Who cares if she got it from a store?Serenity
arrives at Persephone. Inara chooses from among a number of offers for her Companion services, eventually settling on repeat customer Atherton Wing, who wants her to escort him to a formal ball. While she prepares, Mal and the others go out shopping, but are accosted by the smuggler Badger (who worked with the crew previously, during the pilot). Badger knows of a client, a rich man named Warrick Harrow, who has cargo that needs to be moved offworld but refuses to associate with Badger. Badger's 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.
- Alpha Bitch: The Rich Bitch who insults Kaylee. Quickly shown up by way of Cool Old Guy.
- Berserk Button: The plot kicks off when Mal punches Atherton over an insult to Inara.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Atherton (albeit male).
- Breaking Lecture: River delivers an unsettling one to Badger.
- Combat Pragmatist: Mal's victory over Atherton involves a thrown sword blade and a punch to the gut; in an honor duel.
- Cool Old Guy: The old man who steps in to help Kaylee with the Alpha Bitch, also Sir Warrick Harrow.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Though it's clean and dignified, Atherton completely crushing Mal's non-existent dueling skill has to count.
- Dances and Balls
- Determinator: Mal. Sword, stomach.
- Fumbling The Gauntlet: Punching someone at a social function in the Core turns out to be a challenge to a duel.
- Geeky Turn-On: Kaylee, at the ball, eventually finds herself discussing spaceship mechanics to an audience of rapt young men.
- Gentleman Snarker:
- There's a distinguished old man at the eponymous shindig who comes to Kaylee's aid when she is being mocked by an Alpha Bitch for the store-bought dress that she wore:
Distinguished Old Man: Why, Banning Miller! What a vision you are in your fine dress. It must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days just to get you into that getup. 'Course, your daddy tells me it takes the space of a schoolboy's wink to get you out of it again.
- Also, Sir Warrick Harrow:
Sir Warrick Harrow: Now, you're going to have to rely on your natural charm to get women. God help you.
- Good Old Fisticuffs
- Honor Before Reason: Although Mal didn't know he was signing up for a swordfight in the process.
- Impossible Mission Collapse: The crew spends hours coming up with a complicated plan to overpower Badger's men and save Mal... only for Mal to return to the ship just before they put the plan into action.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Mal toys with Atherton after he's defeated, prodding him a couple of times for good measure.
- Princess for a Day: Kaylee, complete with big poofy dress.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Although in fairness it actually was a flesh wound, it still had to have hurt.
- Pimped-Out Dress:
- Call Back: Kaylee keeps the poofy dress; it's seen again in "The Message".
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Kaylee.
- Simple Yet Opulent: Kaylee's dress is so frilly, that it stands out next to the relatively restrained dresses of the other ladies attending (or outright restrained with Inara's dress).
- Sword Over Head: Mal is urged to kill Atherton after winning the duel to spare his honour. He decides to let him live but remain humiliated.
- Upper-Class Twit: Atherton.