What struck me most of all in this episode was the loneliness. Of pretty much everybody there. They stood together and fought together and were a crew that manages to nearly read the minds of each other, knowing their way of work and what they need, and still, nearly each and every one of them was alone. At least in some way. Even when they were in the same room together. Sometimes, mostly then. And it broke my sappy little heart. Oh, and, um, there was a plot there, too.
I liked the first shot of the "Heart of Gold" - all alone in the middle of the desert from all the way from above, from space, and then all covered in the solar receptors, and still the boy and the girl outside had to hang their laundry on ropes in the sun. A sense of future (what's better to express that than space?) and past (pr present, which is past to them) all in one. An "everything is different, yet everything is just the same" kind of feel.
It returned with the combination of the hovercraft and the horses. Again, advanced technology completely interwoven with animals that are used to transport for centuries upon centuries. And then the weapons - both usual guns, and lasers (oh, and that DNA device - no need to say things like "the baby has his father's peculiar eyes color" or something like that). And all the different communication devices they have - Burgess' thin sort-of-cell-phone, Mal's ear-piece, Wash and Jayne's old-fashioned instruments (like the ones Mal and Jayne used in "Ariel"). It was like that cool shot at the end of the opening credits, with the ship moving on top of a group of horses and they're running away from it. I like that aspect, that combination. I mean, not that people use horses today too often, so I have no idea how likely their use will be 500 years in the future, but I like the feeling of it, of a combination between things we already know to things that are invented and imaginary.
Now, I no next to nothing about Westerns. I mean, some of the cliches, maybe, because they are already familiar enough to be referred to in other places, but pretty much that's all. And this episode gave a sense of a "in the wild west" story, even to me, who doesn't know a lot about them. Maybe because most of it took place with as minimum space connections as possible, with as minimum connections to the future in which the story is set. I mean, they could just as well arrive there from simply "out of town", not just "out of the atmosphere", without practically no change at all. And there was a minimal use of any sort of technology.
Now that I type it out loud, similar things happened in "Shindig", as well - most of the story being on the planet, the mix of old and new, the small significance of space travel - but, and I'm not sure why, that episode didn't make me feel this way. Maybe it translated easier into Jane Austen sort of story, that I know a little about, than to a western, that i know even less about. I don't know. It's just the way I felt when I watched.
So, where there any westerns cliches that they deliberately used? Where there any cliches that they made stand on their heads and twist in the particular way they like to use? I wish it weren't all so wasted on me.
I didn't like the villain (um, I mean, as a villain. The way I liked, say, Badger or Saffron). He was just plain evil, and there was nothing I could like about him. I couldn't sympathize with him in any way, couldn't see things from his point of view, not at any point. He treated people like objects - he automatically assumed Mal wasn't complimenting his wife, but an object. He treated his men like nothing - he couldn't care less about their deaths, when he thought he would be able to get the baby. And he wasn't deliciously evil, fully and completely, like Niska, or having so much fun with it like Saffron. Oh, well. He's dead anyway.
And the thing that his wife said, about how he separates legality and morality? That can be said about Mal, too. I mean, he lives out of stealing and lying and tricking people, most of the time, and he really does live only by his own moral code, not by any other rules and laws written by anybody else, human or not. And still, this sentence made me jump immediately in regards to the villain, and I think I babbled at length as to why it's such a good thing about Mal. Strange, how liking a character so much can make me respond so differently, so completely the opposite, to something.
And, as usual, I can't stop enjoying the way they weave the continuity in the story. When Nandi kissed Mal, and he stopped to check for any Saffron-related results? I loved that. And, again, his shrugging and remarking that it's a long story could have probably been enough for anybody who wasn't familiar with former episodes, but were an extra layer for the, um, more obsessive among us (meaning, of course, me). Also, does it mean that Mal didn't kiss anybody since Saffron drugged him out? That's not a lot for a lead character in a TV show, right?
