Tue
Apr 13 2010 5:02pm
Firefly Re-watch: “Shindig”

Oh, fancy meeting you here. Thought I heard you were back planetside. How ’bouts we go have ourselves a sit down and some tea? I made it myself; the secret is wood alcohol, ya know. Oh, look-a-that, you thought I was giving you a choice? Come on then, but if you need a refresher, past episode commentaries are over at the gorram index. Now get that stick out of your pigu and let’s get down to business.

Episode Summary:

Mal and Jayne are in a seedy tavern, playing pool with a fellow smuggler while Inara watches from the bar, obviously out of place in her fine dress. As they play, the other smuggler reveals that he is a slaver. Mal takes exception and tells Inara to leave, but she protests, saying she is enjoying herself. Mal insists, saying there is a thief about as he holds up a wad of cash he lifted off the slaver. The slaver realizes he’s been pick-pocketed, and a good old fashion bar-fight ensues. After Jayne has taken care of most of the drunks, the three leave.

Aboard Serenity, Wash and Zoe comment how it seems they always clear out of port in a hurry, but look forward to the expected long visit on Persephone, despite the risk of Wash going “land-crazy.” Mal appears on the bridge and somewhat dashes their dreams, and Zoe gets rather touchy over it, although Wash smoothes her feathers. Alas, Wash’s inattention starts them going into the atmosphere a bit fast.

ZOE: Planet’s coming up a little mite fast.
WASH: That’s ‘cause I’m going down too quick. Likely crash and kill us all.
MAL: Ah, well, when that happens, let me know.
WASH: OK, Whoa, No! No, we’re good. We’re good. It’s OK.

Back in her shuttle, Inara is selecting her prospective clients and starts talking to the suave, charming, handsome, and witty Atherton Wing. Atherton says there is a proposal he has already talked with Inara about that he is eager to hear a reply to, but Inara avoids answering it as Mal, for a surprise, knocks before he enters her shuttle. Mal sees the still picture of Atherton on Inara’s screen and makes some snarky remarks, yet Inara is seemingly unaffected and her simple statements—in particular the one about how Atherton does indeed have some stamina to have engaged her for days—actually seem to faze Mal. During the conversation, Mal makes a very vague attempt at finding out if Inara will have any free time, and Inara says that Atherton has invited her to a ball. He makes a few more snipes, and she continues to make the more potent returns, and then shoos him out.

The ship lands on Persephone, and the crew starts to enjoy themselves in the streets. Kaylee starts “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over some dresses in the windows, and Zoe comments on the pink, ruffly one she zeroed in on.

ZOE: Too much foofaraw. If I’m going to wear a dress, I want something with some slink.
WASH: You want a slinky dress, I can buy you a slinky dress. Captain, can I have money for a slinky dress?
JAYNE: I’ll chip in.
ZOE: I could hurt you.

Mal tries to get them to move on, especially since he is totting a rather heavy bag, but the others keep discussing the dress. So, he makes a rather sharp barb at Kaylee, saying that she has no use for the dress and would look silly in it besides. This earns him the ire of the crew, sans Jayne, who is clueless. They watch the others leave, and Badger sneaks up behind them and tells them, at gunpoint, that he wants to talk to them.

In Badger’s den, Mal shows some confusion at the comparatively good treatment Badger is giving them, including tea that Jayne likes which happens to be dosed with some wood alcohol. Badger tells Mal about a local who wants to smuggle some goods off planet, but won’t deal directly with Badger. But, Badger reasons, this respectable gentleman would be willing to deal with Mal. Mal is still not convinced and brings up the last attempt at a deal they had and how Badger backed out and asks him if he remembers why?

BADGER: I had a problem with your attitude. You were, what’s the word?
JAYNE (with a mouth full of food and tea): Pretentious?
BADGER: Exactly!

Mal gives Jayne a confused look, and Badger continues talking, saying that it is the stick shoved up Mal’s nethers that would give him a chance with the client. Mal is interested, but still doubtful and asks how they are supposed to meet. Badger happens to know a high-scale party the man will be at and has gotten his hands on two invites. Finally, Mal accepts.

At the party, which is an interesting mix of Victorian Aristocracy and modern gala, Atherton and Inara arrive and begin their socializing. Atherton makes a crude complement, and Inara shows her discomfort, although Atherton does smarm himself back into her good graces, or else Inara just recomposes herself and keeps doing her job.

On Serenity, Kaylee is working in the engine room when Mal shows up. She is still upset with him, telling him that she is not speaking to him, and Mal says that’s fine, but that she needs to come along because he has a job for her.

