Nutshell: Very strong. Some captivating plotting in the background along with a powerful character core.
"Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" gets us back in touch with the "core material" surrounding the DS9 characters, with the first really good Odo-oriented show in quite some time. Lately, DS9 seems to go for broke whenever dealing with its core material, but this episode has a different feel to it: It's somewhat smaller and a bit less far-reaching, and it does what it sets out to do very well.
Over the past few years, DS9 has certainly turned me into a Jeffrey Combs fan. This episode is a good example why. Combs takes Weyoun to a completely new level, which is understandable since the Weyoun in this episode is in essence a very different Weyoun.
The plot: Weyoun contacts Odo with rendezvous coordinates, where he turns himself in as a Dominion defector seeking asylum. The twist: This is a "defective" clone of Weyoun gone "awry"—he doesn't agree with the Dominion agenda of conquering the Alpha Quadrant, and he hopes to bring an end to the war by helping the Federation. The information he has could give the Federation a huge advantage.
The plot's twist puts an established character trait to interesting use. We've known about the Vorta cloning process ever since season five. But here the cloning angle takes on a life of its own. This Weyoun—Weyoun-6, as he is the sixth version—was created after Weyoun-5 was killed in a mysterious transporter accident. With Weyoun-6 now branded a traitor, the replacement's replacement, Weyoun-7, along with Damar, coordinates from Cardassia the hunt for the defector.
What's also interesting to note are the circumstances surrounding Weyoun-5's mysterious demise. There's no proof that his death wasn't an accident, but as Weyoun-7 notes, it was awfully convenient that Damar happened to be called away from the transporter pad seconds before the accident that killed Weyoun-5 occurred. The mutual loathing and mistrust between Weyoun and Damar continues to assure me that we're headed for some sort of major payoff down the line. But who's going to get the better of whom, and what will it do to the Dominion/Cardassian alliance? (The long-term plot patrol puts itself on full alert.) Damar continues to play out treachery in his mind while drinking Kanar like water, possibly on his way to becoming Trek's first recurring alcoholic character; and Weyoun glares at him silently—particularly in one scene where, if icy looks were a phaser, Damar would be nothing more than crispy, char-broiled remains on the ground.
Meanwhile, Weyoun-6 quickly becomes a very wanted man; Damar and Weyoun-7 send Jem'Hadar attack ships to destroy Odo's runabout to prevent Weyoun-6 from revealing military information to the Federation.
This all may sound complicated, but the plot is actually very straightforward, allowing the character core to come out strong. Sure, there's plenty of plotting in the background, but it's subtle and relatively quiet. Meanwhile, the Odo/Weyoun dialog aboard Odo's fleeing runabout takes firm control of the story.
What this episode is really about is the relationship between the Vorta and the Founders. As has been established many times in the past, the Vorta worship the Founders like gods, and this story makes particularly good use of that fact, putting Odo in the middle of a situation where he's worshiped by both the man the enemy wants dead and the man who's calling the enemy's shots. Both are named Weyoun.
What's different about "Treachery" compared to previous episodes that have examined this theme is the way this story brings a more intimate, personal relationship between the worshiper and the worshiped. Weyoun-6 quickly becomes a fascinatingly sympathetic character. And we can see that the fact Odo won't "permit" Weyoun to worship him in the conventional sense (he refuses to be called "Founder" and tells Weyoun that he would treat any prisoner the same as he's treating Weyoun) deeply hurts Weyoun.
There's a great deal of very good dialog between Odo and Weyoun, and through Combs' performance, we can get a sense of how deep these feelings truly run through Weyoun and presumably all Vorta. (Though, at times, I felt that Weyoun's fawning over Odo went just a tad overboard as to become redundant—I probably didn't need it reiterated in every scene.) Auberjonois does a great job of staying in character but reaching out to understand Weyoun's faith in him when he can, particularly at the end.
Meanwhile, Damar and Weyoun-7 delicately plan the death of Weyoun-6. The complication is that Weyoun-7 does not want Odo killed. He remains every bit as respectful to Odo as does Weyoun-6. This makes the strategic moments more interesting, as Damar and Weyoun-7 resort to some dangerous rationalization to write Odo off as "not a Founder," all while knowing they would be very dead if the Founders ever learned they allowed Odo to be killed.
But even more interesting is the subtext when considering the difference between Weyoun-6 and Weyoun-7: One has something in him that makes him believe the war is perfectly justified, while the other doesn't. The implicit question here is: Just what makes us who we are and what we believe? In Weyoun-6's case, it was a cloning "imperfection"; despite having all memories from Weyoun-5, he is compelled to choose a path different from his predecessor.
To revisit a theme, the whole idea of unconditional faith brings back shades of last year's "Rocks and Shoals." Weyoun's faith in the Founders is inherent, and he knows it—but it simply doesn't matter. His faith in Odo is sincere and unwavering, which puts Odo in a personally uncomfortable position—he didn't ask to be a god, but he is a god, like it or not.
The story also drops a major revelation upon us—namely Weyoun telling Odo that a disease is spreading through the Great Link and will possibly kill all the Founders except rogue Odo himself, who could end up being the last of his kind. I probably don't have to explain the consequences that the Founders' deaths would have on the Dominion (I could probably go on for paragraphs), but let's just say this knowledge has evidently been kept quiet up to this point, if Damar's apparent unawareness is any indication. But such knowledge can't be kept secret forever, especially now that Odo knows ... so the schisms in the Dominion/Cardassian alliance could find themselves accelerated as a result of such knowledge.
"Treachery" makes use of the sometimes-dreaded A/B-story structure, which can be a klutzy momentum shifter. But I think it works okay here, probably for the simple reason that I enjoyed the lighthearted B-story. A story about O'Brien desperately trying to acquire a gravity stabilizer for the Defiant (because Sisko told him three days or else) isn't a candidate for most interesting idea of the year, but turning the whole endeavor into a zany comic plot—where O'Brien unwittingly recruits Nog to make a series of trades to acquire the stabilizer as quickly as possible—works well for what it sets out to do.
I loved the idea of Nog temporarily loaning Sisko's desk out to a man who "likes to take pictures of himself sitting behind the desks of famous Starfleet captains." And Bashir's playful sarcasm at O'Brien's desperate idea to replace Sisko's missing desk with a different desk ("It's white, it's the wrong shape, it's the wrong height, it's the wrong width. But other than that, it's perfect. The captain will never suspect you switched desks on him.") was downright funny. Nog's role in all of this melds Starfleet motivation with Ferengi beliefs—a surprisingly palatable notion. (What's also interesting is that the title of this episode can be applied equally appropriately to either storyline. Weird.)
"Treachery" is a solid, well-constructed show. It makes a lot of sense, offers a lot of promising plot progression, and frames its action sequences and special effects nicely, as logical pieces of a well-performed character story. It probably comes as no surprise that Weyoun-6 dies by the end of the episode. But it's how he dies that proves important, because it shows how he didn't really have a choice if he wanted to be true to himself and his gods. If the Founders really are dying and Odo really will be the last of his kind, then what choice did Weyoun have but to kill himself before the Jem'Hadar attack ships were to kill both he and Odo? Weyoun's death scene is actually quite moving, with Weyoun dying in his own god's arms while Odo simply has to ponder all the confusion of a painful and complicated situation he never wanted.
And now that Odo knows he might someday be the only Founder left standing when the war is over, what kind of responsibility will he have to all parties involved when the dust settles? Can he deal with the situation or even the looming possibility itself?
These are questions I enjoy asking, and I look forward to seeing them answered.
Next week: Is it a good day for Kor to die?