Firefly Rewatch

Firefly Re-watch: “Jaynestown”

It’s him! The hero of Canton! Jayne Cobb himself. Maybe he will regale us with stories of his past exploits! I hope he sings. Just be warned, he likes to talk about everything that’s been done, so if you sit and listen and haven’t seen the spectacles first hand, you might get a fair mite spoiled for ya.

Episode Summary:

Kaylee and Simon are talking in the passenger area, where Simon professes that he swears, just like anybody else, and Kaylee doubts him. Inara walks past, and Kaylee asks her if she is off to an appointment, which she confirms, and Kaylee wishes her well with a “Have good sex!” Simon looks at Kaylee in mild disbelief, but before anything more can be said, he sees Jayne rummaging around the sickbay. When questioned, Jayne says that he had to find tape, apparently so that he could secure a handgun to his stomach. Simon flusters, saying that Jayne is “like a trained ape, without the training.” Mal then steps in and says the town they are setting down in, Canton, doesn’t allow guns and firmly tells Jayne that he won’t be bringing one in no matter what. Mal especially doesn’t care that Jayne likely has enemies in the town after some stunt he pulled a few years back. Let down, Jayne rips the tape off.

Inara leaves as soon as the ship is in the atmosphere and Serenity sets down outside of the mud-mines of Canton. The crew, Simon included, disembarks, and Mal explains that this is a simple pick-up-and-go job from a man named Kessler. Zoe is left to hold down the ship. Kaylee then advocates that Simon come with them into town and Book offers to stay behind with River. Mal takes to the idea, deciding that Simon would do well to pose as a buyer of the mud. He starts to describe Simon, from his clothes to his soft hands to his pasty complexion. Jayne, who is wearing as conspicuous of a disguising outfit as possible, is rather irate over this, but Simon gives in.

 

SIMON: Fine, I’ll go. Just stop describing me.
MAL: You’re the boss, boss.

In the outskirts of the town they meet a foreman and Simon does a very poor job of sounding like he has any clue of what he is talking about. The foreman ignores this, though, and goes on about how most of Canton’s workers are indentured and paid very little. This is apparently a selling point as the savings are passed on to the buyer. Mal watches Simon flounder for a few moments then rescues him, giving the foreman a reason to leave and explaining that they are just going to have a look around. The crew heads into town and Mal and Wash heckle Jayne over his getup, saying that no one is likely to remember him. As if to prove them wrong, they find a statue of Jayne, looking like a big damn hero. To prove his earlier point, Simon says “son of a bitch.”

Jayne professes to have no clue why there is a statue of him. Mal doesn’t believe him, and Simon is simply dumbstruck as he looks at it. Jayne explains that he was on the planet a few years back and stole a lot of money from the magistrate. Surely they don’t make statues of people for doing that! They admire the statue a few moments more:

WASH: I think they captured him though. Captured his essence.
KAYLEE: Looks sorta angry, don’t he?
WASH: Kinda what I meant.

The crew continues to be fixated on the statue and Jayne tries desperately to impress upon them that the magistrate would be rather unfriendly if he found out Jayne was planet-side.

Meanwhile, Inara arrives at Magistrate Higgins’ house. The magistrate is a right pompous ass, but shows some manners in his small talk. Inara is all business, if coy about it, and suggests they “start” at 7:30.

Back on the ship, Book is watching after River.

BOOK: What are we up to, sweetheart?
RIVER: Fixing your bible.
BOOK: I, um— What?
RIVER: Your Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false logistics— Doesn’t make sense.
BOOK: No, no. You can’t—
River: So we’ll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God’s creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels are already there.
BOOK picks up ripped out pages.
RIVER: Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven, eleven times but always comes out one. Noah’s ark is a problem.
BOOK: Really?
RIVER: We’ll have to call it “early quantum state phenomenon.” Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat.
BOOK: (grabbing the Bible as River rips out a page): Give me that.

 

They fight over the Bible a little, and Book talks about faith and belief, asserting that “You don’t fix faith, River. It fixes you.”

The crew on the planet sits in a bar, and while Jayne protests his statue some more, Wash is taken by surprise by the local drink, “mudder’s milk”, which from the sounds of it makes a Hefenweisen mixed with Guinness sound appetizing and light. Simon makes a comment that it is similar to what the ancient Egyptians gave their slaves. Kaylee tries to praise the knowledge, but comes off rather weakly. Just then, a rather well-dressed man walks into the bar, and Mal takes note of him. Jayne takes the pause to notice a waif is staring at him and he snaps at the boy to “git”.

