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Recap / Firefly E09 Ariel"

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Original air date: 11/15/2002

In a desperate attempt to get a brainscan for River so that he can see what was done to her at the Academy, Simon persuades the crew to help smuggle him and River into a highly guarded hospital on the planet of Ariel, promising to make it worth their while by identifying valuable drugs for them to steal. Jayne, who at the start of the episode got his chest slashed by River in a quite infamous Ax-Crazy moment, is assigned to protect Simon and River during their infiltration while Mal and Zoe disguise themselves as EMTs and make off with the goods. The infiltration involves Simon and River having to fake their deaths in order to get in, since they are still very much wanted fugitives.

While Simon and River are unconscious, Jayne, who has had issues with Simon and River pretty much from the moment they first came on board Serenity even before he got slashed up by River, makes contact with the Feds in order to turn them in for the reward money. When Jayne returns, River rises like a zombie and says "Copper for a kiss?" which thoroughly spooks out Jayne. Simon awakens coughing and spluttering thanks to the side-effects of the drugs, while River vomits offscreen in her own reaction.

During the infiltration, Simon has his finest moment when River alerts him to a patient who is being treated incompetently and is about to die, and Simon, who is posing as a doctor that is not on the Most Wanted List, steps in and takes over the operation, saving the man's life and then chewing out the doctor responsible for the incompetent treatment. When the three of them find the room with the holo-imager, both Simon and Jayne learn a bit of what was done to River at the Academy, including having her amygdala stripped bare to remove her ability to block out anything she feels. Simon is horrified at this revelation, and Jayne shows a few signs that maybe turning them in wasn't such a great idea.note  Jayne leads the two away toward a rear entrance, citing a change of plans, and as Jayne and Simon start arguing, River screams and starts babbling. Then the Feds show up.

Along with Simon and River, Agent McGinnis, the Fed in charge of the case, also arrests Jayne for aiding and abetting the two fugitives, intending to keep the reward money for himself instead of giving it to Jayne as he promised. As Jayne learns that McGinnis has betrayed him in turn, he tries to fight his way out but is subdued when the Feds use stun rifles on him. At the holding facility, Simon shows an incredible amount of balls when he demands to know what will happen to him and River, and tells the Feds he is not moving until McGinnis answers his very simple question, or shoots him. McGinnis takes the three of them to a holding cell. Meanwhile, Mal and the others twig to the fact that the Feds have arrived when Kaylee and Wash intercept coded communications, and Mal and Zoe set out to rescue the other three members of the crew.

Jayne, who is mad as hell about McGinnis's betrayal and feeling a bit of remorse for having betrayed Simon and River, decides to get the two out of there, snapping one guard's neck while still handcuffed and giving Simon the opening to take out the second Fed in the room. But things get even worse when the Blue Hands of the Academy come calling for River. The Feds who Simon talked to, including McGinnis, die a horrific death for having come in contact with River at the hands of a device that makes them all bleed from the eyes and other orifices before dying. As River feels the Blue Hands approach, she starts running, and Simon and Jayne follow. The Blue Hands track the three, killing the Fed that Simon choked out with the same eerie device that killed the other Feds. Jayne quickly hustles Simon and River to a back exit, but can't get the door open with the stolen Fed stun rifle. The three are saved from the Blue Hands when Mal blows open the exit door with a shotgun.

The crew make their escape from Ariel, but things are not done, as Mal quickly twigs to the fact that Jayne was the reason the Feds were even at the hospital and knocks Jayne out with a wrench. Jayne wakes up in the cargo bay airlock of Serenity as the ship is taking off, and a confrontation between him and Mal ensues, in which Mal is in full-on Papa Wolf mode and vehemently asserts that "you turn on any of my crew, you turn on me!" The only thing that saves Jayne from being Thrown Out the Airlock is when he urges Mal to "make something up" and not tell the rest of the crew what he did. Mal lets Jayne off with a deadly warning: "The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face."