I'm not sure I fully understand the whole concept of Companions, and how exactly they are different than "regular" prostitutes. When I describe the show to people, I describe them as Geishas, because they pretty much fit the very very little I know about those. But I'm far from knowing enough to have any idea how well the comparison is. I mean, Companions are respected, educated, protected by laws and the power of the guild. And prostitutes don't have any of these things. Still, it seems like both are mainly providing sexual services.
[Edit: yeah, the usual]
So a Companion will be like a prize-winning famous actress, whom everybody looks up to, getting respect and admiration everywhere she goes to (I mean, the way people treated Inara in "The Train Job" is embarrassingly similar to the way famous American actors are welcome here. For example, some of them get to meet the prime minister and some of his ministers, and tell them about their ideas and what not, even when they have no idea as to what they're talking about and what is the actual situation here, and it's not like the government here doesn't have slightly more important things to do).
They can make or break huge projects, can even affect politics (by supporting their candidates publicly, by taking part in demonstrations and the like). They can raise huge noise against anybody they don't like, even if it's a newspaper that published a bad story on them, and even sue (and win lots of money, as if they lack in that). And everybody wants to be seen with them, next to them, at their parties, in their circle.
And still, at the same time, I can't help but feel that they're not admired for what they are, but more for the glamour and glory and beauty and riches that they represent. That nobody really cares about them as people, but as their title, as their place in, say, the society hierarchy - like, say, Atherton treated Inara in "shindig", and all the guests, too - they were dazzled by her, happy to get a compliment from her, but at the bottom line, the only one who treated her as her, the person, was Mal (who, apparently, doesn't like going to the movies).
And at the other end of the scale are all those struggling actors and actresses, or more to the point, their image in the eyes of people who don't really know anything about that world (like, say, me), who can't get an agent, who have to fight for each line they get to say anywhere, who are willing to stoop to whatever exploitive people demand from them in order to get a chance to climb up. And mostly, everybody seem to be looking down on these people, mocking them for their low position, for their lack of status and the impossibility of their dreams.
And if I want to try and make my not-so-exact comparison a little better, maybe I can talk specifically about nude scenes. When the actor or actress is famous enough, plays in films with a large enough budget, and wins enough prizes and recognition, there's no problem in them, and in fact, there are very few movies who try to go without at least one. However, when an actor is still struggling and unfamiliar and in need to scrape whatever they can for a living, taking a part for taking a shirt off is considered a low point, a degrading experience (again, I'm speaking of the image I get, and in huge generalizations. I have zero idea as to how these things actually work! Please correct me if I'm off my mark, OK?). In fact, famous actors, who sometimes have no problem with such scenes in those "respected" movies, try to hide their past pictures/scenes in less respected movies/shows/magazines. Just recently there was discussion regarding the actress who portrays Cordelia to have her pictures published in less-than-fully-dressed positions, whether she needs that in this position of her career and so forth.
Of course, I'm not saying that it's a one-to-one (Hebrew expression) comparison. It's just a way to looking at things that makes it a bit easier for me to grasp the position of Companions, and the differences between them and women who "just" sell their bodies. For one thing, there's the deep difference in that mostly people who are in the movie business want to become movie stars, and not just stay in their position (though I can't imagine one of Nandi's girls actually becoming a Companion, lacking what seems to be a life-long training from childhood). Also, please notice that even though I'm using the word "actor", I usually mean "movie star" and "movie star wannabe". It has absolutely nothing to do with the person's talent and acting abilities! It's all about position and the way society looks at these things. I think. It's a bit confusing.
Also, Kaylee seemed to be surprised that the "Heart of Gold" had boys, and wondered if they are only for other men, or if they also serve women. Surprised for the better, of course, her being the sweet girl she is. I don't know enough about Companions to tell whether that means that there aren't any male Companions, that there are but it's more rare to find that kind of service without the "Companion" guild, and who are their clients. My guess would be that there are, and that they serve men and women alike, just like the female Companions, but nothing specific is said anywhere, so I guess they could have it any way they want, when it will serve their story. Oh, and I just talked like there isn't just the one more episode left, didn't I? Silly me.
