Firefly Rewatch Episode 4: Party Down

Mal has standards.  This is good to know.  Given the finer establishments he and Jayne frequent for business and recreation a certain restraint and deference to the customs and mores of the clientele lends itself to a far more convivial atmosphere for crime.  So Mal will only pickpocket slavers, not your garden variety smuggler, that’s just gauche.  Inara, quick study that she is, seems to get that eventually most of these fetes of Mal’s end up with Jayne swinging a very big stick.  Thus it was ever so.  After the jump.

Ah another planet, another bar, another bar fight, and another quick departure.  Life on Serenity has its own rhythm as we are now beginning to see.  As Mal says “Resupply, look for work, move along. We sniff the air. We don’t kiss the dirt.”  Too many people are looking for Mal and his merry band, so a life on the move is the better part of valor.

Inara has standards.  We start to get a hint of them as we see her reviewing some prospective clients.  It seems she has little interest in perhaps de-flowering a rather nervous young man, but can be sweet talked into an arrangement with an apparently charming regular client.  They’ll be attending the social even of the year it seems, and this charming fellow has another proposition for Inara.  Mal of course needs to visit Inara’s shuttle to tell her it’s 10:30 local time and to set up the sexual tension.

A quick stop on Persephone and they’ll be on their way.  Ahhh, but the comforts of civilization and what it could add to their lives.  Zoe’d like a slinky dress.  So would Wash and Jayne.  A slinky dress for Zoe that is.  Kaylee the farm girl is more taken with a layer-cake monstrosity.   Sorry, but I’m guessing our new friends the SWFGs would agree.  Still, Mal is a bit clueless and manages to get the women-folk riled at him.  Oh he’ll have to patch all that up eventually, but he and Jayne have more immediate patching up to do.

Persephone is the home of our old friend Badger, the local fixer and black marketeer who left Mal and the crew in the lurch with some hot cargo recently, sending them into the loving arms of Patience, who once again shot Mal.  That happens a lot.

Badger, while he may have roots in the community doesn’t have Mal’s social graces and discerning taste in company, so he needs Mal’s help.  A social event for the cream of Persephone’s society is scheduled, and Badger has a business proposition for a member of that smart set.  He wants Mal to deliver it.  As an aside I just have to observe here that I love some of Whedon’s sight gags.  The tea set, and tea sandwiches were classic, and Jayne stuffing them in his mouth three at a time hilarious, set off with Jayne’s sudden command of a broader vocabulary than we ever thought him capable.  I know I often gloss over the funnier bits, but there are usually far too many in any one episode to note them all.

So Mal needs to make amends to Kaylee.  He needs a respectable date for the shindig.  With Inara and Zoe both otherwise engaged (and River still a bit crazy) that leaves Kaylee, and her lovely dress.  On to the shindig where Mal sort of fits in and Kaylee seems a bit of a fish out of water.  But they have a great buffet and a floating chandelier.   I don’t know why they have a floating chandelier either.  Mal manages to navigate the new social environment long enough to make contact with the prospective client, but not quite long enough to close the deal.  Kaylee manages to find a sympathetic soul and become the belle of the ball.  But Mal being Mal and this being a party we all know what’s coming, especially since Inara is there in a professional capacity.

Mal has standards.  He may not approve of what Inara does, but he really disapproves of her “date’s” attitude.  Whoring is one thing, being a manhandling jerk is another.  Mal’s more noble (or jealous) instincts kick in and the offending party is laid out on the floor, courtesy of Mal’s fist.  Now Mal is in his element, a fight.  Except he isn’t, quite.

It seems that the local customs and mores require that for a fight, rather than beat on each other and then go their separate ways, they both get a good night sleep and then hack at each other with swords the next morning till one of them is dead, in a civilized manner.  Civilized fights aren’t really Mal’s forte.

Mal never runs from a fight.  Well that’s not quite true.  He runs from fights all the time.  But not this one.  Mal also has a sense of honor.  A really, really weird sense of honor.  I guess it’s OK for Mal to split hairs and disapprove of Inara’s profession, but for another guy to show her a different sort of disrespect is beyond the pale.  It’s a bit confusing, but it comes back to Mal not liking people feeling they can push others around.  Especially when one of those others is part of Mal’s crew.  Or who he considers part of his crew.  Only Mal gets to push them around and be rude to them.  Mal has standards after all.

On to the duel.  Civilized fights aren’t Mal’s forte, so Mal fairs poorly.  It looks like the end for our fearless leader, until he get’s the chance to make the fight into a rather uncivilized one.  Brawls are Mal’s forte, and with fortunes reversed Mal shows some mercy, of a sort.  After all, he only wanted to beat on the cad for a bit, not kill him.  But payback is a bit of a bitch.  I’m sorry, I know it’s not civilized of me, but I laughed.

With the job secured and the crew re-united and the cargo loaded it’s time for everyone to get back to their own little bit of civilization on Serenity, where everyone understands the rules and they’re all on the same page.  Sort of.

Overall I saw this episode as a mid-packer.  In one sense it’s sort of a bottle show, but some of the plot points tie into other episodes.  Once again this was aired out of order by Fox, though I must admit that the one they aired in its place is one of what I consider the strongest episodes of the series.  Still, an entertaining if not astounding episode.

Since I understand there is some confusion with the order of the episodes I’ll take a moment to clarify.  We’re piggybacking on Alan Sepinwall’s summer rewind, which will air the episodes in the order Joss Whedon intended, the order they are presented on the DVD.  If you are following IMDB you’ll be hopelessly lost very quickly.  To avoid confusion here is the order of the episodes we will follow.

