Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds

[Trigger Warning: anaSexual Assault]

Ok, I'm watching the MRS. REYNOLDS episode of Firefly because I'd apparently forgotten how awful it is. Expect shouting.

The opening is.... sigh. The first sentence is a rape threat. So that's gonna be how we set the scene, huh? I cannot see that as an accident. I *hate* that JW is setting up rape as a thing armed strangers do violently to women they accost on the road, AS THE START TO an episode about Mal choosing to rape a girl he believes to be mentally unable to consent. But haha it's funny because the husband says they wouldn't want to rape his ugly wife and the joke is that the woman is Mal in a dress.

Inara complains (in her polite ladylike way) that there isn't much business for her on the Backwater Planet and I realize they have to remind people that Companions exist since it's a plot point later, but it's crummy to have her complaint come after a rare CHARITY job. Like, it has NEVER made sense that Inara would pal around with them because she could get better lodgings and more work with proper merchants who *don't* have illegal backwater business all the time, and she knows this and chose the ship anyway, so (a) it doesn't make sense for her to complain about a thing she knew when she chose the ship for her own vaguely mysterious reasons, and (b) it makes her look shitty when she complains after a charity job but not during the con job episodes, but WHATEVER.

I've already been warned by @arthur_affect not to expect character consistency from this episode so we soldier on or we'll be here all night. A girl brings Mal a flower crown and a drink, then dances off. That's supposed to be the entire marriage ceremony, and like. ...Okay, fine, it's a con, it's not supposed to make sense. Let's just keep going.

The elder talks about how sad he is that they couldn't pay more and Mal is like "no really it's fine" with a smiling implication of "we're handsome and smiling heroes who don't require filthy lucre" and okay I *was* warned not to expect character consistency.

They leave Planet Prairie in a hurry and Mal is shocked to find a girl hiding in the hold. I feel like he should be less shocked than he is; this sort of thing happens to him a lot. Girls having sex in the engine room, girls being cryogenically frozen luggage. Mal can't walk around his ship without finding a pretty girl in a state of sexy vulnerability.

None of this makes sense--why was she hiding in the hold if she thinks HE knows they're married--and okay it's a con and HAHA ANA this was FORESHADOWING that it was a con, but it's a BAD CON if that's the only explanation. I don't even understand why she has to pretend to be his wife; why not pretend to be a scared stowaway who hated Planet Prairie? Pretty sure you can seduce a man from that angle if you really need to? "I had to leave because they hurt me and you're heroes" would actually fit here since it was a charity mission but I guess that wouldn't have had the benefit of exploding everyone's characterization. Like, what was the plan if he'd been like "NO THANKS I DO NOT LIKE FLOWERS OR DRINKS", do you just have to abandon the con then because your ridiculously over-complicated Fake Marriage Plot doesn't work, Saffron?

Saffron drops the "Mr. Reynolds, sir, I'm your wife" and "TAKE MY LOVE" slams into play. I've always had such complicated feelings about such a pretty theme song that's pretty clearly trying to reference westerns and Old South tropes.

Jayne is upset that HE isn't the one who got the wife, and yes haha Jayne is the worst haha, but this brings up new problems like why DIDN'T Saffron pick the obviously-easier mark if she just wanted to get on the ship. I don't even really understand why they wouldn't take her on as a paying passenger, though, and since the plan is to steal the ship, that would include the money ON the it's not like she'd need much money to start with. Basically, the con only makes sense from the Doyleist level of "we want Mal to be married to someone he's attracted to but doesn't feel ethically right to bang" "because that's funny" and it would've made SO MUCH MORE SENSE to do literally anything else.

(It also feels like more of the Buffy/Angel/etc. fear of casual-but-positive sex? Saffron could just be someone Mal feels ethically able to bang, and then the episode could proceed as it does--drugged lipstick, etc.--but here we are?)

@LA_Knight89. I...never thought about that. Why WAS she hiding???

I mean, the Doyleist reason is that if she didn't hide, Mal would have put her off the ship, but the Watsonian reason isn't given and wouldn't work even if it was: she thinks he's supposed to know and approve of her as "payment". And, yes, it's a con and she *knows* her wedding story is a lie, but in which case she maybe needs to come up with a better explanation like "I was trying to get away from Planet Prairie, where they hurt me!" or something.