Back at the party, Atherton reveals that he is trying to get Inara to stay with him permanently, and she continues to evade on an answer. Atherton persists, saying that she does not belong on that flying piece of gos se, and she calls him down for using bad language. Just then, Miss Kaywinnet Lee Frye and escort are announced, and Inara swears herself as Kaylee, wearing the pink dress, and Mal walk in.

Mal worries over his tight pants, and Kaylee tells him they show off his backside then goes on to gawk at the people and the room. Mal tells her to be careful, as they cheated Badger out of good money to get her the dress, and she says “Aye aye, Captain Tightpants.” She then says she’ll go look for the man or Inara by the buffet line. He relents and lets her go enjoy herself.

On Serenity, Book, Jayne, and Simon play cards using chores as chips, and River walks about the kitchen. There, she freaks out and takes the labels off the canned goods while the men ponder at what lavish things Mal and Kaylee are doing. Coincidentally, Book seems to be cleaning house with Simon and Jayne. While Book and Simon tend to River, Jayne steals from their piles.

Back at the party, Kaylee is once more enjoying strawberries, but having a hard time socializing, even being verbally attacked by the preppy cheerleader squad from the future. Luckily, a charming older man comes to her rescue and manages to send the fluff-for-brains packing with a few well placed words.

Mal finds his contact, Sir Warrick Harrow, whose sash indicates nobility, not that Mal realized this. Mal gets off on a bad foot, but Warrick doesn’t completely dismiss him, and seems to gain some points when they see eye-to-eye on the social standing of Badger. Before the deal can proceed, Atherton interrupts, talking to Warrick until Inara introduces him to Mal. Atherton seems to get Mal’s general interest in Inara and puts a death-grip on her arm, which she ignores but Mal does not. Mal starts to antagonize Atherton by asking for a dance with Inara. With Warrick watching, Atherton is forced to be a gentleman and graciously complies.

On the floor, Mal actually knows the courtly dance, and the two talk, with Inara accusing Mal of following her. Mal denies it, saying he is here simply for business. As they dance, he calls her out on her work, and she says that at least what she does is legal. Mal makes a strong case that legality and honesty are two different things and elaborates with some disgust about how the entire ball is a lie. Inara protests that the people like her and she them, but it isn’t all that heartfelt. In an attempt to dig at Mal, she tells him about Atherton’s offer, and Mal agrees that she could accept it and he has no place to stop her.

Meanwhile, Kaylee is surrounded by men as she talks mechanic-ese. One man attempts to ask her to dance, but the others insist that she be allowed to stay and talk. Back with Warrick, Atherton is glaring the entire time Inara and Mal dance, and as soon as the dance ends, he swoops in to aggressively reclaim Inara. When Atherton says that she is his, Mal insists that she is not a slave. Atherton says that she is his because he paid for her, and goes on to almost insult her. Almost, because Mal punches him down to the ground before he can finish. The music stops, and Atherton stands up and says that he accepts Mal’s challenge. Mal is confused as he finds out that he has just gotten himself into a swordfight scheduled for the next morning. He is to be put up in lodging for the night to ensure he doesn’t run, but at least Warrick agrees to be his second, which might potentially be good for their business, although Warrick is more concerned that Atherton is an expert swordsman and likely to kill Mal.

Back on Serenity, Badger shows up and Jayne lets him in. Badger informs the crew about Mal’s duel, and the crew is of the general opinion that Mal is in deep trouble. They start to concoct a plan to rescue him, but Badger cuts them off. See, he is there not to help them rescue Mal, but to make sure they don’t so to not endanger Badger. Jayne pulls a gun, but Zoe tells him to stand down as Badger’s posse just showed up with Kaylee as their hostage.

Inara shows up later that night at Mal’s lodging, where Mal is attempting to figure out how to use a sword, not that he is even swinging the right type of sword around. They share a few snipes, but then Inara tells Mal she’s there to sneak him out. Mal refuses, though.

MAL: Whoa, I’m not runnin’ off. And I don’t know what you got in your head, but I didn’t do this to prove some kind of point to you. I actually thought I was defending your honor. And I never back down from a fight.
INARA: Yes you do. You do all the time.
MAL: Well, yeah. But I’m not backing down from this one.

Inara tries to convince him again, but Mal insists that she give him a sword lesson instead. Inara agrees and readily schools Mal, giving him both a sword lesson and a veiled lesson on how to be subtle and delicate. Mal makes a jibe at her, asking her if she learned this in Whore Academy, and Inara gets indignant, questioning why Mal got into a fight over Atherton calling her a whore but then doing so himself. They argue over the validity of social rules, and Mal, out of the blue, begs her to not take Atherton’s offer. Inara, off balance from Mal’s sudden tenderness, takes her leave.

