Season 1 Episode 8


Aired Friday 8:00 PM Nov 15, 2002 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
874 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

When the crew stops at Ariel to drop Inara off for a medical exam, Simon hires them for a job - smuggle Simon and River into a hospital so that Simon can find out what the Alliance did to River. The plan goes off without a hitch - that is, until the Alliance catches wind of the Tam siblings' presence on the planet.moreless

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  • Ariel

    The good;

    Lot's of it, if I were to have 2 favourite scenes it would be the admissions nurse just casually accepting the dead bodies into the hospital and Mal remembering what drugs to take by writing it on his hand. Mal's final interrogation of Jayne also excellent, you get the idea he saves him to spare the rest of the crew having to deal with his betrayal rather than for his own sake. The scene where River, Simon and Jayne flee the blue-gloves is a masterclass in building suspense, they haven't seen anything but the approaching screams of their victims coupled with River's terrified babbling produce a real sense of dread.

    The bad;

    Simon saving the patient is very blatantly designed to make us feel better about the crew stealing medicine from a hospital (but I love River's smile of pride when he does it).

    Best line;

    Inara; "What have you guys been up to?"

    Kaylee; "Oh, we killed Simon and River, stole a bunch of medecine"

    Kinky dinky;

    Wash wants to take Zoe to a naked beach

    Notches on the Serenity bedpost;

    Inarra;1-a paying customer who wishes to make her his kept woman, 1 possible, Atherton.

    Wash; 1-the missus

    Zoe; 1-the hubby


    Capt subtext;

    Inara is going for a medical examination which she says is routine. But if we follow the theory that she's actually sick ....? Mal once again demonstrates his intimacy with Kaylee, hugging her in a very familar fashion at the end.

    How'd they get away with that?

    The blue gloved men repeatedly cutting into River's head to perfom brain surgery, ugh! Then to top it all they slaughter the cops with a device which causes uncontrollable bleeding from it's victims.


    Total Serenity crew; 8 for this ep, Book is 'away at an abbey'? Do we ever get any other explanation than that? Simon refers to Serenity as 'home'. Mal makes it clear that he continues Jayne's act of betrayal against any of the crew to be against them all

    Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, Kaylee, Inarra, Simon, River

    Subverting the Hollywood cliche;

    Simon teaches Mal, Zoe and Jayne enough ER speak to get into the hospital but the admitting nurse just accepts their word as paramedics that the patients died. But Jayne's put so much effort into learning all these medical terms he insists on using them. Which I think is very human. When struggling with the guard it's Jayne who is the one to be bitten when it's normally the other way around, the hero is the one who traditionally does the biting to even the odds against a superior oppenent.

    Whedon cliches;

    Devoted siblings, haunted charismatic leading man. Teenage girls with superpowers. Hookers. Babbling insane girls with truth in their madness. Fake cockneys. Misguided religious zealots. Numbered t-shirts. Girls with botanical names (Willow, Saffron, Jasmine). Absent fathers. Clever use of extensive flashbacks

    Bondage; Simon, River and Jayne in cuffs

    Mal; 1

    River; 1

    Simon; 1

    River; 1

    Jayne; 1

    Knocked out; Simon and River drugged into near death. Jayne knocked out by Mal.

    Book; 2

    Simon; 2

    Kaylee; 1


    Mal; 1

    Wash; 1

    Inara; 1

    Zoe; 1

    River; 1

    Kills; Jayne kills the Alliance marshall with his bare hands

    Mal; 11-

    Zoe; 6-

    Jayne; 7-

    Happy high-class hookers in Space;

    Inara is expected to undergo a standard medical as a companion once a year (or is she? see subtext). She states the Companion policy about non-commercial dating is 'complicated'.

