Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places"

***

Air date: 10/14/1996
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Andrew J. Robinson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"This is ridiculous! I'm surrounded by corpses, my shoes are dripping in blood—and you want me to feel romantic?" — Quark

Nutshell: One of the most purely enjoyable "little" episodes of Trek in quite a while. Very amusing, and with some well-realized character work, too.

When Quark's Klingon "ex-wife" Grilka (see third season's "House of Quark" for a recap of the circumstances surrounding their constructed relationship) visits the station, her demeanor strikes Worf with a sudden case of "par'mach" (described by Dax as the "Klingon word for love with more intense overtones"). Worf's dishonor among Klingons, however, prevents him from pursuing any sort of relationship with her. Besides, the possibility exists that she is, in fact, here because she is interested in Quark.

"Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places," in addition to having one of the longest episode titles in Trek history, is one of the most purely amusing episodes of DS9 I can remember. There's not much of anything here in terms of plot, but that's precisely the point and the reason why the show works so well.

Every once in a while DS9 needs to do this—just forget about storytelling with the usual plot workings and get back to the fundamentals of the characters. In essence, "Looking for Par'mach" is a lot like shore leave: the characters are always off duty, the bad guys are nowhere to be found, and the only concerns become our characters' personal affairs. Plot takes a back seat to human interaction, and as for special effects—who needs 'em when we've got quirky dialog?

For starters, this is probably one of the best comic vehicles Quark has ever had. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, unlike most Quark-oriented shows, this is not a Ferengi episode, so all the typical baggage that comes along with Ferengi episodes (see Voyager's "False Profits" from last week for a prime example of Ferengi baggage) is thankfully missing. Secondly, Quark is allowed an opportunity to act with motivations beyond exploiting people to make a quick buck. Such unending exploitation without consequence is one aspect of his character I have never found particularly impressive (it got really old really fast) and it's nice to see that profit isn't a motive for his actions here. The third reason "Looking for Par'mach" makes a good Quark show is because it, well, isn't really a Quark show; it's an ensemble show, with Quark playing a major part and interacting with the other characters in fresh and interesting ways.

Don't get me wrong, Quark is still Quark—cynical, sarcastic, and in pursuit of something he wants—but these aspects are nicely balanced in ways that make the character funny and likable rather than boorish and bland.

Then there's the Worf factor. I, for one, welcomed a romantic comedy (can I use that term to describe a Trek show?) for this guy, because if there's one character on DS9 that the writers have taken almost too seriously, it's Worf. When was the last time this guy laughed? Or even really smiled?

Don't get me wrong here, either. Worf is still Worf, too—grumpy, serious, and with a bit of a chip on his shoulder regarding his less-than-ideal personal situation—and I like him that way. But it's very refreshing to see him in a plot that isn't so crammed full with honor and duty and battle and personal torment. He instead receives something else—the opportunity to help Quark woo Grilka in the traditional Klingon way.

Worf doesn't exactly jump at the opportunity to help Quark, but once he realizes that his own attempts in pursuing Grilka are futile (which, incidentally, takes place after he tosses Morn off a bar stool as part of a Klingon courting tactic), he reluctantly decides to use his Klingon knowledge for Quark's benefit. There are shades of "Cyrano de Bergerac" here, in which one man helps another overcome his deficiencies such that he may win the heart of a woman that both men care for. The resulting situations from this setup rank among the series' funniest moments, mostly because they (A) are whimsical, silly, and bizarre and (B) resonate on the most basic level of the analysis of human differences.

There's humor to be found in much of the show's dialog, most of which is inspired by the real point of the show—that of a clash between cultures and how people relate through their differences; specifically, in this case, Klingon and Ferengi. Quark's recount to Worf of his dinner with Grilka is one of the episode's shining moments ("I listened to her family history: another long and bloody tale—what else is new? Then we ate this Klingon food that tasted really bad, and listened to some noise she called music.") The idea of Quark enduring what he personally considers distasteful out of consideration for (gasp!) another person is something that we don't usually get a chance to see. It makes him a better, more well-rounded character instead of a caricature—and that is most definitely a good thing.

