Kaylee and Simon are flirting in the hallway. (Do spaceships have hallways? Is there some other sort of space-ical term for them?) Simon insists that he is not as stiff as she thinks, that he does in fact curse – when it is appropriate. Kaylee points out that “the whole point of swearin’ is that it ain’t appropriate.” Inara swooshes by on her way to a rendezvous with a client. “Have good sex!” chirps Kaylee. Simon gives her an amazed look. “What?” she innocents. Suddenly, there is a lot of crashing and banging in the infirmary. Simon rushes in to find Jayne tearing the place apart, taping a gun to his stomach. Simon is aghast: “You’re like a trained ape … without the training.” Mal reminds Jayne that no guns are allowed in Canton. Jayne allows as he was in Canton a few years ago and might have made some enemies – he just wants to be prepared. “No! Enemies - you?” snarks Simon, fussily tidying. Mal snaps, “Why you arguin’ what’s been decided?” Resigned, Jayne tears the surgical tape off his belly and whimpers. I love Jayne.
Inara departs in her shuttle just as the bigger ship hits atmosphere. Serenity lands next to some disgusting and disgusting-smelling mud hole; Mal explains that this is why it’s such a good drop spot – no one wants to come here. Zoë, luckily, gets to stay behind with the ship; when Wash protests, she pulls rank and sends him off with a kiss. Kaylee suggests that Simon could come along; after some scoffing, Mal supposes the pretty doctor might be useful. Book volunteers to look after River. Jayne, by the way, is wearing a lovely flak jacket with a hood, plus a hat, plus goggles. Trés stealthy.
Simon attempts to pose as the buyer, giving the crew a reason to be in Canton. Of course, Simon is completely out of his element and struggles mightily until Mal bails him out. The crew heads to town to find their contact. Jayne is very nervous. “You haven’t been here in years,” says Wash, “they won’t remember you.” Mal marvels: “I think it’s possible they might,” as they stop short in front of a larger-than-life mud statue of one Jayne Cobb. “Son of a bitch,” quoth Simon, finding this to be an appropriate time for cussin’.
Mal would like an explanation: “You wanna tell me how come there’s a statue of you here lookin’ at me like I owe him somethin’?” “Mal, I got no ruttin’ idea,” sputters Jayne. He exposits that he was here a few years back, stole some money from the magistrate and had to run. Simon muses, jaw agape, “This must be what going mad feels like.” Wash considers the statue. “I think they captured him though, captured his essence,” he says. “He looks sort of angry, don’t he?” thinks Kaylee. Wash: “That’s kind of what I meant.” A whistle signals a shift change and Jayne suggests that they stop playing art critic and get going before someone recognizes him. “I crossed the magistrate in this company town!”
On the other side of town, Inara is meeting with the magistrate. She looks lovely and he immediately seems like a nasty piece of work. She arranges to return later that evening. Back on ship, River and Book are in the galley. River is “fixing” Book’s Bible: tearing out pages, making notes, rewriting the “false logistics,” and so on. “Noah’s Ark is a problem,” she points out. Book rushes over, “River, you don’t fix the Bible.” “It’s broken,” she insists, “It doesn’t make sense.” Book explains that you don’t fix faith, it fixes you. I don’t think she’s convinced.
The crew are hiding out in a subterranean bar, biding time. They are drinking a local brew called “mudder’s milk,” which, according to Jayne, has all the proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates of a turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol. It comes as no surprise that Jayne is a big fan of the milk. A little blond boy stares at Jayne as a man approaches their table, suggesting that they lay low a bit before heading out to pick up the hidden goods. Just then the guitar player strikes up a song and all the bar patrons join in on the chorus: “…the Hero of Canton, a man they call Jayne.” Simon is more incredulous than he has ever been in his life: “No, this must be what going mad feels like.” Jayne realizes what happened. His hovercraft had been damaged as he tried to escape and he had to push out the stolen lockbox, which landed in the center of town. The mudders think he did it on purpose á la Robin Hood. Mal drops his head into his hands. Wash is loving this, however, and gives my favorite line of the episode (and one of my favorites of the whole series): “We gotta go to the crappy town where I’m the hero!”
