On the day of the re-watch, the blogger shall post for his readers as the troth to the cattle, and they shall consume well and again till he brings them to factoids, and then depart them with his squib and be gone.
A wagon-boat is fording a river as bandits surround it. The bandit leader demands all the goods on the thing, and then also demands some “one-on-one time with the missus.” The wagon driver lifts up his head and it turns out to be Jayne.
JAYNE: Oh, I think you might want to reconsider that last part. See, I married me a powerfully ugly creature.
MAL: (dressed as Jayne’s wife) How can you say that? How can you shame me in front of new people?
JAYNE: If I could make you prettier, I would.
MAL: You are not the man I met a year ago.
They quick draw their guns on the bandits. Mal offers the bandits an ultimatum that they don’t take, so Zoe appears out of the back and blasts one of them. A firefight ensues, and the crew comes out on top.
That night, the township that Mal helped throws a rustic party in their honor, complete with bonfires and ho-down. Mal and Inara walk amongst the locals, and Mal promises the next place they stop will be nicer. Meanwhile, a drunk Jayne is given a bead-filled log that sounds like rain by a village elder. Jayne is deeply moved by the gift. Off to the side, Book gives the bodies of the bandits some last rites while he notices a cute, younger woman putting a wreath on Mal’s head then giving him something to drink in a bowl. Wash and Zoe relax and watch on too, and Mal and Jayne are dragged into the dance.
The next day as the crew gets ready to go, Mal dismisses the elder’s concern that they had so little to pay with. Zoe tells Mal an alliance patrol boat is coming their way, and Mal shuffles the elder off, but rather politely, even promising to come back someday. Serenity takes off, and Mal goes about packing things away when he finds the girl he danced with last night in the cargo bay. He asks who she is and what’s she’s doing there, and she says that she is his wife.
Mal is dumbfounded, and the woman explains that she was given to him in lieu of payment. Jayne and Zoe walk in, and Jayne’s reaction is that he feels stiffed for having only gotten the stick. Mal protests that he isn’t really married and asks Zoe to call Wash down. Zoe instead makes a ship-wide call for all personnel to report to the cargo bay to “congratulate” Mal on his day of bliss. Mal continues his protests, but they fall on deaf ears as the crew shows up and Zoe introduces Mrs. Reynolds. Oddly, Kaylee is excited. Mal’s protests finally get to the girl, and she starts sobbing. He tries to get the ship to turn around, but Wash says they can’t as one of the bandits had family ties and there is a bulletin out over his murder. Mal instead tries to explain to the girl (after Inara berates him for being insensitive) that they aren’t married. Book, though, disagrees after looking up the marriage rites of the planet they were just on. Turns out, by her traditions, they are married. Mal asks after divorce, and she bolts. He starts to go after her, but Zoe holds him up.
ZOE: I really don’t think you’re the one to talk to her, sir.
MAL: The way I see it, me and her got one thing in common. We’re the only ones who don’t think this is funny.
Inara looks perturbed as Mal leaves after the girl, and his search finally ends in the engine room. He actually has a rather rational discussion with the girl, explaining his reaction as coming from the shock of having no clue of what was going on. She asks if he is going to kill her because he is displeased and she heard husbands do that, and Mal gets upset over the idea and actually chews her out for thinking that kind of thing is OK. He even encourages her to have a spine and stand up for herself. He then tells her that when they get to the Beaumond in five days, she should be able to get off and find decent work in a factory or on a farm. She says that she’d still be a good wife, and Mal refuses the idea, claiming he’d make a terrible husband. She gets all excited at the idea of spending five days with him, at least, even if not as newlyweds, and Mal asks her if she’s hungry. She decides instead to cook him something to eat, and before he can protest too much, she gets all cheery bubbly and introduces herself as Saffron, so he relents.
Book arrives from below, looks after Saffron as she heads into the galley then looks back at Mal. Book informs Mal that divorce is rare and would be complicated, but he will send a wave to her pastor and see what they can do. Book then shows some concern over how eager she is to please Mal and warns him.
BOOK: If you take sexual advantage of her, you are going to burn in a very special level of Hell, a level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.
MAL: Wha—? I am not— Preacher, you got a smutty mind.
BOOK: Perhaps I spoke out of turn.
