Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Collaborator"

3 stars

Air date: 5/23/1994
Teleplay by Gary Holland and Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by Gary Holland
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

On the eve of the election for Bajor's new Kai, Vedek Winn suspects Vedek Bareil of being a Cardassian collaborator and recruits Kira to help her find the truth. Kira—who is in love with Bareil—finds herself in a very difficult bind where her personal feelings are at odds with her duty to Bajor and the truth.

I like seeing characters put through the wringer like this; it's a good way to see emotional performances emerge, and Nana Visitor is one of the most credible and effective when it comes to projecting emotion onto the screen. There's never a question of whether Kira will find the truth or not; it's more a question of what she will find, and how she'll react emotionally to it.

The plot's twists and turns are probing, bringing up the issue of how to deal with Bajorans who sold themselves out to the Cardassians, and, further, looking at the reasons why people would be tempted to do such things. Odo makes a keen observation when he notes that in extreme circumstances everybody is capable of terrible things. (Was he referring to Kira's murder in "Necessary Evil"?)

Vedek Winn's political intrigue takes the character in some unexpected directions, particularly when she declares "peace" with Sisko in a scene that makes one wonder if she's being sincere or merely self-serving. Similarly, her belief that Bareil could be a collaborator gives her the perfect opportunity to milk the situation to her political advantage—yet her motives somehow seem deeper and more sincere than her superficial arrogance and condescending persona let on.

Kira's investigation takes her where she doesn't want to go—straight to proof that Bareil did help the Cardassians destroy a rebel base. His noble motives were to save Bajoran lives—an admission that will still cost him his political career. A last-minute twist privately confounds the situation even further, showing Bareil as a truly honorable man. If there's a subtext flowing through here, it certainly highlights how brutal and painful the Occupation was, even apart from the often-explored issues of killing.

Previous episode: Crossover
Next episode: Tribunal

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23 comments on this review

Sat, Sep 10, 2011, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Episodes like "The Collaborator" show that Quark would be better at Odo's job than Odo is, seeing at how he can just effortlessly bypass security bullshit that Odo can't
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 7:51am (UTC -5)
The twist (without revealing it) was very good regarding a much-loved previous character.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 5:01pm (UTC -5)

I just can't get into the Bajoran storylines.

Wed, May 7, 2014, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Great Winn-Kira episode. Winn is shaping up at this point to be a great villain: there's sufficient ambiguities in the plot to make you think she just happens to be in the right place at the right time, adept at taking advantage of situations, or (more likely), she might have manipulated the whole thing, the arrival of the collaborator at DS9 and all. Winn seems to have ears everywhere, so will know of Kira's relationship with Bareil, so takes not a little pleasure in choosing Kira to investigate her lover. Her putdown of the "child" on the Promenade was classic. I liked the implication as to an inherent weakness within Bareil too, the number of times he seemed to need to visit that Orb for guidance.

An 8/10 episode for me, spoilt only slightly by Avery Brooks' acting again. His wild-eyed suppressed anger does him some credit here in his scenes with Winn, but he uses a variation of this face way too often, such as in getting excited about holosuite baseball with Jake, or trying to sidestep politicians. He seemed more suited to the Alternate Universe Sisko in "Crossover", IMO. Bring on the Nick Fury look and the new uniform in season 4 - that grave him some gravitas.
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Solid 3 stars for me too.

Winn, knowing the truth finds a way to have Kira reveal it so as to dethrown Bareil before the election. Brilliantly evil.

I also loved the line where we find out that Winn isn't going to sit around and "take" Kira's disrespectful tone:

"Oh, and child, one last thing. I know you're under a terrible strain, but if you're wise, you will never speak to me with such disrespect again."

Louise Fletcher delivers these lines so well. The look she gave Kira was priceless. I just love (or hate) when she says "child" :-)

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 1:34am (UTC -5)
I just watched this ep and noticed Odo's very subtle reaction to hearing kira loves Bareil. He was saddened in his reaction and but quickly hid it and misdirected kira interpretation of his reaction. Very excellent scene well written. This set up his love story for her.

