Odo and Dax investigate a strange energy field on on uncharted planet, only to find a settlement whose inhabitants have been mysteriously vanishing. Sisko encourages Jake to work with O'Brien as preparation for applying to Starfleet, but Jake is having doubts. Kira gets a surprise visit from Vedek Bareil, and the two get to know each other better.
- Batman Gambit: Quark invites Bareil to DS9 knowing that he and Kira will spend time together, distracting her from intervening in a deal Quark's cousin is trying to orchestrate.
- Be Yourself: O'Brien's advice to Jake, later echoed by Sisko.
- Call-Back: O'Brien mentions that his dad wanted him to become a musician and he got to be good at playing cello, which was shown in TNG's "The Ensigns of Command."
- Follow in My Footsteps: Jake's dilemma is that he doesn't want to be a Starfleet officer like his dad. Sisko is cool with it.
- Moment Killer: Kira breaks off from snogging Bareil when she figures out why he was invited to the station and that Quark was involved.
- Myth Arc:
- The reason why Rurigan is here is because his home was destroyed by the Dominion, the third mention of the massive polity, and emphasizing their highly aggressive nature.
- We find another culture that has legends about changelings; the story Taya tells features an "evil changeling" getting outwitted by the hero.
- Nested Story Reveal: Subverted. Rurigan argues that the holographic simulation he's created should not be restarted once everyone has learned the truth about it, especially since he's about to die anyway. Odo and Dax counter the argument by suggesting that even simulated lives can in some sense be real and not mere fiction, so in the end they bring back the simulation, and presumably it keeps on running long after Rurigan's death.
- Not So Different: Kira mentions learning to play springball in an internment camp and Bareil says he did the same, leading the two to realize that they came from very similar circumstances despite ending up in very different places.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Colyus makes a show of detaining Odo and Dax, but he listens to their explanations and once they persuade him of their innocence he accepts their help in investigating the disappearances.
- Tricking the Shapeshifter: Taya tells Odo a story in which The Hero does this. Odo figures out how it ends, largely because the shapeshifter in question is an idiot.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Jake feels this way about not joining Starfleet, until it turns out that his father isn't too disappointed in him. Or, more specifically, Ben is disappointed, but not in Jake, which is an important distinction.
- Wham Shot:
Rurigan: Don't look so surprised. I'm as real as you are.
- Taya reaches out past a bush and her arm partially disappears, revealing that she's a hologram.
- After the holographic generator is shut down, everyone vanishes...except Rurigan.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Rurigan tries to claim that the holographic villagers aren't "real"; Odo's response is that Rurigan certainly treats them as if they're real.