Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 7, Episode 15
Production episode 40510-566
Original air date: February 24, 1999
Station log: Bashir and O’Brien are at Vic’s Place inviting Fontaine to join them in the Alamo program. (Why he gets invited and poor Lieutenant Ilario doesn’t is an exercise left to the viewer.) Fontaine starts singing “Alamo,” but in mid-song the décor changes and a bunch of female dancers come slinking on the stage. A gentleman named Frank “Frankie Eyes” Chalmers, an old acquaintance of Fontaine’s from their childhood in Philadelphia, has bought the hotel and fired Fontaine. His bodyguard, Tony “Cheech” Cicci is happy to physically throw Fontaine out if he won’t leave on his own. O’Brien’s attempt to delete Frankie and Cheech and to freeze the program both fail.
Bashir consults with Felix, who designed the program, and finds out that Frankie Eyes is a “jack in the box,” something to shake the program up. If they can get rid of Frankie, Vic’s Place will go back to normal. But it has to be period-specific, and it has to be done in such a way that will keep Fontaine safe—so they can’t, for example, just shoot Frankie, because the mob will retaliate (Frankie is a made guy).
Bashir’s discussion of this in Ops with O’Brien, as well as Kira (who owes her relationship with Odo to Fontaine) and Nog (who owes Fontaine for his recovery from PTSD after losing his leg) is interrupted by Sisko, who reminds them to get back to work. To Sisko’s surprise, Yates is also worried about Fontaine, at which point we learn that Sisko has never gone to Vic’s Place, even though Yates loves it.
O’Brien and Bashir go to the holosuite to see that Fontaine’s been beat up. Cheech wanted to remind him to hurry up and vacate his suite. Bashir treats him and tells them that Odo and Kira are checking out the lounge to see what Frankie has done to the place. While Odo hangs out with Cheech and the other thugs and does shapeshifting tricks, Kira plays blackjack. Frankie Eyes comes over, lets her win, and flirts.
They learn that Frankie was fronted the money to buy the place by Carl Zeemo, a big-time gangster from back east. Zeemo is coming to Vegas—where he’s never been—to get his first payment from Frankie in person. So the plan is to make sure Zeemo never gets his cut by robbing the casino.
Kira uses Frankie’s interest in her to check out the count room. Yates flirts with the counting room guard. Odo gets Cheech to hire Dax as a waitress. Fontaine convinces Frankie to let him stay if he brings in some high-rollers.
Sisko is appalled that Yates is so invested in this program, and he finally explains why: the real Las Vegas in 1962 was not a good place to be someone with darker skin. The Vic’s Place on the holosuite is a lie—but Yates argues that the program shows how it could have been, and should have been.
The gang has a plan in place, but they’re short one person. Worf won’t go for it, and Quark views Fontaine as his competition, so he won’t help, either. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Sisko agrees to help out, having been convinced by Yates’s argument.
Kira’s job is the distraction: she’s to keep Frankie occupied and away from the casino. Sisko will be the first high-roller Fontaine brings in, and he’ll throw enough money around the craps table to draw a crowd. At 11:45 every night, one of the count men always calls his mother, while the other count man orders a martini, which Bashir will spike and Dax will bring to him on a tray that is really Odo. Yates and O’Brien distract the guard with a story about O’Brien stealing her chips. When the count man with the gimmicked drink makes a very fast trip to the bathroom, Nog—disguised as a janitor—goes in and opens the safe using his mad Ferengi skillz. Odo will change from a tray to a person carrying a briefcase, into which he and Nog (changing his disguise to that of a security guard) will put all the money, and then casually and calmly exit the casino.
They all practice: Nog works on his safe-cracking, Sisko practices dice-tossing, and Bashir works on his slipping-a-mickey skills.
The next night, they head on in to the holosuite. Everything is set up nicely. The count man goes to call his Mom. Dax is delayed by crashing into someone, and then she brings the gimmicked drink inside—only to find a different count man, who says he isn’t thirsty. Dax asks if she can have the drink instead, which gets the count man to drink the martini just to be a putz. Yates calls the guard over, claiming O’Brien stole her chips. The count man runs away to throw up, and Nog goes in—only to discover that the lock isn’t the same type that Kira told Nog it was, and he’s been practicing on the wrong thing.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Zeemo shows up a day early. He wants to see the count room. Kira tries to delay him, but Zeemo is single minded. Bashir manages to get the non-puking count man out of the way, and when Zeemo comes onto the casino floor, first Fontaine distracts him by chatting up his date (“Who’s this, your grandfather?”), then Sisko starts tossing money into the air to create chaos.
Nog finally gets the safe open, and he and Odo start loading the briefcase that is actually Odo’s arm. After the guard sends O’Brien off to be strip-searched, Yates has to continue to distract the guard by crying into his arms about how she was going to use the money to buy a present for her mother—at least until Nog and Odo calmly leave the count room. Yates leaves, and Kira then encourages Frankie to show Zeemo the count room. Frankie shows Zeemo an empty safe, to the former’s shock and the latter’s dismay.
Frankie and his entourage leave, the lounge is restored to Vic’s Place, and then Sisko joins Fontaine onstage for a duet of “The Best is Yet to Come.”
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko’s misgivings about the Fontaine program serve as a reminder to the viewers that the producers are fully aware that this is a good-parts version of 1962 and that Sisko and Yates wouldn’t be welcome in a real 1962 Vegas casino except maybe as maintenance workers or performers. It’s an observation that particularly works coming from a Sisko who experienced the events of “Far Beyond the Stars,” which would make him more hyperaware of race relations in 20th-century American than, perhaps, the average 24th-century human would be.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira very much gets into the role of Frankie’s moll, wearing an impressive and varied selection of slinky dresses. Then again, she was likely to have to do such things while a member of the resistance, and we’ve seen her play the flirt in the past in “The Homecoming” when she and O’Brien played a comfort woman and her pimp to break into the prison camp.
