This show just got canceled. Does that seem right to you?
We open with a beauty shot of Serenity flying past a planet. Inside River is sleeping but it's not a peaceful sleep. Voices are streaming through her head as she awakens. Leaving her bunk, she encounters Simon who is regaling Kaylee with tales of drunkenness and public nudity atop a statue of Hippocrates (a graduation day stunt). He suddenly turns to River and tells her that he would rather be there right now. But Kaylee doesn't notice as he continues with his story, seemingly without interruption. Did he say it out loud or was River reading his mind? It's not immediately clear but it will be.
River walks away. In the kitchen Book and Jayne are talking about celibacy. Not every order requires its Shepherds to take a vow but Book is taking "a narrower path." Jayne gets to the heart of the matter with characteristic sensitivity, "they don't cut it off or nothin'?" Book assures him that he's intact and directs his energies elsewhere. Jayne assumes this means masturbation and Book suggests that he should probably not think of taking orders himself. Suddenly Jayne blurts out, "I got stupid, the money was too good." Book blurts out something of his own, "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not! So where does that put you?" They return to talking and laughing together as it becomes clear that River is definitely reading their minds.
River walks away and spots Wash and Zoe together in the cockpit. She can hear the ocean washing over them as they embrace. She even seems to feel the cold from the water.
In the cargo bay, Mal and Inara are arguing, she can't find decent clients. Their argument grows more heated. More sudden blurting by Inara and Mal respectively. "I'm a big girl, just tell me." "None of it means a damn thing."
Maybe is River dreaming. She steps on a tree branch and picks it up. The cargo bay is suddenly full of autumn leaves. "It's just an object. It doesn't mean what you think," she says. Meanwhile, everybody else is yelling at her to put the tree branch down. This is because the tree branch is a gun. River was hallucinating. Mal takes the gun away from her.
"Fully loaded, safety off. This here is a recipe for unpleasantness. Does she understand that?" "She understands. She doesn't comprehend." "Well, I'm glad we've made that distinction." -- Mal and River
River shouts, "It's getting very, very crowded!" as she runs from the cargo bay. Mal tells Simon that he thought she was getting better. Simon tries to explain but Mal cuts him off and tells him to take extra care of her because they are all alone out here. Naturally, this is the cue for a strange ship to show up out of nowhere.
The ship looks like a cross between a dragonfly and Slave-1 (Boba Fett's ship in The Empire Strikes Back) which gives a hint of his intentions. An arrest warrant confirms it, he's a bounty hunter.
"Little River gets more colorful by the moment. What'll she do next?" "Either blow us all up or rub soup in her hair. It's a toss-up." "I hope it's the soup thing. It's always a hoot and we don't all die from it." -- Wash and Zoe
Back on Serenity, Wash and Zoe are worried about River. Wash detects something in Serenity's wake. Mal and Jayne walk in and Mal is angry at Jayne. He accuses him of carelessly leaving his gun where River could get at it. Jayne protests but Mal wonders what would have happened if River had gotten at a gun with hull piercing bullets. Jayne protests that only Vera could have "just barely" done such a thing. He also complains that he didn't make River crazy and didn't even want her on the ship. For Mal, this only serves as a reminder of Jayne's betrayal of Simon and River to the Alliance on Ariel.
Mal thinks it might be best to bolt River's room from the outside. Wash feels that this is extreme. Jayne reminds them of the time she attacked him with a butcher's knife. "Wacky fun," Wash replies. Zoe agrees with Wash, she doesn't believe that River would ever harm anyone -- that they can't spare. She also says that River's never even picked up a gun before. Kaylee walks in and tells her that she has.
Outside, a lone space-suited figure emerges from the airlock of the second ship and makes its way gingerly to the hull of Serenity. Inside, Kaylee describes the incident where they rescued Mal from Niska. She points out that she wasn't very useful at all during the mission. Mal has no problem with the thought that Kaylee couldn't bring herself to kill anybody. But Kaylee goes on and tells them how River showed up while she was pinned down by three men and took a look, took her gun, and killed them in an instant with her eyes closed. They are incredulous at first but Kaylee is admanant. River shot better than Jayne or Mal ever could. "Nobody can shoot like that, that's a person," she says.
This statement troubles Simon but Kaylee goes on as the scene switches to River who is still in the cargo bay -- lost in thought balancing effortlessly on the railing. Kaylee says that River looked at her as if nothing was wrong -- as if they had been playing. Simon suggests that River probably didn't even know what was going on, that she probably thought it was a game. Jayne doesn't see this theory as a comfort. Mal points out that whether or not they like River, she could be a danger to them. Outside, the bounty hunter can hear every word he is saying through vibrations in the ship's hull.
