Cut to a meeting in the mess room, where Simon explains River's history and the Academy and stuff. We've heard this all before, and I'm about to hit page 296 of this recap so I'll gloss it over: Simon and River are geniuses. They sent River to some mysterious school they had never heard of. It turns out they were doing nasty experiments on her. She sent him a coded letter that read: "They're hurting us. Get me out." Zoe asks how Simon saved River. In some new information for once in the show, Simon exposits that there was a mysterious underground group who told Simon what was going on and offered to rescue River for him if he helped fund them. He did, so a bunch of people we've never seen were responsible for freeing River.
After Simon's story, Mal tells him it's sad and all, but they're still in a whole lot of trouble. Wash doesn't know how much information Dobson was able to pass along. I would guess that it couldn't have been much, because otherwise the remainder of the series would have made no sense. Jayne asks what they're going to do. Mal decides they're going to finish their job on Whitefall. Simon asks about himself and River. Mal says that if Kaylee lives, they'll get off on Whitefall. If she doesn't, then, well, Simon will be kissing Mr. Vacuum. Everybody starts arguing over whether Mal has the right to murder the boy. The arguing goes on for several minutes, but Mal shuts everybody down by demanding, "The way it is is the way it is. We got to deal with what's in front of us." Inara says that Simon and River wouldn't last a day in Whitefall, and if Mal boots them off, she's leaving, too. Mal responds, "It might be best you do. You ain't part of this business," and walks out of the meeting.
Just outside the room in the corridor, Simon confronts Mal to find out exactly what it is they do. He asks why Mal is so afraid of the Alliance. Mal warns him against pursuing this line of questioning. Simon suggests that Mal would probably sell him out for a pat on the head, and theorizes that Mal would make a good Alliance bellboy. That, of course, is Mal's cue to give Simon another closed-fist love tap. For some reason, the punch sounds like a gunshot.
Cut to Dobson, tied up in his quarters. Mal rips off the duct tape gagging him and starts interrogating him about how much information he passed on to the Alliance. Jayne's there, too, looming over them both. He's standing on a step we can't see, making him look like he's eight feet tall. Anyway, Mal explains that he's given Jayne the task of getting the information from Dobson. Jayne pulls out a knife and says, "He was not specific as to how." Mal stage-whispers to Jayne that he's not to hurt Dobson, just scare him. Jayne observes, "Pain is scary." That depends on who's -- sorry.