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Profit and Lace

Production no.: 547
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Alexander Siddig
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: May 9, 1998
Henry Gibson ...........
Jeffrey Combs .........
Max Grodénchik ......
Aron Eisenberg ........
Cecily Adams ..........
Chase Masterson .....
Tiny Ron .................
Sylvain Cecile ..........
Wallace Shawn ........
Symba Smith ............

Quark, in his bar, is talking to one of his newer Dabo girls, Aluura, who has received glowing reviews from everyone for her efficiency and pleasant attitude. However, Quark thinks she could be nicer...more to the point, nicer to him. He gives her a PADD containing a book entitled Oo-mox For Fun and Profit, which he tells her to read (with a veiled threat of firing her).

At that moment, a panicked Rom races in, telling Quark he can't contact their mother -- or the Tower of Commerce, or in fact anyone at all on Ferenginar. Quark finally goes with him to Ops, where their fears of a Dominion invasion of Ferenginar ("Think of the terrible repercussions to the Alpha Quadrant!" "I cannot think of any," rumbles Worf) are met with skepticism. After all, there are no reports of Dominion activity in that sector. "Moogie, the Nagus, Cousin Gaila -- they're all dead!" wails Rom. Then Dax reports that a Ferengi ship is arriving, with Grand Nagus Zek and Ishka both aboard. Rom perks up. "They're alive! Nice work," he grins at Sisko, impressed.

Quark and Rom meet Zek and their mother at the airlock, along, of course, with Maihar'du. The Nagus isn't carrying his staff, a fact that Quark and Rom don't immediately notice. After greeting her sons, Ishka tells them, "It's one of those good-news, bad-news type of things." The good news, according to Zek, is that three days ago he added a new amendment to the Ferengi Bill of Opportunities, giving females the right to wear clothing. "That can't be the good news," says Quark, horrified. "If Ferengi females can wear clothes in public, then they can leave their homes. If they can leave their homes, they can go to work. If they can go to work, they can make profit." Zek points out that it's good business; females are a valuable resource that has gone to waste for far too long.

"Better tell me the bad news," says Quark grimly. "It might cheer me up." "I doubt it," Ishka replies. Zek explains that the amendment caused financial chaos and a communications blackout on Ferenginar because of all the buying and selling. Quark asks why he's here, in that case. "I've been deposed," Zek tells him. "I'm no longer Grand Nagus." What's worse, the new Grand Nagus -- or rather, acting Grand Nagus -- is none other than Brunt. In three days, the FCA will confirm him in his new position. But Zek isn't beaten. "Boys, together we're going to reconquer an empire. Or die in the attempt!"

Quark is obliged to let them stay in his quarters, which Zek declares "the headquarters of the sole legitimate government of Ferenginar." He has a secret weapon, he says: Ishka. They will contact every FCA commissioner and invite them to the station for a meeting, which Ishka will run. Zek feels that once the commissioners see with their own eyes how capable she is, they'll agree that his amendment was a good thing, and reinstate him. Ishka goes even further, predicting that one day a female will actually become Grand Nagus.

Quark, Rom, and Nog commence calling the FCA commissioners on Zek's behalf. The results are not encouraging: only one of them agrees to come. It's Nilva, chairman of Slug-o-Cola ("Drink Slug-o-Cola, the slimiest cola in the galaxy!"), a very influential voice in the FCA. If they can convince him, the rest might follow.

Their hopeful mood is broken, however, when Grand Nagus ("that's acting Grand Nagus!") Brunt arrives, with his own Hupyrian servant, Uri'Lash. Maliciously, Brunt revels in the ironic fact that it was through helping to rescue Ishka from the Dominion that he regained his job as a liquidator, and was able to bribe his way into a position of power. He also knows all about the upcoming meeting with Nilva, whom, he says, he will offer double whatever Zek offers him. In response, Quark orders him out of the bar; Brunt promises to make him a pauper. "Uri'Lash, we're leaving. Say good-bye to these poor people." The others congratulate Quark, who looks woozy. "I just kicked the Grand Nagus out of my bar...I need to lie down."

