LadyGhosts of TV Past

LadyGhosts of TV Past: Firefly, “Ariel”

“Ariel” is one of my favorite episodes.  You get to see the flip side of the space coin.  Instead of being all western, this episode is high-tech and clean.

We start with the crew preparing to visit Ariel, one of the Alliance core planets.  Inara has to renew her Companion license.  While everyone talks about what they would like to do, and Mal tells them that no one is allowed to leave the ship, River flips out.  She calmly takes a carving knife and slices Jayne across the chest, telling the room that “he looks better in red.”  While Simon stitches him up, Jayne remembers that the Tams are worth a lot of money to the right people.  Mal nixes the idea, but after Jayne leaves, he points out that River’s trouble is starting to outweigh Simon’s usefulness.

Later, while the crew is trying to entertain themselves, Simon announces that he’s found them a job.  Who’s the client?  Simon.  He wants to break into the hospital on Ariel so he can scan River’s brain and get an idea of what the Alliance did to her.  If the crew helps him break in, he will tell them how to raid the medicine vault and give them a list of the most valuable items to steal.  He lays out the plan, and Mal agrees.

Kaylee and Wash get to go shopping at the junkyard, so they can make-over the other shuttle to look like an ambulance.  Kaylee grumbles about spending her first visit to a core planet pawing through the trash, until she finds some synchronizers she can use.  Yay!

Simon is a surprisingly good mastermind.  He takes control, and has an answer for every question.  All of a sudden, we remember that he broke his sister out of a heavily guarded “medical” facility.  Speaking of River, Simon sits with her to explain the plan.  The two of them will be smuggled into the hospital as corpses, so they have to appear to be dead.  Simon prepares to give her the injection, telling her that it’s “time to go to sleep.”

While the crew was prepping for the heist, Simon drilled Mal, Zoe, and Jayne in what they would have to say to get a pass to the morgue.  When they get to the hospital, the first person they see sees two DOAs and sends them downstairs, no questions asked.  Jayne worked so hard on remembering his line that he blurts it out anyway, looking a little like a stunned duck.

Once in the morgue, Mal and Zoe leave with the now-empty coffins to grab their medicine.  Jayne stays behind to help Simon and River get to the digital imaging suite.  As soon as he is alone, he sneaks out and calls the police, reporting that the fugitives are in the building and he’s ready for his reward.

Mal and Zoe pull off their part of the job, and they only need to knock out one jack-ass doctor to do it.  River has a psychic moment in the recovery ward that ends with Simon stepping in to save a patient’s life.  It’s all very Richard Kimball.

Finally, Simon gets to look at River’s brain.  He finds that she has been subjected to repeated brain surgeries.  Among other things, they have stripped her amygdala.  What does that mean?  River has no emotional filters left.  The amygdala is the part of the brain that helps us set our emotions aside so we can get on with life.  River no longer has that option, she feels everything, full-force, all the time.  It’s a pretty scary idea when you think about it.

Anyway, they leave the imaging suite and get arrested.  Big surprise, Jayne is double-crossed by the police officer he’s been dealing with.  The three of them are taken away to await the Alliance bigwigs.

Mal and Zoe figure out that something has gone wrong, so they go in to mount a rescue.  During transport, Simon and Jayne subdue their guards and escape.  River has another psychic moment and starts to run, saying, “Two by two, hands of blue.”

Two men from the Alliance, wearing blue latex gloves, question the policeman who arrested the three.  When they find out that he and his people talked to the Tams, one of them whips out the sonic screwdriver of death and melts their brains.  (At least, that’s what it looks like.)  The bluehands then calmly leave to find the Tams.

River eventually leads Simon and Jayne to a door that won’t open.  Jayne beats on the door from his side, the bluehands get closer and closer, and suddenly the door blows in from the other side.  It’s a very tense moment, but it’s just Mal and Zoe on the other side, waiting to take them home.

When they get back to the ship, Simon is so nice and admiring that Jayne feels horribly guilty.  There is some backslapping about a job well done, and Mal sends everyone off so he and Jayne can unload the cargo.  As soon as they are alone, he smacks Jayne with a big old wrench and locks him in the airlock.

When Jayne wakes up, Mal asks him how the Alliance found Simon and River in the hospital.  Jayne tries to deny it, but when Mal cracks open the outer door, he confesses.  Jayne doesn’t understand why Mal is taking it so personally.  Mal explains that they are part of his crew, and a hurt done to his crew is a hurt done to him, and he won’t stand for it.  Mal is walking off to leave Jayne to his fate, when Jayne asks him what he’s going to tell the others.  Mal admits that he hadn’t thought about it yet.  Jayne asks him to make something up.  “Don’t tell them what I done.”  His moment of genuine, human shame is enough for Mal to close the outer door and give him another chance.

Back inside, Simon brings some medicine to River.  She asks him if it’s time to go to sleep again and we close the show with him saying “No mei-mei, it’s time to wake up.”


By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

2 replies on “LadyGhosts of TV Past: Firefly, “Ariel””

This is one of my favourite episodes too! This episode really demonstrates how awesome Simon really is: not only is he a great doctor who mastermind a scheme at need, he gave up a pretty damn wonderful life for his sister. We’ve been told about it but this shows how much better life is at the core than what he is living now.

I crack up every time at Jayne reciting his painstakingly rehearsed line.

Also, before I read this recap, I thought all the Hands of Blue guys did with the sonic screwdriver of death was make people bleed to death out of every orifice… which is pretty horrifying. But melting their brains as well is somehow even more horrifying.

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