Mark Watches ‘Firefly’: Episode 13 – Heart of Gold

In the thirteenth episode of Firefly, Mal and Inara’s relationship reaches a stunning conclusion when they attempt to help a friend of Inara’s fight a man who wants to steal a baby. Literally. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Firefly.

This is a strange episode. A good one, certainly, but really goddamn bizarre. I’ve been sitting on pieces of this review since Monday, figuring out how to properly assemble them into a coherent piece of words and sentences and thoughts, and I still find myself unable to properly figure out exactly how I feel about what happens in “Heart of Gold.” I’m hoping we can discuss this more and perhaps I’ll figure this out!

I knew from the opening of “Heart of Gold” that Inara would play a large part in the story, relating to her sex worker friends on another planet. What this episode does is set up the main villain, Rance Burgess, to be indicative of exactly how damaging male privilege can be. I will say that I loved how he encapsulated evil in a way that could easily be read as complete misogyny: Burgess literally hates women, believes that they should be subservient to all men, and that their bodies belong to their male counterparts. I imagine it’s not hard to assume that Burgess is also a raging transphobe who conflates genitals to gender, either, and even his phallic obsession with guns can be read that way.

“Heart of Gold” also largely strays from demonizing sex work, which is something Firefly has done really well the entire season. Mal’s prejudice towards Inara’s line of work is always openly criticized in smart, intelligent ways, but I was bothered by something else relating to sex work: Inara’s comment about how the women at this brothel are actually whores.

I understand the function of how that works. I realize that “companions” are trained and have to get licenses, so it’s a matter of actually calling these women by the correct terms for their trade. I understand the show is written in a vacuum and that it’s entirely possible in 500 years that the word “whore” doesn’t mean what it does now. I can accept all of this. I was more irked at the classist subtext to it, that people without access to training or without the money/education of real companions are lesser workers. Here’s the real kicker, though: Mal is actually the one who notes that these women are independent of the larger companion system and there’s a subtext that they’re probably more free than Inara is. Bravo, Mal, for picking that up.

That being said, Inara does treat all of the women at the brothel with the utmost respect and it’s really only that small detail that rubbed me the wrong way. Again, every character here is seen reacting differently to the girls working at the ranch. Book reacts with awkward horror, which makes me then wonder how genuine he is. We keep getting hints that he’s something more than a preacher, so is he really that uncomfortable with these women? Jayne, predictably, thinks with only one organ and I’m going to avoid talking about it because we all know what it is.

The coded message at the heart of this episode is that women’s bodies belong to them. I wish Burgess was a slight bit more dimensional as a character, but his one-note misogyny works well on the creep factor, especially during the scene where he preaches to the local men about the rightful place where women belong. (And the oral sex demand is just awful, right???)

While the crew is preparing to fight Burgess for the right of Petaline to keep her child, Mal begins a strange relationship with the head madam, Nandi. It’s clear that the subconscious desire Mal acts out on Nandi really should be directed towards Inara, as he is definitely allowing his feelings for her to start to bubble to the surface. I expected Nandi to seduce Mal and Mal to ultimately turn her down in some form of grand epiphany, but, surprisingly, he does the exact opposite. I knew Inara would find out and the scene where she does is beautifully written and acted. Her words are those of professionalism, which is her refuge from what happens immediately after this. When she collapses in the next seen, crying harder than we’ve ever seen her cry, I could seriously feel my heart break. I’ve come to respect and care for Inara so much over these thirteen episodes and IÒ€¦well, I want her to finally be happy.

It’s strange how this personal romance, which I’m generally averse to in literature and film, has had such a profound on me, so much so that I actually didn’t even really care about the big battle that follows this. It was nice to see the crew working together toward a common goal; I commented before that they’re becoming this sort of dysfunctional sort of family, and it’s not been as clear as it is in “Heart of Gold.”

It makes Nandi’s death all the more tragic, too. For Inara, she’ll always have to remember that her friend’s last moments were spent with the man she actually loves. LIKE HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT. Mal will remember that he failed her and he failed Inara even more. But I must give credit to Brett Matthews, who wrote this episode, for giving the moment of retribution to Petaline, lest we forget that she was the actual victim in this case. It might have seemed more poetic to have Mal murder Burgess, but Petaline was the one who had her body and her life violated. Bravo, Matthews.

And then we get the bomb dropped on us: Inara is leaving Serenity.


  • My first note for this episode says, “EVERYONE IS ON THE X-FILES.” Frederic Lane (Burgess) is also the man who created the X-Files and first appeared in an amazing season 5 episode called “Travelers.”
  • “This distress wouldn’t happen to be taking place in someone’s pants, would it?”
  • Jayne is more crude than usual in this episodee.
  • “Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.”
  • “NOBODY PANIC!!!!”
  • “I’m just waiting to see if I pass out.” Oh god, YOU ARE LEARNING, MAL.
  • “No, this is your blood.”
  • And the best line in the episode, which is also a Writer High Five moment, is, “Say goodbye to your daddy, Jonah.” BOOYAH.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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190 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Firefly’: Episode 13 – Heart of Gold

  1. Randomcheeses says:

    Burgess really, really creeped me out.

  2. shadeedge says:

    First time I saw this episode, my thought was "Wow, Lady Heather seems to be getting stuck in similar roles".

