In a bar, Mal and Zoë are playing Chinese checkers while Jayne watches, bored or drunk, or maybe a little of both; Zoë is winning. A drunken lout makes a toast to Unification Day – the “asspicious” day when the Alliance put down the Independence. Jayne is confused: “ ‘Suspicious?’ What day is it? What month is it?” Mal eyes the toasted toaster and goes to get another drink. The drunk notices his brown coat and starts to pick a fight; Mal willingly rises to the bait. Mal is noticeably less dark than he was in the first episode, despite the fighting. Ever the good wingman, Zoë sneaks up and knocks out the drunk. However, the rest of the bar is apparently also on the federal side of things and a big bar brawl kicks into gear. Jayne at first declines to participate – “I didn’t fight in the war.” I love Jayne. He finally does join in and the three of them manage to hold their own for a bit against the mob, until they get backed up again a cliff that drops away into nothing. Mal notes, “This is why we lost the war – superior numbers.” “Thanks for the reenactment, sir”, says Zoë dryly, “Funny how you find yourself in an Alliance-friendly bar on every Unification Day.” Wash flies Serenity up just in time and they escape. The trip was not entirely unsuccessful, however, as Mal has made a contact: they have a job they can do.
River, her hair clean and fluffy, is having flashbacks to being experimented upon; Simon tries to calm her. Boy, she’s skinny. And I like her motorcycle boots. Mal visits the infirmary to disinfect his post-brawl scrapes. Simon is worried that the bar fight may have attracted Alliance attention and in reassuring him, Mal actually smiles several times – he is less dark for sure! Mal then goes looking for Kaylee and finds the engine room a wreck: “Were there terrifying space monkeys?” He finds her having a little girl time, getting her hair brushed by Inara. Inara gives some exposition about Companions for the viewing audience’s edification: they are not common prostitutes but are trained and licensed by a guild, allowed to hand-select their own clients, etc. When Mal sends Kaylee back to the engine room, he and Inara are alternately snarky, defensive and almost considerate to each other. Hmm. Mal, Zoë and Jayne go to meet with Adelai Niska on Niska’s space station; they’re a little nervous since, according to Mal, Niska’s a pretty tough customer. Niska wants them to rob a train for him; he also manages to impress his tough-guy rep upon them by revealing a man being tortured in the back room. (Well, the man used to be tortured, but now he’s just dead.) They are duly impressed. Later, on the train, Zoë and Mal make their way through the passenger cars and come upon a car full of Alliance officers – yikes! They weren’t expecting that.
Back on Serenity, Book asks Inara about the crew, and mentions that he feels a little useless. Inara suggests that he perhaps pray for the crew’s current caper to be successful. “I don’t think the captain would appreciate it,” Book replies. “Don’t tell him,” she then says, “I never do.” On the train, Zoë is not pleased about the fed squad on the train, but Mal thinks it just makes the job more fun! Zoë snarks that she thinks he has a problem with his brain being missing. She wants to know if she can have his share of the pay. No. “If you die, can I have your share?” “Yes.” Kaylee, Simon and Jayne are getting ready for the heist in the ship’s cargo bay. Jayne is not particularly friendly to Simon, and tells Kaylee that he thinks Mal is planning on turning Simon and River in for the reward. Kaylee is concerned and skeptical, as is par for the course when listening to Jayne. Zoë and Mal break into the train car, bundle up the cargo, and open the hatch in the roof; Serenity flies overhead and Jayne is lowered down on a cable. Wash has nice arms. The feds discover them in the train car and manage to shoot Jayne in the leg before he and the stolen cargo are airlifted back up to Serenity. Zoë and Mal covertly blend back in with the rest of the passengers. The train is stopped at a small mining town, Paradiso. Gregg Henry (that guy from Slither) is the sheriff; Zoë and Mal overhear him fret that the stolen cargo contained the town’s medicines and supplies. Mal is upset.
Jayne wants to rendezvous with Niska and hand over the booty but Wash refuses to leave without Zoë and Mal. River interrupts with a little bit of crazy: “Two by two, hands of blue.” Jayne, in pain from his leg wound, grumps that he’s in charge; Simon gives him a shot for the pain. Book points out that Niska will probably want to meet with Mal himself since Mal was the one with whom the deal was made. Sitting around in Paradiso, Mal mutters that this is a nightmare. Zoë says, “Nothing points to us.” “That’s not what I meant,” he says, glumly looking around at all the poor and sick people. As the sheriff interrogates them, they pretend to be a newly married couple (hee hee!) looking for work in the Paradiso mines. There is some exposition about the town needing the stolen medicine in order to treat a degenerative disease caused by the mines. The sheriff is a bit suspicious of the two of them, but remains friendly enough. On board Serenity, Jayne insists that the crew leave Zoë and Mal behind. When Wash objects, Jayne snarls, “You know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go get and beat you with until you understand who’s in ruttin’ charge here.” Then, as I giggle, he paws at the air and collapses. Wash is confused: “Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?” Simon mentions that he did tell Jayne to lie down, and that he thought the painkiller would have kicked in a little sooner. “I didn’t feel comfortable with him in charge,” says Simon. The crew discusses how to best rescue Zoë and Mal; Book thinks that someone respectable enough could probably waltz right in and whisk them away. Since the woman who has sex for money is clearly the most respectable of this bunch, Inara takes her shuttle to Paradiso. She explains to the sheriff that the two in question are her runaway servants – hence their slightly shady story; the sheriff is impressed enough with meeting a registered Companion that he releases Zoë and Mal. Back on Serenity, Mal announces that they’re taking the medicines back to the townspeople, and that they’ll just give Niska his money back. Jayne, still dopey and slumped on the stairway, says “What? Taking it back? I waited for you!” Wash announces that they can probably give the money back right then and there since Niska’s men have found them.
Mal tells Krull, Niska’s scary tattooed henchman, that they’ve changed their minds: the deal is off and they’ll give the money back. Krull replies that there is no mind-changing allowed and then stabs Mal in the shoulder with a really big knife. There’s a fight and Zoë kicks all kinds of ass while Krull pretty much pummels Mal, until Jayne manages to shoot Krull in the leg. “I was aiming for his head,” he grumps. Zoë and Mal drive the medicines back towards the town. The sheriff ambushes them with a heavily armed posse, but lets them hand over the medications without incident. Upon their return to Serenity, Mal returns Niska’s money to Krull. Krull says he won’t take the money; instead he’ll chase them around the 'verse and kill them. So Mal kicks him into the revving engines. Splat. The remaining flunky eagerly agrees to take the money back to Mr. Niska, agreeing that it’ll really be best for everyone this way. As Simon stitches Mal’s stab wound, the captain notes that Simon probably didn’t make a lifetime friend by doping Jayne like that, but that Simon looks like he can take care of himself. Simon is worried about River, however; he doesn’t know what’s wrong with her. River is in her room, crouched in the corner, again muttering “two by two, hands of blue.” Cut to the Alliance cruiser where two creepy blue-begloved guys (one of whom is that Council flunky from BTVS and Angel), tell the Alliance officer that they are after River. Guess she’s not so crazy after all.
49 minutes ago