On Serenity, the crew plays cards and contemplates what to do. They decide all they need is a diversion to jump Badger’s mooks and then go save Mal. Just then, River walks in. Simon tries to sneak her away, but Badger sees her and starts asking questions. Simon tries to cover for her, but River interrupts, talking in a cockney accent and completely befuddling Badger with very, shall we say, intuitive words. She wonders back off, asking Simon to call her if “anyone interesting shows up.” After she has left, the crew realize that was exactly the diversion they needed, but get back to making plans.

The next morning, Atherton and Mal have their duel next to a lake. Atherton makes a show of saluting his second and Mal, while Mal just walks up and awkwardly holds his sword. Atherton toys with Mal, leading him to think he is doing well, but quickly starts making small hits. Atherton feints an unprepared pose, and Mal rushes him only to skewer himself on Atherton’s rapier. Atherton then presses his attack, slicing Mal a few more times and finally snapping Mal’s sword off at the hilt while it is on the ground. He is about to kill Mal when Inara begs for Mal’s life, even agreeing to take Atherton’s offer to live with him exclusively. Mal takes the chance of the diversion to bean Atherton with his broken sword, manages to fling the broken-off blade into Atherton’s shoulder, punches him again, then picked up Atherton’s rapier.

As Mal hesitates, Warrick tells him that he has to finish it, because if he doesn’t, then Atherton would be seen as a coward, and Inara pipes in that it would be humiliating. Mal agrees.

MAL: Mercy is the mark of a great man.
(stabs Atherton shallowly in the gut)
MAL: Guess I’m just a good man.
(stabs Atherton again)
MAL: Well, I’m all right.

Mal discards the sword, and Atherton calls after Inara. Warrick tells Atherton that he’s lost her, but Atherton won’t have it. He accuses her of setting it up and threatens her with blackballing, saying she’ll never find work again. Inara is hardly worried and explains to Atherton that Companions work the other way around, and that she is going to flag is account so that he’ll never be able to hire any Companion ever again. As Mal and Inara leave the field, Warrick catches up to them and offers Mal the job. Back on Serenity, the crew is just about ready to make their good on their big plan as Mal and Inara return. Mal informs Badger that the deal is good, and Badger high-tails it.

Later, after they have taken off, Kaylee is humming to herself as she goes down into her rather decorated room and just contently looks at her dress, which is now hanging on the wall. In the hold, Inara and Mal drink some wine Kaylee made in the engine, and Mal tries to garner Inara’s sympathy with his stab wound. She is hardly impressed, but she does thank him sincerely if somewhat backhandedly for what he did at the party. Mal admits he shouldn’t have done it. Inara admits that she wouldn’t have stayed, and when Mal asks her why, she says that she has no reason to leave Serenity. The camera cuts to a wide angle, and we see that the cargo that is so precious turns out to be a herd of cows.

Commentary:

Alright, first thing that I have to say here is ZOE! Yes, of all the people that didn’t play that big a role in this episode, Zoe is who I really keyed in while I was watching this, and I think it is mostly cause of how I’ve been annoyed with her lack of character depth. Here, though, we see that Zoe has her own will and is protective of the crew in her own way. When Mal is too harsh, she can step in to, well, not smooth him off—the file that could do that would have to be forged in the Cracks of Doom and would, well, doom the world. Ahem, no. But she does let him know when he as gone too far. From the line:

MAL: We sniff the air, we don’t kiss the dirt.
ZOE: Wasn’t planning on the dirt kissing, sir.

...to how she gave him the look after he insulted Kaylee. We also get to see more of her relaxed side with Wash in the post-coital scene I did not include in the recap (but happened right after the card-game and River going crazy in the kitchen). The interesting flip of the woman wanting to sleep afterwards and the man being awake was non-traditional, and Wash’s little poem was cute, but her nonchalant and warm, if sleepy, response and giggles were deep too. Zoe is finally a person. Now, for her to grow (which, if memory serves, the beginning of what would have been the Zoe-Wash growth arc doesn’t really start to kick off until “Heart of Gold,” little good it does us.)

OK, next: Book continues to have his mysterious moments, both from being able to wipe the deck with Simon and Jayne at Tall Card as well as knowing about “lodgings for duels” and seeming instantly ready to make a break-out plan for Mal. Otherwise, not much with him, except for the start of my River talk-about, which is that it seems his “I’ll take two” is what set River off.

So, in the kitchen, River’s ballistic incident seems to continue to hint at the two blue-hands, from being triggered by the “I’ll take two” to her other mutterings: “They’re the ones that’ll take you” and “Hands everywhere.” Her sudden desire to rip all the labels off the food could also be a call to the facelessness of the blue-hands. They are generic suits, cogs in a greater machine. Or, you know, it could have just been a convenient way to freak out, as she also went after the little cracker-pack looking things too.

