Tue
Jun 15 2010 4:05pm

Firefly Re-watch: “Heart of Gold”

There was a time, in the wild west, when men were men and the women were, too. Where a person had to cut out what little bit of land there was to be had, no matter the spoilers, and hold onto it with the fierce determination that only a long memory would provide.

Episode Summary:

At a tin-foil covered house in the middle of a desert, a man and woman are hanging laundry out when they see an approaching hovercraft and horses. They call for Nandi, and she comes out calmly and tells them to go inside. The man in the hovercraft, Rance Burgess, ignores her declaration that he isn’t welcome at her brothel and sends his men in to fetch a pregnant prostitute, Petaline. He forcefully extracts a sample of the fetus’ DNA right there, and promises her that if it matches his own he’ll be back for his baby, even if it means cutting it out of her. The prostitutes wonder how they could stand up to Rance and Nandi looks off in the distance, thinking.

Mal cleans and checks his guns in the galley when Inara spooks him by simply saying “hi” as she walks in. Mal tries to cover his dignity, and Inara only calls him out for cleaning his weapons on the dining table. He complains it is the only place big enough, and she makes a jab about the proper place-setting of guns. Wash pops his head in then, saying there is a distress call coming in, and Mal muses over how he’ll get to be noble. Wash pops that bubble when he reveals the call is for Inara. Mal gets one final jibe.

MAL: This “distress” wouldn’t happen to be taking place in someone’s pants, would it?

Inara takes the call in her shuttle, where she talks with her old friend Nandi. Nandi begs Inara to offer the job of protecting the brothel to the crew, and while Inara indicates some joking reservation in the competence of the crew, she says it sounds like something they can handle. Nandi promises there will be payment enough, and remarks how the companion’s guild would tell Inara to not come. Inara assures that the order to shun Nandi means little to her.

She then turns around and asks Mal if he heard most of it. He pops his head into the shuttle tells her yes, but only because he was eavesdropping, then walks inside. He comments about how it is a whole house full of Companions, then asks how they plan on paying. Inara says they aren’t Companions, but whores, as they are not part of the Guild. Inara then assures Mal he will be paid, but Mal tells her to keep her money, he’ll take the job for free. Inara thanks him, but insists that he takes payment as they need to keep their relationship strictly professional.

In the hanger, Zoe does the talking, saying the job is strictly speculative, meaning they don’t even know if they will get paid. As such, any crew member that would rather stay on the ship is free to. Jayne is reluctant to help strangers out, but when Mal drops that they are whores, Jayne is full in.

They land on the moon and the entire crew walks to the brothel. Inara introduces Mal and Zoe to Nandi, and Jayne jumps into flirting and pawing the merchandise. Mal, Zoe, Inara and Nandi go off to talk business, and the rest are left in the lobby. Simon asks where the pregnant woman is so he can examine her and Kaylee notices several men, exclaiming that it is thoughtful that they have “boy-whores” and wonders if they service women. Wash is aghast at the casual way Kaylee talks about paying for sex.

KAYLEE: Well, it’s not like anyone else is lining up to, you know, examine me.

One of the girls leads Petaline out and introduces her to Simon, who jumps at the chance to do his job and ignore where he is. Two girls walk up to Book, who is busily making himself a meal and ignoring where he is. They ask him if they could have a prayer meeting, seeing as they don’t get one often with a real shepherd, and the last one half-assed it then took payment in trade. That makes Book stop in his tracks and look stricken.  Nearby, Kaylee is mopey.

KAYLEE: Everyone’s got somebody. Wash, tell me I’m pretty.
WASH: Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.
KAYLEE: ‘Cause I’m pretty?
WASH: ‘Cause you’re pretty.

Meanwhile in Nandi’s office, Mal is getting a feel for what he has to deal with. Nandi reveals that Rance is after the kid because his own wife is barren, but that he is cruel and vile and not deserving to be a father. Therefore, as far as Nandi is concerned, the child is Petaline’s alone, even if Rance is the biological father. She further reveals that Rance has the money to actually develop the moon into a decent place to live instead of the rustic hell-hole it is, but he keeps it that way to play cowboy. Mal seems somewhat skeptic about Nandi’s very biased story, so he says he wants to meet Rance, if only to size him up.

