reviews by Donna Munro and Marguerite Krause
Caught in the Crossfire
by Donna Munro
"Crossfire" holds a special place in my heart as the very first episode of DS9 I ever watched. In fact, it is what turned me into an Odo/Kira fan. There are so many special moments in this episode. Now, years later, this episode still moves me.
I still grin when I see Odo eagerly getting ready for Kira. He clearly looks forward to Tuesdays for the simple reason that it is one-on-one time with the woman he loves (even though she has no knowledge of the fact). For her part, Kira seems to enjoy the meetings as well. Odo is somebody quite important to her. It seems all is going well.
Kira had known Shakaar for years without any thought of romance. Shakaar was almost an older brother. There had been no sexual attraction. Nothing about his impending arrival seems threatening to Odo, except the irritation regarding security arrangements.
One almost wonders, in this case, who is truly caught in the crossfire of mutual attraction--Odo or Shakaar? Shakaar arrives on the station and suddenly disrupts the close friendship between Odo and Kira. He has a past with Kira that Odo is unable to compete with, given all that they had gone through together. Odo, however, knows Kira as the woman she is and not the girl that Shakaar still remembers. Kira clearly cares about both of them and it seems, at least initially, that Odo's timid romantic overtures are not unwelcome. Odo is willing to wait for Kira to finish grieving for Bareil. However, Shakaar tells Odo that he intends to confess his own feelings for Kira.
The first scene I ever saw was the scene when Kira asks Odo where his belt is (yes, I tuned in a little late). It's such a minute detail that he clearly doesn't think about, yet it was subtle enough for her to notice its absence. She clearly admired it on Odo, leading the viewer to wonder what else she admired about him that she never commented on. He is surprised by this, as this further supports his hope that perhaps Kira might return his feelings and that if he should share them, he wouldn't be rejected. I still giggle when I see his look of utter surprise when she tells him casually she thought it looked good on him and then supports her statement with a genuine smile.
The Odo/Quark scenes are moving ones. When Quark sees Odo's desperation and realizes what is going on, he tries his best to step in. First, by trying to provide support, then by a more realistic, tough-love approach.
Odo's decision at the end to step aside is noble, and, sadly, the only real choice he had at the time. To reveal his feelings when Kira believed herself in love would hurt her, and damage their friendship. As his counterpart says in "Children of Time," "Your friendship meant everything to me…."
I always cringe on Odo's behalf when he discovers that Kira and Shakaar are a couple; however, he sums it up later by telling Lwaxana that he's "happy for her." When Kira embraces him, you can see the toll such a close physical connection has for him. He's never gotten so close to her, and in the same moment his world is falling apart. He walks away from her and suffers an emotional breakdown, trashing his quarters.
When Odo pulls away from Kira and cancels their Tuesday morning meetings, it is obvious Kira is affected and hurt by this. Visibly, she seems more shaken by this than when she informs Odo and Jadzia the following year that she and Shakaar had broken up. Apparently it was Shakaar who was caught in the O/K crossfire and ended up as, thankfully, a temporary intruder.
The writers did a great job of showing that Odo's feelings for Kira were still present, despite the fact that, after "Crossfire", she was now romantically unavailable. While I was concerned that the Odo/Kira pairing wouldn't happen after this episode, I wasn't surprised that the writers penned a break-up for Kira and Shakaar. The real treat came from "Children of Time" when we got not only news of the break-up, but the declaration that we had longed for. Then, I knew that the storm had been weathered and somehow, some way, Odo would finally get the girl.
Despite the high angst factor for "Crossfire," I still include it as one of my top ten favorite DS9 episodes. René was brilliant. It is helpful to know that, even when Odo walks away from Kira at the end of the episode, he is merely taking an emotional break. He didn't abandon her. The writers brought Odo and Kira together despite the roadblocks along the way. And when they did finally become a couple, they were an amazing couple. They were the most passionate, loving, and mature couple in the Star Trek franchise. That's merely my opinion, and I'm happy to stick to it.
The first time I saw "Crossfire" was when it originally aired in January 1996, during season 4 of Deep Space Nine, and I remember thoroughly enjoying its dramatic power and aura of tragic inevitability.
During the years leading up to "Crossfire," over the course of many episodes, the writers and actors had made it abundantly clear that Odo was in love with Kira but was afraid of admitting his feelings. They also made it clear that Kira valued Odo--she was fond of him, respected him, and considered him a good and trusted friend--but she certainly was not in love with him and, furthermore, had no idea of the depth of his feelings for her.
