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Firefly - Season 1 - Episode 04

Firefly - 1x04 - Bushwhacked - Originally Aired: 2002-9-27

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 4.33

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A friendly basketball game aboard Serenity is interrupted by an encounter with a colony ship that appears abandoned. When the crew investigates, they find plenty of supplies, meals left half-eaten, the lifeboats all gone, and then, eventually, mutilated bodies, and one half-crazed survivor.

Mal's theory is that Reavers attacked, which doesn't sit well with the crew. Simon and Book give the colonists a proper burial, Jayne loots the ship, and Kaylee removes a Reaver booby-trap. Meanwhile, the survivor lays in the infirmary.

All's well until the Serenity encounters an Alliance ship. While Simon and River hide outside Serenity in EVA suits, the crew is questioned, Serenity is searched, and the survivor is taken aboard the Alliance ship.

Things look grim for the crew, right up until the survivor, who has seen such horrors that he transforms himself into a Reaver in order to cope with the trauma, escapes back to Serenity, leaving a swath of bodies.

Mal convinces the Alliance commander to let him join the search team, and Mal saves the commander's life by killing the crazed survivor. In return, the commander lets the Serenity and its crew go...but he impounds all their cargo. [Blu-ray] [DVD]


- This episode is the winner of my "Worst Episode of Firefly" award.

Remarkable Scenes
- Jayne regarding the vacuum of space: "It's impressive what nothing can do to a man."
- Jayne: "He looked bigger when I couldn't see him!"
- Jayne: "I ain't goin' over there with them bodies. No ruttin' way. Not if reavers messed with'em." Zoe: "Jayne, you'll scare the women."
- Mal using his respect for the dead speech as a decoy to distract the rest of the crew from the fact that there is a reaver booby trap attached to the ship.
- Serenity being intercepted by an Alliance ship.
- The interviews.
- Simon and River hiding outside the ship in space suits.
- The Alliance commander: "Seems odd you would name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of." Mal: "May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."
- Mal saving the Alliance commander.
- The Alliance ship destroying the derelict.

My Review
Here we have another episode featuring the reavers plot thread, but only an unfortunately shallow exploration of what the reavers are all about. The only survivor of a ship ravaged by reavers was forced to witness terrible horrors so as a consequence he... becomes one of them? A completely ridiculous plot and Mal's explanation for as well as his intuition regarding why this would occur is equally ridiculous.

The second major gaffe this episode makes is to give us the first real filler of the season. The previous three episodes all advance major plot arcs in significant ways. In fact the previous episode leaves us with a rather interesting cliffhanger concerning River which isn't followed up on at all here. It makes sense that there are longer term plot arcs at work here which won't necessarily see action in every episode, but the fact remains, this episode contributes nothing to any of the larger arcs. You could probably skip watching it entirely and still miss nothing important.

Otherwise this episode moves at a rather slow pace, but oddly that is something of a compliment here as the best scenes are those which have nothing to do with the main plot. The various irrelevant character moments make this episode actually quite enjoyable to watch and once again the humor in the episode remains most effective. But these details aren't enough to save this rather pointless filler episode.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Eric on 2009-10-29 at 12:12am:
    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and after rewatching it I noticed Mal states in his explanation as to why someone becomes a Reaver that it was supposition. The interrogation scenes were priceless and Jayne's prank on Simon, classic.

    Bushwacked does a good job of fleshing out the reavers. Also, this episode further illustrates that it is "getting awfully crowded" in Mal's sky and it further conveys that reavers are a serious threat. Rapist cannibalistic murderers? Yeah, I'm scared.
  • From JD on 2016-11-14 at 8:42pm:
    I've just started watching Firefly, not seen any of it before. If this episode is the worst of it then it should be a really impressive series.

    Mals explanation of the bloke going mental and becoming a Reaver himself is a weak point, not a bad episode though.

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