Jake meets up with one of his female friends, who's returned to the station. They really hit it off, culminating with them arranging a date. After this lighthearted moment, Odo, O'Brien, and security rush out onto the Promenade. A Bajoran transport is docking, having suffered an accident on board. It turns out Kai Winn was on it, but unfortunately, she's barely wounded while Vedek Bareil is critically injured.As Bashir and his nurses do everything they can to save Bareil, Kai Winn explains to Sisko that she's here to conduct a secret meeting with a member of the Cardassian Central Command. Bareil has been communicating with them for months on a peace treaty, since the government is still provisional and so the Kai is the only true authority on Bajor. With the Vedek on the brink of death, it's likely these talks will never resume. Despite all they can do, Bareil dies. But just before the autopsy, Dr. Bashir sees brain activity, and using extreme treatment, is able to successfully revive Bareil. Since the Kai is a very crappy negotiator, she's elated at this development, as is Major Kira due to her romantic relationship with the Vedek.Meanwhile, Jake tells Nog about his date, which causes the Ferengi to invite himself along and turn this into a double-date. Naturally, this double date goes as well as you'd expect with a member of a species that practices government-sanctioned misogyny, as Nog is incredibly rude to his date. Everyone calls him out on it and an argument ensues that ends with him storming off. In the more serious plot, the Cardassians are able to play Kai Winn's uncertainty and indecisiveness in order to make more serious demands. Unfortunately, her constant meetings with Bareil from his hospital bed are putting a severe strain on his body. Bashir is forced by Bareil to use an experimental drug which has been known to result in organ failure in order to keep the negotiations alive.Eventually, the damage spreads to the Vedek's brain. Bashir replaces parts of it with a positronic matrix, but now, Bareil is merely a shell of what he once was. This is where the episode gets sad, so let's wrap up Jake and Nog's subplot by saying they are able to resolve their issue. With Kai Winn still keeping Bareil awake, they are able to conclude the talks and a final peace settlement is signed. Now that he's outlived his usefulness (literally), Kai Winn tells Bashir and Major Kira that it's time to pull the plug, as she goes off to accept her laurels. Despite Kira begging Bashir to keep going, he insists it's better this way, in that Bareil can die like a man rather than live as a machine. He permits Kira to stay by Bareil's side as his brain slowly shuts down, ending the episode on a very sad and tearful note.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kai Winn, as is par for the course for her. She pushes for more and more extreme measures to be taken to ensure Bareil's survival so that she can claim credit for finalizing the treaty after he dies. Once the treaty is signed, she has no qualms about requesting that the plug be pulled.
- Bittersweet Ending: Bajor has their peace treaty. But Bareil is dead.
- Continuity Nod:
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Justified, as Bashir is replacing pieces of Bareil's increasingly damaged brain.
- Didn't Think This Through: Jake didn't take a minute to consider that maybe a double-date with a Ferengi isn't such a good idea.
- Dirty Coward: What Bashir sees Winn as. She doesn't care about Bareil. She just needs a scapegoat if the discussion goes badly.
- Doctor's Orders: At one point, Bashir threatens to have station security drag the Kai out of the infirmary if she doesn't stop pestering Bareil and let him rest. Kira pipes up that they won't need security.
- Extreme Doormat: Jake in this episode. He cancels his plans with Nog because he has a date... which quickly turns into Nog getting him to orchestrate a double date so that Nog can come along, without Jake ever objecting.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Bashir, of course, is trying to save his patient as a doctor should. But Kai Winn isn't wrong when she points out that Bariel is freely choosing to prioritize the negotiations, and that Bashir is obligated to respect his wishes.
- Honor Before Reason: Bashir does everything he can to keep Bareil alive, but insists that he cannot take part in the negotiations since being alert is gradually killing him. Bareil refuses, wishes to fulfill the will of the Prophets even at the cost of his life.
- Mandatory Line: Quark only appears at the end while catering the party and presenting Kai Winn with a new dessert he's named for her.
- Mood Whiplash: An emotional episode rife with politics and quality of life discussions...mixed with Nog and Jake having girl trouble.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: More of a statement than a speech, but Bashir cuts to the quick with it.Bashir: You're a coward. You're afraid to stand alone.
- Ship Sinking: Kira/Bareil
- Stupid Sacrifice: If Bareil had simply delayed the negotiations and allowed Bashir to place him into stasis instead of insisting on jumping back in immediately, he most likely wouldn't have died.
- Theseus' Ship Paradox: As more of Bareil's brain fails and is replaced, the less he's him.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Bareil, an honorable and good man, is reduced to a monotone shell thanks to Winn. His death is almost a relief.