In my eyes, it was the episode that showed most, up until now, of some of the less 'center' characters. It wasn't much about Mal, Zoe or Wash (though they were certainly not missing from it), and despite centering on Jayne (well, it has his name on it, and all) River, Simon, Inara and Book all got to be there more, and show more of themselves. And, yup, I liked that (aren't you surprised?).
I loved it that the 'hero of the planet' was not the obvious choice of Mal or any of the others who have an active center of morale (even if they don't always follow it). I liked it that it was reminded to the audience, with Inara's mistake. They really took the least-likely-to-be-a-hero character, and despite it being just funny and strange, at first, and despite it being obvious pretty much from the start that he's an accidental hero who wouldn't have lifted a finger to help those poor people, by the end of the episode he looked like he really cared about - well, not them exactly, but what they needed him for. He would have abandoned them with the money in a heartbeat, I think. But he would have tried to do something to prevent the useless death of that poor young man. He didn't 'learn and grow and become less greedy and rude' by the experience (which is what most other TV shows would have done, IMHO). But he cared about this specific person in this specific place. He at least tried to understand what was the source of that behavior, and what was his place in the scheme of things. Am I making any sense? I'm not sure I manage to un-entangle my own thoughts, even before attempting to put them into words.
I've liked Jayne from the start (I mean, how can I not like such a big-man guy with a name that sounds so delicate and girly? And the actor delivers him so humanely and with so much, I don't know, life, that I really believe him). I liked it that he's 'real', that actual opportunist people behave pretty much like he does, and that he still manages to do the right thing when needed, but sometimes has to be forced into it.
He's a wonderful comic-relief and get-the-action-going character, but he still manages to be much more. He always had that 'extra' layer to his character (with keeping obeying Mal in pretty much everything, for example, and in being eaten up by the death of the Mudder (after he threw a man to death in order to not lose money), and overall, in that he usually tries to do something other than that right thing, at least at first). I've always thought that it requires a really good and intelligent actor to portray a somewhat-dimmer character, especially in a way that makes it actually come alive, and Jayne's actor does it beautifully, and with what seems like such an ease and a true sense of fun (at least, that's what I catch up on the screen). And he's not afraid of making himself look like a fool (how much did I like his disguise?) and seem to even enjoy that (to my utmost pleasure).
I loved his speech - it did manage to say with very few (and simple, and very much Jayne-like) what seemed to be going on in his mind at the time, that something was indeed going on there, and not just in the "they love me" part, that he was touched in his own way (more by the riot than by anything else, but still). And that's... well, I guess that's something. Especially coming from the man who in a blink threw out his partner instead of the money, and would probably do it again without hesitation. Unless that partner is Mal, I guess, since he didn't do that at least once when he was offered money for it in "Serenity". And he was willing to leave behind even Mal in "The Train Job" when his life was on the line. I love it that he isn't a good man, I love it that his morals are so questionable, I love it that he still does have something that can be called morals, even if they're 'they didn't offer me enough money to turn you in'.
And he was surprised when the young Mudder had died in order to save him, he was surprised that this young man had had such an ability for self-sacrifice and such a belief in the legendary story, that he had ignored all the facts and still wanted to save the man who actually had done nothing for him and his people. Just because the hope that it gave him was too important to let go? Because he chose to believe his version of the events? Because letting go of something so important to him was harder than trying to fight for it? Did I mention already that my thought are entangled? In any case, Jayne tried to explain to the Mudders that their version of the story was an impossible fairy-tale one, shouting after killing a man he deserted for a horrible fate, telling them that there are only people like him. Contradicted completely by that man dying for him, and doing the noble thing he claimed didn't exist in the world. And by being actually moved by what happened, proves himself to be wrong regarding himself, as well. Not an "I'll never do anything like that again" strong version of wrong, of course. But still.
