Mark Watches ‘Firefly’: Episode 5 – Safe

In the fifth episode of Firefly, we get a much-needed flashback to explain more of Simon and River Tam’s life; unfortunately, the method that triggers it is a near-fatal gunshot wound and a kidnapping. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Firefly.

It’s very rare for me to enjoy a television show so quickly after being introduced to it. It generally takes me a half season to feel like I can invest myself into one. I blame most of that one time: I just don’t have the time these days to keep track of five to ten shows at a time. (Well…sort of. Besides watching Firefly, I’m following The Walking Dead, caught up to every episode of Breaking Bad, which I am convinced is the second greatest show of all time, and am now working my way through Adventure Time. I thank the Internet and iTunes for making this possible.)

True story: I have not paid for cable television ever. In my entire life. I had it when I lived at home, but when I ran away to be off on my own when I was 16, I gave up keeping up on the few TV shows I was watching. This meant I largely missed the last two seasons of The X-Files (WHICH IS PERFECTLY OK). So, for years, I didn’t get into another TV show at all.

Until LOST.

I know that my lack of consistent television-watching lead me to prematurely judge most, if not all, television as superficial. After The X-Files ended, I resigned myself to believing that the medium of television couldn’t possibly tell a narrative as complex, intelligent, moving, or entertaining as that show had done. So I stopped following anything and left myself concerned with film and literature.

In early 2006, I lived with a couple roommates who were obsessed with television, particularly a show called LOST. They both swore it was the best show ever and one of them was a huge The X-Files fan, too; confused, I thought the hype was simply too much for it to be as good as they said. And my friend Bianca gave me a challenge I couldn’t resist: How could I know the show was awful if I had never seen a single episode? So, on February 15, 2006, I sat down and watched, “One of Them,” the 14th episode of season 2. Halfway through that specific episode, I felt like a dolt. This is really good. AND SMART. What the hell? And then Michael Emerson was on screen and I remembered him from the penultimate The X-Files episode, WHICH IS REALLY GOOD, NAYSAYERS BE DAMNED.

The point of all of this is that despite that I have eased up on my inherent hatred of television to enjoy a lot of great series, it still takes a lot for me to actually like a show. I’ve managed to fall in love with The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Dexter since then as well, and it’s also why I wanted to start ‘Mark Watches.’ I have missed out on so much good television because I wrongly felt the entire medium was dead. I was incorrect.

SO YEAH, FIREFLY. This shit is awesome! I’m only five episodes in and I’m already so intrigued by this world and these characters that–yes, again–I am regretting to my commitment to do this one at a time.

“Safe” has a lot working for it to make it one of the stronger episodes of the whole series, and a bulk of that is the focus on River and Simon, who has suddenly become the most interesting characters of the bunch. And no, that is not because Simon is played by a young Zac Efron in flashbacks.

Continuing the story from the previous episode (and I am loving that each episode is still linking to the one before it), Mal attempts to deliver his cargo of cows on the planet of Jiangyin, which suspiciously looks like the mountains in Southern California. I kid, I kid. It’s hinted at first (and later confirmed) that this planet is full of much more agrarian work force and citizenship. I didn’t think it would play into the narrative much at all, but OH HOW I WAS SO DEARLY WRONG.

When the trade goes awry due to some shady figures and the Alliance gets involved, a shootout around a cow stable goes down. I don’t know why, but seeing all the cows moving around so calmly while a BRUTAL STANDOFF IS OCCURRING is seriously hysterical to me.

All right, on to actual serious things. Can we talk about how goddamn fantastic the contrast of River’s dancing is with the shootout? Oh man, it is so DEEPLY UNSETTLING because you know something is going to link the two of them, and as the music swells in volume and the cuts happen more rapidly, I kept thinking my heart was going to break open.

River has a connection to these people, I thought. She knows the instant that Book is shot and knows how awful it is. WHYYYYYYYY I DON’T GET IT. But then WOOPS SIMON IS KIDNAPPED AND RIVER HAPPILY FOLLOWS. What on earth is going on and why is River so “special”?

This question is not really answered, but the much-needed flashbacks to the Tam’s life before the show began do fill in a lot of gaps. Both the Tams are geniuses in their own right, but River started younger and her mind seems to be able to do more than just learn. (That comes into play later in the episode as well.) When she starts sending coded letters, Simon is the only one concerned about his sister; his parents are far too concerned about Simon’s future as a doctor and their own social standing. I think it’s important to acknowledge here how Simon’s privilege as someone from the (allegedly) upper class can actually work against him. Social status is more important to his family than the possible danger of River. So I respect that Simon was so willing to throw it all away in order to protect his sister.

The conflict that unfolds from the kidnapping is two-fold: Simon realizes he’s been kidnapped to become a doctor for a tiny community in the woods, while Mal is forced to abandon them on Jiangyin

in order to save book. I appreciated the situation in which Mal most needs a medic when that medic is not around, while the citizens of the hills most need a medic and kidnap the very one Mal needs. It’s very Full Metal Jacket. Bravo.

There’s a moment where I thought Doralee had convinced Simon to stay with them, far away from the Alliance, but Simon repeatedly hones in on an important point: OH RIGHT, YOU KIDNAPPED US. I’m glad he sticks to it, but it’s not that the irks the local folk. When River inadvertently reveals that her connection involves her ability to “read” people without speaking to him, the community believes that she’s a witch who needs to be burned at the stake. REALLY. I did sort of roll my eyes at the trope. I mean, how many small, backwoods towns have we seen in movies that are full of ignorant townspeople? It’s not to say they don’t exist (OH GOD THEY DO), but it was sort of expected when it first happened.