The fancy gentleman walks to the crew’s table and reveals that Kessler is dead now, but the job can still work. All they have to do is somehow get the goods across town unnoticed from Kessler’s old stash-hole. The fancy gentlemen gives an on-queue “let’s all just lay low for a moment,” and the Ballad of Jayne Cobb starts up. As he listens to it, Jayne realizes what must have happened. He explains how he had to ditch the money to escape and figures that it must have fell right into the mudder town. The mudders, not knowing any better, set Jayne up as a local Robin Hood.

Back on the ship, River attempts to apologize to Book, but she does so when he is washing his rather long, afro-like hair. The change freaks her out and she turns tail, screaming.

Back in the bar, Jayne tries to leave, only to find that the waif he sent running has told the entire town that he is here. Said town is now outside the bar, cheering for him. Jayne runs back inside, where he is recognized, and instantly treated to the best whiskey in the house, causing Jayne to think that being a hero might not be bad as he was thinking. The gentleman gets testy with Mal, but Mal disarms him, saying that it is part of the plan. He then admits to Kaylee that he is still working on it.

Inara, meanwhile, prepares for her service, which apparently is with Fess, the magistrate’s son. Inara starts to kick the magistrate out. He reveals, through complaining, that his twenty-six year old son is still a virgin and that Inara’s job is simply to change that. Inara then deftly kicks him out.

Jayne is fully in the swing of enjoying the mudders’ attention. Meanwhile, Kaylee is drunkenly and flirt-ily (yes, that’s a word!) listening to a very drunk Simon grouse over how he’s saved lives, and the most he ever got was a hamster named after him. She tells him he is funny and he tells her she is pretty. D’aw. The complement catches her off guard, and he continues on. Mal just then appears, telling them they need to leave, and Kaylee very pointedly shoos him off. Amazingly, Mal gets the hint and leaves them alone.

Back on the ship, Zoe and Book try to coax River out of the smuggler’s hole where she has absconded, but she refuses because there is too much hair. Book tries to calm her down, saying that his order requires him to keep it long, but she won’t listen. Mal and Wash show back up and Zoe informs them that the buyer is chomping at the bit for his goods. Mal says there are a few wrinkles to work out and then Wash, rather drunkenly, drops the folk-hero bomb on Zoe. She doesn’t believe him because of his breath, but Mal confirms it and says they are going to use it as a distraction the following day, which is apparently going to be Jayne Day.

In the companion shuttle, Fess confides in Inara how embarrassed he is, but she tells him it isn’t a bad thing to be a virgin, nor does it make him less of a man. They then start to get down to business (see what I did there?).

Back at the bar, a particularly enthusiastic youth is recounting how the magistrate failed to take his money back and tear down the statue of Jayne, seeing as the entire mudder population resisted him. Jayne is moved that they rioted on account of him, and when the youth says he is glad Jayne is back, Jayne asks how he could have ever stayed away.

Meanwhile, the foreman shows up at the magistrate’s house and informs him that Jayne has reappeared. They two of them go out to the hot-box cells, release a rather gnarly looking old, one-eyed man named Stitch and give him a gun. Stitch wonders why he is being given a loaded gun and the magistrate informs him that Jayne, his old partner who betrayed him, is back in town and living up his hero’s legend.

The next day, Simon and Kaylee, asleep on each other on a bench in the bar, are woken up by Mal. Simon puts his foot in his mouth trying to convince Mal, for whatever reason, that he and Kaylee didn’t get it on. In particular, he says that he would “never” with Kaylee. She, of course, gets huffy over it. Jayne shows up, and Mal snags him, saying they have work to do, and Kaylee goes with them. When Simon tries to follow along, she tells him to stay put.

In the companion shuttle, Inara and Fess have post-coital chatter, and Fess is amazed that he doesn’t feel different. Inara assures Fess is the only one who can make himself a man. Of course, shortly thereafter Fess’s dad starts pounding on the door, demanding that Fess “get out here.” Apparently, there is a criminal hearing that will be going on soon and Fess’ father has ordered him to attend. Fess explains about Jayne vaguely and Inara at first thinks he is talking about Mal. When she hears Jayne’s name, she is shocked, but she recovers and subtly encourages him to undo his father’s plans.

Meanwhile, Mal explains the idea to Jayne, and Jayne actually feels guilty over using his fame to hoodwink the locals. Mal points out the contradiction, but Jayne persists. Mal insists, though, and then zooms off to the hide-hole with Wash, Zoe and Kaylee in the mule.

