Kira and Dax are chatting casually when a ship containing a passenger (Harris Yulin) suffering from Kalla-Nohra syndrome docks at the station. That disease is only suffered by people who were at a brutal Cardassian work camp during the occupation of Bajor, so Kira heads down to pay her respects. She's shocked to discover that the patient is a Cardassian, so she promptly arrests him as a war criminal.
The Cardassian, Aamin Marritza, claims that he does not have Kalla-Nohra, but instead a similar disease that was mistaken by the transport doctor he was traveling with. This is quickly dismissed, and he admits that he was a simple file clerk at the camp who had nothing to do with the crimes committed there. During Kira's questioning of him, a drunken Bajoran is released from holding muttering about being imprisoned with "one of those."
While Sisko faces pressure from the Bajoran Government to hand Marritza over for trial, he holds off while he attempts to verify his identity, which is tricky because the Cardassians destroyed most records of their atrocities. Sisko warns Kira that he intends to release Marritza if his story checks out. Using the only picture they have from the work camp, they discover that their prisoner looks nothing like Marritza but he is a spot-on match for Gul Darhe'el, the camp's infamous administrator.
Confronted with this, he admits that he is Gul Darhe'el and gives a long boastful confession about how much fun it was to slaughter Bajorans. He starts taunting Kira with her own actions during the war, saying that her Shaakar resistance cell was insignificant. With this, it looks like he will be handed over to Bajor for trial and execution, but something's amiss. Odo suddenly wonders how Darhe'el knew about Kira's war history.
With this loose thread to sort out, Odo gets in contact with Gul Dukat, who provides surprising information: Gul Darhe'el died six years ago and was buried under one of Cardassia's largest military monuments in a state funeral (which Dukat attended). Further investigation reveals that Darhe'el was not even on Bajor the day of the mining accident and so could never have contracted Kalla-Nohra. But why would someone lie about being Darhe'el? Odo digs even deeper and discovers that their mysterious prisoner spent a considerable amount of time researching Kira, and he has been taking medication for the aftereffects of surgical alterations.
Once again, Kira confronts the prisoner with the evidence, accusing him of being Marritza after all and trying to pass himself off as Gul Darhe'el. The prisoner vainly tries to cling to his deception, trumpeting that he is Darhe'el, evil and immortal, while the pathetic Marritza was a trivial coward who cried himself to sleep at the sounds of the horrors he was unable to stop.
Eventually Marritza breaks down, admitting his identity and his motives. He believes that he deserves to die for his cowardice, while Cardassia needs to confront and acknowledge its crimes with a very public trial of one of their most wicked war criminals. Despite Marritza's pleas that she help him see his plan through, a moved Kira refuses and releases him, saying that enough good people have died, and she won't help kill another.
Kira arranges transport for Marritza to return to his home, saying Cardassia needs good men like him if it's ever to reform. As they head for this transport, the drunken Bajoran from earlier comes up and stabs Marritza in the back. As Kira cradles him as he dies and demands to know why the murderer did it. He proclaims that simply being a Cardassian is reason enough to kill them. Kira tearfully states, "No... it's not!"
- Accomplice by Inaction:
- Marritza's guilt stems from the fact that he was a witness to the atrocities at the Gallitep labor camp but was powerless to prevent them.
- By contrast, Kira pushes hard in the beginning for Marritza to be held and punished even though he was just a desk jockey in the camp who wasn't involved, because she can't bring herself to believe that a Cardassian stationed at Gallitep could possibly be innocent.Kira: As far as I'm concerned, if he was at Gallitep, he is guilty. They're all guilty. His punishment will let Bajor feel some... satisfaction.Dax: It sounds like you're trying too hard to believe what you're saying. You already know if you punish him without reason, it won't mean anything, and you already know vengeance isn't enough.
- Aesop Amnesia: This episode, unfortunately, started the trend of Kira learning, then forgetting, then learning again that no single people, particularly the Cardassians, is completely evil (or good).
