Oh yes! We’re reaching the midway point of the first, and only, season of Firefly. I covered the pilot in Part 1, episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked”) in Part 2, and four and five (“Shindig” and “Safe “) in Part 3.
If you’ve been reading this far, you know my feelings about the series. Some have postulated that perhaps we hold it in such high esteem because it was taken from us too soon. Well, in re-watching these episodes again, I was even more enthralled and entertained than the first (or second, or third…) time I saw them.
Today, we’re going to dive into two more episodes. Rev up the engine, Kaylee. It’s time to be a leaf on the wind.
Our Mrs. Reynolds (Episode 6)
A man and his wife driving a covered wagon are ambushed by bandits. The couple turn out to be Jayne and Mal (in drag), posing as settlers. When the bandit leader demands some personal time with the missus, Jayne replies that he married “a powerful ugly woman.” Mal and Jayne pull guns on the desperados.
A firefight ensues and Zoe pops out of the back of the wagon, gun blazing.
The crew puts down the bandits. Afterward, the whole crew is celebrated with food, drink, and dancing by the local villagers who hired them to get rid of the menace. While everyone makes merry (except Shepherd Book, who gives last rites to the dead), Mal is given a flowery tiara and a drink by a girl. They dance.
The next morning, the crew takes off. While moving around cargo in the ship’s hold, Mal discovers a stowaway — the girl he danced with last night. It’s Christina Hendricks from Mad Men! This is actually the first time I ever saw her and she is wonderful in this role.
So this girl shows up and says she is Mal’s wife, which causes a bit of confusion (on Mal’s part) and hilarity for the rest of the crew. Except for Inara, who does a poor job of showing her distress at the situation.
It’s a bit of a reversal, Inara being jealous about something in Mal’s life, and a nice touch. Mal wants to take the girl back to her planet, but they can’t. Apparently, one of the bandits they killed was the son of a VIP, so there might be a warrant out for them.
Book does some research and discovers that Mal is indeed married, according to the laws of that planet. It just so happens that a flower hat, a drink, and a dance are all it takes to get hitched there. Funny that none of the villagers saw fit to tell the crew, but oh well. It’s a win-win situation, right?
Mal tries to be the voice of reason as he has to deal with Inara and the girl. He obviously didn’t realize he was getting married and wants to be done with it as soon as possible. He nicely tells the girl that he can set her up on some other planet with a job.
They don’t exactly see eye to eye, but at least he finally learns her name. Saffron. She goes off to the kitchen to make him something to eat and Book warns Mal not to take sexual advantage of the “poor, innocent” girl. Mal is insulted at the very suggestion.
Inara is shopping for clients online when Mal pops into her shuttle, wanting to hide from his new bride. They bicker (Inara is still touchy). When Mal leaves, he runs into Jayne, who is holding an assault rifle (he calls it Vera), which he wants to trade for Saffron.
After chasing Jayne away, Mal runs into Saffron herself. He finds himself talking about his past, something he rarely does. It’s odd, how she makes him so comfortable. (A clue!)
From space, we see a camera tracking Serenity and sending those images to an unsavory band of pirates.
Wash and Zoe argue about Saffron. Zoe senses the girl is trouble. Meanwhile, Mal goes to his quarters to find Saffron naked in his bed. He tries to turn her down, but she insists and kisses him. He passes out, and we see that little Saffron isn’t quite so innocent after all.
There’s a great line where Wash says some people don’t understand his marriage to Zoe, and it’s so great because we do understand. We see the mutual respect and friendship (and the passion) that binds them together.
Anyway, Saffron knocks Wash out with a kick to the head. Then she changes the ship’s course and sabotages the controls. She is heading to the empty shuttle when she runs into Inara. In a hurry, Saffron tries to seduce Inara, but Inara doesn’t fall for it.
They have a brief brawl, and Saffron gets past her into the shuttle and takes off. Inara finds Mal passed out in his quarters. She kisses him and then passes out too.
When Mal wakes up, Simon informs him he was knocked out by a “goodnight kiss.” A poison on the lips. Inara plays off her unconsciousness, saying she fell and hit her head after she found Mal. She also divulges that Saffron had companion training in the arts of seduction.
Mal feels vindicated for falling under her spell. The crew rushes to the bridge, only to find it sealed shut. Meanwhile, the pirates prepare to catch Serenity with an electro net.
Once they get inside the bridge, the crew discovers they are heading toward some kind of electromagnetic interference. Mal and Book both know what it is, a trap designed to catch their ship and probably fry everyone inside. With the controls messed up, they can’t stop or change course. Mal and Jayne get into spacesuits, along with Jayne’s assault rifle. Before the ship passes into the net, Jayne knocks it out with a well-aimed shot and he also vents the pirates into space. Wash and Kaylee get the ship back in working order.
We switch to Saffron, sitting in a nice house with nice clothes. Mal breaks in and holds a gun on her. She tries to play him again, but he’s not falling for her routine anymore. He knocks her out, but doesn’t kill her.
Mal confronts Inara about her story that she tripped and fell after finding him unconscious. He doesn’t believe it. He thinks Saffron succeeded in seducing her.
The poor guy almost had it right, (that Inara kissed him), but he misses the mark. And that’s how it ends.
