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August 27 2005

Tonight's Firefly episode on SciFi - 'Safe'. And lo the phrase "Big Damn Heroes" entered the Whedonverse fandom.

For me the worst episode of the series but the one with the best lines. Go figure.

Carrying on with Whedon and Minear's Cinefantastique commentary.

Joss
This was an example of things not going the way that we wanted originally. We had a completely different bunch of flashbacks with a completely different bunch of actors. The message of the thing was very important to me, which was the idea of Simon realizing that he had found a home; that a real parent isnít somebody whoís extremely great, but only when itís convenient. Itís somebody, no matter how rough they might be, will never let you down. Thatís sort of what Mal becomes in that episode, and that meant a lot to me. It showed a lot about why Simon was so protective of his sister. But we did the flashbacks and they were just sort of histrionic and just didnít feel right, and we didnít have the one with the two little kids. It started out with River already in trouble, and I said, ďLetís see the two of them together.Ē Then we couldnít get the original people who had played the mother and father, because they had booked something else, so we had to cast that again. It was all very complicated and strange.


Tim
This was kind of a troubled episode initially. I remember we shot the episode and Joss and I hated it. We kind of blew it on the script, we werenít crazy about the way that it was shot and there were certain wardrobe elements that we didnít realize was going to happen until we saw it on screen, like big floppy hats and scarves. So we actually put it on hold for a while and returned to it. Later, Joss wrote a bunch of new scenes. For instance, the fans will recall where Jayne is rifling through Simonís room after Simon has been kidnapped, and itís a hilarious scene. That was actually added, because the show came in short after we ended up cutting all the stuff that we hated. We went back and wrote some new material and shot new scenes. By the time we put it all together, we were pretty happy with it.

This is actually one of my favorite episodes -- maybe even my favorite. Yeah, all the stuff in the frontier town is pretty cheesy, but the flashbacks are heartbreaking, and the final conversation between Mal and Simon is beautifully understated.
I agree with your negative assessment, Simon, (although it's probably not my least-favorite episode), but it's worth it just for:

"Dear Diary. Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. Today we were kidnapped by hillfolk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever!"

But no, I don't like the whole kidnapping plot and I like even less the witch thing (in fact, funnily enough, I equally dislike the witch thing on Gingerbread. Guess I don't like burnings at the stake.)
SNT snagged my fave line from this ep :)
The episode does show off Simon's really dry sense of humour.
*looks at Simon, for a second thinks he's talking in the third person, then realizes he is talking about Dr. Tam*
Simon, is there a specific website where you got the Joss and Tim quotes from? I just wouldn't mind reading them altogether.

I liked this episode, I didn't feel like one of the best but it was solid. I didn't personally like the flashbacks of young Simon and River, I didn't think the acting was too great and the technobabble was a little annoying. I think it's always better whenever they downplay it and keep it simple rather than talk a lot of nonsense.

I didn't mind the witch elements of the plot, in fact I thought it revealed more of River's abilities and also showed how Simon could have given up on her and been repulsed by her powers. It also makes some nice statements about created family, an important theme in all of Joss's work.
River dancing... :)
I actually really like this episode. It's really funny...and River dances. I like the flash-backs because they show us what was only once described by Simon in the pilot. River's little break-down in the town was heart-breaking when she told Simon she understands what he did. Plus, I like the whole religious contradictions (ie "The Lord says judge not" and then "Thou shall not all a witch to live") because the girl (I forgot her name) talks about Simon not judging her or the town, but when she is confronted with someone different from her, she completely condradicts herself and get's the town to try to burn her. And also? River dances :)

[ edited by MySerenity on 2005-08-26 22:55 ]
I had a link but it doesn't seem to be functional. Trying to dig it up. Can't seem to find it, grumble... success!

Archive.org links for those interested in reading the complete Episode Guides from CFQ:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

ETA:

Part Four

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-08-26 23:22 ]

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-08-27 06:13 ]
I just watched this episode on DVD a couple of hours ago. Yes, it's a little weak with the townfolk element. However, I love the interactions between the characters. Simon's happiness in watching River dance. The look Mal gave Jayne asking about the money after realizing Book was shot (noticed that River didn't sense Book was shot until Mal sees it. Hmmm..). How torn Kaylee becomes in leaving Simon and River behind on the planet. River's heart breaking confession to Simon on knowing he gave up everything for her. Many more, but I better stop there for new discussion.
All this riverdancing is making me edgy.

For me what it did, ie, deepen our understanding of River and Simon, give more hints about Book's past, show Mal as a father replacement far outweighs the (small) flaws in its execution.

