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Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 06 E 19 In The Pale Moonlight

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"But the most damning thing of all? I think I can live with it... and if I had to do it all over again... I would."

Sisko: Captain's Personal Log: Stardate 5-1-7 ... (unsure) 5-1-7 ... 4? Computer — what day is it?
Computer Voice: Stardate 51721.3.
Sisko: It's only been two weeks ... I need to talk about this. I have to justify what's happened -- what I've done -- at least to myself. I can't talk to anyone else, not even to Dax. Maybe if I just lay it all out in my log, it'll finally make sense ... I can see where it all went wrong ... where ''I'' went wrong. I suppose it started two weeks ago, while I was posting the weekly casualty list in the wardroom. Every Friday morning, for the past three months, I've posted the official list of Starfleet personnel killed, wounded or missing in the war. It's become something of a grim ritual around here. Not a week goes by that someone doesn't find the name of a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance on that damned list. I've grown to hate Fridays.

It's Friday, which has become Sisko's least favourite day of the week. This is when he posts the casualty list from the war. And on this particular day, Dax is distraught when she finds out that her old Academy instructor is amongst them as her ship, the U.S.S. Cairo, has gone missing and presumed destroyed. When Bashir asks about what happened to the Cairo, Dax says it is likely the same story that befell other ships near Romulan space: that the Dominion crossed into Romulan Territory and attacked the Cairo. The senior staff are puzzled as to why the Romulan Empire would allow such a gross violation of its territory, but realize that since the Romulans have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, they are perfectly happy to allow this occurrence to continue. That was the moment when Sisko realizes that he needs to get the Romulans into the war.

Sisko: That was the moment I made the decision. It was like I had stepped through a door and locked it behind me. I was going to bring the Romulans into the war.

After an initial parlay with Dax pretending to be the Romulan Procounsul (and diplomatically wiping the floor with Sisko in the process), they decide that the best way to convince the Romulans would be to see if the Cardassian Empire, now part of the Dominion, would have any information on any plans for the Romulans should the Dominion win the war. The most obvious approach to this would be to recruit Garak to see if his connections can yield any fruit. Garak agrees to Sisko's request to find out this information.

Sisko: My father used to say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I laid the first stone right there. I'd committed myself. I'd pay any price, go to any lengths, because my cause was righteous. My... intentions were good. In the beginning, that seemed like enough.
[commercial break]
Sisko: If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that bad news invariably comes in the middle of the night.

Sisko learns from Major Kira that the Dominion has invaded Betazed. Now occupying a significant chunk of Federation space, Sisko is now even more desperate for any information that the Cardassians may have on the Dominion. But when he asks Garak for an update, Garak morosely informs Sisko that all his contacts are now dead once the Dominion found out they were talking to him. But Garak has another idea, and that is to manufacture the evidence themselves.

Sisko: Maybe I should have put a stop to it right there. Maybe I should have said, "Thank you very much for your input, Mister Garak, I will take your suggestion under advisement," and then gone back to my office and forgotten the whole thing. But I didn't. Because in my heart, I knew what he was saying made sense.

Garak's idea is to invite a particular Romulan Senator, Vreenak (Stephen McHattie), to the station. Vreenak is considered influential in Romulan politics considering that he is the architect of the non-aggression pact with the Dominion. In fact, Vreenak is visiting Cardassian space to attend a conference on Soukara. The plan is for Sisko to invite Vreenak to Deep Space 9 while on his way back to Romulan Space. Here, Sisko would present information of these "war plans" to Vreenak with a Cardassian optlythic data rod while saying that a covert mission to obtain the rod ended up with many casualties. But before they can begin, they need to get a certain person away from being executed by the Klingons: Grathon Tolar. Sisko is able to arrange Tolar's release and informs Tolar that the terms of his release is to make a special holographic recording that will detail the Dominion's "plans" to invade the Romulan Empire. Tolar initially agrees but has a moment of apprehension when he realizes that Garak is on the station.

Sisko: Why I didn't listen to the voice in the back of my mind telling me not to believe a word he said, I'll never know... But it didn't take long for me to come face to face with the fact that I'd made a mistake.

While in his office, Sisko gets a notification from Odo that Tolar attacked Quark after the latter tried to protect a Dabo girl from Tolar's advances. Quark wants to press charges, but Sisko negotiates a deal with him so that Quark will be compensated for the loss of revenue as well as getting several lots of merchandise under impound released. The Ferengi is happy to accept a deal, noting the 98th Rule of Acquisition: Every Man Has His Price.

Sisko: That was my first moment of real doubt, when I started to wonder if the whole thing was a mistake. So I went back to my office. And there was a new casualty list waiting for me. People are dying out there every day! Entire worlds are struggling for their freedom! And here I am still worrying about the finer points of morality! No, I had to keep my eye on the ball! Winning the war, stopping the bloodshed, those were the priorities! So I pushed on. And every time another doubt appeared before me, I just found another way to shove it aside.

