Ariel (Firefly episode)

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Firefly episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 9
Directed byAllan Kroeker
Written byJose Molina
Production code1AGE08
Original air dateNovember 15, 2002 (2002-11-15)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Out of Gas"
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"War Stories"
List of Firefly episodes

"Ariel" is the ninth episode of the science fiction television series Firefly, created by Joss Whedon.

Hard up for cash, the crew of the Serenity takes on a job from Simon: break into an Alliance hospital on the central world Ariel so Simon can perform a thorough diagnostic of River and the crew can loot the valuable stores of medicine. But River's pursuers are hot on their trail, and they receive some unexpected inside help.

Plot summary[edit]

Serenity heads to Ariel, a central world of the Union of Allied Planets, where Inara is due for her annual Companion physical exam and license renewal. Following an incident in which River attacks him, Jayne demands that she and Simon be left on Ariel. Mal quashes any talk of leaving people behind, but privately warns Simon that River has to be kept under control. Simon acknowledges that his sister is getting worse.

Simon approaches the crew with a job: he wants to get into the hospital in Ariel's capital city in order to scan River's brain with an advanced piece of medical equipment, and he needs the crew to get him inside. As payment, he will tell the crew how to steal valuable medical supplies undetected (they will be replaced automatically by hospital machines).

Simon drugs himself and River so they appear dead, allowing the crew to enter Ariel city's hospital using a scrapped medical shuttle they refurbish and fake EMT IDs. The group then split up, with Jayne guarding Simon as he analyses River's condition while Mal and Zoe steal drugs from the hospital. However, Jayne betrays the Tams, placing a call to an Alliance officer who agrees to pay their bounty. Once awakened, Simon dresses as a doctor and takes River to the diagnostic ward with Jayne. There, Simon discovers that River's brain has been surgically operated on many times, disabling her ability to suppress emotions.

With the analysis complete, Jayne leads them to a rear entrance, where they are arrested by Federal marshals, Jayne included, the Alliance officer deciding to keep the reward money for himself. Meanwhile, Mal and Zoe return to the medical shuttle with the loot, but realize that Jayne and the Tams are late so head back into the hospital to find them.

The three prisoners are moved to a holding area where Jayne and Simon overpower their escorts and escape. Shortly afterwards, two blue-gloved men arrive to take custody of the Tams, using a mysterious sonic device to kill all the marshals when the pair learn that some of them talked to the Tams. Meanwhile, a terrified River leads Jayne and Simon to a locked door, which is opened from the other side by Mal and Zoe, enabling the group to escape.

Inara returns to Serenity just as the medical shuttle arrives. Once everyone else has left the cargo area, Mal knocks Jayne out. Jayne awakens to find himself in an open airlock as the ship begins to leave the atmosphere. Jayne eventually confesses that he betrayed Simon and River, but denies double crossing Mal. Mal tells him that what he did was the same as betraying him. As Mal turns to leave, Jayne asks him not to tell his shipmates about the betrayal. Mal closes the outer door, sparing Jayne's life.


Dr. Tam, Jayne, Kaylee, and Malcolm after their raid of an Alliance hospital. Malcolm's hugging Kaylee was improvised by Nathan Fillion.

The medical shuttle that appears in the episode and is used to ferry the main characters back and forth from St. Lucy's is built from a 2/3 scale model of a Soviet Mil Mi-24 Hind D helicopter. A group of fans have bought the scrapped medical shuttle (from a scrapyard in Mojave, California), and are in the process of restoring it, hoping to show it on the Firefly convention circuit.[1][2]

When the crew returns to Serenity after their successful raid of the Alliance hospital, Malcolm grabs Kaylee from behind and pulls her into a friendly hug. This was improvised by Nathan Fillion, and was left in the shot because Joss Whedon felt it was such a natural movement for Malcolm to make.[3]

Guest cast[edit]

  • Blake Robbins as Agent McGuinness, a Fed who snatches Simon, River, and Jayne
  • Jeff Ricketts and Dennis Cockrum as Blue Glove Men, the mysterious agents pursuing the Tams.
  • Tom Virtue as Pompous Doctor, whom Mal and Zoe run into during the heist


  1. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (June 20, 2006). "Fans of sci-fi 'Serenity' follow their bliss". CNET. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  2. ^ "Firefly (2002)". Stingray's Dedication to the Mi-24 'Hind'. 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Whedon, Joss. Here's How It Was: The Making of Firefly (Firefly: The Complete Series DVD).


  • Espenson, Jane (ed.). Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's "Firefly". with Glenn Yeffeth. Dallas, Texas: Benbella Books. ISBN 1-932100-43-1.
  • Rhonda V. Wilcox; Tanya Cochran (20 May 2008). Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Joss Whedon's Worlds Beyond: Science Fiction on the Frontier (Investigating Cult TV Series). I B Tauris & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84511-654-5.
  • Joss Whedon (1 September 2005). Serenity: The Official Visual Companion. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-082-3.
  • Joss Whedon; et al. (25 August 2006). Firefly: The Official Companion: Volume One. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-314-5.
  • Joss Whedon; et al. (25 August 2006). Firefly: The Official Companion: Volume Two. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-372-5.
  • Joss Whedon (December 9, 2003). The Complete Series: Commentary for "Serenity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.

External links[edit]