Zoe's shuttle docks with the space station. She boards and is greeted by several armed skinhead guards in cat burglar outfits. I don't know. Well, it's better than the He-Man extras. There's some sort of unidentified background light that flashes erratically for no apparent reason. Perhaps there's going to be a rave later. She asks them to take her to Niska.
As Zoe is escorted through the station, we get a look at some sort of deep central well full of high-tech stuff moving around. You know, one of those vast, bottomless chasms that are part of any self-respecting space station. Eventually she's escorted into Niska's chamber of sadomasochism. Moose and Squirrel are barely conscious. Wash mutters at Zoe to run, but she ignores him. She tells Niska that the bag contains five times the money he had agreed to pay them for the train job. She says that it should be more than enough to "buy back [her] men." Niska points out that they're a bit damaged now. Are they really worth that much? Zoe insists that they are. Niska Badenovs that they're worth even more to him. He says that this isn't enough money for both of them. It is, however, enough for one. He starts to give some long-winded, scenery-chewing villain speech about Zoe's heartbreaking choice, but Zoe immediately interrupts him to point to Wash and say, "Him." She adds, "I'm sorry. You were going to ask me to choose, right? You wanna finish?"
Commercials. When we return, Wash is released from bondage and falls to the floor. Zoe supports his weight and helps him walk out of the chamber. He mutters about Mal, but Zoe shushes him and tells him to keep walking. We see a shot of Mal, still in bondage. He shakes his head "no" at Wash. As Zoe and Wash are heading up the stairs to leave, Niska stops them. He tells Zoe that she gave him a little too much money and deserves a little bit of a "refund." He mutters something to a skinhead, who takes a huge knife and lops off Mal's left earlobe. Ouch. That's gotta sting. I imagine that's the reason for the violence warning, but it happened so fast that it wasn't really gory or anything. Just shocking. Niska politely wraps the ear in a handkerchief and gives it to Zoe. She tucks it away and continues escorting Wash off the station. Mal's screams echo in the background, and the rave lights continue to pulse artfully as Wash and Zoe leave him behind.
On the shuttle, Wash collapses to the floor; Zoe comforts him. He says, "He's insane." Zoe assumes that Wash is talking about Niska, but Wash really means Mal. He explains that Mal refused to break and kept Wash from breaking as well. He says he wouldn't have survived if Mal hadn't been there. He points out that Niska's going to kill Mal. Zoe says that Niska will make the pain last for days before Mal dies. Wash unsteadily makes it to his feet and insists that Niska isn't going to get those days as he makes his way to the pilot's chair to direct the shuttle back to Serenity. I see somebody's been taking "butch in a crisis" lessons from Simon.