When I watched these eps in my teens of the bajorans I was always bored, although I always loved winns character. But now as I am older I find these eps very gripping! All the twists visions all excellently handled. It was hard telling what winns involvement was, maybe she did call the collaborator, she did have a sideways glance at him. But she was also desperate so she threw everything at the window, even trying to get a implicit endorcemtn from sisko. Her becoming kai was the worst outcome, but did the prophets want her to become kai?

Quark figuring out whaat odo couldnt with security makes sense, he is a conmen and thinks differnetly. Conversely quark being a security chief would be a terible idea, he lacks a ethical code to maintain security

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
Three stars? I could not be more bored.
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 6:40pm (UTC -5)
I can't stand bajorans or bajoran episodes. Their superstitions and their treachery and their lies, their smug superiority and their stiff necked obstinacy, their earrings and their broken wrinkled noses.
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 11:14am (UTC -5)
This is an example of a good Bajoran storyline. Instead of getting too carried away with visions, prophecies, and gods who actually exist, it explores a side of religion I can believe in: namely, the way people use it to serve their own ends.

Vedek/Kai Winn is far scarier than most villains on the show because people like her must work hard to earn the trust of others. They aren't "supposed" to be bad. But Winn is, and only Kira and others on DS9 are in a position to see through her devout, benevolent mask. Even Bareil doesn't seem to understand the danger she represents. His faith keeps him from seeing anything but a fellow priest whom he happens to disagree with. Through Kira, Winn ultimately uses his faith and devotion to Kai Opaka against him, sabotaging him without a second thought--not because she gives a damn about the Bajoran rebels who died due to Opaka's decision, but to force him out of the election and become the new Kai.

People like Winn can be found in every religion, every establishment, waiting for an opportunity to deceive and manipulate their way to the top. And they always make for morbidly fascinating entertainment, which is why I find this such a strong episode.
Thu, Jul 16, 2015, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Amazing episode. I didn't remember it (or maybe I had never seen it before), and I just finished watching it. It is tense, unpredictable, and with amazing characters' development. I don't understand why so much hate in the comments, I really loved the episode (and I expected even more than 3 stars from Jammer, actually!).
William B
Sat, Aug 15, 2015, 9:32am (UTC -5)
Kira's already found it in her heart to forgive Cardassians who were forced to play low-level roles in the Occupation, like Marritza; and she was able to find it within her to encourage "collaborator"/sex slave Sisko to revolt in the Mirror Universe in just the previous episode. Still, there is a particular trigger about Bajorans who collaborated with the Cardassians. The culture has developed this idea that any Bajorans who collaborated were essentially doing it for personal gain at the expense of their own people because of monstrous lack of empathy. And Kira not only spent years fighting the Cardassians, she also became a killer as a result. Like Jammer, my mind went straight to "Necessary Evil" when Odo mentioned that he has observed that solids will do horrible things in extreme situations; and "NE" gives further background to Kira's reaction here. Kira KILLED a collaborator; maybe her original intent was not to murder Vaatrik, but she killed him all the same, and the generalized guilt at taking a life with her own hands (and lying to Odo about it for years) is one thing, but it's still most likely a lot easier to sleep at night thinking that collaboration, to any degree, was absolutely *not* an option, and that her violent resistance, including the killing of her oppressors and those who opted for reluctant cooperation, was the best way to make good on a bad situation.

I like then that the episode starts with the classic Pariah Collaborator arriving on the station, being assaulted by Bajorans all around and locked in a cell immediately and yet still shamelessly and openly talks about thinking he should go home, moves through to a discussion of Prylar Bek who felt so guilty about his crime that he hanged himself, to the possibility that Kira's lover Bareil has this particular collaboration-skeleton in his closet, to Kira's *idol* Opaka being revealed as The One. The idea that Opaka made the call to give Cardassians the location of *her son's base* in order to save another thousand lives removes any doubt that this particular Collaboration was done for personal gain; Opaka is both idolized beyond all others, AND she did so at great personal sacrifice. Kira's lament to Bareil when Bareil takes credit for her actions that their had to have been some other way still hangs in the air; we cannot say for certain that Opaka killing her own son and dozens of others really was the only option she truly had. But we can say with relative certainty that she judged it to be her least-terrible action.