Garak finds Sisko in a turbolift and tells him that he has located a genuine Cardassian Optolythic Data Rod. However, the asking price of this data rod floors Sisko: 200 liters of Biomimetic Gel, a very dangerous substance that, you will recall, someone very nearly killed Bashir over. Not surprisingly, Bashir is aghast at this very request, but Sisko (having initially balked at it himself, then later telling Garak that he can only get as much as he can in the sector, which turns out to be 85 liters) is insistent and orders Bashir to prepare the shipment. In the meantime, Tolar finishes recording his work of Weyoun and Damar supposedly planning an invasion of Romulus. Tolar tries to leave, but Sisko prevents him and has him confined to quarters while Garak promises to pay him a visit while the Romulan Delegation is on Deep Space Nine.

Sisko: Maybe... I was under more pressure than I realized. Maybe it really was starting to get to me, but I was off the hook. Starfleet Command had given the plan their blessing and I thought that would make things easier. But I was the one who had to make it happen. I was the one who had to look Senator Vreenak in the eye and convince him that a lie... was the truth.

Senator Vreenak arrives on Deep Space Nine while on his way back from Soukara. His arrival appears to be in secret: Worf has secured a section of the station that includes a shuttlepad and a nearby wardroom, while Kira only mentions a secure transmission that only Sisko is aware of. On top of that, the shuttle arrives while cloaked. Once he disembarks the shuttle, Vreenak pretty much cuts to the chase, already declaring the war against the Dominion to be a lost cause. Sisko tries to point out that if the Dominion does win, then the Romulan Empire would end up being surrounded as most of the Alpha Quadrant would be occupied. Vreenak remains unconvinced. Sisko was clearly hoping to try to convince Vreenak without having to use the recording but now has no choice. Sisko and Vreenak view the recording and Vreenak asks for the data rod for further examination.

Sisko: So all I could do was wait... and see how masterful Tolar's forgery really was. So I waited... tried to catch up on my paperwork, but I find it very difficult to focus on criminal activity reports, cargo manifests... So I went back to pacing, staring out of the window. I'm not an impatient man, I'm not one to agonize over decisions once they're made. I got that from my father. He always says, "Worry and doubt are the greatest enemies of a great chef. The soufflé will either rise or it won't – there's not a damn thing you can do about it, so you might as well just sit back and wait and see what happens." But this time the cost of failure was so high, I found it difficult to take his advice. If Vreenak discovered that the data rod was a forgery, if he realized that we were trying to trick them into the war it could push the Romulans even farther into the enemy camp. They could start to openly help the Dominion. If worse came to worst they could actually join the war against us. I had the distinct feeling that victory or defeat would be decided in the next few minutes.

Sisko returns to the wardroom where Vreenak is waiting. Then, after telling his guards to wait outside...

Vreenak: IT'S A FAAAKE!!!
Sisko: ("Oh, Crap!" face)

Sisko: So it all blew up in my face. All the lies and the compromises, the inner doubts and the rationalizations – All for Nothing. Vreenak was furious. I can't say I blamed him; I'd have reacted the same way. After telling me in no uncertain terms that he intended to expose this "vile deception" to the entire Alpha Quadrant, he got back in his shuttle and headed home. There didn't seem to be anything more to do, so I went back to work. Two days later we got the news.

Once again it's Friday with the weekly casualty list, and while Dax and Bashir have nothing significant to report (which really is good news), Worf comes in to report a casualty of his own: Senator Vreenak, whose shuttle had exploded after "leaving Soukara". It doesn't take very long for Sisko to realize what REALLY happened and he hastily excuses himself. He makes his way to Garak's shop where he promptly decks Garak. Sisko lands another punch when he realizes that Garak had also killed Tolar.

Garak on the other hand yells at Sisko to calm down and tells him that they will likely convince the Romulans to join the war effort on their side. You see, that shuttle explosion had two different purposes. The first was to get rid of a staunch Dominion ally, not to mention the only other witness to the recording fiasco. The second purpose turns out to be the data rod itself: Garak had suspected that Tolar couldn't make a forgery good enough to withstand the scrutiny the Romulans would place it under. Garak further explains that when the Tal Shiar examines the wreckage, not only will they find the data rod, the rod will be in such bad shape that any flaws originally discovered by Vreenak would appear to be due to the damage sustained from the explosion. From there, they'll draw the obvious implication: that a Romulan Senator had uncovered plans that detailed the invasion of Romulus, and that the Dominion had him assassinated to prevent anyone from finding out. Garak then chews into Sisko, noting that the very reason Sisko went to Garak in the first place was because he could do all these actions without regret, whereas Sisko would have trouble even contemplating them. To that, Garak tells Sisko that despite the latter's protests, he may very well have saved the entire Alpha Quadrant and that it cost him the life of one Romulan Senator (and his guards), a criminal (easily forgotten), and Sisko's own conscience. And that, Garak declares, is a bargain.

Sisko: At 0800 hours, station time, the Romulan Empire formally declared war against the Dominion. They've already struck fifteen bases along the Cardassian border. So, this is a huge victory for the good guys! This may even be the turning point of the entire war! There's even a "Welcome to the Fight" party tonight in the wardroom! So... I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover up the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But most damning of all, I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing – a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant.

So I will learn to live with it.

Because I can live with it.

