Firefly Retro Review: "Bushwhacked"

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It's safe to say that "Bushwhacked," (Firefly Season 1 Episode 3) is one of the darkest of the series. While there are moments of levity, the setting and the subject matter are pretty grim and ominous.

The episode opens with one of those moments of levity: the crew playing some rowdy variation of basketball in the cargo bay of Serenity.  Everyone is playing except for Inara, Simon and River. The latter looks on, enthralled by the game, while Inara is amused by it all.  

Simon, on the other hand, is confused by the absence of rules. He still doesn't quite understand how things work out there and how he fits in on Serenity. Later on in the hour, Jayne pulls a practical joke on him - which, to note, is the second prank he's been victim of since his short time on the ship.

At this point, Simon still is very much an outsider - and he knows that he is. This is even more evident when he questions Mal's intentions for him and River. He's not sure if he can trust them quite yet.

The episode's grim nature starts when Serenity runs into an abandoned ship. The lighting is dark, the score is haunting and menacing. Even Jayne's prank on Simon doesn't quite lighten things up, given Simon's fear of outer space.  

When the crew goes aboard to check for survivors and salvage whatever valuables have been left behind, they find one survivor and a whole lot of dead bodies hung from the ceiling.

Mal figures out that the ship was hit by Reavers, and that the young man who survived was made to watch the torture and murder that the Reavers inflicted on the other members of the abandoned ship. His experience was enough to make him go mad, to turn him into a Reaver himself.

To make matters worse, the Reavers left a booby-trap which got Serenity, AND by the time they got rid of that, they were brought in by an Alliance ship. The crew was about to be arrested and lose their ship, until the "survivor" attacked them and Mal saved the day.

There's a parallel to be drawn between River and the ship's survivor. At this point, we're not quite sure what's happened to River, and no one can really understand the seemingly nonsensical ramblings that she constantly utters.

When the survivor is brought on the ship, his ramblings are, seemingly, equally nonsensical. However, we know what's been done to him. We know he was made to witness horrendous acts of inhumanity, we know the psychological torture he's endured.

I think that the survivor was meant to show us a glimpse of the things that happened to River. I think we were supposed to be horrified for her. She felt his pain, and she suffers from much of the same post-traumatic symptoms that he did. If he was that messed up, what on earth happened to River?

This episode also showcases why Mal is the captain of that ship, and why the others trust him.  First of all, he smartly distracted the "non-mechanically inclined" members of the ship, getting the booby-trap disarmed with minimal fuss.

Secondly, his plan to protect Simon and River was not only genius, it was indicative of his loyalty to the people on his ship. 


  • The Alliance interview scene is one of my favourites ever.  Kaylee's mechanical smackdown and Wash's description of Zoe will ALWAYS be funny.
  • Jayne's fear of Reavers is both hilarious and terrifying. If a man like Jayne is so rattled by them...
  • Visit our Firefly quotes section to relive the best lines.
  • Follow this link to watch Firefly online at any time.


- Zoe Washburne is played by Gina Torres. You may recognize her right now as Jessica Pearson on Suits, OR from Hannibal as Bella Crawford, the wife of Jack Crawford (played by her real-life husband, Laurence Fishburne).


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Firefly Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

Kaylee: I guess that makes us one man short.
Jayne: Little Kaylee's always one man short.

Oh my God, what could it be?! We're all doomed! Who's flying this thing?! Oh right, that would be me.