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René on Television: A Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"A Simple Investigation"


review by Miriam Krause

In the TV show Sports Night (if you haven't seen it yet, you should. Soon.) (Legitimate connection to René: Robert Guillaume, one of the stars of Sports Night, was also the star of Benson), Dana decrees that Casey must date other women for six months before the two of them can be together. Yes, she was clearly insane, but this scheme was completely in character and was played for great comedic and dramatic effect for a good chunk of the show's run. Bear with me here, I'll get to DS9 in a minute.

Around the end of season 1 of Sports Night, Casey and Dana finally realize that they want to be together, so Dana decides they can't be…. Her rationale is that Casey has only ever had one serious relationship, with his wife of 13 years (who by all accounts was not a nice woman). Dana has taken it into her head that Casey must experience dating other women so that when he and Dana finally date, they can be really sure it's the right thing. Or something. Aaron Sorkin wrote the dialogue so that the idea made some sort of twisted sense.

Sure it's crazy. But the important question here is, does Dana have a point? Does past experience (learning from one's mistakes, etc.) make for a better relationship? There's plenty of evidence that this is not necessary. My parents can be Exhibit A (met in high school, married over 30 years, yada yada). Casey and Dana can be Exhibit B, actually: Casey basically decides he has to move on rather than subject himself to the emotional torture of going along with Dana's scheme.

But what about Odo and Kira? (See, I told you I'd get to DS9.) Without "A Simple Investigation," could there have been "His Way"?

I'll refresh your memory. 

Odo and Arissa
  • 1. Odo meets girl (his first line to her: "You're very observant").
  • 2. Girl accepts and appreciates Odo for who he is: she doesn't bat an eye when he talks about shapeshifting.
  • 3. Mutual admiration: Odo admires that Arissa wants to walk away from her life of crime in the Orion Syndicate when he never ditched the Cardassians, and Arissa admires Odo's willingness to make personal sacrifices to help her do the right thing.
  • 4. Odo goes to get advice from Bashir in the back of a holosuite limo: Bashir says, "You didn't come here to talk to me about women…" Er…. 

    Contented Odo
  • 5. Mutual seduction: much subtext given to lines like, "I don't feel much like reading."
  • 6. Bedroom scene! Odo looks absurdly contented.
  • 7. Rescue girl from amusing yet menacing Orion Syndicate thugs.
  • 8. Girl gets her memory chip back: turns out she's a (married) undercover agent, but didn't know it. Odo: "It's not your fault. I fell in love with a woman who never really existed." Arissa (not her real name): "She did exist. She was real. And she loved you. In a way she still does."

So we have the perfect short-term relationship: completely sincere, genuine affection and physical intimacy with the intent to pursue things long-term, followed by a no-fault separation; all in the space of a single episode. Very tidy.

And, I think, arguably crucial to the emotional development that was necessary for Odo if he and Kira were ever going to get together. I think the fling with Arissa introduced Odo to the idea that he could successfully participate in a conventional solid relationship dyad. He had acknowledged for a long time that he loved Kira, but I think it was mostly an aching impossibility in his mind, rather than something that he might make a real part of his life. 

Confident Odo

Could he have discovered this for the first time in a relationship with Kira, with Vic Fontaine's help? Maybe. But I think his experience with Arissa may have given Odo a sense of self-worth, independent of his relationship with Kira, the lack of which could have scuttled the Odo/Kira relationship at any one of several vulnerable points. We saw over and over, in the early seasons of DS9, moments when Odo's insecurities or sense of duty made him back off from revealing his feelings to Kira. Sometimes she was in other relationships and sometimes she wasn't: I think the barriers were far more internal than external. Lwaxanna Troi broke through some of those barriers, by basically forcing an emotionally intimate relationship on Odo and by offering her unconditional affection and vulnerability. And Arissa cut through even more barriers by introducing Odo to the possibility of a reciprocal love. Odo tells Arissa about the analogous-to-sexual intimacy he had shared with another changeling (and the implication was that it had prepared him well for sex with solids). But I think that without the experience of solid-style love that he had in this episode, Odo might never have evolved into the person who could share that kind of love with Kira.

On a side note, I don't want to imply that there was no emotional trauma here. The last few seconds of this episode are absolutely heart-wrenching: Odo doesn't cry, of course, but his face is perfectly anguished as Arissa leaves, and his customarily erect posture as he turns to look out the window is fraught with unspoken emotion. Exquisite.

Screen captures from TrekCore.com

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