Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Strange Bedfellows"

***

Air date: 4/19/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Overconfidence. The hallmark of the Weyouns." — Damar, kneeling over Weyoun's dead body

Nutshell: It pushes too hard at the end, but it's a compelling chapter of pivotal character moments.

"Strange Bedfellows" is about a myriad of characters agonizing over difficult situations, showing how they ultimately come to make certain realizations.

Damar, realizing that Cardassia's role in the Dominion is becoming more and more like arranged slavery, must decide if the alliance is worth anything anymore.

Worf and Ezri, realizing they made a mistake by sleeping together in "Penumbra," must face each other and perhaps admit that it was in fact a mistake.

And Winn, who realizes the Prophets have abandoned her, must make a choice that ventures into the deepest truths of her own perceptions of spiritual existence.

What we have, then, particularly with the Damar and Winn storylines, is some interesting commitment for characters' change in the DS9 universe—change that makes sense because the writing has long been on the wall.

Like the first two installments of the "Final Chapter," much of "Strange Bedfellows" is dependent upon what came before. DS9 as a whole benefits from having this ultra-large canvas of events and history leading up to the latest events. You could see last week that the events in "Strange Bedfellows" were on the horizon. The fact that characters have come to the choices they make here isn't terribly surprising. That's not a criticism, because seeing how these characters come to finally make these realizations is where the gold lies. It makes for good viewing because of the series' pre-planned story arc mentality; we can watch the characters' paths being charted and can therefore understand the reasons behind the decisions they make.

In many ways, "Strange Bedfellows" is more setup, and in some ways it's another mini-payoff. Sisko's storyline is shelved for the week (aside from a few amusing Martok lines about Sisko's new marriage being the beginning of a whole new "war front"), while the Dominion/Breen and Winn/Dukat stories take center stage and go in new (well, not really) directions.

As I had hoped and expected, the Dominion's new alliance with the Breen is not something Damar is happy with, especially considering the Cardassians are the ones currently taking the largest losses. The Female Shapeshifter has arranged a treaty that brings the Breen into the alliance in a way that basically replaces the Cardassians' usefulness. The Breen have full reign over the military operations, and now Damar suddenly finds himself answering to Thot Gor, a Breen officer who now outranks him. When Damar objects, Weyoun tells him in no uncertain terms that he's a servant of the Dominion, period. When Damar demands to know how many sacrifices "his people" will have to make, Weyoun reminds him that the Cardassians ultimately aren't important; it's the Dominion and the Founders that matter. That Damar and Weyoun are headed for a major collision is nothing short of obvious.

And speaking of Weyoun, I just have to reiterate how much I love this guy. Jeffrey Combs can turn on a dime from funny to fearfully menacing. And Weyoun's posturing and overconfidence can be so entertaining. In one scene, Weyoun brings an offer to the imprisoned Worf and Ezri, and his unctuous overconfidence gets him killed in a scene of enormous amusement. I loved the unexpected swiftness with which Worf snapped Weyoun's neck, and even more the fact that Damar couldn't help but laugh with satisfaction while kneeling over Weyoun's body. ("Overconfidence. The hallmark of the Weyouns," he notes, knowingly.) Oh well; say goodbye to Weyoun-7, and hello to Weyoun-8.

What this is all really about, however, is Damar's choice. He's sick of the Dominion, he's sick of Weyoun, and he's no longer going to stand by idly while millions of Cardassians are killed for the "greater good" of an ally that gives nothing in return. Ultimately, he helps Worf and Ezri escape Cardassia with a message: The Federation has an ally on Cardassia. To Weyoun, Damar is able to blame the escape on Jem'Hadar incompetence (though I wonder if Weyoun wouldn't be more suspicious). So how and when the Cardassians will turn on the Dominion is still uncertain, but it certainly will be soon. It's satisfying to see Damar finally getting fed up with Weyoun—as well as fed up with himself and his own inaction. Damar has finally realized that it's time to put away the liquor and stop wallowing in his helplessness and self-pity.

