The heart of this episode is not the inexplicable stone/crystal formation, slowly encasing Kira — it’s the twist that the woman being encased is not Kira at all, it’s the female Changeling. I didn’t anticipate the twist, but I found it rather satisfying. I imagined we were getting a typical Star Trek episode where two characters explore each other’s emotions while they are trapped on a planet, usually in a cave, fighting some disembodied force that they ultimately defeat (e.g., TNG: “Final Mission”). The problem with an episode like TNG’s “Final Mission,” is that the audience never really believes that a character like Picard is going to die this way. Likewise, although Odo is convinced he’s losing Kira, causing him to finally admit his love for her to her, the audience still is thinking that they’re going to find a way to rescue her. The typical consequence, therefore, is that Odo is going to have to live with the fact that his secret is out of the bag and he and Kira are going to be uncomfortable; his crush may even be the end of their friendship.
When Kira responds to Odo’s confession by admitting she loves him too, this is an immediately odd disconnect — Kira’s actual love just died the previous episode. This unexpected response tells Odo that something is very wrong, causing him to penetrate the female Changeling’s ruse. However, unlike the phony scenario simulated by the Dominion a dozen episodes earlier “The Search” (Part 2), this one didn’t smell wrong right from the start and its revelation is more satisfying. We haven’t been thinking much about the Changelings or the Dominion since the beginning of the season, so it’s a pleasant surprise to have them back and it makes sense that they remain focused on Odo. Finally, it’s nice that Odo’s secret love is revealed not to Kira herself, but to the female Changeling, Odo’s enemy.
Back on the station, the B-plot once again focuses on Nog. This time, he’s angling to get into Starfleet because he recognizes that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps as a failed Ferengi businessman. Sisko is appropriately reluctant at first, but he’s legitimately won over when he realizes that Nog is sincere.
- Remarkable dialogue: “Well done, Odo. You really are quite a skillful investigator.” (Female Changeling) – “And you’re quite a skillful Changeling.” (Odo)
- Remarkable fact: Odo’s name is short for “Odo’ital,” a Cardassian euphemism for “unknown sample,” which literally means “nothing.” It derives from his background as an unknown specimen in a Cardassian supervised, Bajoran lab.