Firefly Rewatch Episode 9: Ariel

Kaylee: Oh, well, let’s see. We killed Simon and River, stole a bunch of medicine, and now the Captain and Zoë are off springing the others got snatched by the feds. Oh, ‘n here they are now!

Now we’re into the meat of the season.  We finally get to start seeing who our heroes really are.  We’ve seen that River is smart, talented, pretty much psychic, and crazy.  Is she also dangerous.  We’ve seen Jayne as an opportunist with questionable loyalties to his partners in crime before, is he changing?  We’ve seen Simon’s devotion to his sister and to helping her recover.  How far will he go?  We’ve seen Mal’s loyalty to his crew, all of his crew.  How will he handle dissension in the ranks.  All these will be explored in this excellent episode, and after the jump.

Wash: So… two days in a hospital. That’s awful. Don’t you just hate doctors?
Simon: Hey.
Wash: I mean, present company excluded.
Jayne: Let’s not be excluding people. That’d be rude.

It seems our intrepid crew, much as they seek to avoid the Alliance, is headed to the very heart of that civilization.  Out on the fringes, their territory, where conditions are what they are and the alliance presence may be thin they can live their lives mostly untroubled by the government that many of them despise and all of them seem to want to avoid.  But bureaucracy will have its day.  It seems they are headed to “The Core”.  The center of the Alliance territory, where all the benefits, the technology, the wealth, and all the problems, the surveillance, the control, are at their greatest.  Inara needs to have her license renewed, and that means forms and a round of checkups at a Core hospital.  To Zoe and Mal that means sitting on the ship for a few days.  To most of the others it means a missed opportunity to sample the wonders of the civilization they’ve lived without.  For some reason to Shepherd Book it means stopping off before they even get to the planet.  Interesting.

Of course things get interesting en route.  River, for some reason, decides Jayne looks good in red, and having no crayons decides a chest wound would do the trick.  Chaos of course ensues.  But Jayne, much as we hate to admit it, lays out some truth.  The crew isn’t safe. Mal’s crew isn’t safe, and it’s because of River, and by extension Simon.  Jayne isn’t wrong and Mal knows it.  But it’s Mal’s ship and he’ll handle it his way.  Jayne’s solution is a bit excessive and premature, but his reality check is dead on.  Our good doctor Simon Tam has some decisions to make.

Luckily Simon appears to have been studying both the crew and their methods in his journey to becoming a criminal mastermind.  Simon has a plan, and his plan shows just how far he will go to save his sister.  Simon will put his and his sister’s lives in Jayne’s hands.  Oh yeah, and he’ll die.

Being a federal fugitive complicates things a bit.  You can’t for instance walk into a Core Alliance hospital and ask to use the state of the art 3D imaging scanners to diagnose what the alliance did to your also fugitive sister so you can come up with a cure before the captain of the smugglers who has taken you in decides to heed the advice of the mercenary and turn you both in for a reward.  No, for that you need a plan and some help.  Simon enlists the help of the crew with the offer of a massive payday.  Medicine, needed on the frontier, will bring a hefty price, and won’t be missed in the core.  Simon knows what to get and where to get it, and for that information wants some brother sister quality time in the 3D Neuro-imager in the diagnostic ward.

Watching the plan come together is rather entertaining, if only to see a window into the actor’s world, memorizing lines that mean nothing (like Chinese curses) to them and trying to make them convincing.  Jayne is, as usual particularly amusing.  So having obtained the means of entry to the hospital, uniforms, ID’s and a rebuilt transport all they need now are some corpses.  Apparently nobody checks their condition or ID upon entry to a hospital.  With Simon and River “dead” thanks to the ever-present coma-inducing near death drug, they are snuck into the hospital as DOA’s by Mal, Zoe and Jayne (he applied the cortical electrodes).

The plan, with a few minor hitches, seems to be going along swimmingly.  But of course all is not well.  Simon gets his quality time in the diagnostic ward and Zoe and Mal clean out the pharmacy, but Jayne is angling for a bigger payday.  It seems to me things get dangerous when Jayne strays from his strengths, shooting and hitting things, and gets to thinkin’ too much.  Of course he gets double crossed by the feds.  As Mal says, that’s what always happens when you deal with the alliance.  To Jayne’s credit he figures out pretty quickly that Simon considers him trustworthy, regardless of their differences and their capture, and Jayne realizes his mistake immediately.  Jayne has people who count on him now, and he let them down, just like the mudders.

Of course Zoe and Mal come to the rescue, with some help from Jayne and Simon and River’s excellent sense of direction.  Incidentally I loved the sight gag of Jayne trying to shoot open a door with a goram piece of alliance crap only to have Mal come from the other side.

So as Kaylee summarized at the beginning, all’s well that ends well.  Well, not entirely.

Jayne: What are you taking this so personal for? It ain’t like I ratted you out to the feds!
Mal: Oh, but you did. You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me! But since that’s a concept you can’t seem to wrap your head around then you got no place here! You did it to me, Jayne, and that’s a fact.