  3. Cass says:

    Y'know what I love about Jayne in this episode, though? It's all really subtle things — but he gets *dressed up* to go visit the whorehouse. I love that. And he brushes the girl's hair. And he, y'know, spoons (ignoring the weapons in the midst). He may be crude, but I feel like he demonstrates a more honest respect for their trade, in his own way, than some of the other characters. He certainly doesn't seem to think any less of them for being what they are.

    • My thoughts exactly πŸ™‚

      Also, "Jayne, are you aware your radio is transmittin? Cause I don't feel particularly girlish or dirty"

    • cait0716 says:

      I love when he's brushing her hair. It's such a cute moment and not at all something I would have expected from Jayne.

    • Pseudonymph says:

      This was the first time I noticed Jayne brushing the woman's hair. That was such a nice touch to his character.

    • ldwy says:

      Yes, thanks for pointing this out. He's fairly crude in his speech in this episode, but his actions with the women are quite tender in many cases. He enjoys being with them in many ways.

    • bookling says:

      This is a great point. Jayne can be really vulgar, and he makes no pretenses about wanting to have sex with the women there, but he never treats them like property, like Burgess does. Although Jayne did try to trade a gun for Saffron a few episodes ago, so maybe I shouldn't be applauding Jayne TOO much.

      • Hermione_Danger says:

        But she was his very favorite gun. /deadpan


      • ladysugarquill says:

        But in a way, maybe he thought it was better for Saffron as well (as in, she'd like the trade better as well). After all, Mal didn't want her, and he did. He's a very simple guy, and he's selfish in an immature way – he just can't finish understanding things from someone else's point of view. So he ends up being unintentionally offensive, but I think he was being as thoughtful as he can then.

    • whatsername says:

      I agree completely, this is probably my favorite Jayne episode because of this.

    • dumbxblonde07 says:

      Jayne is my favorite character because of stuff like that. Throughout the entire show, he's had this tough guy act, but he still does stuff that suggests a base goodness (sometimes overthrown by greed or the whole put yourself first attitude). Like, he seems to really love his mom and wears that hat the entire time in the episode he got it. And when he's the hero of that town, he seems really upset when that goes sour.

      • para_bellum says:

        More like, when it wouldn't make his life harder, then he would act good. A lot of people are in theory not against preserving the enviroment, but when it means that they need to stop driving a car or have to drive to an organic food store two hours away instead of going to the store in the next street, they prefer the "unsavory" alternatives. The trick with Jayne is to appeal to his selfish nature and to show him how that extra work pays off. But ultimately I think he is the least prejudiced character on the show, as baffling as it sounds. Book has certain views of sex work, Simon and Mal have opinions and views of what other people should be in heaps, Kaylee expects Simon to conform to her idealisation of him, Inara expects Mal to do better than petty theft… But Jayne takes other people as they are, whithout negotiating their status in a hierarchy. He gets, that whether a whore, a merc, a little crime lord or a cargo hauler – everyone has to make a living somehow, and few can afford not to work a hard, demeaning job. There is no need to make it even harder, if it doesn't benefit you.

      • Cass says:

        omg, the moment where you find out that he sends money home to his mom and his sick sister? I loved that! And it's slipped in so casually, in the background of the mysterious box reveal, but it just gives that extra dimension to his character. Yes, he's a money-grubbing opportunist — but, strangely, the greed isn't just for himself.

  4. Hanah says:

    Oh so her name was Nandi, not Mandy. Okay. *continues crap at hearing what characters are called* I really, really liked this episode, though there was not enough Kaylee. But the women being awesome and hitting back at the misogyny made up for it because it was AMAZING. The scene where, what was her name, Petaline(?), comes out and shoots that dude? SO GOOD.

    Oooh shiny shiny building
    What is going on? Who are these people I am confused!
    She has really nice hair
    This is a commune of awesome women <3 THAT'S LIKE MY FAVOURITE THING
    Oh Mal XD
    LOL INNUENDO. I'm so immature
    I am so sad I only get these theme music twice more. Whyyyy so few episodes?!?
    Jayne you're such a dick :/
    Yay Kaylee πŸ˜€
    Ha he's uncomfortable!
    Oh Kaylee *ALL THE HUGS*
    I don't understand what's going on here at all, but her necklace is really lovely
    Lol Mandy (is that her name?) sees the UST
    Compensating for something with that gun dude?
    HA nice one Mal
    Um. What?
    I don't think they're going to want to leave their lives for you Mal
    Yeah. Quite
    Simon and Kaylee on the sofa together πŸ˜€
    Ha I love how everyone is stressed and River's just grinning!
    Oh god someone's going to die
    Awww a baby Zoe/Wash would be SO cute
    Ha Mal you fail
    Fuck yeah Inara is the awesome
    This is quite a talky episode with not enough Kaylee
    I like this girl πŸ˜€ And her nail varnish
    Nooo Mal you love Inara!
    Well. I guess he doesn't owe Inara anything
    OH who is telling on them?! BAD girl
    Inara. I love you
    OH baby, don't cry. HE LOVES YOU!
    LOL. Nice one Jayne
    Oh god she's still in labour, poor girl πŸ™
    OH awkwardness.
    DAMN the imminent violence, Mal was going to find out!
    She's going to die isn't she?
    I expect Mal kills Burgess, but I really hope one of the women gets to
    SHIT what is that crazy weapon?!
    God Zoe's a crack shot
    Oooooh nicely done guys! *high five*
    Oh. Faily done guys! WRONG PLACES YOU PLONKERS!
    OH SHIT! D: I knew she was going to die πŸ™
    Oh YES has Mal brought him back for the women to kill?!
    Aww poor girl. πŸ™ She's going to have a shit life of being raped and used, even if she did betray all the other women
    I would like this scene more if I didn't fucking hate 'Amazing Grace'.
    Awww this scene is so sweet
    Well that episode was fucking depressing in every way

