Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Rules of Acquisition"

2 stars

Air date: 11/8/1993
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr
Story by Hilary Bader
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Every once in a while we'll get an episode like this, which doesn't know what it's trying to be and simply resides in the realm of neutrality. As a story, "Rules of Acquisition" is pretty mediocre; it centers around Zek coming to the station and hiring Quark to establish a Ferengi business presence in the Gamma Quadrant. Along with his new business partner Pel (Hélène Udy), Quark opens negotiations with some terribly hokey and unrealized Dosi traders, who eventually reveal that the Dominion—a mysterious presence in the Gamma Quadrant (which, as we now know, will become a significant element of the series)—is a major force to be reckoned with.

The plot serves as a launchpad for the real premise: the revelation (if you can call it a revelation since it was revealed in the trailers) that Pel is a Ferengi woman masquerading as a man. The last act documents the fallout from Pel's admission, showing how sexist and backward Ferengi society is. But what is this supposed to mean? Are we supposed to take it seriously? Much of the episode seems to think we aren't, as it's filled with the usual Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, farcical jokes, and other such lunacy (like many of Zek's scenes).

Is this supposed to be a satire? If so, it doesn't have the teeth. A half-serious drama? If so, it suffers because it gives Quark no stand on the issue. As a Ferengi, Quark seems to disapprove of Pel's actions, but the story is never really sure what we're supposed to make of his opinions. What about a romance? The final scenes indicate Quark has fallen in love with Pel, but the reasoning seems either arbitrary or nonexistent. There isn't the slightest bit of chemistry in the characterizations, or even a hint of sincerity in Quark to take the "romance" at face value. All in all, this episode is a sometimes-entertaining farce with less relevance than even such a premise is worthy of.

Previous episode: Melora
Next episode: Necessary Evil

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42 comments on this post

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Ingrid Rose Stonecipher
Sun, Dec 5, 2010, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Quark might not have chased after Pel but he did like her because she was funny and smart , brave and much better looking without those fake ears . Dax knew he liked her which was why she said he'd miss her. Because she knew he would but he wouldn't admit it. The episode wasn't a farce The price Quark had to pay for being tradtional no matter what was losing a great female like Pel . The price Pel payed for wanting more freedom was getting her heart broken . I thought it was a good episode and a wonderful tragic love story .
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azcats
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
well said Ingrid. i liked this episode.
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Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
A decent Fergeni episode. Feregni episodes are meant to be fun; this one was ok but not great on that front.

5/10
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Cheyne
Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 9:19am (UTC -5)
While no classic, this episode is important on two fronts:

The first mention of the dominion, and the first Ferengi female (unless I'm mistaken).

While definitely a filler, at least it shows DS9 was working off a long term plan in terms of the dominion. This really contrasts with Enterprise over its 4 season run, which was one bizarre lurch in a wildly different direction after another, which surely part of what led to its early and unfortunate demise.

As for Pel, well, at least it gives us an original insight into a species that has always been rather two-dimensional... unfortunately though, even DS9 never manages to redeem the Ferengi... I still think there was a missed opportunity there with the Dominion and the Ferengis' role in the events that unfold.
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Dusty
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 5:13am (UTC -5)
Does Jammer approach Ferengi episodes determined to dislike them? It sure seems that way, and if so he's depriving himself. I found nothing wrong with this episode at all. It's a dramatic comedy that satisfied me on both front. Pel is an interesting character, and Quark did return her feelings to some extent (hell, the chemistry was there even before he knew she was a woman, he just tried to ignore it) but not enough to go against Ferengi tradition. I hope to see her again, though.

This is also the first time I remember the Dominion being mentioned.
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Yanks
Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 8:51am (UTC -5)
I believe the first time the "Dominion" was brought up was in Sanctuary.

I'm not sure I side with Jammer on this one. While it's not an epic episode by any means, it obviously is there to bring into play Ferengi culture further on down the road. We all know what Moogie thinks of Ferengi law.

Why shouldn't we take this (woman’s rights) seriously? ... because it's the Ferengi? Not sure what Jammer is saying here.

Quark DOES have a stand on this "issue". He clearly is a Ferengi traditionalist that it torn because of his feelings for Pel. If he wasn't he would have gone to the GQ with her at the end.

I also HATE when the trailers for these episode give a key plot point away. I tics me off every time. Note to TV makers.... the guest appearance in the opening credits can also give away stuff. I just hate that.

2.5 stars for me because I loved Pel in this episode. Well done Hélène Udy.
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Nathan B.
Sun, Jul 12, 2015, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
I *love* the Ferengi episodes. They provide a lovely break from the usual (though excellent) DS9 fare. The Quark actor owns every scene he's in, as does the Zek actor. Rom in time is portrayed with a lot of skill, too.

The Ferengi episodes provide nice world building, and serve as a useful counterpoint to the prejudiced portrayal of them in TNG. Then, too, it's nice to see a balance to the angry, violent honour of the Klingons, or the weaseliness of the Cardassians, or the warmongering of the Romulans.

For me, the Ferengi episodes really explore much of what we deal with on our own planet right now, from the traditional misogyny of certain demographic groups to the traditional rapaciousness of the capitalist societies to which most of us belong.

Quark loves making money, but his relationship with Pel falls through over his traditionalism, even though it hurts him both financially and on a, er, human level. And yet we see that Quark loves strong, clothed women. DS9 seems to be saying, in effect, that the presence of one very undesirable trait in a culture shouldn't blind us to all the more positive aspects of that culture. And, in the end, such negative aspects as there might be can be overcome through living together, building trust between cultural groups, and within cultures, by reliance on the basic bonds of love that exist between family members (thinking here of Moogie and Quark).

