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Episode Summaries: The Complete Series

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Old Master 3.0

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Black Thorn
Note: The episodes are listed here in their CORRECT order.




SERENITY


Air date: December 20, 2002.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon.




The episode opens during a pitched battle. A standout figure in a brown trench coat can be briefly seen while a skiff shoots down other brown-coated figures. The standout figure is viewed again...it is one Malcolm Reynolds....who has been fighting his way back to his unit. Mal's side is in rough shape and badly in need of air support, which cannot be called in without a lieutenant's authorization....and the lieutenant is dead. Mal takes the codes off of the lieutenant's body and has one of the other troops call for the air support. Mal shows himself to be a a good leader, and fairly religious. This comes across in an earlier speech to the whole unit:

*Flashback* "The Alliance said they were gonna waltz through Serenity Valley and we choked "˜em on those words. We've done the impossible and that makes us mighty. Just a little while longer. Our Angels are going to be overhead raining fire on those arrogant Khangs. So you hold. YOU HOLD!"

Mal kisses what appears to be a cross hanging from his neck. *End flashback*

Mal needs to take out a particular enemy aircraft that has been causing problems before any air support will be allowed to come anywhere near the valley. With some help from another trooper, Zoe Warren, Mal gets to an anti-aircraft emplacement and manages to take out the plane. Mal and Zoe return to the group's makeshift headquarters, only to find Green, the radio operator, dead. Zoe uses the radio while Mal reassures a shell-shocked troop named Bendis:

"We're not gonna die. We can't die Bendis, and you know why? Because we are so very pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die. Huh, just look at that chiseled jaw, huh!"

Mal then hears aircraft, assuring Bendis that they will blow the Alliance "to the hot place." Zoe gets a message back that no support will be coming, as the Separatists are giving up on the whole planet and order the unit to surrender.

Mal stands with a look of shock on his face as countless cruisers all lift off the planet, leaving the group behind. Such is his shock that he fails to notice enemy fire hitting Bendis, who was standing beside him.

** 5 Years Later"¦ **

Mal and Zoe, along with another man, Jayne Cobb, are in space suits, trying to break into a wrecked spaceship to retrieve something. While they work, the ship's pilot, "Wash" Washburn, plays with some toy dinosaurs, enacting a little skit.

Suddenly, a proximity alarm goes off; Wash sweeps away his toys, looks at the console and alerts Mal to the situation. The group in space suits work double time while Wash and the engineer, Kaylee Frye, power the ship down in hopes of evading scans from the enormous, city-like Alliance cruiser Dortmunder, which has arrived.

Powering down fails to deter it's sensors, and the crew escapes through a bit of trickery....a "Blue Sun" coffee can rigged with the distress signal from a personal carrier. Mal, Jayne and Zoe manage to procure the case they want from the wreck.

After the crew has escaped from the Dortmunder, they assemble in the hold and bicker while Mal opens up the container, which seems to contain gold bars. Mal notices that they have a mark on them, a fact he hides from the rest of the crew before they stash away the container.

The ship is now headed for Persephone, a spaceport....though Wash worries about running out of fuel, especially if they "run hot" (slang for a boost of speed that makes the ship look like a firefly. They "ran hot" to escape the Dortmunder). Mal orders Zoe to contact Badger, who hired them for the job. He also tells Kaylee they will be taking on passengers, which prompts Kaylee to go on about how wonderful it would be. Both Jayne and Mal mock her for this. Kaylee kisses Mal on the cheek and says, "I love my captain," indicating her loyalty to him despite their severe personality difference. Zoe and Wash bicker about taking a vacation, and mention their marriage. Mal then asks about the ambassador, Inara Serra (Serra being short for seraphim), who is apparently the only member of the crew, as Mal puts it, "to earn an honest living."

Cut to a woman having sex with a man. It is learned that this is Inara and she is a Companion, which is the preferred term for prostitution. Here in this future time, prostitution is now a legal and respected profession. Inara's client tries to hire her on privately and when she refuses, he insults her. Inara's room is a shuttle, leased from Mal.

On Persephone, Kaylee is placed in charge of getting the passengers while Wash gets fuel and the others see Badger. Kaylee mentions she would like to get a new compression coil, but is rebuffed by Mal.

Cut to the character named Book, who is looking for a ship. The meeting with Badger goes poorly; he refuses the goods he hired Mal to obtain, due to a Firefly-class ship being spotted by a cruiser and the government stamp on the cargo. A fight nearly breaks out, and Badger dresses down Mal for his arrogant attitude. Mal, Zoe and Jayne leave without unloading the goods or getting paid.

Meanwhile, Kaylee speaks to Book, whom she notices is only looking at ships not destination. She also figures out that he is a Shepard (an evangelical religious person). Book claims to have just left the Southtown Abbey. The issue of payment is awkwardly brought up by Kaylee, and answered by book showing her something in a box that delights her. Kaylee reveals the name of the ship for the first time, "Serenity."

Walking back, Jayne, Zoe and Mal argue over the incident with Badger and debate what to do next. Mal thinks they should visit Whitefall, a border planet which would be less likely to have a strong Alliance presence, and deal with Patience. Zoe points out that the last time they dealt with her, Patience shot Mal. The Reavers are mentioned for the first time as having killed another possible buyer.

Kaylee has found two other passengers, the jittery Dobson and the aloof doctor Simon Tam. She seems immediately smitten with the doctor. Simon has a large piece of luggage which he is very worried about.


In the ship's kitchen, Mal is upset when he finds out Book is a preacher and Kaylee has to defuse the situation. To explain the stop at Whitefall to the passengers, Mal claims the Alliance. The misdirection that Simon is an enemy continues as he asks questions about Mal's story, revealing it as a quickly thought out cover with no depth to it.

While the passengers get their things, Inara boards the ship proper. In an attempt to make her and Book uncomfortable, he introduces them and uses the euphemism "Ambassador" for her profession. Kaylee begins to prepare supper using Book's payment- fresh fruits and vegetables from his Abby's garden....all rare delicacies. At dinner, Mal's antagonism towards Book continues as he refuses to let the Shepard say grace.

The dinner conversation centers on explaining how habitable worlds are created and the shortcomings of the terraforming process. Then Kaylee and Simon flirt a bit, until Jayne makes a crude comment that causes Mal to dismiss him from the table.

Cut to Inara giving her self a sponge bath. Book enters the shuttle craft with a plate of food for her, much to Inara's surprise who was expecting a lecture. Book reveals that Mal thought she might like the meal. Discussing Mal, the flirt/flight relationship between him and Inara becomes a bit clearer. Book is perplexed by Mal's rough treatment of everyone and his fierce loyalty towards the Serenity's crew.

Cut to Mal demonstrating the Serenity waste facilities. Wash alerts him that someone has signaled the nearest Alliance cruiser. Mal heads to the cargo bay and finds Simon near his luggage, despite Mal telling all the passengers they could not go near the bay while in transit. He punches Simon, draws a gun on him and accuses him of being a federal agent. Book wanders into the scene and tells Mal he has the wrong man, gesturing to the landing on the cargo stairwell, where Dobson has a gun. He recites the Alliance version of the Miranda warning to Simon.

Mal tries to play the whole thing off, but Dobson plans on arresting the whole crew. An argument between Book, Mal and Dobson ensues and ends when Kaylee walks in, surprising Dobson; who shoot her in the abdomen. Dobson is quickly disarmed and then knocked out by Book. Jayne goes to kill Dobson, but Book refuses to allow him to do so. A cruiser hails the Serenity and demands they dock. Simon refuses to help Kaylee unless they turn around. After some accusations are thrown at Simon by Mal, Inara talks him into doing what Simon wants.

Simon is as good as his word and immediately conducts surgery on Kaylee. Afterwards, Mal goes to the cargo bay while Jayne grabs the protesting doctor. Mal kicks open Simon's luggage, finding a nude, young girl inside.

Simon says he needs to check the girl's vitals and that she wasn't supposed to wake up yet. Mal starts accusing him of selling the girl, or buying or kidnapping her for himself. Suddenly, the girl wakes up and starts screaming and running around a bit. Simon runs to her and tries to comfort her. She speaks what seems to be a bit of paranoid nonsense. He tells the crew she is his sister.

After the girl is apparently sedated, Simon explains how they came to be on Serenity.

Simon was a promising young doctor, but his sister, River, was even more brilliant. She enrolled in an unknown, but apparently very good and exclusive government sponsored school. Contact from River cut off eventually, until a letter came through in code begging for help. For two years, Simon tried to get to her to no avail until some group contacted him, claiming the government was operating on River's brain. In exchange for funding, they would get River out, into cryogenic freeze and onto Persephone. Mal, unlike the others, does not care about Simon; if Kaylee lives, he'll leave the Tams on Whitefall. If she dies, he will kill them. Simon tries to protest for River. Wash objects to murdering people without a vote. Inara claims they'll die on Whitefall anyway and threatens to leave in protest. Simon starts to ask Mal why he is scared of the Alliance, what he is hiding. When Simon starts to say Mal fits the profile of an Alliance member, Mal decks him.

Mal and Jayne go to the room where Dobson is being kept. The Captain needs to know what Dobson has told the Alliance and leaves Jayne to find out. Jayne finds out Dobson's first name is Lawrence and that he really did not tell the Alliance anything, disappointing him as he does not get to torture Lawrence at all. The federal agent then offers Jayne money to help him. On the bridge, Wash spots a ship, which Mal figures out to be a Reaver ship.

Mal tells the crew via loudspeaker about the Reaver ship, and explains that if they run, the Reavers have to attack, as it's "their way"...but if they hold steady, they have a chance. Simon asks Zoe about Reavers, as all he knows of them are "Campfire stories---men gone savage at the end of space, killing"¦" Zoe interrupts,

"They're not stories. If they take the ship they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew or skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."

While waiting for the Reavers to pass, Inara pulls out a syringe, Jayne loads his massive supply of guns and Zoe and Wash hold hands. The Reavers seemingly pass. Kaylee wakes up while Mal is in the infirmary and they have a talk where she, while still clearly under the influence of pain killers, defends Simon and tells all to "trust people." Her eyes close and her hand slips from Mal's.