At the theater, a man seems to be performing a shadow-puppet-play of the exodus from Earth, and Rance is being rowdy and chauvinistic. Mal jumps into the conversation rudely, introduces himself, and complements “her” on being a beauty. Rance thinks he is talking about the laser pistol at his side and he shows it off, even handing it to Mal. Mal wonders that a weapon is legal, and Rance’s wife jumps to his defense, saying there is a different between legality and morality. A sentiment Mal agrees to earnestly. He hands the gun back, then reveals that he was talking about Rance’s wife, not the gun. They then leave, and as they do, Rance gets a call telling him the baby is his.

Outside, Inara wonders what Mal’s estimation is, and Mal says they are high-tailing it. At the brothel, he tells the rest of the plan to the crew and the girls. He doesn’t like the vibe he got from Rance and he thinks they will be heavily outgunned. Nandi thinks Mal is saying he’s turning tail solo, but he clarifies his offer: Nandi’s entire work force needs to leave with him. Nandi declines, saying that she would rather die in her house, that she built up from nothing, than run.

Mal smiles and says Nandi is his kind of stupid, and they burst into discussion about what to do. Book offers to help construct some barricades, and Kaylee is tasked with improving the water-works in case of a fire. Of course, just at that moment, and predicted by River a few moments earlier, Petaline goes into labor. Simon takes Petaline away and everyone starts their preparations, from boarding up windows and mending fences, to setting traps, to laying out guns across beds for rapid change-outs. Jayne additionally pep-talks his girl and readies her to switch out his guns for him.

Outside, Wash preps a trap and talks babies with Zoe. Wash is against the idea of having one, seeing as they are hardly in a position to have and raise a child, and Zoe is stubborn that she wants one, and we discover that this is apparently an old argument between them. She relents on it for the time, but assures him they will have a child one day.

Mal and Nandi prep in her room and she shows off her prized gun collection while commenting that she honestly expected more of the crew to be taking payment in trade. Mal talks about how the crew sans Jayne are disinclined, then focuses on the guns, which are impressive and apparently still functional, even regarding for their antique appearance. She then asks him point blank when he plans to “avail yourself of some of our trade?” He demurs, saying he is just distracted, but she notes that he hasn’t looked at a single one of the girls as long as he has looked at the old pistols. She asks if he’s “sly”, ‘cause she has boys, but he adamantly denies that. He just takes things one at a time and doesn’t like complications.

She smirks then starts talking about Inara; how unique she is and what a shock it was when she left the house on Sihnon. Apparently, she had her eyes on being House Priestess, and could have had it in a few years time. Nandi then observes that Mal and Inara are alike in their dislike of complications.

Meanwhile, Simon and Inara tend to Petaline, who is all set for a long labor. Inara asks how many babies he’s delivered and he reveals this is his first as the primary, to which she responds it’s her first, too. River, who has been watching with unabashed fascination, says it is her first as well. Simon predicts it will be a long night.

Meanwhile, Nandi and Mal sit on a loveseat and she tells her story over drinks. She grew tired of the constricting life of a Companion, so she smashed her dulcimer, left Sihnon, learned to say “ain’t” and found the brothel, which she had to forcibly take. Mal finally puts some moves on her and she cuddles up to him while he tries to get cold feet. She keeps him nearby, though, and he melts. Nandi then breaks away for a moment and says “I ain’t her.” Mal replies with, “The only people in this room are you and me.” They make their way to Nandi’s bed.

Back in town, one of Nandi’s girls betrays the brothel and delivers Rance the news that the brothel plans to fight Rance off tomorrow morning. He chuckles down to his rather large posse about them, then makes the turn-coat whore go down on him right there, as a statement to “what a woman is to a man.”

The next morning, the sun wakes Mal and Nandi and Mal bumps into Inara outside Nandi’s door as he is putting his shirt on. He tries to make excuses but Inara tells him she is glad he was with Nandi as she probably needed the comfort. He is shaken by her non-puritanical view of sex and shocked that she is completely okay with what happened. Inara replies that she isn’t entirely okay because she is appalled at Nandi’s taste. Inara then goes to a private room in the house and cries.

Outside, Wash and Kaylee make their way to the ship, which they plan to use to confuse Rance and his men during the fight. Kaylee comments that Mal was “a little funny” at breakfast, but Wash disregards it. Back at the brothel, Mal walks along the line of armed whores and makes sure they are ready for the fight, then calls Jayne to attention when Jayne’s mike starts transmitting dirty-talk.

Meanwhile, Inara, River, and Simon tend to Petaline, who is having one heck of a labor. Nandi walks in to check up on Petaline, but then sees the look Inara gives her. Nandi instantly starts to apologize, saying she thought Mal loved Inara but that it wasn’t returned. Inara blows her off and Nandi leaves.

