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original airdate: 11-15-02

All registered companions are required to renew their licenses yearly. This process includes a 2-day physical at an approved medical facility. It just so happens that all of the approved facilities lie within the core of the alliance controlled worlds. The Serenity and her crew fly to one of these core planets to take Inara to her appointment.

The members of the Firefly crew are all excited about landing on a nice planet for a change. Mal, being the dictatorial killjoy that he is, makes it clear that the crew is to remain on the ship during this time to avoid getting into any trouble.

During the discussion Jayne begins hurling insults and hateful comments at Simon. River does not like this at all, so she calmly grabs a large knife from the kitchen area and make a 14 inch long slash in Jayne’s chest as she cheerfully comments "He looks better in red".

The physical wound is shallow and easily sewn up by Simon. But the hatred Jayne already has for the dead weight of the Tam siblings grows ever deeper.

Simon, realizing that his sister’s condition is getting worse, comes up with a plan to help River. If he can get access to the hospital and diagnostic labs on this planet he may be able to determine what is wrong with her.

To get in he will need the help of the rest of the crew, so he offers Mal a deal. If they help him get into the hospital he will tell them which medicines to steal while they are in there to get the most buck for their bang. The terms are reasonable, so the deal is set and the prep work for this complicated theft begins.

This episode holds a wealth of information regarding River. The diagnostic machine reveals scalpel scars from repeated surgeries performed at her school. During the surgeries they removed her medulla. As a result she experiences all her feelings without any way of keeping them in check.

For whatever reason they repeated this surgery over and over again. Simon, now armed with a chip full of medical information on his sister, can try to find out how to reverse the damage done.

Even with all this new information, it isn’t clear why they performed these surgeries in the first place. It is obvious that the men with the hands of blue are very serious about wanting to retrieve her. But it remains to be seen whether their attempts are intended to cover up the fact that these operations were performed, or if they are simply willing to go to any length to retrieve someone with her abilities.

Sure, they have an extremely cool space ship, but the gentlemen with hands of blue appear to be most unpleasant. They also have a lovely little tool that emits a blue light, causing the human recipient of its power to bleed from every orifice and die in a particularly nasty way.

They systematically deal with any witnesses that have interviewed River as they attempt to retrieve their evidence/prize. Knowing this will give even more incentive to the Serenity crew to protect the Tams. If the hands of blue men ever find out who has been protecting the Tams, our heroes would likely wind up dead.

Jayne holds fast to his bitter mercenary character. He does have a moment at the end of the episode that could be construed as redemption. But it’s hard to read a man’s heart when he’s at the point of a gun. He may yet outgrow his greed, but he has taken a huge step backwards this time around in the eyes of Malcolm.

Mal continues to exercise his control over the crew of the ship. His actions in this episode move from that of a leader to those of a dictator. There is no question that his actions are just and he appears to make the right decisions, but it's definitely in a more dictatorial fashion. The captain draws a hard line in defense of his crew members with the statement "You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me".

It could be argued that these characteristics are required to hold together a diverse crew like that of the Serenity, but it will be interesting to see what happens when one of his decisions turns out to be wrong.

This is one of my favorite episodes so far. The main plot is given a healthy booster shot driving the series on to a more interesting future. There are excellent character interactions, breeding more depth and maintaining consistency for the characters. Additionally this episode contains healthy doses of action and suspense.

Unfortunately there was no teaser at the end for the next episode. Viewing the coming lineup for the next two weeks on Fox networks, it looks like they’re planning on showing bad movies instead of broadcasting more Firefly episodes for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The next air date will be December 6, with an episode entitled “War Stories”. Be sure to tune in then.

Kevin Goodman

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