Of course, one cannot even begin to talk about this episode, much less River, without her Moment of Awesome, being the Badger interaction. This is the first time we get more than a sentence or two out of her on camera (and I think it is implied from her period) that are cognate. And here not only does she have a cognate discussion, she just completely jumps into Badger’s head, uses his own accent, and reads him like an open book. I particularly liked:

RIVER (with cockney accent): And you’re, what, a petty thief with delusions of standing? A sad little king of a sad little hill.

Shivers, literally. Mark Sheppard (Badger) did his role well, too, in the complete disorientation and discomfort of being called out like that by a little girl. The rest of the crew’s shock is also well played. After all, they haven’t heard two solid sentences out of River that weren’t in a panicked shriek ever that we know of. Crazy, crazy.

The other big thing in this episode is the Inara-Mal interactions. Considering this episode opened with them, one might argue they were the true point of the episode, so let’s look at them in order. First, we have the bar-fight, where Inara is hideously out of place in a bright red dress where everything else is in golds or browns, not to mention that she is drinking a pink drink, and she has nothing to contribute to the fight, which was mostly just Jayne taking names and doing that other thing.

Next, you have the shuttle conversation, where Mal is there on a vague pretense, tries to not so subtly find out if Inara will have any free-time on the planet (and is just in general poking his nose in her business), and when she goads him about it, commenting on Atherton’s stamina, Mal is just awkward and out of place. Inara’s dismissal of him to “see about that 10am thing” was almost a pity play as she sees how badly Mal is fending for himself in the exchange.

Then there is the party. What is funny here, I find, is that while Mal was distracted for a moment by Inara’s loud laughy-thing, he went right back to business and did a good show of ignoring her. It was more her that was starting at him, I think, and perhaps more Atherton investigating than Inara. Then, with the whole moral debate of honest/dishonest and illegal/legal work during the dance, well, Inara did not hold her fight very well there. Her “I like these people, and they like me,” was delivered with a healthy dose of self-doubt, as if she was trying to convince herself, not Mal. Then, of course, there was Mal standing up for her honor and punching “Ath.”

Which brings us to the lodging and Mal’s slight of “whore academy.” It reminds me of playground flirting. How do you know a 3rd grader is flirting with another one? They are insulting them and throwing dirt clods at them. Mal is doing just that, which probably explains his weakness to Saffron in two episodes, but we’ll get to that when we get there. Anyway, the sudden and quick jump in the lodging to Mal’s very open side is remarkable in character development terms. Because honestly, I have no problem seeing this. Rough and ready Mal begging and pleading to Inara just works for me. From his asking her how it all got so complicated to his begging her to not take Atherton’s offer.

So, the end of the episode, where they both realize that while neither fits in the other’s world too well, they don’t exactly fit in their own that well either, it works. And where is the common ground? Serenity. The ship’s name continues to be fitting on many, many levels.

And I feel oddly horrible about this, but I’m not really going to comment on Kaylee all that much. I loved her in this episode, but she was really auxiliary to what was going on. Although the little face she made after Mal told her that she didn’t need to talk to him was purely adorable, as was her entire arc of interaction at the shindig. And the aged Clark Gable look-a-like that saved her from the evil cheerleaders was awesome too. In fact, this episode is just packed full of awesome little moments like that.

Oh, and Jayne had a few interesting moments too. Guess I should comment on some of the first depth we’ve seen from Jayne, and that is in his humor-cracking, especially in regards to Zoe and sexual blatancy (offering to chip in to buy her a dress, and also suggesting she get naked for the distraction), but also in his odd moment of intelligence in Badger’s den. The first time I heard him say “pretentious?” I laughed about as hard as when Mal kicked Crow into the engine. And the look Mal gave him was what did it: this “where the heck did that come from?” look. Also, I’d note his actual interest in saving Mal this episode when in both “pilots”, he was ready to backstab him or just ditch him. I might say it was Zoe’s presence, but I’m not sure. There are odd moments of loyalty and depth to Jayne Cobb we are starting to see, as unreliable as they are.

Simon was there playing cards. ‘ats about it.

Factoids:
Originally Aired: 1 November 2002
Original Position: Episode 6
Richard’s Favorite Line: WASH: Here lies my beloved Zoe, my autumn flower. Somewhat less attractive now that she’s all corpsified and gross.
Fun Goofs: None really, a few continuity things, such as the electronic pool balls making normal pool ball sounds when someone gets dropped on the table.