I enjoyed this episode well enough, but I regard it as a placeholder. By this point in the season, I was so invested in the characters and the overall world story (the Alliance, the Reavers, Simon & River, etc…) that I wanted more of that. Yet we get little of it in this story. I understand a lot of tv shows have similar placeholder episodes that don’t really advance the main story, but I guess I’ve become jaded.
Anyway, like I said, an enjoyable watch, but not exactly my favorite.
Jaynestown (Episode 7)
This episode starts on Serenity. Simon and Kaylee are talking about whether or not he cusses properly. Inara is getting ready to go see a new client. And Jayne is in the infirmary taping a pistol to his ribs.
They are about to land on a miserable mud ball for a job and Mal tells Jayne to lose the gun because it’s not allowed on Canton. Jayne tries to explain that he ran into some trouble once on this world and wants the protection, but Mal isn’t listening.
Inara takes off in her shuttle and Serenity lands on Canton. They are here to pick up some goods (the MacGuffin) without the authorities finding out. Taking Simon along to present a respectable face, the crew goes into town looking for their contact.
On the way, they run into a curious sight — a statue of Jayne (made of mud). Everyone is shocked, especially Jayne. He tells the crew how he stole some money from the local magistrate once upon a time, but he has no idea why the people here made a statue of him.
Inara meets with the magistrate. She’s actually here for his adult son, Fess, who is still a virgin. The magistrate considers this a grave problem which must be “fixed” at once. He is rude to both Inara and his son, so she kindly tosses him out of her shuttle. She makes Fess feel at ease.
Back on the ship, River is “fixing” Book’s Bible by taking out the inconsistencies and broken logic. He tries to explain faith to her, without much success. Later, she goes to apologize and is terrified by his wild hair. She runs screaming.
On Canton, the crew meets their contact in a bar. Well, not their contact, but his friend. It seems the real contact was discovered by the magistrate and killed.
But the goods are still waiting to be taken. We find out that Jayne is so famous with the local “mudders” (indentured workers of this moon) because they believe he dropped the magistrate’s money on them on purpose.
Jayne reveals to the crew that it was a mistake; he was just trying to get away. However, the “mudders” identify Jayne and start to cheer. While Jayne basks in the adulation, Simon and Kaylee get a little drunk and start to get mushy.
Unfortunately for our heroes, the magistrate learns that Jayne Cobb is back in town. His solution is elegant: he lets Jayne’s old partner, Stitch, out of incarceration and gives him a gun, telling him Jayne is back. Stitch heads out to find him.
The next morning, Mal finds Simon and Kaylee in a sleepy embrace. Poor Simon puts his foot in his mouth as he strenuously attests that nothing happened between them and he manages to piss off Kaylee. Mal has set up a tribute to Jayne in town while the crew moves the goods. Jayne isn’t sure he likes the idea of using his fame to take advantage of these people, but he goes along with it.
At the celebration, Jayne gives a somewhat rousing speech about the workers, but then Stitch arrives (after beating up Simon a little). Stitch tells the crowd he was Jayne’s partner in the money heist and how Jayne shoved him out of their ship to lighten the load. Along with the money, which Jayne never meant to give them.
Stitch starts to shoot, but a mudder jumps in the way and takes the bullet. Jayne kills Stitch, but it’s too late for the mudder. He’s dead. Jayne is incensed that these people still idolize him. He knocks down his statue and walks away.
With the goods loaded, Mal wants to take off, but the ship is landlocked by the port authority (under the magistrate’s orders). However, young Fess overrides the lock.
As Serenity sails away, the magistrate confronts his son, but Fess is content with his decision. His father wanted to “make a man” out of him. Well, it seems he did, just not the way he intended.
Simon and Kalyee talk. She’s confused by his behavior. He explains he needs to be proper because it’s how he shows that he respects her because he likes her. Jayne talks to Mal in one of their few heart-to-hearts. Jayne is still torn up about the mudders revering him. Mal says it’s not about him; it’s about what they need.
Now, I’m going to contradict myself. I said Episode 6 wasn’t my favorite because it’s a placeholder that doesn’t deal with the big story issues. “Jaynestown” could be described the same way. Yet, it’s one of my favorite episodes and I have some reasons why.
First, it’s one of the few episodes that explores Jayne, a character with a ton of potential who is often relegated to the muscle/comic-relief role. Also, this episode deals with some pretty deep themes. What does it mean to be a man? What is the price of fame? Does faith need to be logical? Do “broken” things always need fixing?
I’d like to think that if Firefly had remained on the air for a couple seasons, we would’ve had more episodes like this for each of the characters. Oh well.
I hope you enjoyed my take on these episodes. Join me next week for “Out of Gas” and “Ariel.”
Read our complete Firefly Retrospective series:
Part 1 – Pilot
Part 2 – “Train Job” and “Bushwhacked”
Part 3 – “Shindig” and “Safe”
Part 4 – “Our Mrs. Reynolds” and “Jaynestown”
Part 5 – “Out of Gas” and “Ariel”
Part 6 – “War Stories” and “Trash”
Part 7 – “The Message,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Objects in Space”
Part 8 – Serenity, the Movie
Jon Sprunk is the author of the Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master) and a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. His next epic fantasy series begins in March 2014 with Blood and Iron.