Nandi comes in and accuses Mal of not giving the whole truth about things between him and Inara, but he is clueless and doesn’t get a chance to inquire further as Jayne informs him that Rance and his goons are incoming. Mal and Nandi give a final pep talk, then Mal radios Wash, telling him to step on it.

On the boat, Wash gets the transmission but before he can answer some of Rance’s men start shooting at him and Kaylee, pinning them down. Wash lays down some cover fire for Kaylee and they hurry along deeper into the ship and away from Rance’s men.

The traps take down some of Rance’s men as they ride in, and then Rance’s gunner opens up with a mounted gun. Jayne picks the man off, Mal and the whores return fire, and a firefight ensues with casualties on both sides. Rance starts using his laser on the building, causing it to catch fire and Book and Zoe use the modified water-pumps to keep the place from completely catching ablaze. In the birthing room, Simon delivers the child. Meanwhile, Mal realizes that he has lost the visual on Burgess, and Jayne has, too. Rance is parked up next to the building and hops out of his hovercraft, where he is let in by the girl who had previously betrayed the brothel. He hurries to the birthing room and takes the newborn boy at laser-point.

Back on Serenity, Rance’s men hunt after Wash and Kaylee, trapping them between engineering and the galley. Of course, this has both of them trapped, too.

Nandi hears Petaline’s screams and runs down to help. Rance levels his laser on Nandi when they meet in the hall, and she tries to tell him that he’s already lost the battle. He responds by saying he got what he came for. While he is distracted by Nandi, Inara comes up behind him and puts a knife to his throat. One of the girls takes the baby from him, but he then elbows Inara, breaks free of her, and shoots Nandi in the gut. He hurries away just as Mal busts through to see Nandi dead with Inara over her. Mal gets a crazy look in his eye and gives chase.

He kills one of Rance’s men, takes the horse, and gives chase to the hovercraft. Rance throws a couple laser blasts out, but his weapon runs out of juice. Mal catches up and pulls Rance out of the hovercraft and levels his pistol at him once they are both on their feet. Instead of killing him, though, Mal pistol whips him and drags him back to the brothel.

Outside, Rance screams for Petaline to bring “his baby” out while he is lined up along with the few of his men that were captured instead of killed. Petaline comes out with the baby and introduces Rance to Jonah. He tells Jonah to say hi to his daddy, then shots Rance and tells Jonah to say good-bye to his daddy. She then sends the surviving men on their way, and sends the traitor with them.

The crew and girls bury Nandi out by a tree and Mal and the crew leave. In the hold, Mal tells Inara that he expects the girls will do alright, even without Nandi. Inara again, and this time more honestly, says she is glad Mal was with her on her last night, but Mal says he isn’t and wishes he hadn't met her. Then, he wouldn’t have failed her. Inara tries to comfort him, but he won’t have it. He then calls her out on not having been glad before when she said she was. He says he isn’t looking for anything from her, but feeling rather “truthsome,” and that life is too short for ifs and maybes.

In response, she talks about Nandi and something she learned from her. Nandi had a strength that bound her girls together, and it is a strength that sucks a person in and binds them with love to where they can’t leave. She alludes that Mal has this strength too, and because of that she is doing something she should have done a long time ago. Inara tells Mal that she is leaving Serenity.

Commentary:

First time I watched this, Inara’s announcement that she was leaving blind-sided me. I didn’t expect any resolution to their star-crossed love, not really, but I didn’t expect such a craven act from Inara. Alas, it fits her character. Now I watch this and sigh in relief at the thought of her leaving. I only wish Mal could see that it was a good thing, too. Because, you know what? I really don’t like the Mal-Inara love thing.

See, they have been out in the black for over a year at this point. They have mostly only themselves for company and they are still where they are. Sadly, I am going to place most of the blame on Inara here, although some deserves to go to Mal for never actually speaking up or making a move that would have popped this bubble sooner. Why do I blame Inara more, though? Because she hides behind her snark and grace, doing everything she can to throw Mal off the obvious trail of her loving him (and in return actually just sending him a jumble of mixed signals), and then going off to a room to cry about it. Oh boo hoo, the man you are too craven to actually let into your life just went and slept with a woman much more emotionally stable than you are.

Okay, I admit I am seeing this through somewhat bitter eyes. But whatever personal trauma I bring to this reading of the Mal-Inara relationship, I’d like to point out the sheer amount of reinforcement against it there is in literature in general. Why? Because a strained romance that takes an entire novel to develop with lots of missed connections and conflicted feelings is good reading and watching. You know what it isn’t, though? A good relationship. And what does it encourage? White Knights looking for significant others.