Simultaneous to this, Inara suggests that they get assistance from none other than the Alliance, who don’t take too kindly towards Mal and his crew when they dock with the Magellan. And since this episode turned out to be about the shifting perceptions we have of the characters, Book’s mysterious identification ends up getting him the best medical attention possible from the Alliance, who do not ask any more questions and allow them to leave.

And do we find out what makes Book so special? Of course not! Future episode! Drat.

This episode does end spectacularly for a couple of reasons. First: a literal deus ex machine. Once I saw the ship hover above the stake that held River and Simon, I groaned. REALLY. THAT’S THE SOLUTION. Until Mal gave his amazing speech about god and I realized that writer Drew Greenberg inserted a literal god in the machine to save them. If you’re gonna do it, do it like this. More importantly, though, was Simon and Mal’s exchange back on Serenity, regarding Simon being a part of the crew.

“But you don’t even like me. Why’d you do it?”

“You’re on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?”

Sometimes, Mal’s morals are pretty straightforward.


  • I want to deal in black market beagles.
  • Watching Kaylee get her heartbroken over Simon’s poor attitude and prejudices was pretty awful. 🙁
  • Literally, one of my notes I took for this episode is as follows: never seen so much poo on network TV
  • Jayne’s “Dear diary” lines were wonderful. Again, bravo to the writers.
  • “She’s been through some trauma.” Understatement of the year, Simon.
  • Simon’s conversation with Doralee got to be pretty frustrating, especially as Doralee tried to insist that God and life have a way of leading people to their destiny. Apparently God is totally into kidnapping!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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182 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Firefly’: Episode 5 – Safe

  1. Danielle says:

    Aww, no love for the "Big Damn Heroes" line? It's one of the most famous quotes on the internets!

  2. Hanah says:

    This episode was…okay. It was still really great TV but not my favourite episode of the series.

    Ooh someone's house is secure
    Baby River and Simon are so cute
    Shit is that baby Zefron?!
    This is the cutest family ever <3 I am so sad for them
    Ohhh poor River and Simon 🙁
    They still have the cattle? Yay continuity!
    Ha nicely done Simon
    Are those poor dudes going to try and rustle the cattle?
    I love River.
    Where is Kaylee? I want Kaylee
    I want all of River's clothes
    Awww he doesn't like the plate she likes 🙁 Shut up Simon stop being a jerk, that's her life you're insulting
    Well played Mal
    Uh oh this isn't good
    Aww is River going to dance? 😀
    This is like the happiest scene ever!
    I don't know what just happened
    Someone has nice footwork!
    Jayne stop being a dick
    Kaylee you're so awesome, I love you
    Why have they kidnapped Simon?!
    Ha, I used to correct my sister's spelling when I was a kid too! Not at three though
    Are his parents being massively thick? It's like they hardly know their own daughter :/
    Shit shit shit shit SHIT
    God how many awesome dresses does Inara have?
    But but but…Simon and River!
    That's massively tragic D:
    I love Wash's taste in shirts
    Oooh what is Inara talking about??
    This is the most tragic community ever
    Jayne is a jerk but also hilarious. But stop stealing
    Aww Kaylee rocks a jumpsuit <3
    Seriously? They're going to the Alliance??
    How did they know he was a Doctor?
    The Alliance are massive jerks aren't they?
    Ooooh is he really important?!
    Bet River gets Ruby talking again
    That is the worst defence for kidnapping ever
    They are the sweetest siblings in the universe
    Ruby didn't talk did she?
    Lol there's no explanation for that Simon
    Oh shit no that's not good…
    Wow his parents are kind of horrible
    Okay this makes River's naive trusting that Daddy will save her about fifty million times more tragic
    River you're so not helping in any way at all and OH SHIT THIS IS NOT GOOD
    No I want answers NOW dammnit!
    But you're going to save them anyway, right Mal???
    No no no no no this is SO BAD
    Um. Wtf is that glowy light?
    This is the sweetest most tragic thing in the universe ever :'(
    Lol nicely done Jayne 😛
    Come on Simon, it is OBVIOUS. You are on his crew! Mal is the best ever
    Aww yeah be nice to Kaylee!
    It's like a big family dinner. This show is so great.

    • "River you're so not helping in any way at all" SERIOUSLY. Am I a bad person for laughing at that line?

      Also, you are so my favorite.

      • Hanah says:

        Aw thank you, you are so my favourite too! 😀 And no, I officially declare you not a bad person at all!

    • PJG says:

      "daddy will save us" to me that was the purpose of this episode: showing the Tam's parents to be so miserable in contrast to Mal's commitment to HIS crew, clearly it was all about River seeing Mal as the Daddy that would save them. Still rather a trope, and a sexist one at that, but it doesnt matter because ultimately it is a Truth. Captain of the Ship, Master of the House, etc etc And reinforces what Simon has said, that Serenity is the epitome of Home for River.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        Hmm…I just think that line was put there to show that Simon hasn't told River about what's happened to their family since she left for the Academy.

        Before, Simon had the excuse of her being unconscious in the mysterious storage unit, but now she's fully conscious and even brings up their family and their former life willingly, and this doesn't seem to be one of her episodes where she's seemingly psychic and disengaged from what's happening in the here and now.

        I just think this is a way of showing that Simon doesn't want her to know that their parents apparently didn't know her well enough to see that she was in trouble, and therefore essentially disowned Simon for losing his good name in trying to save her. He's not just protecting her from the Alliance, he's also protecting her from the truth about the people she loves.

