Firefly: Shindig
April 16, 2015 5:13 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Inara attends a formal society dance, only to find Malcolm there as well, attempting to set up a smuggling job. Mal comes to blows with Inara's conceited date and finds himself facing a duel with a renowned swordsman, and only one night to learn how to fence. (wiki)

"Surely you can’t hate on Inara and also deny that her character is the catalyst for this enormously entertaining episode. The Serenity crew is excited about spending some time on Persephone (the shopping! The diversity! The be-hatted crooks liable to kidnap you right in the street and frogmarch you to their shipping-container headquarters!), which for Inara means a chance to choose a high-society customer, wear a fabulous gown, and be the belle of the ball. She rejects an adorably tongue-tied suitor (“Then the honor you do me flatters my… my honor!”) and picks Atherton Wing, a regular whose attentions to Inara spark Mal’s jealousy. While at the elegant party, turning graceful figures under the floating chandelier, Atherton asks Inara to remain on Persephone as his personal Companion."

"But Mal crashes the party thanks to a potential commission from Badger, who needs a more respectable-looking surrogate to propose cargo services to local bigwig Warrick Harrow. And with him is Kaylee, resplendent in a frothy wedding-cake of a pink dress over which she had sighed earlier in the street—an indulgence for a mechanic like herself that Mal oafishly mocked as “like a sheep walking on its hind legs.” I’m glad Kaylee winds up with the upper hand in “Shindig,” because it’s crushing when the society women cut her to ribbons over her enthusiasm for the buffet table. “It was better last year,” one informs her. “What’d they have last year?” Kaylee asks, all innocence. “Standards,” the rich bitch answers, as Kaylee’s face falls. But an older gallant escorts her to a group of machinery enthusiasts who make her the center of attention for her encyclopedic knowledge of spacecraft. Score one for the misfit girls."

"Does Inara really want to join this snooty company? She moves confidently through them, and recognizes a few other Companions in attendance; here she doesn’t seem so defined by her profession. But leave it to entitled douche Atherton Wing to treat her like property, and then leave it to Mal to get distracted from his errand by her situation. The scene where Mal and Inara perform a complicated round dance together, weaving in and out of the figures without ever halting their intense conversation, reveals that Mal is far from the rough outlaw that it sometimes suits him to pretend to be; if it’s fine manners and elegance Inara wants, he’s not devoid of them. On the other hand, after Mal punches Atherton and thus commits himself to a duel, Inara turns out to have something he needs, too: basic knowledge of how to handle a sword." (Donna Bowman at avclub)

Zoe: Planet's coming up a mite fast.
Wash: That's just 'cause— I'm going down too quick. Likely crash and kill us all.
[As the ship begins to shake, Mal calmly leaves.]
Mal: Well, that happens, let me know.

Mal: Does, uh... does this seem kind of tight?
Kaylee: Shows off your backside. Did you see the chandelier? It's hovering.
Mal: What's the point of that, I wonder?
Kaylee: Oh, mangos!
Mal: I mean, I see how they did it. I just ain't getting why.
Kaylee: These girls have the most beautiful dresses. And so do I! How 'bout that? [grins]
Mal: Yeah, well just be careful. We cheated Badger out of good money to buy that frippery and you're supposed to make me look respectable.
Kaylee: Yes, sir, Cap'n Tightpants. (wikiquote)

"This yuben de [stupid] duel is the result of the rules of your society, not mine!" - Mal to Inara. (more at firefly wiki)

The writer of this episode, Jane Espenson, revealed how she enjoyed writing this episode, as it gave her a chance to invent a card game, as well as write dialog in "Jane Austen style".

According to DVD commentary, the role of Badger was originally written to be played by Joss Whedon. Instead the role was given to Mark Sheppard.