Yeah, I’m going there a bit. But if it is one thing I hate, it is passive-aggressive people (I’ll be gender neutral, just you watch me) that almost seem to want to get into that “friend zone,” without ever trying for more, so they can worm and weasel their way in deeper. Is that what Mal is doing? Nah, not really, but at the same time, he is. We saw the first time Mal and Inara met, and there wasn’t exactly a sparking chemistry, but I have a feeling that we were supposed to get that the “romantic tension” was there from the start. So, here we have the fairytale of two people that are attracted to each other at the start but are both too passive-aggressive or just cowardly to make a move. And, of course, if they had made a move, whatever tortured past, et cetera yadda yadda, would have left them too broken to accept it. Oh wait, we saw that this episode.

And you know what? I don’t care. Both of them have issues they need to work out separate from being around someone that makes their heads secretly spin. Once they do that, then perhaps they could get around to expanding their lives romantically. But again, this is a story, and those lessons are typically bad ones. Also, sadly, this is a real occurrence, if not usually so romantic and evenly-two-sided. Oh, love-triangles.

To the show’s benefit, they didn’t end up in each other’s arms, at least here. I am going to admit that I cannot remember exactly what the end status in the movie was for Mal and Inara, but I am fairly sure they didn’t end up happily-ever-after, unlike some characters. So kudos to Whedon on that.

Of course, speaking of relationships, there is still the ever rocky Kaylee-Simon relationship. As a counter-point to Mal-Inara, I like this one because at least they admit they have the hots for each other, they are just being young and dumb about it and Simon is a piss-poor master of courtship. Kaylee’s bits in the brothel lobby did make me smile ear-to-ear, though.

River is, as in many episodes, cute and funny, but not really anything beyond “River.” I did enjoy her odd and unabashed fascination with the “below the curtain” part of birth. Summer Glau did a marvelous job of looking utterly fascinated, somewhat disgusted, and completely unaware of her own creepiness.

And a small backtrack to Inara, just to continue to fuel the Inara-is-immortal thing: Nandi commented that Inara looks exactly the same as the day she left.

Moving on, Jayne was a riot in this episode. I loved how he was actually kind of gussied up for his first appearance at the brothel, wearing a button-down shirt and a semi-nice hat. It has also been noted how one of the character-habits Baldwin introduced to Jayne was how Jayne was very sensory. He is always touching or smelling or tasting things. Here, he was definitely about that with the women, and not just in naughty ways. During the “we need to run speech” Mal gave, he was sitting up on the bar behind his favored lady playing with her hair. When I noticed that, I actually had to re-rewatch it because it made me snigger so hard. It also just adds all that much more depth to Jayne without a single word. I would venture to say that of any of the characters, Jayne is probably the deepest and most expanded, and I have a feeling that was never the writers’ intent.

Next on the docket: Zoe and Wash’s kid-speech. Personal background time here. I have two little boys, aged four and two. Both of them came upon me at not exactly opportune times in my life, and yet I still love them with all my heart. I never look back and wish they hadn’t come into my life, despite how much “easier” life might have been. So, I side with Zoe here.

Now, there is something to be said for planning your children. If you have absolutely zero money, bad health, and a thousand other distractions in your life, yeah, maybe not the best idea to bring a child into that. So I can see Wash’s point. Except Zoe and Wash’s lives are relatively stable, truth told. At least, they are as stable as they are probably ever going to get (of course we all know how that ends, but we are ignoring that right now.) The problem with wanting to wait for the stresses in your life to simmer down or the career side to pick up a bit, well, it’s about the same problem that happens whenever you put anything off. You keep putting it off.

Now that doesn’t mean go out and make babies, the circumstances be damned. But, you know, one can plan for a child to enter one’s life before the nine-month window. It isn’t about having nothing else in your life besides the child, it is only about making sure you have some time in your life for the child. Yes, they eat up a bunch of time, but your life doesn’t end with a child (or two). So that is my makin’-babies diatribe.

I have really nothing on Rance. He is a one-sided caricature of the chauvinist male with the power to back up his bigotry. I am not saying that the writers really needed to try and give us anything sympathetic to him (his desire to be a daddy is by no means sympathetic, either), but since they did not, I have nothing to say. Moving on.

