When Kira is trapped in a growing crystal formation and her death seems imminent, Odo confesses his love for her.
Plot Summary: As Kira travels with Odo back to Deep Space Nine after reviewing security at a Bajoran colony where Odo feels Kira didn’t let him speak enough for himself on social matters, their ship receives a distress call warning of a Maquis raider. Kira sets out in pursuit and chases the ship to an inhospitable planet where the pilot hides in unstable caverns. Meanwhile, Nog offers Sisko latinum to request a Starfleet apprenticeship after the completion of his Ferengi Attainment Ceremony; Sisko is understandably doubtful and puts Dax in charge of supervising Nog for an inventory task which Nog surprises them by completing perfectly. While chasing the Maquis pilot, Kira becomes trapped in a growing crystalline formation that threatens to suffocate her. While he seeks a means to free her, Odo tries to keep her entertained, telling her stories of an increasingly personal nature, such as how he got his name. Nog asks Sisko for a letter of recommendation to Starfleet Academy, but Sisko resists, doubting the Ferengi’s motives until Nog admits that he doesn’t want to become like his father, a brilliant engineer who wasted his life in pursuit of profit. When it becomes obvious to Odo that his plan to shatter the crystal will fail and Kira will die, he refuses an order to return to the runabout, confessing that he loves her. Kira replies that she loves him, too, which makes Odo – who is already suspicious about the nature of the crystal as well as Kira’s story about how she escaped from the Maquis pilot – realize that the crisis seems designed specifically to test him. When he pulls a weapon and demands to know who she really is, Kira morphs into the female shapeshifter whom Odo encountered on the Founders’ home planet. She tells Odo that she guessed his attachment to the “solids” was really an attachment to Kira and asks him to return to his own people, but he refuses to lower his weapon, and when she tells him that no changeling has ever harmed another, he warns that there is always a first time. Rather than risk violence, she tells him where he can find the real Kira. Once they are reunited, Kira asks how Odo realized the imposter was not her. He replies that a slip of the tongue gave her away.
Analysis: It’s no secret that I was an Odo/Kira fan pretty much from “Past Prologue” onward and I thought it was obvious at least by “Necessary Evil” that Rene Auberjonois was too, even if it took the show’s writers a bit longer to catch up. Nonetheless, when I first saw the previews for “Heart of Stone,” I was petrified. It seemed too soon for any sort of intimacy between Odo and Kira, considering that he’d only recently found his people after a lifetime of searching and she’d only just lost Bareil, and it was obvious even in the trailer that the writers had resorted to the classic fan fiction cliche of having one person trapped, the other making increasingly intimate, desperate confessions (see Beverly Crusher, “Jean-Luc, before I die, I have something to tell you…”). So I first viewed “Heart of Stone” with a mixture of hope and trepidation and came away disappointed and annoyed. I should have guessed that it would be the sort of cop-out romance we always get on Star Trek, given that Picard and Crusher ended up as ships passing in the night and Riker and Troi didn’t get it together for ten years; major character romances generally end up being dreams, possessions, alien tricks, alternate universe pairings, nonsense like that. Initially, I would have preferred no Kira/Odo romance to a stupid cliched Kira/Odo romance, so the fact that the writers chickened out in “Heart of Stone” actually didn’t bother me, though that also made the main plot of the episode feel like a giant waste of time. Now, looking back from beyond the end of what I still think is the best romantic pairing in television science fiction, it’s easier to find things to like about the storyline, and whereas I was skeptical initially of the idea of Nog at the Academy given that not long ago he was still asking women to cut his food for him, the Starfleet storyline ended up being so terrific that my initial doubts are now irrelevant.