Simon is speaking with Inara and getting a "standard companion immunization packet" as the ship's infirmary is a bit basic. Inara expresses how dear Kaylee is to everyone while Simon apologizes for his part in her shooting, Inara tells him, "You're lost in the woods, we all are. Even the Captain. The difference is he likes it that way." Mal enters the scene, "The difference is the woods are the only place I can see a clear path." He and Inara flirt/argue again for a bit. Mal explains to Simon the damage Dobson can to do everyone, even Inara; Mal implies Simon should kill Dobson, to keep him from harming everyone on board, but he does not think Simon can, then he tells Simon Kaylee has died. Tam runs to the infirmary and finds a smiling Kaylee speaking to Book. He says, "The man's psychotic" and the scene cuts to Mal, Zoe, Wash and Jayne laughing at the situation, with wash saying "You're psychotic" to Mal. Mal's comments about Kaylee and Simon to the others seem to indicate that he has already decided to ask Simon to stay.

Patience hails Serenity and she and Mal talk and she decides to do buy the cargo from them. After the transmission ends, Mal says "I believe that woman's planning to shoot me again." Wash laments Patience's lack of even trying to hide it. As the crew is low on fuel and money, Mal devises a plan to deal with her.

Elsewhere on the ship, Dobson is cutting through his ropes.

Mal and Zoe go to meet Patience at the designated place while Wash and Jayne bury the cargo. Jayne then goes off to neutralize the snipers Patience was using to ambush the Serenity crew. On board the ship, Dobson gets free and beats Book unconscious.

Patience arrives while Jayne takes out one sniper and proceeds to aim his weapon towards Mal. Dobson finds his pack and tries to contact the Alliance to no avail. He takes some guns and leaves.

During the course of all this, it is found out that the cargo consists of protein bars that can feed a family for a month, not gold. In sick bay, River gets up, sensing something as wrong. Dobson grabs her and threatens Kaylee. Patience and Mal seem to be at an impasse, as neither trusts the other; when Mal asks her to leave first, she tells Mal, "I got a rule. I never let go of money I don't have to." Mal tries to talk her out of it, and even offers her the money back, but Patience wants the money and the bars. With no other choice, the shooting starts, with Jayne taking out several of Patience's men quickly.

Aboard the ship, Wash and Simon talk, and Wash mentions how he always worries when Zoe is on a job. Kaylee warns them about Dobson, which sends Simon running after him. Wash spots something on the computer. The action quickly cuts between the gun fight and Dobson trying to get off ship with River until Simon jumps on him. Mal shoots Patience's horse and then takes issue with the trouble he's had since doing the job Badger hired him for and all the insults tossed his way. "I do the job and then I get paid. Go run your little world," he tells Patience before taking her coin purse. Jayne runs up to Mal and Zoe and relays to them from Wash that the Reavers followed them to Whitefall.

Simon and Dobson struggle a bit. Eventually Simon gets one of Dobson's guns. Dobson starts trying to talk down Simon, telling him no one will hurt River. Simon cannot bring himself to shoot Dobson, and while he is distracted by the cargo bay opening, Dobson grabs his other gun and shoots at Simon. Mal simply shoots the lawman in the face. Jayne dumps the body out the door while the Serenity takes off. Wash has Jayne bring Kaylee to the engine room. Mal has a tense moment with Inara, telling her to get in the shuttle just in case, along with Simon and River. Book joins Kaylee and Jayne in the engine room, where they act as her hands to do a complex move called a "Crazy Ivan" that takes advantage of Serenity's greater maneuverability than the Reaver ship. The ship turns around and does a full burn in the atmosphere, causing a blow back that pushes the Reaver ship too far way to catch up.

Speaking to Inara, Book questions where he is "two days out of the monastry" having taken up with criminals, beaten a federal agent and being confused about the righteousness of Mal's actions.

Jayne questions the wisdom of keeping the Tams around to Mal, who wonders how Dobson escaped from his room.

Mal: "Why didn't you turn on me Jayne?"

Jayne: "The money wasn't good enough."

Mal: "What happens when it is?"

Jayne: "Well, that'll be an interesting day."

Mal: "I imagine it will."

Jayne leaves and Simon enters the bridge. Simon inquires what will happen to them, and Mal offers him a place on board Serenity for the time being, provided he can control River.

Simon: "How do I know you won't kill me in my sleep?"

Mal: "You don't know me son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing me and you'll be armed."

Simon: "Are you always this sentimental?"

Mal: "I had a good day."

Simon: "You had the law on you, criminals and savages. Half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself and you're harboring known fugitives."

Mal: "Well, we're still flyin'."

Simon: "That's not much."

Mal: "It's enough."






THE TRAIN JOB


Air date: September 20, 2002.
Written by Joss Whedon & Tim Minear. Directed by Joss Whedon




The show opens in a Western-looking bar. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are playing Chinese checkers while having some drinks. A man at the other end of the bar raises his glass and yells out a toast to the Alliance. Mal walks to where the man is standing and orders a drink. The man notices that Malcolm did not toast and the two of them argue. Their confrontation escalates into a fight. A bar fight ensues when Zoe hits the man and knocks him out. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne end up fighting outside the bar where they get sandwiched between their antagonizers and a cliff. At this point, Serenity rises from behind the cliff. Wash, from the ship's speakers, threatens "to blow a new crater" in the "little moon" if they did not leave Mal, Zoe, and Jayne alone. Once the three board Serenity, Mal takes out a sheet of paper from his jacket and announces to the crew that they have a job.

The next scene is one of River's fragmented flashbacks. She is lying on an operating chair while needles are being stuck into her head. She wakes up startled in the infirmary. Simon asks her what is wrong. River tells him that it isn't relevant. Simon tells her that the more he knows, the more he can help. Mal enters the infirmary to wash his hand, which he injured during the bar fight.

Mal leaves the infirmary and runs into Shepherd. The two discuss why Simon and River are part of the crew. Shepherd calls Simon a brave man, saying that Simon gave up everything to save his sister: "It's not too many that would do that"¦It's not too many who would take them either." Shepherd asks Mal why he would take two fugitives on to his ship. Shepherd is not questioning Mal's judgment as much as he is trying to understand the captain and how he thinks. The conversation shifts to why Shepherd's on the ship. Mal ends the conversation by saying, "If I'm your mission Shepherd, ya best give it up. You're welcome on my boat. God ain't."

Cut to Inara's shuttle where she is brushing Kaylee's hair. Mal enters the room and interrupts them by telling Kaylee to fix the engine and that they work before they play. Kaylee leaves Inara's shuttle. Malcolm and Inara exchange sarcastic barbs. Mal also tells Inara about the crew's new job and how Niska, the man who hired them, is dangerous.

The next scene is of Niska's office where Mal, Zoe, and Jayne get their instructions for the job. Niska tells Mal that they will be robbing a train. Niska goes into a monologue about reputation. He says that Mal has one of getting jobs done well. He also says that he has a reputation. He then shows them a room in his office where a dead man is hanging upside down. Niska showed this so that for them, his reputation is not gossip but fact.

The next shot shows Mal and Zoe sitting on the train as passengers. Mal tries to convince Zoe that the job will be easy. They then open a door and see a car full of Alliance Feds.

Back on the ship, Shepherd and Inara converse about their respective reasons for being on the ship. They speculate about knowing Mal. Both admit that they cannot figure him out. Shepherd mentions that he feels useless because he does not play a role in the crew's caper. With a hint of sarcasm, Inara suggests that he can pray that Zoe and Mal make it back.

On the train, Malcolm tells Zoe to stick to the plan despite the soldiers. According to him, "this makes it more fun"¦I'd do this job for free."

On the ship, Kaylee explains to Simon the logistics of their plan: Wash is going to fly the ship where it will hover directly over the train, Jayne will jump onto the train, load the spoils, and then Jayne, Mal, and Zoe will climb back onto the ship from the train. Jayne walks into the area where they are talking and speaks rudely to Simon. Simon leaves. Jayne then tells Kaylee that he believes the captain will turn in Simon and River because of the monetary opportunities. The camera pans to River who overhears Jayne.

On the train, Mal and Zoe sneak into the car that houses their target. They find the loot and open the top of the car. Kaylee lowers Jayne into the car. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne make so much noise that one of the soldiers goes to investigate. He trips a smoke alarm that Zoe set and starts shooting blindly. Jayne gets shot in the leg, but he still gets himself and the stolen goods back into the ship. Mal and Zoe stay on the train.

The train stops in a small town. While standing at the train station, Mal and Zoe over hear the town sheriff say that all the town's medicine was stolen from the train. The camera zooms into Mal's face as he realizes what they have done. He looks at Zoe and says, "son of a bitch."

On an Alliance ship, the stolen medicine has just been reported. The officer on the ship dismisses the robbery as something the locals can deal with. The officer does not even want the Alliance soldiers who occupied the train to help out, saying, "They're federal marshals, not local narcotics hounds. They've got better things to do, and so do we."

The next shot is of the crew on Serenity gathered in the infirmary minus Mal and Zoe. While Simon fixes Jayne's leg, the group discusses whether they should deliver the stolen goods to Niska or wait on Mal and Zoe. Jayne insists they leave because he understands what will happen if Niska thinks they have double-crossed him. Everyone else feels that leaving Mal and Zoe would endanger the two of them further as well as jeopardize a possible escape. Shepherd ends the debate by pointing out that if the deal was made with Mal and he is captured, then Niska may interpret that as an opportunity for Mal to reveal his employer, which would endanger Niska. If that is the case, Shepherd says, then they are better off being late with Mal than on time without him.

Because of the theft, the sheriff has detained everyone on the train. Mal and Zoe pretend to be newlyweds who have come to the town for work. The sheriff questions them. While speaking with him, Mal and Zoe find that the town is infected with "bones malady", a degenerative bone and muscle condition and that the medicine they stole was to help treat the illness.

In the ship's cockpit, Jayne is still trying to convince the crew to leave. Jayne passes out while making his speech. Simon admits to doping Jayne while he operated on his leg. No one in the crew objects to this. Shepherd then suggests a plan for recovering Mal and Zoe. The scene ends with him saying, "Someone respectable enough might be able to enter the town and retrieve them."

The next scene is of Inara walking into the area where the passengers are being held. She slaps Mal and tells the sheriff that Mal is her runaway-indentured man and that Zoe has tried to leave with him. She makes it clear that the two are not newlyweds but servants who need to leave with her immediately. The sheriff, slightly confused but convinced, allows them to leave.

After their return, Mal explains to the crew that they have to take the cargo back, that they stole medicine and that the people of the town need it more than them. He says they will return the goods as well as Niska's money and tell him that the job went south. As he says this, Niska's henchmen walk onto the ship.