I feel Book was underused in this episode, and I really feel like they had planned to use him more but that those plans were left on the cutting room floor. His reaction to Inara in the pilot was rather marked, but now I think we know him well enough to know that a woman who sells herself is hardly the tip of the moral iceberg for whatever Book’s previous life was. I don’t know exactly what the Book-and-the-Whores plot would have been, but I trust it would have been just as frustratingly teasing about his past as any of his others. Dang, I can’t wait for that comic to come out about him. Speaking of comics, I’ll talk on that in a sec.

Factoids:
Originally Aired: 23 June 2003
Original Position: Episode 12
Richard’s Favorite Line:

NANDI: You OK with this?
MAL: I’m just waiting to see if I pass out. Long story.

Fun Goof: Actually, nothing worth noting. IMDB had a few that were small production glitches or the such, but nothing I couldn’t actually just fluff away with a bit of suspension of disbelief between the camera-cuts.

Well, next week is it, my friends. “Objects in Space,” the last of Firefly. But fear not. After that, I am taking a week off for a breather, then we’ll have my break-down of the movie. And after that, I’m going to take us to a new medium: comics! Yes, it was pointed out to me that Serenity: Float Out has just recently been released, so I’ll be snagging that and doing some critical summary and analysis, too. After that, I’ll go backwards in time and do all three issues of Serenity: Better Days and so on. The actual order of comic coverage is not solidified yet, but it will be coming. So strap yourselves in, cause this leaf isn’t even close to off the wind yet.


Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, proud owner of a heart made of coal. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short stories at http://RichardFife.com.

24 comments
james loyd
1. gaijin
I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the Mal-Inara thing tiring. With Simon and Kaylee it's cute--they're giggly kids. Mal and Inara are older (especially Inara), wiser, and should be able to acknowledge a good thing when they see it.

Given Rance's refusal to recognize that Petaline was an actual human, why didn't he just take her with him to begin with and then let her go if the DNA test had been negative? Why give her the time to make escape and/or defense plans?

Oh, and I know settlers out on the rim are hardy folk and all, but trudging down stairs and outside to shoot Rance right after giving birth could not have been easy for Petaline. And the newborn isn't screaming all through her introduction/goodbye? Right.
j p
2. sps49
Jayne ended up more well-rounded than intended because Adam Baldwin is a very good actor who so far excels at adding dimension to cutout characters.

Nandi-Mal-Inara is an exaggeration of the sensitive woman vs. clueless man trope, where women are much better at nonverbal and verbal cues but blame the men for being oblivious. The Companions have had extra training, even, but Inara cries and Nandi blames Mal.

Mal and Inara had a serious obstacle to any serious relationship. The character of Mal would not be able to deal with a companion who is a Companion, and Inara does not want to give up her career for Mal. So, tension that may have been resolved eventually. Maybe.
Angela Korra'ti
3. annathepiper
I am going to admit that I cannot remember exactly what the end status in the movie was for Mal and Inara, but I am fairly sure they didn’t end up happily-ever-after, unlike some characters. So kudos to Whedon on that.

They didn't end up confirmed together, no, but they did end up with the potential for things to improve significantly. Their final scene was Inara offering Mal a shy smile as she told him that she really didn't know if she was ready to go back to 'civilization' yet, and Mal gave her a little grin back and told her 'good answer'.

Why yes, I have memorized this movie, why do you ask? ;)
Chris Long
4. radynski
Might I suggest reading the comics in order of publication? And furthermore, I would suggest reviewing "Those Left Behind" before the movie. It was designed as a bridge between the series and the movie after all.
Maeve F
5. divinari
It's been quite some time since I've actually seen any of the shows, but I've been reading your re-watch posts regularly (content-heavy stuff to read while I'm at work, that gets through the web-censors? Yes, please).

As far as the Mal and Inara thing, I was more than surprised at your assessment of their dysfunctional relationship. While yes, it _is_ dysfunctional, I never would have pinned it to pure passive-agressiveness or cowardice. In my head, what they've got is miscommunication, hampered by Issues.

I see Inara as trying to be professional, not wanting to fall in love with Mal, and failing miserably. She uses her subtlety (her skill) trying to suss him out for his feelings, but gets alternately rebuffed or millions of mixed signals.

I parse Mal as being both too honorable (in his way) and too paranoid to declare his feelings towards Inara. How would she ever know his feelings were true if she's a Companion, whose affections can be bought? So he hides it behind crass jokes about being a whore. Additionally, he's got people after him all the time. Making a pair of it with Inara would only make her a target.