Back aboard the station, Dukat continues to manipulate Winn, but there are some key decisions that Winn makes knowing what she's likely getting into. Near the beginning, she has another vision, but this time the Paghwraiths come out and reveal to her their true identity; there's no more pretense used to get her attention. I'm guessing this is because the Master Plan has already been set in motion; Dukat has already come to Winn with his "Anjohl" cover story (which was likely planned out in advance by the Paghwraiths and conveyed to Dukat to play out), and Winn has already accepted him as her guide. By the time she learns the Paghwraiths are part of the game, she has already ventured too far to simply turn back. She's caught in a moment of weakness that Dukat fully intends to exploit.

What's most interesting about this aspect of the story is the way it puts Winn through a wringer in a way that makes us sympathetic for her situation, even if we disapprove of the self-serving blinders she continuously wears. Once the Paghwraiths have contacted her, she's thrown into a hysteria of distress, and understandably so. Winn's portrayal here is one of someone who sincerely wants to know the love of her gods and steer clear of evil. There's a powerfully empathetic scene where the Prophets refuse to talk to her through the orb because she has been in contact with the Paghwraiths. The camera tracks back from an anguished Winn pleading futilely with an orb box that's not going to return an answer.

Far and away, the highlight of the episode is the scene where Winn calls upon Kira for guidance. Winn is desperate to understand why the Paghwraiths have come to her, and why the Prophets have abandoned her. The irony of the situation speaks volumes; here we have Bajor's spiritual leader so confused about her own soul that she's asking for help on matters of spirituality from someone who has for years disagreed and even despised her high-handed political tactics. It's one of the most quietly powerful scenes I've seen on this series in quite some time.

What's particularly amazing about the situation is how telling it is. It makes absolutely perfect sense. Winn has always been convinced she is doing what's best for Bajor. She is convinced that Bajor needs her. She is convinced that her political power is a necessary thing. But it's because she simply cannot overcome her own nature of Looking Out for Number One that she is consistently traveling the wrong road. When Kira tells her that redemption lies in relinquishing the power that has led her astray, Winn's reaction is completely, 100 percent "Winn": How can giving up power be the answer? Bajor needs me! Surely that's not what the Prophets meant!

In essence, this highlights a fundamental similarity between Winn and Dukat, which I'm sure Winn isn't even aware of: Both are people who have long been vying for the acceptance and love of the Bajoran people, and both have failed. And now both are going to turn to the Paghwraiths as a new avenue to find what they're looking for. Each may very well be exactly what the other deserves. Or they may end up destroying each other. (Perhaps those two statements are equivalent.)

This episode, while containing some excellent material, has some evident weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is the Breen. I just can't take the Breen "characters" seriously the way they stand around on the set under those silly helmets, occasionally expelling an unintelligible, electronic utterance. (The other characters can understand the Breen, sort of like the way Han Solo can understand Chewbacca.) I couldn't help but chuckle as it occurred to me that the Breen might best be utilized in a comedy routine as the galaxy's ultimate straightmen. (After all, one can't see a trace of your expression when you're under a helmet like that.) As characters, it's very hard to get any valuable feedback from the Breen, because they're by definition wooden.

And, unfortunately, the Evil Dialog at the end of the episode managed to detract from the Winn/Dukat storyline. As much as Jay Chattaway's score heightened the Mood of Evil, this dialog was too theatrical, too scheming, too glib and overblown, and it simply came off as Bad-Movie Writing. Strangely, it's the same problem that the end of last season's otherwise sensational "Waltz," also written by Ron Moore and directed by Rene Auberjonois, suffered from.

Also, while I can certainly see Winn doing whatever it takes to see her own needs fulfilled, I wonder somewhat about her sudden conversion to walking the path of the Paghwraiths. Sure, maybe her religious beliefs have been empty worship and a means to an end for years, or even a lifetime (which is quite a revelation), but I wonder how exactly she arrives at the conclusion of the Paghwraiths as the answer to everything, especially considering how much struggling she does through most of the hour.

There's of course one other subplot in "Strange Bedfellows," and that's the continuing Worf/Ezri soap opera. Again, it's the most trite of the three storylines, but it finally finds its way to getting somewhere this time around. Again, there's probably too much of the annoyed bantering and snide humor. (And, boy, Ezri can be humorously juvenile in her barbs, taking absurdity to the extreme level, particularly her jab on Jadzia's pre-Worf sex life: "You're right; it was more than a few. It was dozens. Hundreds. In fact, I don't think there was anyone aboard DS9 who wasn't her lover!" My, how surly.)