Kaylee always looked like the nice innocent girl. When she talked back to Simon in the 'morning after', the friend I watched with cheered that 'Hey! She has a big mouth on her!'. It's the same thing I gush here about for pretty much every episode - the characters are like real people, with different qualities to them, and Kaylee isn't just the smiling sweetheart who tries to comfort everybody and is constantly liked right back, and needs to stay in that situation. She can talk back, show her anger and have her feathers raffled. And forgive and be all nice again later, but still. I loved that side of her.
[Edited to be continued]
It's like the way Simon always answers up to Jayne, despite being half his size and no match for him in strength in any form, and a seemingly 'good boy' in every exterior way (well, other than the whole defying the strong government and managing to rescue his sister, which is pretty much the point I'm trying to make if I just manage to untangle my sentence enough to do it) - he keeps bouncing back, knowing he'll get hit again, knowing it's just momentarily, but still not giving Jayne the satisfaction of seeing him remaining down, not because of Jayne or anybody else, but because of himself. He practically has nothing other than that, now, and the duty of taking care of his sister, and still he goes on, poor brave decent Simon. Also, of all the members of the crew, Jayne is the one who has the most disrespect and looking-down-upon relationship with him, so it was sort of fitting that he also got highlighted in the episode that's named after Jayne (I can still hum that hero-song about him, that's how catching it was).
Manners usually look like getting-around-things and not facing them directly, not 'calling the boy by his name' (Hebrew expression) for people who can't handle the brutal truth and dealing with it. However, for Simon they're exactly the opposite - they are pretty much his most stand-out distinction from all the people who surround him now (including even his sister) and they become, in a way, one of his tactics to actually dealing with the situation he created for himself, to still having a sense of self and connection to the man he used to be before he gave it all up for his sister's sake.
In fact, Simon shined all throughout the episode - cursing just in the right place, trying to pretend to be a buyer, going mad slowly, lamenting drunkenly to Kaylee about his place (and lack thereof) in the world, complementing Kaylee (how she looks even prettier with her dirty face), trying to behave like a gentleman to Kaylee and achieving exactly the opposite effect and response, trying to fight with the mad ex-partner of Jayne, explaining his position to Kaylee and being tricked by her right afterwords. And I liked the final scene between him and Kaylee, showing both how much he respects her and feels for her, combined with how much he needs to do it in his terms, in his 'old' ways, and more than that, having her understand that and rise above what she first saw as insulting and hurting her, and still stinging him good-nature-ly on the way. Shiny.
Finally we're getting to see some of Inara's work - much more geisha-like than anything else I can think of, with a whole of atmosphere and talking and relaxation than could be expected. I liked how she manages to become in control of pretty much every conflict she's in, and with grace and ease, too. The question as to why such a respectable figure hangs with such doubtful ones as the crew of the "Serenity" just grows bigger and bigger in my mind.
I did like Book pretty much from the start, got properly intrigued with all the hints about his past and was glad to see he was finally given something to do by the crew (even though it was a babysitting job). His 'You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you' is as much about him (and hinting at his past) as it's about trying to connect to her. He really did try to talk to her, not just wave what she said as another meaningless babble from a not-sane-enough person, and with calm and not despairing even when it completely failed to work. I loved how he tried to interact with River, listening to what she said and trying to walk along with that (oh, and I loved it how Zoe had to be the calming-down 'grown up' in the end).
One of my favorite lines was River's 'fixing the Bible' (especially when remembering some religious natter of late). In fact, during the last Saturday we were talking about something from the weekly portion of the "Torah" that was read on it, which was about Noah's ark, and it fitted perfectly (and one of my 'converts' even said it quietly to his wife, which filled my geek-y heart with joy). Again, I liked her from the start (at first, due to Simon's reactions and devotion to her, but later because of her, as well, as little attention as she got so far). I loved her 'trying to fix' things, combined with freaking out from Book's hair and even being rational, in a strange does-it-make-sense-doesn't-it way all throughout the episode. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of her, and I'm glad she got to interact with somebody other than Simon. And the delivery of "Just keep walking, preacher-man" was great.
