I fell for it from the very first scene - the noisy, giddy game of maybe-it's-basketball-maybe-it's-not. I think it was the first time we saw the whole crew-plus actually having fun together. Not just the 'skeleton' crew, not just a sub-group of it - even those who looked on the game from above and didn't take part in it seemed more relaxed and, well, having fun. Maybe except for River, poor girl, but it seemed to even distract her, for a short time.

Oh, and it also set the 'key word' and part of the tone for the whole episode, what with the rules of the game being unclear since they're far from civilization. I'll probably need to watch it at least once more (oh, the horror!) just in order to catch all the references to that word, in all the different ways it was used, by all the different people, throughout the episode, but I loved the way the whole concept was weaved into the story, just enough for me to notice, not too much for me to be overdone.

I loved the overturning of that concept - Mal's seemingly uncivilized approach (he's better off dead' etc) turned out to be the real civilized one, with the Alliance men following his suggestion when it comes to blowing the ship. While on the other hand they insulted the ship and turned her upside down, and couldn't understand the meaning of what was going over the survivor - like they were too civilized to grasp something so horrible. I liked it that the soldiers weren't 'bad guys' - they were just on the different side, is all.

I love the way the plot keeps playing with conventions - it seemed to start as one story, continue with another, while actually carrying out a third. I loved the visuals - that picture, of Simon and River hiding on top of the ship? Beautiful.

I was hooked to the plot. In fact, I was so 'inside' it, that I needed to hear a soldier say that the survivor couldn't speak because his tongue was cut in order to link that to the fact he was talking in previous scenes and understand what's going on (T laughed at me, of course). I was just so captured by what was going on in front of me, I paid less attention to processing it. I love it when a tv show/movie manages to do that to me.

The way the show handled the Reavers was impressive, in my mind - we still never saw them (and, well, very likely we hardly ever will, due to all the 'can't survive meeting them' talk), but still they managed to play such a major evil part in the story. I thought the survivor's turning to their ways as the only option he has left was creepy (the things a person does to themselves could be worse than those done to them by 'outside' people) yet believable, and it was all so sad. Was that the episode with the highest mortality rate so far? Tim has a reputation to keep, after all.

I like the characters more and more with each episode. I love Wash - the combination of a sense of humor and joy of things and seriousness at his difficult job, along with the many expressions of the actor, is such a great mix. I love Zoe's level-headedness (is that a word?) and strength and ease, and, again, I love the actress - I believe that she could face, I don't know, anything that comes up in front of her.

Kaylee just continues to be a sweetheart - the actress just shines it all over. She still manages to be the nearly impossible combination of nice with not-annoyingly-overdone, and I love her devotion for her ship. Jayne looks like the most fun character to write to - so selfish and hard, yet, well, still there, obedient to Mal no matter what. Simon, brave little Simon - so lost and so determined and full of doubts and questions and good intentions and the courage to try to carry them out and even be sarcastic at big scary Jayne in the process. He wasn't exactly slapped in this episode, 'only' tricked viciously and petrified on top of the ship. It seems like the most 'important' thing I learned about River from this episode is that she's in-a-way psychic, but I can't help but feel that her 'real' moment was when she was on top of the ship, staring happily at the stars and smiling.

And, of course, Mal - always the practical do-the-job solve-the-problem face-the-deal, using anything that may be interpreted as having-a-heart in the most practical way, and yet still doing it, still in the having-a-heart camp, almost despite what he wants himself to do and how he excuses it to himself. It's probably very tiring, to be him. I like the actor more and more, too. I just believe Mal has all those layers.

[Edit: of course, I can't keep it contained in just the one post. I should have known]

So, the burble continues:

I love the past secrets that are still dangling there. It seems like the more is being told, the more complicated and mysterious things appear to look. For example, Inara. She said she's with "Serenity" for nearly a year (though on the former episode she said it was 8 months, said nitpicky me, who decided the difference isn't important, and could be due to differences between writing and filming or a general lack of mathiness. Um, 'not important' as long as the four missing months wouldn't suddenly appear to be important, of course). She said it's a 'mutually beneficial business arrangement', to the question of the surprised interrogator. But if it is, how come it's so surprising? And no other Companions do it? And why such a shabby once-on-this-side-of-the-law-once-on-the-other ship? To me, her answer only gave more questions. With Book it's pretty much the same thing - we still have only hints about his past (he was around - he always seems to know what's going on, and has lots of knowledge on living-on-the-edge).

And, of course, River is still only one big mystery. I mean, I know a little bit more about her now, not just her brother's reactions to her, but it's still only just hints, and I'm very much at the stage where I'm curious about what they're hinting about. I wonder which of those stories got any way of developing, in the oh-so-short time that was given to the show. I wonder if there are going to be any flashbacks.

I continue getting the sensation of 'landing in the middle of a story', which I like a lot, not only with those secrets I've already mentioned, but also in terms of the relationships between the characters themselves. I love Zoe and Wash together ('Not now, dear'), and I love how we landed in the middle of their relationship, when it's already a marriage, mature and deep. The same goes for Zoe and Mal, for that matters (and I like it that it seems like Mal got to introduce the two). Again with Mal and Kaylee (he treats her nearly like a little sister), Mal and Jayne - pretty much Mal with everybody. The crew was formed around him, after all, so he has to have some sort of relationship with each one of its members (and the beauty of it is, he actually does! and it's unique to each other character, too).

I'm not sure how much, but I hope somebody starts listening to what River has to say, not just take care of her as a helpless being. I mean, she does seem to know what's going on before it does, way after it's all over, or without her ever seeing it. She's incoherent in conversing this knowledge to anyone, even Simon, but (very much like Dru), whoever may listen to her will probably be able to get some advantage.

T's favorite character in the Buffyverse is Dru. She said that it made her like River better, and that it seems like Joss can't create a show without a mumbling sees-more-than-just-reality thin woman character (even though in AtS it's the same one from "Buffy"). Also, she's spoiled-er than me and already skipped to watch the final episodes of BtVS S7, so she already saw NF playing the bad guy, and it took her some time, a couple of episodes, and me nagging her 'he is good!', to 'buy' him as the good guy. I guess it means he's a good actor, ha?

I loved all the 'little' characters-interaction moments: Kaylee on Jayne's shoulders during the game (him taunting her, she accepting it in good spirits); how, whenever something is really threatening, Zoe is near Wash, mostly with their hands held together; River's enthusiasm and big smile when she was outside the "Serenity" while it was being searched, combined with brave little Simon's fear and determination; Wash's toy dinosaurs that were trashed aside during the search of the ship (continuity, yay!); Jayne keeping quiet through his interrogation (tapping his fingers impatiently); Kaylee being insulted in the name of "Serenity" by the soldier; Mal relaxing the survivor in order to punch him. Man, that Tim dude sure knows how to do his work, doesn't he?

But, on top of all the people, it seems to me like the creators are paying attention to the ship and the whole crew as nearly another character, in and of itself. There were several sequences where they showed the search through the entire ship and the questioning, throughout it, of the crew members. And I couldn't help but feel like it's all connected, in the sense that this is the 'character' that interests me at that moment - the whole unit of the crew plus ship. Despite having several more 'major' and several more 'minor' ones, it's not the story of some of them, it's the story of their being together, of their connection. Or at least, that's how that sequence made me feel. Am I making any sense? I wish I could, because I loved it.