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Firefly - Season 1 - Episode 13

Firefly - 1x13 - The Message - Originally Aired: 2003-7-15

My Rating - 2

Fan Rating Average - 5.88

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Synopsis
At a space station, the crew shops, pokes around, and picks up mail. Jayne gets a letter and a knit cap from his mother, and Mal and Zoe get a corpse.

The corpse's name is Tracey, and Mal and Zoe served with him during the war. He had left a recording, requesting that his remains be brought home to St. Albans. However, a Fed named Lt. Womack also wants Tracey's corpse, and he's willing to shoot down the Serenity to get it.

Reluctantly, Mal orders an autopsy while Wash evades Womack. The most shocking discovery of the autopsy is that Tracey's alive. He was in a suspended state that simulated death, and now he says he wants to get home, but he's carrying transplantable organs that need to incubate in a person. He decided to take a better offer on the black market, but the new buyer was caught, so Tracey "killed" himself and had himself shipped to Mal and Zoe.

Womack, having grown tired of Mal's stalling, resumes shooting at Serenity. Eventually, the crew realizes that Womack won't stop until they're dead, but Book also notices that Womack hasn't checked in with the local Fed base.

Tracey doesn't like the crew's plan, and shoots Wash to keep him from contacting Womack, which results in Zoe shooting Tracey. Wounded, Tracey runs and takes Kaylee hostage, but Mal is able to gun him down, leaving Womack empty-handed, and a threat from Book to alert the Fed base to Womack's extracurricular activities leads the Fed to depart Serenity in peace.

The crew returns Tracey's body to St. Albans for proper burial. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- The postman called Jayne "Kyle" which he responded to... were they operating under assumed names or something or was this a mistake?

Factoids
- This episode was never aired in the original 2002 Fox run and was not seen until after the series was canceled.
- This was the last episode of Firefly filmed. Thus, the funeral scenes were especially potent for the cast and crew, as they were mourning the loss of the show.
- The creator of the series, Joss Whedon, appears in the background during the funeral.
- This episode was nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Remarkable Scenes
- Simon committing another faux pas with Kaylee.
- River: "My food is problematic."
- Jayne's hat.
- Mal and Zoe being mailed a dead guy.
- The flashback to the battle of Du-Khang.
- The crooked police officer.
- The mustache story.
- The corpse waking up and screaming when Simon started cutting on him.
- Mal: "Okay, you wanna explain to me exactly why you got yourself all corpsified and mailed to me?"
- Tracey's heart beating faster when he saw Kaylee.
- Wash's reaction to seeing Tracey alive and walking around.
- Serenity evading the police ship.

My Review
Another lackluster offering, The Message repeats the common cliche of a romance strained by pure pettiness this time between Kaylee and Simon, as we must endure Kaylee's fleeting fancy for Tracey just because Simon is clumsy around women. More importantly though, Tracey himself just failed to be a very compelling character, and he drags the episode down quite a bit as a result.

Much of the fault for this lies instead on the plot though rather than the character. The unforgivable sin committed by the plot in this episode is the fact that nobody bothered to let Tracey know that when they were planning to let the cops board the ship, it wasn't with the intention to give Tracey up, but rather to call the cops' bluff by letting the cops know that Serenity's crew is well aware that the cops were operating well out of their jurisdiction.

Given that info, it's doubtful Tracey ever would have pulled a weapon on Mal and his crew and they all had plenty of time to clue him in on the plan. Not doing so forced Tracey's hand. Instead of feeling stupid just before he died, he should have felt betrayed, due to this unnecessary misdirection. It is unfortunate that the crew must now begin acting stupid in order to satisfy Firefly's fetish for misdirecting the audience.

Aside from this, it's a bit irritating that we hear the message itself replayed no less than three times in the episode. Really, once would have been enough. Overall, aside from a few amusing moments of comedy, this episode is quite a disappointment.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From john on 2010-11-18 at 12:23am:
    hearing the message three times was really annoying. Twice might have been forgiven. Still, this was better than some of the other episodes with at least a bit of lively elements.

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