Big, huge megaprops to Demian and mrsdalgleish for helping out while I was tripping the light fantastic in Las Vegas. Actually, I was mostly tripping over people on street corners who were trying to make me take flyers for hookers. And shout-out to Couch Baron for being such a great roommate. And to Strega, Ace, Sep, Keckler, and Sobell for being such fun dinner companions. The geek table rules! And to everybody else, of course. Shout-out to everybody! Yay, everybody!
We open with a violent content warning. Yay, violence! Wait -- there's always violence on this show. How come there was no warning when the Dishwashers of Doom made that one guy's brain run out of his nose?
The intro narration is gone, finally. That's good, because I was running out of funny things to say about it. But we do get a previously montage. Previously on Firefly: Simon led the crew in a hospital raid to steal medicine and find out what's wrong with River; Niska hired the crew to steal other medicine for him, but since Niska was actually a very bad guy, as opposed to having some ambiguously elastic set of morals like our antiheroes, Mal decided to give the drugs back instead; this sudden reversal wasn't received well, and Mal kicked Niska's Space Conan minion into a turbine; Niska was cartoonishly menacing and had a ridiculous accent.
We open with Simon looking over River's brain scans on a monitor in the infirmary. Simon has chosen the sweater over the vest again. Book happens to be standing behind him, seeding the sky so as to create the rain of anvils that will be crashing around us all episode. To wit, he asks Simon if he's ever heard of the works of Shan Yu. Simon exposits that Shan Yu was a psychotic dictator. This guy was apparently some sort of cross between Sun Tzu, Nietzsche, and the Marquis de Sade. Book blathers on about how Shan Yu fancied himself as some sort of poet of war and torture. Simon says, "That's nice," in that tone of voice that means, "I don't care." Book goes on about Shan Yu's The Art of Bore or whatever, where he said, "Live with a man [for] forty years. Share his house, his meals; speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano's edge, and on that day, you will finally meet the man." Was that a reference to torture and interrogations, or just advice on spicing up a tired marriage? Simon snarks, "What if you don't live near a volcano?" Book says, "I suspect he was being poetical [sic]." Yeah, I think Simon got that. He was being sarcastical. Simon observes, "Sadistic crap legitimized by florid prose." Was that a West Wing shout-out? He asks Book if he's a fan of this freak. Book says that he wonders if the people who experimented on River might have been fans. Plus, he has to set up the Shan Yu callbacks throughout the episode. Simon says that the government did these experiments to River. Book points out, "A government is made up of people, usually notably ungoverned." Simon snarks that Book's quoting the captain. Simon can't possibly still be supporting the Alliance after what he's found out, is he? Oh, that was just exposition reminding us that Mal hates the gub'ment. Book explains further that he wonders if the people who experimented on River just to see how much she could take and to "truly meet her." No, it doesn't make any sense. If you truly want to get to know who a person really is, go in and cut out parts of her brain? This extended metaphor is rather weak, and it doesn't get much better. Simon, like me, disagrees with Book, and says his research indicates that they were trying to accomplish something specific. He adds that if they were just hurting River to see what she'd do, they wouldn't keep chasing after her.
Book facilitates more exposition by asking if River has improved at all. Simon explains that he's still trying out several medicines. She's sleeping better, but she's not stable yet. He adds that they've got plenty of drugs to sort through now. Book says, with a bit of disdain in his voice, that he understands that Simon is now a "criminal mastermind" and asks him if he's got his next "heist" planned. Simon responds, "Yeah, that's right, 'preacher,' because I needed to find out how my government tortured my sister and forced me to have to turn to illegal measures in order to survive and save her life. Did I mention that I nearly killed a guy with my hands cuffed behind my back? So unless you'd like to feel a knee pressing against your carotid artery, you can very well shut up." Okay, Simon would never say something like that, but he's probably thinking it. Instead, Simon snarks, "No, but I'm thinking about growing a big, black mustache. I'm a traditionalist." Wow, so many places to go with that line. Wait until you're forty, Simon, then you could probably pull off that look. And by then you'll probably be an overt butch top, rather than the somewhat prissy dom in training you are now. Just some advice.