MAL: Per-maybe-haps I’m thinking.
BOOK: I apologize. I’ll make her up a room in the passenger dorm.
(Book leaves, then pokes his head back around the bulkhead.)
BOOK: The Special Hell.
In the galley, Mal sits down to a rather tasty meal Saffron made for him, and Wash asks if there is any more. Saffron apologizes for not making more, but tells Zoe the galley is ready if she wants to makes her husband something, which of course puts Zoe’s back up. She accuses Mal of taking advantage of Saffron’s eagerness to please him, but Wash continues to obsess over the food. Mal tries to defend himself but makes no headway, so he instead excuses himself from the table, saying he’d already eaten, and Saffron offers to wash his feet. He only stares at her before walking off, and then Wash bogarts the plate of food.
Inara is in her shuttle, looking for clients on Beaumond, and Mal appears and asks if he can come in. When Inara says no, he barges in anyway, saying that is why he doesn’t usually ask. Inara is obviously cross at him being there, even when he says he just needs a place to hide. He tries to talk to her about Saffron, but Inara is completely aggressive to him, seeing the whole “degrading” situation as Mal’s fault somehow. After a few exchanges, she kicks him out. Out on the catwalk, he finds Jayne with a very large gun.
JAYNE: Do I have your attention.
MAL: Kind of going to extremes here, ain’t we?
JAYNE: There’s times I think you don’t take me seriously. I think that oughta change.
MAL: Do you think it’s likely to?
JAYNE: You got something you don’t deserve.
MAL: And it’s brought me a galaxy of fun, I’m here to tell ya.
JAYNE: Six men came to kill me one time, and the best of them carried this. It’s a Callahan full-bore auto lock. Customized trigger, Double cartridge thorough gauge. It is my very favorite gun. (holds it out to Mal)
Mal realizes Jayne is trying to trade with him and chews him out for thinking of Saffron that way. He leaves and goes down into the cargo bay, where Saffron sneaks up on him. She thanks him for not giving her to Jayne, then says she’d rather work on a ranch on Beaumond if she can’t be Mal’s wife. Mal starts talking to her about his youth growing up on a farm then catches himself, as he makes it a point to not talk about his past. Saffron shows some concern that he doesn’t feel like he can talk about his past, and he then turns it around and asks about her past. She demurs, saying her life is dull and boring, but Mal insists. Serenity passes by a shattered asteroid, and a camera snaps a picture of it. On a space station somewhere, some seedy men look at the ship, and the boss admires the firefly. He tells his underling that if it comes their way, they will prep the nets and take it.
Zoe and Wash argue over Saffron on the bridge, Zoe saying she’s crazy and Wash trying to defend her because of her upbringing. Zoe thinks Wash is just defending Saffron cause she’s hot and helpless and activates the basic White Knight reflex men are prone to have, and even blames Wash for the situation. Wash gets upset, and Zoe goes to bed alone.
Mal goes to his room, where he finds a very unclothed Saffron in his cot. She says that she has made the bed warm for him and herself ready for him. Mal tries to put her off, saying it is a question of what is morally right, and Saffron quotes “her bible.”
SAFFRON: On the night of their betrothal, the wife shall open to the man as the furrow to the plow, and he shall work in her in and again till she bring him to his full, and rest him then upon the sweat of her breast.
MAL: Whoa. Good Bible.
Saffron continues to try and convince Mal that he should bed her, and he continues to try and refuse. She uses his own argument for her to be bold, and as she moves up to him, he admits that he is going to the Special Hell. She kisses him, and he quickly realizes something is wrong as he faints.
Saffron, now clothed, walks up to the bridge and talks to Wash. She tries to seduce him, but he resists, so she just beats the ever loving crap out of him with a single kick. She then sabotages the ship and runs for the cargo bay.
There, she bumps into Inara, who she tries to somewhat seduce as well. Inara, though, sees through the façade and they have it out. Inara, amazingly, knows how to at least block and dodge Saffron’s attack. Saffron, though, gets into the spare shuttle and makes good her escape.
