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Firefly/The Train Job

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The Train Job
The Train Job
Season 1, Episode 1
Airdate September 20, 2002
Production Number 1AGE01
Written by Joss Whedon &
Tim Minear
Directed by Joss Whedon

1x02 →
FireflySeason One

The Train Job is the first episode of the first season of Firefly, and follows the crew on a train heist for a gangster named Niska. But when the cargo turns out to be medical supplies that the town needs, Mal and the crew go back on their deal. Niska isn't known for his flexibility and this change in plans might not reflect well on the crew.

Starring: Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds), Gina Torres (Zoe Washburne), Alan Tudyk (Hoban "Wash" Washburne), Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye), Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam), Summer Glau (River Tam), Ron Glass (Shepherd Book)

Guest Starring: Tom Towles (Lund), Andrew Bryniarski (Crow), Michael Fairman (Niska)

and Gregg Henry (Bourne)

Co-Starring: Valerie Red-Horse (Deputy), Kevin Will (Officer), Lina Patel (Ensign), David Reynolds (Henchman), Jeff Ricketts (Man), Dennis Cockrum (Other Man), Eric Lange (Fed), Tawny René Hamilton (Immigrant Woman #1), Michelle Ferrara (Immigrant Woman #2)


Plot Overview

Mal, Zoe and Jayne are in between missions, sitting in a bar which happens to be friendly with the Alliance on "Unification Day", a holiday celebrating the defeat of the independent planets during the war. Their game is interrupted by a man who toasts to the alliance. Mal gets up to get another drink and winds up fighting with just about everyone in the bar after having Zoe knock out the drunk who noticed his coat's "brownish color." Mal is quickly defenestrated and the fight continues outside until Wash makes an idle threat about blowing up the bar with Serenity's weapons. Though, Mal did stir up a great deal of trouble, he also found a job for the crew.

The job in question is from a notorious mobster named Adelei Niska. But before they arrive at Niska's stronghold, Shepherd Book questions why Mal would house two known Alliance fugitives when his criminal behavior pays out far more than their travel fares total. Mal endures Book's questioning for a while until he discovers the engine room in disarray. He interrupts Kaylee's time with Inara to make her get to work and inform Inara that they have a job but he worries about her safety while in Niska's space station.

Mal, Zoe and Jayne arrive at Niska's base of operations where they find that Niska wants them to steal two Alliance crates from train headed to Paradiso. He says that Mal has the reputation of getting the job done and that reputation is a powerful thing. But he takes it a step further and displays a man being tortured in his back room for not doing the job, so as to make his reputation concrete fact. In return, he suggests that Mal complete his job to solidify his own reputation.

Mal and Zoe infiltrate the passenger car of the train, they get to work on their theft and come face to face with an entire squad of Alliance soldiers. But they're letting people past, so they're clearly not guarding the goods. While they're working under the noses of the Alliance, Kaylee prepares the lift so that Jayne can be lowered down onto the moving train and take the bundled up crates. She flirts with Simon a bit before the impossible crass Jayne ruins everything by suggesting that Mal is going to hand River over to the feds for profit. Back on the train, one of the feds wanders back into the cargo bay and is knocked unconscious right when they're about to lift up Jayne. his weapon went off before they could incapacitate him, however, leaving Jayne with a gunshot in his leg.

On Paradiso, Mal and Zoe realize that the cargo they've stolen are six crates of medical supplies. The sheriff has placed the entire town on lockdown, including the marshals who were on the train. The alliance has no interest in the border planet town's problems, however, and quickly pulls their troops out of the area. Mal and Zoe are questioned by the sheriff, who tells them that the planet runs rampant with Boden's Malady, a degenerative bone and muscle condition. The sheriff catches Mal in a lie when the man who he claims has work for him and his "wife" Zoe, but Mal plays it off as miscommunication. Meanwhile, on the ship, Jayne attempts to exert his newfound power but collapses soon after demanding that Wash take off for the rendezvous point. As it happens, Simon doped him since he didn't feel comfortable with Jayne in charge. They realign their purpose on the planet and send Inara down to Paradiso to rescue Mal, who she claims is an indentured servant that ran off with some of her funds.

