Ooh – a Jane Espenson-penned episode! She’s one of my favorites – super funny!
Jayne and Mal are playing pool in a dive bar; Inara is watching from a barstool, sipping something pink. Mal suggests that she leave before things get ugly: “Seems there’s a thief about,” he says as he hands her the wad of cash he pickpocketed. Sure enough a bar fight erupts; Jayne doesn’t even break a sweat as he thrashes his hapless foes. “Great place, can’t wait to tell my friends,” snarks Inara as Mal hustles her out.
Wash and Zoë are looking forward to a little planet-bound time on Persephone as Serenity heads in for refueling, resupplying, etc. “Planet’s coming up a mite fast,” notes Zoë. Wash: “That’s because I’m going down too quick. Likely crash and kill us all.” “Well, if that happens, let me know,” says Mal absently. In her shuttle, Inara is contracting with her next client. Atherton Wing is charming, rich, pretty. I don’t like him. Mal drops by to let her know when they’ll be landing, and he’s quite interested in her upcoming business. Inara allows that Atherton is taking her to a ball; Mal asks if all the guests will be paying for their dates, or just the young rich ones with stamina. She sniffs that it’s a little more sophisticated than the places he frequents. In town, Kaylee is window-shopping. Zoë disagrees with the fluffy one Kaylee likes, saying if she’s going to wear a dress, she wants one with some slink. Wash immediately asks Mal for some money to buy his wife a slinky dress; Jayne offers to chip in. “I can hurt you,” grins Zoë. Mal is short-tempered and hurts Kaylee’s feelings. “What, is she mad or somethin’?” asks Jayne. Badger shows up and insists Mal have a little palaver with him. It seems he wants Mal contact a local bigwig … a “quality gent” who will be attending the same ball Inara is. Badger thinks Mal can acquit himself well enough at the party to meet this guy, Warrick.
The ball is full of fancy, snooty people, none of them as lovely as Inara - although I think her dress is too bulky. Atherton is such a slime, managing to both flatter and insult her in the same breath. He then reiterates his offer to make her his personal Companion on Persephone. Kaylee is welding in the engine room when Mal says he has a job for her: the job is to put on the dress she’d admired (and he bought for her) and be his escort to the ball. That dress is the most amazing thing. Jane Espenson is a damn genius for thinking up that dress. At the ball, Kaylee is grinning ear to ear; Mal is worried that his pants may be too tight. I’m sorry, I’m just sitting here giggling at Kaylee’s dress. Back on Serenity, Book, Simon and Jayne pass the time by playing cards for chores (Jayne is cheating – surprise, surprise). Wash and Zoë have decided to forego shore leave for sex. Gina Torres is a really beautiful woman. At first, Kaylee is unsuccessful with the party small talk, but a kindly older gentleman rescues her from a group of snotty rich-bitches. She soon has a crowd of men around her, laughing at her stories. Mal is also unsuccessful in his first attempt to contact Warrick. He takes a break to dance with Inara; Atherton is wildly jealous and he and Mal end up brawling. “Turns out this is my kind of party!” chirps Mal gleefully.
Unfortunately, Mal’s hitting Atherton results in a duel. Warrick agrees to serve as Mal’s second in the duel; Mal hopes that, if he doesn’t get killed, maybe he and Warrick will be able to do business after all. Badger and his boys decide to occupy Serenity with the crew until the duel is over. That night Inara stops by Mal’s (hotel?) room to convince him to escape. It’s not a bad idea: Mal is a terrible swordsman. He refuses to run off, however: he thought he was defending her honor. On Serenity, the crew tries to come up with a plan to overcome Badger’s crew. Jayne thinks they need a diversion: “I say Zoë gets nekkid.” Wash: “No.” Jayne: “I could get nekkid.” Wash: “NO!” Just then, River wanders in. The crew holds their collective breath, but she’s got everything under control. Badger comes over to talk with her and she charms him. IN Mal's room, the swordfighting lessons are not going well at all.
The next morning it’s a lovely day for a duel: bright and sunny, birds chirping. It doesn’t take long for Mal to find out just how outmatched he is. Atherton toys with him, inflicting little cuts here and there, and then a fairly substantial stab in the side. “Well,” says Warrick to Inara, “this isn’t going to take long, is it?” In desperation, Inara accepts Atherton’s offer to be his personal Companion in exchange for Mal’s life. Mal takes advantage of Atherton’s momentary distraction to land a punch, knocking his opponent down. As Atherton lies there, panting, with Mal holding him at sword-point, Warrick tells Mal to finish it, to end Atherton’s humiliation. Mal refuses, saying that mercy is the mark of a great man. Then he jabs Atherton a little with the sword: “I guess I’m jut a good man.” Another poke: “Well, I’m all right.” HAHAHAHA! Furious, Atherton accuses Inara of setting him up, “after I bought and paid for you. I should have uglied you up … I’ll see to it that you never work again.” Mal, leaning on Inara’s shoulder, points out, “See how I’m not punching him? I think I’ve grown.” Inara interrupts Atherton’s rant, saying that she is going to blacklist him in the Companion Directory and no Companion will ever accept him as a client again, ever. Warrick thinks this is all great fun and agrees to work with Mal and Badger. “Mighty fine shindig,” decides Mal.
Inara brings Mal back to Serenity where Jayne tells Mal they were just about to execute their complicate rescue op. Wash nods, “I was going to watch. It was very exciting.” A little later, Mal and Inara share some wine, toasting Kaylee and her “inter-engine fermentation system.” Mal admits that fancy parties are not his favorite thing. Inara thanks him for the “ill-conceived and high-handed attempt to defend [her] honor, even though [she] didn’t want him to. She goes on to say, “I wasn't going to take his offer. Why would I ever want to leave Serenity?” “Can’t think of a reason,” agrees Mal, and they drink, gazing out over Warrick’s cargo – a herd of live cattle – milling about in the cargo hold.
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