TheGodBen got it spot on. While I don't look forward to watching Shadowplay
when I do watch it, it is all so pleasant and I never get that 'meh' feeling. The good thing about this is how that alien girl was not annoying (you know how it is with Trek and children, big palm to the face) and developed Odo's character in those subtle ways which die-hard DS9ers like ourselves love.
I thought the Kira and Bareil plot was fun to watch, and I like a bit of smooching... I also thought it was more fun to watch than Jake's plot (even if that was far more thought-provoking)
In terms of this episode this is a smart move by Jake not having an interest in Starfleet. It feels more real, more human, and it was a bold move, even if it meant Jake's important plummeted like ENT's ratings... Jake only becomes useless as a character from season 6, but we can thank this episode for it.
Conversely though, if Jake had gone to Starfleet Academy he would have left sometime in season 3 or 4. Which would mean we would see very little of him, or he and Nog would go together to the Acedemy. But would both eventually be posted at DS9? Now there's a question for you all...
Thank the Prophets Jake got cold feet about joining Starfleet, otherwise we would have seen less of him, and it would have screwed up Nog's character, and tainted numerous good episodes like Empok Nor
, In The Cards
, Rocks and Shoals
and so forth...