Tropes in this episode:

  • All for Nothing: After Vreenak discovers that the recording of the Damar/Weyoun meeting is a faaaaaaake, Sisko laments that all the wheeling and dealing and moral compromises amounted to nothing. Subverted, however, when Garak pulls one more rabbit out of his hat that Sisko never saw coming and which salvages the entire plan.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Sisko's narration, which frames the entire episode, takes the form of a Captain's Log entry, with the audience taking the perspective of the computer.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • At the end of the episode, Sisko lists the numerous ways he's violated the law and his own integrity for the sake of the Federation.
    • Same for Starfleet and the Federation itself, as they explicitly allowed Sisko to get the Romulans into the war at any cost. Albeit the original plan was only to frame the Dominion for planning to break their non-aggression pact and invade the Romulan Empire; Garak assassinated Senator Vreenak to help sell the Frame-Up on his own initiative. It's very likely the Federation knew nothing of that part.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: After learning that Vreenak has been assassinated, Sisko storms into Garak's shop and sucker-punches him, then does it again as they argue.
  • As You Know: Played with.
    Garak: His name is Vreenak. He's been a key member of the Romulan Senate for the past fourteen years. He's Secretary of the War Plans Council, Vice Chairman of the Tal Shiar, and one of the most trusted advisors to Proconsul Neral.
    Sisko: He's also the man that negotiated the non-aggression pact with the Dominion.
    Garak: Since you're familiar with him, I'll skip the rest of his biography.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Grathon Tolar. He was already slated for execution by the Klingons. While on the station, he attacked one of Quark's Dabo girls for refusing to dance with him, and stabbed Quark for trying to defend her. Judging by how he behaved while on parole, the Klingons may have had very good reasons indeed to want him dead. Garak also may well have selected Tolar due to how expendable he was just as much as his considerable, yet "not quite up to the task" forging skills.
    • Senator Vreenak, the Smug Snake pro-Dominion senator. He knows he's on the winning team, and constantly rubs it in Sisko's face.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Vreenak is a real piece of work, and insults Sisko and all of Starfleet to his face in their very first conversation together. One of the episode's many fascinating moral ambiguities is the way that you might find yourself, almost unconsciously, cheering to find out that Garak had his ship blown up.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Garak calls Sisko out for knowingly coming to him for precisely this reason, yet still acting outraged when he behaved as expected.
    Garak: That's why you came to me. Isn't it, captain? Because you knew I could do those things you weren't capable of doing.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Sisko's opening monologue makes it sound like he's going to tell the story of a terrible mistake he made, and by the time Vreenak discovers the data rod is a forgery it appears that the mistake he's confessing is his plan backfiring to cause the Romulans to join the war on the side of the Dominion. Then the truth of Garak's plan comes out and it turns out Sisko's plan worked perfectly, possibly saving the Alpha Quadrant — and he still considers it a terrible mistake. Or does he?
    • When Worf comes in with a message from Starfleet, we're expecting that Vreenak has exposed Sisko's deception. Instead, it is about Vreenak's shuttle exploding.
  • Bar Brawl: Off-screen, but recounted in detail by Odo.
  • Batman Gambit: Garak's ploy to pull the Romulans into the war is dependent on the Romulan government's own understanding of foreign affairs: while the Federation might believe the Dominion when they say they had nothing to do with killing a Romulan Senator to prevent a leak due to their own policies, the Romulans will assume that the Dominion would obviously kill someone to prevent a leak and then deny it, because that's exactly what the Romulans would have done in their position.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Shades of this in Sisko's log; he's obviously trying to convince himself that what he did was definitively the right thing to do, and not a huge mess of moral ambiguities. And he looks like he's failing.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Sisko's reaction to the payment of bio-mimetic gel required for the data rod.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Romulan Empire joins the Dominion War on the side of the Federation and the Klingon Empire, but Sisko is a perpetrator and accessory to several crimes, including murder and conspiracy, and realizes that whether or not he agrees with it, he has to live with it.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Very much Subverted.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Many critics have noted how Sisko delivers the Captain's Log in an almost Shakespearean manner, monologuing directly into the camera about his horrible deeds, as if daring the audience to find fault with them.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Not quite "accent", but when Dax pretends to be the Romulan proconsul, her voice takes on a very Romulan tone.
  • Call-Back:
    • One reason why Bashir is so reluctant to prepare the biomimetic gel is that Sisko is not the first person to demand some of it from him, and it turned out not to be just a friendly request the last time either.
    • Speaking of Bashir, in the last episode, while talking about Section 31, he semi-rhetorically asks Sisko if The Federation is willing to compromise its principles to survive, and all Sisko can say is, "I wish I had an answer for you." Well, now he has his answer.
    • Garak makes sure to have Tolar's recording reference Dukat's breakdown and the death of Ziyal by making Damar and Weyoun argue over it.