"Psychic? That sounds like something out of science fiction." "We live in spaceship, dear." "So?" -- Wash and Zoe
Mal points out that River also "knows things, things she shouldn't, things she couldn't." Jayne wonders if she's a witch. Wash tries to have a little fun at Jayne's expense but the irony is apparently lost on him -- which really annoys Wash. Inara gets angry and tells them to stop joking. Simon says that River is deeply intuitive but mal thinks that she might actually be able to read minds. Zoe and Wash don't believe that is "even remotely possible." Simon says that what was done to River's brain has altered the way she perceives and reacts to things but doesn't believe she is psychic. Mal however does and Book agrees with him. Jayne doesn't like the idea of someone hearing what he's thinking. "No one likes the idea of hearing what you're thinking," Inara retorts. Book points out that the Alliance might have many uses for a psychic. Zoe suggests that one such use might be as an assassin. Simon is overwhelmed. Mal decides to think about things for a while before he makes a decision. He tells everyone to get some rest.
Kaylee tries to talk to Simon who is upset by the conversation. River likes the ship and thinks of it as home. Simon thought the hospital was home. He was making a difference, along with embarassingly large sums of money of money, there. Kaylee asks if there is anything about Serenity that she likes. They have a "moment" and appear on the verge of a kiss when Book walks by and spoils it with his mere presence. They say good night and go their separate ways.
Mal walks to his bunk. The bounty hunter enters the ship. He removes his helmet and pulls out a gun. Mal leaves his bunk and finds him. The bounty hunter kicks his ass quite thoroughly while the rest of the crew sleeps comfortably. He throws Mal back into his bunk and locks all of the crew quarters on the ship.
Kaylee is working on the engine and hears a noise. She thinks it's River. It turns out to be the bounty hunter. He likes this ship. He also likes to play mind games. He acts almost like a slightly saner, more grown up version of River. But he's definitely not a nice guy. He threatens to rape and kill Kaylee if she doesn't allow herself to be tied up peacefully and tell him where River sleeps.
Book is also not in his bunk. He appears to have been taking a shower. He hears something. It's the bounty hunter who proceeds to knock him out.
Simon is in his bunk but hears something as well. He gets up to check on River who is not in her bed. The bounty hunter attacks him and pulls his gun. The warrant does specify that he be alive or dead but he's not going to kill him if he cooperates. He gets pretty philosophical and somewhat distracted while he explains his plan to take River and collect the reward for her arrest. He tells Simon that his name is Early. He continues to digress, explaining his fondness for his gun while he tells Simon that he *will* help him find River. Simon doesn't think that his last act will be to betray his own sister. Early explains that he will help him because if he's with him, he has a chance to "turn the tables" but if he refuses he will shoot him and will rape Kaylee, whom he has tied up in the engine room and Simon will be powerless to help either of them.
In the infirmary, Early asks Simon if he's ever been shot, or stabbed. He feels that surgeons should have to feel the kind of pain they treat. "They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified. But they don't make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?"
In the cargo bay, Early appreciates the open design of the Firefly class. He begins to talk about how "people miss out on what's solid." Simon tries to move in closer to him but Early pulls his gun and tells him that his time hasn't come. Then, they check out the shuttles. Curiously enough, he stops to lick the railing -- is that supposed to be about where River was seen balancing herself before?
In Inara's shuttle, Early begins to feel annoyed at River's elusiveness. He doesn't bother to threaten Inara but she tries to distract him with her companion skills. This earns her a punch in the mouth from Early. "Don't go visiting my intentions."
"Man is stronger by far than woman. Yet only woman can create a child. Does that seem right to you?" -- Early
When they reach the cockpit, Early broadcasts a message to River over the ship's intercom. She either shows herself or he blows Simon's brains out. River replies over the intercom. She tells him that she's not on the ship. "They didn't want her here but she couldn't make herself leave. So she melted...melted away. They didn't know she could do that...but she did." Early doesn't understand. River tells him that she's now part of the ship -- that she is now Serenity. "And Serenity is very unhappy."
"I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a space ship." -- Simon Tam
In the engine room, River speaks to Kaylee encouraging her to free herself. She tells her not to be scared, she's right there with her. Back in the cockpit, Early refuses to believe that River has become part of the ship which draws an eerie giggle from her. She tells him the story of his life -- his full name is Jubel Early and only his late mother ever called him Jubel. She calls him dishonorable and accuses him of becoming a bounty hunter so he could hurt people. Jubel insists that he lives by a code and tells Simon to tell her that he is not such a bad guy. Simon does so in the most sarcastic way possible. Jubel reminds River that he has a gun pointed at Simon's head and the intercom goes silent.