This was a source of contention among some DS9 fans (to put it mildly). I remember long, passionate arguments among my friends, in person and in online exchanges in places like the AOL message boards, over the question of whether Odo and Kira's relationship would ever evolve past "just friends." There were discussions on the practical aspects, for the writers of a long-running TV show, of allowing two characters to become romantically involved. Some people pointed out that inflicting Odo with unrequited love, secret longings, and other insecurities was far more dramatically interesting than making him part of a happy, contented couple. Others argued that it was a disservice to Kira to have her remain ignorant of Odo's feelings, because no one could be that oblivious.
I enjoyed those discussions, but when it came time to sit down and watch the latest episode every week, my approach was to put aide the fact that it was a TV show, and instead experience the story as if I were observing an incident in the lives of real people. With that perspective, I remember watching "Crossfire" for the first time with rapt attention, and enjoying it (if "enjoy" is the right word!) from beginning to end.
I just watched the episode again a couple of weeks ago, to refresh my memory on the details. I still find it to be marvelous: sweet and heartachingly sad but, in the end (in its own way, to me at least) hopeful.
The opening scene sums up Odo and Kira's friendship as we have come to know it up to this point: Odo eager to please Kira and committed, in his obsessively orderly way, to getting every detail right for their meeting, and Kira, open and relaxed and confident in the presence of her dear friend, happy to be sharing this weekly routine with him. Her casual posture, slouched in her chair with one foot propped against his desk, says more clearly than words how comfortable she is in Odo's presence. Later, I loved the way Kira's behavior with Shakaar echoed her earlier behavior with Odo; her sincere, friendly smile, lack of self-consciousness, and bright-eyed focus on the conversation were the same with both of these trusted companions.
I enjoyed the way Quark, ever observant, was the first to pick up on the shifting relationships among Odo, Kira, and Shakaar. Quark had long been established as always sharply observant of the people around him and an expert at reading people's moods and intentions. Normally, he used this skill to anticipate the desires of his customers and avoid conflict with potential enemies, but it also enabled him to notice the attraction between Kira and Shakaar, and Odo's increasing discomfort as he, too, began to realize what was happening.
I sympathized completely with Odo as his situation went from bad to worse. The way the scenes were written, and the way René played them, made each wrong step and missed opportunity painfully clear …as clear as the fact that Odo had no idea how to alter the course of events swirling around him. He had spent years developing his tough, no-nonsense demeanor: the aloof observer, always sarcastically dismissive of humanoids' messy emotional relationships. Now he was facing the consequences of adopting that particular persona. I especially admired the scene in Shakaar's quarters, when Shakaar asks Odo's advice for how to best reveal his feelings to Kira. During the scene, the camera is focused on Odo, in the foreground, while Shakaar paces behind him. This allows us, the viewers, to clearly see Odo's reactions as Shakaar expresses his doubts--so similar to Odo's!--and reveals his intentions…but it also means that Shakaar, from his vantage point, sees only Odo's back, stiff and increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the conversation has taken. Thanks to what Kira has told him, Shakaar knows Odo only as an officer dedicated to his work, trustworthy and discreet, and so of course Shakaar has no way to guess the true reason for Odo's discomfort. A similar spatial arrangement dominates the moment when Kira tells Odo the happy news that she's entering into a romantic relationship with Shakaar: we get to see Odo's anguish, but Kira doesn't, because Odo has turned his back to her, protecting her from the truth of what her unwittingly cruel words are doing to him.
As much as "Crossfire" made my heart break for Odo, I also couldn't help but feel that he'd brought his misery on himself. He had done too good a job over the years of convincing Kira that he was her friend, that he would always be honest with her and speak his mind, and that there would be no secrets between them. He presented himself to Kira as a stalwart comrade-in-arms, guarding her back, ever ready to support her. To admit that he'd been hiding his feelings from her would have been (and eventually was) admitting that he'd betrayed her trust. Because of how much Kira valued him--loved him, as a friend--she took him at his word that their relationship was what he claimed it to be. And by the end of "Crossfire," thanks in large part to Quark's pragmatic advice, Odo made the choice to give Kira no reason to doubt his continuing loyal support. In that way, the episode ended where it had begun, with a vivid demonstration of the strength of Odo's friendship for Kira.
In my opinion, one of the marks of excellence in writing is that the characters speak and act in ways that are true to their established personalities. As emotionally wrenching as "Crossfire" was, I felt that both Kira and Odo behaved the only way they could behave, given their histories and the events in the story. For me, that makes "Crossfire" a truly excellent episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.