Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 03 E 20 Improbable Cause

After a bomb destroys Garak's shop, Odo thinks Garak knows more than he's telling. When his initial prime suspect, a Flaxian assassin, is killed by the Romulans, Odo goes to secret connections in Cardassia for information. He learns that five other ex-operatives of the Obsidian Order were killed on the same day. Garak recognizes the victims as fellow associates of Enabran Tain, former head of the Obsidian Order, so he and Odo go looking for Tain.

They find Tain on a Romulan ship, where he has come out of retirement and joined up with peers in the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret service. They have assembled a secret fleet of Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order ships with which they plan to attack and destroy the Founders' home world in the Gamma Quadrant. Tain admits that he gave the orders to kill Garak and the five others, to eliminate those from his past who knew enough about him to get in the way. Since Garak survived, Tain gives him a chance to join him again, which Garak accepts.


  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Happens In-Universe, when Garak believes the true Aesop of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" isn't "Don't lie", but rather "Don't tell the same lie twice".
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: When Garak learns that his former Obsidian Order buddies are dead, he says that he'd be celebrating if he weren't still in danger.
  • Artistic License Chemistry: The Yalosians' preferred atmosphere is made up mostly of hydrogen fluoride. Which would indeed dissolve the carpet, but is also liable to dissolve absolutely everything else too, even glass.
  • Batman Gambit: When Garak recognizes an assassin on the station and suspects he's the target, instead of just reporting him and asking for protection, he blows up his shop to start Odo on an investigation which will lead him to the assassin on his own. Odo does just that, but he also figures out what Garak did and is not happy about it.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Yalosians (who don't appear on-screen) breath an atmosphere that is definitely not M-class. So much for the carpets.
  • Call-Back:
  • Consummate Liar: Garak, of course. When Bashir tells him the fable of the boy who cried wolf, and asks what he thinks the moral is:
    Garak: Never tell the same lie twice.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sisko asks Garak if the explosion could have something to do with his exile. Garak's response?
    "I seriously doubt the Finance Ministry would try to have me killed for failure to pay my taxes."
  • Description Cut:
    Sisko: I don't expect the Romulans to be entirely forthcoming.
    cut to
    Romulan: Yes, we destroyed the Flaxian's ship.
  • Enemy Mine: The Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order.
  • Fantastic Slur: Garak referring to Tain's "pointed-eared friends." Tain compliments the tactic of trying to expose his loyalties
  • If I Do Not Return: Garak has fun with this:
    Garak: 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 in seventy-eight hours, I want you to take that rod... and eat it.
    Bashir: Eat it? You're joking.
    Garak: Yes, Doctor. I am.
    • The line has received much joking attention from the Garak/Bashir shippers, noting that he told Bashir to eat his rod.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Variant. Garak idly wonders if Kira's responsible for the bombings, only for Odo to point out if she wanted him dead, he would be. Garak acknowledges this as being perfectly true.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The bombing of Garak's shop ——> the revelation that the Romulan and Cardassian Secret Police are attempting to eradicate the Founders. Given the revelation later in the episode that Garak blew up his own shop, this counts as an Invoked Trope.
  • Mysterious Informant: Odo meets with one who stays in the shadows to hide his altered appearance. Through him, Odo learns about the "accidental" deaths of the other Obsidian Order agents.
  • Noodle Incident: Odo's informant makes reference again to him doing the "Cardassian neck trick".
  • Oh, Crap!: Garak's reaction when Odo figures out that he blew up his own shop.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: How Odo can tell when Garak is being honest about not knowing the true reason for something: Cause he doesn't start spitting out a web of lies to disguise the truth on the spot.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who was the informant Odo spoke with? Gul Russol, one of Odo's most trusted informants as later mentioned in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River", though Ronald D. Moore theorized that it could have been Thrax, later seen in "Things Past".
  • Shame If Something Happened: When Odo says that he certainly wouldn't tell Garak if there was one person in the universe he cared about, Garak smiles and says it's a wise decision. (Ironically, we later find out that the person Odo cares about most is Kira, one of the few people who Garak seems to believe is capable of killing him.)
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The episode opens with Garak and Bashir discussing Julius Caesar, with Garak taking umbrage that a great military leader could not recognize an assassination plot right under his nose. Serves as a bit of Foreshadowing for the twist in the next episode.
  • Space Clothes: Lampshaded by Odo who, investigating whether or not the Romulans are trying to kill Garak, suggests that they should appreciate a decent tailor.
  • Spotting the Thread: Odo realizes the bomb in Garak's shop doesn't fit the suspected assassin's M.O.; the assassin utilizes inhaled poisons from perfumes.
  • Stealth Pun: On the term "probable cause"—nobody expected that Garak would have cause to blow up his own shop. Or that Enabran Tain would be involved.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Lampshaded when Odo and his Mysterious Informant discuss how many operatives from the Obsidian Order suffered "unfortunate incidents" in one day.
    Odo: Quite a coincidence.
    Informant: If you believe in coincidence.
  • Tracking Device: O'Brien puts one on the Flaxian's ship. It turns out to be far less useful than he intended, as the ship explodes before it gets anywhere.
  • Tranquil Fury: Garak, when Odo hits a little too close to home wondering just why Garak is so hell-bent on getting to Enabrain Tain. He never raises his voice, but his Facial Dialogue and the vicious "The Reason You Suck" Speech make it clear - Odo touched a nerve.
  • Wham Line:
    Odo: "You blew up your own shop, Garak!"
  • Wham Shot: Garak and Odo are captured by the Romulans, brought into a room on one of their warbirds—and Enabran Tain is there.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: In-Universe. Garak finds "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" to be a little graphic for children, although given what little else we see and hear of Cardassian upbringing, Garak is either atypical for his species, or is just messing with Bashir. Or, given what he's come to expect from the Federation, Garak may be surprised that such a story would be regularly told to human children.
  • You Have Failed Me: Odo briefly speculates that the Romulans hired the Flaxian to kill Garak, and then killed him when he failed.