“Profit and Lace”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Alexander Siddig
Season 6, Episode 23
Production episode 40510-547
Original air date: May 13, 1998
Station log: Under the cover of a good employee evaluation, Quark indulges in some significant sexual harassment of his newest dabo girl, Aluura, trying to convince her to give him oo-mox in exchange for not getting fired. He’s interrupted by Rom, who tried to contact Ishka, and can’t get through. Nor can he get through to anyone on Ferenginar: not the Tower of Commerce, not Gaila, not Leck—nobody. They’re convinced that the Dominion has invaded Ferenginar, but there’s no evidence to support it.
And then a Ferengi ship approaches the station, containing Zek and Ishka. Ishka is wearing clothes, which concerns Quark and Rom—only to learn that Zek has given females the right to wear clothes. Unfortunately, there were so many more financial transactions, it crashed the Ferengi communications grid, which explains why there was no contact.
However, there’s more dire news: Zek has been deposed, and Brunt has been declared Acting Grand Nagus. They have three days until the FCA confirms him, so they’ll be inviting FCA commissioners to the station to meet with Ishka, see her financial acumen, and come around to the notion of females earning profit.
Unfortunately, Quark, Rom, and Nog contact all 420 FCA commissioners on Zek’s list and 419 of them said no. The only one who agrees to come is Nilva, the chairman of Slug-O-Cola. However, Nilva is a very conservative voice—Slug-O-Cola hasn’t changed its jingle in three centuries. (Everyone then sings it.) And then, to make matters worse, Acting Grand Nagus Brunt shows up (complete with his very own Hupyrian bodyguard). Zek regrets reinstating him as a liquidator, and Brunt threatens to liquidate Zek and is generally very Brunt-like until Quark kicks him out.
Ishka goes to Quark’s quarters and they get into a massive argument—and then Ishka has a major cardiac event, collapsing. Bashir is able to give her a new heart, but she’ll need several days of complete rest. Brunt comes by the bar to gloat that they no longer have a financially clever female to meet with Nilva. So, since they can’t get another female from Ferenginar fast enough, they have to make a female.
So Bashir operates on Quark, making him female. Because this is the Quark-is-a-woman episode and they have to do this. Sigh.
Leeta, Rom, and Zek help Quark get ready to meet with Nilva—who, of course, arrives early. Leeta and Rom help him walk and sit like a woman while Zek gives him Ishka’s notes. Brunt intercepts Nilva, letting him know that Ishka’s infirm, and Nog informs both Nilva and Brunt about “Lumba”—Quark’s new female identity.
Upon Nilva’s arrival, he declares Zek to be either the greatest visionary in Ferengi history, or just an old crazy person who’s inhaled too much beetle snuff. He also insists on meeting with Lumba right away, as he has to be back on Ferenginar for a stockholder’s meeting. But he’s willing to have dinner with Lumba in public in deference to all the latinum Nilva and Zek have made together.
And so they have dinner. Lumba convinces Nilva that letting females wear clothes will give them pockets. They’ll want to fill those pockets with latinum, and so they’ll need jobs so they can earn latinum, which they will then want to spend. It’ll expand the workforce and the customer base at the same time. Lumba also suggests that Nilva change Slug-O-Cola’s slogan to something that will appeal to the new female demographic.
Nilva then offers Lumba dessert—in his quarters. He never thought he’d find a clothed female so enticing. He literally chases Lumba around his quarters. They’re interrupted by Brunt, who exposes Lumba’s true identity as a post-operative Quark. However, Lumba then grabs Nilva and kisses him, and then opens her dress. Brunt insists that’s still not a female, and Nilva declares it’s close enough for him. It’s possible there was other dialogue, but I was in the bathroom throwing up at this point.
Nilva throws his support behind Zek, to Brunt’s horror.
