The group arrives at an uninhabited planet and the boys get to work. Quark is miserable in the wilderness and makes a nuisance of himself, provoking a confrontation between him and Sisko. Nog runs off in reaction to the squabbling, and Jake goes after him. Before Sisko and Quark can come to blows, an alien woman stumbles out of the forest. She says she's running from the Jem'Hadar, who then appear out of thin air and take the three captive. The kids return to find their guardians gone and decide to follow the footprints.
Sisko and Quark find themselves locked in a forcefield cell with the woman, who introduces herself as Eris and fills them in on the Jem'Hadar: They're the feared soldiers of the Dominion. Her homeworld was offered membership, but when they refused, the Dominion sent in the Jem'Hadar to quickly conquer them. Despite this, Sisko begins working on an escape plan. Eris has psionic powers she can use to blast out the forcefield, but they are being suppressed with a collar she's wearing. One of the Jem'Hadar finally comes to speak with Sisko and is blunt: the Dominion will no longer tolerate Starfleet boldly going through their territory.
Meanwhile, Jake and Nog manage to locate the cave where their family members are under guard. They beam up to the runabout to try and get help, but unfortunately they don't know how to disengage the autopilot or the access code to set a new course. They begin ripping things out of the craft but must ultimately try their hand at manually piloting the craft out of orbit.
The Jem'Hadar show up at the station and inform the senior staff that Sisko is being detained for questioning. He delivers a list of ships that have been destroyed for violating Dominion space. Kira is shocked to learn that a Bajoran colony in the Gamma Quadrant was also completely wiped out. Shortly afterwards, the USS Odyssey arrives, a Galaxy-class starship helmed by Captain Keogh, and they begin planning a rescue mission. The Odyssey and two runabouts piloted by Kira, Odo, Bashir, Dax and O'Brien all head into the Gamma Quadrant.
Jake and Nog pilot their partially deactivated ship out of orbit, though not without difficulty. Luckily, the rescue party arrives, and O'Brien beams over to help fix the shuttle. Meanwhile, Quark removes Eris' collar, and the captives make their escape. In space, three Jem'Hadar attack fighters engage the rescue ships. The Dominion's weapons effortlessly pass through the Starfleet shields, and the Odyssey is severely damaged.
In the midst of the fighting, O'Brien transports the captives off the planet. Now that they have what they came for, the rescue ships beat a hasty retreat for the Wormhole, but one of the fighters makes a kamikaze run on the Odyssey and destroys it. Back in the Alpha Quadrant, Quark realizes that Eris' collar has nothing in it but a locking mechanism, meaning Eris could have escaped at any time but did not. That means that the whole captivity scenario was a plot by the Dominion to plant Eris into the Federation as a spy. Eris doesn't trouble to deny it and beams herself away. Sisko grimly notes that Deep Space Nine will be on the front line if war breaks out with the Dominion. He resolves to be ready.
- Aliens Love Human Food: Quark is grossed out by Supreme Chef Sisko's jambalaya, saying that it tastes like it's got dirt in it. To be fair, there are bugs in it. Nog, however, admits to developing a taste for "hoo-man" food.
- Artistic License – Paleontology: While walking through a lush forest with lots of tall trees, Sisko states the planet they're on resembles Earth during the early Devonian period. The first trees didn't appear on Earth until the late Devonian period, and the grass didn't enter the scene on Earth until the Cretaceous, millions of years later.
- Badass Boast: Faced with a new threat from the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko ends the season with one."If the Dominion comes through the wormhole, the first battle will be fought here, and I intend to be ready for them."
- Black Box: Subverted; Eris and company clearly expected the prisoners to simply accept the "psychic inhibitor" collar as stated when she used powers after having it removed; it really has no working parts other than the lock. This actually works on the humans, but then Quark tries to reverse engineer the "technology" for a quick profit...
- Blatant Lies:
- Quark says that his brother Rom is not quite as liberal as he is when it comes to parenting, even though Quark is extremely strict on everything. Not to mention that we've seen Rom is unimaginably liberal by Ferengi standards. On the other hand however, it's also true that Rom is the victim of some serious Early-Installment Weirdness. The Rom we see in his debut episode manhandling Nog and who a few episodes later is quite willing to kill Quark to gain the bar isn't the same Rom that we would become accustomed to.
- Quark's claim that the Ferengi have never engaged in slavery is pretty blatantly contradicted by the fact that Ferengi women are not permitted to learn to read, wear clothes, or participate in earning profit.
- Brick Joke: Suddenly, that runabout lesson for Jake sounds very useful, Sisko.
- Continuity Nod:
- Quark tries selling his captors 1,000 cases of Tulaberry wine, the same stuff he was trying to sell to the Gamma Quadrant in "Rules of Acquisition." Quark also notes that the Ferengi have been trying to set up trade with the Dominion for a while, something first mentioned in this episode.
- Bashir tells Captain Keogh about how they fought the Maquis.
