The Man They Call Jayne

As the crew prepares to land on a moon to pick up the goods for their next smuggling operation, Jayne is seen taping a gun to his body for concealment, mentioning that he made some enemies in Canton the last time he was there years ago. Rather than encountering enemies, Jayne finds widespread adulation among the "mudders" - the underclass that works the stench-filled factories where clay is made.

After a heist gone bad resulted in Jayne being forced to dump money he had stolen from the magistrate off his escape spacecraft into the hands of the townspeople below, he had become a local folk hero. He had a statue erected in his honor and a song written on his behalf: The Ballad of Jayne. Initially reluctant to accept his role as celebrity, he comes to revel in his new found fame. But when the magistrate finds out about Jayne's arrival, he releases from captivity a man named Stitch Hessian who Jayne double-crossed in the process of dumping the money, someone who now seeks his revenge. Stitch reveals to the mudders the lies behind the myth of Jayne's heroism. Cornering Jayne - who Mal had forced to leave his guns on Serenity - Stitch fires a shot in Jayne's direction. One of mudders leaps across and takes the bullet for him while Jayne finishes off Stitch with a knife.

Jayne is visibly shaken by the events as they happen in front of his eyes. Until Jaynestown, he had been merely a funny mercenary waiting for the right moment to double-cross Mal as soon as the money was good enough. For the first time, he shows a depth to his character, that he can be hurt, that he sees others' lives have meaning beyond how they can be used to his own satisfaction. He demonstrates enough dignity to be offended that others see him as dignified. He yells at the dead body of his savior,

Get up you stupid piece... Get up! What'd you do that for? What's wrong with you? Didn't you hear a word he said? I'm a mean, dumb son of a bitch! An' you don't take no bullets for a dumb son of a bitch, you dumb son of a bitch!

and continues addressing the crowd of mudders,

All of you! You think someone's just gonna drop money on ya, money they could use? There ain't people like that! There's just people like me.

before toppling the statue erected in his honor. Back on Serenity, Jayne postulates that the mudders are probably in the process of raising his statue back up.

Jaynestown is about role that myth and fable plays in our lives. Living on a moon run by a slave-owning magistrate, the mudders earn subsistence wages and struggle to get by. Covered with mud and stench during the day, they are drugged by the mudder's milk to keep them sedated enough to rest easy to night. The myth of Jayne as their savior serves to make their daily lives tolerable. It is a deliberate warping of reality intended to obscure the starkness of their misery. It hides the unpleasantness of their backbreaking drudgery, giving them hope for the return of a man from the stars who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Mal concurs with Jayne's conjecture of a re-erected statue, adding,

It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of son of a bitch or another. Ain't about you, Jayne. It's about what they need.

The reluctance of the mudders to accept Jayne as an ordinary person even after his legend is exposed as a fraud reflects the difficulty the human mind has in accepting the world as it is rather than how we might wish it to be. As Shepherd Book explains to River when she tries to integrate the myths in the Bible with evolutionary theory,

It's not about making sense. It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about 'faith'. You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you.

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