Anyway, this episode was in many ways light-hearted, but I'll never forget Zek's "shame on you!" to Pel. It was a tragic counterpoint to the humour in the episode, and a reminder of just how recent our own Western battles for women's right are. After all, women were only allowed to vote in many Western democracies within the last hundred years. There is some hope, then, for the outcome of similar battles in other parts of the world.
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William B
Sat, Jul 25, 2015, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
I hope to say more later, but just want to say that I agree with the comments that this is a better episode than Jammer credits with. I don't know exactly how high I'll go -- I don't think it's a great episode by any means. But while I know that the two-star rating is meant to be a range, I feel like the difference between "Melora" and "Rules of Acquisition" is at least a star.
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William B
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 12:28am (UTC -5)
OK, so, the Ferengi's sexism (as a people) has already been established before this episode, and I think it's fair to say that most of the audience believes that women should be allowed to have jobs rather than being kept barefoot and pregnant, or, I guess, completely bare and pregnant. However, you know, it is true that much of the world is still deeply repressive in terms of gender norms, and it can still be hard for women in more egalitarian parts of the world who find their skill set matched to fields which are traditionally male-dominated, to say nothing of how *very recently* stark divisions of gender roles were enforced in the West. The way the episode broaches the topic of oppressive gender roles is by focusing small -- this woman, this man -- and letting the impact of an unfair society be felt by the characters.

Open on Ferengi guys (or so it seems!) playing Tongo, eventually revealing, all eyes on her, "cool girl," "one of the guys" Jadzia, who as a non-Ferengi gets to be in their boys' club of gambling despite her gender. Rom, whose masculinity is constantly called into question on Ferengi standards, is insecure and suggests their (his) losing to Dax is only because they are "really" losing to Curzon. Quark feels both camaraderie and lust for Dax. And so the episode hits the ground running in terms of establishing what the relevant character bits of this small Ferengi gender story is.

Pel is the most obvious tragic figure here, and the reveal early on of her true gender identity is not really a mistake but rather helps us get into her head early. The difficulty of living this double life obviously weighs on her. We know she's right, and she knows she's right, but she has to live a lie; she is not particularly comfortable *as a man* except insofar as it is necessary in order to succeed.

Pel's initial value to Quark comes in her ability to make profits -- she is a shrewd businesswoman, in ways demonstrated regularly throughout the episode (not just talked about). She and Quark bond, and there is the sense that Quark finds a kindred spirit in his new friend -- his brother is terrible at acquiring, Quark is a slight outcast as a Ferengi, living so far out on the frontier. That a woman can be good at acquisition is no real revelation to the audience, and indeed shouldn't even be to Quark, who knows Dax and does not particularly seem to view Ferengi as so very different from other humanoids. The thing that gets depicted, though, is that it's not just women, but society as a whole who loses because of the oppression of women. Even if naked self-interest is the only goal of society, as it is for the Ferengi, it is *still* better to have the most competent people available to make the most profits -- and that includes women. On a professional level, Pel is essential to Zek and Quark's schemes to make money.

On a personal level, we find what Quark is missing out on by being pushed into a Ferengi value system he doesn't *particularly* believe in. It's not that Quark is free of sexism, and his come-ons are frequently offensive, without even going into the overt forced-prostitution-clause at the beginning of "Profit and Lace." But he likes women and likes women to be involved in his life. With Ferengi women, though, he holds to tradition because he has deep respect and some bits of fear for Ferengi Culture as a whole, with Zek as its representative. That he forms a friendship to Pel which is soon cut short, and even finds himself attracted to her when he knows who she is, highlights the possibilities of life which are cut off for *him* as well as for her -- he loses out on the possibility of a real companion, his speed, who matches him. Quark tells Pel off and indicates that he genuinely believes she has no place in business, etc., but the sneaking suspicion that he is at least partly doing this to make her leave turns out to be well-fonuded when he comes to Pel's defense.

The loyalty Quark demonstrates is (almost) always local, personal -- he treats his family badly, is pretty gross to Dax in his come-ons, etc., but he really does side with them and demonstrate that he cares about them. Pel makes it into this category, and his willingness to rush to defend her even if it means losing profits both reveals something important about Quark's character, and the way prejudice works -- when it's someone he cares about, Quark cannot toe the party line the same way.

What actually impresses me is the way the episode even presents an argument, and allows sympathy, for the reactionary position. Rom seeks to expose Pel because his masculinity is threatened by her success; Quark neglects and abuses him and treats Pel like the (business-savvy) brother he never had. Rom's jealousy is rendered sympathetic because we see the abuse Quark heaps on Rom for not being the "true Ferengi" he is supposed to be, which is really a way of saying that he is not the true Ferengi *male* Rom is supposed to be. Rom's desire to see Pel taken down, exposed, and perhaps charged criminally is petty and cruel, but it is also the effect of a value system which punished anyone who deviates from the expected standard. Rom becomes a better person (whether he is easier for the audience to watch is a matter of some debate) when he accepts that he need never be the True Ferengi businessman he is required to be.

Zek -- capital, the patriarch(y), etc. -- is "revealed" as a hypocrite, willing to agree to conceal Pel's identity to protect his own image and his own position of dominance.

What does not quite work for me, oddly, is just how far Pel falls for Quark. Her kissing him and then trying to insist on the topic and her anger at Quark's sending her away I can get behind -- but Pel running up and tearing her lobes off before the Nagus out of frustration seems to imply *such* an intense devotion to Quark and the proportionate heartache that comes with it. Why should she be that invested in showing up/embarrassing Quark (and the Nagus) that she will go to prison and have her whole life stripped away? I gather that the point is that she cannot hide the truth of herself any longer, and Quark's sending her away pushed her over the edge, but there is also the suggestion that she is just made so crazy by love that she can't control herself -- which doesn't quite sit well with the gender politics the episode is overall kind of trying to convey. It is a farce, and so I can let that go to a degree.

Of note -- I like that Dax catches on to Pel being in love with Quark before catching on to her being a woman. Smooth. Also this is the introduction of the Dominion.