And so the price that Bajor pays for Opaka's sins is that they elect Winn. And here the show runs into some of the same issues in the season's opening three-parter, but overall better: how much is a lie worth sacrificing for? I've tried to think through what happened here, and it occurs to me that Bareil had *hoped* that he could cover up Opaka's involvement in her son's death without actually getting blow-back, and only reluctantly dropped out of the race once he realized that he would be exposed. He had already falsified records, and had kept Opaka's secret for years. Now, to be clear, I really do understand why Bareil kept the secret; I do think Opaka really did what she thought was right, and I understand why Opaka and those few who knew something about it believed that Bajorans needed spiritual guidance and would not understand her actions, during and following the Occupation. Maybe this is the only action that could have been done to preserve Bajoran souls. But it's another instance of Bajoran faith being based on a lie -- and the consequences of *maintaining* that lie is that power then goes straight to Winn, Bek kills himself taking on the full blame of the massacre while Opaka continues to be revered as a saint, and the Bajorans still, as a whole people, believe that all collaborators are unforgivable and remain divided against themselves, unable to face what they did. This is a tragedy. And the episode mostly gets that, but Bareil's "well, I guess Kai Winn is going to need our help!" and Kira's "Let's pay our respects to the new Kai!" in a tone that sounded like the weirdest euphemism for doing it of all time is a bit too bright, a bit too complacent that Bareil and Kira keeping this secret from Bajorans as a whole and allowing only Kira to get this difficult but necessary enlightenment while Bajor falls to Winn is a good thing.

The episode is also hampered by Philip Anglim, and the episode's insistence on opening act after act with another Orb vision for Bareil. Now these experiences do at least highlight Bareil's sense of guilt, most notably when he finds himself literally in bed with Winn as a representation of his figuratively getting into bed with her by withdrawing knowing that she will win the election. But they are overall cheesy, and Bareil's cipher face each time the orbs close fail to demonstrate the weight on this guy. The Kira/Bareil "romance" scenes are not quite as painful here as they were in "Shadowplay," but I still just do not buy these two as a couple.

On the plus side, I do love Winn's continued scheming and I like the way she attempts to play Sisko, and, when she fails, brushes it off (and the casualness with which she says that she will not be meeting with him soon). I like the effectiveness at the game Winn played, more subtle maneuvering than the blunt-instrument assassination plot, and I think that putting *Kira* in charge of the Bareil investigation is pretty clever, especially insofar as getting Winn's actual, desired goal of getting Bareil to drop out of the race -- pressure from his girlfriend is more likely to put the screws on him emotionally, I think is her reasoning. The exchange between Winn and Bareil on whether the Prophets' love is unconditional or if that is a gross misinterpretation of the scriptures is fun, especially the way Fletcher plays Winn's smarmy judgment, though it does unfortunately raise some of the grander problems about Bajoran religious belief. (HEY MAYBE SOMEONE SHOULD ASK SISKO WHETHER THE PROPHETS SEEMED LIKE THEY LOVED PEOPLE UNCONDITIONALLY, OH YEAH THEY HAD NO REAL INTEREST IN LOWER, HUMANOID LIFE FORMS THAT SHOULD DEFINITELY CLEAR ALL THE CONFUSION UP, RIGHT? NO? OH WELL.)

Odo's reaction to Kira saying she and Bareil are in love begins the long, sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding Odo/Kira romantic plot. I like to think that Odo is/was unaware that he has Kira feelings, but just got so used to Kira being single that the cropping-up of jealousy the moment he hears otherwise shocks him into just barely beginning to recognize some feelings.

A solid to high 3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Another dive into the murky world of Bajoran religious and political power. There's some strong themes here.

Winn continues to play a delightfully devious villain - her footsie with Sisko, and her later casting aside of any commitment she made when it was no longer necessary, is very nicely done. As is her slap down of Kira. Perhaps the finest moment though is Odo's fleeting reaction to Kira's relationship with Bareil.

It's not perfect - the interesting Kubus storyline is dropped rapidly and without resolution, and I've never been a fan of false endings - but this is another strong episode. 3 stars.
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
I know that I am comparing an alien religious system to one on Earth, but Bereil doesn't seem like a good vedek to me in that he basically treats the Bajoran religion as just so much mombo jumbo. I can imagine that his views reflect those of most Americans "God may exist, but the bible is not necessarily literally true", but would someone with such views be a cardinal, and frontrunner in contention for pope? Sure he communicates with the prophets via his orb in this episode, but I just don't see those scenes as authentiic given his beliefs as shown in this and earlier episodes.