    • takashid says:

      lol this is great, that last part with Inara i was like "yesyesyes, wait.. what? NO! INARA WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? =( Joss really loves subverting cliches doesnt he?
      only one more of this and then… Big Damn Movie. Hanah you have to do one of these for the Big Damn Movie. even if it turns out to be pages long XD

      • TheRedQueen says:

        I second this. I will gladly read through pages and pages of these comments hahaha

        • ldwy says:

          haha, me too! thirded.

          And my reaction to the ending of this was the same as you guys. I was like, finally they're going to be pushed to put this all out in the open! WHAT? Noooooooooo. Boo.

      • Hanah says:

        I intend to! That is, if my copy of the BDM ever actually comes…curse the Royal Mail at Christmas because I ordered it well over a week ago and it still isn't here. :/ Might try emailing Amazon and telling them to track it down for me because I don't want to miss the watchalong!

    • Cassara says:

      I’m impressed! You’ve managed the alsmot impossible.

  5. ramondestroys says:

    Inara's scene with Mal after his night with Nandi was absolutely heartbreaking. Inara telling Mal that she was leaving also left me pretty heartbroken.

    My first thought upon seeing Burgess – YOU'RE THE U.S. MARSHALL THAT ARRESTED KATE ON LOST.

  6. potlid007 says:

    Inara Serra: How many babies have you actually delivered?
    Simon: As the primary? This would be the first. You?
    Inara Serra: My first too.
    River: Mine too.

    River NEVER change.

  7. cait0716 says:

    Mark, I've been waiting for you to get to this episode ever since you called Mal out for calling Inara a whore back in the pilot.

    I would say that the classist undertones come from Inara's years of training, but that she's slowly moving away from that state of mind. Nandi broke free completely. Inara signed up with the crew of Serenity and is probably trying to figure out which world she belongs in: the high class world of Guild Law and Inner planets, or the freer world with Mal and Serenity. This was explored somewhat in Shindig, and gets touched on again here. Had the series gone on, it would have made for an interesting character arc. And as you pointed out, she calls them whores because, without training, that's what they are.

    A few of my favorite moments you didn't mention:
    River wondering "Who do you think is in there?" when Petamine is in labor
    Burgess' gun running out of battery
    Zoe/Wash talking about having a baby. Another arc I would have like to see play out more in the series.

    • Ashley says:

      "Zoe/Wash talking about having a baby. Another arc I would have like to see play out more in the series."

      Um, spoiler? Have you read "Float Out"? You might at least want to check out the last page. Also, this.

  8. takashid says:

    “Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.”

    "because I'm pretty?"
    "Because your pretty"

    anyone else really love the moment when books reasurring the girls, "no ones gonna die" and then the very next shot is Jayne "theres people gonna die." i laughed at that part so hard. and, in the end Jayne was right…

    • bookling says:

      I LOVE THIS EXCHANGE. Also: "Look, they got boy whores. How thoughtful!"

    • TheRedQueen says:

      Oh god I laugh EVERY TIME hahaha. It was just so perfectly cut. I also just love, in general, how Jayne is explaining to that one girl what's going to happen/which guns to hand him/how the battle will ensue. It was just…adorable somehow XD

  9. YES!

    "Were I unwed I'd take you in a manly fashion"
    "Because I'm pretty?"
    "Because you're pretty"

    Favorite quote of this episode πŸ™‚
    ILU Wash!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • Totally! *squee* My #1 favourite character.

        • para_bellum says:

          Wash and Kaylee have such a good dynamic! Though I am hard pressed to say, who is my favorite character (Simon! Siiiimon! – oh shut up, inner voice, lalalala!) because I just can't see them without each other. I have seen other projects they have played in, but there is just so compelling about the crew as a whole, that I expect them to pop up on other shows as well. (And they sometimes do – I so want to see the new V!!!)

  10. Mary Sue says:

    My favorite line of the whole episode is River looking at Petaline’s belly and asking, “I wonder who’s in there?”

    Mostly because it’s what I often think when confronted with a pregnant woman.

  11. Hotaru-hime says:

    Yeah, when Inara said she was leaving Serenity I screamed out "BUT THERE'S ONLY ONE SEASON!!!!!!!!" and tried not to freak out.
    I love how Wash tells Kaylee she's pretty. It's sweet.

  12. theladyafterwards says:

    Hi Mark! Long time lurker, first itme caller, etc. I just wanted to say that the scene where Burgess makes the prostitue go down on him in front of the crowd really, really upset me. Like, on a visceral level where I actually started crying. So whilst I've been re-watching all the other episodes along with you, I had to skip this one.

