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Late to the Party Recap: Firefly Episode 3 “Bushwhacked”

Three episodes in and it's finally clear what this show is about.

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Last week in “The Train Job” I got a better sense of the world that Firefly is set in, and after watching “Bushwacked” I have a better sense of what the show is at a structural level. More on that later. For now, let’s recap!

After escaping that psycho and his men from “The Train Job” the crew is unwinding by playing whatever this is:

Whatever Ball

Inara and Simon talk about the game, civilization, and how great and selfless Simon is while River watches the game like it’s the greatest thing she’s ever seen.

An alarm sounds, and the game is interrupted. It turns out to be a proximity alarm meaning the ship is getting close to something. No one seems too concerned, but Wash runs off to check the situation and to actually fly the ship he’s the pilot of.

When Wash gets to the cockpit he sees another ship. Oh, and also:

Dead Guy!

Dead Guy!

The ship bumps into a dead man floating in space. There’s no distress signal coming from the ship, so it’s presumed everyone is as dead as the guy they ran into. Let’s call him Floatie. Mal decides to board the ship to check for survivors and things to steal.

While he and Zoe suit up to make the initial search, Simon comes down to offer his services as a doctor to any potential survivors. He stares at the space suits and comments on how strange it is that someone would go into space with only some mylar and glass to protect them from “nothing.” It sets up that Simon is afraid to spacewalk, and now we wait for the inevitable Simon-spacewalk to happen.

Though I’m still waiting for that goram compression coil to blow.

There’s still food out on plates in the dining area of the dead ship, so Mal points out that whatever happened to the people on board it happened quickly. Zoe finds a personal log mid-entry. She goes to read it, which somehow upsets River back on Serenity.

Jayne tells Simon they’re needed on the dead ship and that they have to suit up. It looks like just the act of wearing a spacesuit frightens Simon, but once he gets on board the dead ship and sees everyone else without suits, he realizes Jayne was just screwing with him.

Stupid Simon

Stupid Simon

The crew split up to find valuables, and Mal makes everyone feel better by telling them a lifeboat ejected from the ship and they assume everyone but Floatie was on it. It’s an obvious lie and Zoe calls him on it when the others leave.

Back on Serenity Inara goes to check on River, but she isn’t in her room because she’s sneaking on to the dead ship. In the engine room of the dead ship Kaylee and Simon are pulling parts (take a new compression coil!) and Kaylee tells him that whatever made the passengers abandon ship wasn’t mechanical. The engine is fine– except probably now that they’ve taken a bunch of parts out of it.

Wait, what is that? Is that a compression coil?

Wait, what is that? Is that a compression coil?

There’s a good amount of stuff to steal on board the ship, including all the provisions more than a dozen families had packed to travel to a new planet. They’re kept inside a locked room that Mal blowtorches his way into, but that’s not the only thing. Mal and Zoe also find the bodies of the people on board hanging, which apparently means one thing.


Mal orders Jayne to get everyone back to Serenity right before Jayne gets jumped by a Reaver. Aw man. I was started to like Jayne.

Relax, everyone! Jayne is fine. Mal and crew find Jayne who describes the guy who jumped him, and says he thinks he hit him. They find a blood trail leading to a nearby vent. Mal finds a scrawny little weird guy mumbling about “no mercy” and Mal punches him in the face.

Wait. Is that a Reaver?

Maybe they have like... Junior Reavers?

Maybe they have like… Junior Reavers?

Aren’t they supposed to be… scary?

No one seems too sure whether this guy is reaver or just a survivor, but Mal looks suspicious and locks him in the medical area and tells everyone the dead ship was hit by reavers. Jayne wants to leave because he’s really afraid of reavers, but Mal wants to steal the rest of the stuff on board first.

There’s a boobie trap left by the reavers that will blow if Serenity tries to detach, so while Simon and Book head to the dead ship to have a funeral for the bodies, Kaylee gets to work at making sure they don’t explode.

In the medical bay the guy who survived the reaver attack wakes up, which manages to scare River back in Inara’s room.

Kaylee disables the boobie trap, and all the stuff Mal wants to steal is brought on board. Great! Everything worked out and they can go back playing that weird game. Finally, a happy ending.


Another proximity alarm. Reavers!

No, it’s just the Alliance, but that’s not much better for Mal and his crew. They’re ordered to dock and allow the Alliance ship to board them. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t go over well with Simon who is still trying to keep River out of Alliance hands. He panics and whines when Mal tells him to get River.

The Alliance boards and pulls everyone onto their ship for interrogation. Simon and River are notably absent. Where could they be hiding? Simon hates spacesuits, so I sure hope for his sake they’re not clinging to the outside of the ship with nothing but some mylar and glass to separate them from nothing.

Ha ha Simon

Simon hates this so much. River however, thinks it’s the best.

The reaver survivor begins attacking the Alliance, and Mal explains to his interrogator that the man has basically caught reaver-fever and is becoming one of them after being driven insane by the attack on his ship. Mal helps the Alliance commander find the reaver on Serenity while Simon and River get back inside and try to hide out in Inara’s shuttle.

The Alliance nearly finds Simon and River, but they’re saved when the reaver attacks the Alliance members with Mal. Mal kills the reaver, saving the Alliance captain who in turn lets the Serenity and crew go, but he does take the stuff they stole from the ship. That’s the episode.

When I said at the top of this post about understanding the structure of Firefly I mean that television shows tend to have an episodic structure that defines what an episode of that show is. More recently, they also have an overarching storyline that can carry over a season. Whatever River’s deal is falls in the latter category, and that’s established early on in the first episode.

As for the episodic structure, I’m now three episodes in, and the first one was double-length, and it’s just now becoming clear that an episode of Firefly follows this crew as they complete a job. That happens to be a structure I love, but it could have been established much sooner.

According to my Netflix account I watched the first three episodes and part of the fourth a few years ago. I kind of remembered things about the first two, but this one wasn’t familiar, and I stopped watching halfway through episode four, maybe because the structure was unclear?

I’m interested to watch the next episode to see if I remember why I stopped watching. Maybe there was no reason. I could have just paused it because I had to go somewhere and forgot about it, or maybe something happens in the episode that completely turned me off the show. Again, I don’t remember.

We’ll find out next time in “Shindig.”

(Images via Firefly)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.