Niska's head thug accuses Mal of trying to run off with the money and the loot. Mal explains that they "changed their minds." He says that he is returning the cargo as well as Niska's money so that they can "call it even." The thug says that there is no even. He then throws a knife that hits Mal in the shoulder. A fight ensues between the crew and Niska's men. Zoe shoots a few of the henchmen. Mal fights the leader. And Wash runs over one of the other men with a four-wheeler. The scuffle ends with Jayne, still groggy from the dope, shooting the lead henchman in his leg.

Mal and Zoe take the medicine back to the planet. They plan on leaving the cargo and notifying the sheriff once they have left, but the sheriff and his men are waiting for them. They surprise Mal and Zoe by jumping out of some bushes. The sheriff explains that he got word of a ship in the area. He also recognizes that Mal and Zoe did not have to bring the materials back. He tells his men to get the supplies. The sheriff offers his thanks by not arresting Mal and Zoe. He and Mal exchange glances of respect and gratitude.

On the ship, right as the engine is starting up for take off, Mal tries to give the money Niska gave them back to the head henchman: "Now this is all the money Niska gave us in advance. You bring it back to him and tell him the job didn't work out. We're not thieves. Well, we are thieves, but that's not the point. The point is we're not taking what's his. We'll stay out of his way best we can from here on in. You explain that's best for everyone. Okay?" With his hands tied behind his back, the head henchman refuses the money and tells Mal that he will hunt him down and kill him. Mal then kicks him into one of the ships valves used for blasting off, killing him instantly. Zoe grabs another thug. Mal begins his speech about the money, but after seeing what happened to his leader, the thug interrupts Mal and immediately agrees to take it: "Best thing for everyone. I'm right there with ya."

In the ship's infirmary, Simon is fixing Mal's knife wound. Mal compliments him for doping Jayne. He then asks about River's mental condition. Simon says that she's cogent one minute and then incomprehensible the next. While he talks, the camera pans to the next room where River is sitting in a corner listening to their conversation about her. She is spaced out and muttering to herself: "Two-by-two, hands of blue. Two-by-two, hands of blue."

On an Alliance ship. Two men wearing suits and blue gloves question the ship's officer who had heard about the medicine. The officer thinks they are asking about the stolen cargo. He tells them that it was returned. One of the men says, "We didn't fly 86 million miles to track down a box of band-aids." The other one says that they are looking for a girl. They slide a picture across the table to the officer. The picture is of River.






BUSHWACKED


Air date: September 27, 2002.
Written and directed by Tim Minear.






Most of the crew is playing a basketball-like game when an alarm goes off. Wash heads out to find out what it's all about and literally runs the ship into a dead man in space. Beyond him is a ship drifting without control. No distress signal and no one seems to be answering. Mal decides to head over there and find out if anything aboard can be salvaged.

Mal and Zoe suit up in space gear and enter the deserted ship. They find no one on board, but it seems like whoever was there left in a hurry. The ship appears to have been a transport vessel for several families of settlers - looking to make a new life for themselves.

As Simon is checking on River who is still having nightmares and that wacky tendency to babble, Jayne arrives to tell him that Mal wants him on the deserted ship and to suit up and meet them there. Simon suits up and heads over there - only to find everyone else out of their suits (apparently the air was breathable) and no one expecting him, except Jayne who is laughing at his own sense of humor. Since Simon is there, Mal sends him off with Kaylee to look for materials to salvage from the ship.

Jayne patrols on his own as Zoe and Mal search for more valuable items. They discover a locked area, which, lo and behold, contains some Alliance containers - provisions for the families to start their new lives with on a new world. They also discover that the families did not abandon ship as previously assumed - they hang dead from the ceiling, all of them tied together. Mal knows what did this.

River is found aboard the ship (she was drawn there by "voices", she tells Simon) as Mal attempts to contact Jayne to tell him to get the others and get off the ship, but Jayne is attacked from behind. The others find him unharmed, but the trail of blood on the floor suggests his attacker did not fare so well. Mal pulls a frail and somewhat psychotic looking fellow out from behind a grate and knocks him out. He's a lot smaller than Jayne thought he was.

Back on Serenity, the crew speculates as to what happened to the man and how he survived aboard the ship while the others were all killed. Inside the infimary, Simon treats the man and Mal, looking disturbed, has Simon dope the survivor. Mal orders the others to stay out of the infirmary and tells them Reavers are responsible for the deaths on the deserted ship.

Gathered in the mess area, Mal says that the Reavers made the sole survivor watch as they murdered the others and now he's become like them - nothing. Reavers seem to be somewhat of a legend... men who drifted to the edge of the system - to nothingness and became just that. Mal still wants to go back aboard the ship and salvage what they can. Jayne is not so thrilled to go back, in fear that Reavers will be returning. Book wants to go there to help put the murdered people to rest. Simon volunteers to help. Mal gives them permission, then takes Kaylee, Wash, and Zoe with him the cockpit.

There they discover Mal's suspicions (which he did not voice to the others) were correct. The Reavers left a booby trap that has attached Serenity to the other ship and pulling away would cause the hull to burst. Kaylee, being the smart thinker she is, has a solution, and pulls it off beautifully, freeing the ship.

Just as the crew seems to be scott free and ready to go, they run into another problem - a huge Alliance ship, which orders them to release control of their helm as they are about to be docked and boarded.

The commander of the Alliance ship says they are searching for two fugitives - a brother and sister (Simon and River) and prepares to head onto Serenity. Mal has all of the salvaged materials pulled out of hiding, and orders a very reluctant Simon to get River. Book reassures Simon to trust Mal. As the Alliance commander and soldiers come onto Serenity, there appears to be no sign of Simon and River. Mal deftly answers the commander's questions, but the entire crew is taken onto the Alliance ship for questioning as Serenity is to be searched - top to bottom.

The commander is not successful in his interrogations of the crew, but decides to assume they are responsible for the murders on the transport ship. Just as he is ready to take Mal to the brig, it is discovered that the ship's survivor, who has gone completely mad and severed his own tongue, as well as harmed some Alliance doctors, is on the loose. Mal tells the commander he knows where the man will go and the commander allows Mal to take him.

They head back to Serenity and arrive just after Simon and River have come back on board. They were hiding on the hull of Serenity is space suits. River warns Simon not to go back, but he ignores her somewhat incoherent mumblings, and is about to run into the Alliance (and the psycho man), when he hears them coming and smartly hides with River. Mal enters the mess area first, and sees where River and Simon are hiding. There's no time for anyone else to spot them though, as the crazy survivor attacks the Alliance soldiers, and is about to kill the commander, when Mal manages to save him and kill the crazy guy.

Serenity and her crew are all together and ready to head off - though without their salvaged materials as the Alliance soldiers blow up the deserted ship - presumably in fear of the Reavers returning. Simon and River managed to remain undiscovered... for now.





SHINDIG


Air date: November 1, 2002. Written by Jane Espenson, directed by Vern Gillium.




We start in a bar with Mal and Jayne playing pool with some ruffians. A fight breaks out, and Mal and Jayne clean house. Inara is quite amused watching the proceedings.

Back on Serenity, the crew prepares to land on Persephone. Zoe says the planet is starting to feel like a second home. Mal says it's no home here. There are too many people they need to avoid. They're going to re-supply, look for work and head on home.

Pre-landing, Inara reviews her video messages, all from people hoping to enjoy her company during this visit. She takes a call from a man called Atherton. It seems that he's engaged her services for a few days in order to attend a ball.

Kaylee, Jayne, Wash, Zoe and Mal take in the sights of the city. Mal seems to become a little sensitive whenever Inara's name comes up. The groups has enough of Mal's attitude, and leaves Mal and Jayne behind. As soon as they leave, a man points a gun in Mal's direction. Another man, Badger, says it's time he and Mal have a conversation.

Badger has an offer for Mal. It seems that a local gent, Warrick Harrow, has some property he wants to sell off-planet. However, local powers won't let that happen. Harrow needs a smuggler and Badger is willing to cut Mal in on it. Why? Mainly because Harrow despises Badger and won't deal with him.

At an elegant ball, Atherton Wing is introduced with Inara Serra. It's all very proper and high class. Fawning over Inara, Atherton asks her to live on Persephone as his personal companion. At that moment, Miss Kaywinnit Lee Frye and escort are introduced to the ball attendees. Mal and Kaylee. Mal immediately begins looking for Inara. Kaylee tries to fit in with the debutantes, without much success.

Mal introduces himself to Mr. Warrick Harrow. Pardon, Sir Warrick Harrow. Atherton comes over and introduces himself to Warrick during his conversation with Mal. The tension broils between Mal, Atherton and Inara. Mal asks Atherton for a dance with his date. During the dance, Mal and Inara tension reaches an all-time high. Atherton glares on, searching for a sign of something amiss.

Across the hall, Kaylee has found a group she fits in with. The men. They all talk about spaceships and engines and such.

Atherton cuts into Mal and Inara's dance, saying Inara is his because money has changed hands. Mal socks Atherton in the face. Atherton says he accepts Mal's challenge to a duel. It will take place tomorrow morning. With a sword. Not Mal's weapon of choice.

Back on the ship, Badger spreads the word of Mal's troubles. And he brought his gang along to make sure they don't leave the ship to rescue Mal. Badger wouldn't want word of his shady dealing spreading around the planet.

Inara offers Mal a backdoor escape from his overnight lodging. He refuses because he wants to fight. On the ship, the crew tries to plan a diversion to overpower their guards. Back in Mal's room, Inara tries to teach him swordsmanship.

The morning comes and so does the duel. Atherton radiates confidence. Mal cuts Atherton's shirt, but Atherton lands the first piercing, to Mal's right side. Atherton forces Mal to the ground, and stomps his foot down on Mal's sword, snapping it at the hilt.

Atherton slowly moves in for the kill. Inara begs Atherton to spare Mal, saying she'll stay here with him if he does. When Atherton looks over to her, Mal jumps to his feet and punches him in the face. Mal picks up his broken sword blade, tosses it into Atherton's chest and lands another punch, dropping Atherton to the ground. Now Mal looms over for the kill. However, he decides to spare Atherton's life. After a few small stabbings, of course.

Impressed with Mal's courage, Warrick agrees to let him smuggle his cargo. On Serenity, the crew is still planning their diversion when Mal returns. Warrick's smuggled booty turns out to be cattle.





