May 18 2010 6:17pm

Firefly Re-watch: “Ariel”

Ladies and gentlemen, I have summoned you here for a very specific purpose. I have a job for you. As you will tell from past work, this is unlike anything else we have done thus far. It is on a core planet. It only really involves half the crew. It is a good plan, provided everyone can actually stick to it. If you will open the dossiers I’ve placed under your chairs, you will be warned of potential spoilers for the whole series, and the presence of a traitor amongst us.

Episode Summary:
In the galley, Jayne is cleaning a gun, Inara and Kaylee are playing a card game, and Simon and River are making some not-so-molded protein mush. Wash and Zoe walk in, with Wash demanding they go somewhere while on Ariel, the core planet they are about to visit, but Zoe is having none of it. Inara and Simon try to convince Zoe that it will be alright. Mal then barges in and lets everyone know in no uncertain terms that no one is getting off the ship except Inara, who has to go get her annual physical, thus the reason for the visit. Jayne complains, and Mal says he could have gotten off with Book at the Bathgate Abbey, which kind of shuts him up except for some disgusting noises that Simon takes offense to. The crew starts talking about Inara’s imminent hospital visit, and River calmly takes a butcher’s knife and slices Jayne across the chest. Jayne backhands River, and everyone jumps to action: Zoe, Kaylee, and Mal to Jayne; Wash, Simon, and Inara to River.

In the infirmary, Simon stitches Jayne up. Jayne argues to Mal that both Simon and River need to be off the boat, and that they should drop them off in Ariel. They might even get a reward. Mal staunchly says that no one is going to be left and even stares Jayne down when he starts to make a threat. Jayne quickly changes to speaking on how River might go psycho on anyone next, be it Mal, Kaylee, or Inara. Mal doesn’t back down, and Jayne leaves. Mal then has a Captain-talk with Simon, saying that River is to be confined to her room, and that Simon better get her under control or the Tams’ stay on Serenity will need to be re-examined. Simon lowers his eyes in shame, and then Mal changes his mood.


MAL: She’s getting worse. Isn’t she?
SIMON: (reluctantly) Yes.

The ship lands on Ariel and Inara leaves to her appointment while the crew lazes around the cargo hold and complains about a lack of work. Simon then marches in and declares that they have a client: him. Mal shows some skepticism, but Simon presses, saying the job will pay for itself. He then shows them several small immunization vials he has and tells them the street values. The crew thinks a hospital med-vault is the job, but he reveals that it is the payment, not the job. The job is to get River to the diagnostic ward in the hospital, where he can use a fancy imaging device on her. Kaylee protests the morality of robbing a hospital, but Zoe and Simon assure her that it won’t be missed, as the government run hospital would be restocked in a matter of hours. Mal seems on board with the idea, saying the people in the Rim could use it, but Wash stays worried about breaking into a high security alliance facility.

Simon then starts giving them the dirty on getting in, starting with how the security works, which is mainly in the perimeter. Mal wonders how they are going to get Simon and River passed the ident scanners, but Simon is more worried about everyone else. He gives them a list of things they need: an ambulance salvaged from a dump yard, stolen uniforms and fake IDs for hospital staff, and training in medical jargon. The crew works with an odd fervor to learn their lines and refurbish the ambulance, and before much time has passed, they are ready to go in. Mal says that all they need is a couple of patients to take to the hospital, but Simon corrects him.

SIMON: Corpses, actually. For this to work, River and I will have to be dead.
JAYNE: Huh, I’m starting to like this plan.

Simon gives River and himself an injection that puts them in a deep coma that simulates death. River is reluctant to go to the hospital, but Simon compassionately pep-talks her into accepting the drug.

On the ride to the hospital, Mal goes over the plan up to getting to the morgue again, and then he asks Jayne if there will be any problems. Jayne, who is still studying his lines, says he’s fine, and Mal clarifies that he means between Jayne and Simon, given the knife incident. To prove his commitment to the plan, Jayne actually compliments Simon on it because “nothing buys bygones faster than cash.” Mal reasserts the no-nonsense of the job anyway.

