Bashir is telling a gripping story to a young floozy at Quark's while O'Brien eavesdrops. It turns out that Bashir's story isn't about some adventure he was on, but a test he took at Starfleet Academy. O'Brien can barely contain his disapproval that the girl is so entranced by such a lame story. When the two men are called away, the doctor brags to O'Brien that exam stories "get them every time." They're called in to extract Dax and her crew from a damaged runabout that is back from the Gamma Quadrant. They manage to get inside, and O'Brien is surprised to recognize Vash as Dax's passenger.
Vash has spent the last two years "stuck" in the Gamma Quadrant, but she doesn't want to talk about why. Instead, she talks to Quark about selling off all the various artifacts she's collected so that she can turn a hefty profit and retire. Bashir convinces her that academics on Earth would be thrilled to hear about her exploits. He makes some moves on her in the process, and they plan a date for dinner.
But lo and behold, Q is onboard. He puts Bashir to sleep and confronts Vash for ditching him. He demands that she come back to him for more adventures. Vash has had a lifetime's worth of Q, however, and announces that she's planning on retiring to Earth with her fortune. Amidst their spat, O'Brien spots Q and runs to tell Sisko, who confronts the extradimensional being. Q provokes Sisko into punching him, which stuns Q but pleases him, noting that Sisko is easier to manipulate than Picard.
Meanwhile, the crew notice that the station is starting to spring leaks due to a strange graviton build-up. If they don't find the source, the station will eventually get ripped apart. Everyone assumes that Q is throwing a tantrum over Vash, trying to get her to beg for his help. He denies it, though he does offer to rescue Vash if she'll return to him. Vash turns him down and continues planning an auction with Quark.
As the auction of Vash's priceless artifacts commences, the station becomes unstuck in space and starts hurtling toward the wormhole. Everyone will get torn to pieces if they don't do something fast. The crew figure out a way to track the source of the graviton build-up and begin hunting it down. Meanwhile, Quark and Vash obliviously sell off her artifacts to a room full of eager collectors. The final piece, a mysterious glowing orb that is admired by everyone who sees it, goes up for sale. A bidding war ensues, driving the price up to thousands of bars of gold-pressed latinum. An annoyed Q jumps in and bids a million bars, instantly winning.
But before the ecstatic Quark can collect his share, the station crew burst in and identify the orb as the source of the calamity. They beam it outside the ship, where it turns into an enormous golden manta ray thing, which swims into the wormhole.
Q makes one last stab at luring Vash away with him, finally admitting that he enjoys showing her things and experiencing her sense of wonder, something that a jaded old superbeing like him can rarely do. Vash turns him down one final time but heeds his words that Earth is a real drag, so she instead commits to chasing down a brand-new archeological lead. After she whisks away for another adventure, a newly awakened Bashir stumbles out and asks if he's missed anything.
This episode provides examples of:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Among his lists of ancient Earth's character, Q lists The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, and Watergate.
- Artistic License – Biology: An example that would go on to have surprisingly far-ranging implications for the rest of the show's run. Near the start of the episode Bashir says that he missed out on top spot on his class because he confused a pre-ganglionic fiber with a post-ganglionic nerve. However, many people — including the wife of the episode's writer, no less — pointed out that this was such a huge error that even a first-year medical student wouldn't make it, let alone a final-year student in the running to finish top of his class. As a result of this, the Season 3 episode "Distant Voices" was written to solve this, and the Retcon would be taken to even further, much more significant proportions in Season 5's "Doctor Bashir I Presume?"
- Ascended Extra: Lampshaded - Q's reaction to Miles confronting him is a bored "Do I know you?" When Miles jogs his memory, Q notes he was "one of the little people."
- Asleep for Days: Bashir is absent for most of the episode because Q put him to sleep early on and apparently left him that way for the duration.
- Auction: Quark hosts one for a group of the very rich to sell Vash's artifacts from the Gamma Quadrant.
- Blatant Lies: Quark tells Vash that he's Not Distracted by the Sexy while completely under the influence of her oo-mox.
- Brick Joke: Q puts Bashir to sleep early in the episode. At the very end after Q has left, Bashir emerges and declares "I feel as though I've been asleep for days".
- Chekhov's Gun: The one glow-y artifact that Vash brings back from the Gamma Quadrant is revealed to be the cause of the power drain on DS9.
- Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Just in case you hadn't figured it out already, this episode takes pains to point out just how different Sisko is from Jean-Luc Picard. A popular Image Macro about this episode goes:Capt. Picard: When confronted by Q, quoted Shakespeare at him. Couldn't get rid of Q on a bet.
Capt. Sisko: When confronted by Q, smacked him right in the mouth. Never had problems with Q again.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Q refuses to leave Vash alone and takes Bashir out of action so he can't make any moves on her.