But at last, these two start talking on civil terms (a looming death sentence has a way of doing that), and we finally, finally get to the heart of the matter. Here are two people who were drawn together by this awkward situation of a past life's love, and here they both realize that love remained in the past. The struggle to realize this truth has been a difficult climb during the past three episodes, but now that the struggle is over, it seems Worf and Ezri have escaped this mess as good-intentioned people who perhaps can be friends after all. I think I rather like that resolution.

So, then, what's the bottom line on "Strange Bedfellows"? Oh, I don't know. It's certainly another compelling outing with plenty more setup. But it lacks a little of something—perhaps the emotional cohesion of a truly confident story—to arrive at greatness. Here exists an hour that moves like a blur. An entertaining blur.

Next week: Chapter four. The Federation's survival depends on ... Damar?

Previous episode: 'Til Death Do Us Part
Next episode: The Changing Face of Evil

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22 comments on this review

Anthony2816 - Fri, May 23, 2008 - 5:38pm (USA Central)
Jammer, to answer your question about Winn's sudden conversion to the Paghwraiths, I think it can be explained by the fact that the Paghwraiths appeared to her, something the Prophets never did.
Rob in Michigan - Sun, Sep 21, 2008 - 2:12pm (USA Central)
Kai Winn has been an utterly fascinating character to watch throughout the entire series. I don't think there's another Star Trek character that I've spent more time hating, then sympathizing with, then being angry at, then hating again, then being sympathetic AGAIN....

She's led me on quite a roller coaster ride and the way she ended is so tragically sad. I also agree with Anthony's post... she turned to the Paghwraiths because at the end of the day her faith was far, far weaker than she let on. She needed her 'Gods' to acknowledge her, rather than simply doing their works for their own sake (a la Kai Opaka).
EP - Thu, Mar 12, 2009 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
I love the Damar that drinks canar at 9 in the morning, and laughs when the newly-cloned Weyoun comes to greet him. Much more interesting than Dukat's creepy Bajoran masquerade.
Brendan - Sun, Jun 7, 2009 - 1:16am (USA Central)
Funniest moment in DS9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kJAIKLbhdk

I laugh out lout every time
Destructor - Tue, Jan 12, 2010 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
I have to say, for me one of the funniest moment ever in DS9 was when Worf broke Weyoun's neck and Damar starts laughing. Totally classic. And funny all over again when Damar says: "Why don't you go talk to Worf again?"

Brilliant.
Elliot Wilson - Wed, Feb 10, 2010 - 12:38pm (USA Central)

I thought it was very pretentious of O'Brien to lecture Bashir. Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?? This was completely random. And what, does he honestly think Bashir will do ANYTHING, unintentional or not, to hurt Ezri? Good Jesus. I would have told him to go fuck yourself. Too bad too, cuz O'Brien was one of my favorite characters. Emphasis on "was."
Neil - Fri, Feb 4, 2011 - 10:47am (USA Central)
The idea of Gul Dukat offering up his body to Kai Wynn as part of the 'Guide' package sent a shiver up my spine that lasted for twenty minutes.

And when she said 'the man who shares my bed', I almost threw up. I'll say one thing for Dukat; he's got a strong stomach.

He's also back to his full operatic bombastic self by the end of the episode - how Kai Winn hasn't yet realised who he is, is extremely difficult to believe.

Unfortunately for the Breen, their masks make them look exactly like the K9 robot dog from the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who, and now of the Sarah Adventures on the BBC. And I mean *exactly* like the dog's head.

So they just look like walking canines to me. Not very threatening.
Jay - Sun, Feb 6, 2011 - 12:39am (USA Central)
Casey Biggs' delivery of the line "Why don't you talk to Worf again" was possibly the most perfectly-pitched, clever, spot-on delivery of a line of dialogue in the series entire run...
Nic - Tue, Apr 5, 2011 - 9:04pm (USA Central)
Watching these episode a second time, I find it doubly sad that the Pah-wraith arc had such a weak ending. Because a lot of the set up in this episode and the preceding one was actually very good.

