We return to Mal and the crew of anti-anti-heroes. Mal's story checks out. There aren't any other people, and the catalyzer is indeed blown. Mal tells the bandits that everything they have that's of any value is in the cargo bay, and they're welcome to any of it. Captain Anti-Anti-Hero explains that they've already decided what he wants. And then he shoots Mal in the gut. Mal falls to the floor as the captain explains that he's taking the whole ship. He turns around to give the men (and woman -- diversity is strength, even among anti-anti-heroes) orders, which turns out to be his big mistake. Mal happened to fall to the floor right next to their little ATV transporter, and there happens to be a gun taped to the undercarriage. I don't know if Mal had planned for that in case the meeting went south, or if they always have a gun taped there. Either explanation is plausible. Mal pulls the gun out and draws it on the captain. He even manages to get back up on his feet. He orders them all to leave the catalyzer and get off the ship. They slowly begin to leave. Before leaving, the captain says, "You would have done the same." That's beginning to become a recurring quote on the show. It's Firefly's "From beneath you, it devours." And Mal's response is generally some variation of "nuh-uh." In this case, he says, "We can already see I haven't." The anti-anti-heroes leave, and for some reason don't sit around on their own ship waiting for Mal to die. Then Mal falls to the floor again, and we're back where the episode started.
More shots of Serenity emptiness. Shots of bloody handprints, decorating the walls where Mal has lurched by. Either that, or Hildi Santo-Tomas has recently passed through. ("I thought the handprints would give the ship a sense of fun!") In the engine room, Mal painstakingly -- emphasis on "pain" -- fumbles around on the floor and recovers the widget. Both hands are soaked with blood. He attaches the catalyzer to the engine after a lot of effort, and it works! The engine fires up. He's saved! Saved!
Unless Mal dies of blood loss, which is beginning to seem likely. He manages to lurch all the way up to the bridge to the recall button, but collapses to the deck about five feet away and doesn't get up. Everything fades to black.
We hear a bunch of muffled voices. The salesman's voice from the beginning of the episode is among them, along with the chatter of the crew. Mal opens his eyes. Are they all in heaven together? Nope. Mal is in the medical bay. He turns his head and sees Zoe in another cot, talking to Wash. Oh, and Mal's shirtless again, in case you wanted to know. Everybody is back on Serenity. Mal asks Wash if he's okay, and points out that he's got a "thing" in his arm. Apparently, Wash is serving as a donor to help Mal with his blood loss. Mal points out that he ordered everybody off the ship. Wash looks at Zoe, who says she'll "take full responsibility" for defying Mal's orders and turning the shuttle around. Simon points out that the decision saved Mal's life. Zoe softly snarks, "Won't happen again, sir." But what about the other shuttle? Jayne insists that they would have been back first, but claims that there's something wrong with Inara's shuttle. She's done something to it that causes it to smell funny. Inara explains that it's incense. Apparently she's tried to explain this to Jayne several times, but he doesn't seem to get it. I don't know what that has to do with anything, except for perhaps Jayne trying to make himself look better. And it still doesn't explain who made the decision to return on that shuttle. Maybe when Zoe's shuttle returned and they discovered the repairs, they recalled Inara's shuttle themselves. Kaylee congratulates Mal for fixing the ship. Simon tells them all (as he rests a hand on Mal's leg) that they need to leave Mal alone so he can get some rest. Mal agrees and starts to fall asleep, but wakes up with a start to make sure that everybody's still going to be there when he wakes up. He's probably been bouncing back and forth through time so much that he's got flashback lag and isn't sure if he's actually in the present. Book assures him that they will.