|"Heart of Gold"|
August 19, 2003
Heart of Gold is the thirteenth episode of the Firefly TV series and wasn't aired during the original series run. It is the last of three episodes that were not broadcast in the original 2002 Fox run.
At a ranch-like whorehouse in the middle of a barren land, a man in a hover craft, Rance Burgess, accompanied by thugs on horseback, approaches the madam, Nandi, looking for "the girl." Despite Nandi's protest that "the girl" had left, the thugs drag Petaline, a nine-month-pregnant young woman, out to face him. He forcefully extracts a DNA sample from her to verify if the child is his, threatening to cut it out of her if need be. When the men leave, a group of women crowd around Petaline and Nandi, wondering who can protect the distraught mother-to-be from the ruthless tyrant.
Cut to Mal Reynolds, practicing his gun draw. Inara enters the dining area behind him and startles him with her greeting. He then claims that she didn't startle him and that "Bwaahh!" is a warrior's cry. Wash shortly arrives to announce a distress call, specifically asking for Inara. As she leaves, he aims his gun and quietly growls "Bwah." Onboard her shuttle, Inara talks to Nandi, an old friend, on a vidscreen, and offers to ask the Serenity crew to help. Overhearing the conversation, Mal muses about "a whole house full of Companions", but Inara corrects him, reluctantly calling them "whores". Mal seems bemused that they, unlike Inara, are "independent", and uncharacteristically dismisses Inara's offer to pay for the assistance. Inara insists on keeping this "strictly a business arrangement". Zoë assembles the crew to explain the voluntary nature of this mission. Jayne predictably objects to such a risky humanitarian endeavor. Book tries to appeal to his seemingly non-existent altruistic side, but Mal quickly gains his support instead by pointing out the women's trade. ("They're whores." "I'm in.")
Arriving at Nandi's ranch, the crew is warmly greeted by the proprietor and her employees. Jayne eagerly takes advantage of their hospitality, Shepherd Book shares an awkward moment with two women in need of spiritual counseling—who note that the last preacher who came by only read one prayer and then took 'payment' from both of them—Simon goes to examine the soon-due Petaline (with River in tow), and Kaylee bemoans her own lack of attention from the doctor. Mal and Zoë discuss the situation with Nandi, who describes the poverty Burgess enforces on the locals "so he can play cowboy".
That evening, Mal and Inara take a trip into town to allow Mal to size up their opponent. The odious Burgess only confirms Nandi's assessment. He also takes a second to show Mal his laser pistol, with an auto targeting scope. Shortly after the Serenity couple departs, Burgess gets his own confirmation — he is the father of Petaline's baby.
Returning to Nandi's ranch, Mal announces that Serenity will depart forthwith, rather than face "a monster who thinks he's right with God" and who won't back down after only a single thrashing from some temporary help. Nandi diplomatically acknowledges his need to protect his own people, but Mal clarifies that he expects to evacuate Nandi's people as well. Nandi refuses to leave her hard-earned property and way of life, and Mal reluctantly accepts the challenge, admiring the streak of stubborn independence they share; even Jayne optimistically notes that they may be able to catch Burgess off-guard given that he won't be expecting a fight.
The Serenity crew gamely spends the next day and night building up the brothel's defences and preparing some surprises for the villains. Zoë and Wash have a tense conversation (clearly not a new one) about having a baby themselves in the near future, and Zoë puts her foot down on the subject — after Wash says "I'm not sure it's the best time to bring a tiny little helpless person into our lives," Zoë objects; "That excuse is getting a little worn, honey...I ain't so afraid of losing something that I ain't gonna try to have it. You and I would make one beautiful baby, and I want to meet that child one day." Nandi shows off a prized collection of guns to Mal, slipping in some subtle queries about Mal and Inara's relationship, and observing that the two shipmates share a dislike of "complications". She talks about the Companion training she shared with Inara on the latter's home world, Sihnon. She says that Inara was in the running to become "house priestess" of House Madrassa when she suddenly left, without explanation, to travel among the Alliance worlds. Nandi had left before then, straining at the restrictions of Companion life. She moved to this border world and assumed control of the whorehouse (implying a hostile takeover), cleaning it up and making it a better workplace for "the girls". Mal and Nandi gradually move toward sex, pausing only when Nandi says "I ain't her", which Mal deflects without directly acknowledging her implication of his feelings for Inara.
Meanwhile, Petaline approaches delivery with Simon and a nervous Inara attending, both of whom reveal that they've never delivered a baby before (River unhelpfully contributes some of her typical odd pronouncements and behavior, such as asking who is "in there"). That evening, back in town, one of Nandi's girls, Chari, reports to Rance Burgess on Mal's preparations. After making an angry speech to his men implying women's ordained place as submissive servants to men, he makes Chari kneel before him to perform "a few more chores".
