I had such a busy end-of-the-week/weekend that I didn’t get to write this up until now. Tor has already moved on to Shindig, which I’ll try to get done this weekend. I’m watching along in their Firefly Rewatch.
ThisLast week’s episode was #3, “Bushwacked.” We’re doing DVD order, not air date.
Short Recap of “Bushwacked” (spoilers)
This is one of the objects in space episodes. We never make landfall and it reinforces how simultaneously empty and busy space is at the same time. The story starts when the crew (who’ve been light-heartedly killing the time with a ball game in the cargo area) run across an abandoned ship. They decide to see if there’s anything worth salvaging, latch on, and go aboard.
It turns out that the ship was hit by Reavers and the bodies are still there. They’re freaked out and head back, but it seems there was one survivor. He attacks Jayne, but they subdue him and bring him back to the ship for treatment. Then they go back over and pull in as much cargo as they can. Kaylee, Mal, and Zoe stay behind to take care of the booby trap the Reavers left. This is when the big Alliance ship (like the one we saw in the last episode) shows up.
To hide Simon & River’s presence and prevent a full-scale search of the ship, the crew turns over the goods and is extra cooperative, hoping to get a slap on the wrist. But the discovery of the Reaver victim (who mutilated himself after the doctor left) makes the commanding officer think Serenity’s crew butchered the derelict’s crew. He questions them on the ship but the escape of the insanely violent victim convinces the commander that maybe the crew is telling the truth. After Mal saves the commander and (mercifully) kills the Reaver victim, the commander lets them go. But they don’t get the cargo.
Tor’s recap goes into even more depth.
Thoughts On “Bushwacked”
Big Bads Again
We’ve got more of the two biggest bads in this one—Reavers and Alliance. But I think the episode is less concerned with heroes defeating the big bad and more interested in the question “where does evil come from?” or “why do people become evil?”. It’s something that shows up in a lot of Whedon’s work. Serenity is just an expansion of the question in this episode—what makes someone become a Reaver?
In this episode, the hypothesis seems to be that when you’re exposed to an intolerable level of evil, you cope by becoming evil yourself. Cycles of violence, children who are molested becoming child molesters. Interestingly, that’s not Serenity‘s answer, so it seems to be just Mal’s thoughts on the subject.
We haven’t seen much of the Reavers before and we don’t see them again until the movie, I think. It seems like something that Whedon wanted to expand on as part of his universe and never got to because it had such a short run. Speaking of that, we see Jayne wearing a “Blue Sun” shirt in this episode, a teaser for something that never played out.
Really Meeting River
This episode also did a great job of expanding River. We knew she was a bit crazy and even a bit psychic, but watching her reaction as the Reaver victim thrashes and mutilates himself in the infirmary, even though she’s in Inara’s shuttle, is an eye-opener to just how much she can feel. Her power isn’t just knowing bits of things or facts about people, it’s fuller and darker than that.
She also knows that there are ghosts or dead people on the ship. She’s even the one who finds the bodies after she wanders over without permission. It doesn’t make her scream or run away, she just stands and looks up until Zoe and Mal shine up their flashlights.
After seeing her be so damaged, it was also a joy to watch her cling to the outside of the ship and stare in rapture at the stars. I don’t know if we’ve seen her be happy yet, but things like that are few and far between.
Learning More About Serenity’s Crew
The third big thing I saw in this episode was an expansion of the crew’s character. We know they’re thieves. We’ve seen them steal and we’ve seen them return stolen goods when they were needed. Now we see them scavenging on the dead ship. They know something’s not right from the start…but since there’s no one around who needs it, they’re not going to pass a good cargo by.
Even once they’ve found out what happened, they still go back & take the valuable foodstuffs (though they don’t seem to loot personal items). The crew takes care of themselves and they’re not afraid to do things that make one a little uncomfortable as long as they’re not actually wrong (ok, some of the stealing is wrong, but really destructively wrong like taking medicine from very sick people).
We also learn about them individually while they’re being questioned. Kaylee’s offended that the commander called Serenity a junker. Jayne says nothing in a way only Jayne can. Zoe calls her marriage private. Wash talks about how hot his wife is and asks if the commander has ever “slept with a warrior woman.” And as we see them being interrogated, we flash to the Alliance searching their quarters. I love that Wash has dinosaurs down there too! Inara, Book, & Mal are less amusing, but we still learn a little more about them.
Might have to be the interrogation section. Everyone is very much themselves, generally in a funny way, and the Zoe/Wash transition makes me laugh every time.
However, the bit that stuck with me last time was this exchange:
COMMANDER: “Looks to me like an illegal salvage operation.”
MAL: “It does? That’s discouraging.”
Bust up every time.