I missed "Serenity". I think this is the episode in which we saw the least of her, so far, and I really missed her. It tied to the whole loneliness that hung all over the episode - it was like one member of the crew was completely missing. And even when Kaylee and Wash were inside her, all they could do was hide and try to trick the men with the guns.
I loved the open, not-stopping-at-anything way of Jayne to have fun. He throws himself at it completely, not caring about anything else, not apologizing for what he's taking. "Love it" in the sense that it fits the character perfectly. He took every single advantage that he could from the situation, but somehow seemed to want to help, at least as "big protector man", to the girls. And still, a gun was there in bed between him and his girl, and when it counted, he was alert and watched out and shot and fought.
Simon, of course, responded completely the opposite of Jayne. He only seemed comfortable when being in full doctor mode, and even at that, he had to do something that he had never done before, so even there he was out of his element. I loved the way he jumped to the call of duty when River announced that Petaline was giving birth, pretty much taking charge of his own part where Mal - who commanded everything so swiftly before that - was completely lost as to what to do. And he never hesitated, not for a second, to actually tackle the task of taking care of Petaline and her baby. He was scared and unsure and inexperienced, but only admitted it after Inara asked him that.
Book leaped straight from Mal's decision to hold fort, to offering his services in a very specific way. He concluded what Mal intended to do (knowing both him and, seemingly, what seems to be best to do in situations like these), what everybody else will be doing, and simply suggested what he thought would be his best place to help. I loved that - that he was able to nearly read Mal's mind (it took me a minute to realize why they may need a carpenter, but then again, I may just have been a bit dense), and continue the conversation as if they exchanged these sentences between them out loud. And he was so kind and warm to those poor lonely girls, once he realized that this is what they mostly were, comforting them in their hour of fright.
In fact, that was how all the planning went - each and every member of the crew knew exactly what Mal wanted from them, sometimes when he just hinted it, sometimes even before that. They worked together seamlessly, each finding their place, each doing their part. And, still, oh, so alone.
River was wonderful. She was hardly there, I know, but still. Of course, as is her way, she was the one who noticed that the birth is starting before everybody else (before Petaline even managed to shout for Simon), and with such happiness on her face and so many expectations. Like a happy child. And of course she knew it was a boy before Simon could say that. Her facial expressions as she was watching Petaline giving birth were so rich and fascinating. She was in awe, full of joy and worry and questions and completely entranced by what was going on in front of her. So much in the moment, in what she's seeing, so engulfed by it.
And I loved it that she wondered who the about-to-be-born-baby is. Not if it's a boy or a girl, not how s/he is going to look like, or their physical and health situation, but who it's going to be. No, she didn't phrase it like that, she used present tense - who it already is. Practically every friend of mine who gave birth said that the baby has already a full personality at the time of birth. That she needed to start to get to know him/her, because from minute one there was a him/her to know. And it was so sweet that she took the trouble, so busy-looking, to take her gaze away and let Simon and Inara know that it's her first birth, as well.
I loved it that Wash very deliberately didn't look at Kaylee when he told her that she's pretty. His eyes were completely to one side, and she stood on the other. And she was with her back turned to him, so she couldn't see that he was not looking. He told her what she wanted to hear, what he figured would make her feel better, and yet, did it in a completely friendly way, no sexual tension or anything of the sort. And she felt comfortable enough in his presence (and, I guess, in his relationship with Zoe, to trust that no complications would arise) to ask him to comfort her this way. I really like the relationship between them - they're such nice buddies.
I liked it that at first I couldn't tell, not even guess, why Zoe and Wash were playing in the sand together with their feet. It was like "OK, they're preparing something together", and then I was all inside the conversation between them. And they continued doing whatever it was they were doing while they were talking, and I continued not knowing what it was, but I was too busy following that conversation to have it bother me. And when the horses bumped into these threads and the polls jumped up, I was all "Aha!", which was fun in and of itself, too.