Quark is doing just that, brooding on Rom's couch, when Ishka comes in to tell him Zek's waiting for him in the bar; the ex-Nagus wants to play Tongo. Quark begins to pass from depression to anger. "You're not fooling me, Moogie. You've been plotting this all along. Ever since you met Zek, you've been working on him, manipulating him, whispering things in his ears, things like 'equality for females'." He accuses her of ruining all their lives, and the argument escalates from there. "I want my old Nagus back!...I want Zek to be the way he used to be, before he met you. Before you twisted his thinking with your feminine wiles."

"Before he met me, Zek was a lonely, unhappy man," Ishka fires back. "But he was rich!" Quark thunders. "He was the most powerful Ferengi alive. Now what is he? A puppet. And you're the one pulling the strings, making him dance to your evil, feminist tune. You're the worst thing that ever happened to Zek. You're the worst thing that ever happened to me. In fact, you're the worst thing that ever happened to the entire Ferengi Alliance!" "Maybe I am!" Ishka shouts. "But at least I'm not like you!" She goes on shouting, then stops midsentence, as if she can't think of an insult bad enough to hurl at him. After a few moments of Quark egging her on as she struggles with the word, suddenly Ishka falls backward onto the floor.

In the infirmary, Quark defends himself to a seething Zek, lying about how it happened, but neither Zek nor Rom seem convinced. However, when Bashir emerges from surgery, having just given Ishka a new heart, he says she'll recover, but she needs complete rest, and she needs to be kept away from Quark. "All I do know is that she keeps repeating the same phrase over and over: 'It's all Quark's fault. It's all Quark's fault.'" "I wonder what she means by that?" Quark asks innocently.

No one buys it, however, and Quark finally confesses all, in the bar. "Well, if you ask me, Quark, the worst thing that ever happened to the Ferengi Alliance is you," Zek pronounces in disgust. They can't postpone the meeting; Brunt's confirmation is in two days. As if conjured, Brunt appears again to gloat. "Nilva will be arriving tonight, expecting to meet a brilliant Ferengi female. Do you know any? I mean besides Ishka? I certainly don't...You see what happens when you put your faith in a female?" After he leaves, Quark, Rom, and Zek discuss what they can do to salvage the situation. They'll never be able get another Ferengi female here before Nilva arrives. "Your mother would never accept defeat," Zek says. "If she couldn't find another female, she'd -- she'd...She'd make one!" And he doesn't mean a hologram. "What could be better than a hologram?" asks Quark; Zek looks at him. "You."

Thanks to Bashir, Quark is soon surgically altered to look like a female Ferengi -- a rather tall, husky-voiced one who has trouble controlling "her" emotions due to all the unfamiliar hormones in "her" body. (Note: Enough of this; I'll refer to Quark as "he" from now on.) With Zek and Maihar'du looking on, Rom and Leeta reassure Quark about his looks, while Zek gives him Ishka's notes to study before the meeting. Leeta also tells him he needs to practice his walk. "You're lumbering." Rom helpfully demonstrates a feminine walk, which causes everyone else to look at him rather strangely. Quark is increasingly overwhelmed by all the fussing, and Zek doesn't help by putting a hand on his thigh.

To top it off, Nog bursts in with the news that Nilva has arrived on the station, early. Quark panics. "I can't meet Nilva now, I'm still lumbering!" Thinking quickly, Zek tells Nog to escort Nilva to his quarters, and he'll meet the chairman for dinner tonight. "Tell him that Ishka is sick, but that tomorrow he'll be meeting with my other female financial advisor -- " After a moment, he comes up with a name. "Lumba."

