I personally have an unholy fondness for any episode (of any series) that features rivals/friends bickering like schoolchildren because that's the only alternative to admitting their TRU LUB.
Memory Alpha has a summary here.
As I implied in my opening comment, this episode features a lot of arguing. Even in the B plot (which is cute on its own), Jake and Nog discover they have compatibility issues when it comes to living together, and their fathers have to intervene to restore harmony. You might say that "learning to deal with interpersonal conflict" is an overall theme of the episode, and in a way, you would be right. It is this focus on well-written relationships that makes The Ascent a typical "good/entertaining" outing for DS9. Yes, the A plot is built on a cliche, but once again, the cliche works here because of the characters. By this point in the series, the rivalry between Odo and Quark has taken on a many-layered complexity that makes their struggle for survival here genuinely interesting (and often amusing) to watch.
Though The Ascent is largely filler material, the writers still manage to offer the viewer some important insights. For instance, this episode once again emphasizes that despite all his protestations to the contrary, Quark is actually a decent guy -- too decent to be admitted into Trek's mob equivalent, and too decent to leave Odo behind until he absolutely must. Even more importantly, though, this episode underlines the strength of the bond between Quark and Odo. Yes, I know -- they do come to blows, but as reviewer Jamahl Epsicokhan once observed, this is the kind of friendship that requires a decoder ring. For Quark and Odo, acerbic banter is a stand-in for traditional friendly conversation. They may scream at and tussle with each other while addled by hypothermia, but it is their shared chuckling at the end that tells the real story. Those two just can't live without each other; Odo would be bored silly if Quark really were shipped off to a penal colony, and Quark would almost certainly get complacent if he didn't have Odo dogging his every move.
Here, strong characterization uplifts a pretty standard plot.
Apparently, the crew filmed the mountain shots on a nice, warm day, but thanks to the featured actors' solid performances, you certainly can't tell.
A good story about an unusual friendship will always deserve a strong rating in my book.
QUARK: You know, Odo, I used to think all your problems stemmed from the fact that you were a changeling, isolated from your own kind, forced to live among strangers who didn't understand you. You couldn't eat, you couldn't drink, you couldn't sleep, you couldn't make love. Was it any wonder you had such a bad disposition? But you're not a changeling anymore. You're one of us. Life is yours for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and grab it. But do you? No. Because solid or changeling, you're still a miserable, self-hating misanthrope. That's who you are, and that's who you'll always be.
ODO: I'm still not playing cards with you.
QUARK: Fine. Then we'll just sit here for a week in silence. (A beat.) What are you reading?
ODO: Nothing that would interest you.
QUARK: Don't be so sure.
(Quark grabs the PADD.)
ODO: Quark, give me that.
QUARK: What are you going to do, arrest me? (He starts to read.) 'He walked toward her, the wooden deck heaving to and fro beneath his booted feet. Her hands moved to the brooch at her throat. She unclasped it and the cloak fell from her shoulders, her wet skin glistening in the moonlight. Lightning flashed and heaven's thunder roared in rhythm with the beating of their hearts.'
ODO: All right, enough.
QUARK: Odo, I take it all back. You're obviously a lot more complicated than I thought. If you like that kind of thing, I might be interested in selling you my first edition of Vulcan Love Slave.
ODO: This is work, not recreation. Books like this give me insight into the criminal mind. It is a well known fact that a high percentage of homicides are motivated by romantic obsession.
QUARK: Well, no one gets killed in Vulcan Love Slave, but it's still a hell of a read. (Yeah, I bet!)
QUARK: You're doing it again.
ODO: Doing what?
QUARK: Smacking your lips.
ODO: No, I'm not.
QUARK: There. Don't you hear that?
ODO: The only thing I've heard for the last four days is you complaining.
QUARK: This whole runabout is alive with annoying little noises. Listen.
ODO: To what?
QUARK: That buzzing noise.
ODO: I don't hear a thing.