- All for Nothing: After all Marritza's planning, he's eventually found out through Odo's detective work and Bashir's medical diagnosis. And just when Marritza and Kira are about to turn a negative into a positive, he gets murdered.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Kira asks Marritza what a file clerk was teaching at a Cardassian military academy. He replies, "Believe it or not, filing."
- The Atoner: Marritza.
- Batman Gambit: Marritza's plan to be captured, tried, and executed, to force Cardassia to admit its atrocities. He surgically alters his face to that of a known war criminal and deliberately books passage to Deep Space 9 after putting his affairs in order. He at first tells the truth about his identity but lies about a medical condition, knowing it will lead to an investigation and a picture of Gul Darhe'el, who he resembles. The gambit only fails at the end because Odo notices that the situation is too perfect.
- Bottle Episode: The episode, which needed only one guest star and used entirely existing sets and costumes, cost less than half of the usual budget and is considered one of the finest episodes of the series.
- Boring, but Practical: Marritza's position of filing clerk is an unglamorous but useful position. It also helped give him access to the files he needed to provoke Kira in order to face charges.
- The Butcher: Gul Darhe'el is known as the "Butcher of Gallitep" because of the mass murder and torture that occurred at the labor camp.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Invoked by Marritza while pretending to be Gul Darhe'el.Darhe'el!Marritza: What you call genocide, I call a day's work.
- But He Sounds Handsome: As Gul Darhe'el, Marritza compliments his own filing system. And before he's "revealed" to be Darhe'el, Marritza praises the man's leadership. Ultimately whatever version of the story he's telling, he consistently says that whatever else Marritza was, he was an exemplary file clerk.
- Call-Back: Marritza suggests that his sem'hal stew could use a bit of yamok sauce. Too bad Jake and Nog traded it all for self-sealing stem bolts four episodes ago.
- Captured on Purpose: Marritza intentionally got himself arrested because he wanted himself (and by extension all of Cardassia) put on trial for the Occupation.
- Cerebus Syndrome: After crew members spouting gibberish, surreal tabletop games, and Rumpelstiltskin (for whatever reason), this is the episode where Deep Space Nine gets very, very serious about its premise.Kira: Commander, if you'd been there twelve years ago when we liberated that camp, if you'd seen the things I saw. All those Bajoran bodies starved, brutalized. Do you know what Cardassian policy was?! Oh, I'm not even talking about the murder; murder was just the end of the fun for them! First came the humiliation! Mothers raped in front of their children, husbands beaten till their wives couldn't recognize them, old people buried alive because they couldn't work anymore!
- Chekhov's Gunman: The drunken Bajoran man (named Kainon in the script) who protests having to share a jail with a Cardassian, shows up again in the final scene to murder Marritza.
- Chewing the Scenery: Marritza does this when impersonating Darhe'el. He deliberately invokes the Evil Is Hammy trope in-universe because he wants to be tried and executed.
- Cruel Twist Ending: This could be the cruelest Star Trek ending since "The City On The Edge Of Forever". All Marritza's meticulous planning and showy performances, then his chance at redemption by another means after Kira learns the truth, only to be unceremoniously murdered in cold blood by a drunken lunatic, right in the middle of the promenade.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Gul Darhe'el's death was a matter of public record on Cardassia, which is what eventually blows Marritza's cover when Odo gets access to those records.
- Deadpan Snarker:Dukat: I do miss working with you, Odo. I miss our games of kalevian montar.Odo: As I recall, Gul Dukat, we played one game and you cheated.
- Death Seeker: Marritza, who impersonates Darhe'el in the hopes of being tried and executed, motivated by his guilt over what he witnessed during the Cardassian Occupation. His stated reason for wanting to be executed is that he feels it will help not only Bajor by granting them a sense of satisfaction, but also to force Cardassia to face what happened on Bajor during the occupation rather than the propaganda the government spun. But it's also clear that living with the horror of his time at Gallitep has simply become too painful for him to bear anymore, and he wants to stop having to relive it every night.