    I am glad you are liking Firefly as much as the rest of us – I'm sorry that we've only got two more posts about this marvellous Verse!

    • Megan says:

      It upsets me quite a lot as well, although I can watch it again.

      If you have watched Battlestar Galactica, there is a scene in there that is… much much worse, in the same vein. And that I could not even watch after a bit and there is no way I'm going to be able to watch it again. It just breaks me. I want to kick the screen.

  13. Starsea28 says:

    “Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.”

    OH WASH HOW I LOVE YOU. This line never fails to make me laugh.

    This episode does feel like a punch to the stomach because Mal and Inara come so close and then Inara "does what's best" and decides that she has to leave in order to save both Mal and herself from inevitable heartache. *headdesk* Harry would be proud of her!

    Another favourite moment is Mal panicking at the start of Petaline's labour and Simon being the one who's calm and in charge – role reversal FTW. And River being funny. Okay, River has been funny before but she's been creepy-funny. Here's she just laugh out loud hilarious. Also, MAJOR props to Simon and Inara for getting Petaline through her first labour when Simon had never been the primary doctor in a birth and Inara had never helped with one.

    What did you think of the Wash/Zoe discussion about a baby?

    Inara making the distinction between companions and whores made me roll my eyes. Because it's basically snobbery. Despite living on the border, she still has those inbred prejudices of growing up in the Core, just like Simon. It's just she's better at hiding them.

    • cait0716 says:

      I don't think Inara's line is pure snobbery. Nandi's girls have sex with men for money. Plain and simple. That makes them prostitutes. Companions have a lot more ceremony around what they do, and they receive specific training. There is a distinction between them, subtle though it may be, and Inara points it out. These girls have not been trained and have not earned the "companion" title.

  14. totiebinds says:

    I think Wash's quote to Kaylee is definitely my favorite of the series. Cemented my love towards him although I was already partial to Alan Tudyk anyway after watching him on Dollhouse. <3

    • nanceoir says:

      Tudyk on Dollhouse was amazing. Like, I already loved him from this, but… wow. Just… wow.

      • totiebinds says:

        I honestly had to adapt to him playing such a nice character, I was used to him being a perfect psycho! It's funny because most Whedon fans have seen him the other way around. Hahaha. Aw, Dollhouse, it ended too soon just like Firefly. </3

      • elusivebreath says:

        THIS. Mark, you know you have to do Dollhouse too, right?

        • theanagrace says:

          Do we realize that if Mark watches and reads everything we suggest for him that he will never be able to stop, ever?
          Perfect, keep the suggestions coming, people! We can't have him run out of things to do. If he ever gets some spare time, he might realize there's thing to do outside and such. πŸ˜›

          Seriously though, Mark can never stop updating now. We would all wither and die.

          And where is my Mark Verbs shirt? I would pay money for that.

  15. Mauve_Avenger says:

    What I liked about this episode is the parallel it draws to some of the issues surrounding abortion (yay controversy).

    I thought that what Burgess wanted in this episode was very similar to the idea that women who want abortions should *compromise* if the genetic father wants the (possibly) resultant child. It's interesting to see Zoe and Inara ask the usual "is the kid his?", whereas Nandi immediately replies "I think it's Petaline's." It goes back to the idea that a man's genetic legacy is more important and more worthy of legal preservation than a woman's bodily autonomy.

  16. karate0kat says:

    Can I just ad that Wash and Zoe really would make beautiful babies. And I love that a woman like Zoe is allowed to have that instinct. Because women don't need to want to have children, obviously, but it seems like a lot of times we get tough women and we get feminine women, and never the twain shall meet. I love that Zoe is both.

    Also, just to let you know, way back when you were still posting on buzznet, I mentioned that I had to have a thyroid biopsy. I had half my thyroid removed two days ago, and I am cancer free!

    • TheRedQueen says:

      I loved that, too. Usually it's broken down into "Fememine, softer women want to be wives and mothers" and "Tough, strong women want to be independent and free of husbands and children" and I like that, through Zoe, we get to see one of the toughest, most bad-ass female characters displaying that she is still inclined to marry and have babies. I thought that was a really nice (and realistic) inclusion πŸ˜€

    • TheRedQueen says:

      Also, congrats on being cancer-free!! (I was going to add that originally but I got distracted by real life and ended up hitting "post" before I finished…) πŸ˜€

    • ldwy says:

      Yes, I love Zoe's character. She is only herself, not any particular role. She knows what she wants and any niche she fills will just have to comply with that, they're not mutually exclusive.

      And Congratulations on your good news! Even though we only "know each other" on the ~astral plane~, it made me smile, and I'm so happy for you!

    • Kripa says:

      Congratulations on having the cancer removed! <3 You deserve all the love on the astral plane!

    • theanagrace says:

      Yay karateokat! Boo cancer!

      Astral plane high fives!

  17. WanderingAesthetic says:

    For the first time, reading this review, I found myself wondering about Inara’s background. I mean, we know she’s a companion and training for that seems to start pretty young, but does she have any family? Did she grow up wealthy? What kind of criteria does it take to get accepted for companion school? Do you have to pay for it?

    I haven’t been watching along with you, so my memories of the series are a couple of years old, so forgive me if any of that was ever answered.