        • PJG says:

          River is psychic. She knows her parents are losers. She knows lots of things without having to be told. More than anyone ever realizes. Even in the flashback…. she is referencing the INdependents with dinosaurs. Dinosaur of a firefly class ship maybe?

      • niamheryoumind says:

        I always thought she meant Mal was 'daddy' in some weird captain/parent/protector way too. Not that Simon would see it that way but it is one of those weird things she says, I'm not sure if she assigns family titles to other members of the crew around the same time.

    • takashid says:

      The ending is really the best thing ever!

      They are all just happy and talking and laughing…
      and river's stealing janyes bread XD

  3. Karen says:

    which suspiciously looks like the mountains in Southern California.
    Tbh, I love this about the show. hahaha. I'm from the San Fernando Valley (lol. It might be lame but it's home.), so the places where they filmed Firefly really feel like home to me which is nice seeing as I'm living abroad right now.

    This is actually one of my favorite episodes of the show. I LOVE River and I love the sibling relationship between River and Simon, so I loved getting the backstory for them.


    • thecheapshot says:

      "If you had brain one in that huge melon on top of your neck, you'd be living the sweet life out in Southern California's San Fernando Valley!"

      Sorry. Had to get it out. In no way am I implying you have a melon-esque head

  4. D.J. says:

    Haha you called him "Sam" a couple times. And how funny is the random baby Efron cameo??? I scremed out loud the first time I saw that. This is one of my favorites in the series as well, although I think compared to some of the other episodes it feels a bit "thrown together" plotwise, it has so many really fantastic scenes – The deepening mystery that is Book, Big Damn Heroes, "Light It", River's dancing as you mentioned – such a treat – and oh my god does Kaylee get sensitive about that ship! And the lovely family scene of the whole crew sitting down at the table together, River stealing Jayne's bread…

    I always wonder, if the crew asked him later what led up to the townspeople tying River to the stake, what exactly Simon told them? I'm betting not much…

    • niamheryoumind says:

      They've lived with her long enough at that point I think the scene was a bit self explanatory. She's a strange girl. 🙂

    • cait0716 says:

      I love when River steals Jayne’s bread. It’s such a cute family moment

  5. D.J. says:

    Also, did anyone else notice how Daddy Tam just totally brushes River off in that flashback scene with the three of them? What was up with that?

  6. monkeybutter says:

    Young Zefron never fails to make me laugh. At least they've shown rural areas where people aren't horrible? I can't defend it, the whole witch part is pretty hammy.

    Mark, I love your taste in tv and now I want to change to an lsp icon. I rather watch things in season long lumps (I hate waiting a week for the next episode, I don't like getting attached to something that's going to get cancelled in 12 episodes, and I never remember when things are on), so I really like the Mark Watches concept.

  7. barnswallowkate says:

    I barely remember this episode but my intuition delivered a "Meh" verdict upon reading the episode title. I do clearly remember the "Big damn heroes" line, at least. I guess the last time I watched this episode was before I knew what a Zac Efron was, lucky me! Now I'll have to rewatch and laugh.

    I know you've got several shows lined up for Mark Watches (and they make me so happy) but if you ever have time for more TV I recommend Vampire Diaries. After the first 3-4 eps, shit never stops getting incredibly real.

    • DameDallas says:

      I am watching the beginning episodes of Vampire Diaries and now and can't help putting a Mark Watches remark on the tale-end of every episode. He's totally in my head now! lol.

    • EmilyAnne90 says:

      "shit never stops getting incredibly real."

      This is SO SO true. Seriously, the pacing on that show is BEYOND. Like, you think shit could not possibly get any realer, then SOMEHOW IT DOES.

      It started out as some awful Twilight knockoff, but now it has turned into the most addictive show on television.

      • jessimuhka says:

        It is totally the most real getting show on TV right now. Last season, I kind of felt it was the anti-LOST. I mean, I love LOST, but it's a slow show. Shit very incrementally gets real on LOST. TVD is all real, all the time.

        Then, when I went to the SDCC panel on Vampire Diaries, I thought the teaser reel they showed was for the entire 2nd season, due to the amount of shit getting real. Turned out it was just for the 1st episode of season 2. Nuts!

        • echinodermata says:

          Seriously. I mean, I love LOST, but it's like they didn't realize it's possible to move character and plot forward in the same episode. And TVD is SO good at plot, I'm just constantly impressed at this little show on the CW that started out so cheesy.

      • It helps that it takes potshots at Twilight without blinking in shame.

        • Openattheclose says:

          I have to watch this now. You had me at Twilight potshots.

          • It is legit fantastic. The first four episodes are pretty run-of-the-mill and cheesy (and cheese crops back up occasionally), but from episode five on it is nothing but awesome after awesome after awesome. And it treats its female characters with a hell of a lot more respect than Twilight or Supernatural do, which imo is huge points in its favor.

      • barnswallowkate says:

        I always think they'll run into a wall when they advance the plot so quickly but they haven't yet! I love it so much.

  8. Caitlin says:

    Who the heck is Sam?!

  9. crazyravenclaw says:

    Aw, bbZefron was such a cute bbSimon. Still couldn't really act, but the resemblance is actually kind of uncanny.

    Also, can I just say how much I love Simon and River? They're both brilliant and complex, and it's so rare to see highly intelligent TV characters who aren't stereotypical "nerds" (even if Simon has some of those qualities), though Joss is generally good about writing characters who are a lot more than that, whether or not they fit the nerd stereotype (Giles, Willow, Oz, Fred, Wesley, and Dr. Horrible all come to mind). Come to think of it, Kaylee's brilliant too.

    • notemily says:

      The resemblance IS uncanny. I'm really impressed at how they matched River and Simon to YoungRiver and YoungSimon. Usually you have to just kind of take it on faith that they're the same people, but these actors actually look like they ARE the same people, just younger.

