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Firefly: Safe

Jayne: "See? That's my whole problem with picking up tourists. They ain't never what they claim to be."

Not my favorite episode, but it had its interesting points. Like, Simon would die for his sister, or with her. Shepherd Book has some weird connection to the Alliance. And beagles are easier to transport than cows.

The flashbacks showed that Simon and River have always had a strong connection, and their parents weren't in tune with them at all. And that Serenity is more of a real home for them than their expensive estate in Capital City. (The Tam estate was oddly dark, which I think symbolized its lack of welcome and safety.)

There was also a transparent comparison between Tam Senior and Mal. Tam Senior abandoned Simon and River out of fear of... what? Legal trouble? Loss of his good name? He told Simon, "I will not come for you." And now skip ahead to Mal, who made a commitment to Simon and River despite the possibility of much more serious consequences. Mal said he wouldn't leave them, and he didn't. He came back for them.

Note that in the initial flashback, Tam Senior paid attention to Simon but completely dismissed River. In the later flashbacks, I suspected that Tam Senior knew what was being done to River and condoned it somehow, perhaps in exchange for medical opportunities for Simon. Was it a sexist choice? My son the doctor, perhaps? Or was River just too strange and brilliant for her parents?

Simon showed some serious heroism. His willingness to sacrifice himself for his sister was amazing, as well as touching. River was kind of amazing, too, showing her psychic power several times: with the cattle, when Book was shot, reading little Ruby's mind. She picked up on the Patron's murder, too, and knew when Mal had come back for them. But honestly, River really needs to learn how to keep her mouth shut. And Simon needs to tie her to his wrist before they leave the ship.

The Western drawl and Chinese slang sometimes sounds affected to me, and this was one of those times. And I'm not fond of episodes where our heroes nearly get burned at the stake; Joss Whedon was repeating himself. Ah, well. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Bits and pieces:

-- The flashbacks took place eleven years ago. Which made Simon about what? Twenty-five?

-- Simon and River were gone for five minutes, and Jayne was tossing their rooms.

-- I liked the juxtaposition of the gunfight with cows and River's frenetic dancing with the townpeople.

-- River's clothing in this episode was childish and frilly, and accompanied oddly by black shorts and boots. The clothing sort of went with how strange and divided River is.

-- Kaylee and Inara couldn't tell a (wooden) duck from a swan. Maybe ducks and swans are extinct.

-- Mal's papers say he is "Captain Harbatkin."

-- Jayne was wearing a tee-shirt with "28" on it.

-- She says rich, he says crap. Potato, potah-to, Kaylee and Simon are way too different. Let's call the whole thing off.

-- The bad guys ran off, and Serenity left. What happened to the cows?

-- This week's planet: Jiangyin, described as a backwater. The planet Greenleaf was mentioned but was too far away. And we spent some quality time on the Alliance cruiser Magellan.

Quotable quotes:

River: "The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds, given adequate vacuuming systems."
Mal: "See, morbid and creepifying I got no problem with, long as she does it quiet-like."

Mal: "You know, they walk just as easy if you lead 'em."
Jayne: "I like smackin' 'em."

Zoe: "Next time we smuggle stock, let's make it something smaller."
Wash: "Yeah, we should start dealing in those black market beagles."
(Note the dog reference. There's almost always a dog reference.)

Jayne (reading): "Dear diary. Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. (turns the page) Today we were kidnapped by hill folk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever."

Mal: "You know, I'm startin' to find this whole planet very uninviting."

Zoe: "Captain will come up with a plan."
Kaylee: "Well, that's good, right?"
Zoe: "Possible you're not recalling some of his previous plans."

River: "You gave up everything you had to find me. You found me broken. It's hard for you."

Simon: "I'm sorry, Dad. You know I would never have tried to save River's life if I had known there was a dinner party at risk."

Mal: "Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?"
Zoe: "Big damn heroes, sir."
Mal: "Ain't we just?"

Two out of four stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This episode left me completely divided.

    On the one hand, I loved the Simon/River bits. Their relationship is my favourite of them all. Her dance was just wonderful and the scene where she tells Simon that she knows what he's done for her moved me to tears. And, how wonderful was it to see Simon go into action man mode.

    On the other hand, I really resented Mal. I found all of the early interactions with Simon to be cold and removed to the point of absurdity. If he really worried about River being so much trouble, why not find them somewhere safe and leave them there?

    Which is what I thought his thinking was when he left them. So, why go back to get them? His answer to Simon, "You're on my crew" rang hollow. If crew/family is so important, why treat Simon like that? He is completely different with Simon than with the others -- certainly doesn't treat his as an equal member of the team.

    I hated Mal coming in as the big hero at the end. As a plot device, it really wound me up -- to me, Simon was the hero. Not leaving River, to the point of nearly burning with her, touched me a great deal more.

    I sometimes feel as though the writers are not completely sure whom they want Mal to be. Is he the cold leader or the warm charmer? If he's both, which would be fine, then I think his motives for being one or the other could be a tad clearer.

  2. Chris, I'd say Mal is particularly hard on Simon because, to Mal, Simon is the embodiment of the Alliance. Moreover, he views him as a privileged and overeducated guy who's never had to fight for anything in his life, and Mal just really resents it after all he's experienced. I believe he treats Inara the way he does for the same reasons. It isn't fair, but it seems completely in character for him to lash out based on his resentment of the Alliance and the privileged elite.

    But, in the end, he's a good man who can recognize that he's being unfair. I think he finally admits to himself that Simon is fighting for something he believes in, and is risking everything to do it. They are more alike than he would initially care to admit, but because he's a decent sort of fellow (at his core), he comes around in time to have his big damn hero moment.

    Of course, I'm going on memory here. I haven't watched this episode in awhile.

  3. Jess -- you make an excellent point. I hadn't thought about Mal's resentment in quite that way. However, Mal does know that Simon has given up everything to rescue his sister from the Alliance. As such, I wish he could see them more as allies.

    I thnk he's the way he is with Irana because he has strong feelings for her that he does not want to admit, even to himself. I see a lot his snarkier comments as coming from a place of jealousy more than resentment.

    But -- you did give me something to think about!

  4. Chris, I agree that jealousy is a big part of how Mal treats Inara. I should have said that her being part of the privileged elite in the Alliance is only "part of" what motivates his treatment of her. He definitely has feelings for her, and hates that she's intimate with other men. But even more than that, I think he kind of hates himself for falling for someone with a respected position in the society he hates. And he hates that he needs her position to do what he does. (He likely resents needing Simon's abilities, too.) It's a whole messy, mixed-up set of emotions in that dynamic. Which is kind of what makes it great!

  5. Another great point, Jess. I see what you mean about the resentment coming from needing Irana and Simon. For someone like Mal, I can definitely see it manifest itself in the way it does.

    And I agree with you completely that it is the relationships on this show that make it great! God bless Joss Whedon.

  6. And I'm not fond of episodes where our heroes nearly get burned at the stake.


    And beagles are easier to transport than cows.

    May years ago, I saw a "Black Market Beagle" t-shirt. I really wish I'd bought it.

  7. OMG. The kidnapping nurse who accuses River of being a witch is Rachel from Justified.

  8. Omg, Josie yes, I recognized her immediately too. And young Simon is played by a tiny Zac Efron! I knew I knew that face.


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