Episode Report Card
Shack: C+ | 14 USERS: B
The anvil is mightier than the sword

Blah blah "used up" blah blah blah.

We open in yet another dusty, smoke-filled bar with Chinese lanterns as decorations. I bet they just used the bar set from "The Train Job" and shot it from a different angle. Jayne drinks something out of what looks like a dog bowl. Insert your own joke about what a beast he is. He's also chomping on the end of a cigar, if that sort of thing turns you on. He and Mal appear to be playing pool with some guy who is talking about converting some ship with stronger doors and locks to keep people in place. I'm going to just call him Opening Conflict Guy Jr., for reasons that will soon become apparent. As he tries to make a shot, the billiard balls fitz out briefly. See, it's holo-pool. With real sticks and a real table, but with fake billiard balls. Because. Opening Conflict Guy Jr. complains to the bartender by exclaiming, "Way?!" So the future has been shaped by Westerns, China, and…Wayne's World? The bartender points to a sign that reads, "Management not responsible for ball failure." I wrote three jokes in response to that sign, but deleted them all because they were all so terribly predictable and I'm sure you all thought of them immediately yourself when you saw the sign.

They play pool some more. The table makes weird sound effects because the holographic billiard balls aren't quite futuristic enough. Jayne asks Opening Conflict Guy Jr. if he made a lot of money off this last gig he's talking about. Junior says that he made money "hand over fist." He explains, "Water planets need labor. Terraforming crews got a prodigious death rate." So Junior is transporting labor. Or more specifically, as Mal points out, slaves. Are slaves different from indentured servants? I'm wondering how people end up as slaves in this environment. Anyway, Mal goes on to theorize that Junior wasn't exactly making an effort to keep the slaves fed in transport, and saved money by not providing adequate rations. Junior says he didn't hear any complaints.

After missing his shot, Mal heads over to the bar, where Inara just so happens to be hanging out. Mal suggests to Inara that she might want to head back to the ship. Inara doesn't want to go. She finds the game entertaining. As Inara sips a girly drink, she observes, "As with other situations, the key seems to be giving Jayne a heavy stick and standing back." How can they give me lines like that and not expect me to make gay jokes? Jayne, it seems, is an excellent pool player, and is cleaning up the table.

Mal insists to Inara that she really should consider heading back to the ship because "there's a thief about." And that thief would be Mal. He holds up a big wad of money that he picked from Opening Conflict Guy Jr. Inara responds with shock, but also grabs the money from him to hide it on her person. I'm not quite sure why. I think he wanted her to carry it back to the ship before the fight broke out. But then Junior puts his hand on Mal's shoulder and says, "Way," in a serious tone of voice. From this, Mal somehow is able to determine that Junior has discovered the theft already. Hell if I know. Anyway, Mal turns around and decks Junior, starting the opening conflict. Jayne fights Junior's partner. Mal smirks at Inara after knocking Junior down. Then Inara edges away down the bar, and Mal is knocked down by a sound effect. Seriously, I watched it frame by frame. There's a punch sound and Mal goes down, but nothing hit him that is visible in the frame. Oh, wait. When we he falls to the ground, you can barely get a glimpse of a guy on the floor who tripped him. Very bad blocking on that one. Mal hits somebody with a chair. Jayne hits somebody with a pool cue. Chairs fly. Mal does that hockey shirt-pulling trick. As Mal escorts Inara out, she says, "Lovely place. I'll be sure to tell all my friends." Well, it was fine until the three of you showed up. Jayne punctuates this by throwing a man across the bar, as required by television barroom brawl rules.

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