Firefly and Western Literature
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“People know he’s not afraid of anything”

Episodes 11 (“Trash”) and 12 (“The Message”) on the Firefly DVD set are thematically linked by con games, with, in each episode, someone trying to con the Serenity crew. “Trash” is probably my least favorite episode in the series, and placing it back to back with “The Message” just further reveals how similar the two episodes are in structure and theme, and how far short “Trash” falls of “The Message,” which has a much more powerful emotional current, and which has a cleverer con game at its center.

It’s certainly good to see Our Mrs. Reynolds (aka, Saffron, aka insert alias here) again, but she is rooked too easily here. I also thought that the special effects sequence here (with Jayne and Kaylee standing atop Serenity to reprogram a trash-pod) was particularly uninspiring. Except for the opening sequence with Mal naked in the desert, an episode that should have been campy and funny just wasn’t—at least not to me.

“The Message,” however, plays out its con game with maximum tension, and it’s also one of those episodes that reveals more about Mal and Zoe and their background in the war. It also has Jayne receiving a knit hat in a package¬†from his mother, and, in a series in which Adam Baldwin has had many fine moments, few can compete with the moments when he’s wearing that hat (“Man walks down the street in that hat,” comments Wash, “People know he’s not afraid of anything”).

Zoe and Mal receive a surprise package, a coffin with the body of their old army buddy Tracey in it. Touched by Tracey’s request that they carry his body to his home planet, they bring it aboard Serenity. When Alliance agents (or, at least, men claiming to be so) appear demanding the body, the crew figures something is up—a supposition confirmed when Tracey surprisingly comes back to life. The con is a clever one, with Tracey smuggling human organs, his own body serving as both a carrier and an incubator. As does Saffron, he makes the mistake of believing that Mal and Zoe’s shared code of honor makes them “saps” (“That stupid message. I was trying to play you guys”).

So, “The Message” is an all around good episode as Firefly nears the end of its run, funny, touching, great flying by Wash, lots of action, clever.

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