Though I agree that Winn sleeping with Dukat was a little over the top. It wasn't really necessary for the story. And besides, wouldn't Cardassians and Bajorans have different sexual organs? Or was Dukat's surgery performed on his ENTIRE body, including Bajoran sexual organs? I guess it's best not to think about it...
Nic - Wed, Apr 6, 2011 - 8:19am (USA Central)
Oh, and if the Prophets had been smart, they could have spoken to Winn and convinced her not to follow the path of the Pah-wraiths. Then they wouldn't have needed "the Sisko" at all.
Elliott - Fri, Oct 7, 2011 - 2:44am (USA Central)
@Nic : The only logical assumption one can make about the nature of the Prophets is that they are dramatic for its own sake--when the means to prevent their destruction is at hand in multifarious ways all the time, and they choose the one method which requires convoluted and needless sacrifice, I cannot tender any feeling but resentment towards these meddling, self-centred wormhole aliens. I think they could use a Prime Directive.

This episode was overall, a step down from the last one, the Damar storyline is the best, still; Worf/Ezri is a little better; Winn/Dukat is seriously worse; and the rest is noise, as they say.

1.5 stars
J.D. - Mon, Apr 30, 2012 - 8:05pm (USA Central)
Someboby please throw ezri out of an airlock. She's the most annoying character in the series. She insults Jadzia's memory.
Spock's fan - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 8:05pm (USA Central)
Bring Ezri to the show was a mistake, she add nothing plus the writers undid every Trill rule they wrote before.
DG - Sun, Dec 9, 2012 - 4:48am (USA Central)
Creepy. My last name's Fletcher, the actress for Kai Winn is Louise Fletcher, and she looks like my aunt with braces.

And watching her in this episode is like watching what I worry my Mom would do if something *actually* came to her in her weird prayer stuff she does in real life.

Yeek.

Jay - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
@Nic...

Dukat's genitalia must be compatible with Bajorans...he'd produced half-Bajoran spawn on at least two occasions - there was Ziyal, and then the child he spawned earlier this season in "Covenant" that as presented seemed to essentially be not much short of a rape.
Herman - Sat, Mar 2, 2013 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
At the end of season 6 and the start of season 7 I was tragically losing interest in DS9, but this episode rekindled some of my interest.

Worf snapping Weyoun X's neck was a high point for me and I hope it heralds a nice and gritty end to the series. Has to be one of Star Trek's most cold-blooded killings. Suddenly I understood why the Klingon temper is so infamous, something which earlier growling and brawling didn't manage to convey.

Kai Winn's soul-searching and turning away from her gods hit home as I'm an ex-believer who felt a bit let down by religion/God as well. To me her story shows that any worldview or faith should be complemented by strong, independent moral convictions. Faith without morality is limp, or even evil.
Nancy - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
Was anybody else waiting for a Breen to remove that helmet and reveal Princess Leia? ;-)
Jason Luthor - Wed, Oct 30, 2013 - 12:34am (USA Central)
It's interesting how DS9's medium episodes still trounce everything that TNG and VOY ever put out.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 8:03pm (USA Central)

This episode was a bit better than the last two mainly because Damar and the Dominion story. He had some pretty hilarious lines. I'm also glad the whole Dax/Worf awkwardness seems resolved and that Winn has finally accepted she's evil.

6/10
Rawthar - Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - 6:10pm (USA Central)
In light of what we now know of the Pagh-wraiths, could the visions that Dukat had in 'Waltz' have been them?
eastwest101 - Mon, Jun 16, 2014 - 3:04am (USA Central)
An entertaining and developing story, really carried by Jeffery Coombes and the Dominion subplots. The temptation of Kai Winn was overlong, badly written and pretty uninteresting but it has potential to become interesting again.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 12:10pm (USA Central)
This episode had a few good moments.

whe Worf snaps Weyoun’s neck and Damar cracks up laughing I about fell out of my chair. Also loved Damar's snide remark to Weyoun-8. "No. Maybe you should talk to Worf again." ... lol

"Kiss me. Kiss me, Julian" - Thank God, now we can put this stupid Ezri/Worf" debacle behind us. God what a bore.

"WINN: The true gods?
DUKAT: The Pah wraiths. They led me to you."

Yup, saw that coming a mile away...

Again, 2.5 stars.

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