Inara rushes up to the crew quarters, sees Zoe worrying over Wash, Jayne trying to force his way onto the bridge (which has been flash-welded shut), and Kaylee confused. She slides down into Mal’s cabin, where she finds him laying on the floor and fears he is dead. When she sees that he is breathing, she kisses him in relief, calls for the doctor and then realizes how he was drugged as she succumbs to it too.
Mal wakes up with everyone hovering over him and is brought up to speed on what has happened. When Simon explains about “The Good-Night Kiss”, the drug Saffron used, Zoe and Book get on Mal’s case about the kissing. Inara, who is laying groggily on Mal’s bed, insists that she fell after calling for the doctor and hit her head.
The ship’s status is bad. Kaylee and Jayne are working on getting access back to the bridge, and their course has been changed. Jayne welds his way into the bridge, and then Wash and Kaylee admiringly examine just how well Saffron screwed the ship’s controls up. The crew quickly realizes just how much Saffron was lying about her naivety and Inara even shares about how Saffron is well-schooled, although she continues to insist on her story of hitting her head. But, according to Inara, Saffron had to have been in the Companion Academy. The crew bickers a bit more about Mal having kissed Saffron, and Wash finally kicks everyone but Kaylee off the bridge.
On the space station, the seedy men see Serenity heading their way and “get ready.” We find out that Saffron was indeed working with them.
Back on the ship, Wash and Kaylee get the ship partially back under control, but not navigation. They quickly see that they are headed towards a giant electromagnetic mess, “a net”. Book explains how the net is a chop-shop, and that getting caught in it is a deathtrap. Mal quickly thinks up a plan and orders Zoe to prep the spacesuits and Jayne to go fetch Vera.
They dress the gun up in a spacesuit, and Mal instructs Jayne to shoot for the breakers on the net. They get into the airlock and open the hatch, and Jayne succeeds in shorting the net out in a single shot, in addition to using several follow-up shots before Vera’s oxygen is completely gone in the suit to blow a window out too, killing the station’s crew. After they are past the danger, Wash and Kaylee manage to get the ship steerable, and they turn around.
On a planet where it is snowing on a cabin, Saffron is sitting alone when Mal busts in and pulls a gun on her. They fight, and Mal comes out on top in more than one way. Instead of killing her, though, he questions her about why she did it. She more or less hints that it was strictly for the thrill. She asks how he found her, and he says it wasn’t hard, being as there were only so many places that shuttle would reach. He quizzes her again about the games she played, and she claims that is all anyone ever does: play games. He points out that she is better at the game, but he still has the gun to her head, and that was because he has a crew that is loyal and trusts each other. She begs him to kill her, but he doesn’t and lets her up.
She then complements him for not just melting and instead trying to teach her to have a spine. He says he has one more question for her that he wants to know straight up, then asks what her real name is. She pauses in confusion, and he punches her out, saying she’d only have lied anyway.
Back in Inara’s shuttle, Mal visits Inara and complements her out of the blue. He then accuses her of not having just tripped. She admits that she did not, thinking she is about to have to admit she kissed Mal, but he laughs before she can, says he knew that she kissed Saffron too, and leaves whistling.
Yay, another episode about Mal and Inara? Well, sort of. Mal and Inara’s uneasy relationship is a centerpiece, but it is also nicely contrasted with Zoe and Wash’s. Where Inara is actually very unforgiving and not understanding of Mal’s position, Zoe and Wash at least can get their argument out in the air.
Now, before I go an iota further, I want to say that there is something about this episode that bugs me, and it is the “idiot ball” the entire crew is carrying around for Mal. I can understand Book a bit—he hasn’t known Mal as long—but Zoe, Wash, and Inara all are instantly damning in what is obvious to even a casual observer something that isn’t Mal’s fault and that he wants no part of. There, it’s out of my system.
This episode addresses several heavy topics in subtle ways. The first is the concept of respecting other cultures, even when at first glance you think everything they do is stupid. Now granted, that required for us the audience to pretty well universally think Saffron comes from a stupid culture, so it might seem broken, but notice how, despite Mal trying to “civilize” Saffron, he still at least has some understanding to her issues.
Conversely, Zoe and Wash show the other side of this, with Wash actually trying to defend Saffron’s position because of her sheltered life, and Zoe not blinding herself to the potential trouble Saffron is bringing to the ship.
