->''"This must be what going mad feels like."''
--> -- '''Simon'''
The crew arrives in Canton, a moon dedicated to the production of high-strength ceramic mud. An offworld buyer has enlisted Mal to pick up some goods from a local contact, so he assembles a landing party consisting of himself, Jayne, Kaylee, and Wash. Kaylee pressures him into bringing Simon along so that they can spend more time together. While exploring the mud fields, however, the crew encounters a surreal sight: a larger-than-life statue of Jayne.
As it turns out, Jayne did a job in Canton stealing a large sum of money from the magistrate, but was hit by anti-air emplacements and forced to jettison the cash. It landed on the "mudders" (local peasants who harvested the mud and made up most of the population), and since that day he had been a folk legend, "the Hero of Canton".
Inara meets her client, the magistrate's son, who is 26 and still a virgin. He is embarrassed, but Inara puts him at ease, explaining that virginity is merely a state of being; despite what his father says, it is not his sexual experience, but his actions that make him a man. In the meantime, River begins to "edit" Book's Bible, citing its inconsistencies with evolution and cosmology. Book attempts to explain the importance of faith in things that cannot be proven empirically.
Mal returns to ''Serenity'' with Wash, while Kaylee opts to remain in the bar with Simon, as they are drunk and beginning to bond. Mal decides to use an impromptu "Jayne's Day" celebration to distract the local officials so the crew can track down the cargo. That night, the magistrate releases Stitch, Jayne's former partner in crime, and informs him that Jayne is back in town.
The next morning, Mal returns to find Kaylee on top of Simon. Simon hastily denies that anything happened between them, and she leaves, offended. The celebration begins in front of Jayne's statue, and the Hero of Canton gives a brief speech. Stitch takes Simon hostage and indignantly barges in on the festivities. He explains that Jayne only dropped the money because the ship was damaged, and he kicked out Stitch first. He shoots at Jayne, but a mudder leaps in the line of fire and is killed. Jayne kills Stitch, and is overcome with disbelief that anyone would take a bullet for him after learning that he betrayed his partner and only helped them accidentally. He says they shouldn't expect people to simply drop money on them, pushes over the statue and leaves.
Wash finds that ''Serenity'' has been land-locked by the authorities. The magistrate's son, however, lifts the lock as an act of defiance, showing to his father that he is a man now. Kaylee asks Simon why he acts so "proper" when they are far from the polite societies where such things are expected. He says that his manners are all that he has left, and his politeness is how he shows his respect for her. Before letting him off the hook for his earlier behavior, however, she taunts him by implying they slept together the previous night.
''Serenity'' lifts off, and Jayne and Mal share a pensive moment in the cargo hold. Jayne cannot understand the mudders' loyalty to him, whereas Mal doubts that any hero has ever been as pure and selfless as their legend implied.
* ATankardOfMooseUrine: "Mudder's Milk"
-->'''Jayne''': All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your Grandma's best turkey dinner...plus 15% alcohol!
* AccidentalHero: Jayne is mistaken for a hero because he threw money out his ship. He did so because the money was weighing his damaged ship down(He threw his partner out first).
* CompanyTown[=/=]IndenturedServitude: Magistrate Higgins uses both tropes to make his ceramic cheaply so he can get rich. Most of the workers are indentured and all of them are paid "next to nothing" (the overseer's words), and the conditions in the town are abominable.
* HollywoodDateless: The handsome 26-year-old virgin that can't get any women.
** FridgeBrilliance: The only women around are probably mudders under his father's employ. None of them would risk getting involved with the magistrate's son, given that his usual method of dealing with people he doesn't like falls under the category of "hacking their hands and feet off with a machete and rolling them into the bog."
* JustLikeRobinHood: The people of Canton ''think'' Jayne did this for them. See AccidentalHero.
* AManIsNotAVirgin: The Magistrate thinks so but Inara doesn't and makes this clear to the son.
* PetTheDog: At the end, Jayne feels bad for the guy who sacrificed himself for him.
* PleaseWakeUp: Jayne doesn't want to realize that the mudder who took the bullet for him is dead.
* StealthPun: In Twelfth Night, a Canton is another word for a song. Taking this into account, Jayne is the Hero of Canton in two regards: He is the hero of the town, and the hero of the song for the town. Well played Joss.
* SuddenDownerEnding: The tragedy at the end comes out of nowhere. Most of the episode is pure comedy.
* TakingTheBullet: A local man takes a shotgun blast meant for Jayne.