The Defiant crew crash-lands their captured Dominion fighter only to find themselves in conflict with a Jem'Hadar crew that crashed there two days previously. Forced into a kill-or-be-killed situation, Sisko and friends discover that the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar to the Dominion transcends strategy, deception, and even betrayal. And a shocking demonstration forces Kira to realize that she is transforming into the one thing she hates most.
This episode contains examples of:
- Action Prologue: Our heroes are still trying to repair the damage from last episode when two Jem-Hadar fighters attack them.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Sisko and the rest of the crew collapse in laughter after O'Brien tears his pants.
- A Father to His Men: Keevan demands the name of a Jem'Hadar who made a mistake. Remata'Klan refuses to give it, saying it's his responsibility to discipline his own men. Keevan can punish him for failing to do his job properly, but not his men.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The crew crash-lands on a barren planet, Dax is severely injured, and O'Brien tears his pants.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sisko's crew survives and with a major Dominion prisoner, but lost one of their own and had a pointless fight with the Jem'Hadar. Vedek Yassim commits suicide, which forces Kira to realize she has to do something against the new Occupation.
- Bookends: The captured Jem'Hadar fighter's final appearance mirrors its first, crashing on an empty planet.
- Combat Pragmatist: Discussed and subverted. Some of the Starfleet crew are outraged about ambushing the Jem'Hadar, only for Garak and ultimately Sisko to smack them down. However, at the ambush, Sisko takes the time to warn Remata'Klan of the coming ambush and gives him a chance to peacefully surrender. It doesn't work.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Kira had grown accustomed to working alongside DS9's Dominion occupiers (including the former Cardassian Prefect of the station). It isn't until Vedek Yassim's "protest" that she realizes she was turning into a collaborator and commits herself to subverting the occupation.
- Contrived Coincidence: The crew's disabled ship not only finds a conveniently close nebula to hide in, but they find a planet in the nebula, and crash within walking distance of similarly shipwrecked Dominion troops.
- Dirty Coward:
- Keevan might be the most contemptible Vorta ever. Oh, he'll get his.
- Kira comes to see herself as this by the end of the episode.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Yassim committing suicide in protest is a direct reference to Buddhist monks immolating themselves in protest of the American presence in Vietnam.
- Due to the Dead: After killing the Jem'Hadar (and losing Ensign Gordon) Sisko demands his crew form a burial detail.
- Explosive Instrumentation: A console explodes in Dax's face and knocks her to the deck. Fortunately, she's a main character, so she survives.
- Famous Last Words:
- "EVIL MUST BE OPPOSED!"
- "Our death is glory to the Founders."
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: As Kira remarks on Yassim's apparent no-show and starts to tell Jake there won't be a story, extras in the background start chattering in alarm and saying things like "what is she doing?!" Cut to Yassim, standing on the railing with a rope around her neck.
- Foil: Remata'Klan is one of the most honorable and noble Jem'Hadar ever portrayed, and Keevan is quite possibly the most despicable Vorta ever portrayed.
- Foreshadowing: When Keevan tells Remata'Klan to locate the Starfleeters and report back, Remata'Klan says "I understand" and Keevan responds with "No, you don't." In retrospect, it's the first hint that Keevan has plans that he doesn't want Remata'Klan to know about.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Not exactly freeze-frame, as there's enough screentime to see, but a careful look in the final battle shows that the neck tubes on the Jem'hadar are empty.
- Hate Sink: Keevan. He's meant to be a despicable character from the beginning, hated by the characters and audience alike. He's a marked contrast with the far more honorable Remata'klan.
- Heel Realization: Vedek Yassim's suicide causes Kira to come to this.
- Hypocritical Humor: O'Brien can say "damn", but he tells Nog "watch your mouth!" when Nog does it back.
- Invisibility: The Jem'Hadar's ability to cloak depends on their supply of ketracel-white. When Remata'Klan orders a withdrawal, his men are unable to cloak in order to escape.
- Just Following Orders: Remata'Klan says he only came to deliver terms, and even admits that it's a terrible deal that Sisko shouldn't agree to.
- Intrepid Reporter: Jake is still writing articles despite knowing they won't be read, and asks Odo and Kira some uncomfortable questions in an interview.
- Lured into a Trap: The Jem'Hadar—by their Vorta leader. And they know it, but they still walk into it, because it's the "order of things."
- MacGyvering: In-Universe, Starfleet Engineers have apparently achieved this version of Memetic Badass status, as according to Keevan, they can "turn rocks into replicators."