SAFE


Air date: November 8, 2002.
Written by Drew Z. Greenberg, directed by Michael Grossman.




We open on the Tam estate of the past, and are introduced to Simon and River as children. River demonstrates her amazing mental abilities, and Simon's father promises Simon a gift in exchange for him growing up to be a successful doctor.

In the present, Serenity touches down on Jiangyin. Judging from the locals, it seems to be fairly primitive. And they're not happy to see a "fancy vessel" like Serenity coming in. The locals figure the ship is only looking to sell something.

After landing, the crew unloads the cattle cargo from their most recent job. River talks to the cattle as they mill about their new pen. She says they remember where they are now that they see sky. Mal orders Simon to take River for a walk so he can wrap up his cattle-smuggling business. Simon is reluctant since the Alliance considers he and his sister fugitives, but Mal says go. He says the Magellan is a thousand miles away, so they shouldn't worry about the Alliance.

In town, Inara and Kaylee go supply shopping. Simon and River walk in. Simon isn't enjoying looking after River. He also doesn't enjoy being on a junky ship schlepping across the galaxy, which Kaylee takes offense to. River wanders off during their conversation and Simon can't find her.

At Serenity, the men show up for their cattle. Heavy negotiation ensues, but a price is finally met and a deal is struck. Unfortunately, as the men are paying, the law shows up looking to arrest Marcus and Nathaniel Grange, the would-be cattle buyers. They're wanted for a murder.

Simon finds River as she wanders into a dance and music performance. River joins right in as Simon nervously looks on. Back at Serenity, a shootout ensues. One Grange boy is shot down and the other is tackled from behind by Mal. In the aftermath, Mal sees that Shepherd Book has been shot in the chest.

Over at the dance, three men - local boys - throw a sack over Simon's head and drag him away. The men walk Simon through the forest. We flash back to Simon's past, and see him arguing with his parents over hidden meanings in River's letters to him from the Academy. He suspects that something is wrong, but his parents attempt to convince him otherwise. In the present, River comes across Simon and the kidnappers and figures they're playing a game.

On Serenity, Wash returns from town. He says there's no sign of Simon and River in town. Wash thinks they were kidnapped because of some warning signs he saw in town. It seems to be a problem on this planet. Mal gets ready to lift off in order to rush Shepherd to medical help. He's not worried about leaving River and Simon behind.

Speaking of which, they see Serenity lift off as they're walked through the woods by their captors. On board, Mal and Wash check galactic charts for the nearest medical help. Inara comes on the bridge and suggests "certain nearby facilities." Mal doesn't want to discuss that as an idea.

On Jiangyin, the kidnappers march Simon into town and show him off as a doctor. The filthy masses straggle out to see him. The captors take Simon to a sickhouse. They want him to help heal their residents. Simon realizes the situation and begins to aid people.

In space, Serenity glides next to the Alliance cruiser Magellan and requests permission for docking.

Mal and Jayne carry Shepherd onto the Magellan. Armed guards are there to meet them. The ship's security chief seems reluctant until Shepherd begins mumbling about an ID card. His card is fetched from his pocket and scanned. The security chief orders Shepherd taken into the emergency room immediately.

In the sickhouse, River bonds with a girl named Ruby. The nurse doesn't think River will get much out of Ruby because she's a mute - at least for the past few years. Later, River says Ruby explained what happened to her, but not through speaking. The nurse thinks River is a witch and must be killed.

The nurse rings the old town bell, rallying the citizenry. The town patron slaps River after she explains that the old patron was sick and died. The patron thinks she's a witch because she can read minds. The townsfolk tie her to a pole for a good, old-fashioned witch burning.

On the Magellan, Shepherd comes to. Mal wonders why the Alliance allowed a wanted ship to dock, then took care of Shepherd. Shepherd doesn't offer any answers, but says it's good to be home.

Simon tries to save River from the mob. He attacks their ignorance and says this is not God's will. He hugs River and tells the people to light the post if this is what they want. At that moment, Serenity hovers over the people. The cargo door opens, and there's Jayne, gun trained on the townspeople.

Mal and Zoe walk toward the crowd, guns also drawn. They take back River and Simon without much fuss from the patron or anybody else.

Back on Serenity, Mal says he came back for Simon simply because he's on his crew. That's all that matters. The crew shares a nice dinner and all is well on Serenity once again.







OUR MS. REYNOLDS


Air date: October 4, 2002.
Written by Joss Whedon, directed by Vondie Curtis Hall.




Dressed up as married settlers, Mal (and Mal's even got his pretty floral bonnet on) and Jayne take on a group of bandits on a planet, along with the help Zoe and their guns. After killing the bandits, who have apparently been robbing the settlers on the planet, Triumph, they celebrate with the rest of the group and some of the settlers. Jayne receives a rain stick from the group's leader, Mal gets a nice flower hat, has some wine (though he and Jayne look like they don't need much more), and dances with a pretty girl. In the morning, they take leave of the planet hurriedly with word of the Alliance being on the way. While storing the new supplies away on the ship, Mal comes across a stowaway - it's the same girl he danced with last night, and when asked who she is, she claims she is Mal's wife. (Mal definitely didn't see that one coming.)

Zoe and Jayne are the next ones to find out - Jayne is jealous (all he got was that "dumb-ass stick"), and Zoe finds the situation so funny that she summons to rest of the crew to mock and laugh. Mal continues to be puzzled by the whole situation, and bothered by the fact that his new wife keeps crying whenever he says something remotedly hurtful (though he doesn't mean to be hurtful). Book uses Simon's encyclopedia to look up the marriage ritual of the Triumph settlers, and lo and behold, it involves the placing of a flower wreath on the groom's head, drinking of the wine, and the joining of hands in a dance. So, unbeknowst to him, Mal did get himself hitched the night before. Mal then proceeds to inquire about divorce, at which point his new wife runs off in tears.

Mal heads after, very disturbed by the whole situation, and tries to comfort her. He tries to explain to her that he didn't mean to get married, and tries to teach her to stand up for herself (since she's pretty much a weakling and seems to let others step all over her). He tells her she can stay on the planet Serenity is headed for - Beaumonde. It's a nice planet with a variety of work for her to choose from. She tells him she'd be a good wife, and Mal replies that he'd be a terrible husband. She insists on making him dinner however, and as she heads off, she gives him her name - Saffron.

Shepard Book tells Mal that divorce requires dispensation from Saffron's religious leader and that he'll send a wave to ask for it immediately. He then lets Mal know that Mal will burn in the special level of hell (you know, the one for child molesters and people who talk at the theater), should he choose to take sexual advantage of Saffron. Mal has no plans to do anything of the sort, and lets Book know. Book is pleased and heads off to set up a room for Saffron in the passenger area, but not without a reminder about the "special hell."

In the dining area, Mal eats the delicious meal Saffron has prepared for him - fresh bao, and cider to drink. Wash and Zoe come in, Wash thrilled by the food, but unfortunately Saffron only made enough for Mal. Wash and Zoe tease Mal a bit, though Zoe seems troubled by Saffron's servant-like watch over Mal, and she's not thrilled at Wash's joy over fresh bao either. Mal claims to be not hungry, and leaves the rest of his meal for Wash, and runs off quickly to find a place to hide. He ends up in Inara's shuttle, but Inara isn't very happy to see him... she seems very distraught over Mal's marriage, but Mal isn't sure if it's because he got married, or because he doesn't plan to remain married. He doesn't stay long in the shuttle, as it just turns into a verbal fight.

Upon leaving, he spots Jayne - holding a huge gun and looking fearsome. But it's not what Mal thinks... Jayne wants to trade the gun (his "very favorite gun" which he calls Vera) for Saffron, as he doesn't think Mal deserves her. Mal informs Jayne that Saffron is not a piece of property and refuses to trade. Jayne is disappointed, but accepts it. Mal then runs into Saffron, who heard the whole exchange, and tells Mal she'd rather stay on Beaumonde and work than have to be with Jayne. Mal tells Saffron a bit about his childhood - he was raised on a ranch by his mother and several ranch hands... something he doesn't usually talk about.

Elsewhere in space, some shady looking fellows on a weird looking ship are checking out some pictures and data on Serenity. It seems they're planning to trap the ship in some sort of "net" they have on board. They're keeping on eye out for the ship when/if it comes their way.

Zoe and Wash get into a small tiff on the bridge when Zoe comments to Wash about the insane cling-y-ness of Saffron to Mal. Wash makes some comments that Zoe takes as a defense of Saffron and heads off to bed in a huff, leaving Wash alone on the bridge.

Mal heads down to his quarters, looking ready to prepare for bed, but Saffron's there waiting for him - naked. Mal attempts to avert his eyes and explain to her that he doesn't plan to consumate their marriage, but Saffron continues to try to get him into bed with her. She tells him how thrilled she was when she found out they would be wed (apparently her friends were married off the mean and blubberly men), and that since she is married, she is now a woman and will take his leave to be bold. She comes up to him, and though Mal tries to resist, it's a bit too much for him, and when she kisses him, he kisses back. He tries to break away and explain to her why he can't do this (remember the "special hell"?), but all of a sudden, he looks a bit peaked and passes out. Apparently the wily Saffron drugged him with her lips. She looks down and him and says "Night, sweetie." (And not in a nice way.)

Wash is still on the bridge when Saffron (now clothed, though a bit scantily) comes up to visit him and begins her seduction routine on Wash. Thankfully, Wash is very faithful to Zoe and resists completely, and very kindly. He starts to head off the bridge and is promptly whacked in the back of the head by Saffron, and Wash is thus rendered unconcious. Saffron sits down at the terminals, pulls out some wires here and there, shuts down the power, and then heads out, welding the bridge door shut behind her.

As she is heading towards the shuttle, she runs into Inara who trying to figure out what happened to the terminal in her shuttle. Saffron begins her seduction scheme once again - this time on Inara. But Inara doesn't fall for it, and tries to get Saffron to tell her who she is... Saffron simply answers "Malcolm Reynolds' widow", which gets Inara worried. Saffron hits Inara, runs off to the other shuttle and escapes. Inara, meanwhile, heads towards Mal's quarters. Zoe has found Wash and is attempting to revive him, as Jayne tries to open the door to the bridge. Inara finds Mal unconcious in his room, but realizes he is alive and in her joy, kisses him fully on the lips. (Gee, I wonder if she likes him?) Unfortunately for Inara, the poison is still on Mal's lips and she passes out next to him.