Combine these with the "normal" communication complications with any budding relationship, their constant drama on the ship, lack of time to truly be alone, plus the ever-present fear of rejection and... well, you've got Mal and Inara. :)
Jennifer B
6. JennB
I really wanted to see where Wash and Zoe's relationship would go from here. The movie was a major disappointment on this note. MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT.

Inara is leaving. The movie addresses this, but since I saw the movie first, it is very confusing because the movie never explains who Inara is (same with Book).

Otherwise this episode was entertaining and was solidly in the middle. Didn't love it, didn't hate it.

I did think it was strange that none of the prostitutes was given a choice about staying. Nandi wants to go down with the ship, doesn't mean everyone else has to. Also if the pregnant women left with Serenity, would Rance still have attacked?

Maybe we are just supposed to assume that everybody chose to stay and fight.
Rikka Cordin
7. Rikka
I personally love "Jayne, you are aware your radio's transmittin'? 'Cause I don't feel particularly girlish or dirty at the moment." Plus, I definitely got to quote, "Dead horse is cover; live horse great pile of panic" while watching Dances with Wolves earlier today... firefly is ubiquitously applicable!

Also, re: MxI vs SxK, I cannot stand Kaylee/Simon... especially because if Kaylee's so extremely horny all the damn time (she's almost on par with Jayne, but at least he gets some), as well as having professed intent toward Simon a few eps ago, why is it taking so long for that girl to go for it?! Man up, woman! XD

Also, if anything I'm agreeing with @divinari on Mal/Inara. What we have here is a failure to communicate, compounded by past/trust issues.
peachy
8. peachy
M & I doesn't bother me too much, for the reasons explicated above. They both have valid reasons for not diving into a relationship with each other, whatever the vexation for the audience.

S & K is a bit more annoying, made bearable mostly by Simon's obvious and astounding ineptitude at romance. Though yeah, at some point Kaylee had to realise that he was too inept to handle affairs himself, and which point she ought to have just said - "you, nethers, now!"

Finally, the best scene has to be the meeting in the hold when the job's explained. Jayne's not interested in no philanthropy - "Don't know these folks, don't much care to." Ah, but Mal knows Jayne - "They're whores." And thus, the miracle change of heart - "I'm in." (A line delivered with such perfect sincerity you just have to crack up.)
James Hogan
9. Sonofthunder
I think it's a tribute to this series and to the actors that although I've only seen each episode a couple of times(heresy, I know!), whenever a line or scene is referenced, I can clearly visualize it and hear the characters' voices in my heads...like peachy@8, Jayne's line, "I'm in," immediately put his gravelly voice in my head. Oh and by the way, if I was a girl, I'd totally fall for Jayne..
peachy
10. Foxessa
The problem with this relationship so-called between Inara and Mal is that it bs. It was declared by the writers without giving either the characters or the audience any reason for Inara or Mal to have hankerings for each other. Bad writing, bad character building, like the world-building is bad bad bad. Really? Out in space even on frontier planets people are going to dress and talk like people on the USian wild western frontier of the late 1800's? Why no, they will not!

This episode in particular chaps because it is all bs from start to finish, which means the cliche of the whore with the heart of gold who dies because she dared love-kiss-have sex with the so-called hero -- because that she is a whore, you know, means she isn't worthy of an actual relationship with the so-called hero, no matter what manner of man slut he himself might be.

So maybe Inara isn't as passive-aggressive as you think.
Marcus W
11. toryx
Yeah, I never cared much for the Mal and Inara relationship and reading about it now in the re-watch it's even more painful. It actually kind of makes me dread to see the episode again, though I know I'll still enjoy it a heck of a lot.

Such a shame we never got to see how the show might have blossomed with more time and better treatment from the network.
peachy
12. Dolphineus
I would have to nominate River for best line in this one ...

"Who do you think is in there?"
peachy
13. cherryontop
Some valid points, but an uninformed analysis, my suggestion would be to do an internet search to find out why Inara really leaves Serenity. She has a tragic secret which has been confirmed by both Joss and Morena, after Morena “let the cat out of the bag.”
It’s not as simple as her behaving passive aggressively, this is Firefly, nothing is as it seems.
Church Tucker
14. Church
This is one of those episodes, like Jaynestown, where I can't find much fault in it, but I tend to skip it on rewatches. Dunno why.

I do like Inara's (and the universe's) discomfort with the the companion/whore dynamic. It acknowledges complications with that kind of arrangement. Hell, it could be a union ad.

"Well, it’s not like anyone else is lining up to, you know, examine me."

Telling use of the word "examine."
C C
15. Hatgirl
Yes, cherryontop is right. When you know Inara's secret, her behaviour is quite understandable.

