The character of Garak was designed to be a big mystery. He hints at various aspects of his past but will neither confirm nor deny them. It is generally accepted on board the station that he’s probably a Cardassian spy, but there’s no real confirmation for that. He’s as likely to offer contradictory hints as anything else. All we can say for certain so far is he is a patriot to a homeworld that he may or may not be permitted to return to, he is probably more than a simple tailor, he has a number of contacts still within the Cardassian government, and he absolutely despises Gul Dukat.
And, oddly enough, dying will not make him any more willing to tell anyone anything.
Here’s the situation: Garak and Bashir are meeting for their weekly lunch, beginning with a debate over the merits of the greatest novel in Cardassian history. Bashir, having finished it, is a bit underwhelmed. Apparently, it’s seven generations of the same family all agreeing to serve the state…and that’s it. No character development of any kind, just the same plot over and over again. Garak sees that as a plus, a rather depressing idea of what Cardassians honor and respect more than anything else, but Garak also sees that Federation tastes tend to be different.
He also seems to be a bit unwell, but when Bashir suggests taking him to the infirmary for a check-up, Garak uncharacteristically leaves the perplexed doctor behind and goes back to his shop.
As it is, Garak is having a problem of some kind, enough to make him go to Quark for some kind of bootleg device or some kind. Quark has his own contact in Cardassian territory, and that guy flips out when he gets the order because it’s something of a crime to even know the serial number for this thing. Odo, who monitors Quark’s communications all the time, watches secretly with Bashir and that just leads to a greater mystery.
The problem here is Garak doesn’t really want to share too much. Apparently, when he was exiled, he had a device inside of him, a gift from the Cardassian Obsidian Order, the one secret police in the quadrant that might be scarier than the Romulan’s Tal Shiar. Said device was to help a captured agent ignore torture and pain. Garak, uncomfortable in the station given differences in temperature and humidity and the like that he would get back home, essentially switched the thing on and never turned it off. Now it’s worn out and will kill him if he doesn’t get a replacement.
So, you’d think someone in a situation like this might start telling the truth about his background. What makes this episode particularly interesting is the opposite actually happens. He gives out lots of stories about his exile, but most of them revolve around a friend named Elim who either framed Garak for some crimes or who helped Garak free some Bajoran prisoners before the occupation ended (said prisoners were children under interrogation). Either way, something happened that forced Garak to stay behind and for Elim to go…somewhere else. Bashir, ever curious, would like some more answers and might get them from Garak’s old boss in the Obsidian Order, one Enabran Tain, as played by character actor Paul Dooley.
A man who knew Bashir was coming and had his favorite tea set up for him when Bashir arrived…and this guy is retired.
But if there was any thought that Tain would bring some clarity, that won’t be. He does send a new implant for Garak, not to relieve his suffering, but to continue it. Exile is worse than death apparently, a sentiment Garak himself would probably agree with truth be told. Oh, and as for the mysterious Elim…Elim is Garak’s first name.
So, was Garak talking about himself?
Hard to say. Once cured, he says only that he always speaks the truth…except when he’s lying.
Odo probably won’t be closing the books on his unsolved murders at this rate. But if we had all the answers, how much fun could a character like Garak actually be? The mystery is part of the point. He can be anything our imaginations make him out to be, and Garak himself is probably more than fine with that.