Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.
While meeting some traders, Mal and Wash are captured and tortured by an old enemy…
Written by Cheryl Cain. Directed by James Contner.
Best performance: A rare focus on comic-relief character Wash (Alan Tudyk). At one point his dialogue contains a stunningly long and complicated Chinese phrase, which has to be rattled off like a frustrated aside. (“Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo,” which apparently translates as “All the planets in space flushed into my butt.”)
* Kaylee and River run around like children. Mal: “One of you is gonna fall and die and I’m not cleaning it up!”
* Jayne has bought apples for everyone. Subtext: he’s feeling guilty for what he did in the previous episode, Ariel.
* Wash and Zoe’s argument over her lying to him.
* Against Inara’s wishes, various crewmembers spy on her meeting a client. The client turns out to be a woman. “I’ll be in my bunk,” says Jayne, leaving the room.
* Mal’s frustration with Wash and Zoe rowing again: “Okay, I’m lost. I’m angry. And I’m armed.”
* Mal points out to Wash that Zoe doesn’t follow every order he gives her: she married Wash, for one.
* Mal and Wash bickering… while being tortured.
* Zoe walks into the bad guy’s space station, unarmed, to barter for her colleagues’ release.
* The head bad guy, Niska (who was also in The Train Job), says Zoe can have one of her friends back. He expects her to waver over such a Sophie’s choice… but she immediately picks Wash.
* Niska has Mal’s ear cut off and gives it to Zoe!
* Once back on Serenity, Zoe passes Mal’s ear to Simon and tells him they’re going to get the captain back. Jayne: “What are we going to do, clone him?”
* As Zoe and Wash tool up to rescue Mal, the others insist on coming too.
* A cut from the gang getting ready for the assault… to Niska being told that Mal is dead. (He’s speaking medically: they then revive him.)
* The assault on the space station – an action sequence built around specific characters’ personalities and abilities. (Zoe is unfazed, Jayne gung-ho, Kaylee scared shitless, and so on.)
* Mal fights back!
* River takes Kaylee’s gun and – without looking – shoots three bad guys dead. “No power in the ’verse can stop me,” she says, quoting a joke Kaylee made earlier.
* Zoe and Jayne find Mal wrestling with a bad guy. Jayne’s about to shoot the goon when Zoe stops him. “This is something the captain needs to do himself.” “No, it’s not!” shouts Mal.
* Simon telling Mal not to tug on his reattached ear.
Review: A nasty little story about torture, sacrifice and relationships. A dark episode on the whole, though there’s also humour, plenty of action and solid drama. Oh, and a perfunctory subplot about lesbianism too.
Eight writings of Shan Yu out of 10