Jayne sharpens his knife (not a euphemism) in the galley while Kaylee and Inara play cards and Simon and River try to make something for dinner. Zoë and Wash come in, arguing: Wash wants some R&R on Ariel (the Core planet they’re approaching); Zoë isn’t interested because Ariel is crawling with Alliance soldiers. Mal says that no one is going out onto Ariel – too dangerous – they’re just going to drop Inara off for her once a year Companion physical and reregistration. When Jayne complains, Mal notes that he could have gone with Shepherd Book on his meditation retreat. “Well, it beats just sitting,” grumps Jayne. Wash looks at him: “It is just sitting.” There’s more chitchat until River walks up to Jayne, knife in her own hand. Without warning, she slashes him across the chest. Shocked and bleeding, he backhands her across the room. Everyone rushes around, tending to Jayne, restraining River. “He looks better in red,” notes River.
Later, in the infirmary as Simon stitches up Jayne’s chest, the wounded man is wild, irate, insisting that Mal toss the Tam siblings off at Ariel before someone else gets hurt or killed. Mal refuses, saying that they’re part of the crew, but after Jayne storms out the captain tells the doctor that his sister must be confined to her room at all times now. “She’s getting worse, isn’t she?” Mal asks, knowing the answer. Simon is no liar. “Yes,” he admits.
Jayne and Mal play horseshoes in the cargo hold, trying to figure out how to get some paying work without leaving the ship. Simon walks up and says that he’ll be the client – he knows a job they can do. He holds up some antibiotics and narcotics that he had in his med-kit, explaining the outrageously high street value of the drugs. Simon says (hee!) that the pharmacies at the Ariel hospital are full and he can tell them how to steal the drugs. This is the payment. The job: help Simon get River into the diagnostic ward so he can scan her to see what the Alliance Academy did to her. The crew is sold.
Blah, blah, blah – Simon lays out the plan. He’s a pretty good planner for not having done much crime before. Kaylee and Wash head to the junkyard to pick up pieces of salvage and also an old ambulance that they retrofit. Jayne procures uniforms, ID badges and entry cards. The hardest part (and a very funny bit) is Simon rehearsing Mal, Zoë and Jayne’s lines: they have to be convincing EMTs. “Pupils were fixed and dilapidated,” tries Mal. “Dilated,” corrects Simon. And so on.
Another tricky part is convincing River to go along with the plan. Simon and his sister will put themselves into faux-comas so that the “corpses” can be brought into the hospital. She is frightened but ultimately trusts him, tears in her eyes as he gives her the shot.
Wash lands their ambulance. Zoë, Mal and Jayne load the coffins onto gurneys and wheel them into the hospital. No one looks twice and an administrator sends them down to the morgue. Once there, Mal injects the Tams with the wakeup drug. Jayne is to wait in the morgue for the siblings to wake up as Zoë and Mal head off to load the now-empty coffins with the drugs. Jayne doesn’t wait, however, and goes out to a monitor in the hall. He contacts an Alliance officer: he’s going to turn the Tams in for a reward. Bad Jayne! When he gets back to the morgue, Simon and River wake up, coughing and vomiting from the aftereffects. Jayne tosses them their disguises and they head out.
Meanwhile, en route to the drug stash, Zoë and Mal run into a little trouble with an uppity doctor … until Zoë knocks him out. They get to the drug lockers and load up. Hilariously, Mal has written on his arm the drugs he’s supposed to take. Looks like they get a pretty good haul. Leaving the unconscious doctor behind, they wheel their booty back to the faux-ambulance.
In the diagnostic lab, Simon lays River down for the imaging scanner. He learns that the Academy had operated on his sister’s brain, over and over again, altering it: she has no filter for her feelings; she feels everything full-strength all the time. Sneaky Jayne then tells Simon that the plan has changed and they have to leave now. River screams but they put her in a wheelchair and head out.
An Alliance patrol captures them very shortly, putting handcuffs on all three. When the siblings are led away, Jayne quietly asks if this is for show; the officer snarls that he’s being arrested for aiding and abetting known fugitives. Jayne is incredulous, “What about my rutting money?” The officer says, “You mean my money for apprehending three fugitives?” The guards zap Jayne with a cattle prod and knock him down. A little later, as they sit in detention, Simon thanks Jayne for all he’s done, not knowing the bigger man’s actual role. River starts babbling and Jayne starts reading into her nonsense, getting more and more nervous and twitchy.
Speaking of nervous and twitchy, Mal, Zoë and Wash are worried that the others aren’t back yet. They get prepped to go in after their missing crew. Wash, seeing a sleek new spaceship landing, urges them to hurry, as it appears “reinforcements” have arrived.
Two guards lead the Tams and Jayne away; even handcuffed, it doesn’t take that long for Jayne and Simon to take the guards out. It’s a pretty brutal fight and Jayne ends up snapping one of the guards’ necks. They uncuff each other and River starts to wig out. “They’re here.”
They are indeed here: two very creepy men wearing blue gloves (one of these actors has had a recurring role in both BtVS and Angel – Joss likes to reuse good people) who are displeased that the detaining officer spoke with the Tams. They bring out a little wand-gadget and soon blood is gushing from the officer’s eyes, nose, ears, nail beds and mouth. He dies, as you might imagine, as do the other guards.
River, Simon and Jayne hear the guards’ screaming – it’s awful. River starts to chant, panicked, “Two by two, hands of blue,” and the three of them start to run. The hands-of-blue men follow. It’s that great horror convention where the prey is running but can’t get away from the predators who are just walking - I expect more from a Whedon show, really. Just as the three are about to be captured, Mal and Zoë rescue them. Yay! Back to Serenity!
In front of everyone, Simon effusively thanks Jayne again for all his help. When the accolades have been bestowed, Mal sends the crew all off to do their chores, asking Jayne to help him stow the cargo. After the rest have dispersed, the captain whacks Jayne on the head with a wrench, knocking him out. Uh-oh. Mal’s figured out Jayne’s betrayal and he is pissed!
A groggy Jayne comes to as Serenity is lifting off. He looks around: Mal has locked him outside of the ship’s bulkhead (?) and then opens the hatch a little, saying that they used to keelhaul traitors but since he doesn’t have a keel getting Jayne sucked out into space will just have to do. Jayne is terrified and begs to be let back inside. He explains “The money was too good, I got stupid … What are you takin’ it so personal for? It’s not like I ratted you out to the feds?” “Oh, but you did,” menaces Mal, “You turn on any member of my crew, you turn on me … you did it to me, Jayne, and that’s a fact.”
Mal turns away, prepared to leave him out there to his death, and Jayne asks one last question: what are you going to tell the others about why I died? When Mal pauses, Jayne asks him to “make somethin’ up – don’t tell ‘em what I did.” At that actual display of remorse, Mal closes the exterior ship’s door, saving a relieved Jayne and telling him, “Next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.” The captain does, however, leave Jayne stuck in the outer cargo deck to stew a while, ignoring the “can I come in?” plea.
Simon brings River another shot, a cocktail he’s put together after studying her brain scan. She demurs, saying that she doesn’t want to go to sleep again. “No, mei-mei,” he reassures her, “It’s time to wake up.”
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