Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Profit and Loss"

**

Air date: 3/21/1994
Written by Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus
Directed by Robert Wiemer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Running from their own government, three Cardassians seek refuge on DS9, and it turns out that one of the Cardassians—a woman named Natima (Mary Crosby)—is an old lover of Quark's, who left years ago on rather bad terms.

"Profit and Loss" is a mess of an episode, with convenient turns in the plot that border on storytelling fraud. The episode is really about the relationship between Natima and Quark, but the completely underwritten plot surrounding the reasons Natima has come to the station—to protect two of her students (Michael Reilly Burke and Heidi Swedberg) who are wanted by Cardassian officials—makes surprisingly little sense, especially under any form of scrutiny. They're part of a movement that is "going against" the Central Command, but their motives and goals are so vaguely scripted that it ultimately means nothing.

Then there are the gaping plot holes, like just how Odo would have the arbitrary power to release the wanted Cardassians against an agreement the Bajoran government made with the Cardassian government (whether it's in the name of "justice" or not). There's also the scene where Garak gets away with vaporizing Gul Toran (Edward Wiley) on board the station without so much as a peep from security. None of this is remotely believable.

Character-wise, it was also tough to swallow most scenes featuring Quark and Natima. The first two acts feature Natima scornfully refusing to acknowledge Quark because of something devious he did in the past. Fine. But then, after the scene where she phasers him, her character makes a blatant about-face that practically invites incredulity. Their subsequent scenes are overplayed to the point of soap opera melodrama. The "chemistry" here couldn't be any more forced. The episode's sole saving grace is Garak, who supplies his usual wit, particularly in one unforgettable dialog scene where he uses "tailor allegory" to explain to Quark the nature of Natima's political intrigue. An amusing scene between Quark and Odo is also on the right track. But they're isolated moments in a severely botched episode.

Previous episode: Playing God
Next episode: Blood Oath

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23 comments on this review

Aaron
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
I agree with everything you've said except the rating: 1 star at most.

The actress who played Natima was particularly bad. I thought they only got good actors to play important Cardassian roles. She was written badly, too. She should have been eccentric in some way and maybe not so elegant in order for us to believe she could fall for a Ferengi.
Comp625
Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
I thought a 2-star rating was appropriate. Despite the plot holes, the episode was at least "somewhat watchable."

I was entertained by Quark's desire for romance. He typically has no luck with women, so it was nice to know that he did have a past relationship, and how he yearned for a rekindling.

The episode would have probably worked better if Natima was introduced as WANTING to rekindle things with Quark, only to find out that she had ulterior motives. Or alternatively, have Natima push away Quark ENTIRELY and have Quark still save the day. Instead, Natima's wishy-washy turn of emotions came across as implausible, and made the episode laughable, at best.

The other plot holes didn't help. I, too, wondered why Odo released the wanted Cardassians. One could argue that this was "somewhat" addressed by Starfleet when they introduced Eddington as punishment for Odo's freelancing actions in the Season 3 opener. It's a stretch but I'm trying to give the writers some slack.

Also, this was probably my least favorite use of Garak, thus far. I understand his motive of wanting to support Cardassia in an effort to regain credibility, but his attempt to stop the Cardassians fugitives was poorly handled. His scenes and storyline placements are SO WELL DONE in DS9 that his appearance in "Profit & Loss" simply felt awkward.

My last gripe was with the decision to have Gul Turan physically present and then vaporized without consequence. Surely, Turan's crew would have wondered why he was missing and opened fire on DS9. Also, the murder of Turan would be caused other political ripples - even if it was Garak who murdered him. This plot hole probably bothered me the most since DS9 episodes revolving around Cardassians have been really good until now. Maybe it would have worked better had Gul Turan been *en route* to DS9, only to find out that Natima & Co. was "never on the station."

My rating: 2 out of 4 stars (leaning towards 1.5)
Kyle
Wed, May 15, 2013, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
I really didn't think this episode was that terrible. I'd have given it a 3, but no higher than that.
nic
Mon, Jul 29, 2013, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
Thought it was a 3 star. Not much of a thinker but entertaining and watchable. Never really slow or dull.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 4:47pm (UTC -5)

I like Quark a lot so that saved what might have otherwise been a poor episode for me.