    Whedon alumni- Joss likes to reuse the same actors in his series, let's count up their appearances (let me know if I miss any)

    Nathan Fillon-3; Firefly, Caleb in S7 of Buffy and Dr Horrible

    Gina Torres-2; Firefly and Jasmine in S4 of Angel

    Alan Tudyk-2; Firefly and the villainous/heroic(?) Alpha in Dollhouse (haven't seen season 2 so don't spoil it for me)

    Adam Baldwin-2; Firefly and Marcus Hamilton in S5 of Angel

    Summer Glau-3; Firefly, Dollhouse and the prima ballerina in the LEGENDARY S4 Angel ep 'Waiting in the wings'.

    Carlos Jacott-3; The Fed in Firefly, Ken in the 'Anne' ep of Buffy and Richard Straley in 'The Bachelor Party' ep of Angel.

    Andy Umberger;3-the captain of the Dortmunder in Firefly, D'Hoffryn in Buffy, the psychic surgeon in the Angel ep 'I fall to pieces'.

    Mark Shepherd;2-Badger in Firefly and later turns up as one of Ballard's FBI colleagues in Dollhouse. Also a BSG alumni.

    Jeff Rickets;3- one of the blue handed men in Firefly and Weatherby on Buffy/Angel plus the spiderdemon at the end of Angel season 4

    Gregg Henry; 2- he's one of those faces that occur time and again in TV/movies, the Sherrif in The Train Job and he later recurrs in the Dollhouse ep 'Ghost', one of my favourite eps of season 1.

    Christina Hendricks; 2-Saffron in Firefly and a bar maid in the Angel ep 'The Prodigal'. She'll later star in Mad Men with Whedonverse alumni Vincent Kartheiser.

    Ira Steck; 2-The intern here and the vamp Buffy fights in 'Lies my parents told me'.

    Michael Nagy; 3-one of the hospital staff here, the Rat Pack vamp Jay-Don in the Angel ep 'The Shroud of Rahmon' and Alfonse (one of vampWillow's lackeys) in the Buffy ep Dopplegangland.

    Cathy Cohen; 2-the admitting nurse here and the estate agent who hits on cool Xander in the Buffy ep The Replacement.

    Alliance good or bad?;

    Zoe and Mal are so rabidly anti-Alliance they won't even set foot on a core world or even look out the window (afraid they might like what they see?). The rest of the crew doesn't share their prejudice and are keen to to get off the ship, Kaylee never having been on a core planet before. Does Mal protect River and Simon from the goodness of his heart or to stick 2 fingers up to the Alliance? The Serenity crew steal medecine from a hospital, sure they can replace it but still?

    On the other hand the blue-gloved men have conducted horrific medical experiments on River and brutally slaughter a station full of cops just because they heard River talk?

    Firefly speak;


    Weak tea=not good

    Back birth=idiot

    Companion=high class courtesan



    Rutting=bloody (or perhaps 'fraking'?)


    Purple belly=officious bureaucrat

    Ta-gow=Oh god!

    Won-gwa-pee= to urinate or defecate





    Wah=what the hell?

    Mah song=quickly


    Nu-shu-quong=nice going


    Sheinou-niou=no good

    Mei, mei=ok(?)

    Shot; Jayne shot by some form of stun weapon

    Mal; 2-




    Crew injured;

    Jayne viciously sliced by River and gives her a busted lip in return. Jayne busted up by the guards and by Mal.

    Reminds me off;

    Simon saving the patient is a scene right out of The Fugitive whilst the blue-gloves are very X-files. Forget to mention it in Out of Gas but of course Bester is the name for both a famous sci-fi author and Walter Koenig's character from Babylon 5.

    Questions and observations;

    Ironically the ambulance is a Soviet Hind-model helicopter gunship in disguise. What does 'copper for a kiss' mean? Is it like 'Penny for the guy'?

    Why do the blue-glove men seem to kill anyone who has heard River talk, even Alliance police? To cover up the secret of what they did to her or does she have some form psychic illness that they're scared she's passing on? Ironically the one time they actually make some decent money it's all the idea of Simon, who Book aside is probably the least criminally inclined of the entire crew, even Jayne impressed by his plan.

