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On TV Today's Date:

original airdate: 11-8-02

Finally, we get some solid dirt on River and the whole Tam family. There is a lot to be learned in this Firefly offering. A new mystery opens regarding Shepherd’s history and origins, and the Tam family saga reveals some great detail.

During a series of flashbacks, we get the history of the Tam family. Unsurprisingly, River was a gifted and bright child. Even at the age of three she was correcting Simon’s spelling. When River grew older, her family sent her to a school for the gifted. But the school had questionable motives and Simon was not allowed any direct contact after River's admittance. Very close as children, this separation was very frustrating for both as well as a cause for concern.

River was allowed to send out letters to her family. After a series of confusing nonsense letters from River, Simon was able to decrypt a hidden message in one of the letters. “They’re hurting us."

Convinced he needed to save his sister, Simon mounted an effort to rescue her. His parents didn’t believe there was any problem. They thought Simon was simply being paranoid. Simon’s attempts to learn about River’s state and find out if there was a way to free her were so disruptive that his parents basically disowned him. Undaunted, he continued his efforts.

Though the exact means and execution of River’s liberation and their arrival on the Firefly are not shown, the end results are evident. River, in the current timeline, appears to have telepathic powers. She can see to souls of cows and read the minds of humans. This latter ability leads to one of the main plot points for this episode. The town where she and Simon have been taken comes to believe that River is a witch.

In the parallel storyline, the cattle negotiations go awry when the local authorities attempt to arrest the cattle buyers at the end of the negotiations. During the intense gun fight that follows, Shepherd is shot. This leads the Serenity crew to seek medical attention at the nearest available medical center, which happens to be a nearby alliance space station.

The station initially refuses them medical attention until Shepherd flashes his credentials and he is suddenly rushed into the operating room for medical care. There is no clear indication as to why this happens, but Serenity’s crew is just as puzzled as the rest of the viewing audience.

This weeks quotes:

“The body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds with the proper vacuum system.” – River Tam

“Dear diary: Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. Dear diary: today I was kidnapped by hill folk. Best day ever” – Jayne making up entries for Simon Tam’s diary

This episode appears to have been meant for earlier in the season, delayed for unknown reasons. A number of characteristics and interactions simply don’t reflect the current state of the Firefly crew. Multiple members frequently cuss in alien languages, a trait rarely shown in other episodes. The character interactions appear to have regressed to their fundamentals, as if they have just recently met.

Simon behaves like a whiny spoiled brat. Although this is within his character’s range, he did seem to be growing out of it. Also, towards the end of the show, Simon states, “finally, a decent wound on this ship and I miss it." He must have temporarily forgotten the gaping chest wound Mal had in a prior episode that he fixed.

It appears that most of the actors are simply trying the characters on for size in this episode, in contrast to the full immersion experienced in earlier episodes. This being said, the content is well placed and the information is pertinent. If this information had been divulged too early in the series the audience would have been less likely to care, thus losing the viewers' interest. But it is interesting to experience the regressions in characteristics by the cast.

Next week we are treated to more information on River. The crew is hired by Simon to make a daring assault on a medical facility that may hold the cure to River’s condition.

Kevin Goodman

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