The crew of Serenity find themselves at a marketplace located on a space station. A carnival barker claims to have an alien. Inside, however, Simon and Kaylee recognize the so-called “alien” as a cow fetus. The two of them are out on a date and Simon shows that he really has no game whatsoever, the gorram moron! Mal and Inara are having problems fencing the Lassiter that they got from the previous episode. Inara offers to fence the Lassiter to one of her clients, but Mal doesn’t want her getting in trouble. The two of them stop by a post office run by an old friend of Mal’s named Amnon who has packages for some of the crew. Jayne gets a package from his mother while Mal and Zoe get a crate.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Jayne hat.
Bask in its awesomeness, Browncoats because things are gonna get a little sadder from here on out. See, the package that Zoe and Mal get is a coffin with a body inside. Specifically, the body of their old war buddy Tracey. Flash back to the days of the Unification War, which shows that Tracey was a very amateur soldier, letting his guard down for the sake of a can of beans. Zoe advises him to be quiet. Cue Mal running in very loudly, actively drawing in enemy fire. Tracey doesn’t want to die and Mal says that everyone dies.
Returning back to our current situation, Mal and Zoe wonder why Tracey’s body was mailed to them without any return address. Amnon tells them to get the crate out ASAP because mailing human cargo is illegal.
Back on Serenity, Zoe finds a recorder clutched in Tracey’s hands and plays it. Tracey says that he fell in with untrustworthy folk and got killed because of it. he asks to be buried at St. Albans. He said that he has problems surviving in the real world. The ship heads off to St. Alban’s.
Meanwhile, back on the space station, an Alliance officer named Womack arrives at the post service and calls Amnon a quim. (So Avengers wasn’t the first time Whedon used that phrase.) He asks about the dead body and threatens to arrest and charge Amnon. The postman willingly provides the information. Womnack threatens to burn Amnon to death if he refuses to comply with his demands.
On Serenity, everyone reacts to Tracey’s death in different ways. Kaylee listens to Tracey’s recording constantly. Simon wants to comfort her, but doesn’t know how. Jayne and Book have a conversation about how they deal with death. Jayne wants to be active, seeks for ways to feel alive. River lies down on top of the coffin and says it’s very comfortable. Inara listens to Mal and Zoe’s story about a prank Tracey on a man named Colonel Oberin.
All of a sudden, the ship is under fire. Womack tells the crew to give him the crate or they’ll blast him to bits. Mal and Zoe inspect Tracey’s box, search his pockets, and come to the conclusion that Tracey’s smuggling something in his body. Simon prepares to make an autopsy…only for Tracey to wake up screaming. I guess Tracey was only mostly dead! (And as we Princess Bride fans know, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.)
No, actually he took a medicine that made him appear to be dead. It’s quickly revealed that Tracey is smuggling organs, grown in a lab. He was supposed to go to Ariel and get his organs back, but he found a better deal. Except the deal went south when the guy who made the offer was dead and bad people put him on the run. Serenity gets shot again. Mal negotiates to Womack to wait until they land to inspect the ship, all the while planning to get Tracey out as quietly as possible.
Tracey and Kaylee flirt a little as the ship comes to a landing and you almost want to ship them. Book notices that Womack didn’t contact the Alliance base on St. Alban’s. Wash tries to lose Womack through a canyon, but unfortunately, he tries to shoot them down instead. Wash lands the ship in a cave and puts the ship on auxiliary power. Womack rains down on them with multiple blasts and in fear, Tracey decides to get onto the deck, only to hear Book suggest that they let the Alliance on board. Mal decides to go with it…only for Tracey to hold the crew hostage. Mal tells Tracey to stand down, only for Tracey to shoot Wash. Zoe shoots Tracey in response. (Nobody touches her husband except her, after all.) Kaylee gets out of her bunk only for Tracey to take her hostage and any hopes of shipping Tracey and Kaylee go down at that very moment.
The crew chases Tracey to a bridge and Tracey insults them. Then things quite down long enough for Jayne to shoot Tracey. Womack boards the Serenity and Shepherd Book is surprisingly the one to call the guy out: Womack is far from his jurisdiction and is doing this job off the books. In other words, he’s a rogue cop. (You know one when you see one, Book my dear?) Realizing that Tracey being mortally wounded means that he’s carrying damaged goods, Womack leaves, insulting Jayne’s hat on his way out.
Tracey laments what he made of himself and dies as he apologizes to everyone. Tracey’s message plays one last tie as Mal and Zoe return his body to his family. Interesting note about this scene: everyone in the show found out that the show was gonna be cancelled at this point, so in a way, the funeral scene is not only burying Tracey, but any hopes of the show continuing beyond 14 episodes.
At first, you think that this episode is about dealing with grief. In reality, I think the theme is about accepting the things you can’t change and deciding what to do with it. Mal and Zoe have accepted that they lost the war and try to make the best of their situation. Tracey, however, was completely lost and his desperation came at the cost of his life. The standoff at the bridge where Tracey claims that he had no choice and Mal saying otherwise reminds me a lot of the argument between Ford and Buffy in “Lie To Me.” Tracey wonders what kind of people they are now that the war is over. My friend Ian’s analysis of “Lie to Me” brings up a philosophy from existentialism about the importance of choice. While I don’t agree with existentialism as a whole, I do agree that God always allows free will in every situation.
Tracey wanted to smuggle organs as a way to survive and thought that Mal and Zoe turned into “saps” for being so goody-goody (in his point of view). It’s true that Mal hasn’t completely accepted the loss of Serenity Valley or the war as a whole, but he and the rest of the crew of Serenity try to do good given their limited means, only asking the Alliance for help or using Alliance-friendly clients as a desperate last resort. They’re smugglers and petty thieves, but their work is honest and honorable compared to Tracey. On top of that, Mal was planning on making sure Tracey stayed hidden, meaning that Tracey didn’t have to shoot anyone or hold anyone hostage to get what he wanted.
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we can’t change. Unfortunately, things are gonna get worse before they start getting better.