The Defiant is meeting with a vessel from the Gamma Quadrant-based Karemma Commerce Ministry regarding a trade dispute with the Federation. It turns out Quark, who was serving as a middleman to avoid drawing attention from the Dominion, has been defrauding the Karemma by levying bogus taxes against them. Their representative, Hanok, has an impressive list to present to Sisko.
Then, without warning, two Jem'Hadar warships appear, no doubt angry to find the Karemma talking with Starfleet. The panicked Karemma crew take their ship into a nearby gas giant. The Jem'Hadar follow, pursued in turn by the Defiant, which begins a game of cat and mouse as the ships attempt to hunt each other in the hostile atmosphere where sensors barely function.
Hanok leaves things to the professionals and has a chat with his erstwhile business partner. Failing a transparent attempt to pin the blame on his brother, Quark is told in no uncertain terms that he is a liar and a cheat who will never be allowed to do business in the Gamma Quadrant again.
The Defiant searches the area using an improvised form of sonar, but an ambush by the Jem'Hadar leaves the ship badly damaged and sinking into the crushing atmosphere. Dax manages to get the engines back online, but a hull breach traps her and Bashir on deck 2.
Phasers are offline, so Sisko orders engineering to refit the ship's two atmospheric probes with torpedo warheads. At their next encounter, one of the probes succeeds in destroying an enemy ship, but not before it inflicts even more damage. The bridge is damaged beyond repair and Sisko receives a severe concussion, so Worf takes command in engineering.
Kira stays behind to care for Sisko, but without Bashir, all she can do is talk to him to keep him from falling comatose. She realizes, after a time, that all she can talk about are boring shift schedules, since they have no relationship outside of work. She admits that his religious significance makes him hard to be comfortable around, though she is clearly pleased when Sisko then asks her to tell him a story.
In the mess hall, Quark has wasted no time trying to sweet talk his way back into Hanok's good graces, contrasting the challenge and excitement of his adversarial business methods against the Karemma's fair but boring approach. Their debate is interrupted when a would-be fatal torpedo suddenly strikes the hull... but miraculously fails to detonate. It hums angrily, jutting out of the wall.
The pair decide they must disarm the torpedo. Hanok recognizes the torpedo as a model sold by his people, and even remembers that one of two diodes inside can be removed to defuse it... but he doesn't remember which one. Quark makes things easy and pulls one out at random, nearly giving Hanok a heart attack, but the two are still alive.
Worf devises a trap for the remaining Jem'Hadar ship. Using the second probe as a lure, they ambush and destroy them using the deflector as a jury-rigged phaser emitter. With no more threats to evade, the crew are free to put things back in order. Dax and Bashir are rescued, Sisko receives proper treatment, and the Karemma ship is found and rescued.
Back on the station, Odo finds Hanok happily spinning the dabo wheel with Quark, enjoying his newfound appreciation for gambling (but without the explosive ordnance). With the work day coming to a close, Sisko decides to invite Kira to a baseball game on the holosuite, which she happily accepts.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Hanok is insulted by Quark's suggestion that the Karemma would ever deliver substandard merchandise. Then a torpedo hits the lounge and fails to detonate, and Hanok explains while examining it that it's Karemma-made.
- Artistic License: One that spans both biology and chemistry — Jadzia should've been in far worse shape after breathing in "a few lung-fulls of fluorine".
- Artistic License Economics: According to Hanok, the Karemma subscribe to a common mistaken belief about market economics: that businesses generally have a profit target they want to hit, and derive their prices by adding this predetermined profit margin to production and shipping expenses. This is sometimes used as a counterargument to minimum wage increases: the argument goes that if wages go up, companies will have to charge more. While contracting does sometimes work this way, the reality is that in the normal consumer economy, businesses actually usually subscribe to Quark's view: charge whatever you can get the customer to pay. In some cases, businesses will intentionally price products at a loss with the expectation of making up the difference elsewhere: new car dealerships typically get bonuses from the manufacturer for getting a certain number of vehicles per month out the door, and Microsoft and Sony price their game consoles below cost while expecting to make their profits on game sales.