@brigidkeely. And if you want humor, you could play up the frustration angle of it... she's constantly trying to get him alone to drug him, they almost kiss, they're interrupted, etc. It feels like just kissus interruptus and then she finally DOES kiss him & he goes down.

Oh my gosh, this would be so much better. Like, they both WANT to kiss (FOR VERY DIFFERENT REASONS) and we mis-read her frustration at being constantly interrupted. My god, I can't stop imagining what a great episode that would be? Sex-positive Mal and an enthusiastic Saffron and growing frustration and then you're SO HAPPY that they got that kiss and then TWIST he just slams into the decking.

Zoe calls everyone down to the cargo bay to "congratulate you on your day of bliss" and like. That seems really cruel. Saffron hasn't had a chance to yet play up the "maybe not quite capable of consent??" card yet, but AT BEST she's an abuse survivor from Planet Prairie, so this is either a Preacher Book situation or a Doctor Simon situation, not a "Point and laugh" situation. (I'm reminded of @alexandraerin 's EXCELLENT tweet thread a few days back about how when you mock someone for "sitting next to Smelly Simon!" you're mocking them, yes, but Simon is getting it way worse and that's why mockery needs to be wielded with care.)

Someone pointed out earlier that the crew's reactions center Mal as an object of ridicule and mostly don't care that Saffron is scared and hurting. Which just... doesn't feel like Zoe? Jayne touches Saffron's blouse and asks if he can have her. Zoe hits him and then says "Jayne! Don't sully this!", it's supposed to be a joke about sullying this moment, but when you read it in text, it could just as easily apply to Saffron and *nopetopus*

Everyone except River and Inara come down. @arthur_affect pointed out earlier that they couldn't have River in the episode because her whole THING is sniffing people's secrets and exposing them. Like the "River suddenly puts on a perfect accent for that one guy and pretends to be a member of his old home planet" bit? That's her thing.

Zoe puts her arms around Saffron and introduces her as "Mrs. Reynolds" and it's......interesting that they had Zoe do this when it would be so much more in character for Wash--he's the jokester who goes too far. Did they write it with Wash and realize that Mal-Wash-Jayne batting Saffron around as a cat toy just felt too damn cruel?

OH, Inara is here, I was wrong. She gets to look horrified at Mal getting married because of course she's secretly in love with him this early on in the show.

WAIT, hang on, I paused and River IS in the room, it's a blink-and-miss-it so far. WELL THAT JUST BREAKS EVERYTHING, DOESN'T IT? The only way this can work is River is 100% on board with Saffron's ship-stealing plans.

Saffron starts cry and Kaylee hugs her and tells her Mal makes everyone cry, so points to Hufflepuff there for Kaylee being decent. (I will entertain arguments in my mentions as to Kaylee being a different house, yes, but they'll have to be pretty convincing to sway me, lol.)

There is a 1-second shot of River staring into space. I am on River watch, you guys, I will keep you UPDATED on the River situation.

Mal ask-shouts for Saffron to stop crying and Inara tears into him ("For God's sake, Mal, could you be a human being for 30 seconds!") and:

1- Inara. What do we think? Gryffindor? Slytherin? Hufflepuff? All of them?

2- Yes, but... could you take care of Saffron, hon?

Mal says he didn't marry Saffron and Book holds forth with an encyclopedia that he did ("The woman lays her wreath upon her intended and he drinks from her wine") and like. Consent? We're... we're gonna have Book argue that non-consensual marriage is a good thing? That feels out of character for Book, but I WAS WARNED.

"You, sir... are a newlywed," he says with the biggest grin ever as a girl cries nearby. THIS FEELS OUT OF CHARACTER FOR BOOK and honestly I understand now why we had so many fan arguments about the characters' characters. Because, I mean, I would argue that Book would never gloat over a dictionary definition while a girl nearby sobs helplessly in need of comfort, but he clearly is standing right here doing that very thing so how does one reconcile that in order to have a convo about him???

@NaomiKritzer. Like she has knockout lipstick, she could have judgement impairing perfume.

I am here for the Sephora line of con-cosmetics.

