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'Firefly' recap: No one is safe in space

Editors’ Note: Firefly fans rejoice! The Joss Whedon show was only with us for a year, but it lives on in The EW Community. Check back each week for Nathan Fillion goodness and watch with Brandi McCormick as she recaps the series from the very beginning.

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “Safe” | Aired Nov 8, 2002

This action-packed episode opens with one of the first flashbacks of the season, aside from the battle at the beginning of episode 1. This time around we’re at Simon and River’s childhood home, a decade or so in the past. Their adorable relationship is clear even then, and while Simon (a teeny tiny Zac Efron!) is predictably  consumed with his schoolwork, River is keeping herself entertained with her imaginary battles with the Independents. Simon’s father gifts him with a “sourcebox,” with the only caveat being that he must “become a great doctor” as repayment.

Cut to present-day Simon performing some tests on his sister, River. Naturally, River has one of her classic conniptions, much to the annoyance of Mal, who makes it a point to let Simon know that now that they’re on the planet of  Jiangyin and the deal with the cattle is imminently approaching, he’s to keep his crazy sister and her fits out of the way if he knows what’s best for him.

On Jiangyin, Book is helping Jayne and Mal herd the cattle, prepping them for the deal Badger set up in “Shindig.” Even though Mal told Simon to stay out of the way, it’s not too long before River has made her way to the cattle. Her strange presence and communication with the animals irks Mal, who sends Simon and River to the city to stay out of sight while they handle the deal. Rightfully leery of this idea, Simon begrudgingly takes River to town and meets up with Zoë and Kaylee, all the while looking over his shoulder for fear of being noticed.

At a local shop, Kaylee  — still somehow head over heels for Simon — thinks about buying a gift for Simon, only to have Simon royally insult the very thing she was going to buy him. But the insults don’t stop there; in a bad mood about being hushed away from Serenity and forced into the public eye, Simon goes off on what a terrible situation he’s got himself in. He rudely insults not only Kaylee and the crew of Serenity, but the ship itself. Which, if you didn’t know, is a BIG no-no for Kaylee. It’s just a nonstarter. I hope his disregard for her feelings and those of the crew (who were very kind to have taken him and his sister in) washes away Kaylee’s dreamy idolization of Simon.

Meanwhile, River, left to her own devices while Simon stuck his foot in his mouth, disappears. When Simon realizes this, absolute panic sets in and he sets out to find her. He doesn’t get very far before finding River participating in a grand celebration. She joins in on the dancing and merriment (not very inconspicuous, that fugitive, eh?). Simon looks on, both worried and delighted to see his sister having a good time. But just as he’s watching her lose herself in the dance, strange men attack him and put a bag over his head, then drag him away into the woods. River soon follows, but is almost instantly captured as well.

Back at the cattle herd, Mal, Jayne and Book meet their two outlaw clients. After a brief price negotiation for the animals, the local law enforcement shows up and puts a halt to the deal. They’re there to arrest the two men attempting to buy Mal’s cattle and, in true Firefly fashion, a gunfight soon breaks out.

Jayne and Mal drop low and try to just get out of the way, letting the bullets fly between the officers and the outlaws. But just as quickly as it began, the gun fight is over. The outlaws have lost, but it’s Mal who has suffered the most by this battle: He realizes Book was grievously injured in the shootout and might not make it. (Of course, it’s Jayne who points out that they didn’t get the money for the cattle, either. Bummer.)

They immediately get Book back to Serenity for help. It’s touch-and-go for a while; he’s really not in good shape. But as if things weren’t already awful, the situation is made even more severe by the fact that their resident doctor is nowhere to be found. After Wash does a little recon, he comes back to the ship Simon- and River-less. He says that maybe if they had seen the signs at Jiangyin, they would have realized that the city is known for “snatchers” who kidnap skilled workers to take back to their hill-people-like backwoods community.

It’s apparent that’s what happened to River and Simon. The decision must be made: Do they stay to save River and Simon, or leave Jiangyin to get to medical aid for Book?

Mal makes the executive decision to leave Jiangyin in order to find medical treatment for Book. They’re up space creek without a paddle here, and when Inara sees the severity of the situation, she suggests to Mal that they really only have the one option: Go directly to an Alliance ship and ask for medical attention. Of course, Mal’s first reaction is hell-to-the-no. But because he is a great captain who doesn’t want to lose a crew member, he realizes he has no choice but to go to his biggest enemy if he wants Book to live.

When the Alliance members board Serenity and hear of their plight, they are not impressed. Mal pleads with them, but it’s the ailing Book who actually saves his own skin: He shows them an ID card and the Feds’ disposition immediately changes. The head Fed tells his men to bring him to their infirmary and get medical attention AT ONCE!

Understandably, Mal and the rest of the crew are left with mouths agape, unsure exactly what Book’s credentials were that suddenly made him so important. Does he have some connection with the Alliance? WHO IS SHEPHERD BOOK?

Back on Jiangyin, River and Simon see Serenity leave without them just as they are dragged by the snatchers into their depressing community. Upon arrival, Simon is forced to provide medical attention to the community’s residents, as they do not have a doctor of their own.

But what is a crazy sister to do when her big brother isn’t there to look after her 24/7? Wander off and cause trouble, of course!

Soon after Simon has settled into his role as Kidnapped Doctor, River spooks the community’s teacher when she accurately describes the reason for a local girl’s muteness. The teacher is taken aback by River’s ability, and instead of accepting it as a miraculous gift or coincidence (because these are hill people, after all), she proclaims River a witch. A witch!

The village leader arrives to investigate this allegation himself, and because River is just so River about everything, she reads him too and tells everyone how he came to be in his position of power. With a slap, he proclaims that River is ABSOLUTELY a witch, and arrangers for her to be burned alive. Simon, being the big brother River always counted on, jumps up on the pyre, stating that if they’re to burn River, they’re going to have to burn him with her.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 8.22.29 AM

But things never quite get that far because just at that moment, Serenity comes to save the day! Jayne keeps the unruly villagers at gunpoint while Zoë and Mal take back River and Simon, who have just narrowly escaped a truly horrific death.

And though Simon had only bad things to say about Serenity earlier in the episode, when he asks Mal why he came back to save them, Mal simply responds, “You’re part of my crew.” He is indeed.

So, seriously, Whedon fans: Who is Shepherd Book? Do you think his IdentCard signified he has (or had) a relationship with the Alliance? If that is the case, I can’t imagine Mal taking to kindly to that information. What did you think of this episode, viewers? Love it? Meh? Sound off in the comments!

Oh, and by the way:

  • Creepy hill people leader: “The girl is a witch.”
    Mal: “Yeah, but she’s our witch. So cut her the hell down.”

  • I like it when Mal says “ironical.”

  • The religious fanaticism of the hill people creeped me out, hard. I think it’s because even 500 years in the future, it’s still a THING to accuse people of being a witch and then burn them at the stake. Ew, no thank you.

Firefly is available for rental or purchase on NetflixHulu PlusXbox VideoAmazon Instant VideoiTunes and more.

Get more of Brandi’s take on all things entertainment over at ReelSnarky.com!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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