"Our Mrs. Reynolds"
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall
In which Mal discovers that a wild night on a frontier planet has resulted in his marriage to a young, nubile woman named Saffron, who turns out to be anything but naïve...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
When this episode was aired in first run, it was largely pre-empted by MLB playoffs. As a result, much of the nation missed one of the more memorable episodes of the series. As with many of the first run episodes, it was aired out of order, before it should have been; characters act in ways that don’t mesh without the proper progression of events. But restored to the proper place in the DVD set, the episode continues the strong character development while also fleshing out the “Firefly” universe (no pun intended).
The teaser is unique in that it shows the crew enjoying themselves, something that is truly rare. The scene works well for several reasons: Wash and Zoe together, Mal and Inara bantering with the usual edge of intended insult. It’s easy enough to guess what’s happening with Mal when Saffron makes her move, but it still comes as a shock when she shows up on Serenity.
Christina Hendricks deserves quite a bit of credit for her portrayal of Saffron. For one thing, she’s pretending at the role of naïve and somewhat victimized young girl, ignorant of the universe around her. At the same time, she’s also weaving a seduction, something that cannot be easy while stumbling over that dialogue.
One thing definitely helps: the wardrobe. Now, it’s a typical male response, to be completely honest, but the costuming department did a wonderful job of emphasizing Hendricks’…ample assets. For one thing, they managed to find a smock that Saffron wears like a dress, leaving her bare legs mostly exposed. More importantly (especially for Saffron’s master plan), the material is just sheer enough that in the right light, one can see right through it. How that managed to get past the censors is anyone’s guess!
Mal reacts about as well as one would expect. This is a man, after all, that has made the conscious decision to isolate himself from much of human society and keep flying. Being grounded in any sense of the word is not to his liking, and finding himself suddenly married (even to a nubile, willing redhead) has to be terrifying.
The reactions of the crew, especially those that know Mal well, fit their personalities. Zoe knows damn well that Mal has no room for a “groupie” in his life, and so it definitely tickles her funny bone. Jayne, predictably, is jealous of Mal’s latest toy. Wash tosses out his usual hilarity, though at a guarded distance, and Kaylee instantly turns on the compassion. Book’s studious reaction hides his initial distaste, and Simon wisely keeps his opinion to himself.
Not much is made of it, but it’s perfectly clear that Inara is stunned and crushed by the idea of Mal being married. As is often the case with Joss, the psychology at play is carefully hidden, revealing itself in realistic ways. Inara stands back from the whole confrontation, as if distancing herself from her disappointment. And her condemnation of Mal’s lack of sympathy is overly harsh, suggesting that she’s overcompensating for her own emotional trauma.
Saffron is apparently a quick read, because she instantly begins playing on Mal’s carefully hidden compassion. She doesn’t simply try to win him over with her wiles; she makes the case that in her culture, rejection usually means death. It’s calculated to shock Mal into coming over to her side, which is the first step in making him receptive.
In first run, this episode came after “Bushwhacked”, when the line between crew and passengers was still clear. It’s hard to imagine Book coming to Mal with such an open message of a religious nature before “Safe”. Time had to pass before Mal would be comfortable enough with Book to even listen, and Book had to be within Mal’s circle of trust (which is essentially how he defines “crew”). This is another example of how airing the episodes in proper order is essential.
Having planted the seeds of compassion in Mal’s mind, Saffron goes for the next obvious target. As the saying goes: the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, and Saffron plays that to the hilt. She cooks for Mal only, and makes it very clear that she sees Mal as her personal territory; what she makes and does for him is solely her privilege. It’s hard to imagine how that would help in the short term, but if Saffron were thinking ahead, it would increase her chances of success over the long haul by quickly isolating Mal from the others when she’s around.
The conversation between Mal and Inara is extremely well done. Joss assumes that the audience can tell that Inara and Mal are interested in one another before they even say a word, and that works to the scene’s advantage. The usual banter is only half-hearted, especially once Mal realizes that Inara isn’t playing by the usual rules. She’s truly hurt and disgusted, and he’s not entirely sure why that is.