.@brigidkeely points out that you'd really want Simon to check her over for health issues that might be a problem in space, and I know they don't usually do that on this show, but it could also be a nice way for the empathic guy to get to know the scared passenger? The fact that he doesn't care more--Simon went to get an encyclopedia for Book and I haven't seen him since--is upsetting to me, given how much Saffron reminds me of River so far. She's young, pretty, and fragile.

Mal asks--and I feel this is reasonable--what does the book say about divorce, and Saffron runs out while everyone makes a judgey face. Is... is he supposed to STAY married? (Quick check: If Kaylee was "married" without her consent to a guy on some planet, would it be awful of her to want a divorce?)

Kaylee says something apparently cutting in Chinese, which I guess spared the writers from having to think up what is wrong with Mal asking for a divorce from a marriage he in no way consented to.

@Azure_Husky. Something close to "you're not good enough for her, you wretch" according to


A lot of "would this be funny if we flipped genders" is bullshit because it often ignores the privileges within a situation, but given the minimizing of sexual violence against men, I think it's valid here to point out this episode's "consent is optional for males" is gross. Kaylee, like??? Saffron could be the most angelic person in the universe and that still wouldn't affect Mal's attitude upon finding out he's been married without his consent?? Consent is important??

@arthur_affect. Yes, the only thing the con requires is that she get on board the ship and disable the crew, which it's established she's equipped to do without any of the marriage rigmarole (either through a more normal seduction or just by getting them alone and kicking them in the head)


@ChaKatKimber. I... THINK it's that her con relies on the promise of sex making some men stupid, and she assumes Mal is the same type as her average mark. Everyone in the setting seems to think that, but he is clearly not That Guy to the audience and it falls flat.

...oh no. Oh no, yes, of course. How could I have been so naive as to not see that Mal is supposed to be the GOOD GUY here for "not taking advantage" of Saffron as "any other man would" oh no it's so clear now, I have been a trusting fool. I assumed that no one in the year of our gourd whenever-this-was would still be expecting cookies handed out for NOT taking advantage of vulnerable young women.

@arthur_affect. The attempt to justify this when they bring back Saffron in "Trash" is that she's not rational and she gets off specifically on pretending to be men's true love, marrying them, and betraying them. Which is... problematic characterization.

*weeps into my own hands*

Inara is being visibly mad, and I'm upset about this because AT THE TIME of first-viewing I'd thought she was mad because everyone is being awful. And NOT mad because she's upset some other woman stealed her man. Like, jesus, Inara, take the jealousy down about a million notches; Mal is distraught that he was tricked into the marriage and is marching off to get a divorce, I think she's not a THREAT to you. Since this is supposed to have been a reveal episode (that she likes Mal, per her willingness to kiss him), I do think the Inara Simmering is supposed to be foreshadowing that she Really Does Care and *barf* I cannot imagine being JEALOUS that someone non-consensually married my crush, I would be WORRIED for my crush and possibly also for the other person.

@arthur_affect. The justification I've seen for Zoe being out of character here is she has her own insecurity over failing to be traditionally feminine. And what she wants to do here is shove Mal and Wash's faces into this child-wife stereotype she thinks they want and make them deny wanting it.

This is a fascinating new flavor of awful; this would mean that Zoe thinks the objectionable thing about the situation is Saffron's personality rather than the lack of consent.

@arthur_affect. It is completely wildly unacceptable how they didn't have one of the women whom she seemed comfortable with take her aside while the rest discuss the situation. Looking back it straight up doesn't make sense to me, like, who raised you people.

And Book is a pastor! His ENTIRE JOB is comforting the afflicted! It doesn't make sense! I mean, arguably that's Inara's job too! And Simon's! THERE ARE MANY FAILURES HERE.

@arthur_affect. As a pastor he's the one authority figure here whose judgment Saffron is supposed to accept without question. He has the power to at least start to try to make things right, tell Saffron that her marriage to Mal isn't valid but that doesn't reflect on her worth as a woman.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, and we don't get nearly as many GOOD pastors in fiction as I'd like, so this would be SO NICE to have!!

Mal manages to find Saffron and asks if she's okay. She asks if he's going to kill her. He's horrified and she tells him that happens on Planet Prairie and he tells her he's Not Like That and she shouldn't "ever stand for that sort of thing".