    • Sisko, towards the end of his log, mentions there's currently a party to celebrate the entrance of the Romulans into the war. Sisko's tone during the episode makes it clear he's not feeling like celebrating, but he'll go to the party. This echoes his advice to Worf at the end of "Rules of Engagement", that an officer's job is to smile to his troops even when he doesn't want to, because it keeps their morale up.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Vreenak's shuttle arrives, apparently no one knows that it is even coming. It lands on the docking ring while cloaked, while Worf has already secured a portion of the station including said shuttlepad, a holosuite, and a nearby wardroom (with only Sisko and Garak having access), and Kira only mentioning the shuttle's arrival to Sisko as a "secure transmission". Not only that, Garak suggests he'll look around the shuttle as a way to gather intel. It is later revealed that this was deliberate, so that not only can Garak blow the shuttle up, but that the only witnesses to Vreenak ever visiting the station are Sisko and Garak. This gun is actually fired by Worf, as when he reports to Sisko about Vreenak's death, he clearly is unaware of Vreenak's visit to Deep Space Nine despite the security arrangements, and only refers to the senator as coming from Soukara.
  • The Chessmaster: This episode firmly cements Garak's position as one of the finest players in the franchise's history.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Crazy-Prepared: Garak planned for Vreenak not believing the lies about the Dominion and planted a bomb on his shuttle
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Not surprisingly, the flighty bohemian planet that is Betazed, with its antiquated defense systems and the nearest fleet caught off-guard, stood no chance against the Dominion. The entire planet was conquered in 10 hours.
    • Diplomatic Version: Dax, pretending to be the Romulan Proconsul, wipes the floor with Sisko when Sisko tries to plead his case for the Romulans to join the war as the Federation's allies.
  • Darker and Edgier: With the possible exception of DS9's own "The Siege Of AR-558", this might be the darkest the franchise ever got, at least prior to the launch of Star Trek: Discovery.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • The Dominion War is going very badly for the Federation, with heavy casualties on multiple fronts and no end in sight. It gets worse when news comes in that the Dominion has conquered Betazed (Deanna Troi's homeworld and the residence of her mother Lwaxana).
    • Within the episode, Sisko is confronted by a furious Vreenak, who's discovered the data rod has been faked and intends to reveal the duplicity to the Romulan Senate.
  • Deal with the Devil: This trope is applied metaphorically, both by the episode title, and by Garak making it clear from the beginning that seeking his help will be a "messy" business.
  • Deconstruction: Of the concept of Space Opera warfare, and to a certain extent, the entire Star Trek franchise. In order to win a desperately needed victory against a murderous alien empire, our brave captain will: enlist the help of criminals? Order his crew to break protocol without telling them why? Bribe people to keep quiet? Instead of using space magic to save the day and retain his principles at the same time, the brave Starfleet hero will forge evidence, which then breaks and is discovered to be fake, and, then, when his sinister spymaster silences the witnesses in a False Flag Operation, he will do nothing? Yikes.
  • Delivery Not Desired: Sisko pours out his guilt to his log, then erases it so there won't be any evidence of his actions.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • Starfleet did not anticipate the attack on Betazed would come through the Kalandra sector as it was deemed too far from the Dominion's supply lines. The Tenth fleet being out of position on a training exercise also counts.
    • Sisko is clearly taken aback when Vreenak is assassinated and almost instantly knows what happened.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Sisko is in no mood for Garak's brand of loquaciousness.
    Garak: I must say I'm flattered, Captain. I had no idea you held such a lofty opinion of me. Your faith in my ability to retrieve classified information from my former homeland is most gratifying.
    Sisko: Mister Garak, let's dispense with the usual repartee and concentrate on the issue at hand. Can you do it or not?
  • The Dreaded: Tolar is sleazy and smarmy until Sisko mentions Garak. He immediately shuts up and becomes a lot more humble.
  • Endangered Soufflé: Sisko mentions this trope while quoting his father during one of his monologues:
    "Worry and doubt are the greatest enemies of a great chef. The soufflé will either rise or it won't — there's not a damn thing you can do about it, so you might as well just sit back and wait and see what happens."
  • Every Man Has His Price: The 98th Rule of Acquisition, verbatim. Quark is pleased to see it even applies to usually high-and-mighty Starfleet officers, and takes the rare opportunity to rub it in Sisko's face.
    • It also applies doubly to the coda of the episode, with Sisko concluding that yes, his own self-respect is absolutely a fair price for the Alpha Quadrant.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Vreenak meeting Sisko:
    Vreenak: So you're the commander of Deep Space Nine. And the Emissary of the Prophets. Decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor and ... oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. Somehow I thought you'd be taller.
    Sisko: Sorry to disappoint you.
    Vreenak: To be honest, my opinion of Starfleet officers is so low, you'd have to work very hard indeed to disappoint me.
  • False Flag Operation: Sisko puts aside his principles to get the Romulans to join the war against the Dominion. First a holographic recording is faked to make it appear that the Dominion were intending to attack the Romulans, and when this falls through, the Romulan ambassador is assassinated to make it appear that the Dominion didn't want the truth to be discovered. Turns out that Garak had, without Sisko's knowledge, set up a Kansas City Shuffle; a "perfect" version of the fake recording was unlikely to pass inspection, but a damaged one found in the wreckage of a dead Romulan's shuttle which exploded while returning from Dominion space would be highly believable.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Vreenak having a replicated Romulan drink, notes that it's very good, but he can still tell that it's only an approximation. It foreshadows his reaction to the recording.
      "It really is a good imitation. For a moment I forgot it wasn't the real thing. But only for a moment."
    • After the data rod is ready, Garak calmly tells Tolar that he'll be paying him a visit later. Next we hear of it, Tolar is dead.
    • Garak says that he wants to sneak aboard Vreenak's shuttle to gather intelligence. He does much more than that.