  10. Kaci says:

    This is my favorite episode of the series. My favorite relationship on the entire show is Simon and River, and how dedicated he is to protecting her. "You gave up everything you had for me." "Mei mei, everything I have is right here." And oh, God, every time he says, "Light it," I cry like a baby. They are my favorites, oh yes they are.


  11. momzter says:

    There should have been a lot more poo! Or, well, a more solid smear of it. When I re-watched this the other day, I though "HOW the HELL did all those animals manage to dance themselves out of that ship without stepping in any of it?!!!!!1??????"

  12. echinodermata says:

    I'm making a list of things you've said in reviews that makes me laugh given what I know will happen. We don't have a spoiler board or anything for Firefly, do we?

  13. elusivebreath says:

    At first I thought I wasn't going to like this episode … but I was wrong (yay!).

    I really liked the whole thing with the cows because hey it's a space western, lol. A lot of times when a something tries to be a juxtaposition of two things, one of them gets mostly ignored, but I don't feel like that's the case with this show, so that's something I really liked.

    I also loved the River/Simon backstory … why isn't Simon my brother??

    The dancing scene … at first I thought it was just cute and then WHAM! I once saw an episode of General Hospital (don't judge me) where they did a smiliar thing that gave me chills. I have so much more to say, but since this comment has taken me an hour to write (trying to do this at work, especially during the first week of the month, is practically impossible … Mark, you should post reviews at night lol).

  14. embers says:

    I love that you felt this was a strong episode, I thought it was one of the weakest and it made me excited to think what you'll say when you get to my really real favorite episodes! Thank you for reviewing this awesome show!

    And it makes me happy to know that you've discovered the 'Dexter' love too!

  15. Hotaru-hime says:

    Why did you call Simon "Sam" in the earlier paragraphs?
    Poor Simon. Poor River. Their lives were so privileged… everything must be a shock.

    • porcupine8 says:

      I like that while you do get the feeling that a lot of things ARE a shock for Simon, there's never any doubt that he's totally okay with that if that's what it takes to save his sister.

      For River, I think it's less of a shock given what she's already been through.

  16. True story: this is my mousepad at work: (if this image thingie works, that is.)

    <img src="; width="500" height="375" alt="photo" />

  17. cait0716 says:

    When I rewatched this episode last night and Simon was mean to Kaylee in the store I was literally like “Stop being such a classiest jerk!” This is what you’ve done to me Mark.

  18. ramondestroys says:

    I really enjoyed this episode based on Simon and River alone. Any time they were on screen, my full attention was on them. Simon's love for River is sweet, and thankfully not creepy.

    Oh, and yeah, Jiangyin is TOTALLY a couple miles from our condo, Mark, haha.

  19. buyn says:

    Just a couple things. Flashback River says the Independents have dinosaurs. Who has dinosaurs? WASH. Lol.

    "It’s very Full Metal Jacket. Bravo" They both have Adam Baldwin. And his arms.

  20. bookling says:

    I love the scene with River dancing. It really shows that Summer Glau is a trained dancer. Sooo pretty.

    I love the glee with which Jayne goes through Simon and River's things, thinking they're gone for good, and then how he scrambles to put things back when he finds out they're not. Hahaha.

    And oh, Simon. You're such a fool. His privilege really shows in moments like this. And yet Kaylee manages to find beauty in the most ordinary things. This is why I love Kaylee so much.

  21. ldwy says:

    Can we talk about how goddamn fantastic the contrast of River’s dancing is with the shootout? Oh man, it is so DEEPLY UNSETTLING because you know something is going to link the two of them, and as the music swells in volume and the cuts happen more rapidly, I kept thinking my heart was going to break open.

    I loved the dancing. I was a dancer for 15 years, even an instructor for a short time, so I know how it can be a way to "lose yourself"…which seemed to be just what River needed. To separate from all the terror she feels, and all the things that have happened to her. I loved it. And it was amazingly suspenseful, the way they cut back and forth between the dancing and the gunfight. And the music was beautiful.

    And in the moment, I didn't think about their rescue as Deux ex Machina (I get so caught up I don't think about things, sorry), but now that you mention it, YES–SO GLAD THEY DID IT THIS WAY!!

  22. nanceoir says:

    Mark, I'm so glad you're using this blog to discover the hidden and not-so-hidden gems of television, because I really think that TV, when done well, is one of the great forms of storytelling.

    I used to think TV was, well, okay, but nothing was really great or must-see. In high school, thanks to my sister, I watched the first few seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street, but when I went to university, I mostly slipped out of the habit of TV, since I didn't have a TV in my dorm room or anything. (Though, I did try to keep up with H:LotS, which worked well until it was put on a bit of a hiatus; I completely fell out of TV after that.)

    When I transferred schools and moved in with my sister, I had better access, so I watched more. But, for the most part, I was only interested in two shows: The West Wing and Ed (which replaced Sports Night in my schedule, because it got cancelled. *sadface* And, come to think of it, Ed was replaced by Gilmore Girls, but I had more shows by that point, I think). It wasn't until I discovered the joy of TV on DVD, really, that I became a huge fan of TV stoytelling, and that was thanks to my brother's Babylon 5 collection; I may have even finished it before he did.

    About two months later, Lost started, and I've seriously been in love with TV kind of ever since. I can't tell you how many days I've spent watching disc after disc of TV shows. I've rewatched a lot of shows, because they get better each time I watch them. The good ones are filled with great characters I enjoy spending my time with again and again, just like my favorite books.