    Part of why Inara was leaving was because of pressure from the executives, I believe. I don’t know what their reasons were, precisely. In a perfect world, there would have been several more seasons of Firefly, but at least the series didn’t have to go on without her or face any more meddling. :/

    • nanceoir says:

      I'm not up on all my Firefly trivia, but there was executive meddling with regards to Inara? The reason I ask is because I noticed something in an earlier episode (crap, which one was it? Out of Gas, maybe, Inara and Simon sitting and talking, I think) that seemed to start to hint at something about Inara that meshes with what Morena has said was planned. I think she mentioned it at a Dragon*Con within the last two or three years. I don't want to say more, for spoilers and speculation and whatnot, but I don't remember hearing anything about network-type pressure this late in the game.

      Then again, I haven't read all my scriptbooks, and I don't know all the goings-on from back in the day, since I wasn't around then, and it's certainly more than possible. Silly Fox executives.

  18. Karen says:

    but I was bothered by something else relating to sex work: Inara’s comment about how the women at this brothel are actually whores.
    Yeah. This really bugs me too. Honestly, I was never a huge Inara fan, but this turned me off of her character. She doesn't like being called a whore not because it is a term that demonizes women for the sexuality. Nope. She doesn't like being called a whore because it implies that she is lower class than she is. UGH. It also puts a new spin on the "petty thief" fight from a few episodes back. Inara called Mal a "petty thief" which to him is denigrating his work, making it seem less than it is which is (to Inara's mind) the same thing that Mal is doing when he calls her a whore. To her, that means that Mal is viewing her work as less than it is. THAT is the problem for her. She's not a "whore". She's better than that. She's a Companion. Yeah. It just all rubs me the wrong way.

    • cait0716 says:

      But she's had training to become a Companion. Is it really any different than a doctor or professor insisting that you use their title? Inara is certified and licensed (and has to follow certain rules because of it). That's the difference, not just snobbery.

    • Well, I'm a licensed cosmetologist, not a hairdresser, and I insist on the proper term because it points out that I have almost double the hours and training than a hairdresser. Is it snobbery, or is it just being specific? I went through intense training and am licensed to perform services that people with licenses for haidressing alone can't do, such as waxing, manicures, etc.
      A geisha wouldn't want to be confused with a 'whore', if you will, and I always thought Inara was more like a geisha, in that a Companion constitutes different services and practises.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        If Inara had responded to any of Mal's accusations that she's a whore with "there's a technical difference between whores and Companions and I'd like you to respect that," I'd say it's just being specific. That's not what she's been doing, though.

        Every time the word "whore" has come up in the past, Inara has treated it as a degrading insult. She doesn't seem to object to being called a whore because it's not technically what she is, she objects because she thinks it's beneath her. That's where the snobbery comes into play.

        And geishas aren't prostitutes in any sense.

        • Noybusiness says:

          I didn't know that! I just looked Geisha up in Wikipedia after reading your comment. Very educational.

  19. echinodermata says:

    Okay, so this is my least favorite episode of Firefly, and I doubt I'm alone.

    On rewatch, the one thing that struck me was Morena Baccarin's scene when is Inara crying, as it made me think back to her performance in the V finale and how blown away I was in THAT scene – if you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. But seriously, V has a great scifi cast, and includes both her and Alan Tudyk (Wash), and Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost).

    Um, and River was funny. And that's pretty much it for this episode, in my opinion.

    • bookling says:

      Alan Tudyk was only on V for one or two episodes, though. I recommend Dollhouse for a much better sci-fi show and a fucking awesome performance from Tudyk. Summer Glau makes an appearance, too.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


    • para_bellum says:

      Why, oh, why doesn't Amazon have the new V on DVD? *heartbroken* I was frenetically browsing everything Alan Tudyk played in, the other day – and let me tell you, his ep in PG Porn was utterly hi-larious ("My wife has leukemia!") – and V was one of the things I gladly would have bought. (I have reservations against Dollhouse, so I am still unsure whether I will ever watch it, despite it being Joss' show. The whole premise is just so … icky. People not being able to object to what happens to them – just no.)

  20. buyn says:

    I liked the scene where Mal goes to Burgess to see what he's like, and says "She's a beauty," and Burgess automatically goes for his gun. It shows that in the comfort of his favorite place, he'd rather show off his gun, than his wife.

  21. Tilja says:

    The first that came to my mind the moment I saw Burgess was also X Files. Then I thought it had been Millennium. You were right, it was X Files. And the place I remembered him from was not it. It was Supernatural, as the yellow-eyed demon. Why is my brain so tangled?

    Very well played episode. I did see most of it coming, except the awesome girl killing misogynist monster part. That was the most amazing thing in the entire episode! And for me, the only unexpected turn, so doubly awesome.

    I share your sadness. The moment I start liking the series, it ends, just like that. I hate that too. Let's just hope it actually ENDS and not being cut in the middle. I don't care about the lenght of a series so long as it has an ENDING. Then I consider it a good and complete series.

  22. Pseudonymph says:

    I don't think anyone has commented on something that really bothered me and bothers me every time I watch this episode.

    When Inara catches Mal coming out of Nandi's room in the morning and pretends to be okay with it, Mal says, "I don't want you to think I took advantage of your friend."