- Didn't Think This Through: Marritza's plan would have worked but for the fact Cardassia considered Darhe'el a hero and buried him at a state funeral. His plan only would have worked if the Cardassian had been living in shame.
- Likewise, he didn't count on the intervention of more neutral third parties like Sisko and Odo, who insist on verifying his true identity before turning him over to the Bajorans for trial.
- Dirty Coward: Marritza sees himself as this.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Gul Dukat, in this episode, refers to the "Cardassian Empire," which was consistent with some of the terminology used pre-DS9 and often used by Federation characters. Later episodes established it, and patriotic Cardassians in particular referred to it consistently, as the Cardassian Union.
- Enhance Button: When Sisko orders Dax to zoom in on a distant Cardiassian in a picture, the resolution is fuzzy. Dax announces that she's going to put the image through an image enhancement program, which turns the fuzzy image clear and crystal.
- Evil Is Hammy: Marritza seems to be fully aware of this, as he really starts hamming it up when he's trying to get Kira to believe he's Darhe'el.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Kira's rationale for having killed Cardassian civilians. Marritza also quotes this trope almost verbatim while impersonating Darhe'el.
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: Two details, actually. First, that Darhe'el wasn't present during the mining accident to contract Kalla-Nohra. Second, that Darhe'el had been dead for several years already. He was counting on the Bajorans using a Cardassian style trial, i.e. executing the suspect and then investigating the issue.
- Instant Death Stab: Marritza is stabbed in the lower back by a small knife and dies instantly. Unless Cardassians have some Bizarre Alien Biology, this shouldn't be an instant death injury. It's made worse by the fact that no one even attempts to give him first aid or call for a medic.
- Hate Sink: Invoked. Marritza portrays Darhe'el as the most repulsive, arrogant, sadistic, and obnoxious man possible in order to make "his" eventual punishment more cathartic.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Odo calls Darhe'el/Marritza a "creature." The murderous Bajoran objects to being incarcerated with "one of those" rather than "one of them."
- Karma Houdini: The real Gul Darhe'el died peacefully in his sleep, received a state funeral with full Cardassian military honors, and didn't even have the good grace to contract Kalla-Nohra syndrome, unlike most of the camp's inhabitants.
- Motivational Lie: Marritza lied about his identity and running the work camps, to motivate Kira to put him on trial.
- Multilayer Façade: Marritza is impersonating Gul Darhe'el impersonating Marritza.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Marritza's description of his filing system.Marritza: "Actually I would have preferred to avoid military service altogether, but I had the good fortune to be posted to the records office at Gallitep, and I turned out to be an exemplary file clerk. In fourteen units of service, I never misplaced or lost a record. I received numerous commendations. Gul Darhe'el himself called my computer filing system 'a masterpiece of meticulous exactitude'. Well, there you are. My secret's out, my crimes laid bare I await execution."
- The sad part is, he's probably not being all that sarcastic. Marritza knows that his filing and bureaucratic contributions all but certainly helped make Gallitep the hellhole it was, because it was an efficient hellhole. It's clear by the end that he knows that, even if he didn't kill any Bajorans with his own hands, he absolutely, unquestionably aided in the killing. The entire point, though, is that by the end, Kira is not so sure she agrees with that blunt an assessment.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Marritza is one of the series' best examples of most Cardassians' deeply ingrained devotion to the greater good of their state, invoking the full version of the oft-misquoted trope: "if wrong, to be set right". His plan is for Cardassia to be forced to confront its atrocities and make amends for them because he sincerely believes that it's in their best interests and the only way they can survive and thrive going forward.Kira: [tearing up] Why are you doing this?!