Odo finds Quark, now back to being male, looking at the ring Nilva gave Lumba as a gift. Quark also apologizes to Aluura, who reveals that she actually doesn’t think oo-mox sounds that bad. And whatever good might have come of this episode is flushed down the toilet as Quark chases after Aluura some more.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf gets by far the best line in the episode with his response to Rom’s hysterical concern of the consequences to the Alpha Quadrant if Ferenginar falls to the Dominion: “I cannot think of any.”
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: When Quark is having conflicting feelings toward Nilva, he asks Odo for a hug, which proves to be the single most awkward moment in the changeling’s life.
Rules of Acquisition: For obvious reasons, the one (and surprisingly only) Rule this episode quotes is #94: “Females and finances don’t mix”—though Nog at one point says that Rule is open to interpretation.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Zek is very taken with Leeta, but Ishka warns him off her, because she’s Rom’s wife—which means she’s broke. Meanwhile Nilva is so taken with Lumba that he asks her to marry him—Lumba’s reply that his wife wouldn’t approve is met with the response, “She hasn’t touched my lobes in months.” Lumba’s reply to that is, “I can tell.”
Keep your ears open: “Moogie! I was so worried!”
“You’re a good son.”
“I was worried, too!”
“And you’re a good liar.”
Rom, Ishka, and Quark greeting each other.
Welcome aboard: Back for more are the usual Ferengi suspects: Cecily Adams (Ishka), Jeffrey Combs (Brunt), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Max Grodénchik (Rom), and Wallace Shawn (Zek), plus Tiny Ron as Maihar’du and Chase Masterson as Leeta. Sylvain Cecile plays Brunt’s bodyguard and Symba Smith plays Aluura.
And our Robert Knepper moment is the great character actor Henry Gibson as Nilva. Gibson is best known for his facial expressions, but with that taken away from him in Ferengi makeup, he turns in an uncharacteristically physical and bombastic performance.
Trivial matters: The episode title is a play on the second-season episode “Profit and Loss.”
For the first time, we get the full name of Quark’s Bar: “Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House, and Holosuite Arcade.”
Brunt was reinstated as a liquidator by Zek in gratitude for helping rescue Ishka in “The Magnificent Ferengi.” That enabled him to bribe his way back to a position of influence and then be named Acting Grand Nagus. Brunt previously angled to be made grand nagus in “Ferengi Love Songs.”
Your humble rewatcher had Nilva appear in Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed, the Ferenginar portion of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 3 as a member of the grand nagus’s economic council.
While they don’t appear, both Gaila and Leck, last seen in “The Magnificent Ferengi,” are mentioned.
Walk with the Prophets: “Acting Grand Nagus!” There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this episode. Every bit of humor is obvious and forced, additional “funny” bits are inserted for no other reason except this is a comedy episode and they should be there, like Nog chasing Nilva breathlessly around the station, or half of Nilva’s chasing of Lumba around his quarters being behind a curtain with goofy sound effects being heard, or Rom being such an expert on female walking and sitting.
Worf has one funny line, the bit where Quark, Rom, and Nog contact the commissioners is hilariously written and filmed, and the look on Rene Auberjonois’s face when Quark hugs him is epic, but otherwise this is an attempt to show how important it is for women to be treated equally by indulging in every sexist stereotype in the book, culminating in Quark learning absolutely nothing by still going after Aluura. To make matters worse, Aluura actually gives in to the stereotype, her response to Quark’s sexual harassment forcing her to read up on oo-mox is to actually say that oo-mox doesn’t sound that bad. It’s impossible to convey just how despicable this is, and whatever good the episode might do—and it does almost none anyhow—is flushed away by the ending.
An absolute blight on the entire Star Trek landscape, is this.
Warp factor rating: 0
Keith R.A. DeCandido has now only watched this episode three times. Once when it first aired, once when rewatching Ferengi episodes in preparation for writing the Ferenginar half of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 3, and once for this rewatch. He really really hopes this is the last time he has to do so.