One final thing: the commentary for this episode has the costume designer in it, and it was brought up that she was shooting for a geisha look with Inara, and the writer of this episode also commented about how she wondered what all training Inara had, much like the geisha. Not saying I was right to have called her geisha like back in “Serenity,” just saying I apparently wasn’t 100% wrong either. Perhaps it is somewhat like how Ron Glass brought a bit of his own Buddhist feel to Book, even though he was supposed to be playing a much more Christian feeling religious man.

See you next week for “Safe.” Avoid spoiled dandies who happen to be expert swordsmen.


Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and does not put wood-alcohol in his tea, but would gladly dance with a layered cake. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short stories at http://RichardFife.com.

27 comments
lordnaryb
1. lordnaryb
Another fun goof, in one of the shots at the ball, when the camera pulls back to show the entire room at the top of the screen (the far side of the room) you can see a guy in shorts and a T-shirt in a doorway :)
J. Melusine Royal
2. jmelusineroyal
Kaylee's arc auxilary? *sniff*

I've long thought that the true story of "Shindig" was the unstoppable love affair between Kaylee and The Dress.

I suppose I could fancy it up by saying that Kaylee can both be a girly-girl and an ace mechanic and is not just limited to being a tomboy; ie, she primarily is but she does not have to choose between these two identities. At the party scene she does not give up her smarts to be pretty, which is I think a great message to have.It's a nice companion piece too, to Zoe the warrior woman relaxing and having sexy time, yet not giving up her power to do so.

Plus, the sheer glee when Kaylee is walking in-oh man, that has me smiling for days. So in one way "Shindig" is a meditation on the myriad forms of gender construction and femme identity presented by Kaylee, Inara and Zoe's storylines involving various constructed and deconstructed forms of womanhood.

Or it could be the love story between a girl and her dress.
Nathan Martin
3. lerris
My take on Kaylee's role in this episode is as a catalyst for Mal's character development. We could see that he knew he made a mistake when Kaylee was admiring the dress, and that he took the opportunity to make amends. Again, we see the harsh no-nonsense side which he presents to the 'verse contrasted against actions showing that he cares deeply for his crew.

My favorite exchange from the episode ( from memory, so forgive me if it's a little off ):

Kaylee: Is that him?
Mal: That's the buffet table.
Kaylee: Well, how can we be sure if we don't question it?
Jennifer B
4. JennB
I love this episode. Wash and Kaylee are the highlights for me and it has Badger in it!

Wash has some great lines at the beginning of the episode.

Zoe: Heard tell, though, we're gonna stay a while on Persephone.
Wash: Shiny!
Zoe: Yeah? Thought you get land crazy that long in port.
Wash: Probably, but I've been sane a long while now and change is good.

Wash has other great lines, some of which have already been mentioned.

Kaylee is great at the party. I love how the first thing she wants to do is interrogate the buffet table. It's great how she draws a crowd of men at the party, especially after being slighted by the rich bitches. I also like how at the end she still loves the dress, even after being criticized because it wasn't good enough (and she pocketed a snack from the buffet table).

Inara had so many potential clients on Persephone. Why would she choose such a jerk? All I can figure is that he offers to pays more and/or she really wants to go to that party.

If I remember correctly, Captain Tightpants actually split the seam in his tight pants at least once in this episode.

I love the scene where River wanders into the cargo hold. Book immediately warns Simon and then goes over to run interference with Badger. River and her phycic abilities blow everyone away, not just Badger. She is very in tune to what is going on around her here, just like in War Stories when she saves Kaylee and keeps Serenity from being overrun.

I never realized that the "I'll take two" line is what sets her off in the kitchen.

Great episode!
Thanks for the recap.
j p
5. sps49
Ditto on missing the kitchen catalyst.

I dunno if Mal was making up with Kaylee or just needed a date for the party. Both, probably. Zoe nor River would've worked.
lordnaryb
6. Foxessa
This is just about the most incoherent episode of the series.

Costume designer may have thought she was going geisha but she sure didn't succeed. YOu know how geishas walk, what patterns and coverage their facial cosmetics take, their forms of music, etc. You never see or hear any of that with Inara. The closest to this culture and Inara we come are the tea ceremonies and shrines that could look like Buddha. But that's Indian also.

And that's what's wrong with so much of Firefly and this whole episode in particular. Nothing parses. Its grabs of this and that from this and that culture and historic period, without actually doing any of them correctly -- meaning there isn't an actual transformation going on of a spacefaring species out there in, yanno, space.

Mal's behaviors, the dueling stuff, was all wrong in every possible way, in these terms too, as well as not making much narrative sense. This viewer is not buying that Mal and Inara have a 'thing' that they won't acknowledge to each other. There has never been a 'thing' to show how that 'thing' got established to start with.