Tropes in this episode:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Simon is correct that the amygdala is involved in emotional processing, like the fight-or-flight response. However, he describes its role almost entirely backward. Removal of the amygdala is occasionally done in real life, though it's risky not because it causes hypersensitivity, as Simon alleges, but because it can impair a person's ability to feel fear and learn from emotional memories.
  • Badass Bookworm: Simon is very much this here.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: When Simon steps in to save a patient from cardiac arrest. Justified in that Simon does know what he's doing.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Simon takes out an Alliance agent with his knee while handcuffed.
  • Big Brother Worship: River shows this when Simon rescues the patient.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: Provides the page image. The sonic weapon used by the Hands of Blue causes very painful death with bleeding from eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and nails.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Zoe zaps a Doctor and knocks him out, she snarks, "Clear."
  • Brick Joke: The part that Wash picks up and immediately flings away is the same as the part Mal used to fix the engine in "Out of Gas."
  • Brother–Sister Team: Simon and River.
  • The Caper: Smuggle two wanted fugitives into a guarded high-tech hospital! Swipe some valuable drugs from hospital stores while you're at it.
  • Damsel in Distress: River. That is the main point of the mission as far as Simon is concerned.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: In the hospital Simon saves a patient from cardiac arrest, then tears the patient's doctor a new one for causing it. The doctor had made the mistake of giving his patient a painkiller that, when combined with a standard prep drug used for the patient's procedure, reacts to form a vasoconstrictor, which would have killed the patient.
  • Death Glare: Simon gives one to both the young doctor who nearly killed his patient and to McGinnis.
  • Dramatic Irony: Simon commends Jayne for rescuing them from the Feds, going as far as to say "We wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for him." That was ... not the plan Jayne had in mind, suffice to say.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Simon. Yes, Simon, when he is dressing down the incompetent doctor. Of course, he's a more genteel Drill Sergeant Nasty, but no less scary under the circumstances.
  • Dr. Jerk: Mal and Zoe bump into a doctor on their way to the medicine storage. He starts throwing his weight around because he can, until Zoe sneaks up behind him and zaps him with a defibrillator.
    Zoe: Clear.
  • Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Simon, when a patient starts fibrillating while he is wheeling River to the Diagnostic Ward.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Jayne might be a disloyal, opportunistic, and brutal double-crosser, but when he hears from Simon what the Alliance scientists did to River, he has a disturbed and troubled expression on his face. He later seems genuinely remorseful for what he did and asks Mal to not tell the others what he really did.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jayne's betrayal of River and Simon to the Alliance.
  • Facial Dialogue: River gives a sweet grin to Jayne after Simon saves a patient as a by-the-way and then stops to give the young doctor who would have been responsible for getting the patient killed a dressing down. You can just hear her saying "That's my big brother."
  • Faking the Dead: This is how Simon and River are smuggled into the hospital—as corpses, in body cases.
  • Fold-Spindle Mutilation: Mal leaves Jayne in Serenity's cargo airlock with the door slightly ajar as they're taking off, threatening him with death by spacing for blowing the caper to the Feds to get River and Simon arrested.
    Mal: The minute we break atmo, you'll be a lot thinner once you get sucked out that hole.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Jayne is wearing a shirt with the slogan "Blue Sun" on it when River knifes him. This was intended to be foreshadowing of future storylines, with the Blue Sun Mega-Corp being involved in lot of nasty business including the experimentation on River, had the series not been cancelled.
  • He Knows Too Much: Anyone who's even had the slightest contact with the Tams, as far as the Hands of Blue are concerned.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Jayne in the (open) airlock as the ship goes higher and higher to the atmosphere.
  • Hospital Paradiso: St. Lucy's, which provides Mei-Mei the latest medical technology overseen by best medical practitioner on the Most Wanted List. With little paperwork necessary.
  • Impossible Mission Collapse: Features the instant success variety. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne spend a lot of time practicing medical jargon and a story for the hospital authorities. The nurse clears them to go ahead before they even get started. Jayne feels the need to recite the line he practiced so much anyway - but he still screws it up.
  • Invisible Means Undodgeable: The Hands of Blue's sonic device.
  • I Owe You My Life: While River is trying to point out the dying patient, Simon tries to reassure her of the competence of the Hospital Paradiso. River interrupts and says, "Where you should be...".
  • It's Personal: "You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me!"