I’m terrible at calculating stardates, but even given my wonky math, the events of “Heart of Stone” on stardate 48521.5 must take place within three weeks after Bareil’s death, since he was injured on stardate 48498.4. It doesn’t surprise me that Kira would throw herself into work to get over him, but it does surprise me that she’s so cheerful returning from New Bajor, irritated that Odo seems quiet and sullen rather than the other way around. So it takes longer than it should to notice that she’s out of character on the planet, particularly since her behavior when she first gets stuck in the rock – at which point she isn’t Kira at all, but the female shapeshifter – seems rather more Kira-like than Kira herself at various earlier moments in the third season. Even so, it takes Odo much longer than I’d expect to get suspicious that the woman he’s with isn’t the real Kira, whom I just can’t imagine getting snively when she realizes she may die in the crystalline formation – panicked, maybe, if her claustrophobia is anything like Garak’s, or furious, which is more her style, but not weepy. If she didn’t shed a tear in front of Odo when the love of her life died a month ago, I’d think such an astute observer of humanoid behavior would wonder what’s going on now. Plus she’s terrified and trembly rather than snappish and shouting suggestions about how to shatter the crystal; she could have been demanding that Odo turn himself into an icepick or something useful. That said, I don’t find it completely implausible that Kira might tell Odo she loved him if she thought she was about to die. She may not be in love with him in a romantic sense, but he’s her dearest friend, he knows secrets about her that no one else ever will, and his happiness is important enough to her that if she thought she could persuade him to save himself for her sake, I could believe she’d tell a lie to serve that end.
Odo and Kira’s relationship interests me precisely because it’s complicated and messy, developing in fits and starts, then taking steps backward as they get reminders of how different they are. Odo has already realized that he’ll compromise his principles for her even though his principles and sense of justice are the core of his personality, and Kira has already demonstrated that she’ll choose Odo’s integrity and companionship over any number of humanoids, even fellow Bajorans who’ve lived through the Occupation. The female shapeshifter picks up on this – she claims it’s a suspicion, but I’d think she scoured his thoughts when she linked with Odo – though I wonder how she knew that Kira and Odo would be traveling together, something I would think might concern Odo when he gets back to Deep Space Nine. Her plan to lure Odo home with her will only succeed if Odo believes that Kira has died, and it’s never clear how she intends to morph back into herself without giving away the game. Does she know that Bareil is dead, so this is the perfect moment to pretend to be a vulnerable Kira? Or does she just get lucky that Odo doesn’t ask any personal questions while he’s pouring his heart out, telling Kira the story of his name (an abbreviation of the Cardassian word for “nothing”), admitting that having friends on the station has changed his entire view of himself? When he finally confesses his love – something he’s never said aloud, though we all saw it in “The Collaborator” and Lwaxana Troi sensed it in “Fascination” – he reacts afterward in an entirely humanoid manner, sitting down, breathing heavily; there’s nothing alien about him, his emotions are more transparent than Data’s or Spock’s. Yet at this point the situation seems so contrived that it’s hard to feel sorry for him as a person with real pain; it’s the show’s writers who are manipulating Odo, far more so than the female shapeshifter who can’t put words in his mouth. His explanation to the real Kira at the end, at least, is heartbreakingly understated.
The Nog storyline doesn’t mesh with Odo’s very well except in the sense of wanting something none of his people has ever had before, but it’s still enjoyable watching Nog impress Dax, seeing him and Jake still having some communication difficulties after nearly tearing their friendship apart over a disastrous double date, witnessing his happiness working with his father, realizing that he really does respect Sisko and he’s sick of trying to be the Ferengi his Uncle Quark wants him to be. Given that we’ve been told he’s a terrible student, I’m not sure how he’ll pass the Starfleet entrance exam, but I’m sure he can get some help from O’Brien when O’Brien isn’t busy planning baby showers for pregnant male ensigns about to spawn or teaching Odo the ancient sea chanty “Louie Louie” (one of the best throwaway lines on Star Trek). Visually and thematically, “Heart of Stone” reminds me of classic Trek – the dark cave set with cheesy rock effects, the unknown alien entity which they promptly try to shoot with results that backfire, the endless mechanical difficulties, the hurt/comfort scenario…okay, that last is more classic fic than classic Trek but I grew up on both. And let’s face it, in this episode where Odo, the alien outsider, makes observations about how humanoids have a hard time giving up things they love, then proceeds to demonstrate that that’s more true of him than anyone…it’s just the sort of thing Spock would say and do in the Trek movies. How satisfying now to listen to the female shapeshifter tell Odo that Kira will never love him – “How could she? You are a changeling” – and know how wrong she is.