Too bad River couldn't impale a couple of people on the stake, that would have been cool.
I love this episode! It's where I fell in love with Simon. His "light it" makes me cry every time.

I love the Simon and River relationship above any other in the 'verse. Simon's willingness to die not for, but WITH his sister is heart-wrenching.

The diary bit is my favorite line from the episode, but I also like this exchange:

River: Little soul, big world. Eat, sleep, and eat... Many souls.

Mal: Cattle on the ship three weeks, she don't go near 'em. Suddenly we're on Jiangyin and she's got a driving need to commune with the beast?

River: They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see the sky and they remember what they are.

Mal: Is it bad that what she said made perfect sense to me?

I also have a negative feeling about this episode, I'd also go so far as to label it my least favorite. However, now I'm beginning to wonder why that is. So many excellent lines of dialogue. There are moments in this episode that epitomize what I love about Firefly. Very odd.
ESG, I love that part too! Though this is one of my least favorite eps overall.
An overall really good-not-great episode marred by the cliche witch thing (and the phony holy man) redeemed by Mal's and Simon's conversation about why Mal came back, as justaposed with Simon's father in the flashback, saying he won't come for him again if he gets in trouble with the Alliance.

Blood, not always thicker than water.
My main complaint with this episode is with the townspeople. They are just a little too contrived or 2-D or something. I never buy their predicament nor their belief structure. Therefore the "danger" River finds herself in fails for me. Firefly/Serenity is a frontier show so exploring a Salem witch theme was inevitable with a character like River around. It just wasn't executed well. "Safe" probably should have stewed on the backburner for a bit longer to give the cast/crew time to get it right.

Other than that... the flashbacks and the moments with the rest of the crew are fantastic. Plus, as mentioned in this thread... some great exchanges between River/Mal and Simon/Mal. -mattro
Ooh, I forgot this one:

Mal: Well, look at this! Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?

Zoe: Big damn heroes, sir.

Mal: Ain't we just.


Best power scene in the series. EVER.
The first time through I didn't think much of 'Safe' one way or the other, but upon re-viewing I love it. It's one of my favorite episodes because it perfectly captures the relationship between Simon and River.
This one sort of felt like a 'Star Trek TOS' type episode to me.
River: They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see the sky and they remember what they are.

Mal: Is it bad that what she said made perfect sense to me?


Love these lines. So essentially River, with a plain-spoken, zen-like wisdom that comes across as nonsensical and profoundly deep at the same time. I remember scrambling for paper to write this and other things down during the original airing. (Even when the direction or something else might have stumbled a little, the dialogue was always notable.)

Have to agree it wasn't the series' strongest effort, for all the reasons mentioned above, but the cows always strangely amused me and that little exchange between Mal and River was so unexpectedly memorable and revealing of their relationship, it makes the weaker parts more enjoyable by association.

[Edit: Remembering now that the berries scene always makes me teary. Also, for anyone interested, the original shooting script can be found here. Interesting, though I much prefer the changes they made.]

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2005-08-27 00:35 ]
Like all of Joss's shows, even the 'weakest' episodes have many great lines and scenes that most other shows on TV could only dream of having. Many of Rivers lines stick in my head, like "She understands, she doesn't comprehend" from Objects In Space.
Many of Rivers lines stick in my head, like "She understands, she doesn't comprehend" from Objects In Space.


Yeah, exactly! This one stuck into my head too... a real kind of magic to it.
My favorite moments in this episode:
1. The Flashback scenes of the Tam Siblings. We get a lot of backstory about them, and it just great. We see the high expectations that they're parents hold for Simon, how Simon ends up disapoining them, and keeping the trend from the last episode, the importance of reputation (we did get some of that from Inara in "Shindig"
2. "What does that make us?" "Big Damn Heroes, Sir." "Ain't we just." Purely Classic.
3. There's the River dancing scene. It's just great the small "sane" moments that we get from River in this episode. (it just gives that session 22 viral marketing clip more meaning, IMHO)

In my opinion this is the best episode Drue Z. Greenberg ever wrote for a ME show. Back then he was a staff writer for Buffy's 6th season, but I always felt that even though they were all very talented, he was actually the weakest writer from the Buffy staff (though, my favorite episode of Buffy from him, was also from this season, which was "Entropy"). So when I watched "Safe" for the first time ever, I was really surprised by how good it was, and about how I enjoyed the episode. This was actually one of the episodes, that I really liked from the first viewing.

I loved the elements about faith that can turn a community that seem harmless, into fanatics (funny that we were just discussing about faith and fanatism in another thread). A little bit esterotypical? Yes, but they weren't the focus of the episode. If we had more time to explore the community's backstory, I believe we'd understand better about their motivations, and they woudn't have come out so two dimensional.

