Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Behind the Lines"
Air date: 10/20/1997
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"I was in the Link."
"Are you saying you forgot?!"
"I didn't forget. It just ... didn't seem to matter."
— Odo and Kira, discussing the botched resistance plan
Note: This episode was rerated from 3.5 to 3 stars when the season recap was written.
Nutshell: A solid installment with a very brave twist at the end. I don't know how the writers are going to get themselves out of this one, but I'm definitely interested in finding out.
The writers just keep getting themselves in deeper and deeper. How are they going to resolve the mess they've created in a mere four episodes (that's counting "Call to Arms" and not "Sons and Daughters" since the latter was an episode that offered little into the sweeping arc) in a manner that is both plausible and dramatically satisfying? Presumably, we're going to have at least some of it put to rest in the next two episodes, so my question is "how?" We shall certainly see.
In "Behind the Lines," we get some compelling follow-up to Kira's decision from "Rocks and Shoals" to begin a resistance effort and start causing some station-side trouble. The episode opens with a big fight in Quark's that erupts between the Cardassians and Jem'Hadar. It was Kira's and Rom's doing; they stole Damar's padd and left it outside a Jem'Hadar soldier's quarters. The padd contained an "inflammatory document" that angered the Jem'Hadar; the resulting melee in Quark's leads to a number of Cardassian and Jem'Hadar deaths.
The idea of Kira and Rom encouraging dissension from within the ranks of this uneasy alliance is a very appropriate one. I've long believed that the gaps in the alliance could be exploited to its detriment, so Kira's plan certainly makes a lot of sense. The funny part is how Dukat and Weyoun have to put aside their own differences to keep control of their respective troops. "Smile, Dukat. Our men need to see that we're still allies," Weyoun whispers to him.
Similarly, I also enjoyed seeing the operations of Kira's resistance cell—one of utter simplicity with the odds decidedly against its success: Four people (Kira, Odo, Jake, and Rom) sitting around Kira's quarters discussing any possible way of undermining Dominion plans. When someone knocks on Kira's door, the sense of uneasiness is crystal clear. The key word here is "covert"; lay low or surely be exposed.
Then there's the interesting, not-so-neutral role of Quark, the friendly barkeep who keeps his ears open. Particularly believable was his pumping of Dukat's right hand Damar (Casey Biggs) for information, and his successful attempt at getting the information out of him by drinking some of the hard stuff with him. (As Worf once said, "You cannot loosen a man's tongue with root beer." Now, kanaar on the other hand...)
When Quark shows up to Kira's resistance meeting drunk—and with crucial information that Damar has a plan for deactivating the minefield—we see a barkeep who is genuinely sick of the occupation. He had become too accustomed to the Federation presence, and he wants it back. He doesn't like the Cardassians anymore ("They're mean and arrogant") and he can't stand the Jem'Hadar (for obvious reasons). It's refreshing to see Quark take a side, and since he's generally regarded as neutral by the Cardassians, this could be something that works in the favor of Kira's resistance efforts.
On the other hand, just as Quark finally seems to be coming around into usefulness, "Behind the Lines" also documents Kira losing her grips on a person much more vital to her cause—namely Odo, who finds his priorities completely shattered when the troublesome Female Changeling (Salome Jens) comes to Odo to offer her insight into the Great Link so that Odo might learn more about himself.
We all know this shapeshifter. Nearly every time she shows up it spells trouble for Odo. This time she reveals that she is trapped in the Alpha Quadrant because of the minefield. She has come to Odo to tell him he has been forgiven for his killing of another Changeling, and that he can still return to the Great Link if he so desires.
One minor qualm I have is that the opening scene between Odo and the Female Founder feels a little too much like deja vu. We've heard some of this dialog several times before—where she tries to convince him that he should return to the Great Link, that he doesn't belong with "solids," and so forth. If this didn't ultimately work so well in terms of the story, I'd wonder if it weren't written for the benefit of people who hadn't seen season three.
On the other hand, it definitely stands to reason that the Female Changeling would come Odo under the given circumstances. If she has truly been trapped in the Alpha Quadrant for the past four months, her explanation that she "wants to be with one of her own" is very plausible given what the story tells us about a Changeling's need for a sense of completeness and fulfillment that the Great Link provides. The Female Changeling's offer to help Odo learn about himself is a genuine one—but the Founders are crafty people. If they can manipulate Odo to the Dominion's own self-serving ends while simultaneously helping him return to the Great Link, all the better.