    Do they sell the drugs they steal for their medical or narcotic value?


    Marks out of 10; 8/10, very good stuff, hugely entertaining, we see the Firefly crew pull off a complicated heist and do it with much more aplomb than the Scoobygang or Angel investigations ever managed. We think the main character of the piece is going to be Simon but in a clever turnabout instead it actually turns out to be Jayne and his crisis of conscience is very well written and acted by all.

  • The traitor versus the rest of the crew; how much does money mean to you? Where do you draw the line between loyalty and personal gain?

    Ariel takes a very different turn from the emotionally charged previous episode, Out of Gas. We return to the action and intrigue in Ariel, as our crew undertakes a daring plan in order to steal a huge supply of medication and allow Simon a chance to finally determine what was done to River.

    This episode was very cleverly plotted, with the plan undertaken by the crew one of the more daring we have seen. Anybody could understand how the crew must feel being cooped up in Serenity for weeks at a time, so it is reasonable that all of them would have jumped at the chance to get involved in a job, no matter what the risk. I like that attention is paid to minor plot details such as that one. It shows a real concern for the characters and allows viewers into the characters lives a little more.

    For once we have Simon coming up with the job. Simon is an usual guy, and I still have trouble deciding if I like him or not. I feel he generally is a waste of space around the place, as he brings little to the crew other than personality (which is often in short supply). It is a little frustrating how drawn out the River-conspiracy is and so Simon's constant babysitting of River does not make him a particularly endearing character. Also, for all his intelligence and skills as a doctor, he has led a very sheltered life, and his naivety does become a little wearing after a while.

    I am also not a fan of Jayne, so seeing his oh-so-predictable betrayal of Simon and River in action was less than earth-shattering for me. I don't like his bullying attitude, or his sexist remarks, and I don't like that his behavior is tolerated by the rest of the crew. However, given that this is a ragtag bunch, I am getting used to him, and he plays a pivotal role in a lot of plans.

    For me the whole episode was worth the brilliant ending, where Mal takes on Jayne as pay-back for betraying Simon and River, and subsequently, Mal also. This was such a well acted scene and very believable. I thought Mal was sensational in the dressing-down he gave Jayne and if anything I love Mal more because of it. Mal in Captain-mode gives me the shivers!

    Finally this episode might allow us to get a little insight into River, as the success of the scan that Simon completed on her might give him the knowledge he needs to determine what went wrong and what can be done to help her. Anything that sheds a little more light on River's condition is welcome.

    All-in-all this is another very strong episode, less character driven than some we have seen, but exciting none the less. Personally, I really enjoy Mal-heavy episodes, but this was still exciting and well made.moreless
  • Simon hiring the crew..

    So, because Inara needs to go to medical check up they end up in core planet and Simon uses it to hire the crew - to get them to the hospital. He needs to get River to the scanners to figure out what is wrong.

    But with that crazy plan, it not goes smooth - and not because of the plan what is rather good - but because of Cobb, who likes money more than doctor and his sister.

    I most say i totally loved the storyline with Cobb and doctor. The way on doctor eyes Cobb was the one who saved them but in fact Cobb was who got them into the trouble on the first place.

    And the whole excitement on hospital, Simon doing his work when saving that patient.. very different episode - all that medical side, they trying to cram it.. and how Cobb just had to say his lines..moreless
  • While Inara has her annual physical check up on the core planet Ariel, Simon proposes an elaborate heist to the crew of the Firefly; the catch being that they must sneak he and River into an Alliance medical facility so he can diagnose her mental problemsmoreless

    The stress between Jayne and the Tams skyrockets when River inexplicably slashes Jayne across the chest with a large kitchen knife. Mal finds himself with in a dilemma as he tries to quell Jayne's protestations that River be taken off the ship, all the while trying to figure out exactly a solution concerning the crew's safety.