Thus none of the principals in this episode work very well either in terms of narrative and development.

Bad world building makes for ever greater problems as things continue.
j p
7. sps49
"This and that culture and historical period" are far in the past in this setting, plus there seems to be a worldwide melting pot effect, also.

The "Wild West" was in living memory of Hollywood's Cowboy Age, but how accurate was it?
Richard Fife
8. R.Fife
@2 jmelusineroyal A love story of a girl and her dress. I like that. I'll allow it. Shindig is hereby about a girl and her dress.

@3 lerris I can see where you are coming from with the "making it up to Kaylee" aspect. Honestly, Zoe would have been doable, and probably even more "useful."

As to Captain Tightpants, I can't recall if Nathan commented on them ripping in this episode when he did his commentary on "Serenity", but his regular pants did rip three times during the filming of the pilot, and as I understand it, that was the origin of the nickname that made it's way into the show.

@6 Foxessa Wow, that is a very different take than mine, which is good. What is the point in discussion if we all agree, right?

I can see where you are coming from, but for me it comes back to Firefly not being about hard sci-fi. It is about a space-western with interesting characters who have backstories that are not entirely clear. I have heard rumors that buried in the never-known-to-the-public-canon, Mal is supposed to be around 50 years old, and Inara is supposed to be the oldest person on the ship (even older than Book). Guess the future has gotten that whole longevity thing down. Now, how much I believe that, well, it is all just hear-say to me. But that it could be just hints at how much we never do get to find out.

On the character development, I don't know when this episode was actually filmed (and if someone can find the production order or verify if it is the same as the DVD order, that'd be nice), but as Episode 6 in the original airing, it definitely had more to play with on the "something that is unspoken and unacted on" between Mal and Inara. Here, it is more blatantly throwing it in our face after their playful teasing/flirting/bickering from first three episodes.

And to the culture/anachronism/poorly-executed-concepts, well, I see partly what you are doing, and I also see partly a "why do something right if it is the future?" If we already in the 21st century have a horrible mis-conception of only a hundred or so years ago, imagine what they have in the 'verse? It reminds me of this Perry Bible Fellowship comic. Yanno?

Still, good points all, and by no means do I think my above comments "negate" them. Just giving elaboration on my viewpoint (not to mention this actually ranks up as one of fav episodes, if not my fav).
Eli Bishop
9. EliBishop
River tearing the labels off the food: Whedon explained this somewhere, on the DVD commentary I think -- it was part of the setup for the blue-handed men subplot that they never got a chance to follow through on. Their employer was a corporation called Blue Sun, and that was also the brand on all the food.
lordnaryb
10. Pussreboots
"Shindig" is my absolute favorite episode from the series.
james loyd
11. gaijin
"In fact, this episode is just packed full of awesome little moments like that."

"And that's what's wrong with so much of Firefly...Nothing parses. Its grabs of this and that from this and that culture and historic period, without actually doing any of them correctly..."

Something had been bothering me about the series, but it was hard to pin down until I read the opinions above. I've long heard the "no Asians in an Anglo-Chinese culture" complaint, but beyond that the setting just seems insubstantial.

The characters have substance, but their universe doesn't. It's not that it's bad world-building; I get the world being built, I just don't SEE it or maybe I just have trouble accepting it as "real."

Maybe it's because I knew at the outset that the series had an expiration date or because I'm consciously watching critically. Dunno. Still unquestionably worth watching for the characters (especially Kaylee and Wash) and dialogue.
will shetterly
12. willshetterly
Foxcessa, some folks just can't have fun if they can't quibble, so I respect your right to quibble, but damn, it makes for an unfun world. See, Firefly isn't just a space opera. It's a Bat Durston space opera. What you see as a mess, I see as a multiplicity of influences, some operating independently, in the sense that sometimes we're just supposed to think of a Frontier Tale or a War Story trope, and some operating simultaneously, in that we're supposed to think of the Old West and the Regency and pulp SciFi simultaneously. Sure, the goal in most art is to go for the latter, but if something only works on one level now and then, it's still working, and that's all right by me.

I love this episode.

gaijin, one of the things I love about Firefly is the implication that the Asians, the ruling race, stayed on Earth. Europeans and North Americans fill out the working class now, fighting the wars and expanding the frontier.

But, yes, I would've liked more Asians in the cast. It is a weakness.
lordnaryb
13. zep243
RE: the setting

While some good points have been made about Firefly's setting, I think every Sci-Fi/Fantasy setting has to be taken with a grain of salt. Has there ever been a "future history" or any other Sci-Fi setting that is 100% believable? Star Wars has the Force, Star Trek has willy-nilly time travel for plot convenience, and Firefly had an odd, incomplete Anglo-Chinese melting pot. In the end it comes down to the characters (& their development), the plot, the dialog, and the visuals. And Firefly for the most part did those 4 things very well in my opinion.