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Jayne insists that River is dangerously insane, that she might come after anyone on the crew next, and that the most sensible course of action would be to dump her and Simon off on Ariel. This is scarcely nice, but it is also not incorrect; in fact, part of what Simon finds out once they smuggle her into the hospital is just how right Jayne is due to the way that River's brain has been altered.
    • Point of fact, Mal actually agrees with him, as seen by the restrictions he places on River immediately after. Simon is, sadly, forced to agree, which is what spurs the heist in the first place.
  • Jumped at the Call: When River points out that an incompetently treated patient is going to die, Simon rushes over to him, saves his life, chews out the doctor, and then runs back to River to continue the caper.
  • Karmic Death: The Fed would get his own thanks to the Hands of Blue. Shouldn't have backstabbed Jayne...
  • Kick the Dog: The Alliance rather kicks the dog to death, what with brutally killing their own mooks, betraying Jayne's betrayal, and worst of all, the image of how they tore River's amygdala out.
  • Leave No Witnesses: The blue-gloved operatives come to pick up River and Simon from the Alliance police who've arrested them. When the lead policemen mentions that they'd talked to the prisoners, the operatives kill every policeman involved in the arrest in the loudest and most gruesome way possible, which actually helps the prisoners escape.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Simon throttles a guard with his knee while still handcuffed.
  • Licking the Blade: Jayne does this in the beginning of the episode.
  • Live-Action Escort Mission: Escorting River, in and out.
  • Lobotomy: In this episode Simon finds out that people at the Academy cut up River's brain and removed parts, causing her to feel everything all the time.
  • MacGuffin Location: The room with the 3D imager.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Averted. Simon does not use the defibrillator to shock a patient and bring him back from flatlining. Instead, he injects adrenaline into his heart to get an erratic heartbeat, and then he shocks him to restore the proper cardiac rhythm, which is the purpose of a defibrillator.
  • The Men in Black: "The Hands of Blue" act very MIB-like. Here, they deal with those who know too much by making them weep Tears of Blood with a nasty sonic weapon.
  • Mind Rape: Simon and Jayne discover that the Alliance did this to River surgically, in essence guaranteeing that her existence would be little more than a continuous mind rape experience.
  • Mistaken Death Confirmation: Invoked. Simon injects himself and River with drugs to make themselves look dead so that the others can sneak them into a core world hospital where Simon can perform brain scans on River. Then Played for Laughs when despite the preparation, the admitting nurses don't even bother to check: they just beep the body containers in with a hand scanner and wave Mal, Zoe, and Jayne through to the morgue. Jayne then recites his part of the script for the nurses anyway because he'd just gotten it memorized, dang it!
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode opens with everyone chilling, shooting the breeze and cracking jokes...then River grabs a kitchen knife and slashes Jayne across the chest.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jayne has a subtle one as he realizes that River isn't just a kooky girl that tried to stab him and Simon a pretentious know-it-all that is in Mal's good graces; she was tortured into insanity and Simon has been trying to protect/cure her.
  • Neck Snap: When Jayne decides to help get himself and Simon and River out of there, he kills one of the guards this way.
  • Nerves of Steel: Simon, especially while under the eyes and guns of Agent McGinnis and his Feds.
  • Neutral Female: Simon and Jayne attack the guards together, but River just stands by the door sobbing. Justified, since Simon still hasn't found a way of treating her, and so River cannot intervene.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Had Jayne been given his reward, he probably would have been in the main room when the Hands of Blue arrived and thus gotten zapped like everyone else. By double-crossing Jayne, McGinnis unintentionally saved Jayne's life!
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Simon praising Jayne for getting Simon and River away from the Alliance and the Hands of Blue. This is uncomfortable for Jayne, because he's the one who betrayed them and called in the Alliance for reward money in the first place.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Switches to a Medical Drama for a few minutes between Simon stopping to treat a random patient and then trying to discover what was done to River.
  • Plunder: In this case, the valuable medicines stolen from the hospital. Never missed by the Alliance, and vital to the rim worlds.
    Wash: How much did we get?
    Mal: Enough to keep us flying.