Of course, given that the Dominion's Founders have Control Freak as their Hat, it's likely that the Karemma aren't operating in a market economy, but rather in a Soviet-style command economy.
- Badass Boast: Hanok asks how Quark is going to open the torpedo casing, to which the Ferengi replies "there's no lock that can't be picked."
- Big "WHAT?!": Sisko's reaction to Hanok telling him about the taxes the Ferengi have been levying.
- Black Comedy: Hanok dryly notes that he should offer the Jem'Hadar a refund after one of the torpedoes they fired at the Karemma and the Defiant failed to explode on impact. He and Quark both laugh themselves silly over it.
- Blatant Lies: Quark tries to shift blame onto both Rom and Federation commerce laws to appease Hanok. Hanok sees right through it and is insulted by Quark's refusal to own up to scamming him.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: How the Ferengi and the Karemma view each other, at least until the ending implies that they're Not So Different.
- Brick Joke: While trying to keep Sisko conscious, Kira suggests switching DS9 to a four-shift rotation. At the end of the episode, Sisko brings up the four-shift rotation as if it were his idea. Kira plays along with it. (Sisko was probably joking, and she probably knew it.)
- O'Brien cuts tension in the engine room by telling of the action from the "Improbable Cause"/"The Die Is Cast" two parter. He apparently tells it a lot.
- This is not the first time the deflector dish has been turned into a Wave-Motion Gun. In this case, it works better than before. Even with the Trope Namer for The Worf Barrage firing it.
- At the end of the episode, Sisko dons the baseball cap that Kasidy gave him in the season premiere.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Not only do Quark and Hanok indulge in this during their Wire Dilemma, they laugh their asses off.Hanok: We sell these torpedoes to the Jem'Hadar!Quark: I thought you said you never sold "sub-standard merchandise." This was supposed to explode on impact, wasn't it?Hanok: [beat] Maybe I should offer them a refund. [the two break out laughing]
- Character Development:
- Worf experiences some growing pains in his new role as a command division officer, coming off as kind of a hardass, but with O'Brien's help, he learns some new management skills.
- Kira is forced to confront the fact that she has trouble relating to Sisko on a personal level because of his role as the Emissary, but having to look after him helps the two bond as friends, not just co-workers.
- The Coats Are Off: Quark removes his coat before working on the Jem'Hadar torpedo.
- Concussions Get You High: Averted. Sisko spends most of the episode barely conscious, with a panicked Kira trying to keep him awake.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: When Worf takes command in engineering, he notices that the control panels have been reconfigured. He tells the engineers to reset them to the standard layout, to prevent this from happening.
- Don't Think, Feel: Quark telling Hanok to not overthink the Wire Dilemma, but just choose one of the diodes. Thankfully, he makes the right choice.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The episode starts with Hanok ready to gut Quark like a fish. It ends with them enjoying a spin at the dabo wheel.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: Sisko and Kira on The Bridge, Worf and O'Brien in the engine room, Bashir and Jadzia in the turbolift, and Quark and Hanok in the mess hall. All four plot lines get closure on the station.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The baseball cap Sisko tosses to Kira at the end of the episode is a cap for the Homestead Grays, arguably considered the best team of the Negro Leagues in the early 1900's. After the MLB officially recognized the Negro Leagues in 2020, Grays player Josh Gibson suddenly had the home run record. No wonder Sisko was a fan.
- Friendship Moment: The end result of Kira and Sisko's plot is this. While trying to keep Sisko awake, Kira confesses how intimidating it is to work with the Emissary, and admits that this is why she and Sisko have never grown very close over the years. Sisko took note: in the final scene, he has a brief meeting with Kira, and just before she leaves, he invites her to a baseball game on the holodeck, even giving her a ball cap! The smile she gives him in return is a mile wide.
- Good Is Boring: The Karemma have a very by-the-book method for establishing fair trade prices, based on the various production costs plus a reasonable profit margin. Quark finds their approach incredibly dull. Though he doesn't succeed in turning Hanok into a sleaze like him, Quark does get him to appreciate the thrill of a good gamble.Quark: You make it sound so antiseptic. Where's the bargaining? Where's the scheming? Where's the greed?