For that matter, Quark's willingness to engage in these foreign rituals says something about his feelings for Grilka. Some may argue, based on some of the episode's more sophomoric yet humorous passages, that Quark is only motivated by sex, but this is really not the case; Quark does have an emotional commitment here, and one that appears more understandable, believable, and developed than any other relationship he's had on the series (say, for example, "Profit and Loss" or "Rules of Acquisition").

Another thing very right about "Looking For Par'mach" is its interaction between its three main characters. Quite simply, Worf, Dax, and Quark work very well together in all this Klingon milieu, and never once aren't they a pleasure to watch. Worf seems much more agreeable in his dealings with Quark than in past shows. It's almost as if there is a camaraderie building here, based on their common goals to prove their worthiness to Grilka (whether implicitly or explicitly). Dax pulls things together nicely with an occasional commentary or one-liner.

Most of Dax's scenes relate more to Worf than to Quark. She wants to know what it is Worf sees in Grilka in the first place, and she brings up some interesting points concerning Worf's ability to relate to Klingon women: living among humans his entire life has hardly made it easy, let alone plausible. In many ways, this show is about Worf and his problem, and everything the story encompasses is enjoyable yet relevant.

Aside from the compelling character statements made here about Worf and Quark, and the issue of cross-cultural affairs, the surface of "Looking for Par'mach" features some hilariously original gags and physical comedy. Take, for example, a sequence where Quark must practice Klingon "serenading" in the holosuites with the help of Worf and Dax. This scene features the pint-sized Ferengi fiercely yelling and grunting while battling an ancient fight and ineptly reciting historic phrases in the original Klingon dialect. Armin Shimerman goes for broke, and the scene nearly had me on the floor.

Then there's the ending, in which Quark must fight Grilka's unhappy bodyguard to prove himself. Since Quark doesn't stand a chance, Worf helps him out by being a sort of "puppeteer" with the use of a special technological brain wave gizmo. This way Quark can exactly mimic Worf's actions during the fight. I've never seen physical comedy quite like this; it's original and filled with punctuated moments of hilarity (like Quark's posturing once he gets into the role). And when things go wrong, Quark's improvisation is one of the silliest yet funniest moments in the last several seasons of Trek. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of the comic mayhem.

But not as surprised as I was at Dax's rather...aggressive move on Worf at the end, which I found rather...interesting.

In all honesty, I thought I saw evidence of some sort of prelude to a relationship between these two characters last season when Dax was giving Worf strange looks in "Sons of Mogh," but I certainly didn't expect this idea to manifest itself with such abruptness or straightforwardness. The idea is played almost solely for laughs here, and laughs it receives—the final scene in the infirmary where poor Bashir realizes he should think twice before asking "What happened?" is hilarious. The goofy tone of the entire scene, featuring Quark beat up by Grilka and Worf and Dax beat up by each other in bouts of rather violent, er, activity, is amusing to say the least—and I enjoyed it a lot.

The only thing I hesitate on is the motivation of everything here. Based on Worf and Dax's discussion, I don't think any of this can simply go away, but I'm also unsure where the writers should go with it from here (which is why they're writing the show and I'm not). It works fine here for comedy, but the creators have to be careful how they proceed with this (if they proceed) or they could miss some major character opportunities, or, worse yet, turn the entire thing into a trite little fiasco like the whole Worf/Troi thing in TNG's final season.

Turning to the B-story, the implications of Kira living with the O'Briens proved interesting. I, for one, welcomed this story, because the whole Kira/O'Briens situation seemed like something the creators could establish and then never address. Fortunately, the writers have not forgotten about this thread, and prove that their bizarre situation is not something that can necessarily be taken with a grain of salt (as demonstrated with some truly awkward, uncomfortable, and unexpected moments). Bashir toys with O'Brien about Kira living with him ("I bet you looked") while Odo, on the other hand, sends some of the most scathing, acerbic yet playful sarcasm in Kira's direction that it's even funnier than it is thoughtful.

A closing scene set in a Runabout should be commended—it shows both Kira and Miles in a state of weakness, and Kira is able to prod Miles with a reality check that also turns out to be one of the show's most well-realized lines: "Get out." She knows where things stand and forces him to understand as well. Nicely done.

