In the second half of the two-parter, the Obsidian Order/Tal Shiar joint fleet of twenty cloaked ships enters the Gamma Quadrant with the intention of destroying the Founders' home world. As a test of his loyalty, Tain assigns Garak the job of extracting whatever Odo knows about the Dominion and the Founders. He gives Garak a new Techno Babble
device which can prevent changelings from shape-shifting or reverting to their liquid form. This is torture for Odo, when the time comes for him to regenerate.
Sisko and the DS9 crew come after the fleet in an attempt to rescue Odo, against the direct orders of Admiral Toddman of Starfleet. Lt. Eddington sabotages the cloaking device, so the Defiant is exposed to any Dominion ships it may encounter, and falls behind in the pursuit.
Though Garak's torture of Odo reveals no valuable information — because he knows nothing useful — it does force him to admit to himself and Garak that he longs to return to the Great Link to join the other Founders.
The fleet arrives and attacks the Founders' world, but soon realizes that the world is empty and it is a trap. They are surrounded and quickly overwhelmed by 150 Dominion ships. The Romulan captain
reveals himself to be a changeling and lets Odo and Garak escape, because "no changeling has ever harmed another."
Garak tries to get Tain to escape with them, but Tain's despair has made him unreachable, and Odo has to drag Garak away. They are rescued by the Defiant arriving just in time. The two men come away with a mutual new understanding: both want to go home but can't.
This episode provides examples of:
- Batman Gambit: Though Tain originated the plan, the Founders found out and made sure it would move ahead.
Odo: You wanted the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order to combine forces, and come in to the Gamma Quadrant, so you could wipe them out!
- Book Ends: When the Changeling asks Odo to come with him near the end of the episode, they stand facing each other while Garak watches, waiting for Odo to decide. This is the exact same positioning used when Tain asks Garak to join him in the previous episode. But Odo refuses.
- Call Back: The Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar are tricked into attacking the Founders' homeworld by a probe delivering false sensor readings. The Cardassians had used the same ploy to capture Captain Picard in TNG's "Chain of Command: Part I", also making it an example of Laser-Guided Karma.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: The device that keeps Odo from shape-shifting. Even Garak is disturbed by its effects.
- Continuity Nod: Admiral Toddman compares the Romulan/Cardassian defeat to Starfleet's defeat at Wolf 359.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: 150 Dominion ships crush Tain's fleet easily.
- Dark Secret: Odo's.
"They're still my people. I tried to deny it, I tried to forget. But I can't! They're my people, and I want to be with them in the Great Link!"
- Dissonant Serenity: Tain ignores the bridge blowing up around him and Garak's pleas to flee as he castigates himself for having fallen into the trap.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the attack on the Founder Homeworld, the opening volley alone is stated to have destroyed 30% of the planet's crust. If uninterrupted, the projections on the attack would have left it a glowing molten core in space.
- Foreshadowing: "After today, the only threat remaining to us from the Alpha Quadrant are the Klingons and the Federation. And I doubt either of them will be a threat for much longer."
- Toddman quips that the next time Sisko violates orders, he'll either be court martialed or promoted. Sisko finally get promoted to captain at the end of the season.
- The changeling tells Odo that no Founder has ever killed another. It's setting up for what happens when Odo breaks that rule.
- Line in the Sand: Played straight when Sisko asks for volunteers to go on a mission to rescue Odo against orders. Everyone is on the ship when it's time to go.
- But subverted when one of the volunteers turns out to have gone along to sabotage the ship on the Admiral's orders.
- The Mole: The Romulan Lovok
- No One Left Behind: On the one hand, Sisko and crew succeed at risking everything to get back Odo and Garak. On the other hand, Garak fails to convince Tain to escape with him.
- Not So Different: Odo and Garak over both of them wanting to go home.
- Oh Crap: When everyone realizes that the Dominion set them up and that 150 Jem'Hadar ships are closing in.
- Orbital Bombardment: How the Cardassians and Romulans try to destroy the Founder homeworld.
- Out-Gambitted: The Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order by the Dominion.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Admiral Toddman. He orders Sisko to not rescue Odo and Garak, instead wanting to keep the Defiant at DS9 to counter any Jem'Hadar reprisals. When Sisko violates orders, Toddman lets him off the hook. He adds that next time, he'll either have to court martial Sisko or promote him.
- The Reveal: Lovok was a Changeling all the time.
- Scotty Time: After they discover how the cloak was sabotaged:
Sisko: How long will it take you to fix it?
O'Brien: About ten hours!
Sisko: You've got two.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Garak quotes him — or Bashir quoting him — when Tain asks how they failed.
Garak: I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Garak: Something I learned from Doctor Bashir.
- Torture Always Works:
- Subverted, as Garak's torture of Odo gets no results and Garak breaks first and begs him to give him something.
- Also played with when Garak and Tain reminisce about the time Garak broke a subject without any torture or interrogation at all — he just stared at him for four straight hours.
- Underestimating Badassery: Tain admits he did this with the Founders.
"It appears I have underestimated the Founders. I should have seen it coming. There was a time when nothing got past me. You remember, don't you, Elim?"
- Wham Episode: Both in and out of universe. Notably the Curb-Stomp Battle is compared to Wolf 359.
- Wham Line: "Because no Changeling has ever harmed another".
- Another when they attack what seems to be the Founders' homeworld.
- The Worf Effect: Both the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order have been shown in previous episodes to be deadly opponents. In this episode both of them are Out-Gambitted by the Dominion.