“Bushwhacked” is my least favorite episode, with my most favorite scene, from the whole series. We learn more about the Reavers, which is important for the development of the story line, but the whole episode is just missing that spark that the others have.
Our intrepid crew comes across a ship drifting in space, and runs over a dead guy on their way to investigate. They decide to board her to investigate the possibility of survivors who need help, or loot that needs a new place to live, depending on who you ask.
They do find some loot, but no people until River wanders over to the new ship looking for ghosts. When she startles Mal, he accidentally looks up and discovers all the people hanging from the ceiling. He gets very serious and tells everyone it’s time to leave – right now. Before Jayne can leave the galley he is attacked by the lone survivor, who has been in hiding. They sedate him (sort of) and take him back to their infirmary for treatment.
Once he’s been looked after, Mal tells the crew that the other ship had been attacked by Reavers. Jayne is all for beating feet, but Shepherd Book and Simon want to lay the dead to rest. Mal surprises everyone by agreeing, and sending Jayne with them to haul some more goods off the wreck. When they are safely occupied, he calls a meeting with Zoe, Wash and Kaylee to talk about the possibility of booby traps.
Their ship has indeed been booby trapped, from the moment they linked up with the other ship. They are safe until they try to disengage, but the ever-resourceful Kaylee declares that she can disable the trap. And if she can’t “…you won’t be around to yell at me :)” But she does, because she’s awesome.
Everyone comes back, and they prepare to leave when they get another proximity alert. Fearing that the Reavers have come back, they run to check but it’s not Reavers, it’s the Alliance. It looks like things won’t be that bad – salvage confiscated, ship searched for fugitives, let go with a stern warning type of thing – till the men searching the ship find the survivor in the infirmary. They come to whisper in Commander Harken’s ear and all of the sudden everyone is being arrested.
Remember how I said this episode has my favorite scene of the series in it? Well this is it. There follows a fantastic montage of interrogation and ship searching. The best bit is when Zoe is being questioned, answering as stoically and unhelpfully as possible, telling Harken (played by Doug Savant who some of you may remember from Melrose Place) that her relationship with her husband is nobody’s business – they are private people. Cut to Wash saying “The legs! Oh yeah. I definitely have to say it was her legs. You can [write] that down. Her legs, and right where her legs meet her back… That whole area… And above it… Have you ever been with a warrior woman?” Alan Tudyk makes my day every time.
While the Alliance soldiers are searching the ship, you start to wonder exactly what Mal did with River and Simon. We know they are hiding, Simon was afraid that Mal would use them as a bargaining chip when the first saw the Alliance ship, but we know that’s silly. Mal would never do something weaselly like that, but it’s hard to imagine where they could be hiding on the ship. The camera pans back, and we see where they are stashed. Not in the ship, on the ship. Dressed in space suits they are clinging to the hull where no one can see them. Simon is trying really really hard not to freak out and/or throw up, but River thinks it’s better than a Ferris Wheel.
We finally find out why everyone is so twitchy when Harken questions Mal. The survivor they left in the infirmary was found horribly mutilated and the Commander has leapt to the conclusion that the crew of Serenity killed everyone on the other ship and tortured this poor guy because they were loyal to the Alliance and Mal is still stuck in the old war. Mal is shocked by the accusation, but explains the survivor’s behavior. He uses some wonderfully haunting language to say that he, the survivor, has suffered from psychological trauma so bad that he feels he has no recourse but to become one of the monsters himself.
Harken, of course, won’t believe him until the survivor (I’m sorry I keep saying survivor, that’s how he is billed in the credits) cuts a swath through the Alliance personnel on his way back to Serenity. At least, that’s what I assume happened. We see one dead body, a nasty blood splatter and some very tense men in uniform. Mal saves Commander Harken from the crazy man, puts the crazy man out of his misery, and we cut to the crew of Serenity, reunited and flying away.
It’s not a bad episode, per se. I’m sure lots of people like it. I just feel that it is missing the quirkiness that makes the show so special. Luckily episode 4, “Shindig,” is chock full of quirk, so next week should be much more fun.