On board Serenity, River wants to make amends for tearing up Book’s Bible. Unfortunately, she decides to apologize just as he’s untied his hair to wash up. He turns to look at her, Medusa-tendrils flying, and she screams and runs away. Zoë comes to find out what’s the ruckus. “Whoa!” she exclaims as Book pokes his head around the corner. Back at the bar, the crew have decided to leave. They come up onto the street to a huge waiting crowd, chanting Jayne’s name and cheering, the blond little boy from the bar standing proudly in front. Jayne panics and runs back into the bar, demanding mudder’s milk from the barkeep. A young man cries out that Jayne has returned to town and the barkeep swats the milk out of Jayne’s horrified hands. The barkeep brings out a different bottle, announcing, “The hero of Canton won’t be drinkin’ that! He drinks the best whiskey in the house!” The bar patrons swarm Jayne and Mal starts wracking his brain to figure out how he can use a folk hero to his advantage.
The magistrate comes to Inara’s shuttle, towing his 26-year-old virgin nerd son behind him. This, then, is the problem Inara has come to fix. At the bar, Jayne is toasting himself; Wash and Mal are at their wits' end; and Simon and Kaylee are getting drunk. They are very cute. Simon marvels, “I reattached a girl’s leg and she named her hamster after me. He drops a box of money and he gets a town.” “Hamsters is nice,” slurs Kaylee. They are quite hammered and Simon gets brave enough to tell her that she is pretty. Mal picks just then to announce their departure. “Now?” complains Kaylee, “Things are going so well.” Mal finally picks up what she’s laying down and it’s very sweet the way he tries to help her out. He leaves them in the bar to watch over Jayne as he and Wash head back to the ship. River is hiding in a bulkhead and refuses to come out: “too much hair!” Zoë says she agrees with River. Miffed, Book explains that it’s the rules of his order, but puts his hair away. Mal and Wash get back to Serenity and explain to Zoë that since Jayne is a local hero, they convinced the townsfolk to have a Jayne-Day celebration the next day, the festivities of which should provide enough cover for them to sneak out and collect their goods. “Jayne’s a what?”
Inara and the magistrate’s son, Fes, are talking. He explains that he is not manly enough to please his father. She is supportive, telling him that if his father had asked her to come here for himself, she wouldn’t have come. He perks up at this and she leans in to remove his eyeglasses. At the bar, the young Jayne-fan tells his hero how the mudders stood up to the magistrate’s men. “You guys had a riot on account of me?” Jayne says, voice full of drunken pride, “my very own riot!” Adam Baldwin is fantastic. The mud pit foreman shows up at the magistrate’s house to inform him that Jayne Cobb has come back. The magistrate immediately goes to some horrific hot boxes – small wooden boxes on stilts in the middle of a bog – and releases a rough-looking, one-eyed scumbucket named Stitch. Turns out Stitch was Jayne’s partner and not only did Jayne toss the lockbox out of his failing aircraft, he tossed Stitch out too. Not about to pass up this opportunity, the magistrate hands Stitch a loaded gun and informs him that his old partner is back in town.
The next morning, Mal finds Kaylee and Simon asleep in the bar. Simon sputters nervously that it’s not what Mal thinks: they didn’t … he didn’t … he wouldn’t, not with Kaylee! “What do you mean, not with me?” she glares at him. “Uh-huh,” says Mal, completely not interested, “where’s my hero?” Said hero stumbles out of a room in the back, a disheveled but attractive doxy on his arm. “Eggs! The living legend needs eggs!” he announces. Nope, says Mal, the living legend has a social engagement to keep. Mal, Jayne and Kaylee start to leave and when Simon tries to follow, Kaylee rounds on him viciously (as viciously as she is able, anyway). She thinks he should stay here and have a civilized breakfast, just the sort of thing that’s appropriate. Between the eyebrow and the body language, not to mention the incredibly sarcastic tone, even Simon can figure out that he’s stepped in it here. Mal, behind Kaylee the whole time, gives himself whiplash from all the eye-rolling. They leave; Simon sits down at a table and asks for a menu. “A what?” grunts the barkeep.
On Inara’s shuttle, Fes is virgin no longer. Atta boy! He thought he’d feel different after, however, isn’t he a man now? Inara tells him that a man is just a boy who is old enough to ask that question. She sweetly goes on to say that their having sex together doesn’t make him a man - “You do that yourself.” And no, she doesn’t mean alone in his bedroom after she’s gone. Mal explains the plan to use Jayne's celebration as a distraction, but Jayne is uncomfortable with that idea. He thinks he’s really made a difference to these people, “me, Jayne Cobb.” “I know your name, jackass,” retorts Mal. Jayne tries to explain that they threw a riot in his honor, making Kaylee grin. Wash and Zoë drive up on the mule, collect Kaylee and Mal, and head off into the scrub to collect the goods; Jayne heads to the center of town to greet his fans.