As for Mal, he knows he couldn't cope with being in a relationship with someone who sleeps with other people. And he assumes Inara wouldn't consider changeing her lifestyle.

I'm not a big fan of passive-aggressive people either, but I don't think that's what Mal or Inara are.
peachy
16. goshawk
Inara's the passive-aggressive one? Really? Right, okay. It's funny, this is not the first time I've watched this with guys, and it seems most of them seem to think that because she was putting him off she has no right to cry. Most women seem to get the same reading I do. Differences cultural or innate, who knows.

Thing is, Mal and Inara would never work. Inara treats her job like a sacred calling, and Mal is incapable of understanding it as anything other than "whoring", which he apparently holds in contempt. That? As a relationship? Is a Class A Disaster waiting to happen, and Inara is wise and experienced enough to know it.

Her problem is that as wise and experienced as she is, she can't just tell herself not to love him and make it stick. She is crying, in this episode, not because he slept with Nande, but because when he did it hurt her and she can no longer pretend to herself that she can manage this situation. She's in love, it would never ever work, and she can't keep pretending. So she's making the smart choice and leaving before she can do any more damage. That's courage and tragedy, not passive-aggression.

Now, I happen to think that Mal and NANDE would have made a FANTASTIC pairing, mostly because Nande would have called him on his sh*t far more directly than Inara, and I am Extremely Annoyed that they fridged her. But that's another issue.
Tangle Key
17. tanglekey
Goshawk explains my views on Mal and Inara perfectly. I don't really have any problem with their relationship and how it was developed.

On the other hand, I don't like Simon and Kaylee as a couple. I think they have too many cultural and priority differences. Simon's first priority is his sister through much of the series and movie. They are physically interested in one another, but I think most of Simon's ineptitude comes from his inability to understand and appreciate Kaylee's perspective. He makes a bad habit of insulting things she values. Much of Kaylee's attraction to Simon IMO came from his shininess-- he's an inner planet boy and a doctor who dresses pretty and is cute. She does like shiny things.

Personally, I always secretly rooted for Kaylee and Jayne. I love how Joss would drop little hints of his crush on Kaylee. I'm not sure how that would ever pan out as a relationship, but it would certainly be interesting.
peachy
18. tarbis
I have to admit that I never really bought Mal and Inara. They had some spark, but were always going to be to damaged to have a relationship. (That and the fact that if you do manage to have a relationship in a Whedon show it will end horribly or you will die.)

The issue that bugs me with this episode is that it seems to be setting up a Wash/Kaylee relationship dynamic. Conflict might be the engine that drives stories, but that was one conflict the show did not need. It smacked of breaking up characters just to break up the family dynamic of the crew.
Jennifer B
19. JennB
Wash/Kaylee relationship????
I don't think so. They're friends and were just joking around.
peachy
20. tarbis
Watch the facial expressions when the pair are avoiding gunfire in the hold and remember this is during the same episode where a)an apparently longstanding argument between Wash and Zoe is shown and b)the bit of joking around between the two about Kaylee being pretty. In the world of shows being run by Whedon that is setup. Other showrunners I might give the benefit of the doubt, but I have seen to many Joss shows to read that anyway other than setup for yet another potential fissure in the crew.
peachy
21. cherryontop
Mal and Nandi, Mal would have become bored with a self proclaimed whore, not enough mystery left there or storyline; and she obviously wasn't much of a challenge, as they say.
Besides, he’s in love with someone else, whether he chooses it or not, much like Inara.

Actually, it was Nandi who recognized this, “such is life”, when complications arise.
And, why would Nandi carry on with Mal knowing he’s in love with someone else and she loves him, where would she fit in.

Being able to tell someone off isn’t the basis of a strong relationship, the person usually ends up hating you, especially when you keep them from what they really want, a relationship with someone else, who isn’t YOU.
peachy
22. Bytemite
I mostly agree with the assessment of the relationship, though I don't think any of those problems they have necessarily makes the relationship an impossible one.

Except if Inara were really "craven." Then it would be impossible. But I don't think she is.

The whole OMG she's a companion thing is just a smokescreen. You said in another review that they put each other on pedestals, which is more the real problem. Inara thinks Mal deserves more than what she can offer him, considering her secret. Mal feels the same way, for reasons that aren't secret at all (it's why the petty thief jibe stings so much).