Mal awakens surrounded by the crew. Simon informs him he was knocked out by a narcotic on Saffron's lips - something called the "goodnight kiss". Inara is also awake and claims to have tripped and hit her head. Everyone is too worried about the ship and what's going on to realize that isn't what happened. The crew heads up to the bridge where Kaylee and Wash examine the damage done by Saffron, which was done quite well and will take a while to fix. Inara tells the others that Saffron was well schooled - as a Companion... which means she had training from the Academy. When she tells them Saffron tried to seduce her as well, Mal is quite curious as to whether or not Inara succumbed; she informs them she did not. Mal protests that it was only natural he that he succumbed. After all, Saffron was a professional (and she was naked).

Back on the scavenger ship, the nasty looking fellows there seem thrilled because Serenity is now headed there way... seems Saffron directed the ship there before killing all the systems. The scavengers prepare their nets for the arrival of Serenity. On Serenity, Wash and Kaylee have managed to get some of the systems back up and discover that they're headed for the electromagnetic net. Mal and Book know they can't run into the net... either it will kill them, or they'll be gased by the scavengers. Wash and Kayle are still unable to get back navigational control, so Mal has to come up with another plan to get them out of harm's way. He orders Zoe to prep the space suits and tells Jayne to get Vera.

Mal and Jayne suit up, and even Vera gets a nice suit to wear (she needs to be surrounded by oxygen to fire). Simon shows them a picture of what the net looks like... there are six breakers controlling it, and Jayne should only have to hit one in order to disable the net. Mal opens the airlock door, and Jayne holds Vera in her suit... he fires and hits his target right away (and props to Joss and co. for the lack of sound in the vaccuum of space), disabling the ship and the net. Serenity sails through to safety. Shortly after, Kaylee manages to get back control of navigation and Serenity gets ready to go visiting.

On a snow covered planet, Mal bursts into the room Saffron is staying in. He holds Saffron down with the gun, but he doesn't plan to kill her. Seems he only came to get back his shuttle and let Saffron know that if she does try to play him again, he will kill her. Saffron tells Mal that he held out against her longer than most men. Mal asks Saffron one questions - what her real name is. She pauses for a second and Mal knocks her out... since she would have lied anyways.

Mal goes to visit Inara on her shuttle. He tells her what a graceful woman she is. She thanks him and he informs he that he doesn't believe she just tripped and fell. She attempts to protest, but Mal doesn't want to play. He wants the truth. Inara admits she didn't just fall and hit her head... she looks rather relieved that Mal knows that she kissed him. But Mal tells her, "I knew you let her kiss you." Inara can only stare in wonderous disappointment as he exits. Yes, Mal thinks like a man.






JAYNESTOWN


Air date: October 18, 2002.
Written by Ben Edlund, directed by Marita Grabiak.





Opening in the bowels of Serenity, we see Simon trying to convince Kaylee that he is capable of swearing. She seems to be a little skeptical. The conversation is broken up by news of Jayne tearing through Simon's infirmary. Sure enough, the big man has turned the place upside down in search of tape. Simon is more than a little distressed by the mess.

Jayne needed the tape to fasten a gun to his belly. He thinks he might encounter a little trouble on this particular package pickup, since he had some trouble in this area a few years back. Mal says no guns.

The Serenity breaks through the atmosphere of Higgins' moon and touches down on the dusty planet. A dusty planet with a bit of a funky smell. That smell comes from the ubiquitous mud pits, which are the backbone of the local clay and ceramics economy.

Jayne drapes himself in a hood and goggles to disguise himself, and Kaylee convinces Mal that Simon should come along on the journey. Mal agrees, figuring Simon's rich guy looks will help their ruse of being buyers, not intergalactic smugglers. Simon doesn't like the idea of going off of the ship, but he goes after some prodding.

Walking through the mud pits, the group wonders if Jayne's disguise is really necessary. He hasn't been here in a few years, after all. We find out that the disguise is necessary, as a giant mud statue of Jayne has been erected in the center of town. Jayne starts to get nervous that he'll be recognized because, as he admits, he stole some money from the Magistrate up on the hill, and he's not the forgiving type.

Speaking of the Magistrate, Higgins is his name, he's meeting with Inara as the group is in the mud pits. Seems that Higgins has a problem he wants Inara to fix.

Retiring to the bar to wait for their package to be set up, the crew tries to figure out why a statue of Jayne would be anywhere, much less a mud planet. A man comes in and informs Mal that his cargo is all ready to go, they just need to sneak it past security and the mud pit foreman.

A song breaks out in the bar about "a man they call Jayne." It seems that our guy has become a Robin Hood-type folk hero because he robs from the rich and gives to the poor. As Jayne confesses, he was trying to fly away with the stolen money, got hit by some anti-aircraft fire and had to dump the strongboxes to stay aloft. Those boxes full of money dropped down on the mud pits, where they were collected by the Mudders, who saw it as a great and noble gift.

A crowd forms around the bar to celebrate their mythic hero, Jayne. He doesn't turn away the adulation. Word spreads of a Jayne Day being held in the town square tomorrow. Mal thinks that will be the perfect diversion to sneak out the cargo.

Meanwhile, back at the Higgins homestead, the Magistrate asks Inara to make a man out of his 26-year old virgin son. He's a little shy, understandably.

While Inara and Higgins' son get to know each other, the Foreman tells Higgins that Jayne Cobb has come back to town. Wanting revenge for the theft, Higgins frees a man named Stitch. Stitch used to be Jayne's partner in crime. Higgins hands Stitch a shotgun and advises him to get Jayne for taking four years of his life and one of his eyes. Stitch is glad to oblige.

Inside, Higgins' son and Inara discuss a hero named Jayne. The son says his father heard that Jayne was returning, tracked him here and put a landlock on his ship. Doesn't look like he'll be going anywhere.

Jayne Day rolls around and the crowd wants a speech from their man. The nice thoughts are broken up by Stitch who tells the crowd the truth. Jayne and Stitch stole the money. After the plane was hit by fire, Jayne dumped fuel, equipment and even Stitch before dumping that money. Jayne admits he's no hero. Stitch shoots at Jayne, but a Mudder jumps from the crowd and takes a bullet. Jayne chucks a knife into Stitch's chest and beats him until there's no more Stitch. Jayne yells at the crowd for thinking he's a hero, then knocks his statue over in anger.

Back on Serenity, Wash is trying to get the ship to take off, with no luck. Inara asks him if he's having problems. Suddenly, the landlock is released and Serenity takes off. Wash says, nope, no problems. We find out that Higgins' son overrode that system and released the ship. Magistrate Higgins is irate, but as the son points out, his father wanted him to become a man, and now he has.

Jayne is still upset about the Mudder taking a bullet for him. Mal opines that every man with a statue made of him was one kind of sonuvabitch or another. He says it's not about what Jayne did, it's about what the Mudders need.






OUT OF GAS


Air date: October 25, 2002.
Written by Tim Minear, directed by David Solomon.




We see Serenity floating idly in space. The ship is empty, no sign of life anywhere. Until Mal drops to the floor. He doesn't look so healthy. Then we hear somebody talking about buying the ship. Mal flashes back to the first time he showed Zoe the ship. She's unimpressed.

In another flashback, the rest of the crew is laughing and enjoying a great dinner. Talking about good times and planning their next trip. Going to fly under the radar and get far away from everything. Then we hear a rumbling and the lights flicker.

Kaylee goes to check it out. Suddenly, a fireball races down the hallway. Zoe pushes Kaylee aside and the explosion blasts her across the room. The crew scrambles to fix the problem. The fire is contained and blown out the cargo door. The group then rushes Zoe to the infirmary. Kaylee informs Mal that the ship isn't moving. He needs her to figure out what happened.

Mal orders Wash to the bridge, but he refuses to leave his wife's side. Mal grabs him and tells him he's going to get the ship going, and that's not a request.

Flashing back farther, we see the day Mal and Zoe interviewed pilots. Wash, sporting a mustache, takes the job. Zoe says something about Wash bothers her, but she's not sure what. Moving forward in time, Zoe's heart has stopped. Simon jams her with some adrenaline.

Back in the present, Mal is alone in the infirmary bandaging up his belly and shooting himself with some adrenaline. He's not in great shape right now. Flashing back again, Kaylee tells Mal the catalyzer on the port compression coil blew. The ship is dead in the water and she doesn't think she can fix it. What's worse, the main life support is down because the engine is dead. There's no auxiliary life support either. The crew only has a few hours of oxygen left.

Mal asks Wash if he's sent out a beacon yet. Wash doesn't think it'll make a difference They're too far out of range. Mal and Wash have an angry showdown about their options. Wash eventually realizes that Mal's idea will muck up a passerby's navigation system, and they'd be forced to stop and dig out Serenity's signal before they could move on.

In the present, Mal is still staggering around the ship. Nobody else has been seen to this point. Flashing back further again, we find Mal interrupting his mechanic, Bester, and a young lady "in the act." Mal wonders why Bester hasn't fixed the engine. Bester complains that the grav boot is shot, but the young lady says the right couple is bad. She fixes it by removing the couple and plugging the g-line straight into the port pinlock. The engine starts humming again. The young lady, by the way, turns out to be Kaylee, Serenity's new mechanic.

Moving to the recent past, Kaylee apologizes to Mal for not taking better care of the ship. She says they need a new catalyst. Mal says they have to make due. In the present, Mal stumbles around as the alarms sound about the life support failure. He tries to work the catalyst back into the engine when he drops it down a hole. Gone.

Past again, and Mal has gathered the troops to give them a straight overview of their problems. He says the crew will split up into two shuttles and they'll launch them in opposite directions to see if they can find help. Mal is staying with the ship.

After final preparations, the two shuttles depart, leaving Mal behind. He bundles up in a blanket and falls asleep, missing another ship's radio call about receiving Serenity's beacon.

Later, Mal wakes up and Serenity is nose to nose with the S.S. Walden. The captain is quite skeptical about Mal's intentions, thinking an ambush might be waiting for him. He finally agrees to come onboard and deliver a catalyst.

The Walden crew comes aboards, guns drawn. They're going to check the ship to make sure Mal isn't lying. Finding the ship empty, the Walden captain shoots Mal in the gut and says they're taking Serenity. Mal comes to his feet, gun drawn. He orders the Walden crew off his ship, minus the catalyst they brought over. They leave and Mal drops to the ground, just like we saw at the start.