The sheriff allows them all to leave without incident, but Mal and Zoe have decided to bring back their ill-gotten goods to the town. They start to load up the crates onto the mule, but Niska's men appear. Mal tells Crow that the deal is off and they're returning both the money and the crate. This isn't satisfactory for Crow and a gun battle breaks out. The crew gains the upper hand and takes the goons as prisoners. Zoe and Mal take the mule out to the outskirts of town in hopes of leaving them and alerting the sheriff when they're long gone, but he's already there. He accepts their repentance and understands the tough times, so the law isn't called in since the Alliance didn't help much anyway.

Back at the ship, Mal tries to reason with Crow, who says that he'll hunt him down and murder him with his blade. In response to this, Mal kicks Crow into the turbines and the remaining crew members agree to take the money back to Niska. Now that trouble has been averted, Mal has his wound sewed up and River is still muttering the "hands of blue" rhyme to herself. Across the galaxy somewhere, two men wearing blue gloves are investigating River's "theft."


Arc Advancement


  • Blue Sun: The men with the blue gloves are mentioned briefly in a seemingly inexplicable rhyme muttered by River, "two by two, hands of blue." The blue-handed men appear at the end of the episode, looking for River. It seems that they are connected with Blue Sun and have something to gain from the programs being run by the academy River was sent to. Or, perhaps, they are only interested in what makes River special.



  • 1x01 - Serenity: Kaylee mentions that she needed to rewire the gravity thrust because Mal wouldn't replace the quickly failing compression coil. She first brought this issue up when the ship attracted its passengers, but Mal refused to buy a new one since they couldn't afford it.


The Show

  • Starship Feds: The body armor the Alliance troops on the train are wearing is spare armor from the Starship Troopers movie.
  • Cameos: While filming the scene where everyone gets off the train, the crew realized that they didn't have enough extras to make up an entire town. So, a number of cameos from people in and connected to the crew including Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Drew Goddard, production designer Carey Meyer and Joss Whedon's assistant Michael Boretz.

Behind the Scenes

  • Obeying the Network: When Firefly producers Joss Whedon and Tim Minear went to FOX with the pitch for the series, the executives asked that they write a pilot episode (rather than the two-hour pilot movie that they had hoped for). The network gave them two days to complete a script and eventually greenlit the series based on the strength of that script, which was this episode.
  • Cut Scene: Originally when Mal entered the room with Simon and River at the beginning of the episode, he curtsied instead of bowing because there was a big deal about him not knowing how to bow. This was cut for time, but called back in the episode when Mal bowed to Inara in her shuttle.
  • Widescreen: Despite their intention to film in widescreen, the producers of the series were forced to film in such a way that their shots could transfer to full-screen broadcast due to a FOX policy against airing widescreen episodes.

Allusions and References

Memorable Moments


  • Drunk: You know, I think you're one of them Independents.
Mal: And I think you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling, so how about we just ignore each other until we go away?
  • Niska: (about his torture victim) My wife's nephew. At dinner I am getting earful; there's no way out of that.
  • Inara: Mal, if you're being a gentleman, I may die of shock.
  • Zoe: Just have an image in my head of a guy hanging from the ceiling.
Mal: I got an image of it not being me.
  • Zoe: He's a psycho, you know. Niska.
Mal: He's not the first psycho to hire us, nor the last. You think that's a commentary on us?
  • (Zoe and Mal undercover hiding from the Feds)
Mal: Whatever happens, remember I love you.
Zoe: Sir?
Mal: Because you're my wife.
Zoe: Right. Sir. Honey.
  • Wash: Listen to me...
Jayne: You know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I go get and beat you with till you understand who's in ruttin' command here.
  • (Jayne acting strangely)
Jayne: Now we're finishing this deal and then maybe, maybe we'll come back for those... morons... got themselves caught and you can't change that just by gettin' all bendy.
Wash: All what?
Jayne:: You got the light from the console to keep you, to lift you up. (plucks at thin air) They shine like little angels...
(Jayne falls flat on his face, unconscious)
Wash: Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?
  • Mal: Now, this is all the money Niska gave us in advance. You bring it back to him. Tell him the job didn't work out. We're not thieves. But we are thieves. Point is, we're not taking what's his. We'll stay out of his way as best we can from here on in. You explain that's best for everyone, okay?
Crow: Keep the money. Use it to buy a funeral. It doesn't matter where you go or how far you fly. I will hunt you down and the last thing you see will be my blade.
Mal: Darn. (kicks Crow into a giant engine fan)
(next bad guy is brought forward)
Mal: Now, this is all the money Niska gave us—
Bad Guy: I get it! I'm good. Best for everyone. I speak for everyone. I'm right there with ya.