They land at the hospital and Mal, Jayne, and Zoe wheel the hard-shell body bags in. The intake nurse nonchalantly accepts the bodies as soon as Mal says they have “a couple of DoAs”. Jayne, apparently flustered, spurts out his line about cortical electrodes, which earns him a strange look from the intake nurse but nothing more.

In the morgue, they get Simon and River out of the body bags and inject the wake-up drug. Jayne is left behind to babysit the two while Mal and Zoe go after the med-vault. As they leave, Jayne acts suspicious, then leaves and makes a phone call, telling a fed that he has the fugitives as long as the fed as the reward, just like they had talked about. The fed confirms that he does.

Back in the morgue, Jayne nervously waits for the Tams to wake and gets spooked when River sits up, saying “caught before a kiss.” She then gets really quiet as she looks at him, but before anything else can be said, Simon wakes up coughing. Simon assures Jayne that he is fine, that it is just the after affects of the drug, and as soon as Jayne makes a snide remark about River being fine, she starts to vomit.

Mal and Zoe continue down to the med-vault, but are stopped by a doctor who wonders where they are going with “those two bodies.” Zoe resorts to an old stand-by and knocks the doctor out and stashes him in one of the body-bags.

Meanwhile, Jayne escorts Simon, dressed as a doctor, pushing River, dressed as a patient, through a recovery ward, which is oddly open and curtain-less. They pass a patient, and River predicts his death. Simon tries to assuage her that no one is going to die, but then the man she pointed to sends his machines into a tizzy as he starts to die. Simon, being Simon, fights with his morals for only a second before he goes back, saves the man, and chews the man’s attending doctor out for carelessness. He then goes back and wheels River out of the area.

Mal and Zoe have some fortune in having knocked out the doctor as his identcard is what gets them into the vault. There, they quickly consult lists written on their forearms and rob the vault for all it’s worth, stash the knocked out doctor in it, then leave, waltzing out to the ambulance without a second glance.

Simon, River, and Jayne reach the neuro-imager, and Simon uses a spiffy holographic overlay that floats above River to look into the damage that the academy did to her mind. In particular, he sees that they did hideously unneeded brain surgery to her. He notices that one particularly crazy thing they did was to strip the part of her brain that regulates her prime emotions, such as fear and worry, meaning that River feels everything without any filter. Jayne gets impatient and insists they need to leave, even though Simon is sure they still have twenty minutes. Soon as Jayne gets impatient, River’s brain activity goes crazy in the hologram and she starts screaming. Simon quickly grabs the image data and starts calming River down. Jayne presses them to leave, and Simon caves.

Jayne takes them an alternate way, and River starts saying that she “can’t go back, I don’t want to go back.” Simon soothes her, but soon as they walk out, federal marshals jump them and arrest them. Unfortunately for Jayne, he is arrested too for aiding fugitives and the marshal who arrested them intends on collecting the reward on three fugitives, not two. Jayne tries to rush him, but is stunned by a fancy weapon before he takes two steps.

Back at the ambulance, Wash is excited to see Zoe and Mal back.

WASH: How much did we get?
MAL: Enough to keep us flying.
ZOE: Can we fly somewhere with a beach?
WASH: Maybe a naked beach.
(Zoe and Wash embrace and kiss.)
MAL: Cut it out. The job’s not done until we’re back on Serenity.
ZOE: Sorry, sir. Didn’t mean to enjoy the moment.
MAL: (pauses) Where are the others?

Jayne, River, and Simon are in processing, and Simon, unaware that Jayne ratted him out, whispers some thanks to Jayne for at least trying to save them. Jayne, nervous over being revealed as a rat and for being in custody, tells Simon to be quiet, and then River starts to talk in her own special way.

RIVER: They took Christmas away.
JAYNE: What the hell now?
RIVER: I came downstairs for the shiny presents. They took the tree and the stockings. Nothing left but coal.
JAYNE (to Simon) Would you shut her up?
RIVER: Don’t look in the closet, either. It’s greedy. It’s not in the spirit of the holiday.

Back at the ambulance, Mal, Zoe, and Wash realize something is wrong as the others are ten minutes late. They call Kaylee and she checks on the Cortex and finds some coded official transmissions about ducks. Mal seems to instantly realize that this means the feds have the others. They instantly start to arm up and plan on how to sneak in the back and mount a rescue.

