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Late to the Party Recap: Firefly Episode 5 “Safe”

Who exactly is supposed to be "Safe" in this episode? Everyone seems pretty screwed.

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Our weekly series where we make Senior Editor Glen Tickle watch and recap all of Firefly continues with episode five “Safe”. Our intrepid recapper is in completely new territory, having crossed the point where he stopped watching the show originally last week with “Shindig.” It’s a brave new frontier.

Last week I watched “Shindig” which is where Netflix tells me I stopped watching Firefly a few years ago when I tried to watch it the first time. I was hoping for some revelation about why I gave up on the show, but it didn’t come. I don’t know why I stopped watching, since Firefly is perfectly enjoyable. That’s not to say it’s perfect.

It took a few episodes longer than it should have to really set up the world and the dynamic of the show, but things have picked up. As I start “Safe” I have an idea of what to expect, and I’m finally somewhat invested in these characters — except Simon who I still maintain is the worst.

Let’s watch “Safe” and remember, I’m still waiting for that compression coil to blow. It wasn’t mentioned in the last episode, but they were on the planet Persephone for almost the entire episode.

Even as a young boy, Simon had a weird thing for vests.

Even as a young boy, Simon had a weird thing for vests.

“Safe” starts with a flashback to young Simon and River in their home. River points out to Simon that his school book is wrong to remind us all that even though Simon is smart, River is some kind of crazy genius. She seems more interested in playing war and battling rebel dinosaurs than practicing for her dance recital.

Their father comes in, and Simon asks if he got his “wave”. Wait. They use Google Wave in the future?


From the context of their future gibberish, it seems like Simon wants some kind of new computer, but his father is worried about (I’m assuming) porn. He puts his foot down, but then reveals their mother has already ordered whatever computer-thing Simon wants. It’s a touching family scene…

…that gets interrupted by the present River freaking out because Simon wants to run more tests on her to figure out what the Alliance did. Simon tries to give her something from his kit which she throws across the room. Good. Leave her alone for two freaking seconds, Simon.

Mal comes in to tell Simon to shut her up so she doesn’t spook the cattle they picked up at the end of the last episode, saying if they stampede with nowhere to go it’s essentially like a meat grinder and they’ll lose half of them. That’s probably not good for business.

Simon’s tests so far have led him to diagnose River with paranoid schizophrenia. Mal, sensitive as ever, doesn’t care and tells Simon to gag her.

On the surface of the planet there’s some weird looking guys with knives skinning a rabbit. One of them exposits that if Serenity has anything worth stealing, they’re going to steal it before he brutally tears the skin off the animal.

The Serenity crew is unloading the cattle into a corral while they wait for whoever it is they’re waiting for. This also gives River a chance to be weird to some cows, which gets Mal to tell Simon to take her away from the corral for a while so she doesn’t interfere. I’m starting to think the running theme of the episode is going to be “Mal learns a lesson about being mean to Simon” which I’m not thrilled about, because as I’ve stated — Simon is the worst.

Inara and Kaylee are in a shop discussing whether Kaylee should buy a plate as a present for Simon. Kaylee and I seem to disagree on the Simon issue. She wants to “take a bite of him” while I prefer it when Mal punches him in the face. Simon walks in with River and almost hears Kaylee say how dreamy she thinks he is.

Simon, being the worst, complains about everything and insults the plate that Kaylee thought was so nice. He insults the Serenity, which as we’ve seen isn’t really the way to Kaylee’s heart. She seems to suddenly be on my side regarding Simon. River seems to have slipped away during the exchange and Simon tries to look for her.

Don't you be mean to Kaylee.

Don’t you be mean to Kaylee.

Mal and Jayne are back with the cows when the guys who are supposed to buy them show up and try to haggle the price down saying the cows are scrawny and atrophied. Everyone agrees on a price when some lawmen show up to arrest the men there to buy the cows.

Simon tracks River to some kind of outdoor festival where she starts dancing. Girl’s got skills, and she learns the dance just by watching it for a few seconds.

Just a simple cow-selling deal. What could go wrong?

Just a simple cow-selling deal. What could go wrong?

Back at the cow deal, shots are fired and an all out firefight breaks out. Mal and Jayne drop to the ground and grab for the cash. The officers subdue the men they’re after, and Mal sees that Book has been hit in the crossfire. Meanwhile back at the festival, Simon gets a bag thrown over his head and dragged away.