Stitch shows up at the bar and beats the snot out of Simon after Simon resists telling him where Jayne is. He is about to cut out one of Simon’s eyes when he hears the chanting of Jayne’s name. Outside, Mal and crew get the stuff on the ship and get ready to leave while the foreman and his thugs hold fast, watching the crowd. Jayne gets up to make a speech, which falls somewhat flat but at least comes out somewhat sincere. Just then, Stitch shows up and calls Jayne out.

Stitch threatens to kill Simon while Jayne watches, but Jayne draws the attention to himself and says Simon isn’t a friend. Stitch relates to the mudders how Jayne wasn’t a hero. Turns out Jayne had kicked Stitch out of the shuttle first when they were hit, trying to save the strongboxes for himself. Jayne admits to it, and when Stitch is about to kill Jayne, the enthusiastic youth jumps in and takes the bullet. Jayne, in rage, throws his knife into Stitch’s chest, and the two then grapple it out, and Jayne quickly kills Stitch. He then yells at the dead youth and at the mudders, renouncing his hero-status and trying to give them a hard lesson of life; in particular, that good fortune just doesn’t drop out of the sky. The crowd is quiet and the small waif returns Jayne’s knife. Jayne snatches it, then jumps up and topples the statue.

The crew makes it back to the ship, Jayne with a heavy heart, and they take off. There is a moment of worry in the cockpit as Wash sees the landlock, but it suddenly turns off as Inara walks onto the bridge. They take off safely.

Back at the magistrate’s house, Fess gloats to his father about how he let Jayne go, and points out that what he did was something a man would do, so it was a product of his father’s own wishes.

In the sky, Jayne mulls over his knife. Book walks into the lounge and sees River “fixing” some other text, and she tells him to just keep walking, so he does. Kaylee worries over Simon and they have a talk about “them”. Kaylee wonders over why Simon has to be so proper all the time, and he tells her that it is just his way of showing that he likes her. She then pulls a prank on him, asking about “when we made love last night—?” Simon flusters, and she laughs at him, calling him an easy mark.

Mal shows up and talks to Jayne in the hold, where Jayne is conflicted and torn over the events of the day. Mal explains something of how people need heroes.

MAL: It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another. Ain’t about you, Jayne. It’s about what they need.

The words really affect Jayne, but he protests that it still doesn’t make any sense.

Commentary:

First, sorry for the long River-Book quote. I really enjoyed that scene, and not for the obvious “haha, religious people” aspect. No, I really enjoyed Book’s defense. He acknowledges the inconsistencies, and asserts that it isn’t about it being factual, but about the spirituality of it. The continued interaction between River and Book was really awesome too, but honestly was just fun fluff.

No, the molded protein of this episode comes down to why my commenters seem rather split on calling this their favorite or least favorite episode of the series. Which, I’d guess, is Jayne’s plot. Myself, I enjoy it, but it isn’t my favorite.

What I really enjoy in this episode is the massive multiple levels it works on you while seeming to not do it at all. There is huge character depth added to Jayne here. He gets to feel what it is to be adored and to be a hero, and instead of getting super arrogant with it (he does get somewhat arrogant with it, especially with the adoring female fan) he actually feels guilt. Not the gun-toting redneck we’ve all come to laugh at and adore.

Now, in a random discussion I had with a friend once, he observed that Jayne was the only character in Firefly that received a full plot arc, that is to say, he had completely heel-face-turned by the end of the series. Of course, “Ariel” really cements it in two episodes, but here we get the beginning of the “Jayne Cobb isn’t all he shows himself to be” story. Not that he is being sneaky or contrary like Book or Mal. No, Jayne actually is having a moment of self-revelation about who he is, which of course is why this is not just character depth, but growth.

And I must say, Adam Baldwin pulled it off amazingly. The conflicted, confused looks Jayne has at the end really hammer home how his entire paradigm has shifted over the events on Canton, and while he is going to have a small relapse into cold-hearted thugery, he is on his way to being a bigger, better person. The impact of Mal’s “estimation” at the end over how people just need something to believe in is evidence of this.

Which actually moves into my second point with this episode, which is the commentary on faith and symbols. Firefly is fraught with examinations of religion and faith, but I don’t really think there is anywhere else in the series or the movie that look at it from the same perspective as “Jaynestown.” In this particular instance, it isn’t arguing over any particular characters needs or beliefs, but instead about humanity as a whole, and it makes a good point.