In processing, the agent in charge is ten sorts of hostile with Simon, indicating he would prefer that Simon was just dead, but that they are instead being taken to a holding area. The grunts manhandle them into the holding area, and as they round a corner, Jayne makes his move, and he and Simon manage to overpower their guards, killing one and knocking the other out. River watches horrified the entire time.

Mal and Zoe walk through the hospital, and Mal kibitzes about how, as always, things never go to plan. Wash tells them that they might want to hurry, and when Mal sarcastically asks if there is a problem, Wash tells him that another group of feds (in a fancy ship, nonetheless) have just shown up.

Jayne, Simon, and River take one of the stun-guns and start to make their escape. Jayne wants to do it with lasers flaring through the front (perhaps in revenge?), but Simon prefers to run the other way. As they argue, River gets distant and says, “It doesn’t matter. They’re here.”

In the processing center, the blue-hands arrive and, upon hearing that the agent and his men talked to the prisoners, pull out some sort of sonic device and kill them all with a rather painful looking bleed-through-every-orifice technique.

Jayne, River, and Simon hear the feds screaming and quickly decide to try the back way. The blue-hands find the holding room and kill the surviving fed there as well. Jayne continues to protest to running through the maze-like underground, but upon hearing the second scream of bloody-everything, shuts up and follows.

They come to a locked door and try to barge through but can’t. The fancy stun-gun is worthless for both firepower and as a bludgeon, but fortunately Mal and Zoe shoot their way through just before the blue-hands show up. The crew escapes.

Back on the ship, Inara just returns and gets the confusing breakdown from Kaylee:

KAYLEE: Well, let’s see. We killed Simon and River, stole a bunch of medicine, and now the Captain and Zoe are off springing the others that got snatched by the feds. Oh, and here they are now.

Everyone gets out of the ambulance, safe and sound, and Wash gets them going up soon. Jayne, out of breath, complains about the action, and Mal comforts him, saying that if he hadn’t come, he wouldn’t be getting his big payday. Kaylee wonders what happened to Jayne’s face—he has a rather large bruise—and Simon starts to talk Jayne up greatly as a hero who did all he could to save them from the feds. Jayne tries to play it off, and Mal tells him to help with the cargo as he sends everyone else off to do their jobs. Soon as everyone is out of sight, Mal knocks Jayne out cold with a sizable wrench.

Jayne comes to in the airlock with a walkie-talkie nearby. Mal talks to him over it as he opens the airlock’s outer door a bit and says they need to have a chat. Mal gives Jayne a chance to confess, asking why he was going out the wrong exit, but Jayne holds to his story, saying he just had to improvise because he couldn’t go out the front. Mal accuses him of calling the feds, and when Jayne points out he was arrested too, Mal says that is what happens when you call the feds. Jayne finally starts to admit to what he did as they get closer to breaking atmo, but Mal has no sympathy to Jayne’s pleas and apologies.

JAYNE: What are you taking it so personal for? It ain’t like I ratted you out to the feds!
MAL: But you did! You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me! And since that’s a concept you can’t seem to wrap your head around then you got no place here. You did it to me, Jayne. And that’s a fact.

Mal starts to leave, and as he’s on stairs, Jayne asks him what he’s going to tell the others about why he’s dead. Mal responds that he doesn’t know yet, and Jayne begs him to not tell them the truth. Mal stares out at Jayne for a moment then closes the airlock. He then tells Jayne “The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.” He then leaves Jayne alone in the airlock.

Simon visits River, where she is drawing a Matryoshka doll. He compliments her drawing, but she looks at the syringes he is holding and asks what he is doing. Simon says he has some new medicine that he thinks will help her, and she balks.

RIVER: Time to go asleep again.
SIMON: No, mei-mei. It’s time to wake up.

She lets him inject her, but with a heartbroken look.

So, as I look over my summary, I realize something about this episode. The first five minutes and the last five minutes are packed full of little details that seem to scream out “include me”, while the middle, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great caper-went-wrong story. In fact, “Ariel” is probably in my top-three episodes (not that I’ve ever sat down long and hard to enumerate those three). But, yeah, this episode is leading up to the last two scenes.

