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September 20, 2013

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 37 - Profit & Loss

Star Trek has done homages to many different stories before, but I don't think they've ever done Casablanca. That is, until now. "Profit and Loss" is that episode, and Quark (Armin Shimmerman) is Rick, even down to owning a bar. Thankfully, there was no "Play it again, Rom" or "Arrest the usual Ferengi," but the similarities are still there, and glaring. Somebody more familiar with the movie would probably notice even more homages (I haven't seen the movie in ages), but that doesn't stop the comparisons. Does it hold up? Despite a few good performances and a couple of nice scenes, I'd have to say "not really."

Quark is tending bar as usual when Odo (Rene Auberjonois) comes in asking questions about an illegal cloaking device, warning Quark that if he tries to sell it, Odo will be waiting for him. Gee, do you think that might become important? Meanwhile, a Cardassian ship, heavily damaged, is detected running to the station, and is brought in. On it are a teacher, Natima (Mary Crosby) and her two students, Rekelen (Heidi Swedberg) and Hogue (Michael Reilly Burke). They claim to have been hit by a meteor storm, but the damage on the ship doesn't add up.

Natima is a former lover of Quark's, and Quark is stopping at nothing to try and get her to stay with him, which becomes even harder when it's revealed that the two young Cardassians are dissidents, wanted by the Cardassian government for treason. Garak (Andrew Robinson), the only Cardassian left on the station, reports it to them, and it becomes all the more imperative that Natima and her students get off the station. Will Natima stay on the station with Quark? Or will Garak's machinations prevent even that happy ending? And just which side is he on anyway?

As with many Quark episodes, the negatives far outweigh the positives, which is too bad. He really deserves to have a good one, but hasn't for a while. In fact, Shimmerman gives a good performance in most of the scenes. The problem is, he's the romantic lead in this one, and I just didn't buy it. I don't know whether it's because Shimmerman can't play that role, or if it's the fact that he has no chemistry with Mary Crosby (who didn't help matters by sounding wooden in almost every scene), but it just didn't fit. Part of the problem may have been the Casablanca overtones, trying to bring Quark up to Rick's level, which just made it worse. Whatever it was, every scene with Natima just died a horrible, yet silent, death.

The scenes where he was magnificent, however, were with Odo as usual. The wonderful scene where Quark tries to convince Odo to let the dissidents go is priceless. Odo's "Come back later. I'm busy" when he's then discovered to be reading a Mickey Spillane novel was great, and Auberjonois captured all of Odo's facial expressions perfectly. The banter between them sparkled. While this scene was great, the others between them (including the opening scene, which produced the line at the bottom of this review) also were marvelous. These two *do* have a chemistry that I'm glad the producers used many times.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Andrew Robinson as Garak. He was part of the other great scene for Quark, in the tailor's shop where Garak is hinting to Quark not to get involved with Natima. The subtleties of this scene were remarkable, talking about Cardassian fashion with Garak conveying his underlying meaning with hints and eye movements. The menace was definitely there, though. ("If anybody hurts her, I'll…" "You'll do what? Shortchange them at the dabo table?") Garak's opening scene with Bashir (Siddig El Fadil, in his only scene) was also great. These two just go together, with Garak always leading Bashir around by the nose, leaving him confused about what was just said.

So that's a lot of positives. Why grade so harshly? Quark's inability to be the leading man is definitely one reason, and Crosby's acting has also been mentioned. Believe it or not, Crosby was actually the best of the guest actors. While she was fairly wooden, she at least tried to have an expression or two on her face when she talked. You could tell that she was trying to convey emotions, even if she wasn't quite succeeding. The others, however, weren't even able to do that. Their lines were given almost in monotone, and they never looked excited or fearful. Sure, their *lines* told me they were fearful, but not their actions.

The Cardassian Gul Toran (Edward Wiley) didn't have as much difficulty, because he's just supposed to play contemptuous and harsh, so he did a reasonable job. That being said, only Garak's reactions to him made him even remotely interesting, and anybody who didn't see the ending coming a mile away wasn't paying attention. We won't talk about how Toran has the run of the station with nobody watching him, or how what happens to him will be explained to his superiors. If the production team doesn't care, why should we?

Another nit: What was Odo going to do with the dissidents if Quark hadn't intervened? Odo's stated reasons for finally letting them go are very in character, but I find it hard to believe that Quark's begging brought those reasons to the fore. Was he just going to sit there reading Spillane until the Cardassians came, and then think about it afterward? That doesn't sound like the Odo I know.

Finally, we get to the main reason this story fails. Not only is Quark not a good romantic lead. The fact is, the entire episode has Quark *completely out of character*. Quark's doing all this for love? Please. He's never done anything like this before without a profit being made somewhere. That's the Ferengi way. Yes, Quark is not a normal Ferengi, but there's not even an acknowledgment that he's doing something weird. Whenever anybody points it out, he just denies it, but he never admits it to himself. I just didn't buy the story and nothing in it convinced me otherwise.

"Profit and Loss" has some wonderful scenes in it. Put those scenes in a different episode, and you'd have some real profit. As it is, this one is a near-total loss.

Memorable Quote:
"So, how well does this woman know you? Just enough to dislike you, or well enough to really hate you?" Odo to Quark



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