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Season 1 Episode 5

Out of Gas

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Oct 25, 2002 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
1,002 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

In a delirious state after Serenity's engine explodes, draining the ship of its oxygen supply, Mal has a series of flashbacks about how he came to own Serenity and form his crew.

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  • Best TV episode, of any show ever.

    Yeah, what the title says.

    No Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Breaking Bad or Dexter episode has ever made such an impact on me as this episode of Firefly does. It is masterpiece. Period.
  • Out of Gas

    The good;

    Really, really good, a classic 'submarine' story told with comedy and tension yet with wonderful character touches too. Lovely little details like even when they're all freezing to death Jayne stays in his shirtsleeves or Simon mourning the loss of his brithday.

    The bad;

    I'm almost a little disappointed that Mal just bought Serenity at a second hand spaceship sale, I always thought he won her in a card game or stole her from the Alliance (or even the Independents?) in the dying days of the war.

    Best line;

    River (to a frightened Book); "Don't worry preacher, we won't suffocate. We'll freeze to death first"

    Packing heat;

    Mal shot with a Browning 9mm.

    Notches on the Serenity bedpost; Bester gives Kaylee a 'tour' of his engine room

    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;

    Interestingly Inara says that she loved Serenity the moment she saw her too, just as Mal did. She also says 'I don't want to die at all'. One theory I've heard throughout the series is that she's actually slowly dying (like Darla) and that the syringe we see her with in Serenity was for medecine rather than narcotics or a suicide kit. Here she says that she doesn't want any of the crew just bursting into her room unannounced, she's not bashful of her nudity, could she be hiding something else? Is this part of the 'little clues' they speak of in the commentary?

    How'd they get away with that?

    Never liked needles, bad enough to watch Simon inject Zoe but watching Mal do it to himself is even nastier.

    Total Serenity crew; 9

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

    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 (Fool for Love, Lies my Parents told me, Are you now or ever have been?)

    Knocked out; Zoe rendered unconscious by the explosion

    Book; 2

    Simon; 1

    Kaylee; 1


    Mal; 1

    Wash; 1

    Inara; 1

    Zoe; 1

    Happy high-class hookers in Space;

    We're informed that companions don't kiss and tell, as you would expect of people who listen to the pillow talk of the rich and powerful.

    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.

    Alliance good or bad?;

    Mal talks of the Serenity representing freedom to him, that they can 'live like real people' which he doesn't feel able to do with the Alliance. They're sneaking about under the radar 'the way it should be' even when it takes them hugely out of the way, it hurts the crew. Now of course, flying under the radar and living as an outlaw from civilisation is all very well UNTIL something goes wrong (or to put it another way, even anarchists dial 999/911). Wash lacks Zoe/Mal's antipathy towards the Alliance and resents that Mal's hatred for it has landed them in this mess and may cost Zoe her life. Interestingly Inara was in favour of unification and supported the Alliance in the war, just as River and Simon did.

    Mal's no fool, he's suspicious of the 'rescue' crew, knowing there's no honour or trust in the wilderness.

    Missing scenes;

    Rumoured to be a scene where we see Mal and Zoe meet for the first time during the war, she catches him stealing supplies for his unit and then he realises she's doing the same.

    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

    Shot; Mal shot by the other captain

    Mal; 2-




    Reminds me off;

    The opening with the camera panning around the empty ship is very Alien again. Mal's leadership under pressure is inspired and he reminds me of great Irish Unionist hero Ernest Shackleton (check out Kenneth Brannaghs excellent version of the story) and of Apollo 13. Wash with his moustache and Hawaiin shirt is very Magnum PI. Kaylee is actually very close to her daddy, just like Fred. The whole ep very similar to the Space; Above and Beyond episode 'Who monitors the birds?' which Joss cites as his inspiration for the Buffy ep 'Hush' plus the Babylon 5 ep Walkabout.