    Before long, Simon sees a possible way to give Mal a valid reason for allowing he and his sister to stay on Firefly. Since Inara's annual companion physical is due at a core world called Ariel, the opportunity arises to somehow find a way to use the Alliance medical facilities there to figure out what the government did to River's head. He reasons that his knowledge of the hospital would allow him to give the crew a chance to score a big job by stealing high value medicine. Any time now I'm expecting to see Peter Graves walk around a corner. Or Kaylee to pull at her hair to reveal she's wearing a mask and is actually Barbara Bain. In essence the show has suddenly become Mission: Impossible. No, not the Tom Cruise I-AM-A-ONE-MAN-ARMY crap, but rather the calculated trickery of well thought out stealth and clockwork precision executed by a team (it was the Mission: Impossible TEAM, that was the very essence and mystique of the 60s show). BTW, I'm complimenting Firefly with this comparison.

    The crew disguise themselves as medics, disguise some junk as an ambulance and Simon eventually disguises himself as a doctor. Yeah, no kidding (Sean Maher once again demonstrates his ability to expand on his character's depth). Brought in through the front door inside bodyboxes (? - they're not coffins...) the Tams are secreted past security. Once they're out of the body... (OK, I looked it up, they're referred to as corpseboxes - I think my title rings better. Perhaps I'm merely falling for the allure of alliteration) Jayne stays with them as they work their way to the lab where Simon can diagnose River's condition.

    Meanwhile Simon's pass cards and codes allow Mal and Zoe to get to the pharmaceutical storeroom and fill the now empty CORPSEBOXES with the pilfered drugs. Remember M:I, they're on a specific timetable. "bum bum ba da dum"* That's it. No, really... Alright, there's a lot more. But if you've seen it I'm just yapping away in redundancy. If you haven't seen it, I believe I've given you enough to whet your appetite. If I see you in the next life, thank me for not spoiling it. The episode is great. The acting is as good as ever and Summer Glau gets a chance to go beyond "spooky" into to full-fledged unhinged Manic. Note the capital "M." I guess Sean Maher is sort of a Peter Graves character here. He's the only one that really has a clue has to how everything will work. For once he's not the proverbial "fish out of water." The acting is evenly good across the cast. As far as problems I might have with the episode... two come to mind. The one late in the action will remain a secret (gotta maintain the veneer of secrecy).

    The earlier objection I have is the fact that they're all worried about the big bad Alliance, they feel as if they're always under scrutiny - they could be arrested - Mal lose his ship - River end up with medicare provided lobotomies - ETC. What does the staunch ever duty-first, tight upper-lip Zoe do after exiting the hospital? The natural thing all ambulance medics do outside the front door - make outwith Wash right in the open. Besides that, most anything else fits well (hey, future mechanic techniques and advanced spray painting will allow people to Mickey Mouse a working air-ambulance in a jiffy. I still recall this IS science-FICTION).

    Though most Firefly episodes could be watched as stand-alone stories, they all belong in a line of continuity due to the fact that the series might just as well be considered a serial. The stories are interwoven to one extent or another. There is an arc moving forward layer by layer, leaving a novice viewer progressively more in the dark with each installment missed. The same could be said of many other TV shows (including Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel). The difference is that by being canceled far short of a full season, we are left with a cliffhanger of sorts.

    We must wait for the adventure to continue. The film Serenity has grabbed the baton, so to speak. Still that's just making the best of a bad situation. A very sad thing happened via a total tsunami inflicted by the fickle gods of Business and Art. With the news that the series would be cut mid-season everything unravelled after War Stories. The next three episodes weren't broadcast, which quite frankly seems fitting, given the circumstances.