    I always want her to say something like, "she's an adult" "you weren't taking advantage of her" or "it's none of my business" almost anything other than what she actually says: "She's well worth taking advantage of, I sincerely hope you did."

    Uh, What the fuck? What does that mean? "Worth taking advantage of" is one of the more disturbing things I've ever heard and it sounds exactly like something Burgess would say with a straight face. I know Inara is trying to be cool and professional but why is she making it sound like taking advantage of someone is the same as having good, consensual sex with them?

    Does anyone have any thoughts or an explanation for this? The line always seems so out of place in this show, especially coming from Inara.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      That's a good point. Maybe she meant it in an ironic way? Either way, still a shitty thing to say.

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      I think it would have worked if Inara was basically just repeating/fumbling over Mal's "taking advantage of" line because she's too lost in her thoughts to comprehend his words/respond coherently.

      As it's given she doesn't seem that badly affected, though, so it's more than a little bit jarring to hear her say that.

      • Pseudonymph says:

        Yeah, I've always just interpreted it as a sort of fumbling attempt at bravado (bravada?) so that I can let it go. But it still makes me wince every time.

    • hassibah says:

      I thought she meant it as a figure of speech. Since her friend is somebody who is trained to seduce people I doubt Inara seriously thought that she could be swindled in that way. Anyways-"you're both adults" is basically how I understood her there.

    • dumbxblonde07 says:

      I took it to mean taking advantage of the situation, not the woman. As in, they haven't worked out payment and he didn't want Inara to think this was his payment (not because he wants payment, but rather because he seems to have general problems with the sex business and feels it is hypocritical to partake)

    • para_bellum says:

      Huh, I thought it was meant in the way like taking advantage of a technological gizmo. I mean, I have bought a phone with all the shiny new hijinks, and I like to show it off. ("Look! It plays music! And it has a calender, and can remind me of appointment! And I can take your picture and make it an avatar in the contact list! Ohh, have you seen the games on it? Did you know, it links to my wireless LAN at home, so I can surf the internet, too?") I take advantage of all the things it can do. When I go to a cosmetologist I take advantage of her skills, I want to have a certain spectrum of things done, and done properly, so I get my moneys worth. The expression sounds clumsy in regards to a person, I'll give you that, esp in this line of work, but I never thought Inara would have insulted her friend like that, no matter what.

  23. Lipton says:

    @ virtualpj – Ummm, no, Mark's right. Frederic Lane played Arthur Dales who created the X-Files division that Mulder later discovered. But, yes, Chris Carter created the TV show.

    But Mark, you totally forgot to mention one of my all time favorite episodes, 'The Unnatuarl' where Frederic Lane reprises his character and Jesse L. Martin plays a baseball playing alien. And then Mulder and Scully hit baseballs together and it's beautiful!!! πŸ˜‰

    Julie Cooper-Nichol! And the telecoercer from Dark Angel!!! OMG, I watch way too much television.

    • Noybusiness says:

      The whole time Petaline was on the screen, I was thinking about how different she was from Mia in Dark Angel.

      Dark Angel: a cult show that doesn't get enough love.

      And it was cancelled by Fox (in favor of the then mishandled Firefly) after the actors had been told they'd get a Season Three!

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  25. kellythered says:

    I have never liked this episode much, mostly because of the forced oral sex. I felt that was a bit over the top.

    On Inara: I was also sad when she said she'd be leaving Serenity. To me she always seemed like the mother to the crew. She had a very calm, nurturing personality and always was trying to help.

    That being said, this is one of the episodes that hinted at the real reason Inara was on Serenity. I don't know if this was ever mentioned in the comments but when I found out about it, her decision to leave kind of made more sense, at least to me.

  26. forthejokes says:

    Hmm, I've only watched this episode months, quite a few months ago and I didn't really think much of it. The Mal and Inara relationship is heartbreaking, especially for the timing of nandi's death because she realises that the two are in love.

  27. Narcissaa says:


    <img src=""&gt;

    One more and possibly some more tomorrow when I'm not half drunk.

    <img src=""&gt;

    River, the Kaylee/Wash interaction and the Wash/Zoe baby conversation were by far my favourite parts of this episode. I really loved Nandi as a character and it hurt so bad when she died. ALSO OMG INARA'S TEARS MAKE ME BAWL.

  28. blankppr says:

    I watched this pretty much just the other day and had a lot of thoughts. I LOVE how Jayne is showed. I don't remember thinking him harsh or anything. I mean, yes, he is very forward and not at all embarrassed by his love of sex. But he only has sex with one of the girls the whole time and treats her like such a sweet heart. I mean doing her hair and asking him to help him with his guns and everything. He pretty much spent most of his time with her and he did treat her like a human. I think it really showed a big soft side of him on top of seeing him in the Jaynestown one. He really cares for people deep down.

    And, not to be mean, it seems hypocritical to applaud the staff for having strong, feminine women who are fine with sex and unashamed of it and then to put down Jayne in this episode were he's essentially being the same way and actually shown as being less masculine than other people would write him as. (Though of course women being strong and feminine is rarer.) Just like when Kaylee was hired and was having sex with the former mechanic (and didn't stop) and how she wonders if they "…service women folk." And the following quote (can't remember it exactly), Jayne is being forward and unembarrassed about sex and, of course he's more forward and less subtle because he's Jayne and not very good at subtle but he's on the same level as the women in the show really. I feel like it's kind of reverse sexism to criticize Jayne in this episode for wanting to have sex especially since he dotes on the prostitute he decides to do it with. (Which is ultimately cute and unexpected for his character. Though we have seen hints of his soft side already.)