When you start worrying too much and try to overexplain things in your setting, that's when midichlorians happen. And midichlorians should NEVER happen! :)
james loyd
14. gaijin
zep243,
I couldn't agree more that midichlorians should NEVER happen.

I also agree that no SF setting is 100% believable, but many feel more immersive than Firefly's. Of course a lot of them had the benefit of being spin-offs and sequels in a previously established or even entrenched setting. The lack may be in my own subjective perception, but the Firefly universe just feels like a flat backdrop in front of which to stage these witty interactions among brilliant characters.

Maybe it's in part because we haven't seen Terra to get a baseline reading on the current state of humanity (the Alliance ship didn't explicate much).
Vincent Lane
15. Aegnor
This is the episode that first made me realize that I loved the show. Not that I wasn't enjoying it before this episode, but this is the one where I realized it was something special. From Kayle and her dress, to River and her MoA, to the great interaction between Mal and Inara. And that "Mercy is the mark of a great man..." scene? Hilarious.
john mullen
16. johntheirishmongol
While I enjoyed this episode, there were a couple of things that annoyed me. One was that although Kaylee was very sweet in this episode, the dress was hideous, a bad copy of the Scarlett O'hara dress.

I also thought the fight was a bit too much, too one-sided and then the usual bad guy gloating routine. Just once it might be good to see someone just finish the good guy off. Or just to get the bad guys ass kicked. It might have been a little funny to do something like make Mal the past swordfighting champian and just keeping it under the radar.
lordnaryb
17. ***Dave
"At the party, which is an interesting mix of Victorian Aristocracy and modern gala ..."

While technically during Victoria's reign, the party/shindig reminded me much more (perhaps inspired by the frontier setting and the Unification War) of the antebellum South a la "Gone with the Wind," complete with elegantly-dressed ladies and honor/duel-happy men.

And then there's the previous Whedon definition, as Oz put it in Buffy: "Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny."
lordnaryb
18. Shadar Auditor
I totally agree with gaijin in #14.
first of: I LOVE Firefly. I have watched the series 6 times, one of which was the original airing here in South africa many years ago.
But: the background is two dimensional. the characters and the actors playing them is what makes it watchable and lovable. Whedon has a knack for dialogue that few others can match.
I would guess that if we had gotten more out of the series we could possibly have seen how the current verse culture had come to be, but of course we are dumped into the story half-way...typical Whedon...
My wife just watched it for the first time and her reaction after the series ends was that while she liked the characters, the setting was too unbelievable...

Of course my dissatisfaction could sprout from a belief that one can never have too much world-building or talking heads.
Vincent Lane
19. Aegnor
johntheirishmongol@16,

"One was that although Kaylee was very sweet in this episode, the dress was hideous, a bad copy of the Scarlett O'hara dress."

That was kinda the point. The preppy cheerleader squad wasn't exactly wrong about the dress. It was all about adding characterization and background to Kaylee.
lordnaryb
20. kevbayer
Apart from the "I'll take two" comment setting off River, was also Jayne's Blue Sun T-shirt and the Blue Sun logo on all the canned food. Blue Sun being the background megacorp badguy of the Firefly-verse that never got a chance to be explored.

Shindig is quite the Shiny episode!
lordnaryb
21. Emily Michelle
@19 Aegnor: I agree. I think the ghastly dress was to show us that Kaylee, bless her heart, doesn't always have great taste. She likes pretty things and being girly, but she doesn't have a great sense of what other girls (and guys) consider pretty. It's like when she wants to buy Simon that dish in "Safe," and he sees it and thinks it's hideous.
john massey
22. subwoofer
Well, first off, I'd like to say that words do not do Wash's humor justice. His comedic timing when they encounter "turbulence" was perfect and him wanting to buy his wife something that "slinks"; wife+slink= possibly naked and other fun stuff- Wash did that math at light speed.

Jayne was classic too. After River comes along and throws Badger for a loop, Jayne's "that would have been a perfect diversion" comment was well timed. And I love how he is doing chin-ups with a shotgun handy. Pays to be safe. Inara saying that pool seems to consist of giving Jayne a heavy stick and then standing back was on the mark as well.

In short I love this show and all the interplay and dialog that goes on and about the characters. They feel so real to me, two episodes in and I have known them all my life. It was hard to let them go.