And I liked it that they reversed the traditional rolls of their rolls-reversal (OK, can I make this sentence any more clunky?). I mean, with Wash and Zoe, they completely took the "male" and "female" traditional rolls upside down, with it staying completely believable and a "real" relationship as much as a fictional one can be. Zoe is the fighter, Wash is weaker physically and much less able to kill anybody not only with his pinkie but with any other part of his body as well (though, yeah, as "War Stories" showed, he can definitely stand on his own when the need arises). He's also the one who expresses himself more in talking and communicating, which I think is considered to be more of a female property (again, I'm saying "considered", not that it really is, but that it's the way it's mostly presented, at least in what I got to see).
And then, in that conversation, the tough fighter woman is the one who wants to become a mother, and the easy-going good-natured man is the one who seems to try to avoid it, with both logical reasons and what seems like fear. And it's right back to the more traditional way of looking at things (again, all the disclaimers of such swooping broad generalizations apply, of course), with the woman yearning to motherhood. Neither of them can be typecast, not only not in the "accepted" roll, but also in the "I'm here to reverse the usual way of seeing things" roll. And I liked that even better - they're not the characters they are for any sort of "making a point".
[Edit: in the middle of the paragraph and all]
They're "real", in the sense that fictional characters can be real, of course, and round and have the qualities and personalities that are their and their own, for no other reason than that. Just like none of us responds to anything out of any sort of typecast, but out of our personality and past and wishes and needs, it's like that with these characters. And I love that.
I liked Nandi, quite a lot. From her first appearance, standing tough and firm and desperate in front of Burgess, attacking him with word, lying to him and then just being quiet when her lie was exposed. Trying each and every trick she could pull, one after another, until they all failed her and she had to call for help (in a way, like Mal did in, where else, "Out of Gas"). She doesn't waste time on pleasantaries and "decorations" when it comes to protecting her home and her girls, she goes straight to the point. She stands for her own, no matter what, even when she thinks everybody has despaired and became afraid and left her. And she rises and says it, full of resolve and strength, even when she has nothing to back that up.
In fact, now that I type it out loud, maybe that was at least part of the source of the (obviously deep) friendship between Inara and Nandi - that Nandi was like Mal, that Inara liked Mal for what he is, for his personality, for the same things that she liked Nandi for, even though it meant that their lives were separated. On the first time that Inara mentions that Nandi and her girls aren't Companions, not registered at the guild, Mal interprets it as them being independent - that's his immediate way of seeing things, and that was exactly what Nandi said she had been looking for. Also, the whole not liking complications, just like Mal mentioned in "Ariel". Even in the way they treat the mystery of Inara, her reasons for leaving her life behind - Nandi asks Mal, wanting to know, and despite him saying that he hadn't asked Inara, Nandi knows that he did, just like her.
And then, the one that Nandi compares Mal to, is Inara. In their focus. And, yeah, Mal was always good at not letting whatever happens distract him from the job, getting it done, getting paid, keep flying. But I couldn't help but jump back to those complications that Nandi mentioned Inara to hate, when at the last scene Inara said she can't afford human connections. Because, on the one hand, of course that they complicate things (see, for example, the amount of trouble the crew has gone through due to keeping Simon and River safe), but that's the whole point of everything, isn't it? That's what held them together, more than once, so how can they be a thing that should be disposed of, or at least minimized? It's so sad, that somebody may see it like that.
Oh, and Inara. Poor Inara. I loved the short scene with her and Mal at the beginning of the episode. She was so easy-going and teasing, and he was comfortable enough to let his guard down, and become startled by her entrance - the always-alert Mal (and, yeah, not just to show how safe and at ease he seems to be in his ship, also for the comic effect, but it's best when things are combined, right?), and goof off in front of her with silly excuses. I like their banter, how it's so familiar and both good-natured and accepting each other, while they still really do mean what they say and don't fully like certain facets of each other. For example, Inara knew full well that Mal would eavesdrop on her conversation, because he can't not be bossy and need-to-know-it-all when it regards to what is going on in his ship. And I guess she could have found a way to take the conversation in real private if she really minded, but she didn't, and still it didn't prevent her from being at least a bit appalled at his behavior (and showing that).
