Firefly: S01E06: Shindig
It’s back to one of the central planets for today’s episode. No more of this dusty badlands wild west desert stuff, but instead a refined city atmosphere. And evidently I’m not the only one who’s excited, most of the crew are also stoked about arriving on Persephone. Wash and Zoe want to use this time to get romantic with each other, Kaylee wants to do some fancy clothes shopping and Inara can finally get some high paying clients. But Captain Tight Pants (Mal) is determined to ruin everyone’s fun. He insists that their stop on Persephone is strictly for refuelling, supplies and finding work.
Not that Inara has any problem with that plan. She needs to find work. She brings up her fancy companion monitor and culls through a list of potential clients. She chooses one man, who’s a running a bit low on the self esteem. She listens to his message for a little bit before deciding that he’s not worth her time. Next she selects a familiar face, Atherton Wing. And he really is a familiar face. I know I’ve seen this actor before, but I just can’t figure out who it is.
Trying to figure out his identity will bother me for half the episode. She decides to work for the charming gentleman for the next few days, based on his good looks, charisma, previous experiences and huge wad… of cash. Down on the planet, Mal enforces his no-fun policy. He tells Wash and Zoe that he doesn’t want any funny business going on between the two of them on the planet. And then he really sets himself up. He tells the beautiful Kaylee off. Kaylee loves looking at all the nice dresses in the window. But when she won’t get back to work after repeated warnings, he bluntly asks her what she needs a fancy dress for when she works in a dingy engine room all day, and says that she’d look like a sheep in its hind liegs in that dress. Bad move Mal! As soon as the other crew members get to work on getting supplies, Mal and Jayne start to find some work. Or rather it finds them… at gunpoint.
Badger and his goons bring the two into his den to offer them work. This is strange because normally when I want to hire someone I treat them with respect. Just goes to show you the Persephone underworld goons have no common sense. Actually they do have some manners. once in his lair, Badger offers the two some finger sandwiches and wood alcohol to nosh on while he discusses the deal. Here’s the plan: Badger knows a guy, Warick Harold, who needs some cargo transported off world. The guy’s pissed him off a little so he can’t deal directly with him, but Mal can. Badger tells Mal where and how to find Warick to get the smuggling job. Warick, will be at a fancy social later that nite, and Badger just so happens to have a pair of tickets. So Mal comes up with a plan, he’ll use Kaylee as his date to the social.
Or actually he’ll be her date. At first Kaylee puts up some fuss when Mal tries to get her to do something for him, as you would, but once she finds out that she’s getting that shiny dress out of it… well you get the idea. The social is totally extravagant. All of the guest are announced before they enter, everyone dressed up so fancy. There’s a floating chandelier and even fresh fruit! Of course the music sucks, so it isn’t that great, but it’s still the place to be. Inara and Atherton show up together looking beautiful and natural together. Mal and Inara at the same party, you already know how this’ll end.
This is a really cool way to observe the characters. Inara is charismatic and cheerful to everyone in the room, a trait that Atherton promotes because he loves showing her off. Why can’t I remember where else this actor has appeared?! This is so aggravating! He starts to woo her and even asks her to be his permanent personal companion. An offer which she doesn’t accept nor refuse immediately. Her excuse is interrupted when Kaylee and her date Mal, is introduced to the crowd. Inara’s reaction is priceless. Now Kaylee and Malcolm also had some interesting dynamics in the party.
Kaylee heads straight to the fruit table to dine on all the foods that she can’t get up in space. What is it with science fiction and the obsession with fresh fruit? It’s not even that good. But I’m allergic to all fresh fruit and vegetables so I’m a bit biased…
After sampling the food she starts to mingle with the other female guests. But the premadonnas spot that she’s not one of them immediately and start to mock her. Luckily a distinguished gentleman comes to her rescue. A few minutes later she’s surrounded by men, all enthralled by her knowledge of engines and machinery. Some of them want to ask her to dance, some want her to keep talking mechanical to them, and the rest want to both! Predictably Mal goes straight to work.
