Firefly: Safe
April 23, 2015 4:12 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Mal must choose which crew members to save when one is gravely wounded and two others are kidnapped. Simon finds an uneasy haven in a remote village, but River's uncanny perceptions jeopardize the Tams' temporary safety. (wiki)

"[This is] an episode that really pushes the Chinese-studded slanguage of this time and place, to the point where at times it seems like half of any given line of dialogue is either incomprehensible or filled with so many “rutting”s and “gorram”s that it’s distracting. Also, the plot takes some jarring turns, as Simon gets kidnapped by a band of poor villagers who want him to be their new doctor. The situation poses a real dilemma for Simon, who can clearly see that these people need someone like him around, though he hates the way he was brought to this place, and is too much of a snob to want to stay. But any moral/ethical choice Simon might be compelled to make is wrested from him (too quickly and cheaply, in my opinion), when Rachel from Justified shows up and accuses the mind-reading River of being a witch."

"This episode also divides the action a little too much. Book gets shot during a cattle deal gone awry, and Mal orders the crew of the Serenity to leave Jiangyin immediately, despite Simon and River’s absence. The action in space is exciting, as Mal is forced to dock with an Alliance cruiser to get Book medical attention—and as we learn that our good shepherd carries some kind of mysterious super-ID-card that gets him immediate and special attention from the Alliance doctors—but it’s so far removed from what’s happening with the Tams that it almost seems arbitrary at the end when Mal orders Serenity to return and rescue them. It’s not surprising, mind you; just not really supported, dramatically speaking."

"That said, the rescue is very satisfying. Serenity descends just as the villagers are preparing to burn the Tams at the stake, and Zoe declares herself and Mal to be “big damn heroes” as they free Simon and River. And it’s nice to see the misfit Simon begin to accept that maybe he belongs somewhere. It may not be the high society that his parents would’ve chosen for him, but Serenity sure beats Jiangyin, even if the only reason that Mal can give for why he came back is, “You’re on my crew. Why we still talkin’ ’bout this? Chow’s in 10. No need to dress.”" (Noel Murray at avclub)

[Simon steps in a cowpie as Jayne drives the cargo of cattle out of the ship.]
Jayne: About time you broke in them fancy shoes. Hyah! Get along!
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.

Zoe: Cap'n'll come up with a plan.
Kaylee: Well, that's good. Right?
Zoe: Possible you're not recalling some of his previous plans.

[Unable to free his sister, Simon climbs onto the pyre and holds River.]
Simon: Light it.
River: Time to go.
[A blast of wind signals the arrival of Serenity. Jayne cocks a shotgun from the cargo hold while Mal and Zoe approach on foot.]
Mal: Well, look at this! 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? [Moves to front of crowd, covers them with shotgun.] Sorry to interrupt, folks, but y'all got something that belongs to us, and we'd like it back.
Patron: This is a holy cleansing. You cannot think to thwart God's will.
Mal: Y'all see the man hanging out of the spaceship with the really big gun? I'm not saying you weren't easy to find. [But] It was kinda out of our way, and he didn't want to come in the first place. Man's lookin' to kill some folk. So really, it's his will y'all should worry about thwarting.
[Mal turns to Simon.]
Mal: Gotta say, Doctor, your talent for alienatin' folks is near miraculous.
Simon: Yes, I'm very proud.
[Mal addresses the crowd again.]
Mal: Cut her down!
Patron: The girl is a witch.
Mal: Yeah, but she's our witch. [cocks gun] So cut her the hell down. (more at wikiquote)

"Liu koushi de biaozi he houzi de ben erzi! [Stupid son of a drooling whore and a monkey!]" - River curses her brother.

"Lese? [Taiwan: Garbage?] Serenity ain't lese [garbage]." - Kaylee's response to Simon's words.

"Wash, I want you to go to town. See if you can't find that jingchang meiyong de [consistently useless] of a doctor." - Mal.

"Meimei [Little sister], everything I have is right here." - Simon to River.

"You're not a witch, are you, nianqing de [youngster]?" - The patron, to River. (more at firefly wiki)

A reference is made to a Chinese proverb in which Inara asks Kaylee whether the carved statue was meant to look like a duck, to which Kaylee responds that it is meant to be a swan. The proverb itself means it is better not to do certain things rather than do them badly.