Again, Mal was resourceful enough to change everything that happened to his advantage, with that constant air of fun springing from nearly every second line he says. He didn't let the whole mystery of Jayne's statue and the explanations behind it to distract him from his goal, and like I said, even used it to his advantage. I absolutely loved the scene with Mal and Jayne in the end - the lack of understanding, the helplessness regarding the needless waste. Just standing there together, trying to make sense of things that really have none, and then just sharing this sadness, because nothing that can be said can really change things.
Could Jayne stick to Mal so because of that way he treats him, like he's got some other qualities than muscle, like he's more than just a thug-for-hire (which ties, in my eyes, to the way the show treats its characters - not the stereotypes whose actions and reactions are pretty much a cliche by now, but as 'people' with more than two characteristics each)? Is that why it requires more than his usual sum of money to make him betray Mal?
[Edit: I'm exaggerating, aren't I? Usually two posts were enough, but now I need a third. And it all has repetitions and tangled-thoughts. Oh, well]
[One last post, and then I'll shut up (and I haven't watched any other episodes yet, though the preview for "Out of Gas", which is the next in line, looks very promosing)]
I probably read like a broken keyboard, but I just love the relationships between the characters, the varieties and differences of them, even more with each episode. Mal and Kaylee's big-brother-young-sister, Wash and Zoe's marriage, Mal and Zoe's reliance and respect, Mal and Wash (I wish we could see more of that one - they both have such deep feelings for the same woman, in different ways, on top of being a captain and his pilot), Simon and Kaylee (with all that I've babbled about before), Mal and Jayne, Wash and Kaylee (again, I wish there were more light on that relationship - I liked their banter). The beginning of some hint of a possibility of connection between River and not-Simon characters. This is the thing that makes it most sad for me that the show was canceled - there's so much to shed light on, so much to develop to, so many possibilities. Sigh.
And once again, my 'not-so-little things' list, because I do love those subtle touches so: the swear words discussion of Simon and Kaylee, used for both the joke and to show an important side of Simon's behavior and character (that was highlighted later in the episode). Kaylee's casual fun relationship with Inara. Jayne obeying Mal in an instant, and being silly as he does that - and all that in the first scene of the teaser! Zoe jokingly reminding Wash that she outranks him. Everybody's reactions to the statue (its eyes keeping following Kaylee). River's explanations of the Bible stories and the hair that is still waiting (because, you know, it is). Simon's knowledge on beer (foamy wasn't a word he used), and the hamster named after him. Simon asking for the menu - and even more, later on, knowing exactly where he is, politely asking for the check. Mal changing his plans so that Kaylee may get a shot with Simon. Jayne's enthusiasm over the riot more than anything else, and his singing songs in honor of 'me', and taking the time, in the middle of meeting his ex-partner, to specify that poor bitten Simon isn't one of his. Kaylee's immediate putting-aside of differences when Simon was hurt. Inara being discrete about being key in saving the day. Kaylee tricking Simon in the end.
OK, and the 'give me some milk' line has a bonus for me (and any other Israeli around my age who may ever get to watch this show, and many of them should). There used to be an "English teaching" show, which setting was a show-within-a-show about people making a western-like show (this sentence shows too many times the word "show"). Anyway, the hero was a soft-hearted sheriff named Goodman who, being the good guy on a kids program, would get into the set of the Saloon, put his fist on the counter, and shout "Bartender! Give me some Milk!", and he'd get a big beer glass full of milk, drink it all up like a man, and go chase some bad guys ('I enjoy killing people! I like killing people!' for us to learn how you noun-ify a verb and when). So when Jayne asked for some milk? A whole other layer of laughter, just for us, and completely unintentional.
If I need 3 posts for the one single episode, and I keep at this pace, I'm probably going to need a whole thread for the movie. That's a bit disturbing.