Now, that is kind of unfair of me. Any story is leading up to the climax and dénouement, but “Ariel” feels like it is really doing that with a bit lost to the caper-y action. Granted, we see that Simon is, as always, a super smart goody-two-shoes. We barely get to see Inara, no Book at all, and Wash, Zoe and Kaylee are extremely auxiliary. So River, Mal, Jayne, and Simon are the big players here.

Oddly, I was really focused on Mal this episode, even though I think it is more of a Simon and Jayne episode by intent. The reason, I think, is that Mal is yet again not quite the Mal I thought I knew, and I don’t know how I feel about this. We see a lot more of the “good leader” in Mal here, responding to different people in ways that work with them. Which means aggression to Jayne, snark to Zoe, and compassion to Simon. And there, that last bit, is what kind of gets me.

Up to this point, Mal’s compassion has been tempered with a gruffness about it. But just the one line in the infirmary where he asks if River is getting worse is strange to me. I don’t want to say it breaks character, after all, characters grow and maybe Simon’s goodliness is rubbing off on Mal as the captain gets used to the doctor, but at the same time, Mal and Simon’s relationship has been, well, poorly defined, I think. There has not been an episode where Mal’s odd desire to be the hero and help out the Tams has been explained, and definitely not in a way where Mal would actually be that open with Simon. I was just expecting some more gruff, I guess. I think what is doing it the most for me, though, is that Mal’s character was not entirely cemented in the writers’ and directors’ minds from the get-go, so it kind of waffles in this gray space that makes seeing the growth a little harder. That and the fact that said growth was probably supposed to happen across seasons . . . well yeah.

Anyway, on to Simon. Aside from him being a “the good Ash” sans gun in the recovery ward, we also see some more of “the lengths a man will go to help his sister.” Simon, timid, awkward, normally law-abiding Simon, is really a criminal mastermind at heart. He just needs to grow a goatee. I guess this is not completely out of left field, seeing as we know that Simon broke River out of a highly secured government facility, so he has at least some experience with crazy subterfuge-laden plans. On the other hand, I like to think that he just was able to bend his good brain to evil.

I was a little let down by the token morality of the plan, though. “Oh, we aren’t going to hurt anyone. We are totally Robin Hood here, with a profit.” Yeah, the hospital would be restocked in a matter of hours, but the doctor they knocked out his one less man saving lives on the floor, and the med-vault is one more stop a doctor needs to make trying to find some medicine fast to save someone, thus possibly wasting crucial moments. Oh, and while that doctor was being a pain when started to harass Mal and Zoe, I’ll note that he had reason to be suspicious of them: he turned around as they were kibitzing about the Alliance and core planets. No offense, but that seems rather suspect and deserving of some douchery. For all we know, he was a pediatrician about to go save a child’s life, and now the child is dead cause his doctor didn’t get there in time, and five other kids died when a doctor went to that med-vault looking for meds he needed fast and couldn’t find them. Way to go, Robin Hood.

Now that I’ve killed the innocence of the episode in a splatter-fest of the other guy’s shoes, the last five minutes and Jayne. The episode starts and goes most of the way with Jayne being Jayne. Just as we saw in the first episode and in “Out of Gas”, Jayne’s loyalty is to the highest bidder, but even our devil-on-the-shoulder has an angel on his own. After all, he is really nervous as Little Miss Psychic starts mind-reading his plans (not that we exactly know that is what she is doing yet), and we had his saving line of begging the others not know he had betrayed them. Perhaps it was Simon’s honest praise of Jayne as an attempted hero, or maybe he did feel guilty about it the entire time but was of the opinion that he was no better than someone who took the greedy, lower path. Maybe it’s both. But this episode marks a major change in Jayne and probably the only completed character arc in the series. Would Jayne have been a shaky variable later? Probably. A heel-face-turn isn’t Whedon’s style, he is much more heel-face-revolving-door, I think. But still, for the fourteen episodes and movie we got, Jayne’s maturation was a nice thing. I also want to comment that I find it funny that when he was talking to Mal about who River might hurt next and listing off the “weak women” onboard (Inara and Kaylee), he did not include Zoe. Guess there is some respect there if he doesn’t instantly think of Zoe as River-fodder.