    Um… in short: yay, TV!

  23. Penquin47 says:

    I sometimes wonder if Joss named her River because Summer Glau is a dancer. So that we could talk about the "River dance" scenes.


    Simon is somewhat classist, but no one's calling Inara out? Or, for that matter, Kaylee? You can be classist against the upper class too, and the scene in the shop felt like that to me.

    Loved the comment about Beagles – especially since mine was in her last year that year. I miss my Beagle-Pekingnese puppy so much.

    Big Damn Heroes = Big Damn Win. That line still sees regular usage in my lexicon.

    • ldwy says:

      Ah, but the style of dancing isn't the same type as river dance. River dance is Irish Stepdancing. I'm not sure if River is doing anything specific, but it most reminds me of Scottish or English Highland Dancing. Related, yes and closely, but very different. So I think that's probably more coincidence than an intentional pun.

    • Hermione_Danger says:

      You can be classist against the upper class too

      If a person who is routinely oppressed because of their lack of social status has a prejudice against high-status people, it's just that, a prejudice. The feelings of an oppressed group about their oppressors aren't in the same category as the feelings of an oppressive group about the groups that they oppress.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        THANK YOU. Oppression = systematic prejudice capable of much more serious and damaging effects. They're simply being prejudiced.

        All those -isms only work in one direction. There's no such thing, by definition, as reverse racism, or reverse sexism, or reverse transphobia (cisphobia????), etc. People can absolutely be prejudiced about men or white people or cisgendered men and women, but by nature of size and power, cannot systematically oppress anyone.

        • D.J. says:

          that's true actually, and I should amend my below comment to more accurately reflect that. To be fair though, in their current circumstances it can be argued that Kaylee has far more power and leverage than Simon has or will ever have again. Actually, pretty much everyone on the ship but River does.

    • D.J. says:

      The classism most definitely goes both ways on that ship – Mal especially never passes up a chance to hate on the rich for being rich, and Jayne does as well but to a lesser extent. I think Kaylee is not so much classist however as she is a tad insecure, especially around him, and Simon's thoughtless comments (however unintentional, and for a part of it he was obviously just letting off steam) hit a nerve with Kaylee. It was made worse by the fact she has a crush on him, and then of course the comments about the ship…I think Kaylee has a tendency to over-react, but she's a pretty emotional girl and his words must have stung.

    • Nibor says:

      The way that Kaylee and Inara acted in the store has nothing to do with the fact that Simon is upper class, they acted that way because Simon was being a major douche and he insulted Serenity. That's Kaylee's last straw.

  24. Narcissaa says:

    I feel the only way to sum up my favourite parts of this episode is with GIFs.

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  25. jonni13 says:

    OK, not only have I never had cable TV in my entire life, for 10 years I was in a cult where we weren't allowed to even own a TV, so my discovery of shows like Firefly, Lost and Doctor Who has been like "WHOOAHH!"

  26. Fuchsia says:

    Mark, I've also gone without cable (and when I lived in the really rural areas, even basic access TV) since I moved out of my mom's house, so I've had the same attitude as you about TV. I still think that most shows are crap, but there are quite a few gems that I've missed out on and have now watched thanks to the genius of netflix, etc. (Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Arrested Development, Doctor Who…).

    I love this episode. Probably because I love River and finding out as much as possible about her, plus getting to see her dance (!) and just lose herself in a good way for once. I can't ever say what episodes are my favourites (I always say, "It's definitely in my top 14", haha) but yeah, I love it. And it only gets better from here, seriously. SO many good episodes coming up!

  27. Pseudonymph says:

    I kept thinking my heart was going to break open.

    I feel this way EVERY TIME I watch this episode. I get goosebumps. It's one of my favorite scenes from the entire series.

    That said, I don't really like this episode. I love the Simon/River stuff and of course "Big damn heroes!" but the rest? The ignorant, witch-burning hill people was really cliche and over the top. Though I do remember being terrified when I first watched this because I thought River and Simon might actually die or at least be left behind.
    Seems silly now but I was worried.

  28. takashid says:

    Best lines:
    yeah, but shes our witch (ca-chik) so cut her the hell down!

  29. notemily says:

    My ~THOUGHTS~ while (re)watching this ep:

    I love the girl they got to play River here. She sounds just like her.

    I hate how Simon treats River like a little kid when they're in the store. "It's dirty and sharp…" she's not five years old. I would be VERY annoyed with Simon if he treated me like that.

    Once again the first part of the conversation Kaylee picks up on is the insult to her ship.

    Simon is so awkward, foot in his mouth when around Kaylee. Such a dork.

    River just learning the dance after watching it for thirty seconds is one of my favorite River Moments. Also this makes me want to dance! Way better music than the Shindig stuff.

    The scene with the cows and the gunfight is weirdly lit. It looks like it was bright daylight out but they tried to use a filter to make it look like nighttime. Or the other way around? It's all blue-greeny.

    BOOK OH NOES "You just lie there and be ironical."

    I think in the novelization of the movie Serenity (which was really badly written, don't read it) they went further into the "code" that Simon figures out from River's letters. I can't remember what it was, but it sounded interesting.

    River is so interesting… sometimes in actual dangerous situations she acts like it's just a game. "Found you!" But when everyone else is relaxed, and SHE senses danger, she freaks the fuck out.

    Jayne reading Simon's diary! 😀 😀 😀 Some of the all-time best lines of the show.

    I love the ginormous Alliance ship and how it looks like skyscrapers.

    Simon and River introducing each other. I love them. And the scene with the berries. A THOUSAND CRAZY SPACE INCEST FANFICTIONS WERE BORN

    Book's Ident Card. ~~~SO MYSTERIOUS!!~~~ What does it SAY!!