    • At one point, Garak advises Sisko to tell the Senator that "Good men died getting this data rod," in order to make it more convincing that it's crucial evidence. This isn't long after Garak has told Sisko that all his contacts on Cardassia died trying to find actual evidence on the Dominion plotting to invade the Romulan Empire. To the careful viewer, it's the first indication that Garak's playing a deeper game.
    • When Sisko first hires Garak to find actual evidence, Garak warns Sisko that this may be "very messy, very bloody business", asking Sisko if he's ready for that. This is the first hint that Garak already knows what will actually be required to get the Romulans into the war. Garak himself makes a Call-Back to this later when Sisko confronted him, that both he and Sisko knew in that first meeting what was going to need doing, and that this was the very reason Sisko sought out Garak in the first place.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Double Subverted. It's not at all unlikely that the Dominion would someday invade Romulus, either because they sided with the Federation or after they'd served their purpose as allies, so Garak forges evidence that shows Dominion leaders planning that very thing. Unfortunately, the Romulan senator they give it to discovers that it's a fake and threatens to expose it, potentially driving the Romulans closer to the Dominion rather than farther away. So Garak blows up his shuttle, making it look like the Dominion killed him for finding out the truth, ensuring that Garak's plan ultimately succeeds either way.
  • Gallows Humor: Bashir calls Jadzia's reporting of a "friend of a friend" on the casualty list with none on his end as some "good news".
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • Sisko, especially when the Federation is backed into a corner and his forger Tolar hasn't behaved himself very well on parole. At one point, he threatens to send Tolar back to the Klingons and "tell Gowron to take his time" while executing him.
    • The point of the whole episode. Sisko does many despicable things, and would do them again if he had to. The concluding monologue comes very close to Heel Realization.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told:
    • Since Sisko deletes the log, only he and Garak know what really happened.
    • We also don't know how Vreenak was able to determine that the holographic recording was a forgery.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Probably the messiest moral dilemma in all of DS9, and quite possibly all of Star Trek. Sisko willingly enlists the assistance of unsavory individuals, suppresses evidence of a False Flag Operation attack on a politically neutral state, and chooses to do nothing about the elimination of witnesses, all so that said politically neutral state will join his side, condemning them to terrible casualities in order to minimize his own (which are already terrible and getting worse daily). On the other side is a relentless and insatiable alien empire with superior weapons, technology, and numbers, led by a genocidal former dictator and unwilling to respond to diplomacy, that is conquering peaceful planets by the day and putting billions at stake. Sisko's monologue at the end lays it out brilliantly.
    Sisko: So — I lied; I cheated; I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all? I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. ... Computer, erase that entire personal log.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Sisko notes that a key factor in Betazed being conquered by the Dominion is that the nearest Starfleet battle group was "caught out of position on a training exercise". In the middle of an all-out war. Somebody at Starfleet Command should be losing their job over that one.
    • Considering that there may have been Changeling infiltrators in Starfleet, it's entirely possible that one of them not only knew about the lack of patrols in the Kalandra sector, but also knew about the training exercise. It's even possible that the infiltrator was posing as a member of the Admiralty and ordered the training exercise itself.
  • Hating on Monday: As the weekly casualty lists are delivered on Fridays, Sisko has grown to hate that day of the week.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Exploited. Garak arranges Vreenak's death to look like this trope, knowing that the Romulans would find it highly believable, especially after the Dominion denies it.
    • Grathon Tolar's death is a straight example of the trope, along with a case of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
  • Hope Spot: Part of what makes this episode so brutally effective is the manner in which, at every obstacle, a safe and morally passable solution is proposed, only to fail. But the writers keep turning their screws so carefully that we don't suspect a thing and keep waiting for a morally clean resolution that never comes.
  • How We Got Here: Sisko starts out saying things have gone wrong, we find out how very wrong indeed during the course of the show.
  • Hypocrisy: Garak calls out Sisko for acting moral, because if he were truly moral, he wouldn't have enlisted the most amoral man on the station to do the dirty work.
  • I Can Live With That: Sisko, at the conclusion of his monologue. Then he orders the computer to delete the entire log.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • A point Sisko makes in his log, and which momentarily causes him to lose his composure and start ranting.
      Sisko: That was my first moment of real doubt, when I started to wonder if the whole thing was a mistake. So I went back to my office; and there was a new casualty list waiting for me. People are dying out there, every day! Entire worlds are struggling for their freedom! And here I am still worrying about the finer points of morality! No! I ... I had to keep my eye on the ball! Winning the war, stopping the bloodshed, those were the priorities! So I pushed on. And every time another doubt appeared before me, I just found another way to shove it aside.
    • Garak also says this is why Vreenak and Grathon Tolar died. He hoped the data rod would pass muster, but he quickly found Tolar's skills lacking. Killing Vreenak in a shuttle explosion makes the Dominion look even more guilty (and explains away the rod's imperfections), while Tolar's death ties up a problematic loose end.
      Garak: Think of them both as "tragic victims of war".
      Sisko: (punches Garak again)
  • Idiot Ball: Held firmly by Vreenak. Not only does he decide to arrive while cloaked (and thus not allowing his visit to be recorded by the station), he apparently also didn't make mention of his visit to Deep Space Nine in the shuttle's log. At best he should have chosen to broadcast some news of Federation duplicity to Romulus immediately after departing. Unfortunately, his inaction would prove to be crucial to Garak's ultimate plan.
