“Profit and Loss”
Written by Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus
Directed by Robert Wiemer
Season 2, Episode 18
Production episode 40512-438
Original air date: March 20, 1994
Station log: A damaged Cardassian shuttle is approaching the station. Sisko has it towed to a cargo bay, where the passengers introduce themselves as Professor Natima Lang and her students, Rekelen and Hogue. She says she was caught in a meteor shower. While O’Brien starts on repairs, Lang and her students go to the Promenade, where Quark is overjoyed to see her. She isn’t so much: she backhands him, tells him she told him never to speak to her again, and stomps off. Quark, however, declares it to be the happiest day of his life.
Bashir and Garak are chatting in Quark’s on the subject of loyalty to the state vs. loyalty to one’s self, one’s friends, and one’s family—Garak chooses the former, Bashir the latter.
Quark all but forces Lang and her students into the bar and he buys her a drink. While fixing the drink, Quark explains to Odo that she used to be a journalist on the station before Odo’s time, and that he was the love of her life. Lang allows herself to be alone with Quark, sending the students to the bar, but their reunion is not entirely pleasant, despite Quark’s best efforts.
When Garak leaves the bar, Lang and the students become apprehensive, as they thought there were no Cardassians on the station, and they leave the bar in a hurry. It’s a sign of how frightened Lang is that she actually is nice to Quark as they leave.
O’Brien reports to Sisko that they weren’t in a meteor storm, they were fired upon by Cardassian disruptor fire. Lang admits to it without argument when Sisko confronts her, and pleads with him to let them go—if the Cardassians capture her students, they’ll be killed. Rekelen and Hogue are leaders of a Cardassian dissident movement, and they’ve already been targeted once. Sisko agrees to assign them guest quarters and expedite repairs.
Quark visits Garak in his shop, ostensibly to buy a dress for Lang, but their conversation about fashion has an obvious undertone, in which Garak makes it clear that standing too close to Lang and her students might be very dangerous.
Then Quark takes another shot at making up with Lang, and we find out that she saved his life from being executed for selling food to Bajorans, and he turned around and used her access code to embezzle from the Cardassian Information Service. Quark offers to help her in exchange for her staying with him—because if she doesn’t stay, he’ll follow her. She points out that following her will get him killed, but he says he doesn’t care. She doesn’t believe him, and is convinced that his nature will take over eventually. She also insists that she doesn’t love him, but he doesn’t believe her.
A Cardassian warship shows up in a defensive posture, and Garak arrives in Ops to speak on their behalf. Cardassian Central Command wishes to bring Hogue and Rekelan home, but Sisko is not about to turn political refugees over.
Having failed to convince Lang, Quark works on the students, convincing them that he can get them away from the station safely. He has come into possession of a battered old cloaking device that’ll only work for about fifteen minutes or so, but he’ll give it to Hogue and Rekelen—if they can convince Lang to stay. But she refuses to stay with him and insists that he give her the cloaking device, going so far as to point a weapon at him. Quark is convinced she won’t shoot him, which he believes right up to the moment when she shoots him.
But it turns out that Quark was right, she didn’t mean to shoot; she hit the trigger by mistake. She also finally admits that she loves him and always did, even when she hated him and that she missed him. They go back and forth over whether or not she should stay—she wants to, but she can’t abandon the cause. Quark eventually talks her into remaining together—but then Odo shows up to arrest Lang, having already arrested Hogue and Rekelen. Turns out that the Cardassians made an offer to the Bajoran provisional government: they’ll release a mess of Bajoran prisoners in exchange for these three. The Bajorans accepted it, so Sisko and Odo’s hands are tied, though Sisko is fighting it.
A gul named Toran arrives at Garak’s shop, taking joy in Garak’s miserable exile. Garak, in turn, expresses dismay that the situation on Cardassia is so dire that they felt the need to promote Toran to gul. Toran says that Central Command has decided not to release any Bajoran prisoners and instead wants the dissidents dead. Toran says he’ll end Garak’s exile and allow him to return home if he arranges for Lang, Hogue, and Rekelen to be killed.
Quark pleads with Odo to release the prisoners, trying a variety of tactics that all fail, even going so far as to get down on his knees. However, Odo does agree eventually, not for Quark, but because what they’ve done doesn’t deserve a death sentence.
Unfortunately, they arrive at the cargo bay to find Garak waiting. Quark tries to stall their inevitable death at his hands, which lasts long enough for Toran to show up and make it clear that this one act of patriotism was not going to be enough to reform Garak’s reputation. Toran dismissively tells him to go back to his tailor shop.
So of course Garak shoots him. Ultimately, he’s still a patriot and he loves Cardassia more than anything, which is why he disposes of Toran and lets Lang and her students live.
Hogue and Rekelen board the ship. Quark kisses Lang—and then she reveals that she’s going with Hogue and Rekelen. She can’t stay with him until her work is done. So all Quark has to do to get her back is to wait for Cardassia to be a free and democratic society. Piece of cake.
She goes off in the ship, and Garak and Quark walk down the cargo bay corridor, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or something.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko gets his first real conversation with Garak, and he doesn’t hold back, making it clear that he won’t give in to Cardassian demands, even at gunpoint.
Plain, simple: We learn that Garak lives on Deep Space 9 because he’s in exile from Cardassia, though the reasons for that exile remain murky, just like most things regarding Garak.
