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 townswoman.
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 (this is the girl's name) 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 drugged lipstick called the "goodnight kiss". Mal succumbs; Wash refuses but is knocked unconscious; Inara almost succumbs, 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. And plowing.Mal: Whoa. Good Bible.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Saffron.
- Bi the Way: Saffron tries to seduce Inara, and Inara offers a night in her shuttle. They were both playing each other, so it's not clear if there's any real attraction here or not, but there might be.
- Boring, but Practical: Firefly-class ships are discussed as being this by scrappers, looking like complete junk but will fly forever with a mechanic even half-awake.
- Chaste Hero: Not so much chaste as flummoxed, confused, and doing his damnedest to stay honorable. Saffron admits afterward how Mal was the only mark who didn't immediately ravish her.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literally. Jayne's rifle Vera is introduced when Jayne tries to trade it to Mal in exchange for Saffron, and Jayne uses it later to foil Saffron's trap.
- Comically Missing the Point: Mal thinking Inara got tricked into kissing Saffron, instead of figuring out that Inara had kissed him.
- Complexity Addiction: Lampshaded by Mal; played straight by Saffron.
- Culture Clash: Wash compares the role of women in Saffron's "hometown" to a planet he visited where people juggled goslings.
- Curse Cut Short: What happens when Mal realizes Saffron tricked him into kissing her.Mal: Son of— (goes down with a thud)
- And not long after, Inara does the exact same thing after kissing the unconscious Mal.
- 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.Mal: 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.Simon: A narcotic compound, probably spread over a seal on her lips. You get it on yours and pow. We used to get a lotta guys brought in on the night shift at the E.R.—usually robbed, very groggy. They called it the "goodnight kiss".
- 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.
- Facepalm: Mal does a nose bridge version at himself (and/or the inevitable jokes) after his Accidental Marriage.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Apparently, "special Hell" is reserved for men that take advantage of women, child molesters, and people who talk at the theater.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Saffron knocks Mal out by kissing him while wearing poisonous lipstick. Inara, thinking he's merely asleep, kisses him, which gets the poison on her and knocks her out. When they've recovered, Mal assumes Inara got knocked out by kissing Saffron, and his mind naturally goes through the gutter.
- Honey Trap: Saffron's ultimate purpose is to seduce and subdue the people in charge of a ship, sabotage its navigation and control systems, then leave before the ship flies into a scrapper's disassembly net and kills everybody aboard.
- I Call It "Vera": Jayne's very favorite gun. The Trope Namer.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Two examples:
- Zoe manages to shoot a guy escaping on horseback while she is jumping sideways off the back of a wagon.
- Jayne shoots out one of the coils of an electrical trap from Serenity's hangar, from over one hundred meters away, while the ship is moving at high speed, with a gun that is enclosed inside a spacesuit and thus impossible to aim with a scope. He then shoots out the windows of the control room for the trap. It probably helped that the bullets wouldn't be hampered by gravity or air resistance since they were in deep space.
- 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] What?
River: 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] She's really 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?
- In a Deleted Scene, Simon is thrown for a loop by his sister's latest bit of loopiness.
- Innocently Insensitive: Inara is clearly very unhappy about Mal and Saffron's "marriage", dryly wishing them lots of happy, fat children. Mal, of course, misses the contempt and starts musing about having kids, which hurts Inara's feelings enough to kick him out of her shuttle.
- Lysistrata Gambit: Wash is very impressed by Saffron's cooking. Zoe is not.Zoe: Remember that sex we were planning to have, ever again?
- Mood Whiplash:
- The opening scene starts off with seemingly a regular couple about to be robbed and raped by bandits... before it's revealed that the "couple" is a disguised Jayne and Mal, with the latter wearing a dress, killing the mood for a second. The scene promptly goes to being tense when they abruptly break out guns, turning it into a Mexican Standoff.
- Later on, when Mal finds a heavily-armed Jayne standing menanicingly in the hallway, it seems like Jayne's disgruntled and threatening him with the weapon. He then reveals that he's describing the gun's qualities to get Mal to trade Saffron for it, turning the scene comical.
- Noodle Incident: Wash apparently spent 6 weeks on a moon where the principle form of entertainment was juggling geese.Wash: My hand to God. Baby geese. Goslings. They were juggled!
- No-Sell: Saffron's seductress game ultimately fails against Wash, so she has to resort to a Tap on the Head.
- Ominous Crack: A couple of villains get to experience this when Jayne puts a couple of high-caliber rounds into their window. The window between them and hard vacuum, that is.
- Outside-the-Box Tactic: Serenity might not have any weapons, but Jayne manages to kill the scavengers anyway by leaving the ship and putting Vera in its own spacesuit, letting him fire enough shots to break their ship's window and space them.
- Pro Bono Barter: In lieu of money, the crew gets some miscellaneous gifts, ostensibly including a wife.
- Ready for Lovemaking: Mal finds Saffron waiting for him in his bed. She says she's "made herself ready for" him. She has, if you can count knock-out lipstick "being ready". It doesn't end well.Saffron: I've made the bed warm for you.
Mal: It, uh, looks warm.
Saffron: And I've made myself ready for you.
Mal: Let's ride right past the part where you explain exactly what that means.
- Running Gag: The special hell.Book: 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.
- Seduction-Proof Marriage: Wash resists Saffron's advances due to this. Saffron just loses her temper and clocks him on the head. His wife is suitably impressed and pleased.Wash: Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung,trans. do I wish I was somebody else right now. Somebody not... married, not madly in love with a beautiful woman who can kill me with her pinkie!
- Stealth Insult: Jayne starts the I Call It "Vera" exchange by saying "I'm starting to think that you don't take me seriously." After Jayne's ridiculous trade offer and claiming that he named his gun, Mal quips "Well, my days of not takin' you seriously are certainly coming to a middle."
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Inara got knocked out from being so relieved that Mal was alive, she kissed him and also got drugged. When Mal reveals that he knows she's lying about hitting her head... because she must have kissed Saffron, she's forced to go with it, as it's the less embarassing explanation to her.
- The Vamp: Saffron, as it turns out.
- Waking Non Sequitur: Reviving Mal from the effects of the "Good Night Kiss."Mal: [snort] 's it Christmas? ...what happen'd 'bout me?
- 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.Jayne: I dunno—I passed out.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: it's interesting to note that Saffron's first approach is always to play the seductress. We never see her interact with someone on whom it might not have had a chance to work (a population that numbers no greater than Zoe, Kaylee and River), but the question is, would she have tried it anyway?