23rd Oct: It's time for the Second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest! Details here
plan is to have Mal drop in on a dance Harrow will be attending - the same one Inara and Atherton are at.Mal, along with Kaylee, arrive at the ball, and Mal is able to reach Sir Warrick Harrow, though he is unable to work out a deal. Inara wanders over and they exchange some small talk, until Atherton comes to pull her away, claiming that since "money changed hands", Inara is his for the night. Mal immediately decks him over the perceived insult; unfortunately for him, under the rules of society on Persephone, this means he must face Atherton, a master duelist, in a sword fight.Mal is put up for the night in a hotel suite, where he familiarizes himself with the sword he will use against Atherton. Inara sneaks in to help him, but the two end up arguing, as usual. Meanwhile, on Serenity, Badger and his thugs arrive to ensure the crew doesn't interfere with the coming fight, figuring that such interference would ruin the deal with Harrow. The crew devises a plan to escape, provided they can distract Badger. River promptly arrives and Breaking Lectures Badger in his own accent (giving a hint of her psychic abilities), but the crew is also distracted and misses the opportunity.In the morning, Mal and Atherton, accompanied by Inara and Harrow, face off at the dueling grounds. They fight, appearing to be evenly matched, until Atherton reveals he is merely toying with Mal, and easily injures and then disarms the captain. Inara pleads with Atherton to spare Mal, saying she will stay with Atherton if he does. Mal uses the distraction to disarm Atherton and punches him, then recovers Atherton's sword. Mal spares Atherton and leaves with Inara and Harrow. Atherton claims he will use his influence to ruin Inara's reputation, but Inara counters by placing a Black Mark on him in the client registry, which has the effect of putting him on the Companion blacklist; meanwhile Harrow, impressed by Mal's commitment, offers him the cargo job. Mal and Inara arrive back at Serenity and Badger promptly leaves, with the crew claiming they were "just about to spring into action".The episode closes with Mal and Inara discussing the day's events in the cargo hold, zooming out to reveal Harrow's cargo of... cattle.Moo.