Garak calls Odo to his tailor shop, but instead of reporting a crime, he introduces Odo to an attractive Bajoran woman, Chalan Aroya, who hits on Odo shamelessly. Odo is flustered by the attention, and things get even worse when he's suddenly wracked by pain and starts to liquify involuntarily. In sick bay, Bashir states that Odo's composition is in wild flux, so he'll need to stay in sick bay and avoid moving around while Bashir studies his condition. Odo breaks out to confront some criminals but suffers a second fit. His appearance is starting to deteriorate as he finds it harder to maintain a solid state. Only Odo's people, the Founders, will know what to do with him.
Sisko decides to pack Odo up on the Defiant and parley with the Founders, hoping that they will help one of their own. Garak asks to join, and Sisko agrees if Garak will provide a distraction to Odo. The alleged Cardassian spy spins various tales of his past to Odo during the voyage.
While this is going on, a dispute between the Federation and the Klingon Empire over some Federation colonies bordering Klingon space has brought the two nations to the brink of war. Less importantly, O'Brien is finding it difficult to live with both his wife and Kira, whom he suspects are gossiping about him behind his back.
In Dominion space, the Defiant is forcibly boarded by the nameless Female Changeling and some Jem'Hadar guards. She stabilizes Odo's condition but says that he needs to return to their homeworld to join the Great Link and receive judgment for killing one of their own. Odo realizes that the Founders caused his current state so that they could force him back home. Before they leave, Garak corners the Female Changeling and asks if there were any Cardassian survivors from the recent attack. She coldly responds that they are all dead, as are all Cardassians for ever attacking the Dominion.
The Jem'Hadar navigate the ship to the Founders' homeworld with computer jammers in place to prevent the Federation from tracking where they are. Sisko and Bashir insist on beaming down to the surface with Odo. He wades into a great ocean of changelings and joins the Great Link. During the deliberation, Worf catches Garak trying to bring the ship's weapons back online so that he can destroy the Changelings' homeworld and end the war in one brutal stroke, but Worf stops him, as that would be murder. After some time, Odo washes back ashore with a fully human body. In Sick Bay, Bashir confirms that Odo is now biologically identical to a human except his face. Odo confirms that his judgment was to become a solid, and his face is a reminder of what he's lost.
Odo is brought back to the station, where he's fitted for a real uniform and contemplates the prospect of eating for the first time. Sisko suggests that he take some time to acclimate to his new body, but Odo wants to get back to work, as it's the only thing he has left. On the Promenade, Odo catches an announcement from Gowron declaring that the Klingons are mobilizing into the disputed colonies and will attack any Federation or Bajoran presence they find. Odo suddenly realizes that one of the things the Founders were trying to keep from him in the Great Link is the fact that Gowron is actually a Changeling.
- All of Them: Garak asks the Founder about survivors from the Cardassian attack on her homeworld:Founder: There were no Cardassian survivors.Garak: You mean they're all dead?Founder: They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question.Garak: [with his scariest smile] It was a pleasure meeting you.
- Apocalypse How: Garak wanted to use the Defiant's weapons to turn the new Founder homeworld into a smoking cinder and was confident enough in the Defiant's abilities to do so before the Jem'Hadar wiped them out.
- As You Know: Odo mentioning that Gowron is the leader of the Klingon Empire, presumably to make sure the viewers can't miss the impact of the revelation about Gowron.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Yet another example of why DS9's jovial resident tailor is not a man you want to piss off. When Garak asks the Female Changeling if there were any Cardassian survivors from their attack on the Founders' homeworld, she all but directly states that she's going to exterminate his whole species. The next time we see Garak, he's hacking into the controls for the Defiant 's phaser banks, fully intending to use the Defiant's armament to obliterate the Great Link and knowing full well that he and everyone else on the mission will either die in the blast or be killed by the Jem'Hadar. And then he puts up a surprisingly strong fight against Worf of all people. To reiterate: Do not piss Garak off. You will regret it.Worf: You fight well...for a tailor.
- Body Horror: Odo falling apart throughout the episode.
- Brick Joke: In the previous episode, Garak mentions that he wasn't always a tailor; he used to be a gardener. And while regaling Odo with tales of his time as a gardener at the Cardassian Embassy on Romulus, it's clear that his stay coincided with a number of mysterious deaths of Romulan officials.
