When Garak's shop mysteriously explodes, Odo opens an investigation into why someone would want to kill DS9's enigmatic tailor. The result is one of the series' best outings, with terrific performances and outstanding direction from Avery Brooks, as Odo learns this mystery runs much deeper than it initially appears.
The creative team again takes a serious look at Garak and his obscure history, with an insightful follow-up to last season's "The Wire." If "Wire" was supposition, "Improbable" is confirmation. At the same time, the writers provide satisfying follow-ups to plot threads from both "The Search" and "Defiant." Rene Echevarria delivers the season's most deftly written story, balancing elements of intrigue and substantial character development into a phenomenal package characterized by the most brilliant dialogue ever sported on the series.
Odo's investigation first leads him to a Flaxian suspect who was quite possibly hired to assassinate the Cardassian exile. But the question remains: Why would anyone want to kill Garak? Part of the problem with Odo's investigation lies within Garak's mysterious past and his talent for "spinning out elaborate webs of lies." Garak maintains that he has no idea why anyone would want to kill him—just a mere tailor. However, Garak, being the puzzle he always is, must surely be hiding something. (After all, as Garak puts it, "The truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination.") This leads Odo to begin the investigation with Garak himself.
Odo sticks to Garak through much of the episode, pressing him for more information. The pairing of these two characters makes for one unforgettable scene after another. This installment is wall-to-wall with great lines. These two are an absolute joy to watch, with their entertainingly expansive vocabularies and use of deadpan understatement. Auberjonois and Robinson both turn in superb performances, having full command over their elaborate dialogue and effectively utilizing their vocal talents and facial expressions.
Meanwhile, the plot takes on a startling revelation with each succeeding scene. Odo has O'Brien rig the Flaxian's ship with a tracking device so he can follow it with a Runabout. Upon arriving in the Runabout, Odo discovers Garak waiting there. After a humorous exchange, Odo reluctantly allows Garak to remain on board for the "interesting trip" and begins pursuit. But as the Flaxian engages his warp engines, his ship explodes. Odo's understatement of the year: "Well, it seems that our 'interesting trip' has been cut short."
Evidence suggests that the Romulans hired the Flaxian to kill Garak, then blew up the Flaxian after his failure, but Odo still has no idea why the Romulans would want Garak dead in the first place. This leads Odo to take a Runabout to talk to a mysterious Cardassian "contact" from the Central Command who may have useful information. This is a very ominous and effective scene, with appropriate lighting and a mysterious, full-sounding score by David Bell. Odo's contact proves to be an interesting puzzle. He's undoubtedly indebted to Odo from a previous favor, and their discussion reveals another clue into the plot. The contact speaks of cloaked Romulan activity near the Cardassian border which seems to suggest some sort of preamble to an invasion. Whoa.
But the missing clue is Garak. Odo's contact also supplies the names of five Cardassians who died the same day Garak's shop exploded, and not surprisingly, Garak had previous ties with them. When Odo returns to the station with these names, Garak finally talks of his past.
Garak and the five deceased were powerful associates of Enabran Tain (Paul Dooley), the retired former head of the Obsidian Order (also established in "Wire"). As for why the Romulans would want these former Obsidian members killed, Garak doesn't know. "But Tain might," he says.
Since Garak has an idea where Tain may be lying low, this allows another Runabout trip for Odo and Garak. Here, there's a fascinating discussion between these two characters that reveals some of the more private aspects of their personalities, and it's quite easy to see that both are truly lonely characters.
Suddenly, in the middle of Cardassian space, a Romulan Warbird decloaks and snags the Runabout with a tractor beam. Odo and Garak are taken aboard the ship and find themselves face to face with...Enabran Tain. Tain has some revelations of his own. He was the one who killed his five former associates for fear of those with knowledge of him and his past. He has a rule: "Always burn your bridges behind you. You never know who might be trying to follow." Further, Tain tells Garak of his plan to end retirement, and has joined the Obsidian Order with the Romulan's Tal Shiar, planning to take a fleet into the Gamma Quadrant and wipe out the Founders of the Dominion. (Remember the fleet of Obsidian ships being built in "Defiant"? Bingo.)
Tain decides to give Garak a second chance by forgiving his betrayal (one element which still remains a mystery) and offering him the opportunity to join him. Garak accepts, deciding it's time to end his exile. So much for "plain, simple Garak."
If part two lives up to this half, this may prove to be the best two-part arc of the series, because "Improbable" is the season's most brilliant episode, with a fascinating intrigue plot, great dialogue, engaging character interaction, flawless pacing, and an impressive scope that takes us on several short adventures away from DS9 and ends on a Romulan Warbird. What more could you ask for? And, for once, let's give an A+ to the preview team, whose strikingly intense tour de force preview for part two is unmatched by any Trek preview I've ever seen.
We're talking quality here.