I loved that we started to get those misterious moments about Book's past. I'd really like to know what was on Book's ID, that made Alliance give him such a good treatment.
Caroline - yeah, there were definitely Star Trek-y moments in it. However, the crucial difference is that if this has been Star Trek, the final conversation would have been two or three times longer, and about one-tenth as powerful.
So will the the sequel to the movie be called: Serenity II, The RiverDance!
I know a lot of people think this episode is weak, and the plot is a bit thin, but it's the only one that made me cry. When Simon is watching River dance, and he's so happy to see her happy - it's like he gets a glimpse of what her life would have been like if the Alliance hadn't gotten hold of her.

And there's "Light it"....*sniff*
(noticed that River didn't sense Book was shot until Mal sees it. Hmmm..).


I could never figure out if River was reacting to Book being shot or not. At first I thought she was, but then I assuming it was just her seeing Simon being taken. It could have been a simultaneous thing, but I'm not sure.
I found a lot to like in this episode until the "witch" is uttered. I just couldn't believe given this is set in the 26th century, there would be a society this far behind. I can accept that the rim planets are bereft of the technological advances of the core planets. But their minds, too? That they believe in witches and would burn her at the stake? Just can't buy it.
And there's "Light it"....*sniff*

Oh man, now you're going to make me cry.

I always thought River was reacting to Book being shot, but she reacted after he was shot, not before as I would expect.
That's a good point, MySerenity. Guess it could of been either. I'm leaning more towards Book because of the interaction between the two of them. River rips out pages of his bible to 'fix' it for him. Her terror on seeing him 'exposed' with his hair let down. This is speculation on my part, but I believe River sensed a horrible past within Book and was trying to understand what he was trying to understand. To make some kind of peace with his inner demons.

Yeah, I know, we can run in that circle until the cows come home. I just want to know the mystery behind Book. I'm hoping Joss will pick that up in 'Serenity'.

On a side note, this is what sets Joss' shows apart from others. You don't need to see, you can carry the story through out your mind.
batmarlowe, I think there will always be people that believe in witches, warlocks, demons, and that sort of thing. That doesn't seem so far-fetched. My lineage stems from religious folk that believe in demon possession and such, and I wouldn't be surprised if cultures like that cultivated and stayed around 500 years from now. All it would take is keeping old books around.
bobothebrave: And somebody would have been wearing a red shirt.
I love this episode for all the reasons mentioned above, especially River's dancing, Simon's willingness to die with his sister and the BDHs saving them. But I loved the sudden plot change with making me wonder just what is Book's story. Yes, he had shown signs that he was more than just some Shepard but suddenly he has the Alliance jumping through hoops trying to get him some medical help when he gives them is id card.

One of my other favorite moments is when River "finds" Simon with the kidnappers and seems to think of it as playing hiding go seek and the absolute joy on her face to have found him and the absolute horror on his face that she did just that.
I have to say, the Simon/River conversation after she brings in the berries is somehow even more wrenching now, with the background being provided by the R. Tam Sessions, than it was originally.
Something else I noticed. In the pilot Book and Inara discuss that Mal is somewhat of a mystery. As perceptive as River is, she too seems to be confused with Mal. First she says "Mal. Bad. In the latin." Then, in Safe at the begining when she is "having a bad day" she says to Mal, "You're not him" as if she had mistaken him for one of the men at the academy. Later she tells Simon that father would come and take them home. She later says "Time to go" when Serenity shows up. It is as if she was mistaking Mal once again, this time for her father (or perhaps the closest thing she will have to one again.) and like Book, River believes Serenity to be her home. I hope that made some sense.

[ edited by MySerenity on 2005-08-27 02:03 ]
Even after all the times I've seen River dance, I still can't pick out Michael Flatley. Is he the guy who skins the rabbit?
And somebody would have been wearing a red shirt.

Thank you, Caroline, I had a good chuckle over that one (See ST:TOS).

[ edited by Madhatter on 2005-08-27 02:22 ]
I've an older brother, with whom I've lost touch. Our relationship leaves much to be desired and I've always wanted to have a caring, protective older bro.
So Safe...yeah, absolutely makes me all teary-eyed.

And like many of you said, even the lesser Whedon episodes, make other tv pale in comparison. I love our captain thiiiiiiis much!
Caroline: thanks for ST: TOS humor. It made my day.
I always wondered... how DID the hill folk know Simon was a doctor? Did he tell them during a commercial? I must have missed it, anyway.