I am loathe to quote The Matrix Reloaded here, especially the character of Col. Sanders, I mean the Architect, but “Hope . . . simultaneously the source of [humanity’s] greatest strength and [its] greatest weakness.” The theme has appeared elsewhere, too, even in video games. In the original Wild ARMS, hope is likewise treated as a strength and weakness. I am sure you can come up with places you have seen this, too. In this episode we see it wrapped into one solid package: people need hope. And the source of that hope doesn’t really matter. It can come from a misunderstanding of the biggest son of a bitch this side of the ‘verse, but long as people have it, they can go on. They can hold up their heads, have dignity, and do what needs done.

Which is my thinly veiled way of segueing into my next point over this episode, which is self-worth and society-assigned worth. In particular the plot with Fess and Inara and the discussion of what it is to be a man. Inara says, when Fess wonders if he is supposed to be a man now, that “a man is just a boy who’s old enough to ask that question.” She advocates, rightly so, that self-worth is more important than the worth others place upon you, but on the same hand, it isn’t like she didn’t pop his cherry. So, while one could argue that she was just doing her job, one can also say that she has seen some value to the societal outlook on the coming-of-age in their “ritual” together. After all, this is hardly the first time we have seen Inara catering to an awkward youth who perhaps was a virgin beforehand. (The pilot, anyone?). So I guess what we can take away from that is that self-worth is important, but don’t shun societal worth altogether.

Which, I dunno, I kinda don’t like. As someone who doesn’t fit into my usual society very well and who—post-convention—is feeling it rather acutely since most of my local friends are not in the sci-fi fandoms, the whole societal worth thing annoys me. I have my own sense of self-worth, and I run with it, and I’d rather make people accept me for what I am (in a non-confrontational and actually very tolerant way, mind), than kowtow to what is “normal.” So this message that it wasn’t just Inara’s words that gave Fess his backbone, but also the sexin’, well, yeah. Thoughts? Am I interpreting this all strangelike?

And speaking of sexin’, or the lack thereof, d’aw to Simon and Kaylee sitting in the bar. F-L-I-R-T-E-R. I was happy to see an “Us” conversation, because dude, they are real. Movies and TV shows, and even books, love to portray the romantic pairs hooking up and just knowing they are together and a thing, and that just isn’t how it works in my estimation and experience. There is an awkward hook-up of some sort, or a realization that just-friends isn’t what is going on, and then there is an awkward and utterly terrifying “Us” conversation. Here, more than in the initial picking-up or hooking-up, is the fear of rejection. The ultimate moment when “It isn’t you, it’s me” or “I just don’t think we’d work” or “I’m not ready for this in my life” can all come out. And major kudos for Kaylee not chickening out and starting the talk, ‘cause that is the hardest part. Yes, it is frightening the whole way through until you realize that neither of you are going to say one of the above horrible things to hear, but it is much easier once the first step down the path is taken. Trust me, I know, ‘cause I can’t recall ever having the cajones to actually start one myself.

So yeah, and also major props to Simon with his whole true-to-self defense of why he is how he is. No, “Oh, I don’t have to be awkward, yay!” Nope. Also props to Kaylee understanding, at least a little after-the-fact, why Simon was being all stiff the morning after their drunken merriment. I do have to wonder, though, how far they did get considering the position in which they fell asleep. (Makes mental note to skip across universes and kill Simon Tam and then take his place.)

Speaking of lovey-dovey, why does Inara have to open up to the awkward twenty-six year old, but doesn’t have the gonads to open up to Mal? Sheesh.

Factoids:
Originally Aired: 18 October 2002
Original Position: Episode 4
Richard’s Favorite Line: Double River:

RIVER: I tore these out of your symbol, and they turned into paper, but I want to put them back, so . . . AHH!

And

RIVER: They say the snow on the roof is too heavy. They say the ceiling will cave in. His brains are in terrible danger.

Fun Goofs: The mud left on Simon’s shoulder by the foreman slapping his back has disappears soon after, despite him having had no opportunity to change or clean his jacket. (thank you IMDB, I thought that mighta been the case, and so do you.)

 

 

As an aside, you might notice that my summaries are not exactly in order of the episode as I occasionally condense several of the back-and-forth scenes into their plot lines. This is because I have a vendetta against the word “meanwhile,” and as such try to use it as little as I can. I also have a lesser hatred of “Back [on the/at the/in the][place]”. Pardon my summarizer’s liberty.

Anywho, I’ll see all y’all next week for “Out of Gas”, as we get a whole buttload of backstory.


Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, and thinks we all need to go to the backwater town where he is a hero. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short stories on http://RichardFife.com.

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