Oh, and River. The only thing I really want to talk about with her is the Christmas story I quoted. I don’t get it. I normally can understand most of River’s rambling from my third-person, at least in retrospect, but of all her crazy I think this is one I never really got. Maybe it was a lead in to something else further down the line, or maybe it is all supposed to be her doing an allegory for Jayne (who thought Christmas was coming, blinded by greed, and only got coal.) In fact, as I type this out, that is what I’m going to go with, but her first-person telling of it still throws me off, making me think that isn’t it entirely. Thoughts, anyone? I do really like how she was drawing the doll at the end, though. A beautiful allusion to the many layers of Jayne that are being revealed and that she saw.

Now, there was a bit of a new thing introduced to us this episode, something we sadly never get to see on scale again, and that is a core planet. Ariel City, for being as wonderfully 2002-TV-CG-graphic’d as it was, was an interesting place to visit after all the rustic settings or semi-industrial-hellholes. Yeah, I know the Alliance is all rules and sensors and London with CCTVs and that, but remember Inara talking about the core planet she was trained as a Companion on. There is a beauty and wonder there. Yes, it is dystopian in that it is built on the broken backs of a lesser caste, but honestly, isn’t the first world of our day? Perhaps there is some allegory here that was not intended, because honestly, Ariel does not look bad to me long as you are “law-abiding”. Which really is the United States (or pick your developed country). Whether in our borders or out, there is an oppressed caste, an “outer Rim” that is taken advantage of and thus patrolled by militaries out of its control to protect said interests. And my ex-girlfriend with a PhD in Political Science would either be beaming over me talking about Dependancy Theory right now, or shaking her head at the simplicity of my presentation of it.

I am not saying this, per se, to vilify “The First World.” I am saying it to be more of a “every coin as two sides.” This might also have something to do with my recent reading of Cory Doctorow’s For the Win, but I won’t get into that here. What I’ll re-iterate, though, is that the core planet is not so bad, just as Wash, Inara, and Simon are willing to attest to. Zoe, though, is hard-down unwilling to see that, but of course, she sees through the eyes of a defeated rebel. I actually feel a little sad that we never get to see any other core planets, especially in mixed or even positive light. After all, all we’ve gotten, point of view wise, of the Alliance is from said failed rebel’s eyes or people who are at least somewhat fugitive (counting Inara in there).

Originally Aired: 15 November 2002
Original Position: Episode 8
Richard’s Favorite Line:

SIMON: (after seeing the crew in EMT uniforms) Well, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you all were ready to save some lives.

Fun Goof: The CGI flying ambulance lands at St. Mary’s on flat foot pads, but in the corresponding live-action scenes, the full-scale model is sitting on casters.

And that is all from me, and from the blue-hands, as it happens. See you next week for “War Stories”, where we get some more call backs. Yay Russian mobsters.

Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, and totally wants a little blue double-bladed glow wand that makes his enemies bleed all over and die. Not that, you know, he’d use it. Of course not. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short stories at http://RichardFife.com.

Vincent Lane
1. Aegnor
I found your hidden typo! "Mal wonders how they are going to get Simon and River passed the ident scanners"
Vincent Lane
2. Aegnor
I agree with you that the caper is sort of secondary. This is really about Mal, Simon, and Jayne. Also there were some things that were setting up other things for later, but later never came. The whole two-by-two, hands of blue, and the Blue Sun stuff. River slashed Jayne because he was wearing a Blue Sun t-shirt. What plan did Joss have for Blue Sun?
Captain Hammer
3. Randalator
Re: not so Robin-Hood-y

Having worked in hospital pharmacy I can assure you that the caper is not all that dangerous. The different wards all had their own small "med-vault" and got stocked with what they needed for every realistic eventuality in the next days. No doctor (or, more realistically, nurse) would actually need to go to the vault to fetch meds.

And every day we would get back huge quantities of meds with only a couple of pills/doses taken out or simply past their expiration date. The rule basically was "if opened, throw out when next delivery comes". Actually it was quite a waste because even the technically "still good" stuff just went to the incinerator.

If Alliance hospitals really get restocked within hours (and I'm going to trust Simon on that) there is nothing I can see happening that would endanger patients after the heist.

