"She is fine! Except for being still crazy, she's a picture of health!" Zoe tries to calm Simon: "Wasn't for River, we'd probably be left there. She felt them coming." Simon tells Mal coldly, "Never again. You understand me?" And Mal gets cold in response: "Seems I remember a talk about you giving orders on my boat." Neither of them are thinking clearly right now; I'd say that neither of them are technically conscious right now, which is how this shit always happens. Mal has leveraged Simon's entire belief system, "Save River," against his own, "Save Serenity," and neither of them is allowed to blink. "Well, we're off your boat," yells Simon. "Just as soon as River gets her share of the bounty." Kaylee jumps in to cut this conversation dead, but Mal's not feeling that. Simon's managed to unlock the one way that he can actually dump them both, scot-free, and not feel bad about it. "No, shiny! We'll be on Beaumonde in hours' time. You can pick up your earnings and be on your merry. Meantime, you do your job. Patch up my crew." River stares at the Reaver, but she's talking about Mal, herself, every victim of the Alliance's self-reinforcing tyranny: "He didn't lie down. They never lie down."
Zoe and Mal pedeconference in the main corridor, where the crew quarters are. "No," she admits, "I think things will glide a deal smoother for us without River and Simon on board. But how long do you think they'll last?" Weaker than ever, Mal takes a child's alibi: "Doc made his call." He gives her a speech neither of them really believe, about how they were as "babes in a basket" when they came aboard, and Serenity "sheltered them plenty," but a man "has to cut loose, learn to stand on his own." Zoe picks up the slack: "Like that man back in town?" Even though he knows it's an apt comparison, and that she's not talking about this, it's all he's got: "I had to shoot him. What Reavers would've done before they killed him..." She admits this was "a piece of mercy," but pushes the issue: "But before that, him begging us to bring him along." Mal whines that they couldn't take the weight, that he had to make the call: "I should've dumped the girl? Or you? Or Jayne?" He reconsiders. "Well, Jayne..." But again, it has to do with him being a frat boy, and not the Gollum, gray-scale, like he was in the show.
She floats the idea that he could've tossed the payload instead, which is script gerrymandering so that Mal can give another "life is hard out in the black" speech: "Tossed the...Zoe, I got bits falling off my ship, I got a crew ain't been paid and, oh, yeah, a powerful need to eat sometime this month. We tell Fanty and Mingo we skunked the job, what do think they'll do to us? We're close to gone out here. We get a job, we got to make good." She admits that she doesn't disagree "on any particular point" with this, but before she can clarify that she's actually trying to get him to talk about the downward spiral he's in, he turns to leave. "It's just in the time of war, we would've never left a man stranded." Mal speaks, from the shadows: "Maybe that's why we lost." (Actually, you personally lost at Serenity because the Browncoats gave up and abandoned you, and now you are crazy, but I don't want to poke the bear right now.) He drops to his bunk, and Wash and Zoe embrace. "That was close." They smile, and are very cute.