She still trusts the authorities above all to solve the problems of people - she mentioned that Nandi doesn't have any authorities to turn to, meaning that if that moon had had any, she wouldn't have been forced to get help from Mal. And she keeps her emotions so hidden and secret, that even Nandi, who was trained like a Companion and could easily read Mal's feelings towards Inara (which were, I think, hidden from himself better than from anybody else's), couldn't see any of it, couldn't read it on her. Inara concealed her emotions enough that when Nandi slept with Mal, she thought that only he had feelings towards Inara, and that those aren't returned, and therefore no harm can be done by her act. Is it part of her training, of the guild's "dating is complicated" rules, or something else entirely?
Oh, and she nearly broke my heart when she burst into tears. When she went and hid herself and cried her heart and soul out, that woman who never ever exposes her true emotions, whose job is partially hiding each and every thing she may feel, at their deepest. She just completely broke down - but not before making sure she doesn't do it in front of anybody else. And immediately afterwards, she was back at Petaline's side without anything showing on her, looking exactly as she did before her emotional storm.
And you know what? I don't think she cried because the man she cared about slept with another woman. OK, not exactly - I don't think it was the sex aspect, the way she sees it, that made her cry. I mean, I do think that she sees sex as her job, as a service she provides, without any sort of emotional attachments, just like she was presented throughout the entire show. However, she knows that Mal sees is as something completely different. He makes sure to tease her about her profession at every opportunity, making it obvious that he doesn't regard sex in any way similar to her. For Mal, it does stand for what I think it's mostly seen today - as an attribute to a deep intimate relationship between two persons who care very much for each other.
And, yeah, it's the complete opposite from the "usual" way men and women are being stereotyped when it comes to the meaning of sex in a relationship (emotional meaning vs. physical fun), and just like with Zoe and Wash, it's not done just in order to take a common thing and put it on its head, but as part of the personalities and life of the characters themselves.
So the way I see it, Inara wouldn't have minded any man towards whom she feels romantic feelings to have sex. It's not the physical activity that bothered her. What I thought was the source of all that pain was what she said when she left, the emotional attachment that she felt. The way I saw what was going on in Inara's heart was: Mal slept with Nandi, he really liked Nandi, they understand each other. He wouldn't have slept with her unless he had some sort of feelings for her, one way or another, as professional as she may be. Therefore, he feels for her, Inara, differently than she had thought, or less strongly. And all that while taking into account that Inara, with her skills and experience, is very good at reading people, or at least considering
Grr, sorry, it made so much more sense in my head, before I wrote it down, before I had to actually articulate it - it just jumped at me when she sat heart-broken on the floor, I didn't need to phrase it to myself. Which, um, might have been a good thing, since I didn't phrase it pretty well. I didn't need to think it out loud, it leaped at me (and, yeah, I realize it may be completely and entirely wrong). It was just a "oh, I have feelings for him, that I must not have!" or "I just found out that this is what I want, and it is in contradiction to what I have to do" or something like that. And I think, that this was the reason that made her leave. Her discovery of the depth and strength of her own feelings towards Mal.
Um, also, of course, she was not only up all night, but holding the hand of a young scared woman giving birth, assisting to a your doctor inexperienced in that particular side of his profession, and being the rock they all leaned on, the one who tried to hold them all together. I loved it that she kissed Simon gently on the cheek when she tried to reassure him - gave him a pleasant very human contact and reminder of her trust. I also liked the way she tried to help Petaline, her serene yet matter-of-fact words (which I guess applied to the emotional hidden pain she felt at the time, as well). And on top of all that, she was the one responsible for bringing "Serenity" and her crew to the "Heart of Gold", so in a way, the fate of the whole thing was on her shoulder. That's enough for anybody, even as collected and in-control as Inara, I think, to have a little melt-down.
I loved it that it was Inara who put a knife to Burgess' throat, and with looking that she knows full well what she does and how deep to cut in order to just scratch him, completely serious and meaning her threats. And it worked - he handed over the baby he came for. But still, he was able to hit her and make her lose her balance - maybe she knows how to do a thing like that (like she was expert with a sword in "Shindig"), but she's not experienced in it, she doesn't have the "battlefield" knowledge of handling things.