When Nog greets Nilva at the airlock, the chairman doesn't want to go to his quarters. He wants to see Zek right away and meet this female advisor of his. Nog can only lead the way, trying and failing to persuade him to go freshen up first. In the corridor, they meet up with Brunt and Uri'Lash. Brunt takes great joy in informing Nilva that Ishka is sick in the infirmary. "Which is why you'll be meeting with another one of Zek's financial advisors," Nog says quickly. "Her name is Lumba." That throws Brunt, who didn't know there were two Ferengi females on the station. Nog leads Nilva away.

The others, meanwhile, are still working on Quark, who has managed to master the walking and sitting. He declares himself to be exhausted, and is about to go to bed when the door chimes; it's Nilva and Nog. Nilva looks Quark over. "A clothed female Ferengi, and with your approval, no less. Either you've been inhaling too much beetle snuff or you're the greatest visionary ever to sit atop the Tower of Commerce." He has to leave in the morning, so he proposes having dinner with "Lumba" tonight. "But Lumba better be all you claim she is, or I'll have to liquidate you myself." Quark has no choice but to accompany him.

They sit at a table in the bar. "Tell me something," Nilva asks, "doesn't wearing all those clothes make you feel like a deviant?" "Not really," Quark replies. "And I'll tell you why. Because under all these clothes, I know I'm totally naked." He is outwardly poised and relaxed as he explains to Nilva how allowing females to wear clothing will be good for the Ferengi economy. After all, with females able to earn latinum, Ferenginar will expand its work force and consumer base at the same time. "There'll be plenty of profit for everyone," Nilva says, getting the point. Quark smiles. "When it comes to profit, I'm your girl." He then goes on to point out a way that Nilva can increase sales of Slug-o-Cola: target the female consumer. Nilva is impressed -- a little too impressed. He suggests having dessert, in his quarters.

Quark's worst fears are confirmed when Nilva gets him alone. The cola chairman's lobes are hot for "Lumba". Soon he is chasing Quark around a table, enflamed with lust. Just as he catches his quarry, Brunt rushes in. "Let go of that man!" He announces to Nilva that "Lumba" is actually a male named Quark. "How pitiful. Zek must be truly desperate."

"I'm as female as they come," Quark declares. "And I'm going to prove it to you." He kisses Nilva soundly on the mouth. Nilva still can't quite decide. So Quark goes for broke. He opens his top, baring himself. Nilva is convinced. "I tell you, that is not a female!" Brunt insists; Nilva replies, "Well, she's close enough for me. Come, my dear, let's go tell Zek that I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure he remains Grand Nagus...Because that's what Lumba wants." Quark blows Brunt a tiny little kiss as Nilva leads him away. Brunt is incredulous. "His name's Quark!"

Sometime later, restored to maleness once again, Quark is sitting at the bar, toying with a ring Nilva gave him, when Odo comes in. "Poor Nilva. He's such a lovely man, but so lonely...There was a sweetness to him. And also a strength. Sometimes he'd get this little glint in his eye..." Odo is a little taken aback by this very different Quark, who is still vulnerable and having a hard time composing himself. Tearfully, Quark asks, "Would you mind giving me a hug?" When Odo nods uncertainly, Quark launches himself at him and bawls on his shoulder, as Odo gingerly pats his back (and Morn looks on quizzically).

Zek arrives with Ishka, Rom, and Maihar'du; Odo practically flees. "We just wanted to say good-bye before we go back to Ferenginar." "Where the rivers run with muck, and the streets are swarming with happy females," Ishka declares. It's only a matter of time now before Zek is reinstated. Ishka forgives Quark. "You may be a lousy son, but you made a wonderful daughter. I hope the experience taught you something." "It made me more compassionate, more empathetic, more nurturing," Quark agrees. "I feel like I'm trapped in my worst nightmare." After the others leave, Rom smiles at Quark. "You are so lucky. No man ever gave me a ring."

Then Aluura reappears with the book, which she has read. However, Quark's attitude has changed. He tells her to forget that trash, and what he said before. He even gives her a raise. Aluura seems disappointed; oo-mox actually sounded like fun to her. When she goes away, Quark has another change of heart. "What am I saying? Aluura, wait!"