5/10
Jack
Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
Must be before they decided to have Garak be from the Obsidian Order...here he's trying to restore his reputation with the Central Command, which Enabran Tain (or Garak) never had much regard for.
Yanks
Sun, Jun 29, 2014, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
Quark's performance is the saving redeeming factor in this episode. His constant "courting" of Natima from the Ferengi perspective was entertaining.

...that and Garak's mere presence...

Loved the Quark/Garak dialog in Garak's shop.

Love how Garak can always get a point across without mentioning the real point. IS there a term for that?

3 of 4 stars for me.
Filip
Tue, Nov 4, 2014, 3:32pm (UTC -5)
In my opinion, the episode started strong. It really caught my interest, especially the scene where Garak uses a fashion allegory to explain the situation to Quark.

However, after Natima shot Quark, everything fell apart. The change in the story was so strong at that point that I thought Quark started hallucinating due to the phaser blast.

What authority does Odo have to release Bajoran prisoners? If he did it for justice, why wait until Quark came to beg him to release them? What about those Bajorans held by the Cardassians? Are they going back to imprisonment? And wasn't it mentioned in an earlier episode that there is a treaty between Bajorans and Cardassians which prevents Cardassians from having any Bajoran prisoners? Who would anwser for that gul's death?

The end was so rushed, it leaves the impression that the writers didn't even care about the consistency of the episode, or logic for that matter.

Those plotholes wouldn't bother me as much if it had been a poor episode from the start. Like this, the episode just feels utterly wasted. Garak and Quark were its only saving grace. Pitty.
Filip
Tue, Nov 4, 2014, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
I forgot one more thing - if Garak supported the professor's cause, why did he inform the Central Command that they were on the station in the first place?
Dusty
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 3:47am (UTC -5)
It's a mess all right. Totally unbelievable. Why would Odo violate all station protocols just to do a favor for Quark in the name of "justice"? His job is to enforce Federation LAW on the station. There are times when justice and the law are not only different things, but mutually exclusive. Surely Odo realizes this, so perhaps he was just using justice as an excuse to do Quark a rare favor.

Speaking of Quark though, him and Garak were the two characters that saved this episode. Their conversation in the clothes shop was particularly fascinating, and Armin Shimerman does all he can with the romantic scenes. I really believed he was a Ferengi in love. Usually Trek romances fall apart because they aren't believable, but he made me believe somehow. For that, I have to give this episode some credit.
Robert
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 8:27am (UTC -5)
@Dusty - I think it's because Trek romances always work better with a history between the characters. I mean sure, sometimes the execution or the chemistry falls totally short anyway, but Worf/K'Ehleyr, Dax/Khan, Seska/Chakotay all felt like believable relationships between the characters because we don't need to go from a meet cute to madly in love in 30 minutes. Just by imbuing the characters with some off-screen history it gives relationships a credibility that just isn't typically present in the "hour long romance".

Even the brief romance between Sisko and Mirror Jennifer worked better because they each had baggage with another version of those characters. And we meet Keiko after she's already been dating Miles for awhile. It just works better than Meridian or Second Sight type of episodes do.
Dusty
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 10:40am (UTC -5)
@Robert - Well said. I agree that Trek romances usually come off better with a history, though not always. O'Brien and Keiko have the most established relationship on DS9, but I don't find them any more believable as a couple than Dax and Deral from Meridian...maybe even less so, because at least those two were having a good time! Even with no buildup at all, if the characters really seem to enjoy each others' company, that makes a big difference.
Robert
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 11:24am (UTC -5)
"O'Brien and Keiko have the most established relationship on DS9, but I don't find them any more believable as a couple than Dax and Deral from Meridian..."

But wouldn't you find them even less believable if they didn't have off-screen history then? :)

I LIKE Keiko, but I know I'm a minority in that around here.
Grumpy
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
Dusty: "O'Brien and Keiko have the most established relationship on DS9, but I don't find them any more believable as a couple than Dax and Deral from Meridian."

