The fiddle plays us back to a young woman asleep on a cot of some sort. She's dreaming the requisite dreams of somebody who has been subjected to human experimentation. She's strapped into a chair, and there are bright lights and faceless doctors and needles everywhere. She awakens with a scream and starts throwing a hissyfit. She appears to be in a medical bay. A pretty, pretty young man, who -- in his black slacks, white shirt, and tight-fitting black vest -- looks like a blackjack dealer at the universe's first gay casino, rushes over to calm her down. Her name is River. His name is Simon. River is played by Summer Glau, who annoyed Strega briefly in an episode of Angel last season. Simon is played by Sean Maher, who was recapped briefly by Stee in the late and totally unlamented series The $treet. Simon calms River down enough so he can work in some clumsy exposition. He asks her if she was dreaming about "The Academy." The Academy. The Alliance. The Independents. River. Wash. Did they run out of proper names in the future? River doesn't want to talk about it, but Simon tells her that the more he knows about what happened, the faster River will get better. So we can assume that Simon has medical knowledge. River acts flaky, cowers from imaginary people, and gets on my last nerve already with two whole lines as she points out that they aren't home. Dr. Exposition tells River that they can't ever go home again or River will get sent back to The Academy. River looks around and rambles off all sorts of technical details about the ship they're on. The type of ship is a called a "firefly" -- hence the show's title.
This is Captain Johnny's cue to wander in and marvel that River remembers more details about the ship than he does. She's got creepy powers, you know, because she was experimented on. That's what happens you get strapped to a chair and get needles stuck into you in sci-fi shows: you develop powers. Captain Johnny heads over to the sink to clean out a wound on his hand. Simon asks him if he needs a "weave," but Captain Johnny declines. Simon worries that the fight may have drawn the attention of the Alliance. Captain Johnny assures him that it didn't. As Captain Johnny leaves again, River looks at him and mutters, "Mal. Bad. In the Latin." See, that's because Captain Johnny's name is Mal, even though nobody has called him that yet in the show. This was no doubt intended to show off River's "powers," but if I didn't already know the guy's name was Mal, the line wouldn't make any sense at all. Actually, knowing that the captain's name is Mal doesn't make River's mutterings any less nonsensical.