At a brothel in the wilderness, a powerful gang leader named Rance Burgess (Fredric Lehne) demands that the Madam, Nandi (Melinda Clarke) bring out a woman named Petaline (Tracy Leah Ryan). Nandi denies her presence, but she is dragged out, visibly pregnant, and his goons extract a DNA sample. If it is his child, he threatens to return for it, even if he has to cut it out of her.
Aboard Serenity, Inara (Morena Baccarin) receives a distress call from Nandi, who is an old friend. Inara explains to Mal (Jason Fillion) that Nandi is not a registered Companion and is not protected by the Guild. He agrees to help. The ship lands near the brothel and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) takes advantage of the hospitality offered. Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) prays with the women, Doctor Simon (Sean Maher) gives medical help.
Mal and Inara attend a public event to size up Burgess. Afterwards, Burgess receives confirmation that he is the father. Mal offers to evacuate the ranch in Serenity, but Nandi refuses to leave the place she worked so hard to build. Mal admires her and stays to stage a defence. Petaline goes into labor, with Inara, Doctor Tam, and River Tam (Summer Glau) at her side. Nandi and Mal get to know each other. Nandi speaks of her past with Inara. Nandi left her restrictive Companion training, and Inara could have been House Priestess of House Madrassa but left suddenly for space. Mal and Nandi become intimate, though Nandi says, “I ain’t her.”
Back in town, one of Nandi’s girls, Chai (Kimberly McCulloch) reports to Burgess on Mal’s defense preparations. She is rewarded with public degradation. The next morning, Mal tries to explain his night with Nandi to Inara, but Inara says there is no reason to do so and thanks him for his help, but she is seen sobbing later.
Burgess and his men attack the ranch and the crew defends. Some of the gang attacks Serenity, but Wash (Alan Tudyk) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite) trap them. As Petaline gives birth, Chari lets Burgess in, and he takes the child. He shoots and kills Nandi. Mal chases after him and drags him back to the ranch, where Petaline executes him. Chari is banned. After Nandi’s funeral, Serenity lifts off. Back on board, Mal mourns Nandi, and Inara thanks him for his kindness to her. Then she tells Mal that she is leaving Serenity.
The episode was nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award. It is the last of three unaired stories. The director, Thomas J. Wright, directed ten episodes of Nathan Fillion’s later series Castle in 2009. The plot owes a great deal to Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven and is one of the most Western-flavored episodes. Aside from the DNA test, some lasers, and Serenity, it could have been set in the Old West. In a theater, ships are shown leaving Earth, including a Firefly-class starship. Melinda Clarke (Nandi) played Lady Heather, the owner of a bondage establishment, in six episodes of CSI.
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