LadyGhosts of TV Past

LadyGhosts of TV Past: Firefly Episode 12, “The Message”

“What’d y’all order a dead guy for?”

“The Message” has some wonderfully fun bits in it, but overall it’s kind of forgettable to me.  We start with Kaylee and Simon in an old-fashioned carnival sideshow tent, looking at “aliens,” which are really mutated cow fetuses. Simon manages to insult Kaylee again by implying that he’s only interested in her by default, since all the other women he sees are married, “professional” or his sister. I really feel bad for him by now. He obviously likes her, but he can’t manage to say anything without putting his entire foot in his mouth.

Anyway, the crew heads over to the post office for a mail check and there are packages! (I love packages.) Jayne gets his now-infamous hat, “Man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.” Aside from the awesome hat, I love seeing Jayne as a mama’s boy, it’s just so darn cute. Mal and Zoe’s package isn’t nearly as much fun. They got a dead guy.

Flashback to the war: the dead guy is one of their former comrades, Private Tracey. Tracey wasn’t a particularly good private; we get the impression that he only made it through the war because he had Zoe and Mal to look out for him. I love Mal’s battle wisdom: “Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone’s carryin’ a bullet for you right now, doesn’t even know it. The trick is, die of old age before it finds you.”

Since he is a former war buddy, Mal and Zoe take him back to the ship. On further inspection, they find a recording in the coffin.

Uh, okay. Uh, recording. Hi, I guess. This is a message for Zoe and for Malcolm Reynolds. And I really hope you all are the ones listening to it. I’ll spare you the boring details. I’ve fallen in with untrustworthy folk. Makin’ a bunch of bad calls. All that matters is… I expect to be shuffled off. And you two are the only people I trust to get me where I’m going, which is home. I’d like my body to be with my folks on St. Albans. We got the family plot there, and my Mom and Dad, well, they deserve to know I died. You know, it’s funny. We went to the war never lookin’ to come back, but it’s… it’s the real world I couldn’t survive. You two carried me through that war. Now I need you to carry me just a little bit further”¦ if you can. Tell my folks I wanted to do right by them, and that I’m at peace, and all. Uh”¦ When you can’t run anymore, you crawl, and when you can’t do that, well”¦ Yeah, you know the rest. Thanks, b-both of you. Oh, yeah, and, uh… make sure my eyes is closed, will ya?

So it’s off to St. Albans. While they’re on their way, we find out that there are, in fact, nasty men looking for Tracey. Jayne and Book have an interesting little talk about death, and Mal and Zoe tell the others a little about him and his penchant for mustache hijinks. The nasty Lieutenant Womack finds Serenity and demands the return of the body. In an attempt to figure out what all the fuss is about, Simon prepares to do an autopsy. At the first incision, nightmare of coroners’ nightmares, the dead guy wakes up.

Turns out, Tracey isn’t quite as nice as we thought he was. He is smuggling internal organs and trying to double-cross his intended buyer – hence all the nastiness. Kaylee is still smitten with him, he’s young and cute and not dead anymore, and he’s not Simon. Poor Kaylee, her cute non-dead guy ends up taking her hostage when Mal refuses to put his people in danger digging Tracey out of his mess. (I would be looking into self-defense lessons at this point if I were Kaylee. The D.I.D. thing gets old.) Tracey had heard Book recommend that they allow Womack to board the ship, so he flips out, takes Kaylee hostage and calls Mal and Zoe a bunch of saps. When he realizes that Mal has already called Womack, he tries to bluff by saying that Mal just murdered him. So Mal shoots him in the chest and says, “No son. You murdered yourself. I just carried the bullet a while.”

The wounded Tracey watches as Womack comes aboard. The good Shepherd Book faces him down and subtly threatens to expose his illegal organ-dealing and not-so-subtly threatens to kill him if he won’t leave.  Since his “package” is now damaged goods, he leaves without a fight.

Tracey realizes that there was a plan all along, and he went and screwed it all up. As he dies, he apologizes and asks that they take him home to his parents for real this time. We end the show with a touching montage of his homecoming, accompanied by excerpts from his original message, which seems more poignant now. No matter what he may have done, I always cry when he and Zoe go through the whole quote they started earlier. “When you can’t run, you walk. When you can’t walk, you crawl. When you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.”

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.

14 replies on “LadyGhosts of TV Past: Firefly Episode 12, “The Message””

I feel like this might be a slightly inappropriate place for such a generic comment, but I have some questions:

1. I’ve never seen Firefly but I gather it’s connected to Serenity. Which I’ve also never seen. Which do I watch first?

2. What are the most compelling reasons to watch it? Besides that killer hat.

It’s probably best to start with the very first episode (“Serenity”) – it’s two hours long so it’s like the movie only this one came first and the movie came last – like eating a delicious sandwich and then realizing you still have another half to eat!

I really love the characters in the show. They feel very real, very complex. Also, it’s just witty as hell. The show mixes a lot of great stuff together that ultimately makes you think, besides just the fabulous combo of space ships and cowboys. There’s a mix of religion and atheism, US culture and Chinese culture (it’s built on the idea that as the world evolved into the future, China became the powerhouse country). There’s a mix of progress and a return to “old world” methods of living – super advanced cities and their “wild west” counterpart.

This mix is also evident in the characters. Easily seen in Kaylee. She is very much a woman and personifies that well but she also has serious skill in engines, engineering and things usually categorized as “boy stuff.” I just love that. She’s not boxed in as “the girl on the ship.”

Yeah, I could go on. I love this show. But now I think my crazy is starting to show a little too much. Others can tell you more about why it’s so great.

What they said :)

You should watch the shows first, the movie “Serenity” is where Joss Whedon wanted to end up if he had been allowed to run the series longer. In a perfect world it would have been the series finale after years and years of viewing pleasure.

What is most compelling about the show is the awesome balance/juxtaposition found in every aspect. The high-tech space vs. low-tech cowboy elements of the new ‘verse make it seem more like a real place than other space shows. The characters represent classic archetypes, but each has another side that jumps out to surprise you every now and then. Kaylee is my favorite as well because I really identify with her awkward femininity and her natural girliness, but I really love Shepherd Book because he is a religious man of peace, but we get such tantalizing hints about the less peaceful road he took to get to where he is now. The story-lines for each episode are almost always a perfect blend of action/adventure and comedy.

But the most compelling reason for watching is the actors. (And I’m not talking about any crush-factors here.) They are a fantastic, well-meshed ensemble. They obviously love their characters and they have a lot of fun playing them. I am a firm believer in happy actors making for good TV.

My boyfriend has actually started watching Firefly, which amuses me because EVERYONE on Tumblr talks about it and I was thinking about starting to watch it, too. I’m waiting until I graduate (May 13 can’t come soon enough!) to start watching all of these Tumblr favorite shows :P

FYI – I have that hat. Hand knit by a Brown Coat that I won at a fundraiser. I love that damn hat.

Also, Tracey is like seriously hot (and naked!). He also has a really great voice. Not a combo found very often.

(If the scene in the snow seems overly powerful – it did for me – that was the scene the cast filmed shortly after finding out Firefly would not be returning for a second season, or finishing the first in its entirety. It’s like double heart-breaking…)

I like it, it’s just forgettable for some reason.

As much as I hate to admit it, next week’s “Heart of Gold” is one of my least favorites. I feel like I should like it, because it’s all girl-powery and really funny, but I always see it on the queue and skip to a different episode. (It may be that I hate seeing Mal kind of/not really cheat on Inara so much that I hold the whole episode responsible.)

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