Maybe that's because Keiko was introduced on the day of her wedding. The O'Briens were a fait-accompli couple that never went away, but they never had any build-up. As I recall, we never learned how they met or why they were attracted to each other. At least the one-episode romances show characters meeting & falling in love. That's more than Miles & Keiko ever got.
MsV
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
I am watching DS9 again, from beginning to end this time. Since I got Netflix last year, I have been picking through them and watching what I remembered. So with that said, to Robert, No I still do not like Keiko, but she works very well as a nagging wife.

I didn't care very much for this episode, it was good to see Mary Crosby again. She looked great in spite of all the cardi make-up. I hadn't seen much of her since she shot JR.

methane
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
I agree there are many plot holes in this, but I like the characters enough (including the Cardassian woman); I'd probably give it 2.5 stars.

One character item about Garak: I loved his first conversation with Quark, but I would have liked that final scene re-written so that he was much less direct. Would have been more in-character.
Nathan B.
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 12:57am (UTC -5)
Like Robert, I enjoy Keiko's scenes. I find her true to life, and in real life I know a few people like her. She follows Miles out of loyalty and love, but takes it out on him for this. She can be bitchy, cantankerous, moody. But she's also incredibly loyal, hard-working, and tough as nails. And she still somehow finds the time to make Miles happy to be her husband.
Nathan B.
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 1:01am (UTC -5)
I do agree with much of Jammer's evaluation of this episode, but I have to say that I found much to enjoy in this episode. The Quark-Natima scenes were believable, and I enjoyed watching them. Natima is so beautiful, too! And anytime you get Garak and Quark together, you know you're in for a treat.
William B
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 8:36pm (UTC -5)
"The Nagus" was a Quark story that's a comic take on "The Godfather"; this is a somewhat more serious-minded homage/rip-off of "Casablanca," so much so that it was originally titled "Here's Looking at You." Spoilers: "Casablanca" takes place in Morocco in WW2, currently under French control but outside the zone of German occupation, and before the American entry into the war, and the title location becomes a kind of quasi-neutral environment standing at the intersection of so many different powers and interests that personal, individual actions can more or less affect the outcome of the world; American bartender Rick happens to have letters of transit which can (somewhat improbably) help someone escape to any part of the world, has to choose whether or not to help ex-girlfriend Ilsa get her current lover Victor Laszlo, a leader of anti-Nazi resistance, out to freedom, while oily French police chief Renault's loyalties seem set on collaborating with the Germans but waver. A DS9 version actually seems kind of inevitable, since DS9, like Casablanca within that film's universe, is similarly posed at a strategic point at which many diverse interests intersect and decisions affecting the fate of whole civilizations in two quadrants of the galaxy are ultimately made. Quark more or less plays Rick, his cloaking device the analogue of the letters of transit; the Cardassians more or less represent Europe, positioned between totalitarian rule and civilian resistance, with Natima as Ilsa, her students as Victor (the future of Cardassia/Europe), Gul Toran as Nazi rep Major Strasser, and Odo and Garak take on different parts of the Renault character, Odo being the lawman with a type of frenemy relationship with the bartender and Garak the wildcard with some loyalties to the totalitarians that are tested as things go on. Some of the pleasures in the episode actually lie in recognizing the choices in adaptation; by having Lang be the teacher and her students the pupils, it gives more agency to the Ilsa character, which is interesting, and particularly notable is the phasering scene. While awkward in effect, there is something quite funny about having "Ilsa" *actually* shoot "Rick" rather than just threatening to.

I am a fan of "Casablanca." Despite having its moments, the emotional dynamics and deep veins of conflicted emotions that make "Casablanca" so successful (or, for people on whom the film's charm is lost, we can at least say "popular") are largely ignored or flattened by the adaptation; Quark has no broken heart about Lang's leaving him, and nor is he ever *really* tempted to do "the wrong thing," and Lang is never really tempted to stay with Quark -- so that there are very few "real" decisions made as the story goes on by these characters. The people who *do* make the key decisions are Odo and Garak, both of whom make the call to let Lang go even though it defies their official duty (Odo) and their possible exit from exile (Garak). I should say that Garak actually fulfills aspects of both Renault and Rick, here -- Rick is the one who is in exile for America for unexplained reasons, and the one who (MAJOR "CASABLANCA" SPOILERS FOR REST OF PARAGRAPH) shoots Strasser at the end, though it's Renault whose turnabout is the last and most surprising in the film. The problem is that by having Garak be both the shooter and the "round up the usual suspects" last-minute surprise, it sort of leaves open the question of what Garak thought he was doing all episode.

