Recap / Firefly E08 "Out of Gas"

In this rather Anachronically Ordered episode, Mal attempts to repair the ship after a catastrophic engine failure. While this is happening, dueling Flashbacks explain How We Got Here as well as some Everyone Meets Everyone backstory.

When Mal bought Serenity, it was a wreck. Nonetheless it was love at first sight, despite Zoe's wariness. To get her in working order, Mal hires Wash (whom Zoe hates on sight) and a mechanic named Bester, who turns out to be incompetent. After Bester claims the ship is irreparable, Kaylee (with whom he had just been having sex next to the engine) fixes it in under a minute. She's offered his job on the spot.

Some unspecified amount of time later, Mal and Zoe are doing some crime when a gang tracks them down and demands their loot at gunpoint. Mal is suitably impressed that they were found at all, and Jayne, one of the gang members, takes credit. Instead of revealing where the loot is hidden, Mal bribes Jayne into defecting with a job offer. Mal rents out the shuttle to Inara, who accepts on the condition that he never to walk into her shuttle without permission, or call her a whore. This completes the crew as of the pilot episode, where Book, River, and Simon arrive.

In the present day, a fault in the compression coil (hinted at in the pilot) causes a huge explosion in the middle of Simon's birthday party. The blast injures Zoe and knocks out many of Serenity's functions, including life support and, fairly obviously, the ship's ability to move. Wash tries to stay by Zoe's side while Simon treats her, but Mal demands his help on the bridge, causing two shouting matches. Wash explains that they can't get any help because their course was designed deliberately to avoid contact with anyone, and Mal comes up with a kludge that would extend the signal while also forcing anyone who received it to pay attention.

Kaylee explains that the ship can't be fixed without a new catalyzer, meaning they are dead in the proverbial water. Crew morale dips as the ship gets colder and the oxygen supply deteriorates. Finally, Mal comes up with a last-ditch plan. Four people are sent on each shuttle in opposite directions with orders not to return unless told, leaving Mal on Serenity to wait for help. No one wants to leave him behind, but they eventually acquiesce.

Finally, another ship arrives. The captain is a Jerkass who brings a replacement catalyzer but decides to steal Serenity. Mal takes a bullet defending his ship, but manages to force the thieves off at gunpoint. [The episode actually starts here.] Wounded, he injects himself with adrenaline in the medical bay, trudges to the engine room with the new part, plugs it in, and limps up to the bridge to call back the shuttles. He doesn't make it, but he wakes up on Simon's table anyway. As it turns out, the crew decided to come back for him, in spite of their orders.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Bait and Switch: Chock full of it. Because of the anachronistic ordering, several transitions end up finishing at another point in time. The biggest one is the salesman's claim that "Take good care of her and she'll last you the rest of your life," heard as Mal is dying. The end of the episode reveals he was actually talking about another (fancier) ship, but Mal turns around and happens upon a certain dilapidated Firefly-class ship...
  • Call Back: Mal really should've listened to Kaylee back during the pilot about that coil...
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mal gives himself a Shot to the Heart of adrenaline to keep him going since he helped Simon give Zoe one right after the accident.
  • Determinator: Mal is going to get that catalyzer into the engine then reach the cockpit to call his crew back, Gorramit, even with a bullet in him.
  • Dying Alone: Invoked by Inara as a Fate Worse Than Death... except for, you know, already dying and all.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: We learn how Mal and Zoe met Wash, Inara, Kaylee, and Jayne.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: When the engine isn't spinning, things are bad...
  • Failsafe Failure: The explosion disables both the primary and backup life support systems.
  • Going Down with the Ship: Defied in a way only Mal could. He's not staying on the ship as the shuttles leave because of this, he's staying because help will come and someone has to be on board for it. He turns out to be right.
  • Good News, Bad News: Happy birthday Simon! We knew because an Alliance warrant had your birthday on it. Oh and cake! It's... dinner with some chocolate-ish frosting on it. Then the explosion.
  • How We Got Here: 3 interweaving timelines—the very beginning of Serenity, the beginning of the current predicament, and the present predicament.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: The injured Zoe goes into cardiac arrest and Simon has to deliver a Shot to the Heart. Inara flinches away as he slams the needle into Zoe's chest.
  • Irony: Zoe didn't like Wash at first. Must have been the 'stache.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Subverted for laughs. Jayne looks like he's going to do this to Mal before he promptly leaves.
  • Porn Stache: Wash, at first. This was what Zoe found so off about him.
  • Shot to the Heart: Simon, to restart Zoe's heart in the absence of a defibrillator, and Mal, to keep himself going with a bullet in his gut.
  • Worst Aid: Injecting anything into the heart. Do Not Try This at Home.
  • Written-In Absence: Gina Torres was on her honeymoon with Laurence Fishburne at the start of shooting, so Zoe is injured to provide enough scenes without her to fill up four days of work.
  • You Are Not Alone: At the end, when Mal is about to fall asleep, he sits up with a start and asks if they'll be there when he wakes up. Book assures him they will be.