Big Damn Heroes
Hoping to sell the cattle cargo acquired in Shindig, the crew lands on Jiangyin, and as usual, the exchange doesn't go smooth. In the meantime, River wanders off to a country dance where she quickly picks up the steps and joins in. In a brilliant sequence typical of Safe, the scene alternates back and forth between the hostilities and the River's dancing. Flutes and piccoloes play in the background as shots ring out in the dirt, and the gunfight itself becomes a dance. In the midst of the festivities, Book takes a bullet to the shoulder and Simon is abducted by hillfolk. As River approaches believing they are playing hide-and-seek, she is also kidnapped while Serenity is seen taking off in the distance.
Inara eventually convinces Mal to seek help from the Alliance. After Alliance personnel board Serenity, the officer initially refuses to help until a barely conscious Book offers his Ident card. The Alliance cruiser gladly provides medical care to Book, hinting yet again to Book's mysterious past. When Mal later broaches the subject, Book tactfully dodges the question.
Safe revolves around the sacrifices Simon is willing to make to help his sister. The flashbacks to their childhood demonstrate his parents' unwillingness to take responsibility for River's safety. Simon realizes that a parent isn't just someone of great standing, but rather someone who is available when inconvenient, even when dinner parties mark the social calendar. He has to play the part not only of brother, but also of parent, as he is forced to sacrifice his life's ambitions for the sake of his sister. River, through all her mental haze, realizes this - “You gave up everything you had to find me, and you found me broken." Simon sacrificed his career as a respected surgeon, the wealth of his family, and his standing as a law-abiding citizen in order to find and rescue River. And as he realizes at the end of Serenity, he also gave up romance on board the ship.
In a moment of Stockholm Syndrome, he begins to feel sympathy for his kidnappers, rolling up his sleeves to treat the sick, and beginning to believe that perhaps Jiangyin is as good a place to call "home" as any other. The feeling is shattered when Doralee accuses River of being a witch moments after telling Simon to "judge not". Gone is any semblance of romanticization of the frontier. Superstition rules the benighted hillfolk wanting to murder an innocent girl. In a rare moment of rage, Simon lashes out, "She has done nothing to you! If she dies tonight, it won't be God's will that killed her! It'll be you! Your lunacy, your… ignorance!" Once again, he is willing to play the part of big brother as he takes a place on the pyre beside her, comforting her and holding her tight.
When it's "time to go", our Big Damn Heroes make a grand entrance with shotguns in hand, as Jayne hangs out the spaceship with the really big gun lookin' to kill some folk. Our witch lives to fly another day.
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