The episode starts out with River going through the ship, reading the minds of everyone on board. Kaylee and Simon are actually having a good time together, with Simon telling Kaylee about his days as a med student. River sees that Simon still wishes he was back with his friends, doing his job. The next people River sees are Jayne and Book. Jayne and Book are talking about the life of a Shepherd, with Book joking to Jayne that he hopes that Jayne isn’t considering taking orders. River still sees Jayne’s guilt over what happened in Ariel and gets a glimpse of Book’s past. River wanders over and sees Zoe and Wash making out, feeling all of that emotional intensity for a short moment before wandering over to the catwalk. Mal and Inara discussing Inara’s departure. When River reads their minds, Mal and Inara are looking away from each other. Inara says “I’m a big girl, just tell me,” while Mal says, “None of it means a damn thing.” You think that they’re thinking about the hopelessness of their relationship. You’d be wrong, but I’ll tell you why later.
River goes down to the cargo and steps on a stick. In her mind, she sees autumn leaves all around her as she picks up the stick. In reality, River is holding a gun and everyone’s pleading at her to put it down. Simon and Mal get it away from her and chastise her. River cries out that things are getting crowded and leaves, crying. Unbeknownst to everyone (except for River), a spaceship closes in on them. It’s someone who’s on the lookout for River, a bounty hunter named Jubal Early.
In Wash’s cockpit, Wash and Zoe discuss River. Mal and Jayne wander in, also discussing River. The four of them decide to keep River on lockdown. Zoe thinks that River can’t really harm them, but when the entire crew meets in the kitchen, Kaylee mentions the time in “War Stories” when River picked up her gun and fired on Niska’s men without even looking at them. Unbeknownst to them, River is listening from a lower deck. The crew discusses what to do with River as Jubal also listens in. After a lot of discussing, Mal decides to sleep on it.
As everyone heads to sleep, Kaylee apologizes to Simon. Simon says that River loves being on Serenity and that it feels more like home to her. Of course, Simon still wishes he was back at the hospital. Kaylee asks if he likes Serenity and Simon just looks at her with saying a word, only for Book to kill the moment. Back in the dining area, Mal turns off the lights and heads into his bunk. As soon as he’s in, Jubal makes his entrance. Mal gets into a fight with Jubal and gets knocked out and dropped into his bunk. Jubal locks up all the bunks and makes his way to the engine room. He intimidates Kaylee and asks Kaylee if she’s ever been raped and tells her that he’s gonna tie her up and that if she makes any trouble, he’s going to rape her.
Jubal makes his way to the passenger’s quarters, knocks out Book and holds a very shirtless Simon at gunpoint. He plans to get River for the bounty and was searching for them since the feds were tipped off on Ariel. Simon refuses to help. Of course, Jubal orders Simon to help him or else he’ll kill Simon and rape Kaylee, possibly even kill her. Simon puts a shirt on as he passes by Book and shows Jubal the infirmary. The two of them make their way into the catwalks. They head over to the shuttles. Inara tries to tell Jubal to stand down , but Jubal slaps her and locks her shuttle.
Finally, they head to the cockpit. Jubal yells out to River to come out. Mal and Zoe finally wake up. Then, to everyone’s surprise, we hear River speaking through the ship. River says that she’s not on the ship, that she disappeared into the ship. She says that she is now Serenity and she is very unhappy. River then talks to Kaylee in the engine room. She calms Kaylee down and tells her to untie herself. River keeps playing games with Jubal, all the while communicating with Mal, Zoe and Kaylee. She gets Kaylee out of the engine room. Kaylee unlocks the bunks as Mal and Zoe listen to River. The power goes out as River continues to intimidate Jubal. As they continue their conversation, Jubal realizes that River is in his ship. (Of course, she is still reading his mind, in spite of what he claims.)
River decides to offer herself to Jubal and wants to leave everyone, not be a burden anymore. But just as Jubal is about to leave, Simon stops him. Jubal retaliates by shooting Simon in the leg and leaves the cockpit. Simon tries to get the jump on Jubal, but Jubal fights back. Jubal makes his way out of the ship, but to everyone’s surprise, Mal appears behind him. The shock makes Jubal lose his balance and he floats away into space. River leaves Jubal’s ship and into Mal’s arms.
In the infirmary, Zoe and Wash tend to Simon’s wound while Mal and Inara wonder about whether or not Jubal will survive. Book and Jayne lament not getting a chance to take on Jubal. Kaylee tells River a funny story while the two of them play jacks. And life on the Serenity goes on as Jubal continues to float out in space, alone.
“Objects in Space” is River Tam’s shining moment for the series as a whole. To continue the theme of the Serenity Prayer last seen in “The Message,” this episode centers on River having the courage to change the situation. She gives Kaylee the courage to untie herself and get out of the engine room in spite of Jubal’s earlier threats of raping her. River’s courageous enough to get a space suit and make her way onto Jubal’s ship as a way to intimidate him. She also wants to give herself up, but Simon won’t let her and neither will Mal.
The courage to change also applies to the rest of the crew. Mal still feels haunted over his loss of Serenity Valley, but still has the courage to let River stay in spite of her being an unpredictable person. The same goes for Simon, who still wishes he was back in his old job, but decides to move on from it and try fighting for his sister’s safety because he loves her more. Although it isn’t stated, Joss Whedon said that Inara is suffering from a terminal disease and has been suffering from that since the first episode and is more than likely the reason why she chose to join up with a band of smugglers and thieves; she wants to run away from that terminal illness because she can’t change that she’s probably going to die. The odd friendship between Jayne and Book carries hints that Book wants to help Jayne change his ways, since the good Shepherd was able to change his own life.
My Firefly month comes to an end tomorrow, when I recap on the film Serenity.