Wash tells Zoe to get over the flats and swing around, because they're going to "try a Barn Swallow." Beat. "Simon!" Poor Simon. Even Wash is cracking gay jokes now. Mal tells Zoe to crash into some boulders a little bit and maybe knock some distance into the Raider ship. It works, and part of the debris blows one Reaver engine. This relates to the Crazy Ivan, in that it involves abruptly flipping around to face the Reaver ship, which is less maneuverable, but the difference is that the Mule is just basically a moped, a part to Serenity's whole, and Serenity will swoop in, the Mule crashing into her hangar like a barn swallow, and take off leaving the Reavers holding the bag. Which, not for nothing, but since most of the meaning of this movie involves the politics of location, who is inside and who is outside Serenity, the family, at any given time, it's a nice reference with an even better twist. The Crazy Ivan is about facing the Reavers with their own madness, playing chicken with chaos and then laughing into a full burn up into the sky, but the Barn Swallow is about surrendering to the safety of Serenity herself. It's about trust.
Which is at issue. Wash and Zoe talk about how they've discussed the maneuver before, but as Zoe mentions, "Talking ain't doing." Which in terms of surrendering to the trust of Serenity, whether their self-created family means anything at all, is the central issue. They pull it off, of course, because Serenity will never let you down, and they crash hard into the hangar's back wall, followed by one small Reaver vessel that looks like a Viper. Simon closes the doors behind them as they all pick themselves up and dust off, and again drops to her side: "River?" She smiles. "I swallowed a bug." Kaylee runs to Simon, whose main part here has been standing around, and asks if he's okay. Mal gives an outraged squeak at this, but just then a Reaver jumps up growling. Mal shoots him fast as anything, and they stand around. In the cockpit, Wash calls again and again: "We all here? What's going on?" Cut to a wide shot, Wash tiny and alone, cut off yet again from the action. "...Hello?"
Wash and Zoe touch base, as they always do, and he confirms that they've made a clean getaway. "Set course for Beaumonde," orders Mal. "First thing, I want this body..." Simon punches Mal in the jaw, and he falls, cursing in Mandarin. Kaylee jumps forward as Mal stands and they face off. "You son of a whore!" Mal points out that he is "a hair's breadth from riddling" Simon with bullet holes, but Simon's off on a thing. "One simple job! She'll be fine!" Like the Operative, like Mal himself, Simon has been forced to give up everything, every single thing, to protect his sister. And like the Operative and Mal, he's hardened around this mission with a scary single-mindedness. It's not that he doesn't love her, he does, but there's an extra layer of it now being his Entire Purpose that has given him incredible blind spots w/r/t emotional outbursts about it. The thing is that Simon can't ask the question Mal keeps asking, which is: is this worth it? If Mal loses two more members of his crew, well, there are still four people left to live for, and his ship. If Simon even considered dumping River, he'd die.