When Shakaar, who is now First Minister of Bajor, arrives on the station and begins to court Kira, Odo finds it difficult to concentrate on his job protecting Shakaar.
Plot Summary: Soon after Odo and Kira conclude one of their regular meetings about crime on Deep Space Nine, during which they also share their distractions and senses of humor, Bajoran First Minister Shakaar comes to the station for a conference about whether Bajor is ready for admission to the Federation. Odo discovers that the Cardassian terrorist group The True Way may be planning to assassinate Shakaar and advises postponing the meetings, but Shakaar insists that his work must go forward. While Kira spends time with her former Resistance leader and shows him around the station, Odo increases security and shadows the pair, which earns him Shakaar’s trust and an unexpected confession that Shakaar is in love with Kira but is unsure whether she shares his feelings. Anguished because of his own love for Kira, Odo says that she may not have recovered from Bareil’s death, though he can see that Kira is attracted to Shakaar. Distracted by her attentions to Shakaar, Odo fails to verify a security code on a turbolift that has been rigged to plummet. Though he is able to stop the assassination attempt on Shakaar by shapeshifting to stop the lift’s fall, Sisko is furious that Odo allowed a lapse to put Shakaar at risk. Seeing Odo’s distraction, Quark guesses that Odo is in love with Kira and is jealous of Shakaar. Though Odo decides that he must tell Kira of his feelings, he takes over the watch outside her quarters when he learns that Shakaar is inside. He ends up spending the entire night there waiting for Shakaar to emerge; meanwhile, Worf captures the would-be assassin without any assistance from Odo. Devastated at his personal and professional failures, Odo smashes the furniture in his own quarters, which makes so much noise that Quark comes to check on him, telling Odo that he needs to pull himself together before station security suffers. Odo then tells a surprised Kira that he wishes to end their weekly meetings, which don’t make very good use of his time, and she reluctantly accepts his decision.
Analysis: I have not watched “Crossfire” since it first aired, so I did my best to be fair to it this time around. I mean, I know that Kira and Odo will wind up together, that Shakaar will learn that the Prophets never intended for him to be with her, that Odo will start acting more like a shapeshifter and less like a teenager, that everyone else will grow up too once there’s a war they take seriously rather than Bajoran problems that everyone but Sisko and Worf seems to treat like they’re not that big a deal (including the First Minister and the Bajoran liaison to DS9, in this case). Oops…as you can tell from that aside, two decades have done nothing to make me appreciate “Crossfire” any better. I will readily state certain biases up front – I hate when the writers make Kira superficial and Odo innately rather than performatively human, I hate when Sisko tears someone’s head off for a lapse that should prompt concern instead, I hate when Dax acts like Curzon and is more interested in sex than station business, I hate that Kira must be willfully blind to Odo’s feelings, making her look like an insensitive dolt, for the TV-trope purposes of dragging out a romance over several seasons. It’s possible that I am completely overlooking some innovative aspect of “Crossfire” that should blind me with its brilliance to the horrible characterization and trivializing of the Bajoran arc. Sadly, though, I’m still not noticing whatever that could be – it sure isn’t the excuse to get Shakaar on the station, the conference about Federation membership that we never see, nor to protect Shakaar from a would-be assassin in the thinnest Cardassian subplot ever hatched. No, “Crossfire” exists in its entirety to take Odo’s feelings for Kira and attempt to throw them in the dumpster, and while that gives us an opportunity to see the subtlety and power of Rene Auberjonois’ acting, it is otherwise just plain infuriating.