    As for his care of the women versus trying to trade his gun for YoSaphBridge, I do realize in that sense that that's messed up of him. I don't think his morals are very straight in his head but I do think that he has a great ability to care for people. It's hard to tell, too many thoughts are in my head right now and I don't want to write all of them. I still stand by my initial thoughts.

    Another thing, I really thought that Wash and Zoe discussing the baby was the ultimate combination of Zoe's strength and femininity; she is one hell of a woman. lol. It was kind of awesome.

    • Kaderie says:

      "I feel like it's kind of reverse sexism …"

      Please don't use that expression, it's nonsensical and a right-wing dog whistle. There is only sexism, which encompasses stereotypes of both male and female behaviour.

      • blankppr says:

        I think it's kind of appropriate in this situation because I meant the sexism of putting down a man for what he is usually praised for/required to be rather than being sexist in the "men MUST be men and men are only like this" way. If I meant it the later way, I would have just said sexism. I would basically use reverse sexism in the sense of a woman being put down for wanting to be a housewife too.

        And, honestly, how is it "a right-wing dog whistle?" I'm not sure where that statement is coming from.

    • dumbxblonde07 says:

      I completely agree

    • para_bellum says:

      "As for his care of the women versus trying to trade his gun for YoSaphBridge, I do realize in that sense that that's messed up of him." See, I don't get that there is a contradiction. Mal has a wife, who would be only too happy to have a husband to belong to, to cook for, she is submissive and from what we know at that point married Mal because the Elder told her so, not of her free will. Mal doesn't want her, he has no use for a wife. He expects her to be someone else. But Jayne has no problem with accepting her as she is. So in trading his gun for Saffron he makes three people happy – well,his logic as I understand it -, namely, himself because he would have someone for regular sex and food, Mal, because he likes to be single, and Saffron, because she would have a husband who wants her and cares to certain degree about her.

      • blankppr says:

        I don't thinks it's actually contradictory. I mean, I really think he means the best and would live up to the "Aw, hell, Mal, I'll treat her right" statement but it's not exactly viewin women as equals since he wants to trade her for a gun. When he seems to treat the prostitute pretty equal. On the other hand, being Jayne, I think he really does care for that gun and barely knows YoSaphBridge so sort of a statement in both directions. I really think it's just Jayne being Jayne but I don't think it rules out him being a caring person or anything. I think being "stupid" doesn't mean your heart isn't in the right place. Like when someone is racist and really have no clue their doing it; I'll call them out on it because it's not right, but often they really don't realize they're being racist at all and don't mean anything bad at all about it. It's not like they're suddenly horrible people just because they don't know any better.*

        *I feel like I need to explain this because I don't know if it's clear.

        I've seen both actual racism from my family that they knew what they were doing but didn't care – but isn't "harmful" which I would not include in the being "stupid" thing. For example, blatantly insulting a group of people for no reason; just because they don't like them much for no real reason and it's accepted in the area. Not justifiable, not just "being stupid."

        But then I've also seen things that I general can't even remember because it's just so ingrained into society that as a white person in a pretty much all white suburb, you have no reason to see from a different angle and no reason to view it a racist. I don't remember most because they aren't as shocking or anger-inducing as when they're out right racist. Best example I can think of is things like saying that my one ex-boyfriend wasn't "black" because he didn't talk in slang and other stereotypical things. Racist but so ingrained that a large majority of people would not see anything wrong in saying that. (Wish I had a more "white-suburban stupidity" example but I can't remember anything right now – been too long since I've really lived with my family.)

        I've already explained this more than I wanted to. If I still am being unclear, I guess I'll find out in replies. haha

  29. Kripa says:

    I love love love this episode except for one point of contention – the birth scene. I hate the Screaming Birth trope, and this episode utterly failed to avert or subvert it. Seriously, Simon as a doctor should know that being on your back with your legs up is the second worst position to give birth in. The worst is being literally held upside down. This isn't a hospital setting, and Simon should have known to let Petaline move around, experiment with different positions like crouching, squatting, on all fours, on her side, whatever, and let her eat snacks. But I suppose that doesn't look sexy on screen. Also, making the woman push on the doctor's pace rather than her own pace is not best practice. Gah, the state of reproductive health care in the US. /soapbox rant

  30. cjazzle says:

    thank you for your acknowledgement/knowledge of women's issues in such an episode as this. it might seem obvious to those who are in the know, because to a large extent it is FELT rather than expressed in words, and a feeling can say much more, but whenever issues relating to misogyny and sexism come up in film, it's just nice to know that there are men out there who DO get it. all it takes is a sentence like, "the oral sex demand is just aweful, right?"). i am not a particularly eloquent person, but as a woman i always appreciate it when another person, especially a man, can effectively communicate a concept such as this, which i believe is vitally important to interpersonal relationships between men and women.

