Oh, where are we now? We're back at the post-accident scene. Mal finds Kaylee in the engine room, just sitting there, staring at a broken doodad. Kaylee's sulking in guilt, thinking that she should have known there was something wrong with the ship, and she worries that she wasn't paying enough attention. Mal tells her that they don't have time for brooding; she needs to get the engine running. She says she needs a new catalyzer. Mal says they don't have a new catalyzer. I would point out the folly of traveling through the vacuum of space without any replacements for vital parts of your engine, but I think the point here is that they don't have the luxury of spending money on stuff like that. Kaylee insists that the catalyzer they've got doesn't work anymore. Mal leads Kaylee over to the engine turbine so she can show him where the part goes. She shows him, but because of the damage, it doesn't fit anymore. And without it, the engine doesn't work. And without the engine, they don't breathe. And without breathing, they don't live.
Back to blue-tinted, bloody, surrounded-by-tragic-symphonies Mal. He stumbles his way into the engine room. It's obvious now that the widget he's holding is a new catalyzer. He stumbles over to the engine and tries to attach it. But then his hand slips and he drops the catalyzer. It falls into a hole in the floor. Murphy's laws are as uncompromising as ever.
Commercials. We return to the accident flashback. Mal has everybody gathered together in the dining area. Most of the folks are wrapped up in heavy jackets and blankets. Mal explains all the details to the crew regarding the damaged engine and the lack of life support. He's decided to send everybody off on the ship's two shuttles. They won't go far, but they've got heat and air, so everybody will have a greater chance of surviving long enough for a rescue. Unfortunately, the shuttles can't go far enough to reach anywhere safe, so it's simply a gamble for survival. Mal says he'll send the two shuttles in opposite directions to increase the chances that they'll find help. Book, Kaylee, and Jayne will ride with Inara in her shuttle. Simon and River will ride with Wash and Zoe in the second shuttle, because Zoe still needs medical care.
Kaylee realizes that Mal hasn't put himself on a shuttle. Mal says, "Four people per shuttle; that's the arrangement." I'm not sure if he means that a shuttle can only carry four people safely, or if it's some sort of non-answer that he's using to try to shut down arguments. Mal insists that he's staying behind on the ship. If a ship does respond to Wash's beacon, somebody needs to be there to answer it. Mal orders the folks to prepare the shuttles. Wash, however, heads back up to the bridge, confusing Mal. Wash explains that he needs to rig something up to allow Mal to call the shuttles back if he does manage to get help. Mal orders Jayne to help Inara prepare her shuttle. Everybody scatters to prepare to abandon ship.