    (I get so frustrated that there were only fourteen episodes and a movie. Because they're obviously setting up many complicated plot threads in the show, and I don't think it's a spoiler to say that not all of them get a chance to fully play themselves out. Some of them get resolved, but you can just TELL that they were meant to be full-season arcs, and that would have been AWESOME, and… ARGH. FOX~~~!!!!)

    Meimei, everything I have is right here. <33333

    The final scene between Simon and his dad is the best. Simon knows what needs to be done and his father is too involved in his world of dinner parties and appearances and social status to know or care.

    "This girl reads minds and spins falsehoods!" Dude, either she read your mind and saw the truth, or she told a lie, which one was it?

    Simon climbing up beside River to be burned. <3333333 SO MUCH LOVE FOR EVERYONE IN THIS EPISODE.

    "Your talent for alienating people is near miraculous!"

    I also like the flashback dialogue with Simon's upper-class family because it's a great glimpse into the world of the rich IN THE FUTURE. We don't know exactly what a "dedicated source box" or "blackout zone" is, but we can imagine because we have the same sorts of things in our world. I love how worried their dad is about TEH EVILS OF TEH INTARWEBS. Good to know they still have internet porn in the future.

    • Starsea28 says:

      I hate how Simon treats River like a little kid when they're in the store. "It's dirty and sharp…"

      At this point, he doesn't know what they've done to River, he just knows that it's messed her up very badly and she isn't functioning like she used to. Better safe than sorry.

    • Tilja says:

      Hi notemily! I finally get to spend enough time here to see a familiar face. ^-^

      First time watching this series and I had the bad luck to find a copy which is mislabeled, so the ep that should bear the name is another one altogether. It's frustrating and I'll have to rely on you guys to try to find the coherent order with wrongly named eps. I feel like FOX is cheating me from the Firefly grave, like a powerful curse on this show was placed.

      Now that I've finally found this ep and watched it, I can agree with many of your thoughts. Or perhaps all. No, I can't do that, I haven't watched as much as you to agree on all.

      See you around from delayed time (I can't advance because I don't know the correct order).

  30. humperdinck says:

    "Post-holer. Digging holes for posts."

  31. celestineangel1 says:

    "What does that make us?"

    "Big damn heroes, sir."

    "Ain't we just."


    This is the first of the eps I haven't seen before, and when I realized this when I started to read your review, I whipped out the DVDs and watched JUST so I could then read your review and understand what was going on.

    Poor Kaylee, oh man, SIMON YOU JUST STUCK YOUR FOOT IN IT. Which is insanely hilarious considering he just LITERALLY stuck his foot in ACTUAL COW SHIT only a few minutes before. OH LOL.

    The dancing, it was beautiful in its own right, but yeah, interspersed with the shootout, it became surreal and weird but even more beautiful.

    "It's God's will that we kill anyone too different!" … yeah, I'll just let that one stand in its own idiocy.

  32. Nibor says:

    This is the episode that really made me love River. Until this episode, I thought that the crazy genius thing that they were going for was just going to be annoying, The actress pulled it off, and I'm downright charmed.

    "They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see sky, and they remember what they are."

  33. Sarah says:

    Mark, can you PLEASE blog a rematch of LOST someday? I’d probably cry four rivers or something, it’d srsly be the best thing ever. ;A;

  34. hassibah says:

    Are you liking the Walking Dead, I really wanted to like this show but I really haven't loved the last couple of episodes.

  35. cjazzle says:

    im sure im not the first person to suggest this, but if you're making a list of shows to watch and blog about in the future – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (BSG for short). if you've seen it already, oh well; if not, give it a chance!! i find that while many people have embraced harry potter, LOTR, or LOST, they really seem to shun spaceship sci-fi. it's a damn shame. BSG was once called the best show on television that nobody ever watched. unlike firefly, it was lucky enough to get 4 seasons. AND spawned a fantastic spin-off, Caprica, which has since been cancelled. Sci-Fi just doesn't get any love these days!!

  36. Veleda says:

    I'm not sure why I don't love this episode more. It's all about the Tams! I adore the Tams! And it has my very favorite scenes, with Simon climbing on the pyre to be with River and the Big Damn Heroes moment. (And, yes, I recognize that Simon and River are saved by a total deus ex machina, but I so don't care.) But the scenes that aren't all about the pure, true (but platonic) love of Simon and River leave me feeling kind of meh. Who knows?

    I wish the other characters would cut Simon just a little bit of slack. Is he classist? Oh yes, and he should be called on it. But he's not just a snob; he's a man who has been ripped away from his home and left behind everything he ever knew. And now he's found himself among a bunch of criminals, most of whom are not going out of their way to make him feel comfortable. I'd probably be sort of bitter about it too.

  37. Ashley says:

    I can't believe you thought The X-Files was the end of quality television. It was only the beginning! There are SO many shows that are intelligent and moving and amazing (and yes, many of them are Whedon shows), but so so many aren't. The X-Files was my first love, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but nothing beats the power of great characters PLUS great storytelling. You know, plots that actually move forward, that have continuity. Things changing. I really hope Battlestar Galactica is on your list.

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  39. Kim says:

    Yay! Mark watched Safe! And mentioned LOST! So I get to post my favorite Daily Dose of LOST ever-ever.

    Dear Diary, Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy.

    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;

    Today we were kidnapped by hill folk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever.

    <img src=""&gt;

    –Jayne Cobb, Firefly

  40. tethysdust says:

    I love River and Simon's relationship, so I really like this episode. It's just so heartbreaking that Simon lost everything else in his life to save River, and, in a way, he still can't save her. She been damaged so badly that she might never really heal.

