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Season 1 | Episode 7 | “Jaynestown” | Aired Oct 18, 2002
Jayne Cobb is a hero? That’s the question on everyone’s lips as we dive into “Jaynestown,” Firefly’s seventh episode.
Upon arriving on the planet of Canton, a stinky, dirty planet where the majority of the workforce is made up of Mudders (people who work with the planet’s signature ceramic-making mud), a surprising bit of information is bestowed upon us: Jayne Cobb, our very own trigger-happy Serenity comrade, has become a legendary hero to the people of Canton! A hero who, much to everyone’s surprise (and Simon’s disgust), even has a statue erected in his image. Jayne! A hero with his very own statue?! Who would have thought?
Jayne tries his best to stay incognito, afraid that the residents of Canton will recognize him as a dangerous man who crossed paths with them years ago and revolt. When he comes upon the statue, Jayne is more than a little befuddled. He thought these people considered him an enemy, so why the idolatry and admiration? Something isn’t adding up.
Amazing mud statues aside, the Serenity crew is on Canton for a reason: They’ve got another smuggling job to take care of. They hit up the local watering hole to partake in a few drinks and meet up with their contact for the job, but they soon learn it’s going to be tricky to move the loot in the city without detection from Magistrate Higgins (Gregory Itzin) — since their middleman was just savagely murdered for his treachery. Mal’s contact imparts upon him the importance of laying low, as they will suffer a fate much like their middleman if Magistrate Higgins so much as suspects they are up to no good. So Mal’s up against a wall yet again, and must figure out a viable option for transporting the goods undetected.
As if the universe heard his cries of Dear space-smuggling gods, are you there? It’s me, Mal, he is soon presented with the perfect cover. While at the bar, the legend of Jayne Cobb rears its head yet again. The locals start regaling each other with the tale of Cobb’s valiant acts, and soon break into song. Not only is “The Ballad of Jayne Cobb” amazing, ridiculous, loud and proud, it’s also a shock to Jayne and the rest of the Serenity crew, who have no reaction other than chins hitting the floor. (And laughter, of course; there is always laughter.)
But it’s through the rendition of “The Ballad of Jayne Cobb” that we — and Jayne — realize what actually happened that made him a folk legend: Back in the day, Jayne stole a a huge chunk of money from the magistrate and tried to make off with it. Jayne didn’t exactly make off with it, however, and has spent the last several years wondering what had happened to it. He is horrified to find out that it was jettisoned from the ship he was trying to leave on, leaving him with nothing but a bad vendetta against him from Magistrate Higgins, and leaving the Canton citizens thousands of dollars richer. Thus, a Robin Hood-like legend was born out of Jayne Cobb’s supposed chivalry. Too bad it was only by accident.
Meanwhile, Inara is also in Canton, servicing another client. But lo and behold, the client she is servicing is none other than Magistrate Higgins’ son, Fess (Zachary Kranzier). After Inara and Fess do the deed (she took his virginity; how scandalous), he is called in to participate in a criminal hearing his father has set up to deal with and capture a heinous criminal. After describing this treacherous heathen to Inara, he’s the one who’s surprised, when he realizes Inara actually knows the local legend that is Jayne Cobb!
Back at the bar, the Serenity crew decides to get going before things get too hairy. But upon exiting the bar, they’re greeted with the entire city, waiting to welcome Jayne with open arms. Turns out he wasn’t as incognito as he thought.
They treat him like a king and swear to honor him — words Jayne has never heard and has a hard time resisting. Of course, this exuberant celebration is the exact opposite of “laying low,” but Mal quickly realizes that this is exactly the distraction he needs to pull off the job!
But Magistrate Higgins has gotten wind of Jayne’s return too, and he decides to give Jayne exactly what he deserves. He releases Stitch Hessian (Kevin Gage), a crazed prisoner Higgins has had locked up ever since Jayne’s big debacle. Why is this his secret weapon? Because Stitch is the partner Jayne abandoned four years ago when he tried to make off with the money himself. And what is Stitch’s first order of business? To beat Simon to a pulp and use him as a hostage when he finally gets the chance to confront Jayne. Yikes.
Fresh off a riotous speech to an adoring crowd, Jayne is shocked silly when Stitch shows up, Simon in hand. Stitch holds nothing back and tells the story of what really happened all those years ago: Jayne dumped him in an attempt to flee with the money on his own. The dollars-falling-from-the-sky legend Canton has been building up since is all just a big lie. Stitch shoots at Jayne, but a loyal Canton Mudder jumps in front and sacrifices himself for his hero.
Jayne naturally deals with Stitch, quickly killing him without so much as breaking a sweat. But it’s what happens next that is truly interesting: Jayne is faced with the lifeless body of the boy who gave his life for him. Jayne can’t quite accept that anyone would commit such a selfless act for a man like him. He’s no hero; no legend. You can tell in this moment that he not only faces his own mortality, but faces the true meaning of life too. How quickly it can change, how quickly it can end, and how significant it is that you could mean something to someone who would literally give his own life for yours. Could Jayne do that if the tables were turned? Could anyone on Serenity, for that matter?
How about this Jayne-centric episode? Do you think the events of “Jaynestown” will change Jayne Cobb?
Oh, and by the way:
- Kaylee and Simon basically tell each other they like each other. Okay? Should I be interested in this? I’m still not enamored with Simon, and as such, I don’t find Kaylee’s interest in him interesting either.
- River and Zoë’s reaction to Book’s hair when he takes it out of his ponytail is funny. Other than that, Zoë doesn’t get much to do this episode (sad!), and River doesn’t either, besides tearing up Book’s Bible (snooze).
- And although I don’t particularly care for Simon at this point, his reaction to Jayne’s newfound rock-star status in Canton is priceless.
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