Down on Haven, Book comes to greet Serenity with hugs, Kaylee sweeping a child into her arms, the planet name even more on the nose than usual. It says what it is, for both Book and the crew. It feels like they come back here a lot. I hope that they do. Book's got cornrows, and I can't help but wonder if he put those in because he knew River was coming -- or because he knew she was now a ninja and will stop at nothing to destroy them. They are welcomed home as heroes, and later, as Book prays over the lot of them, Jayne plays the guitar for them by the fire. Book and Mal stand a ways away, gorgeously lit by warm firelight in the darkness. "You got a plan?" And Mal's response: "Hiding ain't a plan?" Book tells him it'll do "for a spell," and "the folks here'll be glad of the extra coin," because Robin Hood is alive and living in the Outer Rim, "but the Alliance will be coming." Mal agrees: "They're after this girl with a powerful will. I look to hear the tromp of their boots any moment." I'm sorry there's so much verbatim transcription, but the language! "You won't. This isn't a palms-up military run, Mal. No reports broadwaved, no warrants. Much as they want her, they want her hid. That means closed file. Means an Operative. Which is trouble you've not known." Just so you know, this isn't the usual "people are looking for River" thing -- Book wants to tell you this is totally different. It's a Big Damn Movie, son! The stakes are... Oh. Yeah. Not funny right now.
Mal complains about that nagging conscience of his, even though Book loves River probably more than anybody besides Simon and Kaylee. And Mal. "I could have left her there. I had an out. Hell, I had every reason in the 'verse." There's a spooky image of him, crouched over her, unconscious in the pantry, thinking of all the ways you could kill a sleeping girl, and what happens if you don't. "To leave her layin' and haul anchor." Book says that's not Mal's way, and Mal laughs. "I have a way? That better than a plan?" Book does his usual telling you stuff you are so not hearing until it's too late: "Only one thing is gonna walk you through this, Mal. Belief." And Mal just shakes his head. "You know I always look to you for counsel, but sermons make me sleepy, Shepherd. I ain't looking for help from on high. That's a long wait for a train don't come." Book is tickled. "When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I'm talking about God?" Because you are a priest? Just a shot in the dark. "They'll come at you sideways. It's how they think. It's how they move. Sidle up and smile. Hit you where you're weak. Sort of man they're like to send believes hard. Kills and never asks why." Mal -- now scared to death, because Book only speaks when he's got a powerful truth -- floats that, as usual, Book's in with the Alliance and its works is powerful interesting, and Book responds, also as usual, that he wasn't born a Shepherd, and that's all you're getting: "Have to tell me about that, sometime," says Mal. "No, I don't," says Book. And that's maybe the bravest thing about this movie: he doesn't. And he won't get to. And we get to suck on that. And that is good, because the point of him is: you can change it. You can be reborn. What he is, is what Mal deserves. And that's only true if we don't get access. It only means anything if we're denied.
Short dream, young River being told she looks tired -- she does -- and that "everybody's a little tired by now. Why don't we all lie down? A little peace and quiet will make everything better." River stares. "River. Do as you're told." River, of course: "No." "It's going to be fine," says the teacher, images of the sleeping and the dead. "Lie down." "No," she shouts, waking in a start. As does Mal, shouting, "What?" They'll neither of them lie down, ever. Not until it's told. Wash, over the ship address: "Mal! You up?" I guess I should mention that Mal is totally naked, blanket across his nethers, at this point. If you're into that. It's not awful to look at, or anything, and the show does have a history of showing him way more naked than we've seen thus far, because frankly, you have a duty sometimes. "I got a wave. I'm gonna bounce it down to you." It's Inara. Yeah! He jumps back like a dork and "fixes" his hair. Oh, Mal.