This, of course, is a line that segues back to Simon's current predicament in the woods. You can't have a flashback without a relevant segue! The hicks continue to drag Simon through the woods. Suddenly he sees River ahead. River, of course, is in a playful mood now, having been listening to KRZY's children's programming, and doesn't seem to notice that they're in danger. She thinks they're playing hide-and-seek. Notice that she gets playful when Simon's in danger? She did the same thing last episode. She only gets scared when there's danger around that nobody else can see. Simon tries to get her to run away, but one of the hicks runs up and grabs her.
Back on Serenity, Wash returns, sans Tams, of course. Kaylee asks where they are. He couldn't find them. Kaylee insists that she saw them in town. Well, they're not there now. Jayne suggests that Simon ran off with River when he saw the lawmen. Mal observes that "[Simon] could be called a lot of things. 'Coward' wouldn't be one of them." See, despite their differences, Mal respects Simon. I'm sure the two of them would love to grab a brew together and chat about sports and women. Up on a catwalk, Inara asks if they might have been arrested. Wash says he thinks they might have been kidnapped. He went by the sheriff's office and discovered that the hicks in the hills have a tendency to take people who have skills that they might need to take advantage of. Mal comes to the conclusion that they took Simon because he's a doctor.
Mal makes the executive decision that they're going to take off. Kaylee freaks out at the idea of abandoning the Tams. Yes, how will that romantic relationship between Kaylee and Simon develop if he's stuck out in the woods with those burly, dirty, sweaty men? Mal says that they need to forget about the Tams. He says they've already lost two people and aren't going to lose a third. He orders Wash to take the ship up.