- My Country, Right or Wrong: The Jem'Hadar...Up to Eleven.
- Oh, Crap!: Garak, when he sees that our heroes are headed for a crash landing.Garak: Oh, no!
Sisko: Mr. Garak?
Garak: Hold on!
- Our Dark Matter Is Mysterious: Sisko et al. attempt to evade Jem'Hadar pursuit by flying into a dark matter nebula, but suffer damage and crash on a planet inside it.
- Pass the Popcorn: The Jem'Hadar are quite curious about Bashir performing surgery on their Vorta.Sisko: How was the show?
- Precision Crash: Despite being completely out of control, our heroes manage to crash within walking distance of another Jem'Hadar ship that crashed several days earlier.
- On top of that, said Jem'Hadar are suffering a critical shortage of ketracel-white, which Sisko's crew had obtained plenty of during their infiltration mission. But, it sank to the bottom of a lake, so it won't be usable.
- Prisoner Exchange: Garak and Nog are released in exchange for Sisko and Bashir.
- Properly Paranoid: After the events of "Empok Nor", Nog refuses to turn his back on Garak. Rather than be insulted, Garak actually looks quite proud of him for it.Garak: Cadet...there's hope for you yet.
- Red Shirt: Lieutenant Neeley and Ensign Gordon were never seen after this episode, though Neeley defies the trope by surviving.
- Shoot the Dog: Sisko tries his best to prevent it, but in the end he's left with no choice but to slaughter the Jem'hadar.
- Shout-Out: The episode title is a reference to the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, which was the formal name of the military laws that governed the Navy until it was replaced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951. Informally they were known as Rocks and Shoals, a reference to one of the sections that said someone could be sentenced to death for grounding their ship, or, as it was known at the time, "run upon rocks and shoals".
- Skewed Priorities: They've crashed on a barren planet, have no means to call for rescue and face the possibility of the Dominion finding them, but then the other shoe drops: O'Brien tore his pants.Sisko: (cracking up) You... You tore your pants?
O'Brien: (realizing) Yeah, I tore my pants. (everyone starts laughing) I guess... I guess I'm really in trouble now!
- Smarter Than You Look: Remata'Klan says this of all Jem'Hadar."Despite what Keevan may think, the Jem'Hadar are often one step ahead of the Vorta."
- Smug Snake: Keevan, the smugest of them all.
- Take It to the Bridge: Where Garak and Nog are released in exchange for Sisko and Bashir.
- Tension-Cutting Laughter: As their ship sinks into the sea, Sisko and crew swim onto the desolate shore of an uninhabited world with a severely injured comrade and no idea how they'll get back. And then O'Brien bursts out in dismay that he tore his pants.Sisko: You—you tore your pants?
O'Brien: [realizing the absurdity] Yeah! I tore my pants! I guess I'm really in trouble now!
[everyone dissolves into helpless giggling]
- Undying Loyalty: Despite knowing that Keevan is setting them up, none of the Jem'Hadar go against orders.Sisko: Keevan doesn't deserve the unwavering loyalty you're giving him.
Remata'Klan: He does not have to earn my loyalty, Captain. He has had it from the moment I was conceived. I am a Jem'Hadar. He is a Vorta. It is the order of things.
Sisko: Do you really want to give up your life for the 'order of things'?
Remata'Klan: It is not my life to give up, Captain and it never was.
- Unfriendly Fire: Discussed. In a Call-Back to "To the Death", Sisko suggests that Remata'klan frag Keevan the way Omet'iklan fragged Weyoun 4, but Remata'klan calls this a breakdown of discipline and refuses.
- Ungrateful Bastard: When Keevan shows up at the battle site moments after his Jem'Hadar have all been killed, he looks down at their dead bodies with disdain, then smugly tells Sisko that if he'd only had a few more vials of White, the Starfleet officers would all be dead.
- Uriah Gambit: Keevan's plan to deal with his Jem'Hadar, who are slowly losing their minds from lack of Ketracel White. He'll order them to attack Sisko's forces, but gives the Starfleeters the exact time and plan of attack, so they can stage an ambush. Sisko reluctantly agrees to the deal.
- Wham Shot: The rope around Vedek Yassim's neck."Evil must be opposed!"
- Worthy Opponent: Remata'Klan is arguably one of the most honorable Jem'Hadar ever portrayed.
- You, Get Me Coffee: Inverted; the fact that a Cardassian soldier is getting raktajino for Kira every day is a source of shame for her.