Overall Rating: 8.5
The full recap can be found at the DS9 Encyclopedia and Lexicon - Beware of Pop-ups!
One of the things that I always respected about DS9's production team was that they took fan reaction seriously and were self-aware and humble enough to change course if the fans were overwhelmingly displeased by the direction of the plot or the stories they were getting from that plot were weaker than they'd hoped. We at Right Fans were always skeptical of the Odo is Human (!) idea. We thought that a big part of what made Odo's character interesting was his alien-ness (and yet...humanity). Outside perspectives on human culture are a big part of what makes Trek successful and taking that element away from Odo costs you some of that wonder. Odo's personality wasn't changing (which is, I think, a bit unrealistic...if your physical being changes, it should dramatically impact how you react to the world), but he was no longer an outside voice...they tried a few times to write plots and side-plots that forced Odo to begin embracing his humanity, but apart from The Ascent (which was more about his relationship with Quark), they mostly felt flat. So they decided to hit the "UNDO" button in the edit menu.
Fan reaction to this episode has typically been lukewarm. They know they enjoyed watching it, but the critical response follows soon thereafter. The Kira-Shakaar/O'Brien-Keiko birth sequence was definitely cliche...and yet...kind of awesome. Odo's reset button is well earned by the events of the plot, but fans still understandably felt a little cheated. You had us going down one path and then miraculously, we're back to status quo? That kind of thing has me all fired up and angry in response to House canon...but here, rather than undoing a lot of interesting plot and character growth, they were undoing an uninteresting misstep. And they did so in a way that I found very rewarding. In his most human moment...the moment when he demonstrates more capacity for empathy and emotion than he ever has before, even with Kira, Odo regains his alien identity. There's something nifty about that.
Aside from the deeper commentary above, this episode was just...NICE. It sent wonderful messages about the strength of familial love, the need for balance in child rearing, the quality of the souls within the DS9 family...and while undoing a mistake, it moved characters forward, rather than setting them back. Great stuff all around.
It's cliched pablum that works...and it works because Rene Echevarria is a master of characterization and pathos.
Rene Auberjonois puts in a well above par performance, even for him...and Nana Visitor is very cute in this one, as is Colm Meaney. Unfortunately, James Sloyan (Shakaar) is probably amongst the bottom three recurring guest stars the show ever used and comes off as horribly wooden...not believable as a human being.
Odo and Mora learn that neither the stick or the carrot is enough when it comes to child rearing...a balance of discipline and love is required. While discovering that both of their techniques are valid, they discover a new respect for one another and Odo reaches out to his adoptive father in a way that I can't help but love. Echevarria and company "get it" when it comes to family. None of the other Trek production teams ever really got it the same way.