(I mean, I get that he feels the need to empower her, but I don't really know how "don't accept being killed" is a solid answer to "are you planning to kill me because I'm aware that you easily could" but okay fine fine.)

("I ain't them" feels more like a humblebrag than the more useful "Anyone who would do that is terrible" but okay okay okay.)

(Like, "well I don't know about other people but *I* don't juggle kittens" okay Ana sure that makes you special.)

He's kind of cute ("anyone tries to kill you, you kill them right back!") and then "that's a DUMB PLANET" and Mal... that was her home, but okay okay I do realize the joke is that you're bad at people. Saffron tells him she'd be a good wife and Mal says he'd be a bad husband (CONSENT WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT CONSENT) and she's ecstatic that they have "five days together" until the next stop and runs off to make him dinner.

Book sticks his head into view. "Divorce is very rare and requires dispensation from her pastor" WHY DOES THAT MATTER, BOOK?!?!?! ARE YOU A RULES-LAWYER NOW? I mean, arguably this is a good thing to know for Saffron's sake--if it's going to bother her as much or more than the bit about Mal not wanting her--but only in a "we need to know this in order to explain it to her" not a "welp, I guess Mal is stuck" way. Also, BOOK is a pastor and I doubt she knows the nuance that divorce has to be from HER pastor, so why isn't Book taking time to get to know her as the spiritual authority that he is? Both morally AND practically, that would be the right thing for him to do!

Also-also, what the fuck kind of community has "divorce is very rare" but it's shinyfine, socially speaking, to kill your bride if you don't like her? This is like Planet of the Misogynists. Look, women are not disposable in a Planet Prairie situation! Yes, you can treat them poorly, but you can't just murder them willy-nilly without social consequences.

@arthur_affect. It would admittedly be kind of hilarious for him to be so upset she doesn't feel safe on his ship that he just gives her a loaded gun to protect herself from him.

This is delightful but now all I can notice is that Mal didn't do anything to make her feel materially safer; she's just got to trust that he won't change his mind and start beating her. I mean, the show wants us to assume she's childlike for being all "I'll make you dinnnnnner *dances away* " but I'd just be assuming that Mal's reassurances are just words and she knows words from powerful men are worthless. (And she does literally dance away; they're playing up that she might be intellectually immature and thus unable to consent to sex--otherwise it wouldn't be ethically quite so sticky for Mal to sleep with her.)

ANYWAY, back to Book: He offers to send a message to Saffron's pastor and like. WHY? "I can send him a wave, see what I can do." HE'S A TERRIBLE MAN FROM PRAIRIE PLANET WHERE THEY KILL BRIDES. I really don't see how that pastor's permission is going to help Saffron's feelings more than not doing that. And are they going to ask Saffron if the request would be safe, or if her sister/mother/etc. will be beaten because she displeased Mal???? Like, here are the issues I have:

1. Book is acting like this marriage is binding on Mal despite his total lack of consent.

2. Book and Mal are treating "Planet Prairie is bad" as something other than a systemic problem their every action needs to now structure around. By "their every action needs to now structure around", I mean:

a. Making sure Saffron has material security more than Mal's word that HE isn't a bad man.

b. Making sure their actions don't increase the suffering of the women remaining on Planet Prairie.

@arthur_affect. The fact that in-universe the real Saffron is intentionally fucking with him and probably also finds this amusing is probably supposed to make this episode easier to take on rewatch.

I think you're right, and that would mean they didn't expect viewers would be left upset at not knowing whether Planet Prairie women are suffering back home or if Saffron made that part up. I mean, it has to be plausible for the con to work! And Mal is offended, but accepts that it happens! AND THAT ALARMS ME.

Book tells Mal that if he takes "sexual advantage" of her (I guess we're not going to use the rape-word and talk about consent, sigh) he's going to a special level of hell "reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater." WOW. So just so we're clear on the Dante structure here: Rape of children, Rape of people who maybe can't consent, and talking at the theater are all equally problematic sins. It's a joke? I guess? But it feels like a really shitty time to be joking? If Book thinks Mal would never, such that he can har-har about it, why even bring it up? If Book thinks it needs to be said, why not object more to the sleeping arrangements later?