    They are the weakest shows and I believe two of them look as if the wind had been blown out of the production, cast and crew's collective sails. There are continuity issues in story and simple prop management (Jayne's amazing hat: it grows and molts straw in the blink of a camera angle change). The stories just aren't as tight or engaging. Yes, they have their moments, and some of what takes place moves the series' story along. Yet miss them and it's really no big deal. As if to add insult to injury the network aired the pilot at the end of the shows run - DOH! (yeah, I know Homer "works" for Fox).

    What does all this have to do with a review of Ariel? well I believe had the series NOT been truncated, the rest of the season's episodes would have been better crafted. As it is, the high quality of Objects in Space sticks out - then again I can understand why it worked - it was a deep yet uncluttered tale with only one character beyond the regular cast (the only such entry in the series). Less sets, props, camera coverage needs...

    With a full season, more character development would have evolved. The back stories would have built up. It is my contention that Ariel would have become a "must see" episode as far as its influence of later events. Now that fact is magnified. Out of Gas and War Stories carry a lot of baggage also. Ariel by some Ouija board shenanigans Ariel is the central pivot episode. Note the list, it was the 8th episode aired. Two more episodes in the "appropriate" time line followed, then the wastrel two part pilot and finally the three unaired ones - a total of seven after Ariel. Some might contend that motion pictures could alter that dynamic, picking up where the series dropped off. Sorry, as much as I love the cinema, a full length film hasn't the space to propel the character arcs at the pace of a weekly television show. Everything flips, the action for a particular event is given more time in a film, at the expense of the gradual awareness the viewer gains from TV.

    To see the crew of Firefly evolve at the rate of the series, we'd have to wait through at least twelve more years, as movies go.

    So as I consider the DVD collection as is, Ariel becomes mighty important. Thus it's a blessing that it's so damn good (my apologies to Jehovah witnesses for that statement). It is full of challenges, achievements and it leaves the viewer with perhaps the biggest secret of the series. Six of the characters are in the dark (River is, once again, a special case).

    *"bum bum ba da dum" is my approximation of the beginning of the Mission: Impossible theme.moreless
  • A briliant thrilling episode

    The doctor comes up with a scheme to hiest medicine from a central planet hosipat while they stop over on ariel.He schools the crew in how to act like medics and gives them a list of the most expensive drugs to steal.Kaylee and wash go to a junk yard to find parts for an ambulance and jayne picks up fake security passes ,uniforms and ids from a mysterious bag man.

    They take simon and river in as their DOAs and split up .jayne takes the "corpses" to the imagiing room while mal and zoey head to the pharmacy.All goes well until jaynes gets greedy and calls the feds looking the the RE-ward.

    Fantastic hiest episode much better than train job and as there robbing the alliance and selling to the poor rim folks were fine with the illegalities of the plot.

    the end conversation between mal and jayne is fantastic .A job well done for the crew and the producersmoreless
Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion

Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds

Sean Maher

Sean Maher

Dr. Simon Tam

Ron Glass

Ron Glass

The Shepherd Book

Gina Torres

Gina Torres


Jewel Staite

Jewel Staite

Kaywinnit Lee 'Kaylee' Frye

Alan Tudyk

Alan Tudyk


Blake Robbins

Blake Robbins

Agent McGinnis

Guest Star

Jeff Ricketts

Jeff Ricketts

Blue-Hand Man #1

Guest Star

Dennis Cockrum

Dennis Cockrum

Blue-Hand Man #2

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • Simon states that River had her amygdala stripped, which is why she feels everything. The amygdala, however, is not responsible for regulating emotions. It is responsible for discrimination of objects and fear. If it were stripped, she wouldn't feel anything, or at least her emotions would be very dull and un-noticeable, not increased. She would feel the same for a garden path or a dark creepy cave. There would be no increase in cerebral activity. It would pretty much turn her fear off.

    • When Jayne is lifting up the Guard during the fight scene in the hospital, you can see that the handcuffs are undone on his left hand (they're supposed to be done up).

    • Trivia: The part that Wash throws in the salvage yard appears to be a catalyzer, the engine component that broke in "Out of Gas."

