Season 1 Episode 15

The Message

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Unknown on FOX

Episode Recap

Serenity stops at a space station and Simon takes Kaylee to an exhibit of alien life. It turns out to be a cow fetus, but Kaylee is still impressed. Simon expresses his admiration for seeing the bright side to anything, but then implies that he's only complimenting her because she's the only woman he knows that isn't married, professional, or related to him. Kaylee storms off as Zoe and Wash comes in, and Zoe realizes what happened.

Mal meets up with Inara after trying to sell the Lassiter, and admits that it's too high-profile for any fences to touch. They go to the post station and the clerk, Amnon Duul, says that he's holding a post for them. The others arrive as Amnon has a large crate brought out. Jayne has received a package from his mother, and is touched when he discovers that she made a hand-knitted hat for him. Meanwhile, Mal and Zoe open the crate and find a coffin inside holding their former military comrade, Tracey.


Seven years ago during the Battle of Du-Khang, Tracey is trying to pry open a can of beans when an Alliance soldier sneaks up on him. Zoe sneaks up behind the soldier and cuts his throat, and advices Tracey to keep his head down. Mal comes charging in, yelling at the enemy, and Tracey directs their attention to their lieutenant. He's had a nervous breakdown and is useless, and Zoe and Tracey turn to Mal for advice. As he determines where they can make their stand, a seeker enters the ruins. Mal saves Tracey's life, throwing heat chaff into the sky, and then he and Zoe haul the injured Tracey out.


Amnon, panicking, says that it's illegal to transport corpses by post and tells them to get it out. He also confirms that there's no return address on the crate. Mal and Zoe pull the crate with them, telling Book that they'll do it themselves.

Back on Serenity, Simon offers to perform an autopsy on Tracey's corpse, and a disgusted Kaylee says that he's a robot. Zoe finds a voice recorder on the body, and they play it back. The crew listens as Tracey explains that he's made some bad calls, and he trusts Mal and Zoe to get him home to St. Albans. Wash immediately goes to set course and Inara assures Mal that she understands that he's going out of their way to drop off Tracey's body. Meanwhile, Simon gently takes Kaylee's hand.

A short time after Serenity sets out, Lt. Womack and two of his men arrive on the station. They find Amnon and Womack immediately tells the postmaster that he's going to prison for transporting a corpse through the postal system. He tells Amnon to give him the body, and Amnon immediately admits that he gave it to Mal. Womack has his man Skunk threaten to set Amnon on fire and then tells him not to send a warning or he'll wish they had set him on fire.

In her bunk, Kaylee plays Tracey's message. Simon comes in behind her, realizes what she's doing, and leaves before she knows that he's there.

Book goes to the coffin to say a few words, while Jayne exercises nearby. Jayne admits that he feels like living life to the fullest when he sees a corpse, and wonders if Book will say anything over him when he dies. Both men stare as River comes in and lies on the coffin, and she says that it's very comfortable.

In the mess room, Mal and Zoe drink and share a story with Inara about how Tracey once stole a commanding officer's mustache. A near-miss rocks the ship and they go to the bridge, and Wash informs them that the ship behind them fired a warning shot. Womack calls and orders them to prepare for boarding, telling them to hand over the crate. Mal stalls for time, tells Wash to keep stalling, and then goes down to the hold to find out what the crate is so important.

In the mess room, Mal and Zoe are drinking and sharing stories with Inara about their time in the war with Tracey. An explosion rocks the ship and they head to the cockpit, and Wash says that it was a warning shot. Womack calls and orders them to prepare for boarding, and says that they have the crate he wants. Mal stalls and then goes down to check the cargo.

The crew searches the crate to find nothing to indicate why Womack wants it. Mal has Simon do the autopsy in the medbay, but when Simon makes the first incision, Tracey comes back to life and screams. Mal manages to subdue him and Simon bandages up Tracey's chest. Tracey explains that the drug he bought was supposed to keep him under for a wing, and tells Mel that he just wanted to get to St. Albans... but he was taking someone's property with him. Simon realizes that Tracey is having a cardiac attack, but Tracey assures him that nothing is wrong. The doctor confirms that Tracey's entire body is running at fever pitch, just as Kaylee comes in and Tracey sees her.

In the mess room, Tracey explains that he is smuggling cloned organs. The surgeon removed his organs and sent them to Ariel, and put the smuggled organs in Tracey's body. Simon explains that a human body is required to serve as an incubator as well as a transport, and Tracey admits that he was supposed to arrive at Ariel two weeks ago. However, he got a better offer for the organs: enough money to set up his parents somewhere better than St. Albans. However, the deal fell through when his original employers killed the new one. Tracey managed to get away, and then faked his death in the hopes that they'd stop looking for him.

Womack fires another warning shot and they go to the bridge, and Wash warns the crew that the man is done being stalled. Mal orders Tracey below and Kaylee leads him away. The captain then calls Womack and says that the shot damaged the clamps so that they'll have to land so he can board. Womack agree and Wash plots a course down. Meanwhile, Tracey asks Kaylee if she and Wash are together, and is surprised when he learns that Zoe married the pilot.

Wash breaks atmo and flies over the snow-covered landscape. Meanwhile, Book scans radio frequencies and determines that Womack hasn't called the nearby fed station.

Tracey admits to Kaylee that he keeps getting into trouble, and hopes that he didn't put her in a bad spot.

Wash takes evasive action, trying to lose Womack in the canyons. After a near-miss, Wash parks in a cave and shuts down the engines, but warns Mal that Womack can still spot them visually. Womack drops mag-drops and Wash warns that a close hit will take out their electrics and bring the mountain down around them. Book speaks up, telling the others that there's another way.

Tracey finally has enough and heads for the bridge despite Kaylee's objections.

Book suggests that they hand over Tracey and Jayne agrees with him. Tracey arrives at the hatch without being noticed and listens as Mal finally agrees. The ex-soldier grabs a gun and tells Wash to make a run for it. Mal countermands the order and tells Wash to call Womack, telling Tracey that he's not going to die for helping Tracey. Wash reaches for the radio and Tracey fires into the panel, and the shrapnel cuts Wash's face. Zoe shoots Tracey and he staggers back. As Kaylee comes up, Tracey grabs her and puts a gun to her head. He drags her into Serenity and asks for her help flying a shuttle out.

Mal approaches Tracey and tries to keep him distracted while Zoe and Jayne move in from below. The captain figures that Tracey left a trail of bodies leading Womack to them, and Tracey admits that he picked Mal and Zoe because he knew that they're saps ever since the war. The bombardment stops and Mal tells Tracey that Wash has already made the call to Womack. Tracey says that Mal just murdered him, and Jayne distracts him long enough for Mal to shoot Tracey in the chest. As Tracey lies dying, he apologizes and Mal says that he didn't murder him: Tracey killed himself and Mal has just been carrying the bullet.

Womack and his men board the ship, and spot the dying Tracey up on the catwalk. Mal warns that Tracey is damaged and his cargo along with him. Book confronts Womack and points out that he's out of his jurisdiction, and running the smuggling operation without permission or authority. Jayne and Zoe cock their guns, and Womack reluctantly lowers his gun, spits on the floor, and walks away with his men.

As Simon tries to patch up Tracey, Tracey admits that he was just as stupid as Mal told him, and he couldn't get his life right after the war. He apologizes to Kaylee for taking her hostage, and then ask Mal to take him home for real this time. Mal and Zoe promise that they will and put their hands on Tracey as he dies.

Later, Serenity arrives at St. Albans and the crew deliver Tracey's body to his family. Kaylee gives the father Tracey's voice record, and then takes Simon's hand.