He seeks out the client and starts talking business with him. At first Warick denies that he needs things smuggled, and eventually starts to open up to him. But not before Inara comes over to see him, with Atherton in tow of course. It’s a bit awkward for the two of them, especially with their bloody obvious sexual tension. They need some time alone to chat and insult each other as normal so Mal asks Atherton for a dance with his date.
Out of politeness he agrees. Dammit who is he? Mal and Inara do their bickering, and as soon as the song is over Atherton pulls Inara away by tightly grasping her arm. Mal takes this as a minor insult and starts to question Atherton. Eventually Atherton’s jealousy is made VERY clear, and states that Inara is HIS property for the next few days. At which point, Mal sucker punches him. The social stops and all attention is on the two of them. Atherton comes to his feet and announces “I accept”. Mal says fine and offers to take this outside, while taking off his jacket. Then he learn’s that he accidentally challenged him to a duel. A duel with swords.
And then it hits me. The man he just challenged is Duncan Idaho, Ginaz Swordmaster of the Atreides. The finest warrior and sword fighter in the imperium. Or at least that’s who the actor played in Children of Dune. The actor is Edward Atterton. Who in real life has a black belt in Karate, a certified stage fighter and a master swordsman.
Atherton is a master swordsman too, and killed a dozen men with the longblade, Mal is the first man dumb enough to challenge him to a duel. Captain Reynolds, who barely knows which end of the sword to hold, is fucked! Warick decides to sponsor Mal in the fight, and hire him to transport the cargo in the off event that he wins the duel. Sponsoring merely means that he’ll use his sword. The duel will be held the next morning, and just to be sure he doesn’t run off, Mal is locked away for the night. And just to be sure the crew doesn’t try to rescue him, Badger pays a visit to the rest of the crew. He explains the situation to the remaining crew members on the ship. Of course they want to spring him, but Badger and his armed goons try to make sure that won’t happen. Something that bugged me about this scene was that Simon and River talked openly with Badger, rahte rthen hide their fugitive identities.
This sadgeezer thinks that Badger would sell those two out for their bounty, but some other fans disagree. Either way, if I were Simon and River, I’d stay out of site of Badger. During the nite, Inara sneaks into Mal’s room to teach him how to fence. It’s a futile effort as Mal can’t quite grasp the concept of swordplay. It’s obvious to any fencer that he just won’t ever get it. Mal is too aggressive for the quick sport. Of course their late night meeting turns to more boring sexual tension banter. In the morning it’s time for the duel. Or slaughter really. Inara and Warick try to give him advice, but its no use.
Atherton toys with Mal for a while before landing some really nasty blows. Mal never stood a chance. After Atherton breaks Mal’s sword and pins him to the ground it looks like Mal is a goner. But the series still has some more episodes left so we know that’s not the case. Inara tells Atherton that she’ll stay with him permanently if he agrees to spare Mal. This surprise gives Mal enough time to attack Atherton with his fists. Eventually Mal overtakes Atherton and pins him to the ground, ready for the kill. Mal decides to spare him, since it’s a great insult to leave a man on the he ground and alive. Mal says “mercy is a sign of a great man”.
Then without provocation wounds him once then twice in the gut. Reducing his status to a “good man”, then just “I’m alright”. Atherton has some words with Inara, and even threatens her. But she just puts a black mark on his name in the companion registry. Meaning that no companion will ever accept a contract with him. Inara and Mal return back to Serenity, just as the crew get ready to overpower Badger and his men to come to the rescue.
Simon heals Mal up and we learn what this precious cargo is that they’re transporting; It’s cattle. The entire bay of the ship is full of cattle. Man that must stink! As a fencer, this was fun episode to watch, and even more fun to write the review for. But some fans didn’t find this episode very interesting. At the time I was mildly disappointed with it, but Firefly definatly gets better with repeated viewings.
I’d rate this a saber swinging 38,348 out of 10. What did you think?
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Firefly reviews are © 2004 Ryan Bechtel.
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