to make Dax an inveterate gossip and Worf the usual SOF (Stodgy Old Fart). Dax I can live with in small doses, but there seems to be no other side to Worf these days.
So, from a plot standpoint "A Simple Investigation" was fairly predictable -- and from a character standpoint, I couldn't quite swallow what we were given. That doesn't generally add up to much. What made the show as watchable as it was were a number of little details I enjoyed, such as:
-- The continued use of the Orion Syndicate as a criminal organization. Granted, when Odo promised Arissa that he'd protect her, my thought was "yeah, you did a great job with Quark a few months back", but them's the breaks. :-)
-- The two assassins. I don't have any particular reason behind that -- I just liked 'em. They had a certain flair which I found appealing, particularly the taller one (played by John Durbin, who also played Gul Lemec back in TNG's "Chain of Command").
-- Bashir's holodeck program. I didn't care much for the scene introducing it, but Odo's interruption on the holodeck made for a few chuckles. (Bashir also got it from his friend "Felix", quite possibly a nod to Bond's CIA counterpart Felix Leiter.)
-- The Odo/Arissa dialogue when he catches her coming out of the assay office. When Odo actually pays attention to his job, he can be quite good at it.
That covers most of the main points. I'd say that "A Simple Investigation" isn't particularly bad -- and if you've been in the "give Odo a romance" camp for quite some time, you'll probably enjoy this a lot more than I did.
So, a few short takes:
-- From an SF standpoint, I have to wonder how Odo feels anything while making love in his humanoid form. His natural state is gelatinous -- I suppose that if his mimicking's good enough that all his "nerve endings" will function just as ordinary humans' do, but it raised a question or two in my mind. (Of course, given the general
fantasy element of Odo being a Changeling in the first place, it's probably silly for me to even think about questions like that.)
-- Arissa: "You've never been with anyone else before?" Odo: "Not with a humanoid." Me: "Odo, just don't go there."
-- For those wondering why Dey Young looks so familiar: she played Hannah Bates, a scientist, back in TNG's "The Masterpiece Society".
-- In many ways, this felt almost like a reworked B5 story in much of its plotline. Cybernetic data implants, telepaths scanning for loyalty checks, implanted personalities, data crystals -- all of these things are plausible on DS9, but they're a bit more common on B5. Given that Rene Echevarria's on the DS9 staff, it obviously isn't a reworked B5 story, but particularly when the two shows air back to back, it felt a bit jarring.
That about covers it. So, time for a summing-up:
Writing: The plot had a few holes, but much of the basic idea is valid. I don't buy Odo's characterization, though, and a lot depended on that.
Directing: A few nice "Arissa skulks around in the dark" moments, and I loved the scene on the holodeck -- apart from that, it seemed fairly standard.
Acting: No real complaints, but no standout moments either.
OVERALL: 5.5, I think; fair to middling. Not the best way to return from reruns.
Quark goes into arms dealing (and I don't mean the Venus de Milo, either).
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I didn't realize I'd tripped an alarm."
"You didn't. You're good."
"I still got caught."
"I've been following you."
"I didn't know."
"I'm good, too."
-- Arissa and Odo