Episode Review of Firefly: "Jaynestown"

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Episode Information

Title: "Jaynestown"
Writer: Ben Edlund
Director: Marita Grabiak
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: April 9, 2008

Synopsis from TV.com


This episode is a hilarious look at a town's perception of Jayne, but in the end it shows there might actually be more to Jayne than meets the eye.

The crew arrive on a frontier world where the main town is owned and run by the company: a company that makes mud. The workers are all indentured with little chance of improving their lives, and conditions are abysmal.

Mal has made arrangements to pick up some illicit cargo on the world, so they must find their local contact and finish the deal. Jayne was in the town a few years before, and apparently he didn't do anything good, because he disguises himself in a jacket with hood and goggles. Simon plays a rich buyer to get them into the company town. Once in town, they are confronted by an impossibility: a statue of Jayne in the middle of town. This is very funny, because even Jayne is shocked by it. I do think we linger on the statue for a little too long, but it's hard to complain.

They decide to wait for their contact in the run-down bar and try not to attract notice. When the worker playing the guitar in the bar began the first lyrics, "Jayne...Jayne" and begins singing of Jayne's heroic exploits, I nearly fell over laughing. The look of amazement on everyone's faces, even Jayne's, is so funny. We and they all know that there are few virtuous qualities Jayne possesses that are worth singing about. As the song progresses, we find out why Jayne is a hero: he stole a bunch of money from the local magistrate and then dumped it onto the workers from a spaceship taking off. They believe he was stealing from the rich and giving to the poor - them. Jayne tells us the real story: he had set up a great heist, but he was pursued as he tried to get away; when his ship was damaged, he had to dump the money (and all other excess weight) to keep aloft.

Despite their best efforts, Jayne is recognized. At that point, he has no problem reveling in their adulation. He spends the rest of the night drinking and taking advantage of the willing women. For that matter, the rest of the crew (except Zoe, Book, and River on Serenity) also spend the night drinking and marveling over Jayne being a hero. Mal keeps his head about him and arranges for the local workers to have a "Jayne Day" the next day, which will provide a distraction while they sneak out their cargo.

The news of Jayne's return spreads to the magistrate, who still holds a grudge. The magistrate releases Jayne's partner in crime, Stitch, whom Jayne abandoned, from confinement and tells him Jayne is back. Stitch sets off straight away to find Jayne and take revenge.

On Jayne Day, the workers crowd around Jayne and ask for a speech. Jayne manages to say a few words that make them happy (although it wouldn't have taken much) while Mal and the others sneak the cargo away. By the time Mal and the others return for the festivities, Stitch has shown up with a shotgun. He tells the crowd how Jayne shoved him out of the escaping ship after stealing the magistrate's money. He shoots at Jayne, but one of Jayne's most avid groupies jumps in front and takes the bullet. Then we see some of Jayne's true talents: he quickly throws a huge knife and hits Stitch squarely, and then beats him to a pulp.

Jayne realizes that the crowd may not feel quite so admiring of him any longer, and he realizes that he doesn't deserve the adoration anyway. He knocks down his statue and tells the workers that they need to take charge of their own lives to improve their conditions. He and Mal and the others return to Serenity.

While Jayne and Mal and the others have been having their fun, Inara has been employed by the magistrate to educate his 26-year-old son. After a night of "education", Inara convinces the son that it's OK to be different from his father (and not be a pompous, ignorant ass) and that he should stand up for himself. The son mentions that the "hero of Canton" is back in town. Inara thinks this must be Mal and starts to defend him - when she finds out it's Jayne, she loses her Companion composure for a moment. She also finds out from the son that the magistrate intends to prevent Serenity from leaving, so she conveniently convinces the son to countermand that order. Once Inara returns to Serenity, they are able to leave. Frankly, I don't know what was in this for the son, except to show that he was willing to defy his father.

This episode has been the funniest so far, and if I recall the remainder of the series, the most intentionally funny one of all of them. The absurd idea of Jayne being a hero is great, especially since the story that is spun is plausible. Most of the story is fairly inconsequential, but in the end Jayne does have to do a little soul-searching. He really doesn't understand the motivations of the man that died to save him. Will he ever understand it and thereby change his view of life just a little bit? We'll have to see.

Kaylee and Simon develop their budding relationship a little bit more, although Simon as usual manages to screw things up unintentionally. I think he got plenty of punishment for that, though, when Stitch beat him up in order to find Jayne.

There is an amusing interaction between River and Book, who is babysitting River. First, River cuts up Book's Bible in order to re-arrange it and "fix" all of its contradictions and fallacies; needless to say, this doesn't go over well with Book. Later, Book undoes his hair and it puffs out tremendously, which gives River quite a scare. While this is funny, I find it hard to believe that even in River's state of mind she would find lasting fear from this.

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