    Questions and observations;

    This almost strikes you as a third pilot, we're introduced to the crew one by one and everyone's role on the ship is explained. Bester kinda reminds me of the workman in porn who turns up to fix something at the lonely housewives home. Book seems a lot more scared than everyone else which seems atypical of the character we know. Has he had a similar exeprience to this in the past?

    Is the gun Mal finds something he planted earlier for just such an emergency or one that was left lying around by Jayne or something?

    9/10; eps like this tell me why Firefly has such a devoted fanbase, hope the rest are like this

  • One of the greatest hours of television I've ever seen.

    "Out of Gas" was one of the single greatest hours of television I've ever seen. The show begins with Mal Reynolds in mortal peril, then bounces around in time to show how he reached that point -- and how he gathered his crew. Even though you know in your gut that the hero won't die, you're still as desperate as he is to get him out of his situation. The final scene caps off not only the episode, but gives you an insight into the "tenth" character of the series as well, showing you why exactly Serenity means so much. "Out of Gas" is perfectly written, acted, directed and paced. Stories like this, episodes like this, are what made Firefly so brilliant.moreless
  • A nice flashback episode, but a bit too heroic and overdone.

    As the episode was starting, it seems to me, that it would be a typical "we are have no gas/fuel, we are stranded/helpless" where everybody just sit around, do deep conversations and no action happens. But i was surprised to see that it wasn't.

    The episode begins from the end sequence, and shows then, how it came to this point. The idea is not new, but brings more change to a "out of gas"-episode. Some action is there too. And of course the whole flashbacks to past, in which we can learn how Mal hired each member of the crew. Hiring of the mechanic surprised me a bit x-) i thought she were more... innocent x-) whatever, the last of the flashbacks where we see as the seller shows Mal a big-*ss ship telling how good it is, Mal ws looking at this firefly-class transport... pretty sentimental scene...

    Two things i found exaggerated - as mal put the syringe in his breast and as he decided to stay alone at serenity, exaggerated, too heroic, don't like such stuff. People ain't acting so in real life.moreless
  • The very best episode of what proved to be one of the most innovative sci fi series ever.

    For me Out of Gas was the perfect episode. We saw another side to our favourite crew members. Each scene was perfect in itself and the flashbacks proved to be very informative.

    I love the verbal sparring between Mal and Inara. Their bickering repartee has all the hallmarks of the classic Hollywood film couples. Tracey and Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall and many others.

    We had an indication that Wash is not just the comic relief. His reaction to Zoe's injury was just right and the tension between him and Mal when he refused to leave her side was quite scary.

    The Bester character was a nice little cameo. I just loved the look on Mal's face when he found his engineer and a 'prairie harpy' getting it on in the engine room.

    Nathan Fillion's facial expressions are wonderful. He can say almost as much with the quirk of an eyebrow as he can with a full paragraph of script.

    If a newcomer to the series watches only one episode it has to be Out of Gas.moreless
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


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • One of the candles on the birthday cake goes from being lit to not lit depending on the camera angle.

    • Trivia: The dress that Kaylee is wearing in the flashback is the same dress she wears on her date with Simon in the episode "The Message".

    • In one of the DVD commentaries for Firefly, it's explained that Zoe wears her leather necklace as a sort of wedding ring, symbolizing her marriage to Wash. But, she's wearing the same necklace during the flashback shots in this episode. Why is she wearing it if she's not married to Wash yet?

    • At least in our time, injecting a big needle of adrenaline into someone with a stomach wound will almost certainly result in one very dead patient.

  • QUOTES (20)

    • Mal: (about Serenity) Try to see past what she is, on to what she can be.
      Zoe: What's that, sir?
      Mal: Freedom.
      Zoe: No, I meant... (pointing) ...what's that?
      Mal: Oh. Just step around it. I think something must have been living in here.

    • Kaylee: Sometimes a thing gets broke, can't be fixed.

    • Jayne: Hey, what do you think you're doing? Fighting at a time like this! You'll use up all the air.

