While Damar threatens Worf and Ezri with execution, Winn discovers that she has been led astray.
Plot Summary: While Damar rants to Weyoun about the Cardassian casualties on Septimus 3, Martok brags to Sisko about Klingon victories there and warns Sisko that marriage is a battleground, which Sisko realizes is true when Yates declines his request to participate in a Bajoran ritual. When Weyoun mocks Dax about the feelings for Bashir he uncovered while torturing her, Worf kills the Vorta, greatly amusing Damar, though the latter suggests that the Starfleet officers become more cooperative or face the death penalty. Left alone, Dax apologizes for not having realized she was attracted to Bashir and Worf admits that he does not love Ezri the way he loved Jadzia, which makes him ashamed that he made love with her. Meanwhile, the Kai, who has been making love with a disguised Dukat, is blissfully happy…until she has another prophetic vision, only to discover that it’s the Pah-wraiths who are speaking to her. Devastated, she seeks guidance from the Orb of Prophecy, yet the Prophets tell her nothing, and she is further devastated when Dukat tells her that he believes the Pah-wraiths are the true gods of Bajor. Winn summons Kira to confess that ambition has led her away from the path of the Prophets, but balks when Kira suggests that Winn find her true path again by stepping down as Kai. At Quark’s, Bashir realizes that he’s in love with Dax, while in prison on Cardassia, Dax and Worf agree to forgive each other and be friends until they are executed by Damar. However, Damar is furious that the Breen have been given access to Cardassian military files and even more irate when he learns that Weyoun did nothing to stop the slaughter of the Cardassians on Septimus 3. Instead of executing Worf and Dax, Damar shoots their guards, then gives them a Cardassian ship so that they can warn the Federation about the Breen alliance, blaming the Jem’Hadar for their escape while the new Weyoun clone fumes. An equally resolved Kai Winn summons Dukat to tell him that she will no longer serve gods who neglect and betray her, assuring him that she will walk the path of the Pah-wraiths with him and that the Prophets, the Federation, Sisko, and all Bajorans who oppose her will suffer.
Analysis: Other than the fact that it’s part of multiple arcs and really can’t be appreciated by someone who hasn’t followed Deep Space Nine for years, “Strange Bedfellows” is a perfect television episode. I lost track of the number of times I giggled gleefully, even after many previous viewings – my favorite moments are when Yates tells Sisko that she didn’t convert when she married him, when Worf snaps Weyoun’s neck and Damar roars with laughter, the look on Dukat’s face when Winn asks him to tell her everything about the man who shares her bed, the new Weyoun realizing he must tell the Founder that the prisoners have escaped. The title follows the theme of the previous episode as we go from weddings to beddings, but the original phrase concerns politics, which preoccupy even the romantic pairings now, so much so that we don’t even see Kira and Odo together when the Kai wakes Kira to beg for advice. Sisko seems oddly cheerful about Martok’s warning that marriage is a war and Kasidy’s subsequent rebellion against playing the part of the wife of the Emissary, which suggests that no matter what petty disputes they may have, being married is so far very enjoyable for both of them, which is nice to see for as long as it can last with the Prophets’ warning hanging over their heads. It’s also nice to see that neither of them is being overly cautious, giving up who they are or what they do, to try to stay safe after that warning. Of course the Klingons would compare marriage to a war, yet Worf has never been Klingon in that regard except, apparently, in bed, and while I’ve always found the infirmary-inducing form of Klingon S&M to be just as distasteful than 50 Shades of Grey‘s no-safeword submission, it’s interesting to hear a Klingon whose relationships have been primarily with non-Klingons – the half-human K’Ehleyr, the Betazoid Troi, the Trill Dax – describe sex as more spiritual than physical to him, leading to shame that he gave in to lust and frustration with Ezri rather than discovering love with her. It’s quite satisfying to watch Ezri and Worf acknowledge that they’re not meant to be together and that they probably had to discover that by testing it out.
And even though I’m still not sure he knows himself well enough to be in a relationship with her, it’s equally satisfying to see Bashir realize that his attachment to Ezri is quite different from his attachment to Jadzia – that it’s the young woman and not the old soul he desires. Unlike Worf, Bashir is unconcerned about how many men Dax has slept with in any host body (and Bashir knows more details of Jadzia’s sex-inflicted injuries than anyone, probably even than Worf when he was inflicting them). All three of these characters are forced to acknowledge their weaknesses and try to grow up during this arc, leaving me sorry mostly that they don’t get to do it with more time left in the show to explore in more detail. But I’ll confess that, from the first time I watched these episodes, Winn/Dukat has been the hottest pairing for all for me. No two people have ever deserved each other so much! We always could guess that it won’t end well, that one of them will end up killing the other, and in retrospect we know that both of them will end up killing the other, though I will always believe that the same forces which resurrect Dukat will surely resurrect her as well so they can fight for all eternity. Honestly, there is nothing I don’t love about Winn, whose disgust with the Prophets reminds me of Kirk’s egotistical disdain for every god he ever met (“Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!”). Finally we uncover the Winn we met during the first season who could warp prophecy to justify an assassination attempt on a rival, whose hatred for Sisko runs deeper that her love for any Bajoran. The woman sharing her bed with the Pah-wraiths’ messenger is the same one who pretended to be pious with Jaro, who sought Sisko’s support without for one second buying into his role as Emissary. For too long she’s acted as if she genuinely cares what Sisko and Kira think of her rather than using them for her own ends. The look on her face when Kira suggests that she step down as Kai is a thing of beauty! Suddenly she must admit to herself that she wants it all, she probably wouldn’t take back even the Occupation since it was her path to power, and she doesn’t care what the Prophets think. It’s a shame that only female villains get to have so much fun, reveling in their desires and indulging their greed – to this day, even on shows like Once Upon a Time, we see the same patterns constraining good and bad girls.
Dukat is a delight to watch as well, repressing his natural urge to give orders and force issues because Winn won’t let him get away with such behavior when she’s in charge. It’s hard to say whether he’s genuinely attracted to her power or just using her, but his secret grins suggest that he revels in the fact that he gets to have sex with the spiritual leader of Bajor even as he’s trying to bend her to his cause. Though I know Marc Alaimo has many female fans, I never found Dukat sexy with any other woman; he was always too controlling, too abusive, too willing to throw them away when he was done with them. Yet he and Winn are equals in ambition, and she’s more than capable of using him right back, as we see by the time “Strange Bedfellows” ends. The Breen and the Dominion are a less strange pairing than Dukat’s previous disastrous bonding when he yoked Cardassia to the Founders, and it’s extremely fitting when Damar realizes it’s up to him to break his people free. For a long time, it was easy to hate Damar even more than Dukat – on top of being obnoxious, petty, uncreative, selfish, and boorish, he was Ziyal’s killer – but I start to fall in love with him the moment he decides he’s spent too much time trying to ignore what’s being done to his people. It’s hard to cheer for the Cardassians or even to feel sorry for the ones routed by the Klingons, we’ve seen too much of what the Cardassians do to their own prisoners and captives, but we can hope they’ll become more sensitive and more sympathetic because of their suffering, which is precisely what’s happening to Damar. He will not allow his people to be extinguished, though that seems to be happening to the Founders; the glimpse we get of the female changeling literally pulling herself together to greet the Breen is at once hopeful for the Federation and horrifying for everyone, once we get confirmation that their illness is no fluke of nature. This whole endgame arc is like watching a chess match, and at this point most of the pawns have been discarded; the remaining pieces are being moved into position so that key ones can be sacrificed at just the right moments.