Mal fixes the engine and attempts to call back the shuttles, but passes out. When he comes to, he's lying in the infirmary with the crew. He's confused as to why everybody is back. Zoe ordered the shuttles back and they found Mal in time. They also found a fixed ship.

One last flashback shows Mal with a ship dealer. The dealer is extolling the virtues of one particular craft. But Mal looks across the lot and sees Serenity. He's sold on it.






ARIEL


Air date: November 15, 2002.
Written by Jose Molina, directed by Allen Kroeker.





Serenity hurtles through space. On board, the crew mulls around while discussing Ariel, a core planet. Shepherd Book is not present, as he's been dropped off to meditate at an Abbey. Zoe says she's not getting off the ship. Too many Feds. Mal says nobody's getting off the ship. They're dropping off Inara so she can renew her companion's license. Guild law requires an annual physical for all companions.

Cleaning his guns, Jayne spits on them. Simon asks him not to, but he does anyway. Suddenly, River picks up a butcher's knife and slashes Jayne across the chest. In the infirmary, as Simon is stitching him up, Jayne tells Mal the siblings have to go before she kills somebody. Mal refuses, but tells Simon that River is completely confined to her room.

Later, Mal and Jayne complain that they have no job to do while waiting on Inara. Simon says if the crew helps him get River into the hospital's diagnostic ward, he'll help them get into the hospital vault and tell them what medicines to steal (to later sell on the street for huge money). Simon wants to get River into a 3-D neuro-imager to find out what they did to her at the Academy.

Simon reveals his plan to sneak into the hospital unnoticed. Kaylee and Wash will build an ambulance ship from old scrap parts, and Mal, Zoe and Jayne will pose as medics. They'll be carrying Simon and River, who will be induced into unconsciousness to seem like corpses.

The ambulance touches down at the hospital and the plan is underway. Jayne assures Mal that he's okay with Simon's plan. The on-duty nurse sends our crew down to the morgue. Mal gives River and Simon an injection that will revive them in a few minutes, then he and Zoe depart for the vault. After a moment, Jayne walks down the hall to a telephone and calls the police. The officer asks if Jayne has the fugitives, Jayne asks if the officer has his reward.

Jayne heads back to the morgue, where River and Simon come to. Up in the hallways, Mal and Zoe are pushing their gurneys towards the vault when a doctor stops them, asking to see Mal's badge. Meanwhile, as Simon and Jayne wheel River through a patient wing, a patient begins having a heart attack. Simon jumps in and saves the man's life.

Back in the hallway, the doctor orders Mal and Zoe to follow him. He begins yelling at them, but Zoe shocks him with the paddles, knocking him out. They take off for the vault and get in using the doctor's ID card.

Simon lays River down in the neuro-imager and kicks it on. In the vault, Mal and Zoe begin cleaning house according to Simon's shopping list. They load up the gurneys, close the lids and take off.

Simon begins scanning River. A hologram of her brain appears over her. Simon is shocked by what he sees. He says they cut into her brain, over and over, removing the part that allows her to suppress feelings. Jayne tries to rush out the group. Simon says they have twenty more minutes, but Jayne says the plan changed while Simon was out. Captain's orders.

The group moves outside, where Federal marshals are waiting for them. Jayne asks the officer he spoke with how they want to handle things. The marshals arrest Jayne for aiding and abetting fugitives. Jayne asks about his money. The officer says it's his money now.

Mal and Zoe make it back to the ambulance. Mal wonders where the rest of the group is. Well, they're inside, being held by the marshals. Outside, Mal realizes something is up. He and Zoe arm themselves and looks for a way to sneak in the back.

The marshals transfer their captives into a holding room and Jayne goes on the attack. He knocks out one guard and kills another. Mal and Zoe hustle through the hospital. Kaylee and Wash radio directions to them.

Two sinister men, dressed in black suits, show up and interrogate the arresting officer. When the suited men find out the officer spoke with the captives, one of the men pulls a blue wand device out of his pocket and triggers it. The arresting officer begins to bleed from every orifice, as well as his fingernails.

Inside the holding room, Jayne, Simon and River hear the men screaming outside. The screaming continues until the suited men have killed all of the marshals. Our group takes off in the other direction. They're unsure of where they're going, but it's away from the screaming. The suited men find the guard that Jayne knocked unconscious and bleed him to death as well.

The trio finds a door, but it's locked. Jayne tries to blast it open, but his stolen weapon malfunctions. The suited men are rapidly approaching. Jayne tries to break the door open when the handle is blasted off from the other side. Mal and Zoe are standing there.

The ambulance arrives back on Serenity just in time to meet Inara, who has also returned. The entire crew is safe. Simon is optimistic about a possible treatment for River, based on the data he collected. Simon thanks Jayne for saving them. After the crew leaves, Mal and Jayne begins to unload the pilfered medicine. When Jayne turns around, Mal cracks him in the face with a wrench, knocking him out cold.

When Jayne comes to, he's locked in the cargo hold with a radio. From the other side, Mal opens the cargo bay door and asks Jayne why he went out the back. He knows Jayne called the Feds. Jayne denies it vehemently.

Mal says if Jayne turns on any of his crew, he turns on Mal. Worried that he's about to be sucked out the door when the ship pressurizes, Jayne asks Mal to not tell the crew what he did. Mal walks upstairs, but not before closing the cargo bay door. He leaves Jayne in the cargo hold to think about what he did.

River sits quietly drawing as Simon approaches to give her an injection. She asks if it's time to go to sleep again. He smiles and says that it's time to wake up.






WAR STORIES


Air date: December 6, 2002.
Written by Cheryl Cain, directed by James Contner.




In the infirmary, Book is talking to Simon as Simon looks at a brain scan of River. Book wonders if the people that did this to River were fans of the dark war poetry of the psychotic dictator Shan Yu. Book wonders if they did this just to see how much she could take in order to truly know her, as Shan Yu suggested. Simon thinks their purpose was much more specific.

The crew sits around enjoying fresh apples, the fruit of their newfound wealth from their previous drug heist from an Alliance hospital. Mal says the ship is about twenty minutes from their last drop, then they can think about spending some more of their new money. Wash thinks they could've made even more, but Mal says he heard about his plan and thinks it's best not to cut out middle men from the deal and make any more enemies.

Floating in space, we see Niska's Skyplex. Inside, a man is being whipped as Niska looks on. He wants to know why the man being tortured skimmed off the top and lied to him. Just as Niska is about to go to work with a bad-looking knife, an aide interrupts and says they've picked up a read from the other side of the world. Could be Serenity. This greatly excites Niska, who wants Mal brought to him. Niska gets back to work on his victim, asking if he's familiar with the works of Shan Yu.

Serenity touches down on Ezra. Wash asks Zoe why she didn't tell him that Mal shot down his plan to sell the drugs directly to local doctors, even though they could've made more money and ensured that the drugs got to the right people. Zoe agreed with Mal that the plan was too risky and could've gotten back to the wrong people. Wash tells Zoe he shouldn't hide behind Mal, she should tell him herself she doesn't like the plan. Zoe says their marriage doesn't need another shouting match, and Wash says that the marriage needs one less husband.

The crew is excited about Inara bringing a client onboard, since she never does. They all want to see who it is. It's a"¦woman. Her bodyguard and fine robes give away her importance. Jayne quickly retreats to his bunk for some privacy.

Zoe is preparing a shuttle to launch from Serenity. Mal loads the stolen booty into the shuttle. For some reason, Zoe can't initiate the launch sequence. The reason would be that Wash has changed the sequences. He says he's going on the mission with Mal, instead of Zoe. Mal just wants to get out of there, so he tells Wash to just get her started.

During the flight, Mal upbraids Wash for his stunt and say he needs Zoe around in case something goes wrong. Wash says he can learn on the job. Mal and Wash walk through barren land with Wash carrying the large crate of contraband until they meet up with three rogues. The goods are inspected and money is exchanged when Mal notices a red laser dot on the leader's forehead and dives aside, tackling Wash. The rogues are shot down by snipers and military forces jump out from their hiding posts.

Back on the ship, Zoe tells Jayne to get his weapon. Mal and Wash are late. Book wants to go along too. The group comes across the rogues' bodies. No sign of Mal or Wash, although they see some burn marks that indicate a shuttle from a space station. Zoe knows who has our boys.

Wash and Mal, blindfolded, are dragged into a holding cell on Niska's Skyplex. Wash begins panicking and talking about how Zoe follows every one of Mal's orders, but never listens to him. Mal says that's not true. He ordered Zoe not to marry Wash, but she did anyway. Niska comes in and takes off Mal's blindfold. Mal isn't happy to see him, to put it mildly.

On Serenity, the crew begins assembling money to give Zoe to turn over as ransom. She's heading to the Skyplex. Deep inside said Skyplex, Mal and Wash are being tortured by electricity. In the midst of their torture, Mal and Wash argue over Zoe and Wash says that he wishes Mal had slept with her in the past so she'd be over him.

Zoe's shuttle docks on the Skyplex. Armed guards greet her. She tells them that she's unarmed and wants to speak to Niska. An aide relays the message to him, and Zoe is brought into the torture chamber. Niska tells Zoe that she doesn't have enough money for both. Maybe just one. He relishes the quandary he's put her in, but Zoe chooses Wash before Niska even has time to finish his proposition.

Wash is cut loose and begins walking away with Zoe. Before they leave, Niska says the money is too much. Perhaps they should have a small refund. A henchman cuts off Mal's left ear and Niska gives it to Zoe, saying they're even. She takes it and drags Wash away as Mal screams in pain.

Wash can't believe how strong Mal was. He wouldn't break, which saved Wash. He's devastated that Niska is going to kill Mal, but Zoe says he's going to make it last as long as possible. Days, if he can. Wash instantly resolves that he's not going to give Niska the chance. He pilots the shuttle back to Serenity.

In the Skyplex, Mal's torture continues. Niska has a special machine for Mal. One end attaches to his chest by digging mental tendrils into his flesh. That's attached to a black cord, which begins electrocuting Mal.

On Serenity, Wash and Zoe load up with artillery. Jayne thinks they're insane. Wash says they leave no man behind, which inspires the rest to arm up and join them. Even Book loads up, figuring he can blast kneecaps and still be on the good side of The Bible.

They may be too late. Niska's aide shoves Mal's lifeless body and proclaims him dead. They bring him back to life in order to torture him some more. Niska says a lesson needs to be taught about people who cross him.