    • That said, it is entirely possible that Garak was Crazy-Prepared enough to disable the Romulan shuttlecraft's long-range communications system and any log-recording devices on board (assuming there were any) during the time that he had to snoop around and set his bomb, so that Vreenak couldn't convey a message home to Romulus and had to head there in person.
  • I Have My Ways: Garak, as usual.
    Sisko: How do you know [Vreenak] will be visiting Soukara?
    Garak: There are some things I'd rather not discuss.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Vreenak offers cold hard facts of the current situation: the Dominion has fully functional shipyards, an ever-increasing Jem'Hadar population, and a commitment to win the war at any cost. On the other side, the Federation is still rebuilding its shipyards, has a manpower shortage due to attrition, and has already sent out peace feelers.
    • Sisko calls out Garak for blowing up Vreenak's shuttle. Garak rightly points that Sisko earlier said he's prepared to do whatever it takes to bring the Romulans into the war, he knew that Garak was going to do whatever he felt was neccessary, that's why he went to him in the first place. Likewise Garak points out the deaths in the assassination of Vreenak and Sisko feeling guilty are a small price to pay in exchange for defeating the Dominion. Sisko even admits at the end that Garak was right and his own guilt is a small price to pay.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Elim Garak expected from the start the Romulan senator would realize the recording was a fake, and planted a bomb on the senator's ship as soon as he arrived. And in fact, after the senator departs with the fake recording to expose the perceived con on himself, Garak promptly blows up the ship. The real con was having the senator's superiors discover the recording in the wreckage of the ship of a member of their government coming back from a meeting with the Dominon, as now all the imperfections in the forgery will be assumed to be result of the explosion instead. With a seemingly legitimate rod in one hand, and a dead senator coming from a meeting with the Dominion in the other, the Romulans promptly join the war against the Dominion, as Garak and Sisko wanted.
    Garak: The Romulans will enter the war!
    Sisko: There's no guarantee of that!
    Garak: Oh, but I think that there is! You see, when the Tal Shiar finishes examining the wreckage of Vreenak's shuttle, they'll find the burnt remnants of a Cardassian optolythic data rod, which somehow miraculously survived the explosion. After painstaking forensic examination, they'll discover that the rod contains a recording of a high level Dominion meeting at which the invasion of Romulus was being planned.
    Sisko: And then they'll discover that it is a fraud!
    Garak: No, I don't think they will, because any imperfections in the forgery will appear to be a result of the explosion. So, with a seemingly legitimate rod in one hand, and a dead Senator in the other, I ask you, Captain, what conclusion would you draw?
    Sisko: That Vreenak obtained the rod on Soukara, and that the Dominion killed him to prevent him from returning to Romulus with it.
    Garak: Precisely! And the more the Dominion protests their innocence, the more the Romulans will believe they're guilty, because it's exactly what the Romulans would have done in their place!
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade/You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In addition to blowing up Senator Vreenak and his bodyguards, Garak arranged for his forger to die as well, leaving himself and Sisko the only people who know the real story.
  • Large Ham:
    • Sisko at times during his personal log monologues. And it is glorious.
    • Vreenak as well. One need only see his "It's a faaaake!" line.
    • Garak is practically foaming at the mouth when he expertly tears apart Sisko's moral outrage for the crimes that he enlisted Garak to accomplish.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sisko's monologue is spoken to the station computer, but most of the time he's staring directly at the camera.
  • Lethally Expensive: Garak suggests that Sisko add this detail so as to make his story more convincing to Vreenak.
  • List of Transgressions: Sisko does this for himself. It's a short list as the trope goes, but some of them are real doozies for a Starfleet Officer.
    Sisko: I lied; I cheated; I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Even though Tolar does as he's told, Sisko refuses to let him go unless the program passes the test.
    Tolar: Well, it has been a pleasure doing business with you, gentlemen. Call me again if you ever need—
    Sisko: You're not going anywhere.
    Tolar: What?! What do you mean?
    Sisko: I mean you're not leaving until your work is accepted by our client.
    Tolar: That isn't fair! You can't keep me here against my will! I haven't done anything wrong! We had an agreement!
    Sisko: (pushes Tolar up against a bulkhead) I'm making a new agreement. If that program passes inspection, you walk free, but if there's even the slightest flaw, the I will send you back to that Klingon prison and tell Gowron to take his time while he executes you.
    Tolar: (terrified) All right! It will pass! You'll see. It ... will ... pass.
  • Morton's Fork: Garak sets up a rare heroic (well, mostly heroic) for Senator Vreenak, unbeknownst to him. Either Vreenak accepts the recording as genuine and gives it to his superiors, ensuring that Garak's plan works and Romulus enters the war with the Dominion, or Garak kills him to convince Vreenak's superiors that the Dominion killed him to cover up the secret, ensuring that Garak's plan works and Romulus enters the war with the Dominion.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sisko's entire log is basically this. It's subverted in the sense that the end result of this episode ends up in the Federation's favor, but Sisko is clearly battling with this aspect throughout his monologue.
  • Noodle Incident: Tolar has quite the history that is not elaborated in this episode. Not only did he do something that warranted his execution from the Klingons that is never revealed, but his reaction to Garak being on Deep Space Nine suggests that something else went down between the two.
  • Not So Above It All: As so gleefully noted by Quark after Sisko bribes him to drop the charges against Tolar.
    Quark: Thank you for restoring my faith in the 98th Rule of Acquisition: "Every Man Has His Price."