- Improvised Weapon: Both arming atmospheric probes with torpedo warheads and the deflector dish as mentioned above.
- Intimate Healing: Bashir and Jadzia cuddle up for warmth in the freezing turbolift.
- Irony: The Karemma pride themselves on the quality of their product and sold torpedoes to the Jem'Hadar. Hanok (along with everyone else on the Defiant) nearly dies when one such torpedo is fired at the ship, but they are spared because it failed to explode on impact. Quark and Hanok have a hearty laugh at the absurd irony.
- It Only Works Once: Muñiz tells Worf that the deflector dish gun will only give one shot. Fortunately, the new-and-improved Worf only needs one shot.
- It's All My Fault: Hanok sees the impending deaths of his people at the hands of the Jem'Hadar as his fault for meeting with Sisko. He even offers to make a Heroic Sacrifice to save his crew.
- Locked in a Room: Bashir and Dax spend most of the episode trapped in a turbolift after the deck is flooded with gas.
- Mandatory Line: Odo only appears in one scene, advising Hanok to not blow his money at Quark's.
- Massively Numbered Siblings: Morn apparently regales Bashir with a story about his 17 brothers and sisters.
- No OSHA Compliance: Reality finally ensues with one of Star Trek's grievously unsafe bridge designs. Sisko gives himself a potentially-fatal concussion falling onto one of the free-standing consoles that flank the captain's chair.
- Nothing Personal:
- Quark says this to Hanok after cheating him. After all, cheating people is just what he does.
- Hanok then says this to Quark while disregarding his dabo advice. It turns out to be a good call.
- Oh, Crap!: Quark and Hanok when they see a torpedo protruding into the mess hall.
- Prayer Is a Last Resort: Kira can't think of anything to do for the concussed Sisko except pray that the Prophets will save the Emissary.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Worf in charge of the engineering crew. After O'Brien points out that he's being harsher than they're used to, he eases up and gets better results.
- Though subverted at the end, when O'Brien is the one who imposes a strict deadline for repairs.O'Brien: You can give them a little slack, but you can't take your hands off the reins.
- Though subverted at the end, when O'Brien is the one who imposes a strict deadline for repairs.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hanok chews Quark out both for lying and for not fessing up to it when caught.
- Recycled Premise: A similar concept to Next Generation's "Disaster".
- Scotty Time: In order to convert the deflector array into a phaser emitter, Muñiz says they can do it in twenty minutes, with Stevens saying it can be done in ten if they bypass the safeties. At the end of the episode, Stevens says they can have the Defiant repaired in sixteen hours, to which O'Brien says they can get it done in twelve.
- Sub Story: IN SPACE!
- That's an Order!: Sisko orders Bashir to seal off Deck 2 during a hull breach, even though that would mean sacrificing Jadzia. Bashir decides to Take a Third Option and seals off the deck while rushing in to save Jadzia.
- Thicker Than Water: Kira's story about three brothers who argue over money ends with the brothers realising that their bond is more important, giving the money away, and going home.
- Thrill Seeker: Quark and Hanok's subplot serves as a nice bit of insight on why Quark is the way he is. He isn't just a sleaze for the sake of sleaziness; he gets a certain thrill out of his wheeling & dealing lifestyle, preferring to cheat, take gambles, and see what he can get away with.
- Unwanted False Faith: Sisko has never been confortable as the Emissary, but this episode takes a closer look at Kira's perspective. She knows he's just a man, but still finds it hard to be at ease around him. The time they spend together because of his injuries helps to break down those barriers a bit.
- Whole Plot Reference: It's basically Das Boot in space, with elements of Crimson Tide.
- Wire Dilemma: The torpedo Quark and Hanok are dealing with has two diodes - Removing one will disarm it, and removing the other will detonate the warhead. Hanok doesn't remember which is which. With a 50/50 shot, Quark throws caution to the wind and yanks one out. He chooses correctly.
- With Due Respect: O'Brien says this to Worf when advising him to cut the engineers a little slack.
- You Are in Command Now: With the bridge systems knocked out, Captain Sisko injured, and Major Kira treating him, Worf takes command of the Defiant from engineering.