    • Mal: I tell you, Zoe, we get a mechanic, get her up and running again, hire a good pilot, maybe a cook...live like real people. A small crew - them's as feel a need to be free. Take jobs as they come. Ain't never have to be under the heel of nobody never again. No matter how long the arm of the Alliance might get, we'll just get ourselves a little further.
      Zoe: (pause) Get her running again?
      Mal: Yeah.
      Zoe: So, not running now?
      Mal: Not so much.

    • Mal: You're all gonna be here when I wake up?
      Book: We'll be here.
      Mal: Good. That's good...

    • River: Don't be afraid. That's what it says: "Don't be afraid."
      Shepherd Book: Yes.
      River: But you are afraid.
      Shepherd Book: Yes.
      River: You're afraid we're going to run out of air, that we'll die gasping. But we won't. That's not going to happen. (pause) We'll freeze to death first.

    • River: "Day" is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It's not applicable...I didn't get you anything.

    • Kaylee: It's your turn.
      Simon: My turn?
      Kaylee: Well, Shepherd told us a funny story about being a preacher. Now you tell us a funny story about being a doctor.
      Simon: Oh, a funny story.
      Jayne: Yeah, 'cause sick people are hi-larious.

    • Simon: I always thought the name Serenity had a vaguely funereal sound to it.

    • (Kaylee gives Simon a birthday cake)
      Simon: I'm very deeply moved. Thank you.
      Jayne: Well, deeply move yourself to blow out them candles, so we can try a slice.

    • Wash: Monastic humor. I miss out on all the fun.

    • Wash: Yes Mal, it would boost the signal, but even if some passerby did happen to receive all it would do is muck up
      their navigation.
      Mal: Could be that's true.
      Wash: Damn right, it's true. They'd be force to stop and dig out our signal before they could even go anyplace. (pause) Well, maybe I should do that, then!
      Mal: Maybe you should!
      Wash: Okay!
      Mal: Good!
      Wash: Fine!

    • Jayne: Hey, you know, we'd have been back first but there's something wrong with Inara's shuttle. She did something to it, Mal - it smells funny.
      Inara: I told you, that's incense.
      Jayne: That's what you say.

    • Jayne: Tell us where the stuff is so I can shoot you.
      Mal: Point of interest. Offering to shoot us might not work so well as an incentive as you might imagine.

    • Mal: Looks can be deceiving.
      Jayne: Not as deceiving as a low down, dirty deceiver.
      Mal: Well said. Wasn't that well said, Zoe?
      Zoe: It had a kinda poetry to it.

    • Mal: Which one you figured tracked us?
      Zoe: The ugly one, sir.
      Mal: Could you be more specific?

    • Inara: Mal, you don't have to die alone.
      Mal: Everybody dies alone.

    • Mal: I need that in Captain Dummy mode, Kaylee.
      Kaylee: We're dead in the water.

    • Mal: Ship like this, be with you until the day you die.
      Zoe: That's because it's a deathtrap.

    • Jayne: Now, Inara - she's gotta have some real funny whorin' stories, I'd wager.
      Inara: Oh, do I ever! Funny and sexy! You have no idea! And you never will. I don't discuss my clients.
      Jayne: Awww, come on 'nara. Who'd know?
      Inara: You. Anyway, a Companion doesn't kiss and tell.
      Mal: So there is kissing?

  • NOTES (5)

    • When Mal is talking to the crew about their leaving on the shuttles he reaches up and touches Serenity. This was improvised by Nathan Fillion.

    • The button which Mal is supposed to hit to call back the shuttles once the part has arrived was stolen by Alan Tudyk (Wash) and sent to Joss Whedon when the show was cancelled with a note saying 'When your miracle gets here, call us back".

    • Gina Torres spent much of the episode unconscious because in real life she was off getting married.

    • Mal narrates the pre-credit opening rather than Book.

    • The introduction at the beginning of the show in this episode is somewhat different from the normal introduction, but close-captioning displayed the words for the normal introduction.