Part of it is Inara’s unspoken desire to build a relationship with Mal. She believes in Mal, but she needs to believe that he is willing to make the kind of commitment she’s looking for. Indeed, she may be dreaming of a time when she can leave her profession and simply be Mal’s partner. For Mal to be so dismissive of his apparent commitment to Saffron strikes at the heart of her fantasy, and she lashes out in response.
For Mal’s part, it actually seems as though he opens up more with Inara than anyone else. He completely misses the fact that she’s so upset, and so the reasons why never occur to him. But his easy manner when talking about having a bunch of kids, completely spoken without artifice, makes one wonder if he’s seeing Inara in that picture.
Joss makes the perfect switch from a conversation filled with subtext to a confrontation completely devoid of it. Jayne is a complete ass, attempting to barter for Saffron as though she were a prize cow or something equally related to livestock. Mal doesn’t even try to hide his disdain, especially since most of it is over Jayne’s head anyway.
Perhaps because of his confrontation with Inara, Mal opens up to Saffron about his early years. As it turns out, Mal grew up on one of the settler worlds, which goes a long way towards explaining his sympathies for their plight and his anger at the Alliance. It also explains why he would fight so hard to preserve that way of life, and why he would see open space as a refuge. As with so many happier times, such things are usually left well hidden; one gets the feeling that the sense of loss would be too great.
Saffron’s scam is so well executed that it’s easy to overlook her true intentions, even when it’s revealed that someone is planning to steal Serenity. Zoe’s concerns seem analogous to Inara’s, though for very different reasons. Inara feels threatened by Mal’s lack of commitment, believing that it could be applied equally well to her in the future. Zoe, on the other hand, resents the idea that Mal could find someone else to rely on. She’s become so used to the concept of being Mal’s second that someone stepping in the way is instantly a threat.
By the time Mal finds Saffron naked in his quarters, he’s not the only one looking forward to eternity in the special hell. Saffron turns up the heat in exactly the right way, turning on the audience and getting them just as prepared for some fun as Mal must be. Her interpretation of the Bible would pack seats every Sunday, that’s for sure!
The idea, of course, is to slam the audience with the truth as hard as Mal hits the floor. Joss lets the audience get worked up with Mal the first time around, so when Saffron turns her attention to Wash, it’s easier to believe that he would fall for it. Through the test of Saffron’s seduction, Wash demonstrates just how devoted he is to Zoe, regardless of their differences.
Joss further plays with audience expectation by having Inara apparently fall for Saffron’s charms as well, only to reveal that both women know they are being played. Inara runs to help Mal, and of course, all of her pretense is stripped away. Joss doesn’t play around with the question of Inara’s feelings, thankfully. Like many people “secretly” in love, Inara tries very hard, once possibly exposed, to pretend that nothing happened.
Once the extent of Saffron’s damage is revealed, it’s quite clear that Mal didn’t have a chance. Inara gives off enough sensuality as a Companion to make one realize just what Saffron would be like in that profession, and it just about makes one’s head explode (no pun intended). The skills and lack of morality, mixed with her addiction to the game, combine to make Saffron a formidable criminal.
While the episode is remarkably less interesting once Saffron is off the screen, slipping into something of an average plot, character elements continue to shine. Book’s mysterious background continues to be teased, and one has to wonder why Jayne is the only person expressing concern. The idea that Book was some kind of military intelligence operative is more and more likely, especially since it would have placed him in the perfect position to know about criminal activities like the illegal scrap/salvage business.
A few well placed shots by Jayne and Vera and some quick repairs by Kaylee, and Mal gets his chance to pay Saffron back for the trouble. Saffron cleans up extremely well, and there’s not a heterosexual man alive that can’t appreciate the power of the female feline stretch and grind. Mal keeps it together, though, and leaves Saffron to live (and return!) another day.
The final punchline, of course, is that Mal knows Inara didn’t simply fall on her face; he knows it was the same kind of kiss that knocked him silly. And of course, being Mal, he overlooks the obvious and concludes that Saffron must have “played the player”. It never occurs to him that Inara was knocked out by the drug on his own lips! Joss, as usual, loves to torture the audience as much as he tortures the characters.
The basic plot is about as old as storytelling itself, but that doesn’t matter. The available plots for stories and the weaving of tales have all been retread a million times. What makes the story succeed, when such a plot is used, is the manner in which original characters react and interact within the confines of the story. Saffron is a strong character, not because of what she does, but the reactions invoked within the characters as she does it.