- The Butler Did It: Or, the gardener did it in Garak's case. According to him, his time pruning Edosian orchids on Romulus coincided with a number of "unexplained" deaths of Romulan officials. Of course, Garak being Garak, who's to say what the truth is?
- Didn't Think This Through:
- While waiting for Odo on the Founders' homeworld, Bashir gets ready to skip a rock on the Great Link out of boredom. Sisko has to remind him that this is not a good idea.
- While it's not brought up in the episode itself, Garak's 'Kill 'em All' plan has one big flaw (besides being a suicide run): He has no guarantee all of the Founders are currently present here on their new homeworld. Sure, he may kill many, if not most of them. But there are likely more off world still scattered across the Gamma Quadrant (and infiltration missions back in the Alpha Quadrant). Not only will the Link survive in some form, but they'll be even more motivated to nuke Cardassia for what Garak did. It's justified, though, as Garak's encounter with the Female Founder has left him panicking and off his game.
- Failed a Spot Check: Garak's attempt to hijack the Defiant weapons systems fails because he overlooked one of the security monitors (which got Worf's attention). Garak's sloppiness is justified, again, due to being off his game because of the encounter with the Female Founder.
- Fate Worse than Death: To the Founders, turning Odo into a Solid is this.
- Genius Bruiser: We always knew Garak was tough and smart, but now we know he's really damned tough as well - as in, nearly winning a fight with a Klingon warrior tough.
- Worf: You fight well...for a tailor.
- Genocide Backfire: The Female Changeling promises Garak the Dominion will pay the Cardassians back for their failed attack on their original homeworld in "The Die is Cast", and then some.
- Girly Skirt Twirl: Garak's customer does this with her new dress.
- Hollywood Tactics: Once again, the great consistency of Odo's patrols (walking the same beat at the same time every day) is praised as professional and efficient when it's actually the opposite. Making it easy for members of your community (including, say, the criminals) to predict exactly where you'll be at a given time is a bad thing for a law enforcement officer.
- Honor Before Reason: Having spent his life bringing criminals to justice, Odo accepts that for breaking his people's cardinal law, it's his turn to be judged. This also means refusing any plans that involve rescuing him.
- I Kiss Your Hand: The way the Bajoran woman holds out her hand to Odo, she seems to be expecting this. Odo, however, fails to catch on.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Garak tries to talk Worf into allowing him to wipe out the Founders. What's a bit of genocide to a Klingon warrior, after all?Worf: I am a warrior, not a murderer!Garak: What you are is a great disappointment.
- I'm Melting!: The Founders' virus, which makes Odo unable to maintain his solid form. When he tries to apprehend a smuggler, he literally dissolves into a puddle.
- The Matchmaker: Garak calls Odo into his tailor's shop where an attractive Bajoran woman who fancies him is buying a new dress. Odo is a dork in her presence, but fails to make a date.
- Moral Myopia: When the female changeling tells Odo that he's going to be punished for killing a fellow changeling, Odo tries protesting that if he hadn't done so, it would have resulted in the deaths of everyone on the Defiant, to say nothing of those who would have died in the war he was trying to instigate. She curtly dismisses his argument, with the heavily-implied viewpoint that the life of a single changeling is worth more than that of every "solid" in existence.
- Morning Sickness: The Bajoran variation involves sneezing, as Kira repeatedly demonstrates.
- Most Writers Are Human: This is the only reason why Odo is made into a human rather than another humanoid species. Odo works for the Bajoran government and is most familiar with Bajorans and Cardassians. He modeled his appearance after his Bajoran "father." Humans are just one of the major species of the government that recently took control of the station he works on.
- Naked on Arrival: Solid Odo.
- Naked People Are Funny: An odd (and facetious) variation that starts when O'Brien comments on how flying the Defiant into the Gamma Quadrant without using the Invisibility Cloak makes him feel naked. When Worf and Sisko concur, Dax chuckles at "being in the same room with so many naked men."