    • Trivia: When River lies on the Holoimager, you can see the Blue Sun logo on the hologram.

    • When the ambulance lands, you can see the casters that it is sitting on.

    • The ambulance used in this episode was eventually found in a scrap yard in the Mojave Desert, and then purchased by fans.

    • One of the guards had blood all over his mouth from biting Jayne, but the blood is gone when the blue-handed operatives check them.

  • QUOTES (21)

    • Jayne: Nothin' buys bygones quicker than cash.

    • (Mal and Zoë wheel out the medicine-laden containers)
      Wash: How much did we get?
      Mal: Enough to keep us flying.
      Zoë: Can we fly somewhere with a beach?
      Wash: Maybe a naked beach?
      (Wash and Zoë go into a passionate embrace)
      Mal: Cut it out! The job's not done till we're back on Serenity.
      Zoë: Sorry, sir. Didn't mean to enjoy the moment.

    • (River slashes Jayne)
      River: He looks better in red.

    • Mal: Hey! How was your thing?
      Inara: As advertised. Lots of needles and cold exam tables. I heard you had some excitement.
      Mal: Ah, nothing much. Lots of running around, a little gunplay. Couple of needles.

    • Mal: You called the Feds
      Jayne: What, no...I got pinched!
      Mal: Which is what happens, when you call the Feds.

    • Simon: We'll need to procure a few items off-ship. I've made a list. Given my status as a fugitive someone else will have to... (Jayne, Kaylee & Wash eagerly raise their hands) ...we have some volunteers. Good.

    • Wash: Don't you just hate doctors?
      Simon: Hey!
      Wash: I mean, present company excluded.
      Jayne: Let's not be excludin' people. That'd be rude...

    • Mal: You've got a job for us?
      Simon: One that'll pay for itself ten times over.
      Jayne: Awww, forget it. I ain't that desperate.

    • Wash: It's all very sweet - stealing from the rich, selling to the poor...

    • Wash: Could you please tell my wife the fun she's missing out on?
      Inara: Ariel's a pretty nice place, actually. There are some beautiful museums not to mention some of the finest restaurants in the Core.
      Wash: But, not boring, like she made it sound.

    • Mal: Big stop just to renew your licence to companion.
      Wash: Can I use "companion" as a verb?

    • River: Is it time to go to sleep again?
      Simon: No, mei-mei, it's time to wake up.

    • Simon: Thank you.
      Jayne: Well...hey, you're part of the crew.
      Mal: I think I might cry.

    • Inara: So, what's happening?
      Kaylee: We killed Simon and River, stole a bunch of medicine, and now the Cap and Zoe are off springing the others who got captured by the Feds. Here they are now!

    • Mal: The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.

    • River: Hands...of blue. two. Hands of blue, two by two. Hands of blue, two by two!

    • Mal: Now all we need are some patients.
      Simon: Corpses. For this to work River and I will have to be dead.
      Jayne: I'm starting to like this plan.

    • Simon: If I didn't know better I'd say we were ready to save some lives.

    • Simon: What about cortical electrodes?
      Jayne: We, uh, used them electro...magnetic... Hell, I don't know. If I wanted schooling, I'd have gone to school.

    • (Jayne spits)
      Simon: Will you not do that while we...ever!

    • River: I don't want it
      Simon: River, you have to eat. It's good, it tastes like---its good.
      Jayne: It smells like crotch.
      Kaylee: Jayne!
      Jayne: Well, it does.

  • NOTES (3)

    • The scene in which Malcolm grabs and hugs Kaylee from behind after the hospital robbery is finished was not scripted, but was improvised by Nathan Fillion.

    • Note that River appears to be slashing at the blue-sun Alliance symbol on Jayne's chest rather than Jayne himself. She similarly attacked the same symbol on the cans in "Shindig."

    • Despite being billed as a regular, Ron Glass as Book doesn't appear in this episode.