Jayne is saved by one thing, shame.  He is ashamed that he let down people who counted on him, and more than dying he’s afraid they’ll find out.  Maybe there’s hope for the big lug after all.  At least Mal seems to think so.

– Ernie
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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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12 Responses to Firefly Rewatch Episode 9: Ariel

  1. atcdave says:

    Very strong episode. Its funny, in some ways this episode has a very TV-advenure/hiest formula feel to it. Yet like a lot things done with Firefly, its a bit above the rest in quality, every step of the way. The dialogue is fresh and funny, the action is exciting, the tension is palpable, and the drama/lessons learned seems important.
    This is also a rare episode for Firefly in that most of it is spent in a civilized part of the ‘verse. And Jayne learning his lines, that he is DETERMINED to deliver, is a great laugh out loud funny moment. I think Firefly may have the highest percentage of outstanding episodes of any show I’ve ever seen. Shame we never got to see how long they could keep it up.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      It’s funny Dave, this was another series I didn’t discover till it was off the air. In one way I, like you, wish they’d had the chance to do more. In another I’m almost glad they got to make the movie and go out on top of their game.

      Another series like this is Wonderfalls. It was a perfectly contained 13 episode story. I’m just glad they managed to get it out on DVD.

      • atcdave says:

        I’m sure it actually helps the legacy that the show never hit a down cycle (**S3**) and even had a movie to wrap up certain story elements. The whole series almost seems like a movie, both in quality and length.

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        Granted. But at the same time the dreaded S3’s blues (in great series) doesn’t necessarily overshadow the series. I think Firefly would have been one of those…same for Pushing Daisies. As for Chuck, well obviously you know my hopes and dreams…

        Of course I hear that Joss Whedon was gonna kill off Inara in S2, so alls well that ends well lol.

  2. ChuckNewbie8 says:

    This episode was intense. As always a great revisiting Ernie.

    I have to say I was so shocked when River just slashed him like that. Then to learn what they’ve done to her? Removing her amygdala…just cruel.

    But perhaps what stands out the most for me in this episode was who Mal is. We get glimpses here and there of his character, but none the more so in this episode. It seems when the chips are down Mal is far more than just a crook, and Jayne is far more than just muscle.

    Of course it’s also pretty great to see how Jayne makes up for this faux pas lol.

  3. jason says:

    simon’s tenderness toward river early in the show as he is convincing her to go back to the hospital is really powerful tv, I have not heard of the actor doing alot b4 or after – was this just a chemistry thing or is he a good actor?

    mal – jayne’s showdown at the end, probably was dramatic, jayne’s don’t tell them what I did sort of lets him off the hook, but for me, that whole jayne turning on simon and river was the weak part of this episode, the show overall strives for the crew to be family, jayne’s betrayal is just a little to far over the top for me

    I know you guys love most of the episodes, but is ariel considered one of the stronger ones? If so, it would not surprise me?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well if I had to pick my top three… 😉

      Actually I think my absolute favorite is the next one, War Stories, but frankly starting with Our Mrs. Reynolds I find it hard to judge one as clearly better than the others. They all offer something slightly different yet compelling and entertaining.

      I understand your point on the Jayne thing. It almost seems they waited too long, but the slashing River gave him, his talk with Mal in the infirmary, and the opportunity to get them alone set up Jayne’s betrayal for me. In a way he may have even thought he was doing Mal and the crew a favor, doing what was best for them all, but what they didn’t have the stomach to do.

  4. joe says:

    I just watched the episode for the first time moments ago. Wow! It’s everything you said, Ernie.

    The Alliance goons were terrifying. “Two by two, hands of blue.” Excellent. I wanted to keelhaul Jayne myself. His redemption was spot-on. I’m always amazed that Adam Baldwin looks every inch an operative in a suit (like in the Pilot where he guns down Bryce) and in a uniform. But as low-class, not-educated Jayne (with that chin warmer) he’s yet another believable character.

    And Simon – Do I see a little Chuck in him? He’s losing his innocence too, and becoming effective.

    And one last thing that I have to point out – the Josh Whedon music (the theme) is hypnotizing. Is he known as a musician too? If so, he’s underrated.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Whedon has done several songs for some of the shows and movies he’s worked on now that you mention it. I think he did songs for both Lion King and Toy Story if I’m not mistaken. He also directs. Kind of disgusting how accomplished he is yet all his shows seem to get canceled early only to become cult hits later.

    • JC says:

      He wrote all the music for Buffy’s musical episode “Once More, with Feeling”

    • joe says:

      Oh gee. I was unaware. Impressive.

      I also forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the use of language in this episode. Not to praise in overmuch, but it was almost Shakespearean. Lots of little phrases and word usage that you’d never hear IRL, but are immediately understood. It’s sort of like hearing someone with a heavy Gaelic accent in conversation – it sounds different, even poetic, but not strange.

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