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'Firefly' recap: A message from beyond the grave

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 12 | “The Message” | Aired July 15, 2003

After stopping at a nearby planet and checking out a local carnival-like exhibit, the crew ventures to the planet’s post station to retrieve any packages that have been delivered to them. While Jayne’s package is an innocent knitted cap sent from his mother, Mal and Zoë were treated to a much more interesting delivery. It’s a large crate that, upon opening, reveals a dead body inside a coffin. But not just any body, as we soon learn: It’s the body of Private Tracey Smith (Jonathan M. Woodward), a former wartime buddy of Mal and Zoë’s who bravely fought with them in the battle against the Alliance. (We see just how they came to be the close-knitted soldiers they are in a flashback to the big war. Mal and Zoë took Tracey under their wing, and the rest was history.)

They take the crate back to Serenity to inspect it further and discover a recording made by Tracey before his passing. It reveals that he had gotten into some unsavory dealings with some unsavory people that likely led to his downfall. The recording ends with Tracey asking Mal and Zoë to make sure that his body gets back to his parents’ so his final resting place can be his home.

Almost as soon as the doors on Serenity close, the crew realizes — thanks to a large impact by another ship — that the Feds are on their tail. A communication from the Feds’ ship informs them that they’re looking for the crate, and aren’t going to stop until they get it.

To try and escape the wrath of the Feds and maintain their hold on their ex-commrade’s body, Mal and Zoë begin tearing through the crate to see if Tracey had stashed some precious cargo in his own coffin with him. Having no luck, Mal decides to allow Simon to perform an autopsy on the chance that whatever the Feds are after is stashed inside Tracey. Blech.

But just as soon as Simon makes his first incision, Tracey springs to life! He had taken a drug to make it appear as though he were dead, as that was the only way he could think of to truly get the Feds off his tail. (Some plan, Tracey.)

Tracey then explains what the Feds are really after: his normal, everyday human organs were once replaced with illegal organs that he was supposed to deliver to a buyer on Ariel, who would then replace those with his normal ones. But Tracey, being an entrepreneur, finds himself a higher bid and tries to pull one over to get the maximum profit for the organs. Except that his buyers were killed before the deal could be done, thus leaving Tracey with the illegal organs inside of him — and on the run.

After two more blasts from the Feds’ ship, Book suggests to Mal that they should let the Feds board Serenity. But Tracey overhears this and goes berserk. He pulls a gun on the Serenity crew, and even takes Kaylee at gunpoint. Mal, thoroughly disgusted by the behavior of his old wartime pal, orders Wash to call the Feds after all. Tracey shoots Wash in retaliaton, wounding him, resulting in Zoë putting a bullet right in Tracey’s chest. Tracey tries to fire on Jayne and make a run for it, which only leads to him being shot again by Mal.

When the Feds burst in a few moments later, it’s Book who steps up and threatens the Feds to make them back off or suffer the consequences. The consequences, in not so many words, are: being turned in to the local federal agents, who would love to hear about this illegal organ dealing going on underneath their noses, or even worse, death. The Feds agree to leave empty-handed, having assessed both the threats from Book and the “damaged” goods inside Tracey’s body. Apparently those are good enough reasons to get the heck out of there to save their own skin.

After the Feds leave, Tracey realizes this was part of the plan all along, and he ruined it by going crazy and threatening the crew. And it’s too bad, because his actions got him shot by someone he considered a friend. (Why they couldn’t have looped Tracey in on the plan so he didn’t go insane, I don’t know.)

Tracey dies in the arms of Mal, after once again asking for his last wish — to be delivered back to his parents. The Serenity crew can do nothing but honor his wishes, no matter how things played out. The episode ends with the somber burial of Private Tracey Smith.

Oh, and by the way:

  • Simon is SUCH a pill. He once again insults Kaylee because he just can’t seem to keep his big foot out of his mouth. If you like her, you like her! Don’t say you’d want to be with her because she is literally the only woman left for you in all of space. Ugh. And Kaylee? MOVE ON.
  • Tracey: When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl — when you can’t do that …
    Zoë: You find someone to carry you.
  • This hat:

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 12.45.04 PM

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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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