But I think I've gone on far longer than long enough. "Looking for Par'mach" is an outstanding Trek comedy that works because it understands its characters. Permeating the goofy yet very amusing gags is a sense that it knows human behavior. What more can you say about an episode that ends with Worf laughing?

Previous episode: The Ship
Next episode: Nor the Battle to the Strong

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32 comments on this review

Ospero - Fri, Mar 28, 2008 - 1:01pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode a lot when it first aired, and I still do. Talk about clash of cultures. This has to be one of the most purely funny hours of DS9 (you wouldn't actually think that the rather subdued Kira/O'Brien plot fits in this, but somehow it does). The final scene in the Infirmary is a scream, thanks in no small part to the line delivery of Alexander Siddig ("I should stop asking those questions..."). Great, great fun.
Nic - Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - 7:37pm (USA Central)
I guess 'funny' is in the eye of the beholder. Although this episode was a Farce with a capital F, I laughed maybe once or twice. I'm not sure if I will ever be able to take any of these characters seriously again. At no point during the episode did anything feel genuiune to me. Everyone is so out of character it's ridiculous, especially coming after the very serious ending scenes of the previous episode. "Sons of Mogh" notwithstanding, Dax's crush on Worf comes out of nowhere and the scene where they finally get together is quite underwhelming, especially when compared with the Paris/Torres scenes in "Day of Honor" and "Revulsion".

Voyager may have had it's flaws, but if there's one thing they got better than any of the other series, it's the humour.
Donnydingbattered - Tue, Mar 2, 2010 - 8:14pm (USA Central)
The holodeck sequence was a clever reimagining of the balcony scene from from Cyrano de Bergerac. This was where Cyrano was feeding him lines of poetry to repeat in order to woo the girl. It was a brilliant episode. I have found that watching DS9 again 10 years later I finally have the maturity and education to understand the complexity of Star Trek's clever reinventions of story's like Cyrano de Bergerac and The Merchant of Venice as seen in S4's Body Parts.

Joan T - Sun, May 2, 2010 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
I have always thought this was a great episode and watched it again recently on re-runs. Personally, I loved the story arc in which Kira and O'Brien are attracted to one another. It is understandable that they feel a kind of false intimacy under the circumstances. I wasn't too sure about the Dax/Worf pairing either as it seemed to come somewhat out of the blue. However, it is to the credit of the creators that they didn't toss this relationship away. A great, fun, episode for what was always presumed to be the 'darker' series of Trek.
Jay - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 11:52am (USA Central)
Apparently K'Ehlehr isn't considered a Klingon woman, since Worf replies in the negative to the question of whether he's pursued a Klingon woman before.

I'd beg to differ. If K'Ehlehr isn't a Klingon then neither is Alexander.
Jay - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 12:10pm (USA Central)
And did I miss something?...we have one scene where Odo is whining to Kira about how Miles isn't doing his job and things are falling apart, and then not five minutes later, we have Miles gushing to Keiko that they don;t need him and that things are slow.

Which is it?
Jay - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 12:14pm (USA Central)
Also, did they say how Worf can see what Quark sees while fighting...surely that's necessary.
Nic - Wed, Oct 19, 2011 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
I didn't notice it on first viewing, but the "Federation-Klingon war" seems kind of vague and could have benefited from more definition. At the end of season 4, war seemed imminent. Then we began season 5 already at war, but a cease-fire was declared at the end of the episode. Now, it appears, "Peace talks are going well" (according to Dax). And, of course, the cease-fire would be broken and reinstated next week...
tec - Tue, Nov 29, 2011 - 3:47am (USA Central)
I think Odo was just grumpy about the theft and was over stateing the facts about upper pylon 3 there are work crews that could see to the work load Miles did have shore leave built up (After 2 wrongful imprissionments he should have a whole year saved up)
Justin - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 10:20pm (USA Central)
Best love poem evar:

To this end my blade soars
Through the aquarium of my soul
Seeking the kelp of discontent
Which must be cut
So that the rocky bottom of love
Lie in waiting
With fertile sand
For the coming seed of Grilka's affection
Tom - Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - 7:57pm (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes. Definately the best of the most light-hearted episodes (actually second best to the Tribbles episode). Getting Worf and Dax together was brilliant, I've always felt the chemistry between them since their first scene in The Way of the Warrior. How can people say it's out of the blue? Yes in the previous episodes of season 5 their relationship isn't touched much but haven't people watch The Way of the Warrior, Sons of Mogh, Bar Association? Even little moments in Broken link and Rules of engangement suggest there is an attraction between them (especially from Dax's part).
Snitch - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 4:38am (USA Central)
I had to suspend my disbelief that the Klingon maid would be interested in an annoying troll like Quark. Otherwise some nice humor in this episode. The Dax Warf thing meh, no problem with it but I never saw it coming before this episode.
2 Stars from me
jason - Fri, May 4, 2012 - 10:58am (USA Central)
Very good episode, I've always supported worf and dax 's relationship and quarks is hilarious.
Skywalker - Sat, May 19, 2012 - 9:13am (USA Central)
Funny, heart-warming and with a great plot. Jadzia and Worf make in my opinion a beautiful and passionate couple and it was great that they finally fell in love.
Nebula Nox - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 7:33pm (USA Central)
Why are people surprised that Grilka is fond of Quark? He was there for her in a way that no other male was.

I really dislike how people refer to the Ferengi as annoying trolls. It seems an acceptable prejudice.
Chloe - Sun, Jun 17, 2012 - 9:31am (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes. Worf and Jadzia are so great together.
Jasper - Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - 5:11am (USA Central)
Jammer wrote: "Klingon word for love with more intense overtones"

That should be "Klingon word for love with more AGGRESSIVE overtones". It is a small change, but that way it makes a whole lot more sense placing it in the context of Klingons.
Grumpy - Tue, Aug 7, 2012 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Jay: "Apparently K'Ehlehr isn't considered a Klingon woman..."

Half-human, raised among humans. Just like Worf's other squeeze in "Birthright part 2" was half-Romulan, raised among Romulans. So what he said is true, from a certain point of view.

Notice how the gizmo allowing Worf to control Quark is made clear without a single line of technobabble. Later, there's one line about "optronic relays," and that's all that's needed.
microfish - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 8:35am (USA Central)
Quark: "War - what is it good for? If you ask me: Absolutely nothing!"

That line hit completly off guard. I couldn't stop laughing.
Kotas - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 9:08pm (USA Central)

Fun, funny and a passable effort at a romance for a star trek show.

7/10
eastwest101 - Wed, Nov 13, 2013 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
A nice nod and a wink to Cyrano DeBergerac, looks like everyone had a lot of fun making it....

Physical comedy galore and some pointers to the future with virtual reality and cybernetic assistance/control technology...
Nissa - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
...I couldn't have a bigger meh if I tried. While I like the Kira/O'Brien storyline, I didn't care for the rest of it. Worf doesn't really do comedy all that well, and Dax....she comes across as a slut. I'm sorry, but I had to say it. Over time, she's had a lot of "intimacies" with she's known for no time at all, like the guy whose planet phased in and out of existence, and that guy that walked out of her room another time. And she encourages Kira to mess around with holographic guys. I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to respect someone who sees a distraught friend and figures that the right reaction is to sleep with him.
Jons - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 10:48pm (USA Central)
@ Nissa: a slut, really??

ST characters have one-off romances ALL THE TIME, why? Because ST is mainly a one-hour show, a bit like a sitcom. Dax isn't any more a slut than Picard. Unless you think it's only because she's a woman (currently) so she should marry or be a nun...

I'll never understand the star trek fandom i guess. How can one watch a show that is so willingly progressive and yet be so staunchingly conservative it's ridiculous?
Klovis Mann - Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - 11:29am (USA Central)
.....Very enjoyable episode......one of the incidental pleasures of Star Trek is seeing the return of actors that have appeared over the years in different roles.....I was pleased to see Joseph Ruskin reprise his role of Tumek from "House of Quark"......