The next morning, Mal arises from Nandi's bed and stumbles into Inara in the hallway. As he tries to make excuses, Inara calmly acknowledges his sleeping with Nandi, even thanking him for comforting her friend, and suggests that Companions don't feel embarrassed about sex because of the lack of puritanism that Mal exhibits on the subject. But later, she sobs deeply in private.
Mal reviews the state of their defenses with his people and gives some last-minute advice to the worried women. Nandi looks in on Petaline, whom Inara is coaching while Simon prepares for the delivery. The two Companions share a look, and Nandi realizes that Inara is much more attached to Mal than she let on. When Nandi starts to discuss this with Mal, they are interrupted by "imminent violence" from Burgess's approaching forces. Burgess's men have gained prior access to Serenity and ambush Wash and Kaylee as they board. Wash and Kaylee have their hands full avoiding fire and are unable to answer Mal's call for air cover assistance.
The battle begins, with the villains using automatic and laser weapons on the ranch house and its occupants. Jayne deftly takes out the machine gunner named Kozick, and Book works a Kaylee-rigged fire hose to put out fires caused by the laser gun.
Back on Serenity, Wash lures the invaders into the rear hallway, and Kaylee locks them inside. The two shipmates belatedly realize, however, that they've locked themselves into their opposite's rooms — pilot Wash in the engine room, and engineer Kaylee pointlessly able to reach the bridge.
As Petaline gives birth, the traitorous Chari lets Burgess inside. He quickly storms into the delivery room, taking the newborn boy. Nandi overhears Petaline's cry of despair and heads off the departing Burgess. Inara sneaks up behind him and puts a knife to his throat, allowing one of Nandi's girls to recover the child. Burgess gets the drop on Inara, shoots Nandi, and escapes. Mal arrives too late to save Nandi. He and Inara grieve for a moment over the fallen woman, then have a silent conversation of looks that impel the rage-filled ship captain to pursue the kidnapper and murderer. He ultimately captures the man and drags him back to the ranch, setting the unrepentant and unbowed man on his knees before Petaline and their baby. She cheerfully introduces baby Jonah to his father, then shoots him in the head, execution-style and avenging Nandi. Petaline tells the remaining thugs to "go on home", and orders the treacherous Chari to accompany them. The girls and the crew have a funeral for Nandi and some of the deceased, during which one of the girls, Lucy, (played by Australian singer, Angie Hart) sings "Amazing Grace." Serenity then departs.
Back on the ship, Inara reiterates her gratitude that Mal was able to comfort Nandi on what turned out to be her last night, but Mal can only regret his failure to save her. As Mal tries to broach the subject of his and Inara's unacknowledged feelings toward each other, Inara muses about how Nandi created a family, and how that kind of shared strength and love makes people never want to break away. She then shocks Mal by announcing that she will be leaving Serenity.
- Nandi (Melinda Clarke)
- Chari (Kimberly McCullough)
- Rance Burgess (Fredric Lane)
- Petaline (Tracy Leah Ryan)
- Helen (Heather Black), Jayne’s favourite
- Lucy (Angie Hart), Christian
- Emma (Doan Ly), Christian
- Belinda Burgess (Sandy Mulvihill), Rance’s wife
- Puppet Theater Narrator (Jim Lau)
Behind the scenes
The episode highlights the difference between a Companion and common prostitute, suggesting that however much she might make financially, Nandi has fallen a long way in being reduced to this. A parallel may perhaps be drawn with the status Malcolm Reynolds enjoyed in the army, compared to his current fugitive condition.
During Wash and Zoe's discussion of eventually having children, Wash states his desire to not have a child is based off of "objective analysis." However, the DVD subtitles mistakenly write this line as "subjective analysis."
(Special Thanks to BrownCoats.com.)
- "The House would tell you not to come. I know they ordered you to shun me when I left." "That isn't why I haven't seen you Nandi. The House can gen houzi bi diushi. [engage in a feces hurling contest with a monkey.]" - Nandi and Inara.
- "Zhufu ni, meimei. [Blessing on you, dear sister.]" - Nandi bids Inara farewell.
- "It's so good to see you, meimei. [little sister.]" - Nandi greets Inara.
- "...wei zuozhe manzai er qu...' [...swollen of her, they left...]" - From the shadow puppet play.
- "Y'all are pulling, not squeezing like I said. Next one doesn't hit that board is giving up a special treat, dong ma? [understand?]" - Jayne teaches the whores to shoot.
- "Zhen mei naixing de Fozu, [Extraordinarily impatient Buddha,] Malcolm, I been waiting for you to kiss me since I showed you my guns..." - Nandi.
- "Wangbadan... [Sons of bitches...]" - Nandi curses when one of her girls is shot.
- "Got you, you niao shi de dugui! [piss-soaked pikers!]" - Wash escapes pursuit aboard Serenity.