This episode is not nearly as funny as "The Nagus" and the theatrics of Pel revealing herself in the climactic scene hurt the final product for me. I was set to say this was a 2.5 star show, but I might have talked myself up to a low 3 stars. Ferengi episodes eventually start being awful, but I don't think that this episode is the start of the more and more severe decline.
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William B
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 12:31am (UTC -5)
Incidentally, I don't think the episode implies that Quark has fallen in love with Pel. Rather, I think he has become very fond of Pel, and then, once he realizes she is a woman in love with him, and once he comes to her rescue, and puts everything together, he recognizes *some* attraction to her, which could very well have become something more given time. But liking her and loving her are two different things, and I don't think either Quark coming to her defense or Quark giving her a somewhat chaste kiss before sending her off qualify as a reach.

Quark's refusing to go with Pel, relatedly, I don't think is just Quark having attachment to Ferengi culture and being a traditionalist, though that is some of it. He also has a whole life on the station. He doesn't actually want to leave his brother and nephew or his business he has spent time building or Odo.
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Yanks
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 8:56am (UTC -5)
William B,

Great observations. I only have one point.

I believe that Pel breaking down into tears in front of Zek was not just because of her eventual place in Ferengi society, but I think she feared what could happen to Quark.

Just my cut. Great post.
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William B
Fri, Jul 31, 2015, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
@Yanks, thanks for the kind words.

I was talking more about Pel's initially going to show up Zek to begin with -- ripping off the lobes and so forth. Reviewing the transcript, she explicitly says "I'm sorry, but it's time he learned that when it comes to accumulating profit, women are as capable as men." So her motivation is not officially love-based after all...and yet, her going to the Nagus only *after* Quark rejects her and asks her to leave the station does suggest that she's motivated partly by heartbreak, which she then turns into a desire to bring on massive social change. Which...I don't know. It's noble and I don't want to dismiss it entirely, but Pel has surely gone incognito for years and I'm not sure if the episode totally justifies her showing off her female-ness at *this* moment.
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Yanks
Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

All done for dramatic effect I imagine.
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Elliott
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
Teaser : ***, 5%

DS9's best prop, Morn, has his drunk ass thrown out by Odo. In the meantime, we are properly introduced to Dax 2.0 (the gambling cheerleader). She and a contingent of Ferengi are playing Tongo. We are reminded that Ferengi women are 2nd-class citizens, entitled not even to clothes on their backs. I believe we are meant to infer that the Ferengi seated here accept Dax at their table because she has a mind which was once male (Kurzon). It makes for an interesting allegory to our current culture: how would misogynistic males react to a transgendered man? Assuming an absence of transphobia, how would they treat a man who was not always a man, or for that matter a woman who was once a man?

A slimy little Ferengi named Pel sells some pill (and himself) to Quark, all the while disparaging small-lobed females. Zek calls up Quark to announce that expansion into the Gamma Quadrant is to begin and the Quark will be leading the charge. I smell a sequel...

Act 1 : **, 17%

Zek snorts himself to some blow in Sisko's office (maybe that explains the shrill timbre of his voice?). It's an interesting conversation because it's a more subtle exposition of the capitalist mindset than we often get: Kira is at first disparaging to Zek (the head of state), offering her unfiltered opinion that business with the Ferengi is a mistake. Zek offers her and Bajor “free” fertiliser which could apparently go a long way to dealing with a crop shortage on the “Northern Peninsula.” “Free” is of course a euphemism for “not free at all,” but how quickly Kira puts on the puppy eyes and looks to Sisko for approval when he offers her something she wants. Okay, what the fuck is the Federation doing with itself if the planet it's assigned to safeguard is having food shortages more than a year after their arrival? Talk about contrived. This calls for a peak at the writing credit and...oh look it's Ira Steven Behr. Mhm. Whenever the strawmen appear (in this case the Federation's inability or unwillingness to feed the Bajorans with their unlimited supply of food) related to economics, count on Behr being behind the pen. When it's military scapegoats, look for Ronald Moore. Of course Zek's “gift” is actually the price he pays for conducting business on DS9. Didn't see that coming.

Side note : what kind of geography does Bajor have that allows one to refer to a single peninsula as “the Northern One”?

Cut and we bear witness to two non-unseeable sights: Zek having his ears combed and Quark presenting his rear to Zek. Yep.

Zek reveals his plan to sell Tullaberry wine to races in the Gamma Quadrant. “Tullaberries” gets passed around for a while, becoming the Peewee's Playhouse bit of irritation for this episode. I find it odd that Quark takes Zek's reasoning at face value (getting a Ferengi foothold in the Quadrant from which to expand). I mean, do either of them seriously believe that no Gamma Quadrant races have every heard of commerce? The Federation's lack of capitalism is a rare accomplishment in the Trekverse, after all.

Anyway, Pel continues to impress Quark with his skepticism, brushing Rom aside. This is one of those S 1 Wesley Crusher strategies where, in order to make him look smart, everyone else has to be dense, so the obvious seems genius.

Pel returns to his quarters and...removes his ears. Turns out he is a she...and while I want to applaud the reveal here, rather than letting us piece together the “small-lobed females” comment from before, we are given a long shot of Pel's breasts while the trumpets soar dramatically. Thus a potentially moving moment is unintentionally hilarious.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Well, in case you thought the trapezoid-tattoo-sporting Waddi from “Move Along Home” didn't look retarded enough, a new terribly cheap alien design is here to answer your requests. They're Mediæval Times ™ employee meets football fan meets furry dominatrix. Let's call them the Kinky Knights. They are some race with which Quark and Pel begins their negotiations for vats of Tullaberries, I think. I'm a little fuzzy on the details as the scene is so horribly acted, I had to turn away momentarily to dry heave.