The episode is also Zac Efron's television debut as a younger Simon Tam. (wiki)

Point/Counterpoint: Does Firefly Still Matter?
By Katharine Trendacosta and James Whitbrook at io9
posted by valkane (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Was this the first of Sheppard Book's "I wasn't always a Sheppard" backstory hints?

Mal saying, "It never goes smooth. How come it never goes smooth??" is probably the TV quote I use most in my day-to-day life.

I started working for myself a couple of years ago, so I feel a certain limited affinity with Mal's character, and the trade off of independence for stability. And that to me sums up the difference between doing things as part of a large organization and trying to get things done for yourself: It never goes smooth.

Nothing like a herd of cattle on a spaceship to drive home the Old West motif.
posted by dry white toast at 8:32 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Big damn heroes, sir. :D

Ye gods, I love this episode, and I couldn't disagree more with the AV Club. It's possibly the first episode that truly hooked me on Firefly, and revealed wonderful depths.

There's also a lovely scene with River and the cattle, after the ship lands.

River: "Little soul, big world. Eat, sleep, and eat. Many souls."

Mal: "Cattle on the ship three weeks, she don't go near 'em. Suddenly we're on Jianying, and she's got a driving need to commune with the beasts?"

River: "They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see sky, and they remember what they are."

Mal: "Is it bad that what she said made perfect sense to me?"
posted by zarq at 10:20 AM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

“See, morbid and creepifying, I got no problem with, long as she does it quiet-like.”

The most interesting thing to me is when the Alliance boards Serenity and the interplay between Zoe and Mal there. It seems like Zoe's instinct is to lie, but Mal cuts her off and tells the truth.

Still, the one thing I'll never forgive Fox for is denying us any chance at the scene between Mal and Book where Book finally reveals why his Ident card gets him immediate medical treatment aboard an Alliance cruiser.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2015

Which, I should add, is interesting because they're using forged registration papers.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2015

I'm not convinced that would have actually happened. In the movie, Book flat out says he doesn't have to tell Mal about his past. Whedon might just have teased us unceasingly.
posted by dry white toast at 7:23 PM on April 23, 2015

Check the comic books. I hear they tell more Book background.
posted by valkane at 7:57 PM on April 23, 2015

Was this the first of Sheppard Book's "I wasn't always a Sheppard" backstory hints?

I don't remember if there's anything earlier, but he was surprisingly familiar with the name Adelai Niska in The Train Job.
posted by moira at 8:20 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I haven't watched it very recently, but didn't Book get a little down and dirty with some pretty competent fighting in the pilot?
posted by moira at 8:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

dry white toast: “I'm not convinced that would have actually happened. In the movie, Book flat out says he doesn't have to tell Mal about his past. Whedon might just have teased us unceasingly.”
I'm not convinced either, but I feel like if the show had had a chance to stretch its legs there's no way Whedon could keep Book's secret to himself. If I'm not mistaken, the comic book [Caution: Spoilers] was developed from his outlines. It's just too good a story to leave entirely off the screen.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on April 23, 2015

Jayne stealing their stuff and then hurrying to put the items back was great, especially since all he did was dump the stuff on the bed and leave.

The burn the witch bit took off too quickly. These people can't be stable if they're ready to kill people at the drop of a hat.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2015

The Book comic is OK on its own but it doesn't seem to work with show canon at all, especially this episode.
posted by kmz at 10:19 PM on April 23, 2015

Also, I haven't watched it very recently, but didn't Book get a little down and dirty with some pretty competent fighting in the pilot?
posted by moira at 5:34 PM on April 23 [+] [!]

Thats in War Stories iirc.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:03 AM on April 24, 2015

No, he punched the Alliance agent in the Pilot.
posted by dry white toast at 7:36 AM on April 24, 2015

It was sweet to watch the interplay between Simon and River in this episode. There aren't many portrayals of close sibling relationships on television, so it was refreshing to delve into the strength of that family bond. It's clear that each one of them would give up everything for the other. Although it's Mal and Zoe that comes in with that great line in the episode, I think that it just as accurately describes how River views Simon. What little girl doesn't see her big brother as her Big Damn Hero?
posted by platinum at 12:31 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another great Kaylee bit here, where a scene about her cutely crushing on Simon turns on a dime into her calling Simon out and refusing to let him walk back the unkind things he said. I just love the multitudes shown there.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2022

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