    And on the other hand, in this episode we really see that River has periods of lucidity. She understands what her brother has sacrificed for her, and I think that, in those moments of lucidity, she must feel really guilty. Her brother has given his whole life to help her, and she can't keep herself together well enough to be anything but a burden.

    I think another important point of this episode was pointing out that Simon does have some things; his sister, and his life on Serenity. He whined in a classist fashion in the beginning at Kaylee, but she pointed out that some folk (like her) choose this life. And at the end, when Mal claimed him as part of the crew, it showed that he was no longer seen as "space trash". He has a role and a home on Serenity, if he can bring himself to accept it.

  41. Not one of my favorite episodes, but as always packed with awesome moments anyway.

  42. EldaTaluta says:

    I have a total man-crush on Simon. He's just the best big brother ever.

    Sister sends him codes and nobody including his parents believes him?
    He cracks the codes and tries to rescue her.

    Parents threaten to disown him for ruining their social standings?
    He says, "Fuck you. I'm gettin disowned."

    Sister's about to get burned as a witch?
    He steps right up there with her.

    Best. Brother. Ever.

    Additionally, the Big damn heroes line is my favorite in this or probably any series.

  43. Mreeb says:

    Oh, Mark, I am so glad that you are doing Firefly, and I am so glad that you are loving it! This is one of my favourite television shows, my other being Buffy, and Angel and Dollhouse are right up there too for me. Joss Whedon is my inspiration in so many ways, and the reason I am currently majoring in film; I want to write and direct television shows some day.

    I like that, in the first episode, you already brought up Whedon's women characters. I find that Whedon has an understanding of strength, specifically women's strength, that I have rarely seen on TV. I find this portrayal of strength incredibly inspiring; the first time I ever felt proud, truly proud, to be a woman was while watching the series finale of Buffy. I love Whedon for it, and his shows are incredibly important to me personally because of it. Also, whenever I'm sad, I watch Joss's Equality Now speech, which has no spoilers and I highly recommend viewing it:

    Um…I feel like I had more to say about this episode specifically, but I've forgotten it. Oops. Oh! I remember at least one thing: I adore Simon and River's relationship. I'm always interested in the portrayal of siblings since I'm so close to mine, so I find them adorable. And the way Simon is all "Yes, this place is lovely. You know, considering we were KIDNAPPED AND BROUGHT HERE AGAINST OUR WILLS." is just beautiful. Snarky Simon is my favourite Simon. And the diary and Big Damn Heroes are two of my favourite moments ever.

    • oohlivia says:

      Let's not forget, though, that whole wank about Charisma Carpenter's character on Angel being ruined because she got pregnant. People like to paint Joss as a feminist, and in many ways he is, but sometimes he does things like that which are just not cool.

      But yeah, for the most part, he writes fantastic female characters, and I'm grateful like that.

  44. Bob Scrivens says:

    Please, please, PLEASE do a "Mark Watches Breaking Bad". I have been dying for someone, ANYONE to hash over this show with.

    I just re-watched through Season 2 these last couple weeks. Here's the highlight reel:
    – "HOLA DEA"
    – John DeLancie watching as his daughter is zipped into a body bag.
    – Saul Goodman, threatened with death unless he springs Badger from prison, says, "Why not just kill Badger?" with sincerity.
    – Tio Salamanca's only lines: "DING DING DING DING DING DING!"
    – Hank tossing his trophy grille into the river.
    – Anna Gunn: "So you're not having an affair. GOOD FOR YOU, Walt."
    – Heisenberg coming out of retirement: "Stay out of my territory."
    – And, of course, the Secret Message hidden in the show titles for Season 2, implying that the spectacularly awful outcome was inevitable.

    Intrigued? Then it's time for Mark to review Breaking Bad.

  45. Tilja says:

    My episode 5 is called Shindig, my episode 6 is called Safe. What the hell am I watching and how the hell do I keep up the order if the names are also wrongly placed?! THIS IS MAYOR SHIT! How am I supposed to know which is which like this for fucks sake!!!

    I don't know what I'm watching and have no way to know before I make a mistake! Is there anyone who has gone through something similar and can tell me how to recognize which is which?

    • Pseudonymph says:

      I don't know why your episodes are misplaced or misnamed but here is the list of how the episodes are supposed to be ordered:

      Episode 1: Serenity (pilot)
      Episode 2: The Train Job
      Episode 3: Bushwhacked
      Episode 4: Shindig
      Episode 5: Safe
      Episode 6: Our Mrs. Reynolds
      Episode 7: Jaynestown
      Episode 8: Out of Gas
      Episode 9: Ariel
      Episode 10: War Stories
      Episode 11: Trash
      Episode 12: The Message
      Episode 13: Heart of Gold
      Episode 14: Objects in Space

      This is not the order they were originally aired in but it is the order in which they are supposed to be viewed. Hope this helps. They are in this order on Netflix watch instantly if you have an account there. There are some episodes available on Hulu and it looks like those are labeled correctly but are out of order.

  46. lorax says:

    No spoilers to mention it, but when you get through the series and up to the movie, I suggest you watch "The River Tam Sessions" in between. They're extras on most of the DVD/Blu-Ray releases I think, and if not you can find them all on youtube. They were a series of viral videos leaked before the movie released, and give some really nice insight.

  47. Stephalopolis says:

    Overall, I liked this episode. The focus on the doctor and River was needed, and I loved the backstory, though I would also like to get some answers about their current situation as well.

