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Heart of Firefly

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It's Called a Life

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First aired: The Signal: Season 6, Episode 8
Credits
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Helen Eaton
Edited by Andy King
MAL
Yeah… That went well.

It’s not hard to love an episode that begins in the way Trash does. After the intriguing shot of Mal naked in the desert, the screen cuts to black and we see a title card proclaiming, “Seventy-two hours earlier...” What follows is – in Joss Whedon’s own words – “another caper show”. And what a caper it is! Saffron’s reappearance is the catalyst for a story that’s full of fun, with many memorable lines and some great moments of humour.

Trash is in many ways a development of the themes explored in Our Mrs Reynolds, which of course is the story of Saffron’s first encounter with Mal and his crew. In Our Mrs Reynolds, several characters were playing parts, most notably Saffron herself, but also Mal and Jayne as a married couple in the teaser and Inara as she hid her true feelings about Mal. In Trash, Saffron continues to play parts, although she does also reveal something of her true self. Other characters though, namely Mal and Inara, and Jayne, Simon and River, are shown trying to get on with their real lives.

SAFFRON
I knew that if I shot you I'd lose Monty anyways. You just had a better hand of cards this time.
MAL
It ain't a hand of cards. It's called a life.

For Saffron, life is a game. She seems able simply to walk away when she loses a hand. In contrast, Mal and some of his crew are not walking away when conflicts emerge, but trying to sort them out. The first characters we see trying to do this are Mal and Inara. Inara believes Mal is trying to prevent her from carrying out her profession by visiting worlds where she is unable to find respectable clients:

INARA
There are plenty of worlds where both of us could work. We used to visit them, remember?
MAL
<Let’s take a deep breath.> Are you saying I'm doing this deliberate on account of you? There's some reason I want you off the job?
INARA
Is there?
MAL
This is one of the crazier things I've heard today and when I tell you about the rest of my day, you'll appreciate just—
INARA
I'm not accusing you of anything, Mal, it's just—
MAL
Hey, no, let’s set a course for the Planet of the Lonely Rich Yet Appropriately Hygienic Man. I'll tell Wash, we can park there for a month.
INARA
Not all of your work is illegal, Mal. And the best—
MAL
You wanna keep me off the job now?
INARA
—the best job you ever pulled was on a central planet!
MAL
How about I stay out of your whoring -
INARA
Well, that didn't take long -
MAL
And you keep out of my thieving. I know my job very well, thank you very much.

Mal and Inara are not hiding their true selves here in the way that Saffron is wont to do, but there are hints that they’re not being entirely transparent either. Inara suggests that Mal may have a reason for wanting to stop her working and Mal counters by wondering whether Inara is trying to stop him from doing illegal work. Neither goes as far as hinting what their reasons for this might be. Saffron doesn’t seem to be the only one playing a game.

And so the caper begins. As usual, it’s not long before things start to go “not smooth”. The mark, Durran Haymer, catches Mal and Saffron in his house. Saffron thinks on her feet and handles the new development in the game with aplomb while Mal looks on in “jaded awe”, as the shooting script tells us. When Haymer leaves to get Mal some money for bringing back his “own sweet Yolanda”, Mal offers a theory on why it has taken Saffron so long to come back and steal from Haymer.

MAL
You don't want him to know the truth. Unlike all the other— I'm gonna go with hundreds— of men you've married, you actually want this one to think well of you when you've gone. My god... Could it be I've actually met your real husband?

Even Saffron, it seems, did once try to treat life as something other than a hand of cards:

SAFFRON
I tried. I actually tried. I thought, “this is a decent man. The genuine article.”
MAL
A working man, struggling to get by with the barest necessities on his private floating island...
SAFFRON
Yeah, he had money. I thought it would help. I thought if I had everything then I wouldn't want...
MAL
Heinrich the Security Programmer?
SAFFRON
You know, I'd forgotten his name.

Clearly having everything wasn’t enough for Saffron. As she talks to Mal, it seems that at last we are seeing some genuine emotion from her:

SAFFRON
You must be loving this.
MAL
Little bit. I seen you without your clothes on before. Never thought I'd see you naked.
SAFFRON
Can people ever change?
MAL
Depends on the person. I'm guessing, the pain of this fades away, you'll just go back to being what you are.

Unfortunately for Mal, the pain fades just a little more quickly than he had anticipated. Saffron recovers her composure and claims that she was playing Mal “from minute one”. But of course we find out that in fact it is Mal and his crew who were playing her:

SAFFRON
What are you doing here?
INARA
Oh. Just my part of the job.
SAFFRON
What part of the job?
INARA
You know, I put on the big act, storm away in a huff, then I fly off, wait for you to doublecross Mal, beat you to the rendezvous spot and grab the loot before you can get to it. What, you didn't see it coming?

Saffron may be a “brilliant, beautiful, evil, double-crossing snake”, but she is no match for Mal and his crew. It seems she didn’t learn her lesson during Our Mrs Reynolds, when Mal explained that he’d bested her because he had people with him, “people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain't always looking for the advantage”.

Meanwhile, back on Serenity, Simon has found his own way to get on with life, even after River reveals to him Jayne’s betrayal back on Ariel.

SIMON
No matter what you do, or say, or plot... no matter how you come down on us, I will never ever harm you. You're on this table you're safe. Because I'm your medic, and however little we may like or trust each other, we're on the same crew. Got the same troubles, same enemies and more than enough of both. Now we could circle each other and growl, both sleep with one eye open but that thought wearies me. I don't care what you've done. I don't know what you're planning on doing, but I'm trusting you. I think you should do the same, cause I don't see this working any other way.

Of course, River also has her own special way to deal with Jayne, which can be expressed a lot more succinctly:

RIVER
Also, I can kill you with my brain.

The Lassiter is stolen from Haymer’s house with the help of a trash chute and it is trash which Saffron finds herself covered with at the end of the episode. But perhaps the episode title also alludes to Saffron’s habit of throwing people away once they are no longer useful to her. In this she is the opposite to Mal and his crew, who, despite their many differences and conflicts, find ways to get on with each other, and get on with life.


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