Arriving at a planet with a load of cattle for sale
, Mal tells Simon and River to walk into town during the negotiations because "She makes things not be smooth". Simon becomes temporarily separated from River, but is relieved to find her enjoying herself for once, dancing a reel with the townsfolk. At the end, the two are captured and hauled off by settlers from another town, desiring to shanghai Simon as their doctor.
In the meantime, the negotiations are disturbed by a group of lawmen come to arrest the cattle buyers. A gunfight breaks out in which Book is wounded severely. Unable to find the Tams, Serenity
takes off without them to find help for Book. The only advanced medical facility within days of travel is an Alliance vessel; they are at first refused, but a mysterious blank ID card in Book's pocket suddenly changes the military's mind, and he is rushed into care.
In the meantime, River reveals knowledge about the life of a mute child that she should not have, thus getting her accused of witchcraft and hauled out to be burned at the stake
. She adds to this imprudence when the villagers are gathered by very strongly implying that the headman had murdered the previous headman
. Simon tries to shame
and even fight off the mob, but finally believing there is no hope, he chooses to die with River. Just as he says "light it", Serenity arrives to rescue them
This is an endearing one and shows the close relationship between Simon and River. It's also the first hint dropped about Book's murky past
- Accidental Truth: The headman states that River can read minds, long before the crew of Serenity learn this is true.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Is believing in witches all that more odd than believing in mind-readers?
- Mind-readers don't typically get tied to poles and burnt alive. Simon is biased.
- Armour Piercing Question: "If home isn't here, then where is it?"
- The Bechdel Test: Fails. Zoey taunts Kaylee over her crush on Simon.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Simon sure holds this view. Needless to say, it doesn't go down well with the angry mob.
- Berserk Button: Simon, in a hurricane of angry snark, insults Serenity. In front of Kaylee.
- Big Brother Instinct: Simon sacrificing everything to save River, even if his parents won't bother helping him.
- Big Damn Heroes: Trope Namer. Ain't they just?
- Burn the Witch!: Once the locals become convinced River's a witch.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Simon snarking at his father in a Flashback, for caring more about a dinner party than the fact that his daughter's being tortured.
- The Caretaker: Simon. River tries to return this just a little with the hodgeberries.
- Cattle Drive: A cattle drive in space, no less.
- Cheerful Child: Hints are shown that River had traces of this still left in her, despite her suffering. One can see why someone might be willing to die for her.
- Dances and Balls: The folk dance that River joins.
- Declaration of Protection: Mal, for River. Sure, she might just be a witch, but she's their witch. And she and Simon are on his crew. He even seems confused when Simon asks why he saved them.
- Description Cut: We go from Simon yelling at his kidnappers about his sister, to Mrs. Tam telling Simon his sister's fine.
- Determinator: Simon. Because he is such an awesome Papa Wolf.
- Determined Homesteader: But rather strange ones to be sure.
- Five Second Foreshadowing: Not even that much. River realises that the crew have come to save them. Cue Big Damn Heroes.
- Flashback: Simon has several of these showing the Tams before they set out into the Black, including the time when Simon began to be concerned about River's safety.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: Simon attempts this unsuccessfully but very awesomely.
- Gentleman Snarker: "I would never have tried to save River's life if I had thought there was a DINNER PARTY at risk."
- "Right...I'm very sorry she tipped off anyone about your cunningly concealed herd of cows."
- Heroic Sacrifice: Nearly, but averted by Mal and Zoe's Big Damn Heroes moment. "Light it."
- I Have No Son: Mister "I won't come for you again" Tam.
- I Will Find You: Simon's search for River as glimpsed in the Flashbacks.
- Irony: The schoolmarm tells Simon that the town is "quiet and safe" for him and River. She's the one who gets the townfolk whipped up into an angry mob.
- It Has Been an Honor: "Postholer... digging holes for posts." Also Ironic Echo.
- It's Probably Nothing: The Tams dismiss Simons' worries about River's health as a game.
- Jerkass: The minute Simon and River go missing, Jayne raids Simon's stuff. He hurriedly returns what he took after Simon and River are saved.
- Mysterious Past: Where did Book get that card?
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Alliance captain.
- Oh Crap: When Shepard is shot, we get Mal and River's reaction, followed shortly after by everyone else's.
- Simon, when he sees Serenity taking off without him and River.
- Papa Wolf: Both Simon and Mal. Both subverted and played straight in the Flashback scenes. The actual papa is a Dirty Coward (or worse), so big brother has to be the Papa Wolf without any help.
- Poor Communication Kills: Simon would likely have helped the locals if they'd just asked for help, and does so anyway, making their kidnapping really, really stupid.
- Psychic Powers: Deliberately kept ambiguous, but somehow River knows things only one other person knows...
- Rage Breaking Point: In a sense, Simon's frustration at his and River's situation all gets unleashed on Kaylee in the store.
- Reading The Enemy's Mail: Inverted. River's attempt at getting mail through without the Academy reading it is shown in a Flashback.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The headman is this, trying to calm the situation down... at least until River starts revealing his own dirty secret, at which point he rolls with it.
- Saying Too Much: River can't help but read the mind of the man trying to calm the mob down. And then she can't help but talk out loud about it.
- Schoolmarm: The lady who accuses River of witchcraft is this. Simon is understandably skeptical of her qualifications.
- Shamingthe Mob: Subverted. The mob remains notably unashamed. One villager even says that Simon's anger "isn't going to stop [them]" from burning River.
- Spotting the Thread: Simon already mention spotting messages from River in her mail. Here we see his immediate reaction, trying to warn his parents.
- Take Me Instead: Simon proposes the sacrifice himself to save his sister but the inquisitor refuses.
- The Sheriff: Appears after the gunfight at the beginning. Simon is also shown passing his office nervously.
- Think Nothing of It: "Mei-Mei, all I have is right here."