What’s fun about this concept is the idea that there’s a woman out there that can get under Mal’s skin. Inara gets into his heart, and that’s another situation entirely. This is someone that Mal sees as an adversary, and yet there is a history between them now that he cannot escape. Sooner or later, it would have been interesting to see if the Alliance ultimately used that relationship to gain advantage.
While not focusing on exclusively on a given character or relationship, this episode manages to expose different aspects of established connections. Mal’s relationship with Inara is addressed in a clever way, exploring Inara’s side of the equation much as “Shindig” explored Mal’s side. Some of the dynamic between Mal, Zoe, and Wash came to light, and Jayne remains Jayne, pure and simple.
One interesting note: River does not appear in this episode. There’s no particular reason why she should have, and perhaps it’s a good thing, since she likely would have exposed Saffron without much difficulty. It would have been nice, however, for Joss to make some mention of River’s whereabouts. One can assume she was recovering from the events of “Safe”, but it’s not at all clear.
MAL: “Now you can luxuriate in a nice jail cell, but if your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.”
MAL: “Like woman, I’m a mystery.”
INARA: “Let’s keep it that way…”
MAL: “Zoe, why do I have a wife?”
JAYNE: “You got a wife? All I got is that damn ass stick sounds like it’s raining…”
MAL: “There’s…there’s no bliss! I don’t know this girl!”
JAYNE: “Then can I know her?”
WASH: “We’d always hoped you two kids would get together! Who is she?”
MAL: “I’m sorry. You have some very nice qualities, but I didn’t ever marry you.”
BOOK: “I believe you did. Last night.”
MAL: (pause) “How drunk was I last night?”
SAFFRON: “Are you gonna kill me?”
MAL: “What? What kind of crappy planet is that?”
MAL: “Look, wife or no, you are no one’s property to be tossed aside. You got the right same as anyone to love and try to kill people. I mean, you know…people that are…that’s a dumb planet!”
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 at the theater.”
BOOK: “The special hell…”
ZOE: “So, are you enjoying your own nubile little slave girl?”
WASH: “I might. Did she really make fresh bao? (looks at Zoe) Quaint!”
ZOE: “Remember that sex we were planning to have, ever again?”
MAL: “Can I come in?”
MAL: “See? That’s why I usually don’t ask…”
MAL: “I wasn’t looking for a fight! Always do seem to find one, though…”
JAYNE: “There’s times I think you don’t take me seriously. I think that ought to change.”
MAL: “Do you think it’s likely to?”
JAYNE: “You got something you don’t deserve.”
MAL: “And it’s brought me a galaxy of fun, I’m here to tell ya…”
MAL: “What I got? She has a name!”
JAYNE: “So does this. I call it Vera.”
MAL: “Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle…”
MAL: “Jayne…go play with your rain stick…”
SAFFRON: “You’re a good man.”
MAL: “You clearly haven’t been talking to anyone else on this boat…”
WASH: “Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand of God…baby geese. Goslings!”
MAL: “Whoa, hey…flesh!”
SAFFRON: “On the night of their betrothal, the wife shall open to the man as the furrow to the plow. He shall work in her again and again, ‘til she bring him to his full. And rest him then upon the sweat of her breast.”
MAL: “Whoa…good bible…”
MAL: “Oh, I’m gonna go to the special hell…”
WASH: “Whoa…good myth…”
WASH: “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!”
MAL: “Is it Christmas?”
ZOE: “So you two were kissing?”
BOOK: “Well, isn’t that…special?”
JAYNE: “That’s why I never kiss ‘em on the mouth.”
MAL: “You woulda kissed her too!”
ZOE: “Wash didn’t.”
MAL: “But she was naked! And…articulate!”
MAL: “How’s about we don’t play. You didn’t just trip, did you?”
MAL: “Isn’t that something. I knew you let her kiss you!”
Overall, this episode built on the established relationships while presenting Mal with a very interesting new adversary. Saffron is a wonderful addition to the series, and her attempts to woo Mal force some intriguing responses out of Inara and Zoe. Filled with Joss’ usual humor, this is an example of taking a well-worn plot and making it work.
Original Rating: N/A
Final DVD Rating: 9/10
Back to Season 1 (DVD)
Back to Serenity