I looked up Zek's manservant's name on MA, but I don't want to use it. We're calling him Lurch2 (Lurch1 would be Mr Hom, Lwaxana Troi's manservant). Lurch2 shows up in Ops to give Kira a piece of jewelry on Zek's behalf. Behr pulls another one of his annoying tricks. Let's run the remainder of this scene backwards :

DAX : Neither would I, but once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun.
KIRA : They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn't turn my back on them for a second.
DAX : I admit they place too much emphasis on profit, and their behaviour towards women is somewhat primitive...
KIRA : Did anyone ever tell you you have very strange tastes?
DAX : That's because you don't socialise with them the way I do. Looking back over seven lifetimes, I can't think of a single race I've enjoyed more [sic. ew.]
KIRA : I don't understand your attitude about the Ferengi.
DAX : I suppose in a way I do.
KIRA : You sound like you admire them for it.

So Dax admires the Ferengi, even though she finds their culture abhorrent, because they're “a lot of fun.” Just checking. Sounds like a cheerleader to me.

A return to the Tongo table, with Zek this time to loose to Dax along with the other Ferengi. He ups the ante for Quark's negotiations, demanding more vats from the Kinky Knights even though Quark can't hope to acquire the original number. Pel intervenes to save face.

Later on, Dax questions Pel, having deduced that she is in love with Quark. I echo William B. above and applaud the bit where Dax' surprise is not that Pel is in love with Quark but that she is a woman. Kudos, Behr.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Kira returns her trinket to Zek (you have to admire his tenacity). Quark and Pel report their failure with the Kinky Knights. In the middle of Zek's rant, Pel intervenes again, offering to pursue the KK in Zek's ship until they convince them to sell their berries. Quark and Pel deduce that Zek is withholding information and seems to be trying to sabotage the negotiations. Quark starts in with the not-gays and Pel tries to quell her disappointment.

Meanshile, Rom is running the bar, feeling neglected by Quark's new friendship. The really weird thing is Odo, who's just loitering around for no reason :

ODO : If I did have a brother [crosses arms and scowls], I wouldn't let anyone come between us.

I think the implication is that Odo thinks of Quark like a brother and empathises with Rom's pain. If that's the case, it's a major mistake and totally contradicts the character play we've seen so far. I mean, whatever affection Odo might have for Quark at this point is not something he would openly share with ROM of all people. I honestly don't know what to make of this.

Rom breaks into Pel's quarters and discovers her secret (a spare pair of manlobes). Again, I cannot escape my recollection of “Menage à Troi” and “Q-less” in that Ferengi ears are auxiliary sex organs. Meaning Rom is essentially holding up Pel's strapon in his trembling hands (again with the dramatic trumpets, making the whole thing feel like a parody). Fail.....

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

On the Planet of the Kinky Knights (who say “eee...”), we are treated to another barrage of terrible acting. Ugh...Quark tries to get Zek's deal pushed through, and is told that the request for 100K vats is impossible to fill.

Pel begins to freak out at the prospect of sleeping next to Quark (I guess in case she gets a girl boner for him). But after a sip of blue liquor, she has kissed and mounted him, only to be interrupted by one of the butcher female Kinky Knights. Not-gay Quark welcomes the interruption. Butch offers to direct them to the Karima (“an important power in the Dominion”) who might be able to fill their order.

Upon returning to DS9, Zek admits that his goal all along was to make contact with the Dominion. Quark negotiates a sweet deal on all Ferengi trade with the Dominion in exchange for putting Zek in touch with the Karima. Rom then outs Pel to him. This time, instead of a dramatic moment (with generic dramatic music) being undercut with unintentional hilarity, an ostensibly funny moment (Quark's feinting) is treated to the same musicalis dramatis generico, thus rendering the moment emotionally inert.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Bashir makes a cameo, treating Quark's, erm, injury. Note: Rom refers to the Rules of Acquisition (which Pel and Quark have been quoting to each other) as “sacred.”

Quark coerces Rom into keeping Pel's secret. The question of course is why.

Quark drops in on Pel and orders her to put on her lobes. It's unclear (at this point) where Quark's conservatism comes from. Rom dropped the hint that Ferengi customs are wrapped up in a kind of religion, but it doesn't seem like Quark feels them in earnest, more that he relies on things being the way they are. A kind of cowardly conservatism to balance his otherwise progressive nature, I suppose.

Later, Pel drops in on dinner with Zek, Quark, Rom and Lurch2. I have to admit, the episode finally strikes a comic note properly with Wallace Shawn's pitiful “ohhhh! IT's a female!!!”

Zek decides to keep Pel's secret (for his own protection), but punishes Quark by relieving him of his potential profits.

The ending is rather confused. I'm glad they decided to make a stand-up guy who sacrifices his Ferengi-driven greed to stand up for the freedom of another, but the idea that Quark has fallen in love with Pel (as their kiss implies) is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. In fact, it makes it seem like Quark's primary motivation for helping her was his lust/love rather than his ethics.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

One thing that made “The Nagus” (to which this episode serves as followup) so effective was the juxtaposition of truly gratifying comedy (the Ferengi, almost unbelievably) with sincere human drama (the Siskos and Nog). That episode was brash in its comedic mise en scène and perhaps overly sanguine with its appraisal of the Nog/Jake friendship, but touching nonetheless. Here, the human story is rather confused as the romance between Pel and Quark is very forced and unconvincing. Additionally, the comedy is not in the same league as “The Nagus”'s. The rest of the main cast kind of orbit around the plot, adding very little (other than Dax' convoluted explanation).

I think the ultimate goal here was to develop Quark, which is moderately successful (if one overlooks the romance) and to introduce the issue of Ferengi women's rights, which is lukewarm. It takes tremendous skill to write good comedy and even finer talents to work in social commentary into your comedy. This is not an utter abomination like the eventual “Profit and Lace,” which borrows heavily from here, but it's a significant step down from “The Nagus” and a generally unworthy followup.