As for the doctor: If they had an emergency right now, he wouldn't be strolling around in the basement but be with his patient. That goes double for specialists. And for any other missing-doctor-related emergency there are always doctors on stand-by to be called in if they're needed...
Beth Mitcham
4. bethmitcham
I originally thought the Christmas reference was for River, expecting to go to a school for great learning and getting tortured instead. But I agree that it also works for Jayne -- he thought he'd be getting presents and got coal instead. And in the closet are the blue hands on their way...
Rikka Cordin
5. Rikka
doctorow has a way of doing that to a man... XD
Church Tucker
6. Church
Ah, but think of Jayne as Shepard's Book. A symbol that becomes meaningless outside of its container.

C.f., Jaynestown.
j p
7. sps49
River's blatherings may have had multiple values; similar to the knnn in CJ Cherryh's Merchanter worlds, you have to read vertically & horizontally and more than one subject may be addressed at once. These layers could include Jayne's reward expectations, her expectations at the "special" school, Simon's at using the hospital facilities; even the eventual fate of the pharmaceutical take.

Mal has probably always seen Simon (and River) as kindred spirits, wrongfully wronged by the Alliance. He could've dumped them on several non-Core worlds; not doing so indicates empathy and/ or pragmatism. It is also covered in Leadership 101 that one always comes off hard at first, then eases up some as time passes; starting off all nice and squishy is a bad idea. (Edit:) Mal is also concerned that River worsening could cause Serenity problems; he isn't just being a concerned pal.

I also think that if Mal had intended the sensible thing with Jayne, he would've offed him without any chitchat. He gave him a chance, which is taking a serious risk, if you ask me.
Kent Aron Vabø
8. sotgnomen
I never saw the Mal-Simon interaction here as "Oh no your dear sister is getting worse, we must help her". Seemed more like "Is she a danger to my crew? Am I going to have to do something about this"
9. aakansha
i like reading all kinds of books but science fiction is one of my favourite category. That’s why i became member of matris so that i can read as many books i want to read
Jennifer B
10. JennB
I love this episode because it is the only episode where the crew comes off better than expected. If only they could have kept it.

Strangely, I disagree with most of the commentary. Randalator@3 has a good counter arguement about the Robin Hood stuff.

I don't think that Mal's concern for River is at all out of character. He likes her. In fact I get the impression from Safe or even from the end of the pilot that he likes both Simon and River, even though he sort of hides it. I think that Safe sets him up as a father figure to River. I also think that sps49@7 and sotgnomen@8 are correct in regards to Mal's concern.

I do agree that it would have been fun to see more core planets.

Aegenor@2 I always thought that River slashed Jayne because she knew he would betray them. This of course makes be wonder whether Jayne would have betrayed them if River had not slashed him, which gets us into self fulfilling prophecy territory.

The one thing that bothered me about this episode is how quickly Wash and Kaylee were able to rebuild the wreck from the dump.
Brook Freeman
11. longstrider
I thought that Mal's line to Simon was to make Simon acknowledge that River was getting worse. Mal not being sure that Simon had admitted it to himself. Also the threat of if she's really getting worse they'll have to leave because of Mal & Simon's bargin.
12. stalkinggoat
JennB:"I always thought that River slashed Jayne because she knew he would betray them."

I didn't think that how her abilities worked. She's a telepath right so she could read only what a person was thinking. Jayne doesn't strike me as a planner, sure he'd betray them if an opportunity presented itself (on a Core planet, why not call a Fed), but I don't see him sitting around out in the Black thinking about it. Granted before that they were talking about Ariel so that could have started him into the line of thought.
13. peachy
@12 - I don't quite agree. I think Jayne always intended to betray them. Ariel was simply the first opportunity to do so - at least, the first that would (in Jayne's less than perfectly cunning little brain) provide him with plausible deniability back at the ship.
james loyd
14. gaijin
While Mal is far from a Christ figure, if Book had been around to overhear Mal's speech to Jayne ("You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me!...You did it to me, Jayne, and that’s a fact") he would have immediately recognized it as a paraphrase and slight twisting of Matthew 25:31-46, which includes "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

It would really be pushing it though to point to the scene at the beginning when they're gathered around a table and River marks one of them as a traitor as a nod to the Last Supper wouldn't it? Yeah I thought so.
Nathan Martin
15. lerris

Interesting observation. Compare Inara to Mary Magdalene, and an interpretation of Mal as a Christ figure becomes more plausible. Perhaps even setting the stage for where Mal ends up in War Stories.
Vincent Lane
16. Aegnor
By the way, I think what River says right when she wakes up is "Copper for a kiss", not "Caught before a kiss".