- The Needs of the Many: After learning about the Founders' genocidal plans for Cardassia, Garak tries to hack into the quantum torpedoes and phasers of the Defiant so he can turn the Great Link and the planet it's on into a smoking cinder. He expects to kill Odo, Bashir and Sisko as collateral damage, and then for the Defiant to be destroyed by the Jem'Hadar, but considers it a small price to pay in order to save the Alpha Quadrant. Worf stops him.
- Not so Above It All: Odo, despite trying to avoid falling victim to humanoid romantic desires, particularly regarding the woman Garak just introduced him to.Garak: But you have to admit — she is quite lovely.
Odo: Hmm...she is, isn't she?
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Garak is panicked after the founder's chilling "dead dead dead" speech. This is most obvious when he knocks Worf away briefly when they fight, then goes right back to frantically working on the circuit board as if he has a chance before Worf stops him.
- Pet the Dog: The Female Changeling acknowledges and respects the DS9 crew's loyalty to Odo by allowing them to accompany him to the new changeling homeworld, albeit under heavy guard. Doesn't stop her from kicking Garak while he's down.
- Pretext for War: Gowron is seeking to turn a border dispute into war with the Federation.
- Red Sky, Take Warning: The new Changeling homeworld has one.
- Garak's desire to wipe out the Founders is undoubtedly fueled by the knowledge that Enabran Tain is dead, having been told they Take No Prisoners.
- The Female Changeling makes it clear that Cardassia too will suffer the consequences of daring to attack them.
- Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped CanOdo: When I joined with the other changelings in the Great Link, I felt something I've never felt before. In that moment, I knew I was home. For the first time, I felt that I understood my people. Their distrust of the solids, their willingness to do anything to protect themselves. And then in an instant it was all snatched away. I'm trapped in this body. I can never rejoin the Great Link.
- Shape Shifter Mode Lock: Odo's punishment.
- Sistine Steal: Odo and the female Founder have a pose evoking this when he is Brought Down to Normal.
- Taking You with Me: Garak wants to destroy the Founders even though the surrounding Jem'Hadar ships would destroy the Defiant.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Odo and Bashir exchange this look when they realize that the only people who can help him now are the Founders.
- Tranquil Fury: Garak's omnipresent grin has perhaps never been more terrifying than it was when the Female Changeling tells him, in so many words, that she's going to kill his entire species. The next time we see him, he's planning to hijack the Defiant's controls and pull a Suicide Attack on the entire Founder species.Garak: (smiling calmly) It was a pleasure meeting you.
- Unflinching Walk: Despite being barely able to hold his humanoid shape, Odo insists on walking down the Promenade without anyone supporting him.
- We Need a Distraction: Knowing the last thing Odo wants is sympathy, Sisko allows Garak to go on the mission as long as he keeps Odo busy trying to unravel his Mysterious Past.
- Wham Episode: First the female Founder tells Garak that Cardassia was dead from the moment the Obsidian Order decided to attack the Dominion. Then Odo is punished by the other Changelings by taking away his shapeshifting and making him permanently human. And if that wasn't dramatic enough, we then find out Gowron is about to wage war with the Federation, and the episode ends with the revelation that Gowron is a Changeling in disguise.
- Wham Line: Two of them:Bashir: (scanning Odo) Captain...I'm reading a heart, lungs, and a digestive system. It's as if he were...human.
Odo: Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire, is a Changeling.
- What Is One Man's Life In Comparison?: Garak knows that attacking the Founders' planet will lead to them all getting killed, "but what are our lives worth to saving the entire Alpha Quadrant?"
- The Worf Effect: Seems to come into play during Worf's fight with Garak, but Subverted when Worf emerges victorious.
- Worthy Opponent:
- While Odo is being escorted off the station, Quark boasts that he expects to own the station by the time he gets back. Odo basically says "Not a chance in hell!" and promises that he is coming back. Quark then demonstrates true respect for the constable, expecting Odo to fulfill his promise of returning.
- Worf compliments a prone Garak after their tussle on the Defiant.Worf: You fight well...for a tailor.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Averted.Garak: Don't tell me you'd object to a little genocide in the name of self defense?
- You Are Already Dead: A chilling example to Garak from the Female Changeling when he asks if there were any Cardassian survivors.Founder: They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question.Garak: (smiling coldly) It was a pleasure meeting you.