The Real World

While checking the mail at the interstellar post office, Mal and Zoe receive a coffin containing the well-preserved dead body of their old war buddy Tracey carrying The Message. It turns out that he's not so dead and Alliance officers want him back for the body parts he's smuggling inside of him. After Wash takes Serenity down into a hidden cave on Tracey's home planet St. Albans, the Alliance ship drops bombs down into the valley to force them to surrender. Misunderstanding Mal's intentions of how to deal with Alliance officers, Tracey turns on Mal and Zoe.

Early in the episode, while looking at a cow fetus in a jar on a space station, Simon expresses his admiration for Kaylee's positive outlook.

KAYLEE: Oh, it's sweet. Poor little thing never even saw the light of day, now it's in show business!

SIMON: You manage to find the bright side to every single thing.

But once again, Simon inserts foot in mouth at exactly the wrong moment. He's absolutely correct that Kaylee finds the silver lining to everything. That's her approach to life - open and warm. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She's not naive, or at least, not overly so. She just has no room for phoniness. Coming from a world of dinner parties and formal social engagements - where image is important - Simon finds this confusing and tries too hard. Kaylee can forgive his lack of eloquence, but not his games. For the second time in the series, Kaylee falls for a man that threatened to kill her.

Once again, the Alliance is portrayed as corrupt and out of control. Womack threatens the postman with crimes he didn't committ and nearly lights him on fire. When it becomes clear they're operating outside Alliance bounds, it's only the threat of oversight that causes them to give up. Yet again, Book reveals intimate knowledge of Alliance procedures while outing the officers as operating outside standard procedure. Not only that, but he appears to take special umbrage at their actions. It might be the case that he was once a part of military intelligence and saw the corruption and taking of liberties as part of the institutional culture. Perhaps that caused him to seek redemption by turning to God.

During an early flashback to the war, Private Tracey expresses his reluctance to hold their position.

TRACEY: I don't want to die here. Forgive me saying, but this rock ain't worth it. Not our lives.

MAL: Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you.

Sure enough, turns out that someone was Mal, seven years later. Like Tracey said in the message, it wasn't war that ended him, but rather the real world. The burial scene that follows showcases some of the best music found in the series, giving it an emotional impact the wholly avoidable events deserved.

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