Weak episode, perhaps. But when you add up all the stuff enumerated in the posts above, it makes for one helluva entertaining and intriguing story nonetheless.

[ edited by m'cookies on 2005-08-27 06:35 ]
So I take it I'm the only that feels that this line and what it's hinting at alone is worth the episode?

"I remember everything. I remember too much. And some of it's made up... and some of it can't be quantified... and there's secrets--"
When they're children, they mention River's dancing lessons. Continuity - within episodes, from episode to episode, from one season to another, or skipping over seasons, is one reason I love Whedonverse shows. I'll agree the plot was contrived, but when it's contrived to pull together so many story lines, so much character development, and just so many great scenes, I am not only not complaining, I'm going to watch it again! Right now! And maybe dance along. (I want those boots!!)
I've an older brother, with whom I've lost touch. Our relationship leaves much to be desired and I've always wanted to have a caring, protective older bro.
So Safe...yeah, absolutely makes me all teary-eyed.


I relate to Simon and River's relationship because of how my family is, and how my brother and I are like allies against the craziness of it. I am the mei mei and I used to worship my brother just like River worships Simon. Thankfully I was never experimented on by the government, and I still have my amigdyla, and I'm not that psychic, but other than that...

I always wondered... how DID the hill folk know Simon was a doctor? Did he tell them during a commercial? I must have missed it, anyway.

I always wondered that too.


"I remember everything. I remember too much. And some of it's made up... and some of it can't be quantified... and there's secrets--"


I actually got to watch tonight's episode! I thought exactly this during that scene. But oh my, are they going to show the entire movie in clips during these episodes or what? Tonight's clip was a bit too revealing, I'd say.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-08-27 07:49 ]
That's why I haven't been watching ESG - I'm afraid of them giving everything away!
I'm still baffled as to why people think tonight's clip was too revealing.
Sorry, I was all hyper when I wrote that. I just meant that it wasn't an expanded scene from the trailer, it was just unnecessary. But that's ok. No matter how much someone thinks they know about the movie from the trailers, they really don't know very much, which is totally awesome.
Been thinking... doing other stuff...thinking more...

Caroline's fucking Star Trek comment has made me laugh more tonight than any. other. thing. I've seen, heard, smelled, or felt.

And I have kids.

Not sucking up, just telling it true. We're not always in sync, but sometimes, you just crack my shit up, C.
"I'm still baffled as to why people think tonight's clip was too revealing."



[ edited by Caroline on 2005-08-27 17:31 ]
The Dark Shape, can you please invisible text your comment? There are people in this thread who purposely didn't watch the clips for want of remaining spoiler free. Thank you.
I loved 'Safe'. I liked the way it showed the contrast between the rich, technical but repressed core planets and the free but poverty stricken and superstitious colonies. Neither was an oversimplified portrayal of good or bad but a portrayal of how some choices can turn out badly.

I thought the flashbacks to the children realy built up Simon and River's characters.

And the sheer joy when River dances provides one of the magic moments of the series.
Pleeeeeeeeease don't put spoilers in the discussion comments. There are still some of us who haven't seen the movie.
Mods, could you please invisitext Dark Shape's spoiler?
Sorry for the late response to your pleas!

If anyone wants to alert us to spoilers or anything else going on, email us using whedonesque at gmail.com, or if some of the regulars want to Skype or use Messenger to contact me, drop me a line for my contact details.
Many thanks C.
My apologies. I figured it was fair game if it was in the clip last night. Won't happen again.
Just watched the episode on DVD - like I've said above been skipping the televised show to avoid seeing things about the movie. Anyway, when Simon and Mal are discussing that Mal wants Simon to take River and go away for awhile there is a rustling in the bushes right before Mal refers to Simon as "Doctor" which would explain how the hillbillies know he's a doctor - plus they also made a point when they spot Serenity landing that they want to see if there is anything worth stealing or taking (can't remember exactly what they said).
when Simon and Mal are discussing that Mal wants Simon to take River and go away for awhile there is a rustling in the bushes right before Mal refers to Simon as "Doctor" which would explain how the hillbillies know he's a doctor

Wow, good eye, Bl. I never noticed that. Mystery solved.
Firefly Flanatic, I'm impressed.
Well done, Firefly Flanatic! I am a little bit smarter today because of you, and I thank you. :)
Just rememebered another great scene from the episode, that I just love,. and forgot to mention.
The final scene with Mal telling Simon, about them being on his crew. Simon's uncertanty contrasts with Mal's certain views, are great, and the ending in the dining room, it can warm up every heart.

[ edited by Numfar PTB on 2005-08-28 04:37 ]

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