Nutshell: An all-too-typical Ferengi "comedy" with a few redeeming moments.
When Quark cuts all his employees' pay, Rom takes the initiative to form a labor union and get the entire bar staff to strike. It's bad news for Quark, not to mention illegal by Ferengi customs.
Let it be said, "Bar Association" is far more entertaining and humorous than most Ferengi shows. It has a certain zip and pleasantness that was painfully absent in "Prophet Motive" and "Family Business." But, nevertheless, "Bar" is still just another Ferengi Comedy Episode—fairly diverting and occasionally worth chuckling at, but thin and generally devoid of any real substance. I'll rank a tad below "Little Green Men."
The plot, if you care, is nothing much; it centers around Rom finally getting fed up with his brother's nonstop exploitation of both him and the bar staff. Advice from O'Brien (who had a famous ancestor who was a "union man" in the early 1900s) prompts Rom to create a union, and Quark suddenly finds himself in a sticky situation with both Captain Sisko and the FCA (Ferengi Commerce Agency) breathing down his neck to resolve the situation.
The plot is merely a clothesline to hang the silly gags. Though not all of them work, a number them do.
Let's start with the ones that work. There's the idea of Quark using holographic images of himself to run the bar. I don't know why, but there's just something inherently funny about Quark talking to Odo in the foreground while three other Quarks walk around in the background. (Maybe it's the subtlety of the humor that's appealing.) The scene also features another one of Odo's hilarious double takes.
I also got a good laugh out of Worf and O'Brien's "brawl"—which ends with Bashir being hurled over a table and all three of them thrown into a holding cell. Sisko's reaction to his officers brawling on the promenade is equally amusing and appropriate: he lets them spend the night in jail. Sisko's subsequent action—persuading Quark into negotiating an end to the strike (by blackmailing him with huge back payments on his bar lease)—is a load of fun. The notion is so...Sisko.
Brunt, the FCA guy (Jeffrey Combs, reprising a stupid role from "Family Business") who threatens Quark with bodily harm unless he ends the strike, has a couple of heavies who make an unlikely comic duo in the goofily witty scene where the two play darts using each other's chests as the targets. This is simply zaniness at its best—it works magnificently.
Of course, the funny moments (and I think I covered most of them worth mentioning) are at the mercy of the usual Ferengi-show shortcomings of (A) lots of Ferengi gathering to discuss profit strategy (who is it that thinks putting a dozen Ferengi in a room together is funny by definition, anyway?); (B) Quark and Rom shouting at each other in their usual sibling rivalry clichéd manner; (C) Max Grodenchik overacting in virtually every scene—making Rom look as dumb as ever, even though the writers seem to want to make him smarter than he appears.
There's also a scene that falls completely flat where a Ferengi crumbles to the ground to grovel in the face of the FCA. (Yes, ha ha; we know that Ferengi values are centered around their economy and that's supposed to be funny, but enough already.)
Leeta (Chase Masterson)—the attractive Bajoran character unseen since "Facets" some 16 episodes ago—has an agreeable role here as a Dabo Girl. But her presence, unfortunately, has practically no dramatic purpose in the episode (other than, I suppose, to provide compensation for the presence of a dozen inelegant Ferengi). She most frequently appears in the hokey and contrived union meeting scenes, which refuse to utilize the fact that she isn't a Ferengi to the plot's advantage.
While "Bar Association" is easily the weakest show DS9 has done so far this season, it still isn't that bad. I can tolerate the problems here, because they're not nearly as in-your-face annoying as they were in last season's Ferengi shows, and the episode makes up for it with some fairly original comic ideas.
The B-story? Something to do with Worf moving his quarters to on board the Defiant over his inability to adapt to the tone of the station. The results are sometimes amusing—though, like the rest of the show, not exactly pressing. However, I somehow doubt that Worf, being the Klingon warrior he is, would really have such a problem integrating into DS9. Like I said, we're not exactly looking at deep character material here.
Still, there is at least one lasting consequence from all this. As a result of his experience and strike victory, Rom decides to quit working for his brother and take a job as a station electronic technician. This was a long time coming, and I, for one, am sincerely glad it finally happened. Quark's constant exploitation of Rom has long since been exhausted, and has even longer since not been amusing. I guess the creators finally figured that out and acted on it.
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