I have been trying to piece Garak's actions in the episode together. He sees Lang and the students. He warns Quark away from Lang. He tells the Cardassian government about the students/terrorists (confirmed by Toran), and then explains to Sisko the presence of the warship. He (as we later find out) suggests the prisoner exchange, which sees several Bajorans released. Then Toran tells him to kill Lang and her students directly. Then he holds Lang and the students at phaser point for a while, until Toran shows up and Garak kills him, after which he says that he is acting out of love of Cardassia. Now, it could be that Garak really did not want Lang et al. to be martyrs, as he claimed to Toran, and it could also be that Toran's statement that Garak will never be let out of exile was what did it. But those motivations do seem pretty small. If he wanted Lang et al. to escape, why call the Cardassians to the station? The best I can think of is that maybe Garak was operating out of a high-level Magnificent Bastard playbook -- he calls the Cardassians to the station so that he can offer a prisoner exchange/release of some Bajoran prisoners, and he may well have known that Toran was the Gul that would be sent (or even requested him) and expected that things would play out more or less the way they did, so that Garak could assassinate Toran, while doing so in an "off the books" way (since Toran would not officially have any reason to be at those docks). But that is too many steps to be plausible, particularly since I can't see Garak actually making those levels of play to have Bajoran prisoners released. That still seems to be the best explanation I have, though, in that I think that if Garak believed that the students should be killed or imprisoned, he would not have aided their escape no matter how much Toran personally offended him, nor do I believe that he would change his mind based on the little information he is given. The Magnificent Bastard interpretation is unsatisfying but it's about the best explanation I can come up with. That being the case, warning Quark away from Lang would have had the effect of mostly avoiding getting an unstable element put in the situation; a man motivated by love rather than pure ideology or personal gain is harder to predict and so it would really not do to have Quark mucking up Garak's big plan. The Garak scenes are fine on their own, except for the least convincing standoff ever at the episode's end; the clothes-metaphor tailor scene is indeed "unforgettable" as Jammer says and is by far the episode's highlight.

Anyway, as to the romance itself, well -- I find Shimerman completely convincing and Mary Crosby entirely unconvincing. The dialogue lacks wit and polish and so comes across as pure melodrama, with endless repetitions on the "I love you I love you I love you" stuff without the chemistry to back it up. I like the idea of Quark having had a life-defining romance in his past, and (admittedly transposing some "Casablanca" thoughts to this episode) that Quark may indeed have been a more open-hearted, and even a nobler, sort of person than he is now; that even then he hid behind "profits" as his sole reason for operating and selling food to Bajorans, but that he perhaps chose the less profitable route one too many times for it to be clear that he was motivated by nothing but profit, and that Lang's departure broke his heart and made him retreat a little to the greedy, Ferengi persona that we largely know and love. At the same time, I don't really find this element of backstory all that convincing. I found a quote from Ira Steven Behr on this episode on Memory Alpha which I think gets at the problem, to a degree, where he talks about feeling that the episode makes Quark too heroic; once it becomes possible to argue that Quark is actually incredibly brave, standing up for political dissidents and full of selfless(-ish) love, then it's harder to sell how hard it is for Quark to come around to do the right thing in later seasons. On the other hand, I do quite like this exchange:

QUARK: Then let me make it up to you. Let me help you. I ask for nothing in return.
NATIMA: Nothing?
QUARK: Except that you stay with me forever.

Ha. Anyway, I should say that the episode doesn't make Quark *that* heroic; he is a guy in love, and that is fine. But the episode then lives or dies on how convincing that love is, especially since Quark is not really significantly changed by that experience. And overall, yeah, I'd say that it dies on that. I appreciate the homage to a movie I love which simultaneously attempts to give greater agency to the female lead, but the result is lackluster. I'd say a low 2 stars.
William B
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Actually, yeah, I'm going to go down to 1.5. The handling of the Garak thing was particularly disappointing because it really does come across as inscrutable, and not in a "what is this guy's motivation?" mysterious way but in a "this plot makes no sense" kind of way. The romance is wan. Odo's releasing the prisoners, as others pointed out, doesn't work; even if we accept Odo's releasing the prisoners because of his passion for justice, it doesn't make sense that he would wait until Quark begged him. (It might have played okay had Quark openly revealed that he had the cloaking device before that point, so that Odo knew that there would be a point in releasing the prisoners.)