And then the look she exchanges with Mal when they see that Nandi's dead - I don't think we've ever seen her expose her feelings so openly before, to anyone. And such strong deep feelings, and not pleasant ones, either. It was, to me, as if these emotions didn't even fit the features of her face, so alien to them, unaccustomed to showing them. It was as if she was willing to kill him herself, that refined lady who couldn't bare the sight of blood and trusts the authorities to solve problems in a just and quick manner.
I thought that I could figure out at least some of the reason Inara left her ordinary-Companion life behind in the first place, but now I'm not sure I was completely off my mark, and that maybe she's hiding a much deeper or even darker secret. Nandi, who seemed to have known her quite well, was surprised at her leaving her house, at all. Not just at which ship she chose to leave with, or the places that this ship brought her to (though, that, as well), but that she even left the house at all.
But now I have no idea. I mean, what is it that she does, that makes it so impossible for her to be involved in human connections that are deeper than friendship? It didn't disturb her to have casual friendships with Kaylee or Wash, but she seemed to be so broken when she discovered she has such deep feelings towards Mal. And I also think that this showed her how important "Serenity" is to her, both the ship and each member of the crew (well, maybe some less than others), and above all, their being a crew, their, well, togetherness. I think she didn't realize until then how deep her feelings ran not just for Mal, but for other people there, as well, and for that possibility to feel so deep. To, I don't know, have ties to other people, obligations (that aren't strictly business, but emotional)?
So, what is her secret? Why did she leave a promising future and a comfortable life - a life that she's still trying to maintain, in a way, through a path that makes it that much more difficult and complicated - in a completely confusing way to everybody? And it was mentioned several times that it's complicated for Companions to date, but she was leaving not just because of romantic feelings, she was leaving because of the most basic human friendships and sense of, I don't know, family! What is it that she's doing, that she's hiding, that she's I-don't-even-know-what-verb-to-use, that should prevent a thing like that? And will we ever get answers to these questions?
I loved it that Mal's first instinct was not the heroic one, stay and fight, but run away and save what they can.
And, of course, they had to play with the will-he-desert-them trick when he said "we run", for those of us viewers who are used to him describing his crew like that, in the simple "we". But he so immediately liked Nandi's strength and stubbornness, that it was pretty obvious (at least to the obsessive little me) that he included her and hers in that "we". This trick worked just fine in "Bushwacked", with the hiding of Simon and River, and maybe even in "Safe" when he deserted them behind to come back for them later, after providing Book with the immediate care he needed, but I think we know him a bit too well for that now.
Still, it had that effect on the characters. Even Inara seemed shocked at first, not just Nandi. And, well, if fits the way she tried to describe it, to see things all throughout the episode, as a business arrangement, like the ones she is engaged in during her job, and not like a somebody coming to the help of a friend's friend.
I liked the scene in which Mal was all commanding-making-plans, captain giving orders, and went completely confused when he realized that Petaline started giving birth. And he - after a second's not-knowing-what-to-do - immediately tried to calm everybody down (even though he seemed like the one most in need to relax) and to maintain his authority and the feeling that he may know what to do. And that he of course didn't fool anybody (just like he didn't fool Inara at that first scene on the episode), and he knew it. And when Simon stepped up, he took the minute to thank him, with lots of meaning. I really liked it that he took the bother to look Simon in the eyes and thank him, before he went with the "all to work". Yeah, I know, played mostly for laughs, but still.
I liked it that Mal wasn't a typical TV character hero who resists pretty and tempting women all over the place because his heart belongs to another (or because the audience knows that his heart belongs to another but he doesn't know it yet). He responded in what is much closer to the, well, human thing to do, in my eyes, not hero-ifying anything. And, yeah, he does things that he may or may not regret later, and he is sometimes surprised at the consequences, and it embarrassed and again trying to hide it (in fact, that returned a lot in this episode, more than any other time I can remember).