.....his appearances in TOS date from 1968 in "The Gamesters of Triskelion"..........DS9's "Improbable Cause" featured him as an informant....and he's found in in episodes of "Voyager" and "Enterprise" as well.....just a footnote but 40+ years along it's this kind of detail that satisfies......
Patrick D - Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - 11:36am (USA Central)
@Klovis Mann

Joseph Ruskin also played a Son'a officer in Star Trek Insurrection, so that covers TNG as well. So he's appeared in every incarnation of Trek (not counting JJ Abrams Trek...because no one should).
Vylora - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 10:12pm (USA Central)
One of the most amusing hours of DS9 by far with standout character moments and consistently great dialogue. The long since subtly hinted at crush Jadzia had on Worf finally comes to fruition here. The return of the Grilka/Quark dynamic was also very welcome and lovingly done. I wish more was learned about them in future episodes, but I won't fault this one for it.

There was nothing in this episode that wasn't good to great.

3.5 stars.
Alex - Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - 9:03pm (USA Central)
Jammer

The way you gush over this episode I wonder how you give it less than 3.5 stars. You didn't have anything negative to say about it.

For me, this is definitely a favorite ep from S5. I wish they had brought back Grilka again. She was a great character.

3.5 Stars
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
I liked this one. Pretty damn funny in spots.

Everyone has hit all the plot/character spots, but did anyone take notice as to how good Shimmerman's acting was when he was fighting with the bat'leth? It REALLY looked like he was being slung around :-)

Worf and Jadzia get together, we see the Kira/Keiko/Miles "arrangement" more. It's funny that Keiko is cracking the whip to make Miles do all kinds of stuff to Kira. Just loved it when Miles and Kira were talking on the run-a-bout:

"KIRA: Get out.
O'BRIEN: Right"

lol

Mary Kay Adam's Grilka is outstanding... Just love her.

3.5 stars for me.
Katie - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
The Quark/Dax/Worf stuff is fun, but for me by far the best part of this ep was the O'Brien storyline. The tension and discomfort between Kira and Miles struck me as very realistic under the circumstances. How could you not look at a woman differently when she's carrying your child, living in your home, you're massaging her on a daily basis, helping her in and out of the bath? I think it's great that the writers addressed this awkward situation rather than ignoring it.
Chief - Sun, Sep 7, 2014 - 1:16am (USA Central)
@Katie this episode didn't help the way people saw Keiko. Obrien deserved someone like Kira. Someone who was nice that he could have fun with. The writers should have had obrien divorce Keiko. He deserved better
Filip - Wed, Nov 26, 2014 - 5:13pm (USA Central)
An entertaining episode, plus, the final scene with the doctor in the infirmary is priceless!
Impulse - Sat, Nov 29, 2014 - 3:24pm (USA Central)
I laughed a few times watching this one.

Btw does Worf still have a son at this point? I only ask because over a year of episodes with a Captain raising his own son, you would think the writers would create at least one conversation to prove Worf hasn't abandoned him. Just a scene with Worf and Jake could spark interest in his own son or Worf and Cisko casually mentioning raising a son would have been nice.

I much preferred the Miles Nerys Keiko situation. It felt very natural and awkward.

In contrast to that I found the quark scenes blatant, and strange decisions and reactions from all concerned. For example Grilka willingly allows quark to fight to the death knowing he would lose. No one present mentions that quark won? No one noticed or mentioned he moved like a puppet on a string quite prominently at the end? If Grilka knew he was being helped I could accept this, but she didn't so in her eyes she was expecting Quark to die. Surely all the years of Klingons shouting about honor would have seen this as cheating? So, either they did notice and didn't care (no honor) or they didn't notice which is unbelievably stupid considering Quark won and moved like pinocchio.

Worf and Dax was foreshadowed, and previous episodes show Dax close to Klingons so it work alot better than Worf and Troi. Why in Gods name would you write a woman who loves chacolate, finer things in life, dates sensitive intelligent men, hates violence or even sensing pain in others (even a horse), then dates Worf!?! Mr "I love giving and taking pain for fun", Dates dangerous violent women, sees sensitive people as weak.

Overall good episode fun and drama, but the usual inconsistency in writing at times.

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