  31. cjazzle says:

    ARGH!! WanderingAesthetic brings up an excellent point – i want to know more about Inara!! ever since i'd seen Firefly for the first time, about 3-4 years ago, i have always wondered more about Book, but i had never really given any thought to inara'a background! day-um!

  32. dumbxblonde07 says:

    Okay, I kind of teared up when inara announced she was leaving… I mean, I thought she was going to kiss him! God, so sad!

    Also, When they're discussing the birth and both Inara and Simon admit it'll be their first (I'm assuming they've both had training on how to do it), I loved that River piped up "mine too!"

    Also, I feel as if the juxtaposition of Western themes with sci-fi was really evident in this episode, mainly with the horses and the hovercraft, the pistols and the raygun. Serenity is kind of dingy looking and blends with the dusty Western feel, but Burgess' things were shiny and out of place.

    Also, the demand for oral sex – my face = >:O Omg, so offensive! And the girl did it! I'm glad at the end, he was the one on his knees… I couldn't help it though, I was concerned that she was holding the baby for it (the noise! the kickback!). Also, how did Petaline know it was that one girl who helped Burgess? I didn't notice her give herself away at any point?

  33. myeck waters says:

    This episode has a jarring moment of backwards footage during the balcony speech / forced oral sex scene. Drives me crazy whenever I see one of those.

  34. MichelleZB says:

    Look, let's not be so hard on Inara for calling the girls whores. She's not the first member of a professional association that has professional snobbery, and that's exactly what it is. She doesn't mean whores in a bad way exactly, or even so much in a classist way, although it ends up being slightly classist. It's more like, OMG THEY DO NOT HAVE THE LICENCE THAT I HAVE ON MY WALL.

  35. monkeybutter says:

    I tried so hard to make a coherent, concise comment about the persistence of different classes of sex workers since the beginning of history (haha, oldest profession) last night, so here it goes again.

    There is a difference between women who sell their bodies and women who also sell their minds, and they occupy different classes in a sexist society, as do wives and daughters from prostitutes. I don't think we've really seen any powerful women in the Alliance or on the outlying worlds, and the only women who are close to being independent — Zoe and Kaylee — do so by living on a ship separated from the rest of society. I don't like the way Inara defended her status by denigrating regular whores, but it's not at all unexpected for her to be protective of her status.

    I don't know. I think it's all a good jumping off point for a discussion about the historic and fictional roles of women.

    • summeriris says:

      There is an excellent artcle in the book 'Investigating Firefly and Srenity' on Inara and her profession and of course it looks closely at this episode. What the authors look at is the historical place of sex workers in history. It explores the Heteara, certain aspects of The Giesha, but of cours Giesha are not sex workers. What place sex workers had and have in the worl. I thought it interesting. One thing I have not seen discussed here is that at Nandi's brothel she has male sex workers.. Are her male sex workers whores?

      • monkeybutter says:

        Sounds interesting! I was trying to work the book Courtesans and Fishcakes into my comment (great book about Classical Athens, everyone should read it), and it kept coming out too long, but yeah, there are definite parallels to hetaerae versus pornai in the episode. And there's a Japanese equivalent to hetaerea and Companions that aren't geisha (oiran, right?), but I think the West has just decided that geisha are Japanese escorts. There's a direct equivalent to Companions in just about every civilization.

        I'd call those men whores, but I don't know if everyone would. I also think that sex work is perfectly acceptable as long as everyone is doing so out of their own choice (only in a perfect world, I know), so I was just using the word whore as a synonym for prostitute or sex worker. I know that I should be more careful about that because it's not a neutral word. Anyway, they'd definitely occupy a space below men who aren't sex workers in social rankings because they are operating outside of the norms for male behavior. There are male Companions, too, aren't there? I wish there had been more time to examine the Guild and life in the inner worlds.

  36. kell1976 says:

    I stumbled across your watching Firefly at the end of last week and have spent this week rewatching all the episodes (haven't seen them in a couple of years). Forgot just how much I loved this show. I'll be watching the film tomorrow night though, as I'll be working on Saturday. Just wanted to say I love your blog. πŸ™‚

  37. Shae says:

    FREDERIC LANE CREATED THE X-FILES? That dude is in EVERYTHING. Seriously. He is like, my secret weapon when we play 6-Degrees-of-TV-Separation. This just confirms my belief that I need to watch the X-Files like tomorrow.

    Also, Mark, you should really watch the Firefly extended gag reel. Just ask for it and someone cooler than me could probably link you to a good copy of it on the intarwebs. It is… the best thing. There's a whole chunk of it dedicated to this episode and I won't tell you more than that but IT'S SO WORTH WATCHING.

    ~*~this cast~*~

  38. JessDarb says:

    Long time reader, first time commenting, absolutely LOVE "Firefly", etc.
    About the moment when Burgess tells the prostitute to get on her knees: I COMPLETELY MISSED THAT. I thought he was literally JUST telling her to get on her knees in a symbolic gesture of submission. I had NO IDEA that he was forcing her to engage in oral sex in front of the crowd. Wow. Just… wow.
    Of course, I originally watched "Firefly" when it was on the air, and I was only a tender 16 years of age. The context must have just sailed straight over my head at the time, and every time I've watched it since then I've just stuck with my initial impression.
    So thanks for pointing that out. That makes that scene so, so, so much more intense and horrible.

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