Final Score : **
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William B
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott, I took that Odo moment as him morosely complaining about his own lack of family connections, and pointing out how awful the lack of gratitude for others of one's kin seems to him. It is still a weird line that didn't work for me, but it didn't read to me as Odo openly identifying himself with that type of relationship.

I don't think that Quark is meant to be In Love With Pel at the end -- attracted, apparently. What I liked about it is the hint of tragedy that Pel is Quark's "type," with the cleverness and tongo-playing of Quark's big crush Dax plus business acumen, AND unlike Dax she has romantic feelings for him. Quark doesn't really believe that Ferengi societal bs about women. It's a fine opportunity for Quark. But he also is afraid of giving up his standing in Ferengi society, such as it is, and is too afraid to rebel except in secret. I can see how that might somewhat weaken the story for Quark to act partly because he has feelings for Pel, but I think that Quark needing a personal connection to someone to risk his neck is a reasonable way to deal with the character at this stage.
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William B
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
I also should say, I saw the kiss less as Quark definitely indicating attraction as...acknowledging a connection, returning Pel's kiss, considering what might have been.... I think Quark mostly likes Pel -- as a friend/employee -- and realizes he maybe could develop feelings for her, though he's hardly had the chance. Dax's role in the story is partly to underline how strongly Quark pursues smart and capable women as long as they aren't Ferengi. If Dax or Kira or Vash or whoever kissed Quark, he would return it enthusiastically. He does with Grilka or Natima. It is fully in character for somewhat horndog Quark to kiss a woman he finds attractive, but the kiss he and Pel share is quieter than the kind he probably tried planting on Dax in the holosuite in the incident she describes here. Now, the Pel attraction to Quark might have been excised entirely... But given that Pel loved Quark, it might be strange if Quark, upon recognizing her as a driven, smart woman, didn't return her affections at least a bit.
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Diamond Dave
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Almost a Shakespearean comedy, with women dressed as men and other such high jinks. As with all good comedy it does also have a tragic element as well, given Pel's eventual situation. But in some respects it neither commits to the comedy nor the social commentary, and ends up in a strange half-way house that never entirely satisfies.

What is important is the first hint of the Dominion, and I like the fact it's introduced in an episode that might otherwise be inconsequential. And I've always liked how Dax is totally at home with other species.

Bit of a missed opportunity overall. 2.5 stars.
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Luke
Sat, Feb 20, 2016, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
And so, we get our first real introduction to Ferengi sexism. And it makes absolutely no sense (and never will). If the Ferengi are so greedy and determined to make profit, why in the name of God would they so handicap half of their own population? Because real-world capitalists are just sexist pigs and they're being criticized by the writers? I find that impossible to believe since the areas of the world with the best record of gender relations tend to be the most capitalistic. The areas with the most regressive views of women tend to be the most non-capitalistic (or outright anti-capitalistic). But, of course, they have to express their anti-capitalist views somehow, but still gladly collect their paychecks. But it's still somehow okay for Sisko and Kira to force Zek into giving over some supplies to Bajor. Some might call that rent-seeking, but I guess it's okay to use governmental power to extort businessmen, am I right? *sigh* Sadly, it's only going to get worse from here with the Ferengi episodes.

The biggest problem with "Rules of Acquisition" is, as Jammer said, it doesn't know what it whats to be. Social commentary? That doesn't work. Drama? Don't make me laugh. Romance? Not really, since Quark's supposed love for Pel feels so forced and unnatural. Comedy? Um, no; if this is comedy it never raises above level of "Family Guy" (i.e. almost non-existent). As a result it just feels so bland and uneventful - like it goes nowhere and has nothing to say.

The only really stand-out moment was when Dax finds out that Pel is actually a woman. Up until Pel blurts out the secret Dax honestly thought she was a man. Yet, she had realized that Pel was in love with Quark. That means that Dax thought that Pel was homosexual and it didn't bother her. In fact, she didn't even see it as something worth making any kind of fuss over. That was nicely done - because it was subtle. They managed to put in a successful bit of social commentary without ramming it down the audiences' throats.

But, naturally, this episode is most famous for the first reference we get to the Dominion, and that wasn't handled badly. In fact, of the three Dominion references we get in Season Two, this might be the best as it was more than just a random name-drop. Learning that the Dominion is basically the economic hegemon of the Gamma Quadrant nicely whets our appetites and gives us the sense that they're not just some one-off bad guys but an important player.

All in all, however, this is definitely a step down from "The Nagus".

4/10
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Caroline
Fri, May 6, 2016, 11:33am (UTC -5)
I've always hated the Ferengi but Quark has grown on me and was actually really likeable and sympathetic in this ep. Pel was good, even the Grand Nagus was ok and I liked his savvy scheming and the reveal of him really seeking info on the Dominion. All in all, the first ever Ferengi episode I've actually enjoyed.

I didn't see Pel's reveal to the Nagus as being about her broken heart, more about trying to effect change in Ferengi society and prove females are as capable of profit as males, which is consistent with what she was doing in disguise in the first place. I thought Quark did care for her and probably knew he would have fallen in love with her if they had any more time together. I thought there was some good chemistry between them,..and I never thought I'd say that about any Ferengi characters!
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Rahul
Thu, Apr 20, 2017, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Being new to DS9 but having seen 1 prior "Ferengi episode" ("Acquisition" in Season 1 of Enterprise) which was terrible, I wasn't too thrilled about another Ferengi episode. I'm pretty much in full agreement with Jammer's review.
There is a valid point trying to be made through this episode -- about showing a female's struggles in a very male-dominated society, exposing the Ferengi culture as representative of certain cultures on Earth. But with how Rom, Quark, Zek are portrayed, it's hard to take this episode seriously. The valid points this episode makes could be done through a less ridiculously portrayed race.
It's 2/4 stars for me. I understand DS9 has a good reputation with a number of strong episodes, but this one doesn't do it for me although it's not terrible. Eager to get acquainted with more of this series.
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grumpy_otter
Sun, Jun 11, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Personally, I liked the Dosi. They struck me as a TOS species, and I enjoyed trying to figure out their face makeup. They didn't need to be developed too much as really they were just there to introduce the Dominion. So i was fine with them.