Serenity cruises toward the Skyplex. The crew prepares for their rescue invasion. Serenity docks and alarms sound on the Skyplex. The crew runs off Serenity and the shooting begins. Hearing the attack, Niska uses an intercom to ask what's going on. When nobody is looking, Mal pulls the electric device out of his chest and attaches it to a bodyguard's back, knocking him out. He then drills Niska with a punch, dropping him.

The Serenity crew continues fighting their way through the Skyplex. At the same time, Mal slowly moves in on Niska when his bodyguard comes to and jumps Mal from behind, choking him. Jayne, Zoe and Wash come in and blast the bodyguard, saving Mal.

Back on Serenity, Mal's ear has been reattached, but Niska hasn't been killed, a fact that bothers Mal.





TRASH


UNAIRED episode.
Written by Ben Edlund & Jose Molina, directed by Vern Gillium.




In a desert somewhere and there's Mal sitting, naked, on a rock saying that went well. Seventeen hours earlier Mal meets an old friend at night on some planet. He's an old war buddy who's just got married to Bridgit. She comes along to introduce herself but it's not Bridgit, it's Saffron. Both Mal & Saffron fight upon seeing one another, Monty breaks them up and Mal fills him in on the whole story. Monty leaves Saffron on the planet and Mal's ready to leave her there when Serenity arrives. Mal's about the shoot Saffron, all she wants is a lift onto Serenity and to get off the moon they're on. Mal's not buying it, but she repeatedly tells him of the perfect crime she had lined up. Serenity lands and the cargo that Mal has gets lifted aboard. Onboard seems Inara's calling for Mal so without saying much to the crew about his bruises and bleeding nose he goes up to see her. Seems Inara's frustrated that Mal hasn't landed on a nearly respectable moon or planet in a long time. She hasn't had a client in weeks. Mal tries to defend his decision about going to backwater slums and that it's not about her. The argument is heated and words are exchanged, words that hurt. Mal leaves. He heads to the cargo bay and opens a container. Inside it Saffron's sitting and Mal wants to know more about this job of hers. She explains to the crew in the kitchen the details of the job. The target is a Durran Haymer, he's got an original hand held laser worth millions. But he's Alliance and living on Bellerephon. The crew are confused about why saffron needs their help and if she's going to double cross them again. She does her best to reassure them, telling her it's more than a one man mission. Inara walks in and is still suspicious about Saffron's intentions. Zoe's in on the plan too, only after she slugs one to Saffron's face.

Jayne goes to Simon & River's quarters to tell them that they're to stay in their bunks for when Saffron's there. For their own safety of course. As Jayne leaves River tells Simon that Jayne's scared, ever since Ariel. Serenity's about to pull in on Bellerophon, Inara & Zoe meet on the catwalk in the cargo bay. Inara's got a few clients lined up for their visit and doesn't want to hear about their latest caper. She still distrusts Saffron to a huge extent and tells Zoe to be careful. Saffron was eavesdropping from below. Mal calls her into the shuttle he was just in, he's keeping an eye on her. Wash and Kaylee tell Saffron and Mal what they have to do once they break off from Serenity in shuttle II. They're to appear like helpers as Haymer's throwing a party, they'll be able to blend in and get in through the back door. Then when they find the laser gun they'll have to disable the display. The plan is then to chuck the gun in the garbage, and one of the garbage collectors will take it away to where they want it to go, once Kaylee gets to re-program it. Jayne and Kaylee get outside Serenity and near to one of the garbage ships while Wash carefully pilos the ship closer and closer. Mal & Saffron are in the building on Haymer's estate, blending into the crowds. They get to the room with all the collectible items and the laser gun and get to work. Meanwhile Kaylee and Jayne are having a harder time. Jayne touches a live electronic piece and gets shocked and knocked out. He's taken inside and Zoe takes his place.

As Mal gets the gun out a man enters, though he appears more concerned with Saffron. Telling Mal that he found her, found his wife. She'd been missing for six years. Durran goes to get Mal's reward money, even though he declined. Just as he does Saffron's set to go again and Mal's chucked the laser gun down the shoot. On Serenity Simon sees to Jayne while Kaylee just about gets the job done to the garbage ship. Back to the estate and Durran walks in on a conversation Mal's having with Saffron. She tries to sweet talk him but it doesn't work. He's already alerted the feds, he never though she'd return for him. Saffron knocks Durran out and her and Mal make a break for it. They get to their shuttle and fly away. On the shuttle they head towards the area of desert where the garbage ship has taken the laser gun. Saffron sits, she sobs. Mal sits and talks to her, tries to reassure her and her life that she has. But it was all just a ploy, Saffron's got Mal's gun and tells him to take all his clothes off. Meanwhile Wash tries to get Serenity to the desert only Serenit'y been tampered with again, by Saffron. But Kaylee can fix it this time. Meanwhile Mal gets set down and watches the shuttle zoom away. Saffron's at the bin and searching for the gun, she doesn't find it. Inara's there before her. Her storming off was just a part of the plan. She got the gun before Saffron could get there and shuts the bin doors on Saffron trapping her inside. Inara goes to get Mal and just then Serenity's there too. The crew seem to be rather amused at Mal being naked, but he doesn't seem to mind. He gets on Serenity and closes the doors.






THE MESSAGE


UNAIRED episode.
Written by Joss Whedon & Tim Minear, directed by Tim Minear.





In a bazaar of some kind Simon and Kaylee go to see an alien in a jar. Though Simon informs Kaylee that it's just a cow foetus. They get talking and again Simon lets his mouth run away with him and he says the wrong thing. Kaylee storms away. Just then Zoe & Wash come to see the grotesque thing in a jar. Zoe tries to console Simon, in a somewhat sarcastic manner. Meanwhile Mal & Inara are walking through the bazaar. A boy tries to pick-pocket Mal, but he spots him. Inara sets she can find someone to buy the laser gun off them, after their first buyer declined it. Mal's having a hard time getting the gun off his hands as it's such a famous artifact, but he doesn't want Inara involved in his less than savory business and jeapordise her career. They head towards the post office area of the skyplex. There Mal's met with a worker who he knows. There's something for Mal he has to sign for. It's addressed to Zoe and Mal. And there's one for Jayne. A hat sent to him by his mother. As Mal opens his crate open, he sees it's a coffin. There's a flashback to one of the battle's during the war. A private called Tracey is busy trying to eat a can of beans. He's about to be killed when Zoe comes out of the darkness and slits the attacker's throat. Elsewhere Mal comes storming in yelling and screaming and firing his gun. They're about to get fired out of there but they get together and get out.

Back in the postal area Amnon is trying to get Mal to get the body out of there, it's illegal to traffic dead bodies in the postal system. Mal & Zoe can't make sense of it, why Tracey would send his body to them. They decide to take the body onboard with them. On Serenity they open up the coffin again. They find a tape recorder of some kind, it's Tracey on it. There's a long story on it, but all Tracey wanted was to get home to his folks on St. Albans. As the recorded message finishes Wash is heading to the bridge, to get to St. Albans. Back at the bazar, Amnon at the postal office gets a visit from some feds. He wants to know about the package Mal got and where he's going. Amnon does what he can to save his own life and tells them what they need to know. In the kitchen Mal & Zoe are telling Inara some of the stories about what happened when they were together with Tracey and what a joker he was. The conversation dies down then suddenly Serenity's hit, well almost. On the bridge Wash tells them that they could have hit them, it was a warning shot from the feds. The screen comes to life and it's Womack. Mal tries to play it cool and says that they'll set down on St. Albans so that they can search the ship. Zoe and Mal search the coffin in which Tracey was in and his clothing but don't find anything. Looks like Simon's going to have to do that autopsy after all.

In the infirmary Zoe, Mal and Jayne watch as Simon performs his autopsy. It appears that Tracey's been opened up before. As Simon gets his scalpel out and cuts into Tracey, Tracey wakes up screaming. Mal settles him and pins him to the floor. Everyone's shocked that Tracey's alive. They get him back onto the table. Tracey tells them that he's been out for a week. It appears that Tracey has boosted some organs. Tracey's organs have been replaced and he's shipping new ones. Only he found a new buyer and trying to evade the old buyer. The the better offer went south. His new buyer was dead. As they talk the ship rocks from another explosion. Kaylee takes Tracey away to her quarters to make sure he's alright. The two get along very, very well. Serenity gets to St. Albans with the feds still on their tail. Serenity dodges through ice canyons expertly piloted by Wash who's concentrating harder than we've ever seen him concentrate. They try and hide under a glacier but it sounds like they've found them. They're about to be buried alive but Book tells Mal he has an angle he could play on this one. Tracey's at the bridge and doesn't want the feds to know. Things get heated when Mal tells Wash to call the feds. Tracey pulls out a gun.

Tension grows and Tracey shoots the gun, it ricochets and grazes Wash's temple. Then Tracey looks down, Mal just shot him. Tracey makes a run for it, he takes Kaylee as a hostage. Jayne, Zoe and Mal all have their guns on Tracey. Tracey gets distracted by Jayne and then Mal shoots him. Again. Tracey slumps to the floor. The cargo bay doors open and Womack and his two men walk in intent on getting Tracey back. But Book mentions that they didn't check in with a fed station they just passed, so must mean that they're doing some not so legitimate operation which they could get done for. With that Womack leaves, none too happy. Tracey realises that he was never going to get turned in. Then silently he dies. Later they get to Tracey's folks' place. They take the coffin out and each member of the crew go out to pay their respects.






HEART OF GOLD


UNAIRED episode.
Written by Brett Matthews, directed by Thomas J. Wright




At a ranch-like whorehouse in the middle of a barren land, a man in a floating vehicle, accompanied by thugs on horseback, approaches the madam, Nandi, looking for "the girl". Despite Nandi's protest that the girl had left, the thugs drag Petaline, a very pregnant young woman, out to face the man, Ranse Burgess, who turns out to be a local autocrat. He rudely extracts a DNA sample from Petaline to verify if the child is his, threatening to "cut it out of you". When the men leave, a group of women crowd around Petaline and Nandi, wondering who can protect the distraught mother-to-be from the ruthless tyrant.