I'm pretty sure that River Slashed Jayne because of the Blue Sun t-shirt. Blue Sun had something to do with her imprisonment, though it is never explained what. You notice the slash cuts right across the text of the T-Shirt. Its also why she pulled off all the labels on the canned food in an earlier episode (Safe?). It was all Blue Sun brand.
Church Tucker
17. Church
@10. JennB "I don't think that Mal's concern for River is at all out of character. He likes her."

She was an innocent screwed over by the Alliance. Of course he does. Flipside is that is why he's so short with Simon, who wasn't (except by her proxy.)

@16. Aegnor "I'm pretty sure that River Slashed Jayne because of the Blue Sun t-shirt."

Yeah, I think that was mentioned in the commentary (possibly somewhere else.) Pity they didn't get the time to draw out that plot line.
18. lordnaryb

Ah! I'd always wondered why River had knifed Jayne. Hadn't noticed his shirt before. Thanks!
19. zep243
I may be a little late to the game here, but...

I always thought that River's mumblings about "Christmas" was her reading Jayne's thoughts/memories and using them as an allegory for his current situation. SPOILER for "Objects In Space": Very similar to the way she reads the bounty hunter Early's memories about his mother.

This would explain why Jayne gets so upset and tries to shut her up with threats. He knows that she's reading his brain, and could reveal his betrayal.
Skip Ives
20. Skip
@17 Church - I think it is more than just that he likes River. I think it is more that what happened to River and Simon was why he fought in the war. The show is very much a western in this respect, where the hero/antihero speaks for the rights of the individual against crush of dehumanizing "progress".

As for the ramblings of River - I view her as a mystic oricle archetype. Her "prophecies" are meant to be read on multiple levels and mean different things to different people. So can be about her brain damage, Simon's having to give up his prior life, and about Jayne's betrayal.

Or not. YMMV.
Church Tucker
21. Church
@20 Skip

Yeah, that's sort of what I was going for. I'd take it a bit further and say he *identifies* with her. Only she's at once more damaged and more capable than he is, which keeps him off balance. For all the trouble that River causes, I get the impression that he generally tolerates Simon because of her rather than the other way 'round.

As for River's prophecies, I think it's largely kept ambiguous, ala the oracle at Delphi (although River does appear to have real abilities in the larger scope of the show.) Jayne is clearly freaked out, but he's also the kind of person who would be easy to freak out, even inadvertently. It's not at all clear when she's actually using her augmented power, and when everyone is just freaking out because she's some kind of mutant. I suspect more of the former than the latter.
22. Rosalind123
I always thought that River was talking about memories the blue hands had stripped away from her ie: 'they' took away Christmas
23. Lili
I really love this episode. It was smooth, coherent and intelligent from the get go.

I do not find Mal's concern for River out of character. I think by now it's been established he is not the hard nosed bad-ass he is taken to be or which he personally likes others to think. He is cynical and lost his faith but when push comes to shove, he is not an ass, like Jayne, and can be counted on - even be kind. Plus, he wasnt all mushy with Simon, he made it clear that if this continues they may have to revisit their arragnmnt. So he was totally being Mal here. But then he softened those harsh corners by asking about River. I think that gave depth and nuance to his character. He is not an obstructionist nay sayer after all.

As to the Robin Hood thing and your whole spiel about how knocking out that Dr. meant a child died: I think you are reading way too much into this and basically critiquing this episode based on wild speculation. That doctor isnt the only doctor in the big ass hospital and it is strange that you think his absence would or could have cost 5 kids their lives and made all things fall apart. Maybe his absence put a more competent doctor in place who then saved someone's life casue maybe this one was terrible doctor, Maybe he was an incompetent doctor and Mal and Zoe really saved a kid';s life by hitting him over the head and making him be MIA for a couple of hours. See how im just random speculating. You can imagine a dozen different scenarios like that but it is irrelevant since none of it was shown. For all we know, the Dr could have been on his way to the cafeteria for lunch.

