'Firefly' Rewind - Episode 11: 'Trash'
Once again, we're spending Tuesdays this summer revisiting Joss Whedon's outer space Western "Firefly." A review of "Trash coming up just as soon as I have another exciting adventure in sitting...
"It ain't a hand of cards. It's called a life." -Mal
I don't remember this episode.
I mean, I remember Mal sitting naked on the rock, and I had some vague recollection that Saffron came back a second time, but the rest of it? Nada.
Now, "Trash" was one of three episodes that didn't air during the original Fox run (which jumped from "War Stories" to "Objects in Space" to the belated airing of the pilot), but I know I watched the other two unaired eps ("The Message" and "Heart of Gold") when I got the DVD set, and I know I've seen the naked rock scene, so... it's a mystery. Even if that scene wound up in a DVD special feature I saw at one point, I have no idea why I would have skipped the episode itself at the time I was marathoning the rest of the series.
But it's also a very pleasant surprise. As happened with the "Undeclared" rewatch Fienberg and I did for the podcast (where I realized I had never seen "God Visits" before), I discovered years after the fact that there was still original content for me to enjoy. And for that reason alone, I'm glad I made this show one of the summer DVD rewinds, because who knows when else I would've had the excuse to dive back into that old boxed set and make this discovery? (Even if I had a few spare hours and the inclination, I likely would have just cherrypicked my favorite episodes like "Out of Gas.")
So where I went into my "Our Mrs. Reynolds" rewatch knowing that Saffron was up to no good, and that the crew would escape her trap with a well-aimed shot by Vera, I honestly had no idea where this one was going - other than the inevitable betrayal by "YoSaffBridge" - and therefore got to enjoy the surprise of Saffron getting played by Mal and Inara, and of the gorram plan actually working out with minimal difficulty for once. Mal loses his clothes, sure, but he doesn't seem to mind being naked around the crew (nor would I if I were built like Nathan Fillion), and they get the loot with far fewer wrinkles than the medicine heist in "Ariel."
"Trash" is more straightforward caper story than comedy - though it does have some very funny moments, like Wash's confusion (which later turns out to have been staged) over why they're talking to Saffron, or the River/Jayne interactions - and probably not as fun an episode overall as "Our Mrs. Reynolds." But Christina Hendricks is still a delight as Saffron, and Mal's flustered response to his naive bombshell of a bride is effectively replaced by the gamesmanship between the two now that Mal knows what she really is. I particularly like that Saffron is able to more than hold her own in a brawl with Mal, showing that she can be just as dangerous fighting as flirting.
And after Simon masterminded the heist in "Ariel" and Book became a key member of the rescue team in "War Stories," it was nice to see Inara play an integral role in this job as the failsafe. And in hindsight, the scene where Saffron breaks away from Mal to eavesdrop on Zoe and Inara turns out to have been part of the sting, on both Saffron and us. We know Inara and Mal have issues - their argument in her shuttle is not staged (since Saffron's still in a crate), and feels reminiscent of past tensions between the two - and we know that as a law-abiding Companion, she's the one who holds the biggest grudge against a rogue Companion like Saffron. So it's completely plausible that she would distance herself as much as possible from the job, and therefore be a complete surprise as the last person standing between Saffron and the priceless pistol.
As I said of Niska last week, one of the many things that's a shame about the series' swift cancellation is that we didn't get many more years of Saffron turning up to cause trouble for Mal and the gang, sometimes winning and sometimes losing - sometimes seeming sincere, and mostly ruthless. Still, things turned out okay for Hendricks in the end, didn't they?
Some other thoughts:
- Because I had never seen (or had forgotten) most of the episode, perhaps the most surprising part was Simon coming to realize, with River's help, what Jayne was really up to during the "Ariel" heist. A nice scene, illustrating the fundamental difference between Mal (who shows Jayne the closed fist of a death threat) and Simon (who tries to win him over with the open hand of a promise to do no harm), and with a good punchline courtesy of River.
- Jayne's ear-flap hat makes another appearance. Always a pleasure to see that ugly thing.
- Because of the floating city, and the maneuver Wash, Kaylee and Jayne have to do to swap the garbage drone's chip, this episode felt more FX-heavy than most of the previous ones. Which makes this as good an episode as any to ask what people think of the show's FX-style, which doesn't look quite like any other spaceship series or movie I can think of.
- One thing I neglected to comment on in the "War Stories" review is that the episode cleverly managed to divest the crew of most of their "Ariel" loot. That way, the status quo of a desperate crew living job-to-job wouldn't change. There's a brief reference in "The Message" to Mal having trouble fencing the Lassiter pistol, but I think that's the only mention of it in the final episodes, meaning the writers didn't have to contrive another reason to keep the crew from being fat and happy for a while. And speaking of "The Message"...
Up next: "The Message," in which Mal and Zoe get a shocking reminder of their time together in the war.
What did everybody else think?