I had one question; While they were playing Tongo, there was a slurping sound as they spun the board. WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?
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Startrekwatcher
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
3 stars

I actually enjoyed this Ferengi heavy episode.

Liked the comedy bits like Zek patting Kira on her backside. Nana's expression was priceless

Pel was an interesting and like able character

The Quark/Rom banter was especially good

The first mention of the Dominion was intriguing

Dax's view on the Ferengi was interesting

I enjoyed Zek's delivery of "Shame on you" to Pel

I liked watching the two tongo scenes. Very good
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Stephen
Sun, Jan 7, 2018, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Quark seemed to back down a too easily, over Zek revoking his Gamma Quadrant profits, considering that Quark had leverage with revealing that a female had represented Zek in a business negotiation. This is a guy that later threatened to expose the "drought" on Balancar to the entire quadrant.
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Shannon
Sat, May 19, 2018, 9:25am (UTC -5)
I've never watched DS9 in its entirety, so I'm now doing that via Hulu... This episode had so much potential that the writers/produces ended up squandering. Pel, and her quest for equality, could have been the focal point of a diplomatic crisis that puts the Federation at extreme odds with the Ferengi, and call into question how the Prime Directive fits into the whole narrative. Perhaps the Ferengi could have attempted, at Zek's behest, to arrest Pel. She could have asked for asylum, and voila, a major diplomatic fire erupts that Cisco has to navigate. This could have been an interesting two-parter, and right in the middle could have been Quark, caught between his love for Pel and his loyalty to Ferengi traditions... A total missed opportunity to put some real teeth in this story and make it relevant to issues we face today with gender equality.
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DLPB
Sun, Jun 10, 2018, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
The only really stand-out moment was when Dax finds out that Pel is actually a woman. Up until Pel blurts out the secret Dax honestly thought she was a man. Yet, she had realized that Pel was in love with Quark. That means that Dax thought that Pel was homosexual and it didn't bother her. In fact, she didn't even see it as something worth making any kind of fuss over. That was nicely done - because it was subtle. They managed to put in a successful bit of social commentary without ramming it down the audiences' throats.
------

Nope. It was still being rammed down out throats - and it was still leftism. Never once will Trek be balanced. It's writers don't know how. Leftists don't know how. That's why they loot and bash and torch when someone becomes president and it isn't their candidate....

It's an entertaining episode, but just filled with none stop digs at capitalism [endless straw men]- even though communism has killed and enslaved far more - and as you rightly point out - the writers can't wait to collect their paycheck.
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DLPB
Sun, Jun 10, 2018, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
A total missed opportunity to put some real teeth in this story and make it relevant to issues we face today with gender equality.
-----

I agree. I'm still waiting for men to get equal access and rights to their own children. Equal paternity leave compared to maternity leave. And women to get the same jail terms (for the same crimes) as men. Still waiting for society to address the fact men are way more likely to commit suicide and die younger in general.

Still waiting for women to do dangerous jobs and have equality down the sewers and digging up roads.

Still waiting for the media to shut up about a wage gap that's been debunked 1000000 times.
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PicardsMightyBaldHead
Fri, Jul 13, 2018, 9:36pm (UTC -5)
You need to come to Sweden, DLPB. We are very liberal and our progressive and labor movements managed to fight for about half a year paternity leave for men, and the labor movements won this in the 1970s before this was even an issue on the radars of most other nations (I think Clinton won this for you in America, after decades of the Republicans shooting it down). We also have the most generous parental leave packages (currently 480 tax-funded days to share between a couple) and heavily subsidized day care in the world.

Sweden is very dark, especially in winter, and this leads to lots of suicide, so we do lots of studies on it (we are now lower than the European average though). One science report (the abstract quoted here) on this I found fascinating: "Women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression, yet women are one fourth as likely as men to take their own lives. Men have been socialized to value independence and decisiveness, and they regard acknowledging a need for help as weakness and avoid it. Women, in contrast, value interdependence, and they consult friends and readily accept help. Women consider decisions in a relationship context, taking many things into consideration, and they feel freer to change their minds. It has been found that women derive strength and protection from suicide by virtue of specific differences from men. Factors that protect women from suicide are opposite to vulnerability factors in men."

In other words, the very gendered notions of rugged individualism and stoic masculinity inculcated in males is leading to higher susceptibility to suicide. Some studies showed that simply talking about feelings had a bigger effect on countering male suicide than implementing lots and lots of sun lamps (because of the darkness in winter months).
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Dave in MN
Fri, Jul 13, 2018, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
I'm sure Merkel could arrange it.
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Iceman
Wed, Jul 25, 2018, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
"Rules of Acquisition" is a Ferengi episode that can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or a drama. It ends up being mediocre at both. The most relevant part of this episode is the first reference to the Dominion.

2 stars.
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Loki
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 1:31am (UTC -5)
DLPB: Begone, incel.
_____________

Regarding this episode: It was great until the forced romance by the end. Agree with the two stars.
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Chris P
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 9:26am (UTC -5)
Loki: this isn't a name calling forum. I'd imagine behavior like this ultimately makes Jammer's life more difficult if he has to start worrying about moderating the comments. Have more respect for yourself and others while here.

This is a fairly political episode and it should not be surprising that people are discussing political issues.
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DLPB
Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 8:22pm (UTC -5)
You need to come to Sweden, DLPB
-------
No, thanks. I dated a Swedish girl for 8 years and know a lot about your doomed country. It's as close to Trek as it's possible to get - and is currently being conquered by the religion of peace. Not surprisingly, your right wing party there is gaining in numbers year on year.