The slug in your belly: Dax gets to be a waitress. Amusingly, while she is very smooth with a drinks tray in the fantasy sequence when they go over the plan, in the actual execution she’s got the tray in a death grip, obviously scared to death of spilling it. It’s also unclear how she manages to get a work schedule that fits with the scheme and also enables her to actually do her duties as a Starfleet officer, since a waitress would not get to choose her own hours.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf has no loyalty to Fontaine, and refuses to think of him as a person the way the others do. Although he does call him an entertaining singer, which is a step up from his initial impression, to wit that he preferred Klingon opera.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo endears himself to Cheech (thus enabling Dax to get a job) by doing a trick with extending his arm. One can only weep at the lost opportunity to finally see the Cardassian neck trick…
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: The only other way to get rid of Frankie Eyes—besides actually getting rid of him on the terms of the program—is to manually reset the program, but that would reset Fontaine as well, so he’d be like he was in “His Way” without remembering anything that happened since. Fontaine is less than thrilled about this.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Holy crap, does Nana Visitor look amazing in this episode…
Keep your ears open: “Vodka martini—stirred, not shaken.”
Bashir riffing on James Bond’s usual drinks order.
Welcome aboard: We’ve got recurring regulars James Darren as Fontaine, Aron Eisenberg at Nog, and Penny Johnson as Yates. The various holographic gangsters are played by veteran character actors Marc Lawrence (last seen on TNG’s “The Vengeance Factor”), Mike Starr, and Robert Miano, all of whom have played their share of gangsters and bad guys elsewhere.
Oh, and there’s the replacement accountant played by “Bobby Reilly,” perhaps better known as Robert O’Reilly, the guy who plays Gowron. That makes two weeks in a row when a recurring Klingon plays a different role and uses a variation on his real name…
Trivial matters: This episode was the last one filmed before the closing arc, but it was switched with “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” because Paramount was really impressed with the production and wanted to air it during February sweeps. It was intended as a calm-before-the-storm story before the heaviness of the closing arc kicked in.
The episode was inspired by dozens of caper films over the years, but most obviously the 1960 Rat Pack vehicle Ocean’s 11. Art director Randy McIlvain used that film as well as Viva Las Vegas for inspiration in designing the episode.
Frankie’s comment to Kira about how there isn’t a statue to Bugsy Siegel in Vegas is a riff on a similar line in The Godfather Part II with regard to Moe Greene, the analogue of Siegel in that film.
While Avery Brooks has sung bits and pieces here and there—the “Allamaraine” song in “Move Along Home,” and brief bits with “Cassie” in “Far Beyond the Stars” and Odo in “His Way”—this is his first time doing a full-blown song. “The Best is Yet to Come” is transposed down an octave from where James Darren would normally sing it to accommodate Brooks’s bass.
Cheech’s complaint about the cheesesteak was a nice touch, as any Philadelphian will tell you that no one outside of the City of Brotherly Love can make a cheesesteak worth a damn.
Walk with the Prophets: “We don’t have time for ‘uh-oh’.” I had absolutely no interest in this episode when it first aired, viewing it as a waste of an hour, especially with only about a dozen hours of the show left and a war still going on. At the time, I hadn’t yet seen Ocean’s 11 (the Steven Soderbergh remake was still two years in the future, and I didn’t see the original until after the 2001 version—by the way, the 1960 original is a really really terrible movie…), and wasn’t as big a fan of caper stories as I am now. Plus, I honestly felt that Sisko should’ve stuck to his guns—there’s nothing particularly wonderful about 1962 Vegas if you’re not a middle-class-or-higher white person. It’s not just the racism that Sisko decries, but the classism, as well, not to mention the criminality (guys like Zeemo and Frankie were the norm at the time).
Now, though—well, I still think this is a waste of an hour, especially since we’ve already had the use-the-holosuite-to-distract-us-from-the-horrors-of-war story in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” In fact, you could argue that we’ve had it twice, if you throw “It’s Only a Paper Moon” in there.
But it’s a fun waste of an hour, dagnabbit. Just turning your brain off and disengaging, it’s fun, especially since it doesn’t try to contrive any real danger (I’m looking at you, “Our Man Bashir” and “The Big Goodbye” and “A Fistful of Datas” and on and on and on). Worf’s right in that Fontaine isn’t a person, and this jack-in-the-box is something that Felix programmed into it, so the consequences if they fail are pretty much nonexistent. But it lets everyone play dress-up, and damn if they don’t look good. Dax in a cocktail waitress dress, Yates and Kira in a series of smoking outfits, Sisko in a tux, O’Brien and Bashir in cunning hats, and Odo in a suit. Seriously, what’s not to like?
The casting helps, too. Besides Darren’s usual relaxed charm as Fontaine (which is the only reason why the character even works), the gangsters are all spot-on, as Mike Starr, Robert Miano, and the venerable Marc Lawrence just nail it.
Plus, honestly, the whole episode’s worth it just to see Brooks and Darren duet on “The Best is Yet to Come.”
Besides, this is the last fun episode we’re going to have. From here on in, this shit gets real…
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido is at Arisia 2015, his first convention of the year, this weekend, alongside Author Guest of Honor N.K. Jemisin, Artist GoH Lee Moyer, Fan GoH Colette H. Fozard, and tons more. His full schedule can be found here.