Fortunately, the season takes a turn for the better starting with "Blood Oath"....
Bryan
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 9:12am (UTC -5)
Regarding the Garak thing, it is left somewhat inscrutable, but Garak has always been somewhat inscrutable up to this point in the show, so that is no strike against it. It it was nonsensical that would be bad, but it does make a kind of sense. It appears that what Garak really wants is to send a message to the "underground" that he, Garak, would kill a gul and allow their people to escape. That's the message the "students" are going to take away from the station -- a message about Garak. WHY Garak wants to send this message is left inscrutable -- but all his actions do make sense if sending this message was his goal all along (he draws the gul to the station just so they can see him kill him!). In the dock he obviously is stalling, talking with the "students" with no intention of shooting them, just waiting for the gul, all so they can see him shoot the gul to the greatest dramatic effect before releasing them.
There is obviously a greater play at work (is Odo in on it somehow?), but the story is mainly from Quark's love-blinded POV, and Quark doesn't know, so we don't know. You could say it is rather like "Whispers", where everybody knows something except the viewer's O'Brian-clone POV. But this was much more fun to watch.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -5)
DS9 does Casablanca. With Ferengi.

This does some things very well. As an insight into a slightly greater depth of character for Quark it works well, and moving Garak slightly out of the shadows was always going to be worthwhile. His advice on fashion to Quark may be one of the best scripted scenes yet in any Trek episode.

On the downside, this does slow up considerably and a lot of time is spent standing around talking without really moving the plot along. Some characters seem to have strange motivations at times (Odo/Garak). And you have to wonder why no-one came looking for Toran...?

But Quark does get pimp-slapped by a woman. What's not to like about that? 2.5 stars.
Luke
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 9:25pm (UTC -5)
I kind of like "Profit and Loss". Granted, it has it's problems, most of which Jammer has spelled out. But it does have three things I genuinely like about it - the introduction of the Cardassian Dissident Movement, Garak (who always elevates any episode he's in) and the wonderful use of Quark.

Is Quark the universe's ultimate materialist? No, he isn't. The fact that there are things he'll gladly take over profit doesn't come out of left field. "Rules of Acquisition" established that when he gave up his massive Gamma Quadrant profits in order to keep Pel out of trouble. So, the fact that he's willing to go to such extremes here for the woman he loves really rings true to me. Granted, this is essentially another romance-of-the-week story, but it's far superior to tripe like "Melora" and "Second Sight" - mostly because Quark and Natima have a back-story and Shimmerman and Crosby actually have some good chemistry together - so I'll give it a pass on that account. I'm a big fan of Quark, as you've probably no doubt gathered by now, so it's really nice to see the writers treating him the respect the character deserves again.

Of course, however, the best part of the episode is Garak. Even though this isn't one of the better uses of the character, Robinson always delivers the goods - the two scenes where he subtly threatens Quark and Natima with tailor symbolism and where he "delivers a message" to Sisko make up for all the oddness he engages in elsewhere. Seriously, what was his plan at the end? I always thought that he killed Toran with a second phaser he was keeping hidden, - because, you know, he always plans five steps ahead of everyone else. But, this time I finally realized that he uses the phaser he took away from Quark. In other words, he was gullible enough to be played by Toran and was only saved because Quark happened to bring a gun. Also, why did he let them go? Because he loves Cardassia, but what does that mean? Does he agree with the Dissident Movement or does he just want to poke the eye of the Central Command? Oh well, it doesn't really matter, because, like I said, Robinson does deliver. I just hope Rekelen doesn't go around licking wedding invitations, those things can be killers - bonus points if you got that reference :-).

While it could have been better - a little more development of of the Dissident Movement and a better handling of Garak's motivations would have been nice, "Profit and Loss" is still much better than the run of the episodes Season Two has been giving us lately.

6/10

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