I am also somewhat annoyed at the “feminist” theme. Not that I don’t like feminism, I just don’t think this episode did it justice. It made for good watching and decent humor, but the more I think on it, the more it kind of annoys me that “making a person dinner” was so negatively slammed on. Last I checked, real feminism is about the right to choose. If a woman wants to be a housewife, she can, so long as she freely made the choice and doesn’t feel forced there. It is just as anti-feminist to force a woman to go out and work when she’d rather be a housewife as the opposite. Now granted, Saffron is showing the “forced into housewife” role, but it is contrasted to Zoe, the action woman who is more likely to expect her husband to make her dinner than make it for him. Which, of course, there is nothing wrong with Zoe the Action Woman being an action woman because that is her choice. GAH! Crazy net of political correctness and headaches and sandwiches! I guess it was just a hard subject to try and address in the same hour as other stuff too.
Which brings me to the other big thing I keyed on this episode, and that was the harping about White Knighting. When Wash is trying to defend Saffron, Zoe blithely comments about how of course a man would rush to defend her. Mal is instantly demonized because, I think, the crew is more likely expecting him to soften up and take advantage of Saffron in a “White Knight” capacity instead of a lecherous one. Oh, and then there is Saffron herself, who engineers her very personality to scream out “protect and comfort me!”
I have to wonder how this theme would play out to a group of strong matriarchs who don’t expect that from their men. Our “gentleman’s” society sees and sympathizes with Mal and Wash, both of whom are doing exactly what society says they should: which is trying to reach out and understand what is different and comfort a woman in need. And I do mean to say woman, not just person. Our society does not encourage men to comfort other men nearly as much as we are expected to offer succor across the sexes, with more an expectation of it on men to women.
So yeah, a matriarchal society would probably see this episode as all backwards, and egalitarians would not even understand it. But, I guess that is something about telling a story: you can’t ever make one without including your own biases on at least a fundamental level. So, what do you think? Is White Knighting more likely to lead to trouble, or should it still be called “being a gentleman” and encouraged?
Oh, and I noted several times about Kaylee’s reactions above because they kind of confuse me. Kaylee doesn’t take me as the kind of person to go whole-hog on a mean joke like this, especially when there is someone that is likely not finding it funny nearby. After all, Kaylee is supposed to be a moral compass, so are we supposed to be getting from this that it is OK to ignore the feelings of someone in a frightening situation if it lets you make fun of your boss? Or, perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps Kaylee, on some level, knew that Saffron wasn’t really frightened, so she never actually felt like she was being mean by what she was doing. Or, on the third hand (yes, we are in the Hitchhiker’s Guide now), her enthusiasm might have been genuine as a means to try and make Saffron not feel so ostracized. Thoughts?
A few other things, River was there for a second. Simon had about half again as much screen time (and at least a few lines), and Book’s mysteriousness is lampshade hung. In particular, not only does he know about the “net” and the chop shop, Mal actually looks to him first after seeing the net, knowing that Book is more likely to recognize it than anyone else. Jayne’s little line about how Book needs to tell them one day how he knows what he knows is the said hanging of shade for lamps.
I also enjoy the clever introduction of Chekhov’s Gun. Jayne offering Vera for the barter was good on it’s own for Jayne’s character, but then letting him use it, that was nice. Oh, and speaking of character, I am curious, how many people think that Mal only took the opening job out of desperation, and how many think he was honestly just being a big damn hero and helping out some poor people? Personally, I’m going for both.
Originally Aired: 4 October 2002
Original Position: Episode 3
Richard’s Favorite Line:
WASH: I wish I was somebody else right now. Somebody not married, not madly in love with a beautiful woman who can kill me with her pinky.
Fun Goofs: Vera’s type of bullet actually doesn’t need oxygen to fire. The producers were unsure, though, so they called in a supposed expert who lied like Saffron. Well, at least gave them the wrong answer.
Well, that’s it. I told you I’d manage to get this up on time, although I admit it was a close thing, what with the JordanCon this past weekend. Luckily, I am pretty anchored at home for the next good long while, so I will not be having to stay up super late on a “school night” to get these in. See you next week for the song of a man named Jayne (Jaynestown, that is).
Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, and very happy he is not going to the Special Hell. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short stories on http://RichardFife.com.