It was Nandi who told him that she "isn't her", and we've never heard what was the confession he wanted to make before that, what exactly was the thing that made him want to stop before accepting Nandi's offer. And his immediate response to her was that only the two of them were in the room, that he was with her, that he was accepting her, regardless of any other human being that any of them know. And I'm not sure if it were because he was so fully in the moment, so admiring of this remarkable woman, or because he wasn't fully willing to admit, not yet, the power of any other woman on him.
And I think that he really had no idea regarding Inara's feelings towards him. Inara is trained in reading people, their responses and emotions, but he is not. What's more, he seems to be one of those men who, when they think they're right, that they cracked something, they would need a bit of shaking before changing their opinion - he trusts his judgment. And mostly, he is more right than wrong. But Inara is so closed up, so much keeping-her-emotions-to-herself, and probably also seems so far away to him, in such a different - higher - position, living such a different life that he can't even begin to comprehend (which is probably part of the reason that he teases and mocks it at every chance he gets), that I think he couldn't possibly imagine that Inara may have any sort of feelings for him, other than the business arrangement that she so strongly insists on. And maybe even more so, about his own feelings for her.
So in "Our Mrs. Reynolds" he insisted that Inara let Saffron kiss her, not even imagining that she got the drug from his own lips. And I guess that in "Out of Gas" her concern could be interpreted, in his eyes, just as everybody else's responses and concerns. In "Shindig", the most he was willing to show was his care to her, nothing beyond that, and that's all he saw in her, as well.
And I think that what Mal saw in Nandi, at the bottom line, behind her being a beautiful sensual woman, was himself. Not just "his kind of stupid" in the sense of the kind that he likes, but in the sense of actually "his", his own stupidity, his set of values. And she was right in saying that he would have done the same - staying behind, sticking to what he built for himself in a world that seemed determined to take it away from him? That's exactly, but to the letter, what he did in (say it with me) "Out of Gas". He did all he could to protect the people who are his world. He stayed with his ship till the bitter end. Which he was able to avoid that time, but still. Taking care of his people, of that world he built to himself, as a first priority, putting his straight-out self safety at risk.
And her death, on top of it being something he saw as a personal failure, showed him, I think, the way his life may end. Fighting to the end, saving that world of his, but not for himself. That was what he said in "Out of Gas" - everybody dies alone. So, yeah, Nandi saved her house, her girls, the baby, she beat the bad guy and lived her life the way she chose to. But the lives of everybody else continued, and hers stopped. And despite all the people that were around her, despite all the people that she managed to bring there, to collect together, none of them was able to save her.
And she died nearly a meaningless death - after most of the fight was over, after the baby was saved, after things seemed to be OK. Out of malice and spite of the villain.
And it was all but a second - one minute she was standing there facing him, all proud and strong and able, and the next she was lying dead on the floor (without any mark on her, no blood, due to it being that sophisticated laser gun). Boy, I'm such a sap.
And I think, like I said, that Mal not only saw himself mirrored in Nandi, but also his possible future death. Because they lead the same kind of life, they make their choices based on a very similar set of values (well, different in matters of sex, I guess, but still). And even more than the way he could have ended up in "Out of Gas" had Zoe hadn't come back for him, this is probably the way he sees his possible death: standing up and fighting for what he's got. And dying. Alone. You know what? It is like in "Out of Gas", even if physically it doesn't matter whether you're alone or not.
And that's why - the way I understood it - he tried to talk to Inara, to try and make something out of that they may or may not have in their hearts for each other. It's like Angel said in his Epiphany - "if nothing that you do matters, all that matters is what you do". Not that I would know anything about it, but facing what may well be your own death, not just in the way of risking your life everyday the way Mal leads his life, but actually seeing it happen in front of your eyes, to a person that was so alive and vibrant and strong and, well, you, seems to me to be something completely different. Enough to not only realize somebody else may have feelings for you, but even to acknowledge your own, all walled up and buried inside. Poor Mal.
Ever since nearly the beginning, when the girls asked who would help them, feeling all alone and helpless and with nobody to turn to, and all throughout the episode, the theme of loneliness that I mentioned at the beginning of my babble, was mentioned over and over again, in several ways.
