The crew lands on Persephone. In her shuttle, Inara (Morena Baccarin) chooses Atherton Wing (Edward Atternon) as a client. He is a local aristocrat and a regular customer. Mal (Jason Fillion) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) run into Badger (Mark Sheppard) who wants Mal to help move an illegal cargo for a high-society figure named Warrick Harrow (Larry Drake) who will not deign to talk to Badger. He gives Mal and Kaylee (Jewel Staite) tickets to a ball that Inara is going to. Atherton asks her to be his personal companion, but she is undecided. Miss Kaywinnet Lee Frye and Escort are announced. Kaylee is in a ruffled dress she saw in a shop window.
On Serenity, Simon (Sean Maher), Book (Ron Glass), and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) are playing cards. River (Summer Glau) has another manic attack and rips all the hated Blue Sun labels off their canned food supplies (I did that at the age of three and we had mystery veg for dinner for weeks) while Wash and Zoe are getting it on in their quarters. At the ball, Kaylee is not doing so well with the sophisticated debutants, so she wanders into a circle of men discussing engineering problems and wows them. Atherton Wing, with Inara, arrives. Mal escorts Inara onto the dance floor, but Atherton cuts in because “money has changed hands.” Mal punches him out, which amounts to a duelling challenge with the best swordsman on the planet.
On Serenity, Badger arrives and tells the crew Mal will be in a duel. They want to intervene, but Badger is there to keep them away until it’s all over. Mal practices uselessly for the duel. Inara is confused by him as usual. He leaped to her defence when she was insulted, but he insults her all the time. No, says Mal, I insult your profession; he insulted you.
The Serenity crew is in the cargo hold, plotting an escape. Jayne suggests a diversion. River appears and speaks to Badger in his own accent, discussing his secret past. River departs and Badger is confused. Too bad the rest of them didn’t realize this was the diversion they wanted. In the duel, Atherton wounds Mal several times, way too easily, and breaks his sword. Inara offers to stay with him if he will spare Mal’s life. Mal snatches the sword from Atherton, punches him out, and stabs him in the shoulder with his own broken sword.
Mal stands over Wing. Sir Warwick demands he be dispatched for honor’s sake. Mal pokes him a couple more times and throws down his sword. Inara helps Mal off the field. Atherton, insulted, threatens to ruin Inara, but she informs him he is now persona non grata in the Companion Registry. Much impressed by Mal, Sir Warwick hires him to move the cargo. Before the crew can initiate its escape plan, Mal and Inara return and chase Badger off the ship. Inara and Mal speak quietly over the cargo—a herd of lowing cattle.
Kaylee calls Mal “Captain Tightpants”—a reference to an incident during the filming of the series pilot, when Jason Fillion split his pants. In the chandelier above the ballroom is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. Inara’s dress was made from costume designer Shawna Trpcic’s wedding dress. The covered bridge in the background is from Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s Emissary episode. The cattle were digital because cows don’t walk on gratings. Jewel Staite loved this episode because Kaylee was wonderful, and writer Jane Espenson loved it because she got to write Jane Austen dialogue.