1.00   Serenity (pilot)

1.01   The Train Job

1.02   Bushwhacked

1.03   Shindig

1.04   Safe

1.05   Our Mrs. Reynolds

1.06   Jaynestown

1.07   Out of Gas

1.08   Ariel

1.09   War Stories

1.10   Trash

1.11   The Message

1.12   Heart of Gold

1.13   Objects in Space

Serenity (the theatrical release)

Once again my appologies for the late review, but hey it’s summer.

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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13 Responses to Firefly Rewatch Episode 4: Party Down

  1. jason says:

    mal’s fight reminded me of the sort of thing captain kirk got stuck in defending spock’s wifes honor on vulcan, for some reason, I can’t get the comparison between mal and kirk out of my head, maybe since I was a castle fan first, I just can’t take mal seriously, not sure, I like the wt/wt between mal and irina, unlike chuck and sarah who had to get resolved since it was written so over the top, mal and irina are subtle and suited for the wt/wt dance

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I agree that Mal and Inara are more the classic sparring WT/WT that Chuck and Sarah never were. With Mal he feels he can’t give in because that would give Inara a measure of control over him, and by extension Serenity that he can’t allow. Inara obviously, by her profession and her situation can’t make the first move or give into Mal for much the same reason.

      With Chuck and Sarah it may have started with Sarah sort of playing Chuck, but by Wookie she was having trouble since you can’t con an honest man. Rather than play games Chuck just came out and said he understood, but that it hurt him she didn’t have the same trust in him that she demanded from him. By Truth Sarah had basically lost. Chuck asked her outright, and then acted on her answer. Her ability to play Chuck was pretty much over. Chuck never was the sort who might have held out for more fake intimacy (or real intimacy with fake feelings) in return for his cooperation, so that door was closed too. From that point (after the bumpy ride in Crown Vic) Chuck and Sarah were more star crossed than WT/WT rivals.

  2. atcdave says:

    This ranks as one of my favorite episodes. Don’t know why exactly…

    I love Mal’s confused code of honor. I understand it, and it makes me laugh all at once. The Captain Kirk parallel is strong here, Mal is an invincible brawler, sometimes it just takes him a bit to deconstruct the rules and turn it into his sort of fight.
    Kaylee is irresistable in this episode. I love the whole idea of the proper ladies treating her like common trash, yet the guys fall for her big time when she starts “engineer talk.”

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Dave, even though this episode isn’t among my favorites one thing I did like that you mention is how Mal is more of a fighter or brawler. Set the rules aside he has no equal, with the possible exception of Jayne. Like you said, it just some times takes Mal a little time to figure out how to turn the fight into a brawl.

      And now that I’m on the topic the other thing I liked in this episode was Kaylee the geek being the center of attention. I know three other guys who absolutely fell in love with Kaylee/Jewel.

      • atcdave says:

        I saw the movie Serenity first, so the big fight here is somewhat similar to the climax in the movie. At least it seems consistant for Mal.
        And I always like Kaylee, it was fun to be happy for her the way she turned the tables on the ladies at the gala.

  3. Catarina says:

    PLEASE READ THIS:

    E-ONLINE IS HAVING SOME POLLS AND CHUCK IS LOSING!!

    FOR NOW THERE IS BEST COUPLES (CHUCK AND SARAH IN 3RD PLACE) AND BEST FUNNYMAN (ZACH ALSO IN 3RD PLACE).

    PLEASE VOTE!!

    1) go to the “e-online” AMERICAN website

    2) go to “Watch with Kristin”

    3) Scroll down or go to older posts until you find the Tater Tops Awards.

    4) Vote for Chuck and Sarah on best couples (and any other upcoming categories)and for Zach on Best funnyman.

    5) Vote a lot. Fans from other series have been voting non stop.

    And spread the word.

  4. Faith says:

    Firefly is SHINY!

    I just recently finished off an iron man marathon, all 15 one after another…sorry I couldn’t wait for the weekly revisits lol.

    This episode was really fun…it showed me a little of what Mal is made out of, apart from just the thief with principles.

    I absolutely loved how he put it to Inara that although he may call her a whore to her face, he’s critiquing her job and not her person. While they don’t quite remind me of Chuck and Sarah (really more Bones and Booth) they are nevertheless as endearing and root-able.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      The thing that I remember on my Iron-man DVD watch was how the story built and River became more and more integral to both the story and the show. Also Jayne kind of grew on me too. He went from rather unsympathetic and comic relief to sort of a rougish badass you could actually root for.

      Jaynestown is a classic IMHO.

      What do you think, a poll of Firefly favorite episodes?

      • Faith says:

        I didn’t care for him in Ariel…(no spoilers for those that haven’t seen it) but definitely he grew on me too.

        Oh yeah a poll would be great. My pick will definitely have to be “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” Mal having to explain himself, Inara saying “I just fell that’s all” and the Shepherd’s “special hell” was all so great.

        Re: River. Right. In the beginning they (Zoe and Mal) were this core group that at times even Kaylee and Zoe’s husband was on the outside looking in but as the story unfolded you realize that they’re more than just people traveling together, they are as Mal says, “my crew.” The end where River did what she did, classic.

      • joe says:

        I’ve hit a patch of unavailable episodes online, but I was able to see both Jayenstown and Our Mrs. Rivers earlier. They were fantastic. And you’re quite right, Ernie – it’s really easy to get into the Jayne character after that classic Jaynestown episode.

  5. OldDarth says:

    Mal sure is a stubborn guy.

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