- Cardboard Prison: Sisko points out early on that their captivity is pretty weak — he, Quark and Eris are imprisoned in a single containment field, with no more than four guards on duty at any time. He puts this down to overconfidence on the Jem'Hadar's part. Turns out it was deliberate — they were meant to escape.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: When Sisko decks a Jem'Hadar guard and then kills him with his gun, it's expected. When Quark pops another guard about to kill Sisko... well, even the commander is impressed.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The Odyssey, a Galaxy-class starship like the Enterprise-D on TNG, is utterly decimated and destroyed by the Jem'Hadar.
- Didn't Think This Through: Upon beaming up to the runabout, Jake and Nog decide to disengage the autopilot so the computer can fly them back to Deep Space 9. Unable to deactivate it by voice command, the two end up disassembling half the computer system to turn it off. Once the autopilot is finally disabled, Jake tells the computer to set a course back to the station... only to find out the computer needs the autopilot (which is now in pieces) to fly anywhere.
- Dispense with the Pleasantries: Kira chides Talak'talan for beaming into Ops unannounced, but the Third merely gets to the point and says that they have detained Sisko.
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- Eris' telekinetic powers are never seen with any other Vorta. She alone was given these powers by the Founders.
- Third Talak'talan is beamed on and off Deep Space Nine with the shield up and also walks through a raised forcefield, abilities that the Jem'Hadar would never be seen using again.
- Eris doesn't acknowledge Odo as a Founder. This is because the decision to reveal the Founders were Odo's people wouldn't be made until the hiatus between Seasons Two and Three. In-story, you could argue she didn't acknowledge Odo to avoid blowing her cover.
- The Jem-Hadar don't have the Ketracel-white tubes trailing from their necks. Those would start appearing in the season three premier.
- The entire plan with Eris doesn't make sense in light of what we would later learn about the Founders. Why set up an elaborate ruse to make the Federation take a Vorta back with them so that Vorta can spy on them when sending in Changelings who could've replaced Sisko and Quark would've been so much easier?
- Explosive Instrumentation: It only takes a few hits on the Odyssey for consoles to explode all over The Bridge. Then again, she was hit in one of her nacelles, which has been shown to be a potential Game-Breaking Injury.
- Expy: Captain Keogh and the Odyssey are intentional ones for Captain Picard and the Enterprise to show just how dangerous the Dominion are. Word of God says that the Enterprise would have fared the same.
- False Innocence Trick: Eris claims that her people were conquered by the Dominion. It turns out that they're actually second-in-command after the Founders.
- After beaming into Ops, the crew erects a containment field around Talak'talan. To make his threat clear, he then steps through it unfazed. During the battle, the Jem'Hadar weapons effortlessly pass through the shields.
- The Jem'Hadar ship leaving the planet pointedly ignores the orbiting Runabout because it's intended to be used for Sisko's staged escape.
- Halfway Plot Switch: What starts as a wacky camping trip with Sisko, Quark, Jake, and Nog ends with first contact with the Dominion and the threat of war.
- Hypocritical Humor: Quark calls out Sisko for looking down on Ferengi and asserts that Ferengi are the ones on the moral high ground in regards to humanity's darker atrocities. He then excuses himself to pick a lock.
- Horrible Camping Trip: How the episode starts, with Sisko hoping to do some father-son bonding with Jake while out surveying a planet, only to get stuck with Nog and an endlessly moaning Quark for company. Then the Jem'Hadar show up...
- It Has Only Just Begun: Eris' parting words to Sisko: "You have no idea what's begun here."
- Knight of Cerebus: This show was always Darker and Edgier than its predecessors, but the introduction of the Dominion makes it even more so.
- The Mole / Trojan Horse: Eris turns out to be a Dominion spy who's pretending to be a fugitive from them, so that she would be taken to Deep Space Nine. She's discovered before she manages to do any damage, though.
- Meaningful Name: In Greek mythology, Eris is the goddess of discord, as befitting this Eris' status as a mole for the Dominion.
- Mythology Gag: Quark mentions "Vulcan IDIC pins" as an example of the "collectible merchandise" he'd like to market. Gene Roddenberry famously invented the IDIC pin solely for the purpose of selling Star Trek fans a bit of collectible merchandise.
- Name One: Quark challenges Sisko to name one Ferengi he actually likes, but interrupts him before he can actually answer.
- Narrating the Obvious: The executive officer on the Odyssey explains the major casualties and damage the ship is taking. What follows next is the Captain ordering the deployment of damage control teams, an incredibly obvious order the XO would have done before he even reported the damage to the Captain.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Deliberately invoked by the crew, as the destruction of the Odyssey was played up as the Enterprise in the previews. Even with the TNG crew still safe and sound, the Dominion being able to take down a ship just like it speaks volumes about how powerful they are.
- No OSHA Compliance: So a runabout's warp-containment system can collapse just because someone pulls out the wrong isolinear chip?
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The crew finally meets this mysterious Dominion and learn in no uncertain terms that they're not allowed to explore through their territory. And the Dominion draws the first blood by destroying the Odyssey.
- Oh, Crap!:
"Computer, evasive maneuvers! Fire phasers! Launch torpedoes! And escape pods!"
- Nog is visibly soiling himself when the runabout computer indicates that there's an incoming ship.
