Running from their own government, three Cardassians seek refuge on DS9, and it turns out that one of the Cardassians—a woman named Natima (Mary Crosby)—is an old lover of Quark's, who left years ago on rather bad terms.
"Profit and Loss" is a mess of an episode, with convenient turns in the plot that border on storytelling fraud. The episode is really about the relationship between Natima and Quark, but the completely underwritten plot surrounding the reasons Natima has come to the station—to protect two of her students (Michael Reilly Burke and Heidi Swedberg) who are wanted by Cardassian officials—makes surprisingly little sense, especially under any form of scrutiny. They're part of a movement that is "going against" the Central Command, but their motives and goals are so vaguely scripted that it ultimately means nothing.
Then there are the gaping plot holes, like just how Odo would have the arbitrary power to release the wanted Cardassians against an agreement the Bajoran government made with the Cardassian government (whether it's in the name of "justice" or not). There's also the scene where Garak gets away with vaporizing Gul Toran (Edward Wiley) on board the station without so much as a peep from security. None of this is remotely believable.
Character-wise, it was also tough to swallow most scenes featuring Quark and Natima. The first two acts feature Natima scornfully refusing to acknowledge Quark because of something devious he did in the past. Fine. But then, after the scene where she phasers him, her character makes a blatant about-face that practically invites incredulity. Their subsequent scenes are overplayed to the point of soap opera melodrama. The "chemistry" here couldn't be any more forced. The episode's sole saving grace is Garak, who supplies his usual wit, particularly in one unforgettable dialog scene where he uses "tailor allegory" to explain to Quark the nature of Natima's political intrigue. An amusing scene between Quark and Odo is also on the right track. But they're isolated moments in a severely botched episode.
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