If anyone tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back.
After a job in which the crew of Serenity kill a group of outlaws that were causing trouble for a town, the crew is given a party, at which they all get drunk. During this party Mal, without realizing it, agrees to marry a young woman in the town.
After the crew return to Serenity
and take off (just ahead of Feds), they discover the girl has stowed away, and she explains to Mal that she is his payment for saving the town. Mal rebuffs his new bride, then explains that she is not a piece of property, and she should be free to do what she wants with her life.
Saffron eagerly attempts to ingratiate herself to her husband by cooking for him and catering to his needs, offering to wash his feet. Zoe is increasingly uncomfortable with Saffron's views on the roles of women, whereas Wash defends them as quaint and harmless; the two fight over whether Wash is jealous of Mal and his submissive wife. Jayne is actually jealous, and offers to trade her for his favorite gun, Vera. Mal is warned by Book that if he takes sexual advantage of Saffron, he will go to a special level of hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theaters.
As it turns out, however, "Saffron" is a career criminal, who boarded Serenity
in order to disable its navigational systems and send it through an electromagnetic net designed to clear ships of their crew so they may be scavenged. She attempts to seduce Mal, and Wash and disable them with a layer of toxic lipstick called the "goodnight kiss"; Mal is tricked, and Wash refuses but is knocked unconscious. Inara is almost seduced by Saffron, but due to her training and a timely interruption she realizes what's going on. Saffron claims to have killed Mal, and escapes on the extra shuttle. Inara runs to Mal's side, and in an emotional moment, kisses him. She has just enough time to roll her eyes at his stupidity before being knocked out by the residual drug on his lips.
The crew recovers with Simon's help, and Wash and Kaylee set about repairing the damage. Zoe is proud of Wash for his loyalty to her, and Inara claims that she lost consciousness because she tripped and fell. Jayne heads to the airlock with Mal and Zoe, wraps Vera in an extra suit to provide "her" with air for combustion, and starts firing, sending the scavengers into space and disabling the net.
Mal tracks down Saffron, and recovers the shuttle. He questions her on the surprising complexity of her plot, and she indicates that for her, the goal is less important than having fun. Inara, after some prodding, admits to Mal that she did not trip. Mal says he already knows she kissed Saffron, and leaves her dumbfounded.
- Accidental Marriage: The setup for the episode.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Book warns Mal that if he takes sexual advantage of Saffron, he will go to a "special" level of hell reserved for "child molesters and people who talk in theaters."
- As the Good Book Says: Saffron seduces Mal with a quotation meant to sound biblical. There is swelling and entering involved.
- Chaste Hero: Not so much chaste as flummoxed, confused, and doing his damnedest to stay honorable.
- Comically Missing the Point: Mal thinking Inara got tricked into kissing Saffron, instead of figuring out that Inara had kissed him.
- Culture Clash: Wash compares the role of women in Saffron's "hometown" to a planet he visited where people juggled goslings.
- Disguised in Drag: Captain Reynolds dresses as Jayne's wife to catch some crooks. Inara asks why they didn't just put Zoe in the dress.
: Tactics, woman. Needed her in the back
. 'Sides, those soft cotton dresses feel kinda nice. It's the whole... air-flow.
- Drugged Lipstick: Saffron's weapon of choice. Apparently a fairly common tactic, as Simon knows it by its street name.
- Evil Counterpart: Saffron, to Inara. Inara guesses toward the end that Saffron had some Companion training, giving her the skill needed to "play" whatever role she needed in order to hijack the ship.
- I Call It Vera: The Trope Namer.
- Idiot Plot: It never occurs to anyone to ask Saffron why, if she thought she was married to Mal and she thought he thought the same, it was necessary for her to sneak onto the ship without even a single crewmember noticing her.
- Incest Subtext: In a Deleted Scene, Simon is thrown for a loop by his sister's latest bit of loopiness.
River: (to Shepherd Book)
We want you to marry us. Simon:
What? We... no! (pause)
Two by two... Everyone has a match, a mate, a dopple. I love you. Simon:
No, River... mei-mei... of course, I love you too, but we can't be married. (to Book)
crazy! (River kicks Simon in the shin)
Ow! Ah, no, I — I don't mean crazy... that's just — you know that's not something brothers and sisters do
. I mean, on some planets but only pretty bad ones.
- For added squickiness, River then takes a pillow and puts in under her dress and claims "Now we have to be married. I'm in the family way" Puts a whole new spin on that term, doesn't it?
- Lysistrata Gambit: Wash is very impressed by Saffron's cooking. Zoe is not.
Zoe: Remember that sex we were planning to have, ever again?
- Pro Bono Barter: In lieu of money, the crew gets some miscellaneous gifts, ostensibly including a wife.
- Running Gag: The special hell.
If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of Hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk in the theater. (walks behind a wall, then pops back into frame)
...the special hell
(later, when Mal is confronted by a very nude Saffron)
Mal: Oh, I'm gonna go to the special hell.
Zoe: So you two were kissin'?
Book: Well, isn't that...special.
- The Vamp: Saffron, as it turns out.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: Mal's first instinct when he finds out he's married is to ask Jayne how drunk he was the previous night.