Safe (Firefly)

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Firefly episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 5
Directed byMichael Grossman
Written byDrew Z. Greenberg
Production code1AGE04
Original air dateNovember 8, 2002 (2002-11-08)
Guest appearance(s)

Isabella Hofmann
William Converse-Roberts
John Thaddeus
Gary Werntz
Skylar Roberge
Zac Efron
Erica Tazel

Episode chronology
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"Our Mrs. Reynolds"
List of Firefly episodes

"Safe" is the fifth episode of the science fiction television series Firefly created by Joss Whedon.

Written by Drew Z. Greenberg, and directed by Michael Grossman, the episode originally aired on November 8, 2002. The episode sees Malcolm Reynolds forced to choose which crew members to save when one is gravely wounded and two others are kidnapped. Simon Tam finds an uneasy haven in a remote village, but River's uncanny perceptions jeopardize the Tams' temporary safety.

The episode is noteworthy for being the television debut of actor Zac Efron, who appears in flashback as the young Simon Tam.


The episode is interspersed with flashbacks, detailing Simon and River's lives before River's abduction: Simon, a studious young boy, River engaging in flights of imagination while correcting his textbooks, and their father encouraging Simon to become a "brilliant doctor". These expectations are derailed when River is sent to an elite, though secretive, academy. Simon does not hear from her in a while, then becomes concerned when she sends him a letter referring to events which never happened. Their parents are untroubled by River's letter, believing she is just playing games again. Simon, however, believes it to be a coded message asking for help. His father bails out Simon once when he tries to rescue her, but warns his son he will not do it a second time.

In the present day, Simon continues to try to diagnose River's condition and injuries, while Mal demands that they stay out of the way while he conducts business. On arrival at the backwater colony of Jiangyin, Shepherd Book aids Mal and Jayne in unloading and penning the cattle and meeting with the Grange brothers, their disreputable buyers. Just as they come to an agreement on price, local law enforcement arrives to arrest the clients, and Book is seriously wounded in the ensuing gunfight.

Meanwhile, Simon and River join Inara and Kaylee in town as the women are shopping. Although Kaylee contemplates buying something nice for Simon, the doctor manages to insult her and her beloved Serenity with his complaints about his predicament, and the Tams are left to their own devices. Simon quickly discovers River has wandered off. She finds a maypole dance, and Simon watches his sister enjoy herself for a change. River's ecstatic dancing suddenly falters when Book is shot, but before Simon can react to his sister's distress, he is kidnapped by some men. River follows and is seized as well.

Mal and Zoe manage to get Book back to Serenity to stabilize him. When Wash is unable to find Simon to help Book, Mal realizes that Simon and River have probably been taken by local hill folk who kidnap unwary people, especially skilled workers. He makes the decision to abandon the Tams in order to seek urgently needed medical help off-planet. On Inara's insistence, they dock with the Alliance cruiser Magellan; its captain refuses to help until Book tells them to check his identification card, at which point the captain orders immediate assistance. Mal and the rest of the crew wonder what kind of connection with the Alliance Book has to receive such treatment, but a recovering Book dodges Mal's questions, stating merely that "it's good to be home."

The hill folk welcome Simon and his sister. When Simon sees the many sick villagers, he sets to work. Doralee, the village teacher who runs the infirmary, merely suggests that Simon may well be in the place he is fated to be. Simon and River share a memory of their childhood, and River despairs of how her plight has taken everything Simon had away from him. When River tells Doralee about the cause of a young mute girl's silence, Doralee realizes that River has an unusual power, but assumes this means that River is a witch and must therefore be burnt at the stake. Simon appeals to the villagers, but when these efforts fail, he instead takes his place next to his sister, prepared to die with her. At this moment, Serenity swoops over the village, Jayne dangling from its hold with a large weapon at the ready, while Mal and Zoe stride in and rescue the Tams.

As Serenity leaves Jiangyin, Simon asks Mal why he came back for them, and Mal explains off-handedly that Simon is part of his crew. "But you don't even like me," Simon reminds him. "Why'd you do it?" "You're on my crew," Mal repeats. "Why are we still talking about this?"

Guest cast[edit]

  • Isabella Hofmann and William Converse-Roberts as Regan and Gabriel Tam, the mother and father of Simon and River Tam.
  • John Thaddeus as Stark, the bandit who kidnaps Simon and River.
  • Gary Werntz as Patron, the leader of the township the Tams are brought to.
  • Zac Efron as young Simon Tam. This episode marks Efron's television debut.
  • Skylar Roberge as young River Tam
  • Erica Tazel as Doralee, the township's village teacher and informal doctor.


  • Espenson, Jane, ed., with Glenn Yeffeth (eds.). Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's "Firefly". Dallas, Texas: Benbella Books. ISBN 1-932100-43-1.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  • 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 Sep 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]