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The look on Sisko's face when Vreenak holds up the data rod and says, "It's a faaaake!"
    • Tolar has two. The first, when Sisko tells him Garak is waiting for him, and the second is the last time we see him:
      Garak: I'll be along shortly to ... say hello.
  • Poisonous Friend: Garak is brought on board the scheme to play this role. When Sisko complains about the assassination, Garak calls him on it.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: While Odo notes that Quark's chivalrous attempts to defend one of his Dabo girls from Grathon Tolar's drunken assault seems rather "uncharacteristic" of him, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that Quark was merely trying to keep his business running smoothly and therefore took issue with Grathon Tolar's making trouble for one of his employees who was (in Odo's words) "otherwise engaged" (presumably running the Dabo wheel) at the time.
  • Reality Ensues: Garak has proven that in the past that short of betraying Cardassia or needlessly torturing someone he cares about, there is nothing he won't do. Naturally when attempting to persuade Vreenak doesn't work, he doesn't hesistate to assassinate him after Sisko has given up.
    • Odo points out that whatever Sisko wants Tolar around for, he will have to arrest him if Quark choses to press charges. The only way Sisko can avoid that is to bribe Quark, much to Quark's pleasure as he is delighted to force Sisko to meet his terms and to see that he's not above bribery.
  • Realpolitik: A foundational trope for this episode. As previously established in "A Call To Arms", the Romulans have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion; this episode reveals that the Romulans have been allowing Dominion supply convoys to transit their territory where Alliance forces can't touch them. As Sisko and Dax's diplomatic roleplay in the first act of the episode shows, the Romulans are allowing this because it weakens their long-time rivals (the Federation and the Klingon Empire), because the Dominion looks like it will be the victors at this point in the war, and although it's a guarantee the Romulans will be the next target on the list after the Alliance falls, they stand to gain nothing from joining them without tangible evidence of this duplicity.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Senator Vreenak is a Smug Snake, but he is at least willing to listen to Sisko's points and it's implied that had the data rod passed muster, he would've supported Romulus entering the war to help the Federation. Might not sound like much, but this is a Romulan government official we're talking about. Most wouldn't even have bothered to stop to listen a Starfleet officer — though he does point out Sisko is the one who started the war in the first place, and he takes a lot of time to gloat about it.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Sisko's bitterly triumphant announcement of the Romulans' entry into the war, alluding to a Black-and-White Morality that, like Tolar and Vreenak, has lately been rendered another tragic casualty of this miserable war:
    Sisko: So this is a huge victory for the good guys!
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The casualty list is a little short for a quadrant-wide war.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: But that doesn't mean it feels very right.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: Betazed falls to the Dominion, solidifying Sisko's resolve to see his plan to fruition.
  • Shout-Out: The episode's title comes from the Joker's Catchphrase in 1989's Batman: "Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?" As Garak's actor Andrew Robinson noted, the lesson Sisko learns from Garak in this episode, figuratively speaking, is "You can't go to bed with the Devil without having sex."
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: A morally grey version. Garak verbally unloads on Sisko when the man attacks him in his own shop, and leaves Sisko looking absolutely defeated.
    Garak: That's why you came to me, isn't it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you'll get what you wanted: a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal — and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb:
    • Garak implies that, to keep Tolar holed up in his quarters, Garak pointedly gave Tolar the impression that, if he tried to force his door open and escape, it would blow up in his face. Sisko asks Garak if "that's just an impression", to which Garak replies that "it's best not to dwell on such minutiae".
    • Garak later actually does this to Vreenak's shuttle offscreen as an insurance plan if the rod were to fail inspection — which it does.
  • Talk to the Fist: Sisko gives Garak a very bloody lip upon realizing what his plan actually was, and then punches him again when he calls Vreenak and Tolar "tragic victims of war".
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Garak has Weyoun and Damar bicker more in the holographic recording to make the fake strategy meeting that much more realistic.
  • That's an Order!: Sisko gives Bashir's objections to preparing the biomimetic gel short shrift, and just to show Sisko understands what a terrible risk he's taking, he already has the order ready on a PADD when Bashir asks to see it in writing.
    Sisko: Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, Doctor. This is not a request, it's an order. You will package eighty five litres of biomimetic gel for interstellar transport and deliver them to Cargo Bay 3. Is that understood?
    Bashir: Yes. I'd like this order in writing, please, sir.
    Sisko: (hands him a PADD) I thought you might.
  • That's What I Would Do: Garak ruthlessly exploits this trope, pointing out to Sisko that the Romulans will surely believe the Dominion blew up Vreenak's shuttle to stop him from bringing them its secret plans to invade the Romulan Star Empire because they would have done the exact same thing to anyone on his way to expose Romulan duplicity toward an ally.
  • The Needs of the Many: How Garak justifies killing Vreenak. In the end, Sisko is forced to accept it.
    Garak: And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal — and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain.
  • This Means War!: The Romulans declare war on the Dominion. They very nearly ended up at war with the Federation instead.
  • Time for Plan B: According to Garak, he hoped the forgery would be able to fool the Romulans, but since it didn't, he resorted to killing the Senator to make a set of circumstances that would make the forgery much more convincing.
