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Date Posted: 12:08:12 10/13/03 Mon
Author: KdS
Subject: Unspoiled Serenit cruise - "The Message" - (UNSEEN EP)

By Whedon and Minear. Synopsis (all spellings are my best guess)

On a fairly built up planet, Simon attempts to have a tender moment with Kaylee but puts his foot in it yet again. Mal is having trouble fencing the gun from Trash due to its rarity and value, but refuses Inarra's offer to help. He says it's because he doesn't want to risk her career, she thinks it's more personal. The crew visit a post office where they've previously arranged to have mail forwarded. Jayne, we discover, is still in touch with his mother, who appears to have a rather sanitised view of his career and has sent him a ridiculous home-made orange wooly hat.

Mal and Zoe receive a coffin containing a preserved corpse, which they recognise as a man named Tracey who was in their unit during the war. A recorded message from Tracey attached to the body tells them that he's made some bad decisions, and that if they're hearing it, it means they need to take his body to family at a colony called St Alban. They leave, but soon afterwards a sinister Alliance officer, Lt. Womack, arrives with two goons looking for the body, and threatens the postmaster into telling him that Mal took it.

On Serenity, Book is holding vigil over the body. River drapes herself over the coffin and tells a shocked Jayne and Book that the dead man is comfortable. Mal and Zoe are telling Wash and Inarra about the dead man's inventive tweaking of authority as a soldier. Womack overtakes them in his own ship firing warning shots and demands the body. While Wash stalls him, Mal and Zoe frantically search the body and coffin for anything Womack might be after. Mal orders Simon to open the corpse up to see if anything is hidden inside, but when he starts an incision the "corpse" wakes up.

It turns out that Tracey had been working as a guinea pig for secret medical research, and had his organs replaced with experimental bionic ones, but when the time for the experiment was up he double-crossed his employers and tried to sell the organs to rivals. Womack agrees to let the Serenity land on St Alban for negotiation, and Wash attempts to evade him in some mountains. Tracey begins to flirt with Kaylee while the two of them are sheltering in her cabin. The Serenity is forced to hide in a large cave, and Womack starts dropping bombs around the area to flush them out.

In the cockpit, Book says that they have to surrender and Jayne backs him up. Mal orders Wash to send a surrender message to Womack, but Tracey has been listening and bursts into the cockpit waving a gun. Mal calmly orders Wash a second time to send the surrender message. Tracey shoots at Wash and Zoe shoots him. Tracey, injured, flees back into the ship and grabs Kaylee as a hostage. Mal, Jayne and Zoe advance on Tracey, and Mal expresses suspicion about Tracey's current and past behaviour. Tracey furiously admits that he always saw Mal and Zoe as naive idiots and picked them to transport him because they were "saps". Jayne loudly cocks his gun and Tracey spins to cover him. Mal shoots Tracey again.

Womack and his goons enter the ship and find themselves staring down the wrong end of several guns. Book addresses Womack, revealing that Womack is out of his jurisdiction and has made no attempt to call for back-up. Womack is working for himself rather than executing his duty, and has to bow to the crews' superior numbers and firepower. He declares that Tracey's injuries make him useless and leaves with ill grace but peacefully.

Tracey apologises to the crew, admits that he has failed in every way since the war, and dies. The crew deliver his body to his family, as in the previous plan, with a sanitised story. As Mal and Zoe formally hand the coffin over, Simon and Kaylee hold hands.

Despite a somewhat over-melodramatic climax, this was another solid episode. There was some interesting further humanisation of Jayne, with the revelation of his continuing relations with his family and admission to Book early in the epsiodes that the presence of corpses makes him feel the need to assert his life in some way. The main plot was another of ME's exposes of the comic rogue as genuine bad guy, and included some interesting further exploration of Mal's loyalty to those who work with him, but refusal to tolerate betrayal. Mal's (or possibly the rebels' in general) motto - when you can't walk crawl, when you can't crawl look for someone to carry you.

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