...Not to mention finally getting to fuck Inara. End of lecture. Wash quips angrily, "Can I make a suggestion that doesn't involve violence? Or is this the wrong crowd?" Jayne smiles at what a pussy Wash always is, and Zoe -- monitoring Mal as she always does, without even thinking about it -- cautions him with a simple "Honey." Wash shakes it off, because he's not being bitchy. "We're flying a lot blinder than usual here. We need to get our bearings. I think we need to talk to Mr. Universe." Mal looks down at him, and we cut immediately to a small moon, surrounded by layers of coruscating blue electricity, and in each level as we drop, we hear static and radio voices. Below the ion cloud, we zoom across a landscape of satellites.
Inside his world of television screens, Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz from Numbthreers and everything that is good: Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared and the whole thing) has a tiny little orgasm at the video of River's Miranda freakout. "Oh, this is good. You guys always bring me the very best violence. You think you're in a hot place?" Mal says that's what he's wondering: has it hit the news yet? Will they have the fresh and new experience of being on the run from the Alliance? "There is no news," Mr. U. intones, "there's the truth of the signal." In a surveillance culture, everyone's a movie star. It stops being "news," stops being "entertainment," stops being anything but input: all true, all real, all meaningful, all "the signal." And Mr. Universe is the embodiment of this. That's what he sees. "...And there's the puppet theater the Parliament jesters foist on the somnambulant public." There's the true signal, the reality he picks up, and there's the carefully packaged For Only Xenophobes news that the administration doles out carefully. Since River is their very own mutated Bay of Pigs, we won't be seeing her on the news. "No lawforce flags, either. I had to go into the security feed direct," he says, which impresses Mal. "Can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere. Security feeds are a traipse to access, and I wasn't the first one in. This has prints on it." Zoe is, in turn, impressed. "Zoe, you sultry minx, stop falling in love with me. You're just gonna embarrass yourself. I have a commitment to my Lovebot." He activates a girl on a couch, who's sitting silently, and she waves. He cues up video of their "marriage," in which he mostly danced around like an idiot and was immensely creepy and lonely. "I cried like a baby. A hungry, angry baby." Zoe giggles as he proudly talks about how he fucked her into submission, the robot he created for that purpose, because it's terribly sad but also very funny.
Mal asks him to scan for anybody talking to River, if there were any obvious triggers, and we see footage of her looking up at the camera/Fruity Oaty bars commercial. "Miranda." Mal tells him to go back further, but Mr. Universe has picked up on it. "No." Mal's perplexed. "...Please?" It's very cute. "Oh Mal, you're very smart. Someone is talking to her." Wash gets it next: "The Oaty bar?" Universe runs it back, slowed down, and Mal finally understands: "Subliminal." It's been broadwaved everywhere, to trigger her and draw her out. "I've been seeing this code pop up all over, the last few weeks. It's Alliance and it's high military. They have gone to enormous trouble to find your little friend. And found her, they have." Mal swallows as Mr. Universe asks if they honestly understand what they're carrying. They regretfully do not, even though they just got enough information that a child could put the plot together, and I don't even mean a special one like River. I mean a normal, dull one.