"How come there's a guy on board and how come you're all of a sudden the ship?" "I know you have questions." "That would be why I just asked them." -- Mal and River
Mal regains consciousness and River speaks to him through the intercom. She needs him to trust him. She also tells him to trust her and not make faces.
"With the exception of one deadly and unpredictable midget, this girl is the smallest cargo I've ever had to transport. Yet by far the most troublesome. Does that seem right to you? -- Jubel Early
By now Kaylee has freed herself and has released the lock on all the ship's crew quarters. Zoe is sure that she can take the guy out. River warns that he's faster than all of them and is wearing armor. she insists that no one touch any guns. She has a plan and wants to make sure that everyone is ready. She assures Mal that he is very close to the bounty hunter and knows what he is going to do.
She gives them the signal to go and the light in the cockpit go dark. River tells Early that he's no longer welcome. She knows him but wishes he didn't. She tells him that he liked to torture animals as a child. Then she talks about how everything is so clean and polished and Early realizes that River is not in his mind, she's on his ship. She laughs at him and teases him about playing with the ship's buttons.
Early is frightened now. He admits that he's not well. But River tells him it's OK. She'll go with him anyway. She tells Simon she'll be fine, she'll be Jubel Early's bounty. Early is satisfied and begins to walk away but Simon attacks him. Early shoots him in the leg. Early continues to walk away but Simon attacks him again. This wakes Jayne up. He pulls down a blanket revealing his cache of weapons. He covers himself with it and goes back to sleep. Early beats down Simon and continues to walk away. Again, River tells Simon it's OK.
As Early emerges from the ship, in his space suit, Mal is right there waiting for him in a space suit of his own. In this zero-g environment, all it takes is one good shove for Mal to send him hurtling into space. He bounces off the wing of his ship and is lost forever. River eases her way down to Mal and asks for permission to come aboard. Mal tells her to go inside and give her brother a thrashing for messing up her plan.
Back on Serenity, Simon talks Zoe through his bullet-ectomy while Wash assists. Mal assures Inara that with the air he had left, Early's chances of survival are "one in a very large number." Book complains that he feels like a fool for being taken out by the bounty hunter while Jayne complains that he missed the whole thing. Kaylee plays jacks with River.
Outside floating through space, is Jubel Early still alive and with only one thought on his mind, "Well, here I am."
Another great episode, another nail driven further into Serenity's coffin. "Objects in Space" was a tight, tension filled hour with plenty of humor thrown into the mix. There will be at least three more episodes (four if they show "Serenity" as a two part episode) and I will be anxious to watch every one of them and to watch the show if it gets picked up by another network.
The oddball crewman who evolves into a higher life form or becomes with the spaceship or both is a classic scifi trope. The best example of this is Dave Bowman being transformed into the Star Child by the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has been repeated many times in Star Trek in almost every combination possible. So to overturn this old scifi trope and use it as a trick against an opponent worked wonderfully for me.
They did a good job of building up the tension and didn't pussyfoot around with the villain. He's pure evil but he's much more complex and interesting than your standard cartoon villain like say, Niska. Although he managed to avoid actually killing anyone, the possibility that he might do just that was never far from my mind.
* When I first saw OiS, I wondered why Serenity's proximity sensors never caught Early's ship. On a second viewing, it appears that they did indeed catch it as a "heat bounce." Wash was about to investigate but was distracted by Mal and Jayne's argument.
* There appears to be a blooper where the ungloved hand of Jubel Early can be seen in Serenity's window. Since he's out in space at the time, he's still supposed be wearing his full space suit -- including gloves. Interestingly enough, these gloves appear to be very loose fitting when he does wear them. It's possible that he is only wears them for extra protection and wears a second (clear) set of gloves underneath them that do the actual job of keeping his suit airtight. This would be useful for doing more delicate work like opening closed airlocks from the outside.
* The line of the night belongs to Jayne: "If wishes were horses, we'd all be eatin' stakes." -- somewhere out there, Colonel Potter is fuming.
* I mentioned earlier that Early acts like a less insane, grown up version of River. If he is a result of experiments -- perhaps an early beta model of Alliance Psychic Assassin 1.0 -- similar to the ones which were performed on River, his "that ain't a shepherd" comment about Book takes on extra weight.
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