While I do agree that you have the maternity paternity issue much better there, that's a small plus for massive negatives. Over there, you have a man-hating society in general - a crazy feminazi country.

Actually, I invite every left wing "progressive" person to observe Sweden in order to see why it fails. The claptrap "studies" [no doubt that pseudoscience, 'gender studies'] you make reference to in your post is just that - claptrap. It's no surprise to me that your post seeks to diminish the problem with male suicides by supposing women are superior in their thinking. Go away.
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PicardsMightyBaldHead
Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
You seem brainwashed by the alt-right social-mediosphere, DLPB. Oxford University did a study showing that a third of political websites about Sweden were publishing deliberately misleading information, most with a right-wing focus on immigration and Islam. Studies also show (http://lamastex.org/preprints/2017HateIn2016USAElection.pdf, ) far shorter degrees of separation between right wing politicians and far-right hate groups, right wing supporters and hateful ideology, and the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute's recent analysis shows that conservatives are overwhelmingly more likely to disseminate false information from extreme websites ((https://www.ft.com/content/611d5c90-0a87-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09) and create "ecosystems of misinformation" and "gateways to the far right" (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/sep/18/report-youtubes-alternative-influence-network-breeds-rightwing-radicalisation). Also “Misinformation is predominantly a pathology of the right,” concluded a team of scholars from the Harvard Kennedy School and Northeastern University at a February 2017 conference, one of many studies which point out the ways in which conservatives shore up around "faith" and "personal interpretation", "intuition" or "personal experience", rather than facts.
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Sam
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 8:21am (UTC -5)
^ Using left-wing sources with clear leftist biases to confirm existing leftist stereotypes of the entire right-wing political realm. Yep. Typical leftist process of dehumanizing those they don't like. Also, the alt-right, if the name itself doesn't give it up, doesn't encompass the entire right-wing.
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Springy
Fri, Nov 30, 2018, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Surprisingly sweet. Good performances from Pel and Quark make it work. It was cute!

I was stunned to enjoy a Ferenghi story that featured the Nagus (I really dislike the Nagus), aliens straight outta Captain Proton, and . . . a Ferenghi romance??

Good character development for Quark, and I liked Jadzia's role, and the way she was a friend to both Kira and Pel.

I loved that Pel took his latinum before she left.

Quark in love. Who'da thunk it?
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Eli
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 12:30am (UTC -5)
I want to chime in to say I really liked Jason B's comments from July 2015. He wrote a well argued defense of Ferengi episodes. I also appreciate Ferengi episodes and think they have merits for both their humor and the manner in which they flesh out an alien culture rife with social commentary.
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Dave
Thu, Jan 24, 2019, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
Lots of racism in these comments. White personal people have no special dominion over the rest of the earth, your values are no more enlightened than the values of Afghans, they are just different. How dare you presume that your social structure is superior, racist scum.
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CPUFP
Tue, Mar 12, 2019, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
Wow, this is the worst comment section I‘ve seen so far on this site. From foaming-at-the-mouth rightwingers whining about „feminazis“ to cultural relativists who claim that all values are equally valid, this truly is the bottom of the barrel. Poor Jammer, I hope he won’t have to start moderating the comments.
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Fenn
Fri, Dec 20, 2019, 12:30am (UTC -5)
Shame to hear the Pel reveal was spoilt by trailers. I came to this episode knowing nothing of the character, and so the scene that revealed it took me slowly by surprise.

She takes her prosthetic ears off, and I'm thinking "honestly, I'm not surprised there are Ferengi who wear fake ears -- they're always boasting about their lobes, and naturally there's gotta be some on the smaller side with a hell of a lot of insecurity about them..."

Then she took the jacket off, and okay, yeah, I see now.

(I wouldn't be too surprised if there were male Ferengi that wore fake ears too, though... and guarding the secret for their life -- or their latinum. Also, it amuses me in an out-of-universe way that they had this actor wearing prosthetic ears on top of prosthetic ears.)
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Bob Bobness
Thu, Feb 20, 2020, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
@William B
I'm five years late to the party, but I just want to express my appreciation for your excellent analysis of what is possibly my favourite episode in -- obviously (I mean, let's get real) -- the best Star Trek. And before all y'all get your knickers in a twist, that's *favourite* episode, not greatest (similarly, my favourite Buffy is Beer Bad).

The only significant refinement to your argument that I would suggest is that frailty and -- from the point of view of the writers -- vulnerability play an even bigger role in how the characters behave than you give credit for.

Let's go down the list:

Odo -- Odo's self-image is essentially as the uncorruptible lawman, but he tends to break his own self-defined character pretty easily if it's Kira or -- as it turns out here -- family. And his comment about his imaginary brother is a BFD, because it's that part of him that's going to be tested to the limit. I draw a straight line from this first spur-of-the-moment, possibly-not-even-previously-considered notion of family by Odo to his finest moment (and I'd say *the* most powerful moment) in the entire series, in The Die Is Cast): "I want to go home."

Inglatu/Zyree -- Why doesn't Inglatu just try to set himself up as a go-between and skim off the middle? Why does Zyree have to go behind the scenes to get a one-time score, instead of getting in on the action on a permanent basis? Answer: the Dosi aren't just serious about profit like the Ferengi, they're also serious about their entrenched gender bias. Inglatu lets his toxic masculinity get in the way of his capitalism. He's too damn proud to be the middle man! He's got to be the big man.


Quark -- Why does Quark kiss Pel? Please. Quark is seriously sex-deprived. He is already getting turned on by her way early in the episode (I'm betting his sense of smell is telling him things the rest of him doesn't want to hear). And while he doesn't appear to be particularly bothered by the *idea* of homosexuality, he is still VERY uncomfortable when supposedly-male Pel comes on to him. Why?