Odo's decision to allow her to link with him is one made out of desperation from another issue: He needs to find some peace, for he is too distracted by his feelings for Kira that his thought processes are constantly affected. He admits that it's absurd, but he can't control his feelings. The other shapeshifter offers him "clarity." Under the circumstances Odo's decision takes a very dangerous road, but the beauty of it is how unavoidable it seems. He's simply too vulnerable to make the better choice.
To say Kira is worried would be an understatement. When she finds out Odo has linked with the other shapeshifter she's angry and extremely frustrated. I've said before that Nana Visitor projects emotion onto the screen as good as or better than any actor I've seen, and her performance here is further proof of that. Kira can't finish her sentences as she realizes what the implications of Odo's actions are. She makes Odo promise not to do it again—too much is at stake right now for her to risk him not being completely focused. But by this point I was already suspecting that it was too late; Odo's speech and demeanor had already considerably changed, and his own naivete that he would be able to control this volatile situation he had created was the one mistake that would lead him down his one-way path.
But, because Kira has known and trusted Odo for so many years, she trusts him one more time despite his distractions. What choice does she have? When Odo says "I promise," you take him for his word; he's one of the most honorable characters around.
The problem with Odo is that he has so many Achilles heels. His feelings for Kira have already affected him. Add that to his species' inherent nature to return to the Great Link and the presence of another Changeling who is certainly capable and intending to manipulate him, and we have the makings of serious trouble. We've seen before that Odo is capable of making decisions that may not be in the best interests of everybody but may be in the best interests of himself (the future Odo in "Children of Time" comes to mind). That's why Echevarria's script for "Behind the Lines" is so good. As the plot advances, the dramatic irony becomes clear. By the time Quark reveals to Kira that the minefield is on the verge of coming down, Odo has shown more interest in finding out how many shapeshifters are in the Great Link than he has in thinking about ways of thwarting Damar's plans. Sure, Odo has moments where he is actively involved in the resistance planning—he volunteers to disable the security alarms long enough for Rom to go into a secured area of the station and alter some tech stuff crucial to Damar's plan—but for the most part Odo's mind is already on the other side of the wormhole ready to join the Link.
The effectiveness of the story's dramatic irony I attribute to Rene Auberjonois' striking change in the way he performs Odo. Before linking he's the Odo we know—aggressive, passionate, and forceful when he speaks his mind. But after linking he is reserved, indifferent, and quiet. He just doesn't seem to care, because his life has suddenly gone in a new direction. This new direction is interesting in itself, as it toys with the possibilities of the Changelings' existence. ("The drop becomes the ocean, and the ocean the drop."; "How many of us are there?" "One and many; it depends on how you look at it.") Herein, one also wonders to what degree the Founders are individuals, and to what degree they're a collective (providing still another way of analyzing the Dominion in terms of the Borg).
The final act is a chilling winner that leaves us hanging for another week. Odo breaks his promise and links again, just at the time when he should be disabling the alarm according to the set plan. As a result, Rom is captured trying to undermine Damar's plan and subsequently thrown in a holding cell. The minefield will now almost certainly come down. People are going to die. Kira is furious. When she confronts Odo, he simply and calmly tells her "I was in the Link. It just ... didn't seem to matter." He doesn't expect her to understand—and it's a good thing, because she sure doesn't.
This is a brave ending, because it takes some real chances. Not only does it bury the Federation's chances in the war even deeper under apparent hopelessness, it completely changes Odo's attitudes and his relationship with Kira. What's more, Odo doesn't even seem to care about what he has caused by his inaction; he now sees it as "none of his concern," because he is a Changeling—understanding his own people more and "solids" less. I don't see how Kira could ever trust Odo again. I wouldn't.
Now for a brief comment on the B-plot, which was also pretty strong: Sisko being taken off the front line and being assigned to a desk job in charge of an entire tactical wing is a prudent idea. His knowledge of the Dominion certainly makes him qualified to make these tactical decisions, and it also highlights the bond between Sisko and the crew of the Defiant, which he must sever in the interests of larger duties. These are the little details that make this war arc truly epic in scope.
What happens next? How can Kira continue without Odo, and how will Odo end up back on our side? How will anybody trust him again?
That's why they say "Tune in next week..."
Next week: It's a time to stand when Sisko decides he wants his station back.