QUARK: It started over an hour ago.
ODO: If you don't like the noises in here, why don't you go into the back?
QUARK: Because it's even colder back there than it is up here.
(Quark starts fiddling with the controls.)
ODO: Quark, leave the temperature controls alone.
QUARK: I will when I get it right. There it is again.
QUARK: That buzzing noise. Don't you hear it?
ODO: With all this lip-smacking, how could I hear anything?
QUARK: Where is it coming from?
ODO: Inside your head. (LOL! Oddly enough, with my acousticophobia, I kind of relate to Quark here.)
JAKE: What's this?
NOG: 'Past Prologue.'
JAKE: What's it doing here?
NOG: I found it while I was cleaning up. Really, Jake, is it that hard to keep this place clean?
JAKE: You read my story? What did you think?
NOG: Disposal is spelled with an i.
JAKE: That's it? That's all you have to say?
NOG: I didn't really read it for content. I mostly corrected your spelling and grammar.
JAKE: You changed my words?
NOG: Just a few. A preposition here, some punctuation there.
JAKE: You can't change a writer's words without his permission. That's sacrilege! (Heh. I think that's overstating it just a little.)
ODO: By the time the Grand Jury gets through with you, you'll be counting years instead of steps.
QUARK: You know what's going to make all this worthwhile? The look on your face when they let me go.
ODO: Let you go? I don't think so.
QUARK: And you call yourself a detective. The Orion Syndicate tried to kill me. They never kill their own. They don't need to. Any one of them would take their own life before they'd testify against the Syndicate. Don't you get it? I'm not a suspect. I'm a witness. Now you made me lose count.
ODO: Ten thousand seven hundred and eighty five.
QUARK: Thank you.
ODO: Now let me get this straight. You were never a member of the Orion Syndicate?
QUARK: I hate to disappoint you.
ODO: But you must have tried to join?
QUARK: I don't want to talk about it.
ODO: (stopping) Now, if I remember correctly, the Orion Syndicate has a membership fee. Quite a substantial one. And the Ferengi Commerce Authority did seize all your assets. Oh, but it's even worse than that, isn't it? You never could afford to join, could you? All those years of scheming and lying and cheating and you're still too small-time for the Orions. Well, I guess you're not as successful a businessman as you think you are.
QUARK: Which means you've spent the last ten years of your life trying to catch a nobody. With little success, I might add. So you tell me, which one of us is the bigger failure? (Ouch.)
QUARK: I hate this transmitter, and I hate this mountain, and most of all, I hate the Orion Syndicate for stranding us here.
ODO: I think we both know who's really to blame.
QUARK: Don't try and blame this on me, Constable. It was your job to get me to Inferna Prime safely.
ODO: You never told me the Orion Syndicate was after you.
QUARK: You never asked.
ODO: If I had, would you have told me the truth? Or would you have lied like you lie about everything?
QUARK: Have I ever told you how much I hate that smug, superior attitude of yours?
ODO: Have I ever told you how much I hate your endless whining, your pathetic greed, and your idiotic little schemes?
QUARK: Well, I hate --
ODO: What do you hate?
ODO: Well, that's fine with me because I hate you too. (I love these two. I really do.)
ODO: Quark, there's no way you're going to be able to drag me up that mountain.
QUARK: Just watch me.
ODO: Stop trying to be a hero. You'll get to the top faster if you leave me behind.
QUARK: Don't you get it? I'm not trying to rescue you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm going to eat you.
ODO: You're joking.
QUARK: Waste not, want not. (ROTFL!)
QUARK: Odo? Odo? Are you awake?
ODO: I am now.
QUARK: We survived.
ODO: We did.
QUARK: I bet you were surprised I actually made it all the way to the top.
QUARK: You remember back there when I told you I hated you, and you told me you hated me?
QUARK: I just wanted you to know -- I meant every word of it.
ODO: So did I. (And they both start to chuckle. Awww. Isn't that sweet?)