Fes and Inara have gotten dressed. He tells her that it seems a folk hero who robbed his father and gave the money to the mudders landed in Canton yesterday, and the magistrate wants Fes to attend the hearing. As he relays the mythology, it’s clear that he’s on the Robin Hood’s side. Inara starts to look sick to her stomach and admits that she knows whom he’s talking about. “He has this idiotic sense of nobility, you know? … He thinks he’s a hard-hearted criminal, and he can be unrelenting, but there’s a side to him that’s so …” Fes excitedly jumps up. “You know him? You know Jayne Cobb?” Inara promptly swallows her tongue (metaphorically speaking). Fes tells her that his father has put a landlock on “Jayne’s” ship so it can’t take off. Fes says that he “sort of hate[s] the idea of him getting caught.” Inara is still flabbergasted that they’re talking about Jayne.
Simon has had trouble stomaching his breakfast. It doesn't sit any better when Stitch comes into the bar and starts beating the shit out of him for being “part of Jayne’s team.” It’s pretty ugly and Stitch gets ready to take himself an eye when the chanting starts up in the square: Jayne! Jayne! Jayne! Jayne! The man himself is asked to make a speech which I will attempt to reproduce for you here: “I’m no good with words, don’t use em much myself [laughter from the mudders]. I want to thank you all for being here and thinkin’ so much of me [points at statue]. Far as I can see it, you people been given the shortest end of the stick ever offered a human soul in this craphill ‘verse. But you took that end and … well, you took it and I guess that’s somethin.” Wild applause. “Wow,” says Kaylee, standing in the audience with Mal, “that didn’t sound half bad.” “I’m shocked my own self,” replies the captain.
A shotgun fires, scattering the crowd. Stitch throws a beaten Simon into the dirt and advances on his former partner. Her anger forgotten, Kaylee gathers the poor doctor up as Stitch and Jayne square off. Stitch tells the mudders who the Hero of Canton really is: a thief who tossed out his fuel reserves, the seats from the hovercraft and finally his partner, before he finally ditched the money. “You’d a done the same,” sneers Jayne, but Stitch refutes it at length. “You gonna talk me to death, buddy?” asks Jayne. For an answer, Stitch whips his gun around and fires, but the young mudder dives in front of his hero, saving him.
Jayne screams, wild, throwing his knife into Stitch’s shoulder. They fight like crazed animals, brutally flinging their bodies into each other, until Jayne finally squishes Stitch’s head against the base of the statue. He pauses, panting, and sees the body of the young man who took the bullet for him. Adam Baldwin does a beautiful job here, his face falling from rage to misery in milliseconds. “Get up! C’mon, get up! What’d you do that for?” he shouts at the dead mudder. Mal looks as though he’s sorry they ever came to this town. Jayne turns on the crowd, hollering, “You thinks there’s people who’ll drop money on you? Money they can use? There ain’t people like that! There’s just people like me.” The little blond boy, dressed in his finest for the celebration, returns Jayne’s bloodied knife to him, tears in his eyes. Stricken, Jayne turns away and topples his statue.
Mal, Jayne, Simon and Kaylee trudge back to Serenity. Wash tries to take off but the “landlock” alarm buzzes at him. Nervously, he starts pushing buttons and flipping switches, all to no avail. Inara comes onto the bridge. “Is there a problem with takeoff, Wash?” she asks. “Is there a problem?!” Wash yelps and then the buzzer shuts off and they are greenlit to depart. “Ah, no, there’s no problem.” At the magistrate’s house, Fes’s father is irate because his son lifted the landlock on Serenity. Fes is post-coitally cool and confident: “You wanted to make a man out of me, Dad. I guess it worked.”
Serenity takes off. Jayne thoughtfully cleans his knife on the cargobay catwalk. River is working on something in the common area and the Shepherd comes up to her. “Just keep walking, Preacherman,” she says, not looking up from her book. Kaylee attends to Simon’s cuts and scrapes, suggesting that he not let people stomp on him so much. He protests that it really wasn’t his plan. She then asks him why he gets so stiff and formal around her, why he can’t relax so they can enjoy each other’s company. Simon explains that being proper and polite is all he has left; it's the only way he has of showing her that he likes her. Mal stops by Jayne’s perch on the catwalk. Jayne doesn’t understand why that mudder would have taken that shotgun blast for him. Mal figures that anyone ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sonofabitch or another. Jayne seems to agree, but Mal counsels that it wasn’t about Jayne, it was about what those people needed. “It don’t make no sense,” mutters the hero, as a plaintive version of his theme song plunks in the background.
This recap turned out to be a long one - sorry. I think it's because I've tried to quote more than usual - I just think that parts of this episode are so very funny and couldn't help myself.
1 hour ago