If Book really thinks they're married--which he seems to!--and that Mal should respect that law--which he seems to!--then what.....does he think Mal and Saffron are *supposed* to do, sexually speaking? I don't mean this in the sense that marriages mean sex (they don't!), but rather that if Saffron wants sex but isn't competent to consent, then someone needs to EXPLAIN that to her, and Book (as the spiritual authority) is.....probably the best choice? Book seems to think that Mal should stay married to Safforn but just push her away every time she tries to initiate sexual contact, and that seems genuinely cruel to both Mal AND Saffron. Mal shouldn't have to fend off unwanted sexual advances and Saffron deserves a gentle explanation re: her inability to consent, IF they believe she can't consent.

Oh god, we're only 12 minutes in and I've been live-tweeting this for 8 hours.

Mal enjoys the food Saffron made for him; Wash asks for more and she says she didn't think to make more but "everything is all laid out if you want to cook for your husband" (to Zoe).

Zoe: "So... are you enjoying your own nubile little slave girl."

oh god.

First thought: Wow, that was really a line they put in the Black woman's mouth?

Second thought: Wow, wasn't that the word Whedon told @EmilyNussbaum that he loves?

Wash and Zoe clash over his enthusing about the food and having a wife that cooks good food and I guess we're just done talking about Mal's lack of consent hahaha oh god. Inara tells Mal that she can't make commitments and not keep them like HE does and he asks "are you touchy because I got myself a bride or because I don't plan to keep her" and YES we are definitely not going to talk about Mal's TOTAL LACK OF CONSENT.

Like. LIKE. If they're going to just skate over his lack of consent, why even have it there? Why not have him say "haha, yeah, I'll marry you, little lady" when she asks and then laugh because he's drunk and thought the sarcasm was obvious. Why not do that? That would at least carry SOME degree of sense for all the crew to be upbraiding him for getting married and then BREAKING HIS WORD or whatever?!?!?! A "sarcasm yes" would have made so much more SENSE, but as it is they are all taking him to task for:

- letting a woman stick a flower crown on his head.

- drinking the drink she gave him.

- not knowing this was a legally binding marriage on this planet.

Which, OH SHIT, it actually IS a legally binding marriage on that planet because BOOK LOOKED IT UP, so Saffron DIDN'T invent that as part of her con and I CAN say it makes NO DANG SENSE. Presumably Saffron is using that planet as her operations base BECAUSE she loves her little marriage con?

The only other options are:

- Book is in on it

- Saffron hacked Wikipedia

Inara says she finds the whole thing degrading. Mal says 'funny, that's what Saffron said about your profession.' This is a LIE. Saffron said she wouldn't do sex work and that was ALL she said. I'm not sure Joss/Mal recognizes that there are women who wouldn't do sex work but still see sex work as valid.

Jayne shows up with a gun and a frown and I remember feeling a surge of relief at this point. YES, SOMEONE IS TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY. SOMEONE IS ANGRY AT HOW THEY'RE TREATING SAFFRON. JAYNE IS A STRANGE CHOICE, BUT OKAY GOOD. But hahahaha no, it's just his favorite gun and he's offering a trade: the gun for Saffron.

Zoe and Wash yell at each other because Saffron is making her feel insecure. Just like Saffron makes Inara insecure. I just??? There is an ABUSED GIRL on the ship, and the two most empowered women on board (Zoe, Inara) are furious with HER for being desirable and with the men for desiring her desirableness. I have been The Abused Girl in the room and 100% of the women wanted to protect me. Zoe is angry that Wash didn't "set her ass down" back on the planet where they sell girls like cattle and kill them if they sass back. And it's not even like this is their FIRST abused tragic flower, RIVER STILL EXISTS. (There has been no more River in this episode.) My god, if River had been a little more submissive-simper and a little more good-chef, would Wash have been like this to her? Jayne? Mal?

Mal is alarmed to find a nude Saffron in his bed, which means he did not even TALK to her about where she would be sleeping tonight. He just assumed that, after waiting on him hand and foot and offering to wash his feet, she wouldn't try to enter his room? "Didn't you see you got a room of your own?" Can we just throw him out the airlock??? Even if he didn't feel up to explaining that to her, DELEGATE IT TO SOMEONE. Like Simon!