Cut to Mal Reynolds, practicing his gun draw. Inara enters the dining area behind him and startles him with her greeting. Wash shortly arrives to announce a distress call, specifically asking for Inara. She talks to Nandi, an old friend, on vidscreen, and offers to ask the Serenity crew to help. Overhearing the conversation, Mal muses about "a whole house full of Companions", but Inara corrects him, reluctantly calling them "whores". Mal seems bemused that they, unlike Inara, are "independent", and uncharacteristically dismisses Inara's offer to pay for the assistance. Inara, however, insists on keeping this "strictly a business arrangement". Zoà« assembles the crew to explain the voluntary nature of this mission. Jayne predictably objects to such a risky humanitarian endeavor. Book tries to appeal to his seemingly non-existent altruistic side, but Mal quickly gains his support instead by pointing out the women's trade.

Arriving at Nandi's ranch, the crew is warmly greeted by the proprietor and her employees. Jayne eagerly takes advantage of their hospitality, Shepherd Book shares an awkward moment with two women in need of spiritual counseling, Simon goes to examine the soon-due Petaline (with River in tow), and Kaylee bemoans her own lack of attention from the doctor. Mal and Zoà« discuss the situation with Nandi, who describes the poverty Burgess enforces on the locals "so he can play cowboy".

That evening, Mal and Inara take a trip into town to allow Mal to size up their opponent. The odious Burgess only confirms Nandi's low opinion. Shortly after the Serenity couple departs, Burgess gets his own confirmation - he is the father of Petaline's baby.

Returning to Nandi's ranch, Mal announces that Serenity will depart forthwith, rather than face "a monster who thinks he's right with God" and who won't back down after only a single thrashing from some temporary help. Nandi diplomatically acknowledges his need to protect his own people, but Mal clarifies that he expects to evacuate Nandi's people as well. Nandi, however, refuses to leave her hard-earned property and way of life, and Mal reluctantly accepts the challenge, admiring the streak of stubborn independence they share.

The Serenity crew gamely spends the next day and night building up the whorehouse's defenses and preparing some surprises for the villains. Zoà« and Wash have a tense conversation (clearly not a new one) about having a baby themselves in the near future, and Zoà« puts her foot down on the subject - they will have this child soon. Nandi shows off a prized collection of guns to Mal, slipping in some subtle queries about Mal and Inara's relationship, and observing that the two shipmates share a dislike of "complications". She talks about the Companion training she shared with Inara on the latter's homeworld, Sihnon. She says that Inara was in the running to become "house priestess" of House Madrassa when she sudden left, without explanation, to travel among the Alliance worlds. Nandi had left before then, however, straining at the restrictions of Companion life. She moved to this border world and assumed control of the whorehouse (implying a hostile takover), cleaning it up and making it a better workplace for "the girls". Mal and Nandi gradually move toward sex, pausing only when Nandi says "I ain't her", which Mal deflects without direct acknowledging her implication of his feelings for Inara.

Meanwhile, Petaline approaches delivery with Simon and a nervous Inara attending. (River unhelpfully contributes some of her typical odd pronouncements and behavior.) That evening, back in town, one of Nandi's girls, Chari, reports to Ranse Burgess on Mal's preparations. After making an angry speech to his men implying women's ordained place as submissive servants to men, he makes Chari kneel before him to perform "a few more chores".

The next morning, Mal arises from Nandi's bed and stumbles into Inara in the hallway. As he tries to make excuses, Inara calmly acknowledges his sleeping with Nandi, even thanking him for comforting her friend, and suggests that Companions don't feel embarrassed about sex because of the lack of puritanism that Mal exhibits on the subject. But later, she sobs deeply in private.

Mal reviews the state of their defenses with his people and gives some last-minute advice to the worried women. Nandi looks in on Petaline, whom Inara is coaching while Simon prepares for the delivery. The two Companions share a look, and Nandi realizes that Inara is much more attached to Mal than she let on. When Nandi starts to discuss this with Mal, they are interrupted by "imminent violence" from Burgess's approaching forces. He radios Wash and Kaylee to bring Serenity in for air cover, but the ship is suddenly stormed by more of Burgess's men.

The battle begins, with the villains using automatic and laser weapons on the ranchhouse and its occupants. Jayne deftly takes out the machine gunner, and Book works a Kaylee-rigged firehose to put out fires caused by the laser gun.

Back on Serenity, Wash lures the invaders into the rear hallway, and Kaylee locks them inside. The two shipmates belatedly realize, however, that they've locked themselves into their opposite's rooms - pilot Wash in the engine room, and engineer Kaylee pointlessly able to the reach the bridge.

As Petaline gives birth, the traitorous Chari lets Burgess inside. He quickly storms into the delivery room, taking the newborn boy. Nandi overhears Petaline's cry of despair and heads off the departing Burgess. Inara sneaks up behind him and puts a knife to his throat, allowing one of Nandi's girls to recover the child. Burgess gets the drop on Inara, however, shoots Nandi, and escapes. Mal arrives too late to save Nandi. He and Inara grieve for a moment over the fallen woman, then have a silent conversation of looks that impel the rage-filled ship captain to pursue the kidnapper and murderer. He ultimately captures the man and drags him back to the ranch, setting the unrepentant and unbowed man on his knees before Petaline and their baby. She cheerfully introduces baby Jonah to his father, then shoots the brutal man dead. Petaline tells the remaining thugs to "go on home", and orders the treacherous Chari to accompany them. The girls and the crew have a funeral for Nandi, and Serenity departs.

Back on the ship, Inara reiterates her gratitude that Mal was able to comfort Nandi on what turned out to be her last night, but Mal can only regret his failure to save her. As Mal tries to broach the subject of his and Inara's unacknowledged feelings toward each other, Inara muses about how Nandi created a family, and how that kind of shared strength and love makes people never want to break away. She then shocks Mal by announcing that she will be leaving Serenity.






OBJECTS IN SPACE


Air date: December 13, 2002.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon




Serenity glides through space near a moon. Inside the ship, River awakes in her bunk. She leaves her room to find Simon and Kaylee talking and flirting on the couch. Simon is telling a story about getting drunk on sake after graduating medical school, and how good those days were. River thinks she sees Simon turn to her and say, "I would be there right now." Shocked, she leaves. She next comes across Jayne and Book. Jayne is marveling at Book's abstinence. During the conversation, River sees Jayne turn to her and say, "I got stupid. The money was too good," followed by Book saying, "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not." She leaves them and continues wandering.

In the cargo area, River steps on what she thinks is a tree branch. She picks it up and suddenly sees hundreds of leaves on the ground. The crew begins to swarm around her, telling her to "put it down." In reality, she had picked up a gun off the floor. Mal eventually grabs the gun off of her. River runs off and Mal tells Simon he needs to take extra care with her.

Continuing through space, a bounty hunter's ship comes up behind Serenity. Inside the ship, we see that the hunter, Early, has "Wanted" posters of River. In the cockpit of Serenity, Mal and Jayne enter, arguing about Jayne leaving his gun out for River to find. Mal wonders if it's time to bolt River in her room. Wash thinks that's a little drastic, and Zoe agrees, saying River has probably never picked up a gun before. Kaylee appears and disagrees.

Outside, Early leaves his ship and floats over to Serenity. In the dining area, Kaylee tells the crew the story of their mission to rescue Mal from Niska. Kaylee was pinned down, and River took Kaylee's gun, closed her eyes and blasted three Feds. Below deck, River is listening to their conversation through the floor. Atop the ship's hull, Early listens in electronically as Mal asks the crew if River belongs on the ship. They debate whether she has psychic abilities.

The crew hunkers down for the night. Early opens a hatch and sneaks into the ship. Mal spots Early. They fight and Mal is knocked down a hatch. Early locks the doors to everybody's private quarters. He finds Kaylee tinkering with the engines. He ties her up and tells her not to make any trouble before asking her where River sleeps.

Book walks back from the bathroom when he hears some noise upstairs. Early jumps down the stairs with a dropkick, knocking Book out cold. Early moves through the ship, finding Simon next. He asks where River is. She isn't in her bunk. Simon refuses to help Early, who says that's fine. He can just shoot Simon now, then go upstairs and have his way with the little mechanic he tied up in the engine room. Simon relents and they go off in search of River.

Throughout the ship, there aren't any signs of River. Early begins to lose patience and shouts out for her to come up before he spreads her brother's brains around a bit. River's disembodied voice speaks out to Early. It says he's wrong about her being on the ship. They didn't want her there, so she melted away. The voice fills the entire ship, waking up Mal from his unconscious state, and awaking Wash and Zoe in their bed.

Early asks what she means. The voice says she's not on the ship. She's in the ship. She is the ship. Simon calls out his sister's name, but the voice says, "River's gone." Early asks whom they're talking to. The voice says, "You're talking to Serenity. And Early, Serenity is very unhappy."

Kaylee is still tied up in the engine room. The voice speaks to her and reassures her. Early isn't going to hurt her. He's only visiting. Kaylee apologizes for telling Early where she was, but the voice says it's okay. Still in the cockpit with Simon, Early wonders where the voice went. The voice laughs and asks if she can call Early "Jubel." He says nobody calls him that, but the voice says his mother does. Or did. She's dead now. The voice tells Early his intentions are dishonorable. He hurts people. Early says he only hurts people when he has to, and he's about to shoot Simon if she doesn't come out.

By this time, Mal is coming to. The voice says she needs him to do her a favor. Over in the engine room, Kaylee is now untied. She sneaks out the door and through the ship. Just outside the cockpit, she unlocks the door. Inside Wash and Zoe's room, the voice describes Early to them, and says they can't use any guns on him. Just sit and be good and he'll go away. Below deck, the voice tells Mal to go now.

In the cockpit, the lights go down. The voice tells Early he's not welcome here. He says he ain't leaving empty-handed. The voice tells Early all about his past. He became a bounty hunter because he likes the power. The pain. Early finally realizes. She's not in his mind, she's on his ship! We see River sitting in Early's pilot seat. She says she can see everything from there and tells him to put his gun away. He does. He tells River not to fiddle with any dials. River says he's not righteous. He has issues. He nervously agrees with everything she says.

She says not to worry. She's going away with Early since she's too dangerous and nobody trusts her on the ship. She'll become his bounty and just fade away. Early begins walking back to his ship, but Simon attacks him. They struggle briefly, but then Early shoots Simon.

Early walks down the stairs from the cockpit when Simon jumps him from behind. Early knocks him off. He exits through a hatch on top of the ship and watches his ship glide toward Serenity. Mal appears behind him and shoves him off into space. He slowly floats away. River floats down to Mal and the Serenity's crew is back together. Simon talks Zoe through surgery to remove the bullet from his leg.

As the ship returns to normal, Kaylee and River happily play a game together, and we cut to Early floating in space. Alone.
 
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