    Random Thoughts/ Memorable Quotes

    *Awwwww young Rain and Simon. And backstory! I love backstory 🙂

    *I’m now thinking about cattle stampeding with nowhere to go. Thanks Mal for putting that thought in my mind. I’ll be thinking about this quandary now until there is no other solution but for me to go out and buy 25 cows, confine them, then start yelling.

    * So… River has a fit and the cows stampede. Gunfight, cows could care less. Is River’s screeches really that bad?

    * “We should start dealing in those black market beagles.”

    * Poor Simon. He’s so worried about Rain, he should just lighten up a little bit and let Rain experience a bit of freedom and not be so cloistered.

    *“No, you were being mean” Aww, Simon, I like you. But I really like Kaylee. And you just insulted Serenity and Kaylee, so I’m gonna be upset with you, most likely till the next commercial break.

    *Ummm…Okay, I take back my previous bullet point. Rain went missing, maybe Simon is right to be keeping such a close eye on her.

    *I’m sure it was meant to be a wave, but it looked like Simon tried to high five the officers and was left hanging.

    *Calling it now- Simon’s gonna save Mal and the others somehow. Also- he will do/say something nice to Kaylee.

    * Loved Kaylee dancing. Beautiful.

    * NO!!!! Not Book!!!

    * No!! Simon!!

    * See Mal, this is why you keep the doctor close on hand and not order him away. I mean, you guys get into a fight every time you do anything, so, again, keep the experienced one nearby during these things.

    * “I always thought it was River who was lost without her big brother” Yaaaay more backstory. Which makes it more tragic just how distant she is now, seeing how close they were in the past.

    * “Best surgeons in the capitol city” Drat, here’s the downside of Mark Reads and Mark Watches at the same time. I hear “Capitol City” and I think of the “Capitol” from Hunger Games.* How did these kidnappers know Simon was a doctor?
    * Oh Jayne. Sadly, you do not have Sawyer’s sarcastic humor and deep hidden tendancies for human kindness to make me like you as much. Though a few of your lines make me chuckle.
    * Okay Mal, you wouldn’t go fight the hill people to get the Doctor back despite you telling him you would never leave without them, yet you would fly right to an Alliance ship to avoid it.
    * Is the alliance taking him serious because of his career, or because he’s someone important?
    * “If it isn’t here, where is it?” Ohhhhhh Snap.
    * “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” Oh crap.
    * Nice timing Serenity. If only all those witches burned hundreds of years ago had a timely spaceship to save them.
    * Welp, it was Mal that saved the day, not Simon. Got that prediction wrong.
    * lol at Jayne trying to act nonchalant/ throwing all of Simon’s stuff back.
    * Pulling out the chair for Kaylee doesn’t count as a “make up” act to me either, so guess I was wrong on both predictions.

  48. oohlivia says:

    Kaylee and Jayne are my favourite characters. In many ways Kaylee reminds me of myself, only I'm not quite as amazing. But I think we have the same way of looking at things. As for Jayne, he makes me laugh so much, but at the same time I feel like he is going to do bad things in the future and he doesn't seem at all trustworthy, so that interests me greatly.

  49. ladysugarquill says:

    * Is that Zac Efron? *Gets to the end credits* Yes, it is Zac Efron! O_o

    * LOL at "all the gift shops have the same garden gnomes" XD

    * Isn't Village Boss a guy from Lost?

    * Why oh why are Christians always crazy in the movies?

    * I sat down and watched, “One of Them,” the 14th episode of season 2.
    Well, you got into the Locke/Jack/Benry situation, that's one of the best bits of the show!

    * WAT BENRY ON X-FILES HOW DO I NOT REMEMBER THAT – maye because I was like 15 when the show ended XD

    * About River's dancing (and her feet, which you will see a ot of). Summer Glau was a professional ballerina, but had to stop dancing after an injury. Joss discovered her when he cast her as a ghost (or something, haven't seen that ep in a while) in Angel.

    And he wants to make a ballet for her. *_*

    * Simon’s privilege as someone from the (allegedly) upper class can actually work against him.

    But if it's a hindrance, is it really "priviledge"? I say this because I don't like the concept and the word "priviledge" like it's used now.

    * I had an icon with the "today I was pompous" line in my AtLA folder *faceplam*

    * Also, you should watch the "R. Tam sessions" webisodes when you're done with the series. They're awesome, and Joss Whedon plays a character.

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  56. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    I absolutely adore this episode. ATLA is a very versatile show but this is the first time they've attempted horror. The horror-movie motifs that occur throughout the episode, starting with the opening scene (forest under moonlight), Katara's story about Nini, the eerie nature of the town and, especially, Hama, everything is just top notch.

    <img src=" "/>

    <img src=" "/>

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    The episode has some wonderful misdirection with the violent history of the Southern Water tribe allowing Katara and Hama to bond over their shared heritage. When Hama first appears,
    she seems to be a nice old lady, but there is already a certain sense of foreboding connected to her. The audience already suspects her to be the one to make people disappear but I don't think anyone was prepared for the revelation of bloodbending. I remember watching The Swamp and theorizing whether bloodbending was possible but the thought soon slipped my mind.

    <img src=" "/>

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    As a result we get to see the darker side of Waterbending. I realize bloodbending is creepy but it's an incredibly powerful weapon to have. Even though Katara was understandably upset at the end of the episode, I felt excited to see whether we would see anymore of this technique.

    Sokka: It's like my brain has mind of its own.
    Sokka never change.

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  92. stargaterejects says:

    I want to cry every time someone hurts Kaylee's feelings. Seriously.

    Also, River's dancing is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It had such a hopeful feeling to it, so I really loved the way they mixed it with the tension of the gunfight.

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