I’m more concerned about Book.

They get Book back to the infirmary on Serenity. Good thing there’s a doctor on board who can patch him up. Oh, right… Simon’s somewhere with a bag on his head.

Mal and Zoe are trying their best to help Book while Wash goes to try to find Simon. He’s been taken by the guys in the cold open who skin rabbits. Things aren’t looking great for Simon, which means they’re not looking great for Book, which means I now have to be worried about what happens to Simon.

There’s another flashback to the Tam house, only this time Simon is an adult. He’s confronting his parents about the letters from River, but they’re not buying his theory about a code.

Back on the planet, Simon is still being dragged around by the kidnappers, but River shows up and cheerfully announces “Found you!” The kidnappers grab her as well. This is apparently the kind of thing that happens on this planet, as Wash explains what he learned at the Sheriff’s office — that hill people kidnap folk on the reg.

Learning this, Mal decides to abandon Simon and River. Wait, what? Really? Mal! Come on!

I know how you feel, Kaylee.

I know how you feel, Kaylee.

Simon and River even see the Serenity take off and leave them. Inara tells Mal he knows where to find a doctor, and he thinks she means to go back for Simon. It’s clear that’s not what she’s talking about, but it’s not clear what she means to anyone but Mal.

The hill people drag Simon and River into their village. Everyone seems pretty glad there’s a doctor, everyone except for Simon of course.

Kaylee goes to be by Book’s side in the infirmary with Zoe. She’s having a hard time accepting that Mal would just leave Simon and River with the hill people, and frankly so am I. I mean, I totally get ditching Simon somewhere because he’s the worst, but even though River’s crazy and weird, ditching her is a surprisingly dick move on Mal’s part.

We finally see what Inara was talking about — she wanted to take Book to an Alliance ship. Obviously, they couldn’t have done this with Simon and River on board, so if this was Mal’s plan all along — to ditch them for a bit, get Book help, then go back and get them — then maybe I’d understand, but since Mal fought Inara on the suggestion, it obviously wasn’t the plan.

The hill people take Simon and River to their makeshift hospital, and it’s not long before Simon rolls up his sleeves and gets to work helping people. Oh no! Maybe the theme of the episode isn’t Mal learning a lesson about being mean to Simon, maybe I’m learning the lesson. But I really like not liking Simon.

Serenity docks with the Alliance ship and they’re boarded. The Alliance doesn’t want to help, but Book manages to mutter something about his ID. The Alliance checks it, and suddenly saving him is a priority. Zoe, Jayne, and Mal try to figure out Book’s past while they watch him in surgery.

Simon loses River again, but they’ve also lost a little mute girl from the hospital. The woman who works in the hospital goes to find the little girl, and Simon finds River who just went to pick some berries. When the woman from the hospital comes back with the little girl, River knows everything about the little girl, so it’s assumed that she got the girl to speak to her, but she admits she hadn’t.

The woman in the hospital makes the obvious conclusion that River is a witch, because she’s a hill person so of course she does.

In another flashback we see Simon and his Father as Simon is getting out of a police station. He was arrested while trying to get information on how to help River. His father bails him out, but tells him that it’s the last time and if he gets in trouble again and doesn’t let this go, he’s not going to do it again.

The woman from the hospital rings the village bell to wake everyone up and alert them to the pressing witch situation. They villagers aren’t convinced, and their leader begins to talking to River. To prove she’s not a witch she begins spouting a bunch of information she has no way of knowing about how he came to be the leader until he slaps her. They decide to “purge the devil from her with fire.”

Book is back in the Serenity’s infirmary. Mal tries to get him to explain what happened, but Book isn’t talking. Zoe tells Mal that Badger wants his cut and where to meet him. Jayne points out how much easier travelling would be without Simon and River.

In the village they’re preparing to burn River when Simon attacks the men trying to light the fire. I guess he’s learned something about punching by being hit in the face so many times, because he manages to put up a good fight, but there’s clearly too many of them.



Simon resigns to their fate and he joins River at the stake, but right before the hill people light the fire Serenity shows up to save them. It would be a lot more heroic if Mal hadn’t ditched them there in the first place.

Back on the ship Simon asks Mal why they came back, and the only answer he gets from Mal is, “You’re on my crew.” The real reason is that Mal learned his lesson about being mean to Simon, and now everyone’s one big happy Serenity family.



(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.