He's straight, that's all. If you want a really good analogue to this episode, it's Black Adder II: Bells (and yes, @Diamond Dave, you're damned right that DS9 is Shakespearean). And I suspect that -- just like in England -- it's common knowledge on Ferenginar that half the elite is on the down-low. What else do you expect is gonna happen if you deprive the whole female population of education?


Pel -- One of the absolute best characters to only appear once. If she were just a 2-D shoulder-padded super-capitalist, her once-in-a-generation business acumen would be the same sort of facile hand-waving that makes (all that I could stomach of) Voyager and most of Pepsi Generation so unwatchable. No, the reason she is so impressive is that she is totally believable. So strong, so determined, so amazingly talented, and consequently so completely isolated. She knows what she wants, and crucially, it's not really that much -- a thriving business, and a sexual partner that she can respect.

The scene with the Grand Nagus is only unrealistic if you expect her to have limitless ambition. She is in a very good position to infiltrate his circle and make some serious latinum. But that would mean a hell of a lot more stress, and much more dangerous consequences if she is exposed: palace intrigues, blackmail opportunities, and -- remember, this stuff is filmed in LA -- sexual exploitation.

That's too much. That's not what she's after. She just wants a normal middle-class existence like your average Joe Ferengi. And she came to DS9 in the first place because there was a business that would hire Ferengis, but not so many of them that she'd have to spend all her energy worrying about being outed. Unfortunately for her, Odo's vigilance has already impelled Quark to force Nog to take that locksmithing course.

So she gets there and she gets hot for Quark. She calls it love, but is it? Maybe, maybe not. But then, something extraordinary happens at the Dosi market: Quark dumps the vat of wine.

***
Think about it. Under normal circumstances, that would be laughably out of character. Quark just does not have the stones for that sort of thing. But what if this isn't just a throwaway episode to slyly introduce the Dominion, but a real labour of love, meticulously- and brilliantly-written. I said Rules wasn't the greatest; I didn't say that it wasn't great.
***

Quark is used to living on the fringes, and being denigrated for not being man enough, in a commercial sense by his own people, and otherwise for lack of height. Pel gives him a shot of confidence, and also models really effective -- frankly, ballsy -- negotiating technique. And Quark picks up on it! After being embarrassingly obsequious to Zek, and needing Pel to rescue him every damn time, he handles the (massive, violent) Dosi like a pro. He is a total badass.

And I don't think that it's just that he's learning from Pel, and encouraged by her confidence in him. I think he's got that new relationship energy going. He might not know what's happening to him, but his nose does. And it's not a one-off either. When her gets back to DS9, he handles Zek easily. Twice.

But getting back to Pel:

How encouraging must this all be? Maybe it was a crush at first, but now it's an intoxicating mix of hormones, respect and opportunism (she is still Ferengi). If she can seduce him before they get back to DS9, she's won. In fact, she has hit the jackpot: just the right amount more than exactly what she wanted, with the unexpected bonus being that her partner is the shit, and she *makes* him the shit.

That's about as much as anyone could or should ask from life.

And then it doesn't work out. Thankfully, this *isn't* Shakespeare, so there aren't any corpses. But how should she proceed? Back to nudity and subservience? No effing way. Become Zek's grand vizier? Like I said above, a very bad move, and Pel has already shown that she just doesn't make those. What's left? Exile. She's already gone to the back of beyond by coming to DS9, and that wasn't far enough. Now she'll have to go further.

Is she pissed? Damn right she's pissed. But she is also in a position that she will never be in again. She's got personal access to the Grand Nagus (and it may be that she has already gamed out exactly what happens; remember, she's good at this). So she makes a scene, because it is the best opportunity that she is ever likely to have to influence Ferengi politics and culture. She's not going to see the change, but she just might plant that little seed, that will one day be the change.

Now maybe if she were a different person, she would have taken a different path. Gotten married, exerted indirect influence, maybe even found herself recruited into a crypto-feminist cell. But she isn't. She is an adventurer, an intrepid.

Good on her.


Zek: Unlike the people above, the Grand Nagus is completely secure in his position. When he puts the moves on Kira, he probably rates his chances at an optimistic 1%. But what's the downside? It doesn't work, he gets in a pinch for fun, but he knows exactly how far to push his luck -- he is the Nagus for a reason.

But his last line, that's different. It's not just funny because Wallace Shawn has a silly voice. He's really shocked, and it's that moment where he is both a ludicrous old letch and the supreme leader of his people that let's us glimpse the profound wrongness and disconnect that lurks at the heart of all the best jokes.

His job isn't just to be the richest Ferengi. The Nagus must also be the paragon of Ferengi virtue. Pel strikes at the heart of his identity, both personally and as head of state. It's a moment he is going to remember, one way or the other. I think that if Quark wasn't standing right there, Pel would be smirking with satisfaction once Zek left the room.

As it is, she just has to be content with mercilessly lifting Quark's latinum, and
YES YOU BET YOUR SWEET BOOTS THAT'S A DOUBLE-ENTENDRE.

***

There is only one character who really doesn't have these issues, and that's Dax. And since she is not susceptible to the main driver of the whole damn episode, that means that she can stand outside it all, and see what's going on. To go back to the Shakespeare comparison, she is the herald, and -- solidly in that tradition -- she is given the last word: "Nice try, Quark, but I know you better than that."

So, to conclude:
If you look at the characters' weaknesses, you end up further elucidating the writers' stance on the corrosive effects of societal gender imparity. Neat, huh?

+++++

Finally, a side point to the general viewership round these parts: quit your hating on the Dosi. Inglatu and Zyee are awesome, in the true DS9 way. Why do we all like Weyoun ? It's not just that he's funny, it's that he's indestructibly, looney-tune-cartoony funny ("My, that really is toxic!").


Booyah.
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Lucky
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 7:41am (UTC -5)
Well put Bob.
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Bob (a different one)
Thu, Feb 11, 2021, 6:29pm (UTC -5)
The show would have been better if they had dumped Rom and kept Pel.

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