Firefly: Trash Ep. 11 November 20, 2007Posted by Chris in Firefly.
Tags: Firefly, Serenity
Mal Seems Naked and Defeated but is Actually Triumphant Through Nakedness
This episode is named “Trash” but more accurately, might have been called “Trust”. At the beginning we see the return of Saffron — Mal’s pale reflection in the mirror of trust. While Mal is catching up on old times with a war buddy during a smuggling operation, Saffron is introduced to Mal as his friend’s wife, Bridgette (Saffron’s latest alias). Mal and Saffron immediately start fighting. Once the tussle is resolved in Mal’s favor and Saffron is left by her latest husband in Mal’s custody, she convinces him to give her a ride by tempting him with a plan to steal the priceless “Lassiter” (spelling?) — the first hand-held laser pistol.
Or does she? We’re never told exactly why Mal decides to let her on the ship (albeit, inside a cargo crate — how can she breathe or relieve herself in there, anyways?). What follows is a confrontation between Inara and Mal where she complains that he is avoiding work on more populated planets — places where Inara could also find gainful employment as a companion — and trying to get by with “petty crimes”.
Inara: “What was the last cargo we snuck past the Alliance to transport?”
Mal: “That was…”
Inara: “What was the CARGO?!?”
Mal: “They were dolls…”
Inara: “They were little geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled!”
Mal: “Hey! People LOVE those!”
Once again, priceless dialogue with lots of funny. But this scene tells us more than simply what’s driving Mal to consider Saffron’s plan seriously. It also updates us on Mal’s struggle to define his role as an individual, a captain of his crew, and as a member of his community. Before Mal exits in a huff, Inara tells him he hasn’t been after “serious work” lately. This seems to trigger something in Mal’s mind that leads him to release Saffron from her crate. The next thing we know, he and Saffron are briefing the crew on the plan to steal the Lassiter.
While the writers have skillfully left out scenes that would have told us exactly why Mal decided to take Saffron’s plan more seriously, the tiff between him and Inara reveals that Mal has continued to try and keep himself and his crew as far away from the Alliance and the rest of society as possible. However, just as we noted in the discussion of “Out of Gas“, a fundamental tension in Mal’s character is that while he wants to live life independent from the rules and restrictions of society, he needs and wants a life with community. In trying to get as far away from the Alliance as possible, he puts his crew (read: community) in jeopardy. In this case, he has been avoiding lucrative jobs on the core planets but hasn’t been able to earn a living for his crew with the jobs he can get at the margins of the ‘Verse.
Mal doesn’t seem to trust anyone, least of all, Saffron. But he seems to trust himself to out-con her. This is particularly interesting, since she has conned him before and we’re doubtful that he can outsmart her this time either. It turns out that the critical difference between this and the last time is the faith Mal puts in his crew. So while Mal tries to keep Saffron under wraps, we’re shown just how much Mal and the crew trust each other. Kaylee and Jayne put a lot of faith in Wash and his piloting skills as they climb outside the ship and reprogram a trash bin to fly away to a remote location once the Lassiter is put it in by Mal and Saffron. Mal shows his confidence in the rest of the crew that the bin will be re-programmed in time to take the Lassiter to safety. The only weak point of trust in the crew — between Jayne, Simon and River — is highlighted as well, with a side-plot where Jayne is knocked out and Simon gets a chance to confront him over his betrayal back in “Ariel“. But the ultimate sign of Mal’s trust in his crew is shown through his willingness to make himself vulnerable to Saffron’s inevitable betrayal.
As the heist proceeds we find out Saffron was married to the guy who owns the Lassiter. During the altercation that follows, we’re shown what might happen to Mal if he were to choose the path of self-reliance. Saffron only trusts herself and uses the trust other place in her to con them. Of course, this will be her undoing. Unfortunately, it’s Mal’s pity for Saffron’s and the pathetic state of her social life that leaves him open to her betrayal. Saffron steals his gun as they escape from the scene of the crime, leaves him naked in the desert and goes to retrieve the Lassiter from the garbage bin for herself.
The final twist comes as Safron is searching through the garbage in vain for the Lassiter only to find that Inara has beat her to the drop point, taken the loot, and now has her at gun-point. In the discussion that follows, we find out that Mal and the crew have conned her — that they knew she couldn’t be trusted and had planned all along to have Inara swoop in and save the day. In planning and executing this con, we see how the writers have resolved some of the tension in Mal’s character between his desires for self-reliance and community. Ultimately, it is because of his trust for his crew that he’s able to out-scam Saffron. Without them, he’d be both naked and dead.