Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Profit and Lace” (part 3 of 6)
Ah, nothing like a blissful two minutes of beauty shots of Terek Nor. The opening credits are hands down the highlight of this episode, and that’s an understatement. When we come back from that, we see Quark enter his quarters with Zek and Ishka close behind.
Ishka gives him a backhanded compliment about the size of his quarters, while the Nagus waxes poetic about this being the new headquarters of the “sole legitimate government of Ferenginar”. Well, I think we just found a new playfriend for the old Iraqi Information Minister. The Americans are not on Ferenginar!
Quark still can’t believe Brunt is the new Nagus, leading to another go-round on the “Acting Grand Nagus Brunt” gag, which (minus credits and commercial break) is only thirty seconds since the last time. So this is only the second time they’ve used the joke, and it’s already excruciating. Would you believe there are about five hundred more repetitions to go? No? Well, denial is sometimes a very appealing state of mind.
The Nagus reveals his plan: He’ll invite several Ferengi Commerce Authority “commissioners” to the station for a meeting, and Ishka will run the meeting. Zek eventually pinches off his floater of a plan, which is that Ishka, via her advanced business acumen, will persuade the commissioners that allowing Ferengi women to wear clothes is beneficial to their society.
Ishka assures Zek that he’ll be reinstated as Nagus. He replies, “And who could ask for a happier ending than that?” Really, guys, you don’t want me to answer that question. My idea for how this episode should end involves several medieval torture devices, a keg full of anthrax, and enough flammable materials to blow up the moon.
Quark’s mom calls Zek “lobe-kins”, and predicts a day when a female will enter the Tower of Commerce, climb the stairs to the “Chamber of Opportunity”, and take her place as Grand Nagus herself. Whoa, whoa, slow down there, Hilary.
Oh, and around here is where the credits show the director of the episode. This oughta be good. Turns out it was directed by… Alexander Siddig? The same guy who plays Dr. Bashir? Shouldn’t he have known better, as someone who’s actually been in good episodes? Hell, what am I saying? Anyone with a pulse should have known better.
And also around here, Quark’s mom calls Zek the ruler of “the Ferengi Alliance”, but I’m not sure who they’re “allied” with, as the only characters who identify themselves as “Ferengi” are, well, Ferengi. (The same, incidentally, goes for the “Klingon Empire” and the “Romulan Empire”. Funny how all these “empires” and “alliances” only consist of one race.)
Rom enters with his son Nog and his new wife Leeta. Leeta, a Bajoran, used to be one of the Dabo girls in Quark’s bar. Apparently everyone on DS9 gets a turn with Leeta, because before marrying Rom, she dated Dr. Bashir for a while, until they broke up in the clunker Risa episode “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” (Relax, relax. I’m getting to that one.)
Rom proudly declares to Zek that his son Nog is the first Ferengi to join Starfleet. And Leeta is the first Bajoran to receive boob implants. Okay, he doesn’t say that second thing, but it’s pretty obvious. (Even though Enterprise would later show that Vulcans had implant technology over 200 years prior.)
Zek crassly comes on to Leeta, but Ishka objects to this. Not on the grounds that Leeta is married, of course, or that Zek and Ishka are lovers. No, she’s more concerned with the fact that being Rom’s wife means Leeta is “broke”. Okay, let’s keep heaping on those Ferengi clichés. I think there are still a few parts of my brain that aren’t fully aware of who the Ferengi are and how obsessed they are with profit and finance.
Zek follows this up by leering at Leeta and lecherously saying she “doesn’t look broke” to him. I refuse to analyze that line, because I think everyone involved with this episode and everyone reading this recap knows it makes no sense. So, moving on.
Zek barks out orders to his bodyguard and Quark’s family to get the quarters set up as his headquarters. He yells for his “beetle snuff”, and that’s “snuff” as in smokeless tobacco, not “snuff” as in… well, Snuff. But a Ferengi snuff film isn’t something I would necessarily turn away from. Zek acridly spits out, “Grand Nagus Brunt!” as he pinches off a little snuff and sneezes a big cloud of white powder into the camera.
Next, we find Quark, Rom, and Nog gathered around a cluster of communications panels, contacting the FCA Commissioners and inviting them to Deep Space Nine to meet with Grand Nagus Zek. The three Ferengi eagerly deliver their pitches, only to be met with crude insults and people abruptly ending the transmissions. We don’t actually hear the commissioners, just the three men responding with things like, “That Ferengi happens to be my mother!” and “That’s not a very nice thing to say about the Nagus!” Get it? The Ferengi are just like telemarketers!