Inara's issue with Mal's job is that he puts himself in danger. Mal's issue with Inara working is the exact same problem, he doesn't trust her clients and thinks she puts herself in danger.
peachy
23. love this scene
The Mal and Inara relationship can be summed up in the scene where Nandi has been killed and Inara is over her. You see in her eyes, the sorrow she feels for her friend, then quickly the anger form the relationship she had with Mal, then the look to Mal as he enters, a look of loss, anger and then her blessing for Mal to do as he sees fit. What is amazing is not a word is spoken in these few seconds but you see that Mal despite the attempt to create a friendly Space pirate persona, is actually conflicted about his relationship with Inara but undersands that in the end she calls the shot. Inara deeply cares about him but will not let her pride down once to let him know. Thus the perfection of this scene, all the emotions andpain are there and the obvious current status of the relationship.
peachy
24. Lili P
Mal is a loner, he is a maverick, he is not the relationship type of guy. It is very clear that he has serious feelings for Inara and truly loves her but being who he is, and who she is and the world they are in, he can never come true with his feelings for her. As George Bernard Shaw once said "there are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire and the other is to gain it." I think that's where Mal is.

He shuts down and hides his feelings for her and his vulnerability behind degrading, sarcastic comments about her being a whore and she does the same with comments about him being a petty thief. Remember how her friend in the brothel said they are both alike? Well this is how. They dont like "complication" which apparently means commitment phobia and insecurities.

In 'Serenity" he snapped at her wishing she would have stayed away because she clouds his mind or messes with it or something to that degree. Mal is a serious guy, he has no time for love in his life and Inara was just messing with that. It's almost like he was split: he wants her with a burning passion but he also doesn't becasue she distracts him and what would he do if he did get her? I do not see Mal as a faithful boyfriend/partner. I dont think this is what he wants really.

Remember how she told him after he slept with her friend, that she was appalled at her taste. And then she went sobbing in the room for him. It is obvious that her snarky attitude is that of cover and self defense or protection. Almost like 12 year olds who really like each other but they do not possess the proper coping mechanisms and emotional tools to handle their strong romantic feelings, so they act like they dont like the other person and are mean to them. It's the same with these two.

I appreciate that Whedon has sort of kept the subtlety with these two. I like that they dont hook up and do the obvious, which is land in bed at some point. They dont even as much as kiss - which is what even annoyed me. But "Firefly" is too smart and thoughtful to be the kind of show where they go to bed and we're supposed to accept that as the answer. Whedon doesnt let them off the hook that easily. Their connection is a deeper one. Since her life basically consists of sleeping with men for money and his one where he sleeps with women he has no emotional connection to, for these two at least, what they are sharing - or not sharing - oddly enough - such as not sleeping with one another is what makes their relationship. In other words, they share something as personal as their feelings rather than something as generic as their genitals.

I was definitely annoyed, however, with how this episode ended. I mean it was obvious to both of them that they loved one another: Mal knew and Inara knew. It was the proverbial elephant in the room. Yet she bolted saying she needed to go and he freaking let her. It's like these two enjoy la douleur exquise that comes with not getting one's heart's desire. And really, at this point i was wondering, why DIDNT Whedon let one of them come around. In the next episode this was not picked up anymore and in the movie, it was picked up shortly and then dumped. I mean the last thing on Mal's mind was Inara.

When he told her at the end of the movie "so i bet you cant wait to go back to civilization" he said it while passing by and on his way to the cockpit. It's like he didnt care at that point and that sucked. I think their relationship should have gotten some kind of resolution.

If Inara is supposed to be some kind of a commitment phobe then i think the actress playing her didn't do a good job at conveying an emotionally hurt person or troubled person afraid to emotionally commit to men. Yes, she can fuck them, but she cannot do anything real with them. As Mal said to Saffron "I have seen you naked but never exposed". Morena Baccarin just doenst play the emotionally troubled women with a complicated past convincingly enough. We never find out in that episode where Mal is married why she was so adamant about him not finding out that she kissed him. I can see why Mal cannot get himself to tell her but i cannot see why she cannot and why she keeps pushing him away. She seems very graceful and serene and not at all like someone with emotional baggage.

I like this episode because it opened up both of these people but then right before things were supposed to be said, Whedon pulled the plug. It is very subtle and brilliant. There is a scene in there where the prostitute friend tells Mal, while they are getting ready for the battle, that he never told her about his emotions for her or her emotions for him and he says "I dont know what you..." and WHAM, they are interrupted and next thing you know she is shot dead and we never find out what they were gonna say. What Mal really feels. I love that Whedon is subtle and alludes to thinks and never actually expresses them. Brilliant.

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