Ezri, Bashir, and Odo are sitting at Quark's, having a pleasant chat. Kira, in high spirits after the service at the Bajoran shrine, joins them. They talk about the subject of the sermon — the importance of forgiveness — and Odo expresses regret that he is unable to share the sense of faith that is obviously so important to her. Maybe Odo could give Klingon religion a try, Ezri suggests? Nah. Odo doesn't eat, so how could he devour the hearts of his enemies?
Later, Kira is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Vedek Fala, one of her favorite teachers from when she was young. He's brought her a gift: a tiny gemstone. When Kira holds it in her hands, it transports her to Empok Nor, the abandoned sister to DS9. Only it isn't abandoned anymore. She is greeted by several Bajorans, whom Kira recognizes as Pah-wraith cultists, and their leader... Dukat.
He apologizes for kidnapping her and gives her the Pah-wraith sales pitch, claiming that they are the true, benevolent gods of Bajor, and that he is a changed man who only wants to carry out their plan. Kira is not at all receptive to these claims, least of all coming from him.
She is especially angry at Fala, who admits that he has been a part of the cult since long before Dukat arrived. He believes fully in their new leader's sincerity, whatever his past crimes, and insists that they do not deserve their reputation for violence and hate. He encourages Kira to stay (not that she has a choice) and learn more.
Her first introduction is to Benyan and Mika, a young couple who are expecting a child soon. Mika is friendly to Kira, though Benyan seems more wary. If she had any doubts about their loyalty to Dukat, they are soon dispelled. During a service on the promenade, Kira swipes a phaser from an armed cultist and aims it at Dukat. Benyan and several others are quick to interpose themselves to protect him.
Still, there are cracks showing in his Cult of Personality. The first appears rather suddenly when Mika goes into labor and gives birth... to a half-Cardassian baby. Dukat's face says it all. He tries to play it off as a miracle from the Pah-wraiths. Most of them buy it, including Fala, but it's clear that Benyan is holding on to some serious doubts, which Kira is ready to press him on.
Benyan: We prayed together many times. He wanted to be sure.
Kira: Did you ever pray with him alone?
Kira: Did Mika?
Mika is also having trouble sharing in the lie. In private with Dukat, though he acts pious and regretful over his "mistake", he is quick to stick her in the airlock after she expresses doubts about her ability to keep up their charade. Unfortunately for him, Kira and Fala arrive moments later and rescue her before she suffocates.
Dukat is in a bind now. It's too late for him to finish the job and Mika is sure to give him up once she regains consciousness. His solution is to announce a suicide pact with his followers, whom he claims have been invited by the Pah-wraiths to shed their corporeal forms in their service. He has some promazine pills, a product of the Obsidian Order made for captured spies, that are perfect for the occasion.
Kira is convinced by now that Dukat really thinks he's the good guy, but she knows better than to think he's honest about actually committing suicide. During the final ceremony, she tackles Dukat from the upper level, spilling the tray of promazine pills in the process. The one he was about to swallow gets lost in the pile, which seems to distress him a great deal.
Everyone calms down when they realize no one was hurt. Fala brings Dukat a fresh pill, but it seems he's had a sudden change of heart...
Dukat has at last run out of explanations. He makes a few perfunctory appeals, but it's clear that his followers have turned on him. Under a tide of angry jeers, he flees in a rage by activating a transporter. Only Fala has remained silent, and despite (or perhaps because of) what has just happened, swallows his pill before Kira can stop him. All he says by way of explanation, as he dies in her arms, is "Faith..."
What he meant by that, Kira will never know for certain. The Defiant arrives to rescue Kira and repatriate the cultists, but even seeing Odo again is small relief. Dukat, she knows, is still out there, twisted by his new faith and more dangerous than ever.
This episode contains examples of:
- Agree to Disagree:Fala: You believe the Prophets are the true gods of Bajor. I believe the Pah-wraiths are. Let's just leave it at that.
Kira: I'd be happy to. There's just one problem: we can't both be right.
- Believing Their Own Lies: Dukat is so warped, that he really believes his own message.
- Broken Pedestal: Kira can't believe that Vedek Fala turned his back on the Prophets after preaching the faith in the refugee camps.
- Kira hasn't forgiven Dukat for killing Jadzia.
- Kira mentions the Pah-Wraith cultist who tried to kill Sisko.
- Fala reminds Kira of how the Prophets disappeared an entire Dominion fleet as a demonstration of what Sufficiently Advanced Aliens can do.
- Dukat reminds Kira of his relationship with her mother.
- Chocolate Baby: Dukat tells his followers that the half-Cardassian baby is a sign from the Pah-Wraiths.
- Converting for Love: Odo seriously considers taking up the Bajoran faith with Kira.
- Creepy Child: During production, the showmakers decided an animatronic baby would be less trouble than a real one. And decided to hire, of all people, the creators of Chucky to make it. The results were predictably creepy. And a real baby was used in the end.
- Cult Colony: What Dukat has set up on Empok Nor.
- Cyanide Pill: Promazine, the pill that the cultists were going to use. It was developed by the Cardassian Obsidian Order for their agents in the event of capture. Not only does it kill, but it causes the body to crumble to dust not long after, leaving no evidence behind.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A charismatic cult leader with hundreds under his thrall who attempts to talk his followers into committing mass suicide once he's backed into a corner? Sounds a lot like Jim Jones.
- Don't Create a Martyr: After a failed attempt to kill Dukat, Kira decides to let him live long enough for him to be exposed as a fraud.
- Drinking the Kool-Aid: Dukat has the people of Empok Nor following him obediently and unwaveringly, right up until Kira revealed that he planned to trick them all into killing themselves while escaping scot-free. And even then, Vedek Fala still believes so much that he killed himself.
- Driven to Suicide: Vedek Fala willingly swallows his promazine pill, even though it's been revealed that Dukat is a fraud.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Not only does the mother admit she hasn't told anybody the truth, she also confesses that she doesn't think she can lie to her husband. While standing alone with Dukat in an airlock.
- Oh, Crap!: Dukat, when Kira knocks his fake suicide pill to the ground amid many real ones. It's one of the few times in the series where he comes close to genuinely losing his cool.
- One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: When Kira asks Vedek Fala why he swallowed the promazine pill that Dukat gave him, even though Dukat was a fraud:"Faith...Nerys...faith."
- Pet the Dog: Dukat contacts DS9 to have them pick up Kira after his cult commits suicide.
- Riddle for the Ages: An In-Universe one. Kira wonders what Fala meant when he said that faith was the reason he killed himself—did he have faith that he was doing what he was supposed to, or was it that his faith betrayed him?
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: As Dukat's plans go belly-up right before his eyes, he teleports off the station in a huff.
- The Extremist Has A Point: Dukat questions Kira on why the Prophets never intervened to stop the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. And while Kira can't offer any answer past "They always have a plan for us", he is correct in saying if they'd wanted to, the Prophets had the power and means to stop Cardassian atrocities within weeks if they had chosen to act.
- Wham Shot: The Reveal that Gul Dukat is the Master of the Pah-Wraith cult.
- Written by the Winners: Dukat says this of the Bajoran texts that favor the Prophets over the Pah-Wraiths.