Marritza: For Cardassia! The only way Cardassia will survive is if it stands before Bajor and admits the truth! My trial will force Cardassia to acknowledge its guilt, and we're guilty, all of us! My death is necessary.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name:
- Marritza's stories of the work camp are clearly meant to invoke Auschwitz, with the Cardassians being analogous to Nazis, and the Bajorans to Jews and other minorities put in concentration camps.
- To a lesser extent, the mealy-mouthed war crime denials Sisko puts up with call to mind Imperial Japan's own tendency to deflect accusations of its atrocities. Additionally, the fact that the real Gul Darhe'el was buried with full military honors at one of Cardassia's greatest memorial sites seems to call to mind the Yasukuni Shrine Controversy.
- Pet the Dog: Odo gets ahold of one of Quark's more expensive drinks, meaning either he actually bought it or Quark gave it up willingly. Either way this shows how much someone cares for Kira and her tough circumstances.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivered twice by Marritza, once pretending to be Darhe'el as he tries to enrage Kira into sending him to Bajor to be executed, the second berating himself for his cowardice as a filing clerk at Gallitep.
- Red Baron: Gul Darhe'el, a.k.a. "The Butcher of Gallitep".
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Once Kira mentions Darhe'el has been dead for several years, Marritza tries to invoke this trope in rebuttal.
- Sarcastic Confession: Marritza actually admits to being a file clerk at Gallitep in his first interrogation, but rolls with it when he's "outed" as Gul Darhe'el.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:
- Kira, as usual. She claims that arresting Marritza as a war criminal is the right thing to do, even if there's no legal justification.
- Similarly, when Marritza reveals his true character, Kira releases him from the cell, no longer caring whether or not Bajor would still want to prosecute him. (Although Sisko had already made clear that Aamin Marritza the file clerk would be released regardless of whether or not Bajor sought to prosecute him.)
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Darhe'el" couldn't bear to hear the screams of the Bajorans his superiors murdered, and his experiences at the labor camp have shaken him to his core.
- Shout-Out: To The Man in the Glass Booth, which inspired the plot.
- Spotting the Thread: The first clue that Darhe'el is not who he says he is comes when he mentions the name of Kira's former resistance cell, the Shakaar. Kira doesn't think anything of it at first, but Odo finds it incredibly suspicious that Darhe'el, whose duties did not involve fighting the resistance, would know (let alone remember) such a specific piece of trivia (because Darhe'el is actually right - individual cells, even the Shakaar cell, were basically fleas to the Cardassian military, and the withdrawal was due more to overall political pressure than anything). He claims to have seen her name in reports he read in his spare time, which Kira probably would have bought, but by then more evidence was appearing that unraveled the thread even more.
- Stealth Insult: Inverted. Once the jig is up and Marritza begins spilling his plan while cursing his own inaction, he wryly salutes Kira's bravery by telling her she "[has] no idea what it's like to be a coward".
- Swiss-Cheese Security: Odo is usually on the ball, but failing to catch Marritza's murderer in time is a serious faux pas on his part.
- That Man Is Dead: Marritza thinks this of himself.
- Too Dumb to Live: Discussed by Odo and Dukat over the comm. Why would an innocent old man head to a Bajoran space station and pretend to be an infamous Cardassian war criminal, an act guaranteed to get him captured and executed? Turns out, there's a method to his apparent madness...
- Villainous Breakdown: This is inverted, as Marritza's breakdown is when he starts talking about himself (still pretending he's Darhe'el), and how he would spend nights trying to cover his ears from the screams of suffering people, and that's what causes him to burst into tears and finally break his facade.
- Younger than They Look: While his plastic surgery as "Darhe'el" makes him looked middle-aged, Marritza's actual appearance in an visual recording reveals him a much younger man.
- You're Insane!: Said by Kira once "Darhe'el" stops denying and starts bragging about his war crimes. Which is almost certainly exactly the reaction that Marritza wanted.
- Zero-Approval Gambit: Marritza's plan was to, essentially, act as unlikable and evil as possible in order to get put on trial and expose Cardassia's war crimes to the galaxy.