I try to think about this episode in terms of its long-term effects on Odo, for Kira’s presence and absence in his life is the catalyst for many of the decisions that turn the tide of the Dominion War. It’s therefore not merely a character romance but a huge series subplot – much bigger than Sisko and Yates or Dax and Worf. I suppose it’s possible that the writers hadn’t considered its potential significance when they wrote this trifle, but they’d already demonstrated in “Heart of Stone” that the female Founder believed she could use Odo’s feelings for Kira to manipulate him, so the seeds of major upheaval were already sown. Why now toss her in the direction of a barely-competent Bajoran First Minister who makes me miss Kai Winn, whose biggest asset seems to be the good looks that Dax practically wolf-whistles about? (If a man on DS9 had made such a comment about a female Bajoran leader, even my adored Winn who deserves far more recognition of her hotness than she ever gets from anyone but Dukat, I’d have ranted about how reducing women to their appearance restricts their ability to do their jobs, and given that Shakaar spends the entire episode looking handsome instead of proving that he’s the equal of Winn or Bareil, the same is apparently true of men.) Kira, too, may look fetching in her new catsuit, but she’s the object rather than the subject of this episode, the love interest of two men; her entire job seems to be to serve as liaison for the latest important Bajoran man to visit the station and to socialize with Odo, who after all is right, he doesn’t need her, with Worf he already has more people than station security requires. How is it that after all the years of Shakaar knowing her too well, she never found him attractive till he was as powerful as Bareil? She apparently has eyes for men with power.
Then there’s Odo. He’s at a point where he must be wondering whether the female shapeshifter might be right, whether love for Kira is what’s keeping him anchored to DS9 and humanoids. She makes him wish he was a humanoid even as she reminds him that no matter how hard he tries to look like one, he never will be. What in heck was the business about her wishing he’d “wear” a belt, even though the belt is as much an illusion as the rest of his appearance? Would she ask him to grow other appendages that might please her? It’s a really strange and uncomfortable moment, one that I would think would bother him far more than please him. Yet he acts like a normal guy being told by a girl he’s hot for that she likes his outfit, and then he acts even more like a normal guy who’s been dumped when he realizes that she’s sleeping with Shakaar, trashing his room, breaking his computer. Forgetting that I find this appalling behavior for a security chief – we’ll let it slide since he has so little experience with emotions, he doesn’t even know enough to tell Quark and Dax to respect his boundaries and stay out of his business – this is absurd behavior for a shapeshifter. He makes his fake hair fake messy after his tantrum. It’s like he saw a hologram have a lovesick tantrum and imitated it so he could feel humanoid rather than like he’s expressing his deepest, most painful feelings in a way that’s intrinsic to who he is.
The saddest part is that it’s clear throughout the episode that Kira does love him, just not him and him alone. She trusts him with secrets she doesn’t tell anyone else. Does it matter so much if she wants to have carnal relations with another man, the same way he’s confessed to Garak that he wishes to rejoin the Great Link, something Kira can never experience? It’s like he’s been taught that sex is a symbol of possession, so he now believes that Shakaar possesses her because they’ve had sex, even though as a changeling that’s not how Odo mates or makes love. He seemed to resent Bareil mostly because he took Kira away from him, a drain on their time together, a symbol of the fact that she might eventually go back to Bajor, and I’d expect him to have the same issues with Shakaar. But Kira isn’t going to Bajor, she has no intention of leaving the station, she’s willing to share every aspect of her life with Odo apart from a bed he’d never actually sleep in. Admittedly Odo’s distraught, so maybe Quark is making more sense to him than the Ferengi should (especially since Odo knows how Quark treats women), but how did he come to the conclusion that he’d be happier isolating himself, throwing Kira out, breaking off their friendship, than sharing her company on the rare occasions that she can see Shakaar? It’s obvious that we’re seeing the series writers’ ideas about how a man should act in such a situation rather than a projection of how an alien whose anatomy and psychology are radically different than that of humanoids might behave. We still don’t even know whether the Founders are monogamous, and my take on the Great Link is that, however they reproduce, their definitions of intimacy are not limited to sharing themselves with single individuals. It’s just so hard for me to believe that these petty, limited characters will become the pair that shares corporeal love so magnificently in “Chimera” and ends up living the adage about how if you love something, you must set it free.