While verbally fencing with Bashir, Garak says at one point that maybe he’s an outcast spy, which, we will eventually learn, is the actual truth, though Bashir dismisses the notion as ridiculous when he says it.
For Cardassia! The Cardassian military authority is referred to as Central Command for the first time in this episode, the term that will be used henceforth. We’re also introduced to the Cardassian dissident movement, which wishes to remove the military from power. They’ll be successful, after a fashion, in “The Way of the Warrior.”
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Quark first installed the holosuites when he and Lang were together seven years earlier. The first program he ran was Rhymus Major, a picnic ground with waterfalls, butterflies, and birds.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark starts to quote Rule #223, but Lang cuts him off, having had her fill of hearing Rules quoted when she and Quark were dating.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: O’Brien loaned a copy of I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane, the first appearance of Spillane’s most famous creation Mike Hammer, to Odo. He’s very engrossed in it when Quark interrupts him.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Quark and Lang were a couple seven years before this episode, but it ended when he couldn’t resist being all Ferengi and stuff. But it’s obvious after she shoots him that it really is true love. Though honestly, I can’t see it lasting any longer the second time, because Lang is right: Quark would not be able to resist being a profit-hound for very long, even if it was at the expense of their relationship. He’s also willing to follow her wherever she goes if she leaves the station without him, because stalking is such a turn-on….
Keep your ears open: “Cardassians don’t involve outsiders in their internal politics, especially Bajorans.”
“Being shot at by your own people goes a little beyond politics.”
“We take our politics very seriously.”
Lang explaining the facts of Cardassian life to Sisko.
Welcome aboard: Mary Crosby—who is the aunt of Denise Crosby, Tasha Yar on TNG, and the daughter of Bing Crosby and Kathryn Crosby—played Lang. Michael Reilly Burke, having played a Borg in TNG’s “Descent, Part II,” plays Hogue (he’ll be back as a Vulcan named Koss in several Enterprise episodes), and Edward Wiley, having played a Klingon governor in TNG’s “The Mind’s Eye,” plays Toran. Plus Andrew J. Robinson returns as Garak, and Heidi Swedberg plays Rekelen.
Trivial matters: This is the only time Natima Lang appears onscreen, but she returns in the post-finale DS9 fiction as one of the prime movers behind the rebuilding of Cardassia following the Dominion War. She also appeared in the Terok Nor novels Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison, which spelled out her and Quark’s backstory mentioned in this episode, and she also appears in the Cardassia-focused novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack.
The episode is very obviously patterned after the great 1942 film Casablanca, with Quark as Rick, Lang as Ilsa, Garak as Captain Renault, and Toran as Major Strasser. In fact, the original draft hewed even closer to the film, but it was toned down in subsequent drafts—including changing the title from “Here’s Looking at You…”—due to being threatened with legal action.
Lang’s favorite drink, a Samarian sunset, was first seen in TNG’s “Conundrum.”
We’ll next see the Cardassian dissident movement in TNG’s “Lower Decks.”
During the filming of the episode in January 1994, an earthquake struck Los Angeles. Several actors, including Armin Shimerman and Edward Wiley, were in the midst of having their prosthetic makeup applied, and they ran home to check on their families in full or partial Ferengi or Cardassian or whatever makeup, which must’ve been quite a sight to the already-frightened denizens of L.A.
Walk with the Prophets: “Well, some people should never be promoted.” It’s fun to see Quark as a romantic lead, as it’s not a role he would appear to be entirely suited for. Then again, nobody really thought of Humphrey Bogart as a romantic lead until Casablanca, either. And Armin Shimerman really does sell how earnest Quark is trying really hard to be—even though his instincts to do everything he can for Lang is swimming upstream against his instinct to be, well, Quark. He even comes within a hairsbreadth of trying to fleece Hogue and Rekelen for the cloaking device before he remembers that his “price” is getting to keep Lang.
It’s also nice to see that there is a Cardassian dissident movement, and it’s one we’ll continue to see throughout the series (as well as once on TNG). It’s an important step (begun in “Duet”) of making the Cardassians be more than mustache-twirling villains.
Having said that, the episode doesn’t really elevate itself beyond the Casablanca pastiche. In particular, it neuters Odo and Sisko in order to service Quark being the hero, and I just don’t buy it. The same Sisko who told Garak that he wasn’t going to take any crap from them then gives in to the provisional government? Worse, he does it off-camera? And, of course, the Cardassians don’t even hold up their end of the bargain anyhow, so the whole thing is moot.
For that matter, if Lang and the others were in prison because of the Cardassians’ deal with the Bajorans, how does Toran expect Garak to execute them? For that matter, how does Garak know to be waiting for them when they’ve been in a cell?
More fundamentally, though, if Odo’s so outraged that the three are going to be executed for no good reason, and if he’s uninterested in helping them on Quark’s behalf, why is he sitting around reading Mickey Spillane?
Also, unfortunately, mediocre acting seems to run in the Crosby family, as Mary isn’t any better than her niece: there are no real sparks between Quark and Lang, and the romance feels perfunctory and flat. Maybe it’s the Cardassian prosthetics, but Crosby does nothing to show Lang’s passion—not for Quark, not for the dissident movement.
Ultimately, the problems of one Ferengi and one Cardassian don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy quadrant….
Warp factor rating: 4