WARNING: This article contains heavy spoiler information regarding DS9's "Profit and Loss". Those who consider advance spoilers a loss should profit by this advance warning, by skipping the article.
In brief: Garak saves the show -- heaven knows little else did.
I think Andrew Robinson should be given a hearty round of applause and an offer to become a much more regular character than he is. The man breathes life into every scene he's in. Marvelous.
In case the gushing hasn't made it obvious, the aspect of "Profit and Loss" that worked down to almost every second was that of plain, simple Garak -- only he hasn't been plain or simple in ages. His usual smugness and willingness to play everyone like a fiddle was a highlight of the show, and the one time it was absent (during his final confrontation with Toran) only made it more evident that something very serious was going on. His scenes (especially with Quark or Toran) were the ones that kept me looking closely at "Profit and Loss".
The Quark/Natima scenes, on the other hand, were the ones that kept me looking at the clock wondering if it was time to go to bed. There might have been something to them -- certainly, the idea of Quark discovering a lost love is an intriguing one -- but this show wasn't it. The main reason, I think, was that there was no chemistry whatsoever between Armin Shimerman and Mary Crosby. None whatsoever. You could replace Mary Crosby with a transporter-fused mixture of Charles Grodin and a soup ladle; it wouldn't reduce the chemistry that was on screen. (In fact, it might up it; heaven only knows what Shimerman could do with the right silverware. :-) )
I didn't buy into the romance. I didn't believe Quark would have stayed with her way back when; I didn't believe the two of them had ever fallen in love; and I never, even for a moment, believed he was serious about all the sacrifices he'd make for her here. That tended to make the whole Quark side of the show an exercise in futility for me.
As a result of that, Quark's plea to Odo in act five also fell completely flat. Since I didn't think he honestly cared, and I like Quark, I found the odds of Odo's taking him even remotely seriously way too long. As for Odo's "real" justification for letting Natima and the others go, I can sort of accept it, but not strongly. I think that by then I'd stopped really involving myself in the scene. (On the other hand, Quark's final turnaround, concluding that he didn't owe Odo anything because Odo wasn't doing it for him, was pure Quark and pure fun.)
The political side of things didn't do much for me on Natima's end, mostly because we never got any real sense of who her two students were -- or who she was, for that matter. Exactly what had they done? Odo says they didn't do anything worth the death penalty, but we have no idea exactly what they did do, or what they believe, short of basic "we don't want the military running Cardassia" sentiment. When the politics are about ciphers, I have problems getting into it.
That's the reason that Garak's scenes worked so well; he is just enough of a cipher to be pleasantly frustrating, but we know him well enough to gauge his reactions as important. We already knew he disliked Gul Dukat; now we also know that he's been exiled to DS9, and disgraced for some reason. Given that he said he killed Toran out of love for Cardassia, it's likely that he's not in favor of the military running Cardassia either. Beyond that, though, we don't know much.
We can certainly speculate, though. :-) Given Garak's motto pre-tailorhood ("Never let sentiment get in the way of your work"), I'd actually suspect him of being something like a paid assassin; it certainly fits the creed. It was almost definitely something done on behalf of the current government, given that they're the ones who now hold him out of favor and are toying with giving him his old job back. But exactly what was it?
We don't know. But Garak being Garak, it's going to be great fun finding out.
As far as the rest of the show was concerned, there wasn't much to it. The arrest of Natima, in particular, seemed nothing more than a complication thrown in to make the show run the full hour. Sisko's ignored the provisional government's wishes before; why is it such a big deal now? Along similar lines, letting them get away is likely to piss off the Bajoran government a great deal, and _also_ unlikely to please the heavily-armed warship right outside. This show needed more closure than it got.
Basically, "Profit and Loss" had a main story that clunked and rattled, but Garak's side of things simply hummed. That's enough to make the show worthwhile.
Some short takes, then:
-- Robert Wiemer did a fine job setting up Garak's arrival at Ops. Finally, we see him actually serving as a mouthpiece for Central Command, but he carried himself like a diplomat just then. Marvelous.
-- Similarly, there was a mountain of wonderful subtext in Garak's conversation with Quark about fashion. It was a little more blunt than some of the best similar scenes (Picard/Guinan's fencing scene in "I, Borg", for instance), but still wonderful.
-- Just how in the hell did Natima manage to get a phaser? Odo was asleep at the switch...
-- Along similar lines, Odo needs major help if Gul Toran can simply stroll around the station undetected. Sheeeeeeeesh.
-- Garak's scene with Sisko was the only Garak scene that didn't shine off the screen at me. He seemed a little too direct for that particular situation. Granted, there he had some reason to be; but even given that, I couldn't quite buy it.
That about covers it. So, wrapping up:
Plot: Reasonably written, but only the subplot worked.
Plot Handling: Ditto. Garak's scenes shone; the rest didn't.
Characterization: Excellent Garak, rotten Quark, medium for everyone else we saw.
OVERALL: 6. Not fantastic, but reasonable.
NEXT WEEK: Dax meets some familiar-looking Klingons...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"If you're not a spy ... maybe you're an outcast."
"Or maybe I'm an outcast spy."
"How can you be both?"
"I never said I was either."
-- Bashir and Garak
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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