Episode 2.18: Profit and Loss

Profit and Loss is a watershed episode for the DS9 series itself.  This is the first episode that is “about” a side character, specifically Garak.  The episode is mainly about Quark and his relationships, but there is a lot of Garak and the title applies to both Quark and Garak.  They both gain something, and they both lose something.  By the end of the episode, they are scoundrels-in-arms.  The side characters are a hallmark of DS9 and one of the shows greatest strengths.  There are about half a dozen side characters that are deeply developed and all have shows “about” them.  Off the top of my head:  Garak, Nog, Dukat, Winn.  Garak is certainly the most recurrent of these recurring characters, and he probably has more screen time across the series than Season 7 regular Ezri Dax.

Before jumping into discussing Quark, I want to mention the opening scene with Bashir and Garak.  Their discussion of divided loyalties foreshadows the rest of the episode.  Both Natima and Garak’s conflicts in the episode are a direct recreation of the topic Bashir and he are discussing:  loyalty to the self or loyalty to Cardassia.  Romantic love vs love of Cardassia and end of personal exile vs ending military dictatorship.  For Garak, this is an extremely long-term foreshadowing event.  This is what Garak devotes himself to by the end of the series.  Through trials (as we’ll see soon in The Wire (Ep. 2.22)), Garak places his own exile behind the needs of Cardassia; in fact, the salvation of Cardassia gives purpose to his exile.  Killing Gul Toran is, I think, the turning point for him.  The scene ends with one of the most truthful moments for Garak.  He outright says he is an outcast spy, which Bashir promptly disbelieves as absurd.  This truth will quickly be confirmed in The Wire (Ep. 2.22).

Quark and Natima’s past romantic tryst ended because Natima failed to understand Ferengi, as so many people do.  She expected him to place love over profit (when she was surprised that Quark took her access codes to embezzle money).  Quark has a good heart, truly; we learn here that Quark sold food to the Bajorans during the Occupation.  But now, as then, Quark sees the world quite differently than most.  His fatal flaw in dealing with Natima is how he tries to acquire her.  Up until the last moment, he tries to use the cloaking device as payment for her to stay.  He doesn’t use it to try to get her to love him again.  I think, deep down, Quark knows that love doesn’t work that way.  He knows Natima loves him, but is trying to suppress it.  Natima knows Quark as well.  One of Quark’s character flaws is that he always lives in the moment; Natima fears his love for her will fade.  However, the political need overshadows the romantic need of the two lovers.  I like how they interwove the two themes between Natima and Quark.  Both now and in the past, Cardassia’s political situation overrides their romantic relationship.  The danger to Natima is too great, and Quark ends his pursuit of her to let her flee with the others.  Quark’s profit is the rekindled love of Natima; his loss is the woman herself.

By killing Gul Toran, Garak declares rather strongly that he would rather pursue the liberation of Cardassia from military rule than end his own exile to live on that Cardassia.  We learn some interesting morsels about Garak here.  His exile is confirmed; he is in contact with Central Command, but not part of it; and we learn that Garak likes to say in control of a situation.  The interaction with Sisko is quite excellent once I realized that Garak wasn’t in control there; it was simply an illusion of control.  Sisko confirms his suspicions that Garak is no simple tailor.  I don’t think Garak’s decision at the airlock was an easy one.  He deeply despises being on DS9 (once again, see The Wire), but he’s quite intelligent, and he knows the momentary satisfaction of ending his exile will fade as he lives on a military Cardassia.  His profit is that Cardassia has individuals in the dissident movement; his loss is his continued exile.

Garak and Quark form a sort of scoundrels-in-arms relationship in this episode.  Quark knows the game Garak plays, and he plays it with Garak in the tailor shop.  They don’t discuss politics directly, but as a euphemism involving fashion.  If it had been Federation officers instead (particularly Bashir), they would have bulled through the conversation talking directly about Natima.  Quark uses the subtlety as is required for these sorts of things, which garners respect from Garak.  As the series progresses, I think that the Federation officers learn the value playing the correct game in the underworld.  See The Maquis (Eps. 2.20 and 2.21), Honor Among Thieves (Ep. 6.15), In the Pale Moonlight (Ep. 6.19).  At the airlock, Quark knows what Garak wants, which is a reduction in Central Command’s power.  His quick talking helps sway Garak onto a path Garak truly wants anyway.  As the episode closes, they have a deeper respect for one another.

This episode is also rife with Quark and Odo’s love/hate relationship.  Quark seems to enjoy it, given his attitude toward Odo during the bar scene after first seeing Natima.  There is even one point where they almost name it, in Odo’s office when Quark nearly calls him a friend, calls him a brother instead, and insults Odo’s emotional capacity.  Quark needs Odo, and he begs for his help.  The scene holds in tension their mutual liking each other and despising each other.  Throughout, they demonstrate their knowledge of each other, as only good friends or good enemies do.  Quark searches for Odo by banging glasses and chairs (forms he’s mimicked in the past); Odo knows Quark’s motivations regarding Natima aren’t about monetary profit.  In the rare on-screen event, Quark is the clear winner in this episode.  Odo is off-balance at the start by genuinely being surprised at Quark’s relationship to Natima, Quark is able to keep the cloaking device hidden, and Odo releases Natima into Quark’s hands for escape as Odo doesn’t have the means to seek justice through the Bajoran government’s decisions.  Amusingly, this also means that Quark owes Odo nothing!

Random Thoughts:  1) Mary Crosby (Natima) shot J.R.  From the show Dallas!  She’s also Bing Crosby’s daughter.  Unexpected connections there.  2) While talking to Quark in the shop, Garak threatens Natima before he knows he will kill her.  3) Rule of Acquisition #223!  Abruptly cut off, and the canon of Star Trek leaves it open.  4) Garak mysteriously appears in Ops, a place that is supposed to be secure.  The reason is likely related to Garak’s access in Civil Defense (Ep. 3.7).  5) Sisko postures strongly to Garak, indicating an aggressive response if the Caradassians act aggressively to retrieve Natima and the others.  More frontier attitudes differentiating DS9 from TNG.  6) When Natima is in the holding cell, Sisko steps into the cell to talk to them.  This physically reinforces that he is on their side in the struggle, and disagrees with the Bajoran Provisional Government.  7) I think Odo releases Natima mostly for justice, but a little bit for Quark.  Personal opinion though from seeing the rest of the show.  8) Armin Shimmerman has an excellent glassy-eyed look for Quark whenever he gets his ears stroked.  9) Quark insinuates he was on the station long before Odo, which indicates he also has been helping Bajorans long before Odo arrived.

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~ by Joshua Black on September 12, 2016.

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