  • Repeated Rehearsal Failure: The group slips into a hospital with Mal, Zoe, and Jayne pretending to be paramedics. In order to make sure their cover is perfect, the three are shown practicing all the medical terminology they might be asked about over and over and over, but even after all the practice Mal still seems a little shaky on things and Jayne is... Jayne. Hilariously, during the heist they start to launch into all their lines and bits of terminology, but the nurse they're talking to cuts them off almost immediately and waves them through without a second thought. Jayne, who was practicing right up to the last minute, launches into his prepared lines anyway... and still gets them slightly wrong, earning him a dismissive look from the nurse and a bit of a glare from Mal.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Jayne's reward for betraying the Tams is to get betrayed and arrested in turn because the chief Fed wants to keep the reward money for himself. Later, Mal rewards him by threatening to throw him out the airlock, though he doesn’t actually do it because Jayne regrets his actions.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The two most wanted fugitives in the Alliance going in the front door amid wanted posters for them and the possibility of meeting one of Simon's schoolmates. When he rescues the patient and then does his medical version of a Drill Sergeant Nasty routine he is really pushing up the audacity. It works because no one dreams he would do so unless he belongs there.
  • Sanity Slippage: After River's Ax-Crazy moment, Mal notes that she's getting worse, which Simon quietly and sadly confirms. In fact, the episode's caper is pulled specifically so that Simon can get access to better medical equipment and figure out how to help River start getting better instead of worse.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Failed with Jayne and the "se-niou high-tech Alliance crap" stun rifle he commandeered, succeeded with Mal's shotgun.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Thrown Out the Airlock is described by Mal as being the space equivalent of keelhauling traitors.
    Mal: I don't have a keel to haul you on, so...
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Simon is keeping rather a stiff calm all through the episode, especially considering the unusual stress and danger to River.
  • The Scrounger: Most of the crew does this at the beginning. Notable is Kaylee going through the dump and saying, "Ooh, synchronisers!" She and Wash are so good at it they rebuild a MedEvac ship from a bunch of scraps.
  • The Strategist: Simon plans the whole caper.
  • Tap on the Head: Mal delivers a knockout Wrench Whack to Jayne. He's only out for a couple seconds, though; and "unconscious" wasn't the specific intent, just a bonus.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Jayne is lucky to avoid this fate, as Mal is in full Papa Wolf mode and fully intent on spacing him for what he did on Ariel, though he may be bluffing, or wanting to see Jayne's reaction before he makes his final decision. The very next episode starts with a speech about holding a man over the volcano's edge in order to "truly meet him"...
    I hear tell they used to keelhaul traitors back in the day. I don't have a keel to haul you on, so...
  • Took a Level in Badass: Simon, throughout the episode.
  • Treachery Cover Up: Jayne's plea to Mal to not let anybody know what he did (implying that he has some sense of shame about it) seems to have been what convinced Mal to give him another chance. To be sure, the cover-up isn't entirely effective when there's a mind-reader around....
  • Trojan Ambulance: Simon approaches the crew with a job: he wants to get into the hospital in Ariel's capital city in order to scan River's brain with an advanced piece of medical equipment, and he needs the crew to get him inside. As payment, he will tell the crew how to steal valuable medical supplies undetected. Simon drugs himself and River so they appear dead, allowing the crew to enter Ariel city's hospital using a scrapped medical shuttle they refurbish and fake EMT IDs.
  • Typeset in the Future: The episode uses a very similar font to Eurostile Extended for many of the communications screens and medical controls on the planet Ariel.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: "Federal Marshalls. River and Simon Tam, by the authority of the Union of Allied Planets, you are hereby bound by law."
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Jayne. He does receive a Cool and Unusual Punishment, being nearly Thrown Out the Airlock, but under the circumstances he gets off pretty light. With no law to appeal to, many leaders of a smuggling ship would feel that really throwing Jayne out the airlock is the only alternative.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Jayne, although considering that she has just slashed his chest open with a knife, and his own scary-looking combat knife is right there and he conspicuously doesn't use it, one could argue that he actually shows surprising restraint.
  • Written-In Absence: Shepherd Book is meditating at a monastery for the duration of this episode. Likewise, Inara is undergoing her annual Companion checkup.
  • You Know Too Much: Exaggerated by the Hands of Blue. Just finding out that Agent McGinnis spoke to the prisoners and documented capturing them (not even trying to interrogate them), is enough for them to kill everyone in the building.


Video Example(s):


Simon Saves a Life

"Ariel". Simon, River, and Jayne infiltrate a hospital in the core worlds to do diagnostics on River. River realizes that a patient nearby is about to suffer major complications from his cardiac surgery, and Simon goes to help. After saving the patient with a debrillator, he rips the man's doctor a new asshole for nearly killing his patient by prescribing the wrong drug and causing a reaction with another drug the man was taking.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / InconvenientHippocraticOath

Media sources: