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Retro Review: Profit and Loss

Posted by Michelle - 29/06/12 at 06:06 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 02 Episode: 18 (s02e18)

Original US airdate: 03/20/1994

Quark is reunited with the great love of his life, a Cardassian woman who is now a fugitive.

Plot Summary: A damaged Cardassian vessel docks at the station carrying three passengers – two students, Releken and Hogue, and their teacher, Natima Lang, whom Quark is frantic to see, interrupting Odo’s attempt to learn whether he is really trying to sell a cloaking device. O’Brien tries to repair the Cardassian ship and finds that it was damaged by Cardassian weapons. Garak spots the group talking to Quark and warns Sisko that they are Cardassian terrorists; he has alerted the Cardassian authorities, who send a warship to take custody of Lang and her students. Quark promises the students his cloaking device if they will escape while leaving Lang behind with him, which they are willing to do, but Lang insists that although she once loved Quark, she now knows that he is purely a mercenary. When he persists in begging her to stay, she shoots him with a Cardassian weapon, then is remorseful and admits that she still has feelings for him, though she cannot abandon her fight for a free Cardassia. Odo interrupts them to place Lang under arrest; the Bajoran government has agreed to a prisoner swap with Cardassia, and Sisko has no choice but to obey the terms. An old friend of Garak’s, Gul Toran, arrives on the station to take custody of Lang and the others, telling Garak that if he wishes to end his exile, he must kill the terrorists. Quark persuades Odo to let the prisoners escape since they are already slated for execution, but as the group rushes to Lang’s ship, Garak appears, followed by Toran, who is ready to kill the fugitives himself if Garak won’t do it. Garak shoots Toran instead and lets the others go. Quark asks Lang to let him go with her, but she insists that she would rather know he’s safe on the station and promises that she will always love him.

Analysis: It’s impossible to take “Profit and Loss” seriously, which is its biggest selling point – even more than Mary Crosby, an actress most famous for shooting J.R. on Dallas, playing the great love of Quark’s life. There are a lot of problems with its logic, the biggest being that Bajor agrees to a prisoner exchange with Cardassia when supposedly the last Bajoran prisoners were released when Li Nalas was found to be alive in a Cardassian prison camp – assuming that the Cardassians were probably lying about that, I still find it very hard to believe that the provisional government would agree to turn over three Cardassians who oppose military rule without even speaking to them, and who told the Bajorans that the Cardassians were on the station anyway? We’re not supposed to be thinking about logic, though; we’re supposed to be thinking about the parallels with Casablanca, which sadly do not include a moment in which Quark tells Odo that his help in securing the fugitives’ escape could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Quark is an even more unlikely hero than Rick Blaine, his bar is more seedy than Rick’s nightclub, and he’s even more apathetic politically than the secretly anti-Nazi American from the legendary film. Thankfully, Lang has no illusions about him, which makes their chemistry believable; apparently she once thought he had sold food to Bajorans during the Occupation so they could feed their children, but since his act of selfish heroism, helping his love escape so he could save her life, she has realized that it was all about making a profit. She tells him she’s stopped drinking her favorite drink from his bar, she insists that she never wants to hear a Rule of Acquisition again, and she shoots him when he won’t take no for an answer!

What gives the story teeth is not the revelation that Quark once had an altruistic, politically motivated, Cardassian lover whom he’d do anything to get back, but the subplot and its parallel revelation that Garak will do anything to get home. It is he who alerts the Cardassian authorities about the presence of Releken and Hogue – who don’t, in fact, seem to be terrorists, and it’s doubtful that even Garak believes they are, but we learn next to nothing about them, since Sisko and Kira never bother to question them or do any investigation of their activities prior to the attack on their ship. Garak is hopeful that simply exposing the renegades to Cardassian authorities will get him back into the good graces of the Cardassian government, but a sneering Toran insists that he must prove his loyalty by killing them himself. Considering that the episode starts with Garak seeming quite cheerful at one of his regular meals with Bashir, flirting as they discuss the limits of loyalty and Bashir’s suspicion that Garak is a spy, it’s surprising to see him turn vicious so quickly. I’m quite shocked that Sisko isn’t angrier at the discovery that the plain, simple tailor has brought a Cardassian warship to the station, and I’m truly astonished that Kira doesn’t call for Garak to be kicked out of yet another place. I suppose some other Bajoran working in security or Ops could have alerted the provisional government to the Cardassian government’s demands, but I would think any such discussion would get back to Kira if not go through her, and it’s pretty appalling that she doesn’t make a case for the lives of these resistance fighters no matter who the Cardassians have offered up in trade.

Though it’s a pleasure to hear Quark spout self-interested optimism instead of Rick Blaine’s weary cynicism, the love scenes are rather too talky and go on too long. Maybe we’re supposed to be impressed that Quark can be articulate and passionate as well as lustful and greedy, but all the talk about sacrifice and happiness starts to drag down the action, considering that at the time no one is stealing letters of transit or even an illegal cloaking device – something else that I’d think would be a much bigger deal to both Sisko and Kira, considering that its presence on the station could bring in a Romulan fleet. I approve of Odo letting the fugitives escape because his sense of justice means he can’t allow them to be executed without a trial as would surely happen on Cardassia, but it’s odd that he doesn’t express outrage to either Sisko or Kira about the planned trade and it’s preposterous that neither immediately calls him in after the escape to demand to know how it happened. In good film noir of the Humphrey Bogart era, loose ends are tied up much more neatly. The Cardassian rebel students are annoyingly one-dimensional and we never do learn what they’ve done at such young ages to make them such a threat, but I’d be willing to overlook that for a stronger sense of how the command crew would respond to such a crisis since they, not Quark, are usually the ones who behave heroically rather than pragmatically. The lovely moment in which Quark first encounters Lang and in typical overstatement tells her that she’s as beautiful as ever, to which she retorts that he’s as big a liar as ever, seems more real and grounded than the love scenes, and I really adore Quark’s goading of Odo to free Lang, taunting that Odo has all the emotions of a stone. It seems as if these small moments will have to serve as the emotional highlights of this romantic drama…at least, until Garak steals the show at the end.

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  • Seventhbeacon

    I agree, it was a pleasant episode, amusing without being challenging.

    I still vehemently disagree with labeling Garak and Bashir interactions as ‘flirting’; you are implying non-existent sexual interest for characters clearly defined as heterosexual. It is possible for two people not sexually attracted to each other to engage in verbal jousting and brinkmanship. I’m sure the ‘slash’ exists out there somewhere in fanficdom, though.

  • hostile_17

    Hee hee… if I didn’t know better, I would say you were trolled.

  • hostile_17

    I’ve not seen Casablanca, so most of this analysis is over my head and does’t mean anything to me. As a Star Trek episode, I enjoyed it. Yes there are contrivances to get the story going – there often are in Star Trek to deliver 45 min eps – but I enjoyed this Quark episode a lot and how love makes us crazy.

  • Seventhbeacon

    Lol, it’s unclear to me what you’re addressing. Are you suggesting that her use of the word ‘flirting’ was baiting detractors (such as myself) of her Garak/Bashir interpretation, or that my response itself was the trolling?

    Or were you being a really subtle troll yourself, in your reply of my polite-yet-firm disagreement with her, in an attempt to elicit a visceral emotional response from me…?

    Fascinating. I await your clarification.

  • hostile_17

    The former. While I don’t Michelle would actively bait people – she’s clearly shown that she writes according to her own views – the word is clearly playful, and was going to get someone hopping up and down very quickly.

    While flirtatious is largely understood as sexual, and is the way you’ve taken it, that’s not 100% true. Have you never flirted with danger? That does’t mean you want sex with danger. The definition describes it, sexual meaning aside, as “full of playful allure”. Another definition is “teasing”. These describe the Garak/Bashir relationship well.

    But I knew by just slipping in that one word, people wouldn’t let it pass – and I imagine Michelle knew that too. Hence my original comment. And you acted accordingly, commenting about 10 words on the episode then many more ‘defending’ something based upon one word in the review.

  • Zeorangerix

    I’ve read enough of her reviews to know that she’s using “flirt” in a sexual manner. If she meant “flirt with intrigue” or something like that, it would have been written that way. Her Bashir/Garak slash fascination is well known. It’s just something you have to get over when reading her reviews. Getting good analysis of the episodes means also dealing with overdone feminist theory and insistence that characters are repressed homosexuals. Just par for the course.

  • Larrymccoy62

    I think you two are flirting with each other….

  • hostile_17

    Exactly. So bitching about what you know (the OP, not you) is redundant.

  • Seventhbeacon

    You may see it as bitching, but I decided to even-handed about it, and not write a ‘flame’ post. You may see my comment as superfluous, but what does it say to call out a superfluous comment with another one?

    Calling dissenting opinions trolling isn’t conducive, and I actually did bother to confirm the word usage before posting… flirting between two people is implicitly sexual in nature, and fits her earlier statements about the characters. The other definition, as used in flirting with danger, does not at all fit that word usage.

    You may not agree with another view, but referring to things as bitching is juvenile and only undercuts any point you are otherwise trying to make.

  • Seventhbeacon

    Amending – I misread your trollling clarification, and retract the first clause in the second paragraph I wrote ;) Cheers!

  • hostile_17

    And FWIW I don’t think you were really bitching, it’s just I got into a corner in answering subsequent post. Because I was enjoying the talk of ‘flirting’, as it’s an interesting word, and we know what Michelle means but it’s interesting that it doesn’t have to be construed that way and her word isn’t completely unfair… even if we do know she has a personal bias.

    But Zeorangerix is bitching, as he knows what it’s about, knows what she means and still wants to come in and read and have a go.

    Not sure if I’ve made things more confusing now… :)

  • Zeorangerix

    Hostile, Michelle meant “flirt” sexually. You admit that. Listing off dictionary definitions and talking about different ways the word is used is irrelevant since her intent is not at all ambiguous.

  • hostile_17

    The thing is both can be right.

    Shades of grey in our beautiful language, shades of grey.

  • Zeorangerix

    Can be, but aren’t in this case!

  • hostile_17

    My point is: it is. It is both correct in the non sexual sense, and regular readers will know Michelle’s angle too.
    Get it now? Why it’s a double entendre.

  • Seventhbeacon

    Well now I feel all weird. As long as you know I don’t hold a grudge over it, I kind of enjoy a good argument/debate. Her use of the word does ruffle my feathers, but it really is such a small part of the review.

    I didn’t have much to add to the rest because, yeah, it was how I remember it… I remember really enjoying the Cardassian woman in this episode though, and she was such an even match for Quark (in a dueling personality sense).

    I do agree with Zeo that she has a very strong.. I think the word I would use is ‘reactive’ sense of feminism, and sometimes she points out a real interesting cultural immaturity about attitudes that went unquestioned (and some that still go unquestioned) when episodes were written. Other times, I think she sees something that’s not there, and I feel like I’m witnessing a quixotic war against non-existent patriarchal repression in episodes or character depictions.

    Not that society doesn’t have these problems.

  • Zeorangerix

    How far do these comments go…?

  • hostile_17

    In reply to your later comment, you took it to the edge! Kinda Voyager Threshold style…

  • http://twitter.com/littlereview The Little Review

    I realize that an actor’s opinion is not “canon” in the same sense as the series writers, but this is from my interview with Robinson from 2000:

    “Robinson’s novel is structured as a letter from Garak to Dr. Julian Bashir – his best friend and longtime breakfast companion on Deep Space Nine. Much fan fiction about Garak speculates that his feelings for Bashir went beyond the platonic relationship depicted on television, a belief Robinson does not refute. Indeed, in A Stitch In Time, Garak has crushes on both men and women.

    “I loved that sexual ambiguity,” Robinson states. “I wanted to get away from our sexual prejudices. I thought, this is an alien! Who knows what alien sexuality is, if indeed there is strict heterosexuality or homosexuality, those delineations? That’s something that I kept in the book. Though that was more interesting to me in the playing of Garak than the writing of it; this book is for kids too, so I chose not to get more explicit sexually because of that.”