  • Tranquil Fury: You can see Sisko just barely keeping it in when he realizes what really has happened when Worf reports on Vreenak's death.
  • The Unfettered: Explicitly called out by Garak when he points out that Sisko has no moral grounds to stand on, because he knew exactly who Garak was and what he would do to succeed.
    Garak: That's why you came to me, isn't it, Captain? Because you knew that I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Both aspects are played straight. The plan that Sisko and Garak discuss step-by-step backfires miserably, while the plan that Garak keeps secret from Sisko (and, by extension, the audience) works perfectly. The latter part is Justified as Garak knew that Sisko would've never gone along with it.
  • Unobtanium:
    • The genuine Cardassian optolythic data rod Sisko and Garak require for their scheme is usually only manufactured by the Cardassian government on an as-needed basis. Garak tells Sisko it took him "a small miracle" to find one anywhere else.
    • The highly-controlled bio-mimetic gel they end up having to trade for the rod can be used for illegal genetic experiments and building biogenic weapons of mass destruction. It is therefore not legally available at any price.
      • Not only is it highly-controlled and dangerous, it's also rare and not produced in large quantities: the contact initially asked for 200 liters of bio-mimetic gel, which Sisko balked at as absurd, because there physically isn't that much gel in the entire Bajor sector. They have to haggle the contact down to 85 liters. Sisko's eyes nearly shoot out of his head when Garak gives the figure, considering that Bashir was nearly killed for a few hundred ''milliliters'' of the substance. In a real-life scenario, it is equivalent to an anonymous contact not asking for "a pound of anthrax" but "a big dump truck full of anthrax", no questions asked.
  • War Is Hell: The meat grinder has really kicked in, with Starfleet and the Klingons suffering high casualty rates. This is best exemplified by the weekly casualty report. That leads to Sisko having to make some tough choices and choosing some distasteful but necessary options for what he hopes is the greater good.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sisko turns into this with his efforts to bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion. Garak proves to have far fewer lines he won't cross.
  • We Need to Get Proof: Dax convinces Sisko that getting the support of the Romulans requires proof that the Dominion will turn on them. It goes south when Garak's contacts are killed trying to get that proof, and goes even further sideways when Garak suggests manufacturing the proof.
  • Wham Episode: The Romulans enter and change the dynamic of the war.
    • Making it whammier is that Sisko lied and cheated to get them to join the war.
    • Further, Sisko is expressly complicit in at least two murders, and possibly more depending on what the biomemetic gel was for, with possibilities including illegal genetic experimentation, biological weapons, and organic explosives.
  • Wham Line:
    Vreenak: It's a faaaaaaake!
    Worf: Captain. We've just received word from Starfleet Intelligence that a Romulan shuttlecraft carrying a high-ranking senator has just been destroyed.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Garak states that their plan only cost the lives of one Romulan senator (Vreenak) and one criminal (Tolar). The four Romulan bodyguards who accompanied the senator to the station go unmentioned.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • There's some back and forth on this one. Sisko greets Garak with a backhand to the face after he realizes the Cardassian blew up Senator Vreenak's shuttle. Garak immediately calls him out for letting his temper get the better of him. Then Sisko accuses him of never being committed to his first plan at all, only intending to murder Vreenak all along, which Garak hotly denies. When he accuses Garak of murdering Tolar as well, however, and Garak rationalizes Tolar's death as another "tragic victim" of the war, Sisko sees fit to wallop him again.
    • Garak points out Sisko's hypocrisy or self-delusion, saying (almost word for word) that deep down Sisko knew that Garak was going to do something ruthlessly amoral to get the Romulans into the war, and that's the entire reason he hired him in the first place.
    • In many ways, the entire episode is Sisko saying this to himself, questioning how a decorated Starfleet officer, committed to his oaths to Starfleet and the Federation, and a defender of the truth is responsible for the murder of at least six people in the name of getting the Romulans to join the war.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Sisko's delivery makes it clear that his real reason for recording the log entry is to convince himself that his actions were justified.
    Sisko: But the most damning thing of all ... I think I can live with it. And if I'd have to do it all over again, I would.
    • It's not at all clear that he succeeds.
      Sisko: So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it. ... Computer, erase that entire personal log.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: One of the ways Sisko tries to appeal to Vreenak, by pointing out that if the Dominion wins and ends up controlling the Cardassian Union, the Federation, and the Klingon Empire, then the Romulans will find themselves facing the same opponent on each side. The term for that? "Surrounded."
  • Xanatos Gambit: Garak states that he did have high hopes that the data rod would pass inspection, which would have provoked the Romulans into entering the war against the Dominion. When it did not pass, he then used a bomb which he had prepared and planted aboard the senator's vessel, which in detonating provided a solid explanation for any flaws in the data rod and/or the recording, prompting the Romulans to consider it genuine and enter the war against the Dominion.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: Garak invokes this when Sisko asks him how he's keeping Tolar under closer watch following Quark's stabbing.
    Garak: I've locked him in his quarters. I've also left him with the distinct impression that, if he attempts to force the door open, it may explode.
    Sisko: I hope that's just an impression.
    Garak: It's best not to dwell on such minutiae.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Sisko is clearly disgusted when Quark approves of some of his actions (specifically, that Sisko is bribing him to not press charges against the man Sisko needs to forge the data rod). By Quark's demeanor, it's likely he did this on purpose to needle Sisko.


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