I see Opaka as a much more convincing leader of a global religious movement, and Winn at least plays one (maybe even too over the top).
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -5)
@BZ I always see the various takes on Bajorans religion as analogous to sects of earth religions, E.g. Roman Catholicism vs. Protestant vs. Lutheran, although I make no attempt to make a clear analogy.

Being raised Catholic myself, its all I can really compare to. I always viewed Bereil as simply having a more loose, open minded view but still staying within the bounds of his religion. I recall, going to a Catholic school, some of the brothers there being significantly more down to earth than others, but still not straying from their faith. That's how I view Bereil, practicing his religion but more progressive than most.
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 8:35am (UTC -5)
I'm so happy that the writers and producers decided to start acting like adults here toward the end of Season Two instead of continuing with the rather lame stories we were getting toward mid-season. It's lead to a really good run of top quality episodes. "The Collaborator" is another excellent one.

This was a bold idea that was almost perfectly executed. The only flaw in that execution is, again, Philip Anglim's performance as Bareil - the stiff acting never seems to stop from this guy. Having all of the principle good guys in the story end up with blood on their hands, literally and figuratively, while letting the villain essentially win was a rather risky move. But, it works because all the heroes come off as well-meaning - Opaka was a collaborator only to save over one thousand people, Bareil covered it up to protect Bajor and Kira goes along with Bareil's cover-up because she's capable of seeing the big picture. Winn even comes across as something of a nuanced character instead of a simple villain. Was she only pursuing the truth about the cover-up for her own political ends or did she actually have a concern for the spiritual "health" of Bajor? It's left ambiguous and rightly so. And having Winn become Kai was a masterstroke in it's own right. I'll admit I'm more of a traditionalist than Bareil appears to be, but if I were living in this universe, I'd vote for him over Winn any day. But, from a story-telling perspective it makes so much more sense for Winn to be in that position because of all the different dynamics it can bring to the characters and the show as a whole. Having Mr. Nice Guy as the Kai would have been a dead-end, narrative-wise. And it shows that they were at least beginning to really plan ahead for future installments (I seriously doubt they could have worked it so that Kai Bareil would ever open the Book of the Kosst Amojan and ally himself with the Pah Wraiths).

The biggest plus for this episode, however, is that it's a return to Bajoran politics and all the world-building that entails. It's a shame that this plot arc is dropped, for the most part, after this episode and once the Dominion is introduced proper. I know a lot of people don't like the Bajoran centered episodes and story-lines, but I love them! We also get a short look into how collaborators are viewed/treated by Bajoran society through Secretary Kubus, an enjoyable emotional struggle for Kira (which Nana Visitor plays perfectly) and, of course, the first glimpse of Odo's feelings for Kira. I've heard that the writers didn't intend for Kira and Odo to ever have a romantic relationship, but Rene Auberjonois basically ad-libbed Odo's reaction to Kira's confession of her love for Bareil and they just rolled with it. And that, my friends, is why Rene Auberjonois is awesome!

I'm very tempted to give this one a perfect score of ten - really tempted. But, I just can't bring myself to do it. Anglim's acting is just too off-putting - especially in the early scene where he and Kira are cuddling. That had to be the most awkward "sexy" scene in Trek ever. And he does harm the climax when the truth is finally revealed pretty severely. God, some emotion, man!

Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
It's decent episode but, see, here's the elephant in the room. Kira and others are acting as if the collaborator was an evil person who allowed, for no good reason, the deaths of innocents. And when they find out this is not the case (that thousands were saved as a result) - they STILL act as if it were a bad thing. It doesn't make a lick of sense.
Thu, May 18, 2017, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
This was a better episode than "Crossover" which I just watched.
The character and emotions here are great along with the twists and turns this episode follows. Winn plays an important part -- not sure if she's deceptive initially or what her motives are. Good that this episode is unpredictable, but in a sensible way.
Jammer writes: "Odo makes a keen observation when he notes that in extreme circumstances everybody is capable of terrible things. (Was he referring to Kira's murder in "Necessary Evil"?)" - I liked Odo's part in this episode - making this observation here and also his reaction when Kira professes her love for Bareil. Great acting.
I don't think it should be the case that Odo/Kira come to ask Quark to get past the Bajoran code - it's ridiculous that the security chief has to ask a conman of a bartender for this. Couldn't they have figured out some other way.
The Bajoran story of the treachery to save more lives does paint the collaborator in a different light -- all is not what it seems at the surface.
Intriguing episode - I'd also rate it 3 stars out of 4.
Mon, Aug 21, 2017, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
I loved this one--I thought the tone was perfect and of course Winn is delightfully wicked. I had two observations--one is that I would give it an even higher rating except for the stupid visions Bareil kept having. I found those totally boring and revealed nothing. I hate such hallucinations--can't think of one time Trek used that sort of thing without losing my interest.