Woof™.
john massey
23. subwoofer
While I am at it- Badger's accent- I wonder how far removed they all are from earth? When China and, I assume, Americanized English have taken over the world, there is room for a limey accent? The other thing that makes me think is what happened to India- I'm telling you, they are a strong second. Everywhere you look- brown people. That culture is eclipsed in this series. I am not offended by it, but if we are breaking it down, why the homogeny? Yes we have Shep and Zoe, but beyond, in all the encounters?

Woof™.
Jennifer B
24. JennB
johntheirishmongal @16
The dress was hideous on purpose. That's why none of the other party goers were wearing anything remotely like it. Kaylee is from a completely different world than them. She is not sophisticated. It makes her all the more endearing.

Why would it "be good to see someone just finish the good guy off"? You think it would be good to kill off the main character in the 4th episode? Also I think I would be annoyed if Mal was secretly a sword expert. Ah well... to each his own.

subwoofer@22
I never really understood Inara's line in the bar, but the way you put it actually makes sense. Thanks. :-)

I just watched Safe, one of my favorite episodes. Can't wait for the commentary!!
Liza .
25. aedifica
Reading your posts is really making me want to watch the series again now! But I just lent the series to a friend who hadn't seen it before. (We showed her Dr. Horrible on Tuesday night and told her she had to watch Firefly now.)
lordnaryb
26. sinfulcashew
"'This is just about the most incoherent episode of the series.
Costume designer may have thought she was going geisha but she sure
didn't succeed. YOu know how geishas walk, what patterns and coverage
their facial cosmetics take, their forms of music, etc. You never see
or hear any of that with Inara. The closest to this culture and Inara
we come are the tea ceremonies and shrines that could look like Buddha.
But that's Indian also.
And that's what's wrong with so much of Firefly and this whole episode
in particular. Nothing parses. Its grabs of this and that from this
and that culture and historic period, without actually doing any of them
correctly -- meaning there isn't an actual transformation going on of a
spacefaring species out there in, yanno, space.
Mal's behaviors, the dueling stuff, was all wrong in every possible way,
in these terms too, as well as not making much narrative sense. This
viewer is not buying that Mal and Inara have a 'thing' that they won't
acknowledge to each other. There has never been a 'thing' to show how
that 'thing' got established to start with.
Thus none of the principals in this episode work very well either in terms of narrative and development.
Bad world building makes for ever greater problems as things continue."'
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Good grief!
Can't this just be a story about people? The interactions of their differences and leave it at that?
Why does everything have to be in a box, in an envelope, bottled up to give a smooth answer for the happenings?
This way it is more like real life?
Things just being!
Each person coming at things from a different viewpoint?
And how far in the future is the show set?(I don't remember)
Certain aspects would be changed from our world view, I would think!
It sounds like you already know what it will be like far into the future?????
As for Mal and Inara's interest in each other, we would probably have found out how it started in subsequent plots.
lordnaryb
27. Lili
I think in this episode Mal's feelings for Inara are pretty obvious. I really found the scene where Mal rains all over Kaylee's parade at the window when she is eyeing the dress and wishing she could own one, very heart breaking for Kaylee and quite telling for how strongly Mal feels about Inara. He is fine up until they start talking about her and then he starts getting whiny and restless. Wants to go on and not talk about her or hear about her anymore, especially as it pertains to her job. He clearly does not like and respect what Inara does and while all these people were standing by the window talking about pretty girls in gorgeous dresses and Inara, Mal got upset and angry and so he took his anger out on Kaylee. And it was a mean thing to say. Here we see a man who is not the strong all together hero we think. He has flaws and one of his "flaws" is that he loves Inara (she fogs his mind as he said) and that this love distracts him. The other is that when he gets angry, he takes it out on people. This adds to the humanity of Mal's character. He's a real person with real problems; someone whose life has trajectory.

Then of course Mal redeemed himself by her not by getting all mushy and sentimental on her apologizing, but by just buying her that dress and taking her to the party. And i thing that's another thing we find out about him, he is not emotional or the talking kind, he does. He can be tactless and direct as well as ruthless when need be, such as when he punched Saffron in the face or kicked Niska (?)'s bull dog into the engine turbine. But he is not a cruel man or an asshol and behind all that cynicism and hard exterior, there is just Mal who is capable of incredible acts of generosity. He felt bad abut Kaylee. But he didn't coddle her, he just took her with him which is the best thing he could have done to show her how sorry he felt for having been such an ass.

My favorite line was :

Atherton: I accept
Mal: That's great! What?

Kaylee is a lovely person. She has an inner beauty that that you hope she would never have to lose in order to fit in with the rest of the daisies.

Overall great epsiode. Especially the dance sequences and the camera movement and editing.

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