The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S4E12)’

“Shakaar knows better than anyone, you can’t capitulate to terrorists. He used to be one, and the day the Cardassians started to negotiate with him was the day he knew they’d been beaten.”
     -- Major Kira Nerys

There are times I identify with Odo more than perhaps I should. Maybe not me now, happily married and largely settled down, but the me back when this episode aired. Pining hopelessly after the pixie tomboy of my dreams and unable to express myself in anything more profound than mindless self-destruction and defeatist groans? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Comparing Odo, an ostensible adult, to me in the latter part of my teen years is pretty unflattering. Yet it’s easy to forget that Odo’s maturation process has been, at the very least, seriously messed up. While the series has been somewhat vague about his exact age, I get the impression he isn’t as old as he lets on. Additionally, he’s kept most of his emotions bottled up for his existence. Kira is his first crush, and he doesn’t know how to handle it.

That’s the crux of this hour. Shakaar, the current First Minister of Bajor and former head of Kira’s resistance cell, is coming to DS9 to negotiate with the Federation over the timetable of Bajor’s entry. Meanwhile, Odo and Worf team up to stop an assassination plot against Shakaar by the True Way, a Cardassian extremist group that was responsible for everyone becoming James Bond characters a few weeks ago. The real plot isn’t even this: it’s the romantic sparks flying between Shakaar and Kira. Unlike a standard love story, however, it isn’t about the two lovebirds. It’s the reaction of the tortured third party. Odo.

While this has the effect of robbing Kira of a certain amount of agency, turning her into a supporting character in her own story, it is a unique way to approach a blooming love affair. Placing us, the audience, on the outside with Odo does also doom this particular relationship in the eyes of the fandom (The lack of chemistry between Nana Visitor and Duncan Regehr doesn’t help either.), but it’s a long season. They have a chance to explore some of these odder corners of storytelling.

More than anything else, this episode made me think of the Nice Guy. The archetype, and the thinking behind it, are far from modern, but over the last few years women have collectively vented their frustration over this behavior. I get it. The idea that sex is a prize for friendship is deeply obnoxious. The entire problem -- of women as objects to be “gotten,” of the culture of dating relying on the male active with the female passive, the implication that men should be jerks to get dates -- is far too complicated for me to unpack here. Really, the point is that Odo seems to be displaying some classic Nice Guy behaviors, though without any accompanying expectation. There’s hope, but that appears to be about it. Is this still terrible? I have no idea. I’ve never been on the other end (or at least aware of it, if I have), and my dating days are thankfully long past.

Ironically enough, the most important relationship in this episode is Odo and Quark. These two have always had a slight frenemies vibe to them, and this is really where it comes to a head. While Odo and Kira have a meeting about the weekly crime report (a pointless ritual that the two enjoy nonetheless), Quark comes in with a noise complaint. Seems he lives directly below Odo (something Odo engineered on purpose) and can hear him shapeshifting. “You can hear that?” Kira asks in disbelief. “Hello?” snaps Quark, gesturing to his impressive lobes.

Because of this, when Odo trashes his room in romantic despair, Quark hears him. It’s worth noting that one of the first things Odo hurls is the plant Kira gave him, which was potted in the bucket he used to use for the regeneration cycle he once regarded as shameful. He couldn’t have picked a more symbolic object even if there had been a framed portrait of Kira ripping out his heart Mola Ram-style. Quark initially assumes Odo had been shapeshifting into some kind of alien pachyderm.

Quark gives Odo the talking-to he needs. He tells him about a pool they have in the bar. Whenever there’s a weird crime on the station, everyone bets on when Odo will get the guy. Not if. When. This is how much faith the people in the establishment of his nemesis have in him. Quark advises Odo that he should either do something or get over it. Good advice, but really some of the hardest to actually hear. Odo doesn’t have Quark’s lobes, though.

Odo looks like he’s going to take Quark’s advice and do something, but at the last minute he chickens out. I imagine this has to resonate with most guys. It certainly did with me. It’s one thing to get psyched up to finally talk to your friend/acquaintance/the girl at the front of the room, and something else entirely to go through with it. Odo can’t do it, partly because it will irrevocably change the nature of their relationship, one way or the other, and that’s scary.

What he does do is get his floor soundproofed. He dismisses it as merely getting his quarters reinforced and soundproofing is merely a side effect. Though both men cloaked their concern for one another behind layers of gruff talk, it’s there and evident. It comes down to judging people for what they do, not what they say. This is at the core of my personal philosophy. Words cost nothing, but action can cost everything. Odo knows this when he doesn’t speak to Kira, and he knows it when he puts in the soundproofing as gratitude for the person who is supposed to be his greatest enemy.

That’s how you determine who your friends are.

Next up: Dukat reminds us he’s awesome.

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