- He also freaks out when Jake nearly triggers a warp core breach.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Deconstructed. The Odyssey being a Galaxy-class ship like the Enterprise, it's expected that she'll be able to rescue Sisko and Quark with no trouble and the Jem'Hadar will simply be a Monster of the Week. Instead, the Odyssey is effortlessly destroyed, and the Jem'Hadar go on to be a major arc villain for the entire series. Tellingly, from this point forward Starfleet begins to operate in fleet-sized groups whenever dealing with the Dominion.
- Parrot Expo-WHAT?: Nog, being a Ferengi, has never heard of jambalaya before."Jamba-what?"
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Captain Keogh and Dax get into a round of this prior to leaving the station, with both getting in good hits. Dax tries to offer Keogh some blatantly obvious advice about preparing the Odyssey for combat, while Keogh snarks she should try serving on a starship. Dax smugly says she's happy where she is, implying she thinks the rundown DS9 is a more prestigious posting than the glamorous Odyssey under a man like Keogh.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Jem'Hadar fighters. The Odyssey is no match for them, especially since her Deflector Shields can't block Dominion weapons.
- Plot Armor: Sisko seems conveniently lucky he's able to take on a Jem'Hadar guard in hand-to-hand combat, and that the second guard ran up to him to hit him with his gun rather than fire. But then it's revealed that this whole escape was planned, so the Jem'Hadar presumably sacrificed themselves to allow Sisko to beat them.
- Psi Blast: When Quark removes the MacGuffin protecting themselves from the Jem'Hadar's psychic powers, Eris uses psychic blasts to free Sisko and Quark and even take out some of the titular aliens. Only it was a lie, she's really working for the Dominion and the MacGuffin was fake.
- Ramming Always Works: How the Jem'Hadar destroy the Odyssey, just to prove that they're serious.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Keogh. He's hesitant to allow the DS9 crew to accompany the Odyssey on the mission to rescue Sisko and Quark because he doesn't like putting inexperienced people in the line of fire.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Quark of all people gives Sisko a verbal bitch-smacking, calling him out for looking down on the Ferengi's different values while having some giant skeletons in Earth's closet.Quark: The way I see it, hew-mons used to be a lot like Ferengi: greedy, acquisitive, interested only in profit. We're a constant reminder of a part of your past you'd like to forget.
Sisko: We don't have time for this...
Quark: But you're overlooking something: Hew-mons used to be a lot worse than the Ferengi. Slavery. Concentration camps. Interstellar wars. We have nothing in our past that approaches that kind of barbarism. You see? We're nothing like you. We're better.
- Of course, the Ferengi treat their women as second-class citizens. On the other hand, "Hew-Mon" society has done some pretty awful things to women as well... some far worse than anything seen on Ferenginar. Even if the Ferengi treat women like property, at least they value property.
- Sacrificial Lion: The Galaxy-class starship Odyssey.
- Scotty Time: Keogh gives O'Brien ten minutes to find Sisko and get out. Once it's clear that they're outmatched by the Jem'Hadar, he says he only has five minutes.
- Screams Like a Little Girl:
- Quark, when his sleeve catches fire as he was trying to pick out a couple of bugs from the cooking pot.
- Nog outright shrieks in terror during his freakouts detailed in the Oh, Crap! entry above.
- Shout-Out: When Nog and Jake can't find Sisko and Quark, Nog suggests that they were attacked by a wild animal. Jake points out that the only surface-dwelling animals on the planet are insects. "Maybe they were attacked by a ferocious tree."
- Some of My Best Friends Are X: Quark says this to Sisko re "hoo-mans".
- Spanner in the Works: Quark's greed and interest in telepathic-dampening technology led him to keep the collar Eris wore. When he scanned it, it led him to realize it didn't have the technology to do as it was supposed to. He promptly told Sisko and that stopped Eris cold.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Sisko is clearly less than thrilled when he learns Nog will be joining him and Jake on their trip to the Gamma Quadrant. He's even less happy when Quark insists on tagging along.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Odo insists on joining the rescue mission — because someone has to look out for Quark.Kira: Quark? You're joking. I thought you hated Quark.
Odo: I do, but I'd rather see him in jail than in the hands of the Dominion. Believe me, Major, if anything happened to him, you'd miss him too.
Kira: I'd be willing to take that chance... *pauses and sighs* ...but not today.
- Wham Episode: We finally get to meet members of the Dominion, the Gamma Quadrant power which has been alluded to in several episodes during season 2. Turns out they're not happy with the Federation exploring the Gamma Quadrant, and they threaten to go to war against them if this continues. To back their threats up, they demonstrate their superior military technology in various ways, culminating with the destruction of a Galaxy-class starship.
- Wham Shot: The U.S.S. Odyssey being blown to smithereens.
- The Worf Effect: The Galaxy-class starship U.S.S. Odyssey shows up to help rescue Sisko and company from the Dominion, then gets utterly curbstomped and destroyed by the Jem'Hadar. Word of God says this choice was deliberate, they chose an identical ship to the famous U.S.S. Enterprise-D to show just how badly the Federation's finest are outmatched by their new enemies.
- You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: In the end, Eris warns Sisko that he has no idea what the Dominion are capable of.