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.
- Alpha Strike: The fleet attacks the Founders' homeworld with everything they have.
- Badass Decay: In-Universe, Tain himself notes that at his prime he would've seen the Dominion's bait-and-switch ambush coming a mile away.
- Batman Gambit: Though Tain originated the plan, the Founders found out and made sure it would move ahead. The fact that they had replaced the Chairman of the Tal Shiar with a Founder helped a great deal.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!
- Body Horror: Odo falling apart thanks to the device keeping him from shape-shifting.
- 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. For perspective, just three Jem'Hadar fighters were able to completely annihilate the USS Odyssey in the previous season finale, so you can imagine how one-sided this battle was given that the Dominion have a roughly seven-to-one numerical advantage over ships that for the most part are even weaker than Galaxy-class ships.
- Damage Control: Several Romulan damage control teams can be seen on Tain's flagship. Too bad their efforts are in vain.
- Dark Secret: Odo's. Garak is forced to torture him and get it out of him.Odo: 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.
- End of an Era: In many ways, this can be seen as the finale of DS9's original direction, with the Obsidian Order and Cardassians being wiped out as a serious military threat, the Dominion well and truly being established as the ultimate Big Bad of the series, and Sisko being clean-shaven for the last time. The remainder of Season 3 would serve as an interim period of sorts, before the show got a serious Retool at the start of Season 4.
- Enemy Mine: The Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar launch a joint attack against the Founders.
- Face Death with Dignity: Tain refuses to evacuate, opting to go down with the ship. Though in "In Purgatory's Shadow", it's revealed he along with some Romulans and Cardassians survived and are in a Dominion prison camp.
- Failed a Spot Check: Lovak gives Odo a route to the runabout so he can escape, but apparently he forgets to tell the Jem'Hadar not to attack it.
- Fake Static: Actually, there's not even any static, but Sisko and Kira act like there is.
- Flaunting Your Fleets: Tain's fleet decloaks as they fly past Deep Space Nine and into the wormhole.
- 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.
- Eddington's sabotage of the Defiant.
- Gunship Rescue: The Defiant rescuing Garak and Odo.
- Homeworld Evacuation: The Founders already did this.
- I Gave My Word: Eddington gives his word that he won't interfere with the Defiant's unauthorized mission any further despite sabotaging the cloaking device. Sisko notes that he has a policy of always trusting the word of a Starfleet member—before pointedly telling Eddington not to make him regret that policy.
- Just Following Orders:
- Why Eddington sabotages the Defiant's Invisibility Cloak—he had orders from Admiral Toddman. Sisko is surprisingly accepting of this.
- Garak tries to use this to justify torturing Odo, saying he's just doing his job.
- Kicked Upstairs: What Toddman threatens Sisko with if he pulls another stunt like this one.
- 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.
- Lured into a Trap: The Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order fleet.
- The Mole: The Romulan Lovok.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Garak looks genuinely remorseful after torturing Odo, to the point where he lies to Tain and tells him that Odo never said anything useful.
- 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.
- Noodle Incident: So what's this about Dukat and an arms merchant?
- Not So Different: Odo and Garak over both of them being protective of their secrets and wanting to go home.
- The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: Implied by Toddman when he says that if Sisko defies orders again, Toddman will have to "either court-martial you or promote you." Sounds like a case of Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving, but Toddman goes on to note that, with the political situation being what it is, either one would be a world of trouble for Sisko.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The destruction of the Obsidian Order will have major ramifications starting next season and influencing the entire rest of the show.
- Nothing Personal: Garak assures Odo that the Cold-Blooded Torture session is this.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Odo realizing that his shape-shifting abilities have been nullified.
- When everyone realizes that the Dominion set them up and that 150 Jem'Hadar ships are closing in.
- In the script, when the Romulan tech is asked how many ships there are, her voice description is "knows she's dead."
- 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.Tain: These Founders, Elim, they're very good. Next time, we should be more careful...
- Power Nullifier: The device used to keep Odo from shapeshifting.
- Promotion, Not Punishment: Admiral Toddman threatens Sisko with this.
- 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.
- Sarcasm Mode: Odo doesn't take Garak's interrogation seriously—at first.Odo: Oh, no. You're going to torture me, aren't you? How I've been dreading this. Please, have mercy, Garak.
- 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.
- Played with; while it takes O'Brien less than ten hours to fix the cloak, it's also explicitly stated that it took him at least three hours, well over the two given to him by Sisko.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Upon seeing that the battle is lost, Garak leaves the bridge to escape with Odo.
- Secret Keeper: Garak doesn't divulge Odo's secret.
- She Knows Too Much: Why Tain is planning to eliminate Mila. Garak would rather he didn't.
- 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.
- This is a Call-Back to the previous episode, which began with Bashir and Garak discussing "Julius Caesar." Garak had found it absurd that a reputed genus such as Caesar would have failed to see the plot to betray him. Apparently, Tain had never seen the play.
- Tempting Fate: You just had to say "So much for the Dominion," didn't you, Tain?
- There Is No Kill Like Over Kill: The joint Romulan-Cardassian fleet's plan to bombard the Founders' homeworld down to its molten core. Which seems more than a little excessive.
- Torture Always Works:
- Subverted, as Garak's torture of Odo gets no results and Garak breaks first and begs him to give him something, even if it's a lie, just so he has an excuse to stop.
- 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 hours straight.
- Torture Chamber Episode: For Odo. Not that Garak is at all happy about it.
- Underestimating Badassery: Tain admits he did this with the Founders.Tain: 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?
- Villainous BSoD: As his plan comes apart and his fleet is being torn to ribbons by the Jem'Hadar, Tain can only sit on his ruined bridge in shock.
- 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." Prior to this, there was nothing at all to hint that Lovok was anything other than what he seemed to be.
Garak: They're using an automated transponder to send back false sensor readings! THE PLANET'S DESERTED!
- 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.
- Worthy Opponent: Even as the Jem'Hadar are decimating his fleet, Tain takes a moment to compliment the Founders on their well-crafted ambush.