I just thought we should recognize Quark, and his performer Armin Shimerman, for this dubious feat of televised notoriety. It’s a record unlikely to be broken for so many reasons, and on those shows where you could show that kind of thing -- looking at you, Game of Thrones -- they generally concentrate on sexual acts that you don’t often get up to in high school. There should be one of those Bud Lite Real Men of Genius commercials for Quark, really. We salute you, Mr. Ferengi Ear Massage Getter.
It’s only a minor point in the episode, done so Rom can interrupt and to establish that, yep, this is a Ferengi episode. After the last few, we kind of needed a fun one. Incidentally, Quark is trying to unload DS9’s favorite meaningless commodity, the self-sealing stem bolt. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Grand Nagus Zek and his monstrous manservant, Maihar’du, are moving in. The Nagus has a new project, one that reduces poor Maihar’du to tears. He actually makes noises this episode! There’s the frequent crying, and then he speaks. Well, technically, it’s a Prophet appearing as Maihar’du, but I’m going to say it counts. Sort of.
The Nagus has re-written the Rules of Acquisition. These are the principles of greed that inspire and guide the Ferengi Alliance. Think of them like the 10 Commandments as written by Gordon Gekko. And, if there were 285 of them. So, with these revised rules, the first goes from “Once you have their money, you never give it back,” to “If they want their money back, give it to them.” There’s more, but you get the idea. It’s like the Grand Nagus has suddenly found Jesus or something. Which, of course, is exactly what happened, but it takes a little while to get there.
While Quark desperately looks for some kind of code buried in the new rules, or any other evidence that this is the kind of devious plan for which the Nagus is famous, Zek starts up the Ferengi Benevolent Association. Pretty soon, this new organization, overseen by Rom (because of course it is), is giving out charitable donations all over the Alpha Quadrant. It’s disconcerting to say the least and justifiably panics Quark. It’s not just that this is going against the noble principles of greed, it’s practical. Radical breaks with doctrine like this are usually punished by a swan dive off the Ferengi Tower of Commerce -- the tallest building in the Alliance -- and Quark would rather not become the 179th word for rain in the Ferengi language. (You’ll get that later.) He has to restore the Nagus back to his old, covetous self.
Meanwhile, Dax has seen to it that Bashir is nominated for the prestigious Carrington Award. This is intended to be the cherry on top of a long career in medicine, not something bestowed upon a wunderkind like Bashir. He initially freaks at the nomination, and while the reaction is strange, it makes sense in light of a later revelation. It’s one of the only things that does, since that revelation was never really planned. Again, we’ll get there. The irony is that this is a case of the nomination being its own reward. Conventional wisdom says that one of two other doctors will get it, but in the end, a third doctor -- not Bashir -- wins. The disappointment on his face does tug at the heartstrings. He didn’t think he would win, but somewhere along the line, he found he wanted to.
Far more rewarding is the way Dax has gone from a stalking victim to a friend and confidant. It’s clear that Bashir has given up, but in so doing has given them a collegial ease that’s far more pleasant to watch. Dax genuinely wanted Bashir to have the honor, not just because he’s her friend, but because his work deserves the recognition. Or not, since Henri Roget totally snaked the award. Thanks a lot, Roget.
Quark’s detective work -- okay, he tries to break into the Nagus’ shuttle and Maihar’du ends up just letting him in -- pays off. Seems the Nagus obtained the Orb of Wisdom from the Cardassians and had a bright idea. If the Prophets exist out of time, then they’ll know what the markets will be doing, and the chance for profit will be off the charts. So, he heads into the wormhole, opens up the Orb, and uses a priceless religious artifact and a group of godlike aliens to provide sound financial advice.
It makes sense in that insane way that only Ferengi can. This is somewhat akin to summoning Yog-Sothoth, because you’d really like a better view, and there are all these cities in the way. In any case, the Prophets are not having it. Why? The Emissary.
That’s right, The Sisko (as they call him) explained the value of linear time. Zek was trying to tell them the exact opposite, but they’re sticking with their Emissary here. They effortlessly look into the past of the Ferengi race and determine that they didn’t use to be so “aggressive and adversarial.” So, they de-evolved Zek to make him cuddlier. And, boy, did they. In the episode’s funniest moment, Quark and Maihar’du stick Zek in a sack and cart him off to the shuttle, while the Nagus happily hums and forgives everyone.
Quark’s plan is bold: Do exactly what Zek did, only instead of asking for financial advice, just get the Prophets to make the Nagus as he was. This episode uses both “Prophets” and “wormhole aliens” to describe the beings, and it’s clear Quark doesn’t see much of a difference between the two terms. For him they are an observable phenomenon, so he’s going to call them whatever he likes, unless he’s trying to sell something to a Bajoran. Then, they’re the Prophets, and may their wisdom guide us.
It works, but only because Quark vows that the Ferengi race will be super annoying if the Prophets keep de-evolving them. The only way to guarantee no more Ferengi pests is to leave Quark untouched and restore the Nagus. The Prophets roll their eyes (particularly the one who appears as Kira who has so clearly never had a single f--k to give) and do it. The Orb experience over, Quark only knows the Nagus has been restored when he vows to sell -- not give, as he said before -- the Orb of Wisdom to the Bajoran people.
As Quark and Rom see the leader of their race off, Rom admits a bit of financial chicanery to his brother. As the chairman of the Ferengi Benevolent Association, he had access to Zek’s account. He embezzled quite a bit. “Father would be proud,” Quark says, patting his brother on the back.
Next up: O’Brien hasn’t been tortured for awhile, so let’s do that.