The ballgown that Inara wears at the ball was actually made out of costume designer Shawna Trpcic's wedding dress. The t-shirt that Jayne wears during the episode contains the Chinese word yong (勇), which means "soldier" or more commonly "brave". This shirt also appears in the episodes "The Train Job", "Ariel", and "War Stories". (wiki)

Firefly Tattoos (google image safe search)
posted by valkane (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Jewel Staite is so cute in this episode. I can't even.
posted by chaiminda at 5:27 AM on April 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

Srsly, Kaylee's star turn is my favorite moment in the whole series.
posted by whuppy at 5:47 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is probably my favorite episode of all. "Any man here can lend you use of his sword." "His swa???"
posted by ChuraChura at 7:09 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

"That's the buffet table."

"Well, how can we be sure, unless we question it?"

Best line in the whole gorram series.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:23 AM on April 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

This was such a great episode! Kaylee is my favorite. Cap'n Tightpants. Ha!
posted by jillithd at 7:57 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love this episode, and one of the highlights for me is the interplay between Wash and Zoe :

Wash: You are acting captain. Know what happens you fall asleep now?
Zoë: Jayne slits my throat and takes over.
Wash: That's right.
Zoë: And we can't stop it.
Wash: Well, I wash my hands of it. It's a hopeless case. I'll read a nice poem at the funeral, something with imagery.
Zoë: You could lock the door and keep the power-hungry maniac at bay.
Wash: I don't know. I'm starting to like this poetry idea now. "Here lies my beloved Zoë, my autumn flower, somewhat less attractive now that she's all corpsified and gross."

Just so nice to see a loving, married couple in a show that can have some silly, teasing banter back and forth. *Looks sideways at DS9 and O'Brien and Kieko*

And, of course, seeing Kaylee get to shine and be happy is always awesome.
posted by nubs at 9:06 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Mercy is the mark of a great man.
[lightly stabs Atherton with the sword]
Mal: Guess I'm just a good man.
[stabs him again]
Mal: Well, I'm all right.

posted by jenfullmoon at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2015 [11 favorites]

More quotes!

"I cannot abide useless people."

Sir Warwick Harrow: I know him, and I think he's a psychotic lowlife.
Mal: And I think calling him that is an insult to the psychotic lowlife community.

"Up until the punching, it was a real nice party."

"I might not show respect to your job, but he didn't respect *you*. That's the difference."

"See how I'm not punching him? I think I've grown."

"But you mussed up Atherton's face, and that has endeared you to me somewhat."

Sir Warwick Harrow: You didn't have to wound that man.
Mal: Yeah, I know, it was just funny.

"I got stabbed you know, right here."

posted by jenfullmoon at 2:08 PM on April 16, 2015

This is probably my favorite episode of the series -- good reflection of the world (all sides of it -- the upper classes and the criminal classes) and just a lot of witty dialogue. The characters get to be themselves and shine.
posted by darksong at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kaylee: Did you see the chandelier? It's hovering.
Mal: What's the point of that, I wonder? [...] I mean, I see how they did it. I just ain't getting why.

I was thinking the same thing about the virtual pool in the opening.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:50 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Harrow: The sash...
[Mal looks confused] It denotes lordly-ness?
Mal: And it's doing a bang up job.

This episode is when the series really hits its stride for me.
posted by dry white toast at 5:26 AM on April 17, 2015

I had fun imagining where Inara got her sword training. Childhood? Part of my headcanon is that she was raised in a noble household (although maybe not actual nobility, more of a trusted retainer).

Alternatively: maybe Companions all have various hand-to-hand training, as part of the practicality of their profession (they might not be targets, but they are frequently standing next to targets) requires some defensive skills.
posted by Mogur at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2015

The scene where Mal and Inara perform a complicated round dance together, weaving in and out of the figures without ever halting their intense conversation, reveals that Mal is far from the rough outlaw that it sometimes suits him to pretend to be; if it’s fine manners and elegance Inara wants, he’s not devoid of them.

Interestingly, the shooting script has Mal watching and learning very quickly, and fumbling a bit as the dance gets more complicated.

I had fun imagining where Inara got her sword training. Childhood? Part of my headcanon is that she was raised in a noble household (although maybe not actual nobility, more of a trusted retainer).