God, you know who else they shuffled rapidly off-screen? Simon. For the same reason Simon can't be allowed to talk to Inara over the course of the show and be her friend as a fellow "outsider" to the criminal world: he's polite and gentle and he wouldn't be mean to her, so it doesn't make sense that she'd NOT contrast him with Mal. Simon breaks the plot worse than River; at least with River you can think well maybe she thought it would be funny to keep quiet. But Simon, you couldn't have Saffron going on about how gentle and chivalrous Mal is. Both now AND after the reveal. Mal stops being Uniquely Good.

Mal is struggling to make the words line up and go because there's a nude woman in his room. please send help. Sigh, okay here we go. Mal explains to her that they're "not married". Not because of his lack of consent to the whole thing and not because of any inability on her part to consent meaningfully, but because marriage-for-debt isn't right. She tells him that she was raised to expect to be wedded to settle a debt, but she never dreamed she'd have such a lovely kind husband, and that he can abandon her if he wants but "let me have my wedding night".

Mal moans "Oh, I'm gonna go to the special hell" which indicates that he has decided to take sexual advantage of her, because that was the entrance criteria. Even if he means that just to mean "have sex" with her rather than "take sexual advantage", he still is? He's *aroused* by her speech, rather than sympathizing at the sheer amount of abuse she's suffered from birth. Like, she literally says she's lived her whole life knowing she's the property of men, and watched the other women sold to awful men, and experienced ecstatic relief to realize that would not be her fate, THAT IS NOT A SEXY TALE!!!!!!!

At no point in that tale would I be like "oh HAWT, tell me again how wonderful I am for not being an abusive shithead", I would be like "okay, but all of this is WHY it would be absolutely immoral for me to tumble you into bed right this minute". But now that I think on it, I can't imagine a stronger aphrodisiac for *Mal* than hearing how he's better than every other man ever. ANYWAY, they kiss and he flops over.

Saffron attempts to seduce Wash and HIS objections are that he's married and "madly in love with a beautiful woman who can kill me with her pinky!" I'll at least give Wash this one as "I'm married and in love" is the most socially acceptable answer for turning someone down, as opposed to "I don't want to" or "I have ethical concerns that I'd be taking advantage of unequal power dynamics", but I will point out that some of the ways we MAKE those answers more socially acceptable is by seeing them play out in fiction and we will not see that tonight.

Saffron kicks him in the head.

@arthur_affect. I really feel like the more logical reason for him to resist is that he smells a rat. Like as much as the male ego can be self flattering there is zero logical reason for her to be into him. I think in the commentary they even say you can tell she's laying it on too thick here.

Yeah, it's not a convincing seduction scene. She could have done better, but you get the sense that she was rushing (and that the episode was getting long).

@arthur_affect. "Oh uh someone's in here, uh you're the pilot, you must like stars, here comes the sexy stars speech"

I actually mis-remembered the entire scene; I thought she tried to cozy up to him by crying about poor treatment from Mal and then a "you're nicer than him" seduction attempt! Because her actual attempt IS so bad. She does something with the piloting, then shuts off the bridge and heads for the escape pod also known as Inara's rooms. (Oh, sorry, it's the OTHER shuttle; Inara came in here after her screen shorted. Which, if that was due to what Saffron was doing on the bridge, makes the timing-- never mind I don't care about continuity.)

Inara snaps "are you LOST?" which is an incredibly cruel thing to say to a girl who is:

- new to your ship.
- new to EVERY ship, ever.
- probably seeking privacy from the men.

It occurs to me that Inara has made ZERO attempt to check on the girl. *We* know how everything went down, but Inara just cloistered herself away. She has no idea whatsoever how people are treating her. Just declared it Not Her Problem.

Saffron's seduction attempt of Inara is actually... like... I'm angry now. Everything she says is fine, but Inara *immediately* see through it as a lie, I guess because it's just highly suspicious for a woman to be queer? Christ on a cracker. And no, I will not buy "well she has Companion magic" because she couldn't tell Saffron was a liar before when she was fake-crying in the cargo hold. "I don't like Mal and I don't like men and I think you're beautiful" is way more believable than ANYTHING she said in the cargo hold!

