A Simple Investigation (***½)
What is love? Baby, don't hurt me. Don't hurt me, no more.
This episode is probably the best example of why making Odo a Changeling again was premature, because this story would have been better if he had been humanoid. Odo having his first sexual relationship as a solid would have made it more meaningful, and it's probably an experience that he couldn't fully appreciate as a Changeling for various biological reasons. It also makes more sense from a character perspective for him to be exploring new areas of his life as a solid rather than as a Changeling. There would be time for Odo to explore romantic relationships later in the series, but not getting involved in such a situation as a solid leaves me feeling that the writers missed out on something important in their rush to return things to normal.
There are other reasons why I wish Odo had been a humanoid for this episode, because the fact that he is a Changeling caused me to think certain things that I never wanted to think. Odo presumably morphed up a reasonably accurate (if unusually smooth) nude male body. Did he spend hours on the internet researching what naked males look like, or does his knowledge come purely from those sexy crime novels he reads? Odo's clothes are a part of himself, so when Arissa inevitably attempted to lift his shirt off, what exactly happened? Did Odo just morph his clothes off? Odo doesn't have natural saliva, so when Arissa kissed him, did he just have an exceptionally dry mouth, or did he morph up some fake saliva, which then went into her mouth and returned to its gelatinous state? All these thoughts kept distracting me from the story, that wouldn't have happened if Odo was a solid.
As a love story, it's definitely one of the stronger ones Trek has done, the characters and story are more interesting than what we usually get. It would have been nice if the plot had tied into some grander narrative about the Orion Syndicate, but as an organisation they're never been particularly well thought-out, which is unfortunate. There's still the issue of Odo and Arissa falling in love over the course of two or three days, but it's less of a problem than normal. Bit of a dick move at the end to reveal that Arissa is married, it's one of the more tragic reset buttons, but it's still a reset button.
Form of... a sex machine: 30