The Companion's Guild wiki page here quotes Inara: "On Sihnon, we started training at twelve, years of discipline and preparation before the physical act of pleasure was even mentioned. Control was the first lesson, and the last." The wiki also states that "Trainees come from good families and the training houses have high academic standards." There is a mention that companions receive training in fencing, but the only cite for that is Shindig.

A paragraph on Inara's Wiki page says: Inara appears to be at least somewhat adept at swordplay ("Shindig"). In the movie Serenity, it is shown that she also may have been trained somewhat in the martial arts, and is skilled with a bow and arrow, apparently preferring them over firearms. In a proposed extended version of a scene from Serenity, in Inara's Companion montage, she was to be seen teaching the girls how to use the bow, but this idea was dropped, claiming that she appeared too much like "Wonder Woman". This is mentioned in the DVD commentary.
posted by moira at 11:39 AM on April 17, 2015

requires some defensive skills.

Yeah, it took zero suspension of disbelief that a Companion would know, at least, the fundamentals of fencing given their extensive and broad education. Being competent in a skill that's practiced by the rich ought to be a given.

Mal is a terrible swordsman; wild swings that leave him completely defenseless. Also, throwing the broken blade - throwing it like a spear isn't very effective. When throwing knives the rotational velocity adds a lot to the power, but is quite difficult to range so it "sticks" rather than just clatter off the target.

But that's ok.
posted by porpoise at 11:42 AM on April 17, 2015

Nthing that this episode was terrific and one of the more quotable of an already superbly quotable series. Like this part:
MAL: Mercy is the mark of a great man.
(pokes Atherton in the belly with the sword)
Guess I'm just a good man.
(pokes him again for good measure)
Well, I'm all right.
I think about this every time I have the option to take the high road, but opt for something wee bit less righteous.

And I cannot count how many times I have said the line "sleepiness is weakness of character!"
posted by Panjandrum at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think Mal's ineptness and Inara's adroitness with a sword was a good metaphor for dichotomous worlds they move through. We see Mal routinely show how adept he is with a gun or brawling with his fists, because those are practical skills in his line of work and from his background as a soldier. The elite focus on swords in a world of spaceships and guns is inherently impractical. Swords are literally a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age, or at least knowing how to use one is a class distinction, an indicator that the wielder had the leisure time and money to put aside learning the skill. Thus it makes sense that Inara, in her role as essentially a courtesan, would know how to use one. It's a social skill, not necessarily a martial one.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2015

I like that the episode reminds us that it isn't a given that someone like Mal would know how to fight with a sword, despite being able to win a fight in just about any other setting.

It's also a good reminder that Mal chose his life on Serenity not just to get away from the authority of the Alliance, but because he finds the etiquette and rules of "polite" society to be entirely fake. They have rules for every kind of behaviour, right down to how you kill someone.

Inara also probably loves Serenity because it's a vacation from that world.
posted by dry white toast at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

My absolute favorite scenes in this episode are with Kaylee. I love her friendly way with people, like the stiff she makes the "wrapping paper" comment to or the young society women who are so disrespectful to her just afterwards. Then, rather than Inara or some debutante, it's Kaylee who holds court with the men of this agrarian world. The more she talks about machinery, they more they fawn over her. Finally, her proving a point to the captain about "what she'd do with that rig:" She hung it in her stateroom as decoration.

She's such an endearing character, and her friendliness and optimism are a large part of that.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:51 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

this is the episode that named our cat! captain tightpants!
posted by nadawi at 3:22 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is one of my favorites! From Kaylee holding court to Inara teaching the finer points of swordfighting to River mimicking Badger to provide a diversion (although she was so diverting the rest of the crew forgot to act), the women of the ship really shone in this episode. I love that it was the ones who tend to be most easily overlooked and underestimated that actually saved the day here, proving just how strong all of these women can be.
posted by platinum at 12:10 PM on April 25, 2015

I love how, even though she's barely the c-story here, this is absolutely Kaylee's episode. She just fucking shines here.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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