- Didn't See That Coming: "Picard never hit me!" It's not often that a human can surprise Q.
- Didn't Think This Through: Q spends several minutes antagonizing Sisko and then places the two of them in a boxing match, i.e. a socially acceptable situation to punch somebody in the face, after Sisko has already proven to be perfectly comfortable with punching Q in the face. This directly leads to...
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Yes he did.Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me!
Sisko: I'm not Picard.
- Exact Words: Sisko demands to talk to Q in private. Q obliges him...by disappearing everyone else on the station except the two of them.
- Face-Revealing Turn: A Starfleet technician with his back to the camera is examining some circuitry as Vash goes past. He turns to reveal himself as Q.
- Foreshadowing:Q: Two years in the Gamma Quadrant hardly qualifies as a grand tour of the universe. There's still the Delta Quadrant to explore.
- Funny Background Event: In the beginning of the episode, O'Brien is clearly nowhere near as impressed by Bashir's story as the woman Bashir's wooing, and nearly does a Spit Take when she describes his story as "Fascinating."
- Hilarious Outtakes:
- This is how one bit of dialogue goes in the episode:Sisko: Bring them back, Q! Now!
Q: Or what? You'll thrash me?
- This is how it goes in one outtake:
- This is how one bit of dialogue goes in the episode:
- Hit Me, Dammit!: Q, and he's rather surprised when Sisko takes him up on the offer (though gleefully remarks about how Sisko is easier to provoke than Picard, who even at his most annoyed never rose above sternly-worded rebukes).
- I Am Not Him: Q gets in a few digs about Sisko being inferior to Picard. Sisko has precisely zero interest in his mind-games, although Q does prove he's "easier to provoke".
- Ideal Illness Immunity: Q shows Vash (quite graphically) that "a tiny little insect" bite would have eventually killed her, if he had not been there.
- Idiot Ball: O'Brien grabs a minor one early on, when he's just as baffled as everyone else as to how Vash got to the Gamma Quadrant in the first place, despite it later being confirmed that he knows full well that she met Q on the Enterprise and left with him. Somehow he fails to make the connection until he actually spots Q on the Promenade.
- Insufferable GeniusVash: It's over, Q. I want you out of my life. You are arrogant, you are overbearing and you think you know everything.
Q: But I do know everything.
Vash: That makes it even worse.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Bashir starts the episode with an overly dramatic account of one of his exams at Starfleet Medical. The woman he's talking to seems genuinely impressed; behind her, O'Brien is really not impressed.
- Never Trust a Title: This is the only episode with Q. Though you could say it's an entirely accurate title, as DS9 got less Q than TNG and Voyager.
- Noodle Incident: Vash and Q refresh each other on several past misadventures that have made them personae non gratae on several Gamma Quadrant worlds.
- Not Me This Time: Q insists that he's not the cause of the station's power drains. Still, he's staying around to watch a station get ripped apart by a wormhole.
- Not So Above It All: When Odo expresses confusion with the Ferengi obsession with material wealth, Quark starts listing off creature comforts Odo may want. When he gets to "a latinum-plated bucket to sleep in", Odo raises his head and briefly considers it before shaking his head dismissively.
- Not so Dire: The episode opens with Bashir relating a time when he was in deadly danger, facing panic and confusion with not a friendly face in sight! Turns out he's referring to his oral exam at Starfleet Medical.
- Oh, Crap!: Miles' reaction when he sees Q on the station.O'Brien: Bloody hell.
- One-Shot Character:
- This is the only episode of Deep Space Nine to feature Q. Some fans like to think he was just too afraid of Sisko after this. Others think that Sisko showed Q all he needed in one scene (i.e. humans being warlike and aggressive).
- This is the last time we see Vash as well, despite her teaming up with Quark at the end of the episode.
- The Show Must Go On: Q takes the time to warn everyone at Quark's auction that the station is heading for the wormhole and they're going to die. Naturally, Quark keeps going with the auction.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Turns out that a strong-willed, independent-minded woman like Vash couldn't put up with an overbearing egomaniac like Q for very long.
- Technobabble: Q refers to it by name - the writers, who liked it about as much as the audience, relished the chance."Still chasing your own tail? Picard and his lackeys would have solved all this technobabble hours ago! No wonder you're not commanding a starship."
- They Should Have Sent A PoetQ: When I look at a gas nebula, all I see is a cloud of dust. Seeing the universe through your eyes, I was able to experience wonder. I'm going to miss that.
- We Will Meet Again: Q implies that he might drop in and see Vash again (her reply: "Oh God, I hope not!"). As it turns out neither Q nor Vash return to Deep Space Nine, even though the ending implies that Vash might team up with Quark.
- Whammy Bid: Q makes one at Quark's auction just to be a Troll. He does seem willing to pay it later, but Vash refuses.