I found this to be a very much better episode than those I’ve been watching in recent weeks, and not merely because this was a rare episode that formed part of a longer, ongoing chain of events. Nor even because it was another Major Kira-centric episode, with the rest of the cast only playing bit-part roles, subservient to the plot.
The open consisted of a quasi-dream sequence, identifiable as such after only five seconds or so. Vedek Bariel – Bajor’s hottest tip to become the new Kai, and Kira’s current hot squeeze – is wandering around a deserted area until he finds a body in religious clothing hanging from a gantry. Kira, hot and sweaty from a solo game of handball, cuts down the body, whom Bariel identifies as Prylar Bek (who he?). But Kira contradicts him, saying it is actually Bariel. We cut to Bariel in his quarters, closing the door on the Orb: it has been a vision, but one cast in symbolic terms.
After the credits, we get a beefcake shot of Philip Anglim (Bariel) showing off his abs, whilst Kira languishes on a couch in an off-the-shoulder and off-the-thighs sleeping shift, hair erotically rumpled (wooorgh, you’ll be badly). It’s two days before the Choosing, the selection of a new Kai, and whilst Bariel is hot favourite, Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) is also on DS9, still battling for an edge. Kira’s openly contemptuous, Sisko diplomatically so. It’s not looking good for religious fanatics around here.
Then a seemingly unrelated understory begins, though given the episode title, we should be cautious about assuming this is the counterplot. An elderly man, Kubus Oak, is denounced on the promenade as a former member of the collaborationist Government. As such, he is a traitor, condemned to exile from Bajor, though Oak protests that he was able to minimise Cardassian brutality, and anyway, what harm can it do to allow an old man to have his last, few, ineffectual years at home?
Major Kira puts paid to that feeble excuse is a taut, clipped explanation of why some things are quite literally unforgivable, and that seems to be that, until Vedek Winn offers Kubus sanctuary. On Bajor. The Major refuses to let him leave the station, which brings everything together nicely. Winn claims that Oak has knowledge of who collaborated with the Cardassians to bring about the infamous Kendra Valley Massacre, the slaughter of 43 resistance fighters, including Kai Opaka’s son.
But everybody knows who was to blame, Kira protests. It was Prylar Bek. He admitted it in a note. Just before he went out and hung himself.
Not so, according to Kubus. Bek was just a go-between, a messenger pigeon for the real Collborator – a Vedek.
It’s obvious where Winn is going with this, and Kira gets up in her face about it, especially as the evidence is so scanty. But time is short, and the mere revelation of the suspicion would do for Bariel so Kira agrees to investigate. Her word will be seen as honest.
I should also mention that, in addition to the ongoing narrative, we are treated to other Orb-visions (Bariel just can’t keep away). These showcase Bariel’s own doubts about becoming Kai, his fears that he is inadequate to the task, and ultimately Kira will betray, and kill him.
One of the things I was definitely appreciating about this episode was that I just had no idea where it was going, and how it would come out. I suspected, given that Kira was in charge of the investigation, that it would ultimately point to Bariel, but had great difficulty in imagining how that could be the outcome without seriously violating his character.
But Bariel’s evasiveness under questioning confirmed very quickly that he was going to be found with at least one finger in the pie, and that expectation grew when it was determined that certain Vedek communications had been sealed. Sealed? They’d been wiped. And the wiper was, of course, Bariel.
It was still pretty flimsy evidence. All it was was the absence of evidence, and a cooler-headed investigator would have weighed things up more carefully, but the distraught and betrayed Kira jumped to the cheap conclusion that the records could only have been erased because they were incriminating, and obligingly, Bariel confirmed that he had given away the rebel’s location.
That he could do something like that was explained on a lesser-of-two-evils basis: the Cardassians proposed to kill everyone in Kendra Valley and Bariel, faced with the choice no human being should ever be forced to make because no answer is right, weighed 1,200 innocents in one hand, and 43 rebels in the other, and chose to spare the innocents. No wonder he felt himself to be unworthy of the Kai-ship.
This placed the Major in the invidious position of having to deliver to her hated enemy the sword with which she would execute the man Kira loved, but there Bariel had already acted to spare her: he had withdrawn from the Choosing, so Winn had no need to smear him. And Vedek Winn duly became Kai Winn. This story was far from over.
And the lesser portion of it represented by this episode was also not over. The heartbroken, betrayed Kira still couldn’t believe it of her beloved, and a little bit of lateral thinking turned up unerased records of a completely different kind that proved Bariel couldn’t possibly have betrayed the Kendra Valley rebels: he just wasn’t there at the critical time.
So, if he were innocent, who then was he protecting, who meant more to him that Kira and himself? In a final meeting, Kira answered her own question. It was Opaka herself who had betrayed the rebels, even her own son, to death, to save innocents: Bariel had taken responsibility onto himself so that faith in Kai Opaka should not be disturbed. It was an action Kira could accept, and she reaffirmed her love, as the two prepared for the difficult days ahead…
A superior episode in every respect, and one to restore my faith in the series. Only two more episodes remaining in season two: I need to get hold of season three in the next couple of weeks.