For one, nobody likes Mal! He made her cry!

For two, Planet Prairie has awful men! and queer women exist!




Okay, here is the Saffron/Inara scene. Transcript here.

Are you lost?

I'm sorry. I thought the other shuttle was yours.

It is. I was on the cortex and my screen shorted. This one's out too.

Looking for customers?

What were you looking for?

I don't mean to be rude... A companion's life is so glamorous and strange... I wish I had the skill for such a trade...

You'd like to please your new husband.

Oh, he'll have none of me... For true I'm somewhat relieved... if I'm to learn of love, I'd want it to be at the hands of someone gentle... someone who could... feel... what I feel...

But Mal said... you don't approve of my work...

Sure and he said that to keep you from me... I was too curious about you, ever since I saw you...

Come to my shuttle.

You would... you would lie with me?

*The alarm goes off, red lights spinning.*

I guess we've lied enough.

You're good.

You're amazing. Who are you?

Malcolm Reynold's widow.

Here's my thoughts in no particular order:

Wash's failed seduction makes sense. It's rushed and sloppy and impersonal; he says a random thing about the stars and she latches onto it like this deep common bond they both share. It's 'forced teaming', and way too fast.

Inara's failed seduction does NOT make sense, not to me. Saffron slows down and gets back into her Prairie Girl role. Almost everything she said there was the truth: Mal did lie about her not-approving of Inara's profession, Mal doesn't want anything to do with her. Mal doesn't tell her to stay away from Inara, but if he'd even gotten a whiff of "wanting to be a companion" from Saffron, he absolutely would have. There's nothing here that reads like a lie, feels out of character for Saffron, or feels out of character for Mal. (I'd have been much more comfortable with a lie about Mal that Inara could spot, like saying he'd raised a hand to Saffron. And even *that* would've been problematic from a MeToo / Not My Nigel standpoint!)

Furthermore, while Wash has seen enough of Saffron's character to be confused by her sudden 180 switch to him, Inara has very carefully seen *nothing* of Saffron. She cloistered herself in her rooms after Saffron showed up, avoiding her out of jealousy. So she has no idea whether this conversation is in character for Saffron or not. For all Inara knows, Saffron could've tried this line on Zoe and Kaylee already and is working her way clumsily around the ship looking for a girl-lover. Hell, for all Inara knows, incidental sapphic love may be totally acceptable and normal on Saffron's world. She has ZERO CONTEXT for determining through empathy that this girl is acting wrong.

Double-furthermore: We aren't meant to see Saffron's seduction of Mal as strange or foreshadowing of villainy. She's bold, yes, and she argues in a logical way why she'd rather be happy now than miserable without him. We see it as normal that a sheltered girl coming out of an abusive environment would throw herself at the first nice person she finds attractive... until the subject of that bold, eloquent, self-flung seduction is a woman. If the show asks us to accept (and it does, for the twist to work) that Saffron would throw herself at an attractive man, then it shouldn't be automatically suspicious to Inara when Saffron throws herself as an attractive woman.

Because Inara figures out so quickly that Saffron is a fraud, it feels like a suggestion that sapphic desire is strange or something to be wary of. I *don't* find it strange that a sheltered girl who has only 5 days on a ship before the unknown embraces her would just straight up tell Inara, "I'd like to sleep with you, now if possible." The rush doesn't read as automatically suspicious to me here, any more than it did with Mal when I watched this the first time and didn't yet know the twist. Maybe this is coming too close to my own experiences, but nothing Saffron says or does here feels "false" without knowing in advance that she's a fake.

Now, obviously we're intended to read this scene as Saffron rushing in a suspicious way (unlike her unsuspicious heterosexual rush at Mal!) and Inara being super-empath such that she picks up on every little twitch in her face (but didn't earlier when she was fake-wailing in the cargo bay because Mal protested against the marriage). But I maintain--and this is a subjective thing that will vary from viewer to viewer!!!!--that the intended effect of Saffron-sloppy and Inara-empath was not justified well enough in the script. And the result, in my opinion, was an unintentional but still harmful suggestion that sapphic love is somehow less normal than heterosexual love.

I don't expect anyone to agree with me, but there's my thoughts.


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