Actually, compared to the rest of the episode, this is subtle parody. I’m almost tempted to like this scene, even though it doesn’t really come together and it’s way too underplayed to produce a laugh out loud moment. But it’s about the only trace of actual wit you’ll see in this episode. And at the very least, no one yells, “Acting Grand Nagus Brunt!” anywhere in this scene.
Cut to Quark’s Bar. Zek is outraged that out of 432 commissioners, they could only convince one to attend. He wails that he helped them all earn fortunes, “and this is how they repay me?” But there’s a silver lining on this cloud, because that one commissioner is Nilva, “the chairman of Slug-O-Cola”.
Zek points out that Nilva’s company isn’t much for change, because their slogan has been the same for 300 years. Rom begins to sing, “Drink Slug-O-Cola…” and the rest of the family listlessly chimes in with, “The slimiest cola in the galaxy.” Hmm. I’m not so sure about that. Have they tried RC Cola lately? That stuff will leave you feeling like your teeth are swimming in battery acid.
But Ishka insists that if they can change Nilva’s mind, they’re certain to influence all of the other commissioners. As goes Nilva, so goes the FCA. But unexpectedly arriving to break up their happy party is none other than the smarmy Brunt himself, along with his own silent bodyguard. As far as I can tell, the only reason Brunt came all the way to Deep Space Nine was to gloat. I mean, considering he’s expected to take over an entire planetary government in just a few days, wouldn’t he want to actually be on that planet?
Brunt calls attention to himself, and Rom yells, “Grand Nagus Brunt!” This leads to yet another correction of “Acting Grand Nagus Brunt!” from Zek. You know what? I’m embarrassed for myself that I even have to talk about this lame running gag; Imagine what the people who directed and acted it must have felt like. Brunt smiles, the music rises, and then it’s off to commercial. Man, that was about the lamest fade to commercial in all of Trek history. Screw that, all of television history. Did they really think anyone would make a point of sticking around after that?
Brunt is played by Jeffrey Combs, who’s something of a character actor god to Trekkies. In addition to Brunt, he also had a recurring role on DS9 as Weyoun, the Vorta ambassador. In addition to that, he’s been on several episodes of Enterprise as the Andorian captain Shran. Did you know he also auditioned for the part of Riker on TNG? And did you know that Gene Roddenberry was obviously high that week? (And no, I’m not forgetting his signature role as Dr. Herbert West in Re-Animator. But I am forgetting his roles in the two sequels.)
When we return, Brunt asserts his male dominance by making Quark get him a drink. Zek calls him “Brunt”, but Brunt holds up the ceremonial Nagus staff and reminds them he’s “Grand Nagus Brunt”. Ishka corrects him. I won’t tell you exactly what she says, but it involves the word “acting” and me slitting my wrists.
Brunt is disgusted that Ishka is wearing clothes, but Ishka calls him “limp lodes” and says he’s looking at “the future”. The horrifying, nightmarish, middle-aged-ladies-in-purple-spandex future. Rom chimes in, reminding Brunt of the time he helped Rom and Quark rescue Moogie from the Dominion. That’s an allusion to “The Magnificent Ferengi”, another horrible episode. Maybe next, someone will make an offhand reference to the Gorgan.
Brunt says it’s “ironic” that this rescue led to him becoming Nagus. He’s kind of right. I mean, it’s way more ironic than rain on your wedding day. Zek expositories that after Moogie’s rescue, he helped Brunt get a job with the FCA, and Brunt informs him (and us) that it allowed him to “bribe [his] way” into power. Brunt declares that Zek is now “bankrupt”, and Brunt will “liquidate” him.
Quark’s got his drink order ready, but Brunt says he wants a Slug-O-Cola instead. This, of course, is just a pretext to him blatantly letting them all know that he knows that Chairman Nilva is on his way.
Finally, a pissed off Quark tosses Brunt out of the bar. Brunt replies, “You dare threaten your Nagus?” Quark gives the expected, tired, unbearably overused reply. Don’t make me type it again, I beg you. Quark tells him again to get out, and Brunt says he’ll make Quark a “pauper” and leaves.
Once Brunt is gone, Quark’s family congratulates him. Quark can’t believe he just kicked the Grand Nagus out of his bar, and they all reply in unison [?], “Acting Grand Nagus!” Seriously, I feel like there was some kind of treaty or accord signed in Geneva that dictated to the world that this joke is supposed to be funny. Because if this much repetition is funny, then Dana Carvey should be able to get away with at least twenty more utterances of “Isn’t that special?”