Kaylee felt alone, at Simon's presence, because their relationship couldn't get itself to blossom, and it made her feel unattractive and not wanted, in a way, poor sweet thing. The girls, not only at the need of actual immediate help, but also when they approached Book and asked him for a prayer meeting because they couldn't get even that (how more alone can you feel, if you believe in a deity, but the people who are supposed to help you in this belief behave like that deity doesn't want anything to do with you?). The man who can build a city on that planet is the one that tries to make as much mess and confusion and breaking-down among the people. Nandi was sure Mal was going to leave her behind to deal with the villain alone. And the connections to people seemed to be regarded as complicating things, which makes attempts to connect turn deeper into loneliness. Petaline's friend betraying her and Nandi, only to be humiliated publicly, with nobody in the crowd even imagining to help her out. Simon facing professionally alone the birth of a baby. Wash and Zoe leaving the matter over which they were arguing unsettled. And, of course, through the "engine" of the plot - a child is born whose father cares nothing for his mother, and later is dead.
What emphasized it, to me, the most, was Mal's desperate cry to "Serenity" to come to his aid, and she didn't. He was left alone in the fight, trusted her, depended on her, and she couldn't come. With the radio being thrown aside, Wash and Kaylee couldn't even answer and explain why they can't come. So he wasn't only alone, he also lacked the answers as to why he was alone, and what has become of Wash and Kaylee.
And that after he spent the night with Nandi, and seemed to actually talk to her, to connect with her. But she knew all that time that the woman he really wanted to be with was not the one in his arms. And it's even more lonely to feel alone in the present of a person. Inara crying alone in the corner of the room, discovering and losing the deep human connections at the same time. And later choosing to completely give them up, to walk physically (in the lack of a better word) alone, away from the life that she built.
There's no sap that's sappier than me, is there?
Let's list a list, shall we? Mal posing as a hero with his "Bwaa" and his gun, alone in the room after Inara left. His diagonal position in regards to the floor when he peeked inside her shuttle after eavesdropping. Jayne being completely upfront about not wanting to take a job without sure money, and Mal playing him into helping out in 3 words. Book being uncomfortable in the house, preparing food very busily. The show at the theater looking as if it is about Earth-that-was. Inara forcing a "mmm" out as a response to Mal's teasing Burgess. Jayne combing the hair of his girl while all the group was talking and planning. Wash pretending he knows what he's talking about when he repeats Zoe's watch shifts plan. Kaylee sitting next to Simon when they plan (and he is next to the very pregnant Petaline, on his other side - a doctor near by to his patient). Kaylee referring to her work as "talk with Serenity", without even thinking about it. Inara translating Simon's "doctor speak". The mirror that was on the side of the room, when Inara cried her heart out. I don't think I can say why, but I loved it that I could see her reflection in that scene. Maybe because she just discovered something new about herself? The way Inara and Nandi needed very few looks and even fewer words to communicate between themselves, even their deepest feelings. Jayne's gun sleeping between him and his girl. Wash having a cup with probably parts of his breakfast in his hand when going to "Serenity". Nandi and Mal's giving-orders before the fight interwoven, seeing things completely eye-to-eye. Wash's strange little cry when he tried to catch the attention of the men on "Serenity".
[Edit: in the end of the list]
Petaline killing Burgess with the same gun that was Nandi's favorite, the one she used to kill the man who abused her in the past. Mal having his arm on Kaylee's shoulder at the funeral.
Was that the first time we saw all nine human crew members walking together somewhere? I mean, we did see them sitting together beside the same table, like in Simon's birthday party in "Out of Gas" or all family like in "Safe", but I can't remember if they ever walked anywhere together like that. I loved that shot. They were walking, all of them (River wasn't even near Simon!), hands in pockets, teasing each other. It wasn't a "power shot" the way Tim described it, but I loved the air of "we're a crew" that I felt from it. Especially in all the feeling of loneliness.
[Edit: it was very petty, not to let me finish in the former post, seeing how short this one is]
Nilly on Jul 16, 2004