Cut to them completing an unsuccessful search of the empty shuttle. They walk across the catwalk to Inara's House Of Not-So-Free Love. Early pauses along the way, stares at a support bar for the catwalk, then gives it a lick. Me: Eye roll. That may or may not have been the spot where River stood to eavesdrop on the mess room conversations, which means that Early may or may not have psychic powers of his own. But we'll never know for sure.
In Inara's shuttle, Inara sits up in her bed and tells Early that his search is pointless. Early says that 200,000 credits, or dollars, or euros, or gold-pressed latinum, or whatever, isn't worthless. He could retire on that. Not that he would, adding, "What's life without work?" Politics. (Rim shot.) Inara says she's been on the ship for a year and couldn't even name all the many places somebody could hide on the ship. Early mutters that River has become a real annoyance. Simon snarks back, "I really feel for you." As they leave, Early tells Inara that he's going to seal her into the shuttle until he's done. Inara responds that Early can still "walk away from all this." She starts telling Early that she knows he's tired, but then he turns around and backhands her across the face. He says, "Don't go visiting my intentions. Don't ever." As he leaves, he tells Simon, "Man is stronger by far than woman. Yet only woman can create a child. Does that seem right to you?" I'm terribly annoyed that they gave him that line, but then didn't give Zoe anything to do this episode to teach him a lesson. Not that he'd learn it, what with him all hopped up on craziness.
Cut to the bridge, where Early tells Simon that he doesn't have any more time for hide-and-seek. He shouts out loudly for River. He says he knows she's on the ship and warns her to show herself, or he'll blow Simon's brains out. We cut to the quarters, where Mal is slowly waking up from unconsciousness. Zoe's eyes pop open at the sound of Early's voice echoing about the ship. Jayne clutches his pillow and remains asleep. Heh.
Suddenly, River's voice emanates from one of the speakers. She tells Early that he's wrong. Early insists that he really will kill Simon if she doesn't show herself. River explains that Early's wrong about River -- she's not on the ship. Speaking about herself in third person, she explains that nobody wanted her there, so she "melted away." She says she didn't even know she could do that. Early says he doesn't understand what River's talking about. Well, now you know what it's like to listen to you. River explains, "I'm not on the ship. I'm in the ship. I am the ship." Early demands to know who they're talking to. The speakers respond, "You're talking to Serenity. And Early? Serenity is very unhappy."