The other is a question--the Cardassians have been off Bajor only about a year, right? Because wow did their city look incredibly pristine! I had assumed Bajor had been pretty well ravaged by the invaders--perhaps not.
Paul M.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 7:17am (UTC -5)
"The other is a question--the Cardassians have been off Bajor only about a year, right? Because wow did their city look incredibly pristine! I had assumed Bajor had been pretty well ravaged by the invaders--perhaps not."

Well, Paris looked OK right after the German occupation. I imagine Cardassians strived for nice Orwellian public face of peace and contentment while they plundered and butchered behind the scenes. It is not unexpected to see big cities relatively untouched while the countryside suffered.
Wed, Aug 23, 2017, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
I think you are right, Paul M. I read up on Bajor a bit after this and learned that apparently the Cardassians scorched certain only regions of the planet--keeping a pristine capital would definitely go right along with Cardassian values. They remind me more and more of North Korea.
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Why...isn't Odo considered a collaborator by the Bajorans? Wasn't he head of security in a Cardassian station during the occupation?
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 10:23am (UTC -5)
@ Doug,

"Why...isn't Odo considered a collaborator by the Bajorans? Wasn't he head of security in a Cardassian station during the occupation?"

Because they knew he was impartial, and didn't contribute to or assist the Cardassians in their oppression of Bajor. In his capacity as chief of security on the promenade he would probably have been seen by them as potentially a helpful person rather than The Man just waiting to get them. In some respects his activities no doubt protected the Bajorans from disorderly conduct by Cardassians. This is speculation, of course, but based on Kira's testimony the Bajorans respected and even looked up to him as someone of integrity. He did his job because he thought it was right, and not because the Cardassians gave him a cushy life or promised him things, which would be the hallmarks of a collaborator.
William B
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
I actually wonder how much Kira herself led to this interpretation of Odo's actions; in Necessary Evil, he demonstrated that he cared about justice rather than serving the Cardassians by letting Kira go when she (falsely) claimed that she was innocent. Kira had said that he would have to choose a side, and he insisted he wouldn't, and she banked on the idea that he was either noble enough or naive enough to believe that, in order to get released, and she succeeded. Kira's personal admiration for Odo can be traced back to that moment, and it also has an element of guilt for her, because their early relationship was based on a lie -- where she used his pro-justice beliefs against him. Certainly Bajorans probably came to trust him for the reasons Peter mentions, but once the Occupation ended and it was no longer necessary to trust anyone working for the Cardassians, no matter how noble, I think it's probably Kira's position and support on the station that probably led to Odo's acceptance and continued role.

But more generally, I think Odo gets his status for being a literal out-of-this-quadrant alien. He was raised by Dr. Mora, but he's still physically and emotionally markedly distinct from either Bajorans or Cardassians, and is even more different physically than the Bajorans and Cardassians are different from each other. If the Bajorans never quite accept Odo as being one of them, then it's not really "collaborating" for him to work with the Cardassians. I have a hard time imagining even some Bareil-type ascetic being able to take Odo's job and convince the entire Bajoran people that he's "neutral" when he arrests and jails Bajorans and sometimes presides over their executions (if they are murderers), even if he doesn't get any cushy perks from his position. Odo's otherworldliness is also part of why people bought the idea that Odo had some sort of preternatural, almost mystical ability to recognize and carry out Justice that was beyond the petty Bajoran and Cardassians, and, indeed, it does turn out to be genetic, though as we discover it's actually Order that he has a genetic propensity for and he had mistaken this for Justice.

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