Also, the crew of the firefly was not on an errand of mercy. If Simon had said take me there so i can help River, and there was no profit in it for thme, Mal would most probably have said no, especially because these people havent had a job in a while and were running on empty. I think you are taking the robin hood comment Wash made out of context. Kaylee asked if the hospital was going to miss the meds, Zoe said they can restock quickly and Mal said look a lot of people on the rim could use it too. Of curse no one meant just giving it away but the point was, the fcking govt aint gonna miss this, but people on the rim could use it direly so in addition to us making buttloads of money here we will, as a nice side effect, also be doing a good job and delivering much needed goods to a parched out rim suffocating in the toxic waste of poverty.

As to the core planet thing: yeah it would have been cool to find out more about this society but i would not say the core planets are kinda like what the US is like - although that may change with the recent NSA spying issues and where we're headed basically where whistleblowing that exposes government crimes has become treason etc. I mean isnt that exatly what the Alliance does and thinks? if you oppose us and expose our crimes, you are a treasonous citizen? Anyway, in Firefly, the alliance has obviously created a police state - no freedom of speech, surveillance, sensors. A little 1984 Orwellian nightmare amidst lush greens, luxurious malls, majestic skyscrapers and pink sunsets.

Yeah you get to live civilized and clean but there is a price to be paid. A heavy price. As Zoe said, there are censors everywhere and where there aint any, there are feds. There is no freedom. It is an oppressive world. nice on the surface, but run by greed and mass exploitation, deception and lies on the inside. Secret police that murder law enforcement officials for having talked to classified folks etc liquefying their brains. That is a huge, unholy bargain. In the US, we may be getting there but we arent there yet. The FBI doesnt murder local sheriffs who apprehended an important susecpt.

I have myself often wondered, given the sheer terror that is the outer rim, if i would not have given up some freedom, or all freedom, for security.. I mean Jaynestown, Reaver raiding parties, living like the wild west only in a really kinda of fucked up high tech way, disease, poverty, witch burning, indentured servitude, being at the mercy of cruel , rogue leaders like that guy in "Golden eart" and all that crap. I dont know. I am not so sure i would have taken that because of the police state tat is the alterative. Yes it is a terrible bargain but something that makes me think and shows me that the decision would not be as clear cut to me as it may be for Mal or Kaylee or Zoe. And i think this is what Whedon is trying to convey. It is not one of those black and white issues. There are tradeoffs and everyone has a different capacity for accepting each alternative over the other.

That is what i like about Firefly, it is a more realistic version of how i imagine human kind to end up . I mean the world 500 years into the future is, like you said, exactly like what it is like on earth - only worse. Like on steroids. Really fucked up. It's like we have taken the dysfunction and bullshit to a galactic level. We didnt learn anything and keeprepeating the same garbage over and over again - doing things exactly as before - just that its 10,000 times more amplified. This is a future i can see happening. I love Star Trek, dont get me wrong, im a huge fan, but i have always found the future as depicted by Roddenberry too homogenous and optimistic.

Thing is, human kind is a failed experiment imo, and we are likely to continue the abject failures that our existence into even 1000 years from now. Whedon has a very bleak vision of the future which resonates with how human organizations work these days and how we are as a species: selfish, greedy, destructive, cruel, inhumane, genocidal Human kind is lost in Whedon's future and left to our own devices at the rims of the galaxy, we have just become really fucked up version of our worst selves (even though in some places it is strangely enlightened like the whole companion business and stop viewing sexuality in such a puritan ways and race apparently not mattering etc.)

That scene where Simon saves that guy made my heart skip a beat as i was sure someone was gonna say "who the hell are you?" but he pulled it off showing us a glimpse of what Simon was or could have been if he had stayed being the brilliant dr that he was rather than the fugitive he has become. A traitor.

I liked how Mal taught Jayne his lesson. It was spot on. He wasnt cruel but he was firm and i was secretly hoping he would get rid of that ass. I didnt buy that whole suddenly developing a sense of loyalty and honor. it was out of place and uncharacteristic, especially because he goes right back to how he's always been in subsequent episodes, sans the betrayal part.

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