Firefly Fridays – Episode 7: “Jaynestown”

So, this was the fourth episode aired, but it was also the first one after the show was pre-empted for baseball, something that definitely didn’t help with Fox’s reputation amongst the fanbase. But, whatever, on with the review!


Have good sex… Seriously, you two.

In the beginning, Simon and Kaylee are talking about Simon’s language; specifically, that he doesn’t swear. Simon insists that he does, just only when appropriate. Inara passes by on her way out of the ship, to which Kaylee wishes her “good sex.” The pair are then interrupted by Jayne destroying the infirmary looking for tape so that he can conceal a gun on his person, only to be told by Mal that there will be no guns on the planet. Jayne mentions that he has enemies on the planet, which Simon sarcastically questions, but Mal insists on going in unarmed.

The ship lands in Canton, a town that harvests mud for manufacture of high-grade ceramics using indentured labor. In an attempt to spend more time with him, Kaylee suggests that Simon should come along. Mal agrees, saying that Simon could easily pass for a rich man looking to buy mud, which will divert attention. Book offers to watch after River while Simon’s off the ship.

The land-crew, consisting of Wash, Simon, Mal, Kaylee, and a disguised Jayne, wander into the Mudding Pits, only to find a statue of Jayne which people have clearly been treating as an altar, lighting votive candles and leaving gifts. Simon, proving his word, can only mutter “son of a bitch.”


Jayne says he has no idea what the statue is about, as the last time he was in Canton he committed a robbery that “went South,” which he imagines the Magistrate is still pissed about. At that same moment, Inara is meeting with the Magistrate (Gregory Itzin), who wants her to solve a problem for him.

If the problem doesn’t go away after 4 hours… Keep Inara around.

Back on Serenity, River is “fixing” Book’s Bible. She’s attempting to solve the scientific impossibilities of the Garden of Eden by incorporating “non-progressional evolution” and Noah’s Ark with quantum-state phenomena. Book states that “you don’t fix faith, it fixes you.”

In a Canton Bar, the group is trying “Mudder’s Milk,” the single greatest alcoholic beverage ever created: It’s proteins, carbs, and vitamins, described as “your grandma’s best turkey dinner,” plus 15% alcohol. Why do I love this so much? IT’S BASICALLY VITAMEATAVEGAMIN!!!! Only with less alcohol. Simon points out that Mudder’s Milk is basically the same as the beer they gave slaves in Ancient Egypt to keep them from malnutrition, because why be subtle?

Same great taste!

Mal finds out that the man they were supposed to meet was killed a few days prior, so they need another way to get the merchandise across town without being detected by the Magistrate. They’re then interrupted by a man playing a god-honest folk-song about Jayne called “The Hero of Canton.” The song explains the hero-worship, explaining that when he was here previously, Jayne robbed a large amount of money from the Magistrate, then dumped the money over all of the poor mudders of Canton. Jayne explains to the crew that when he stole the money, his ship got hit by a missile, and so he had to dump all of the money in order to escape. It was completely unintentional.

This must be what going mad feels like.

Back on Serenity, in one of the best short gag scenes in the series, River is trying to apologize to Book, saying that she “tore these [pages] out of your symbol and they turned into paper.” Book, who’s using the sink, turns around with his hair unbound from his usual ponytail, and reveals himself. I’m gonna put a picture in here, because I think the only verbal description is that he looks like a cross between that photo of Einstein sticking his tongue out, a man getting electrocuted, and John Legend in the year 2065. River, naturally, runs away screaming. Zoe comes to see what happened and is similarly taken aback by his hair.


As the crew leaves the bar they are confronted with a crowd who now recognizes Jayne as their hero. Jayne is quickly mobbed, while Mal tries to figure out how to use this to their advantage.

Inara is on her shuttle when the Magistrate brings in his “problem,” his son, who is 26 and a virgin. Inara, annoyed by the Magistrate’s attitude, convinces him to leave the pair alone.

At the bar, Simon and Kaylee are getting drunk and somewhat flirty. Mal tries to get them to leave, but Kaylee insists things are “going well,” which Mal correctly interprets and leaves them to their drinks.

Hamsters come up as a topic. Because they’s nice.

On Serenity, River is hiding under the stairs, saying “They say the snow on the roof was too heavy. They say the ceiling will cave in. His brains are in terrible danger.” I consider these lines nothing short of brilliant. Book asks her to come out, to which she explains: “I can’t. Too much hair.” Book tries to explain that it’s part of his vows, but Zoe just tells River that he’s putting the hair away. Wash and Mal return, explaining the Jayne situation to an incredulous Zoe. Mal plans on having Jayne be at a celebration in his honor in the town, which should distract everyone enough to transport the cargo.

That night, Inara and the Magistrate’s son, Fess (Zachary Kranzler), talk, with Inara insisting that he be more confident in himself. At the same time, the Magistrate releases the partner Jayne abandoned four years ago, sending him to attack Jayne.

Ya blew it

The next morning, Jayne’s still basking in his own glory, and Simon and Kaylee wake up together, resulting in Simon saying something exceptionally stupid and offending her. She insists he stay in the bar, because “that’s the sort of thing that would be appropriate.” The “ya blew it” look Mal gives him after is perfect. Inara wakes up with Fess, who explains that he’s going to be helping his father get revenge on a hero who thwarted him. Inara starts to defend Mal, only to find out that it’s actually Jayne, something that leaves her flabbergasted. God, I love an opportunity to use that word. Fess reveals that the Magistrate has grounded Serenity.

Jayne’s old partner, Stitch (Kevin Gage), attacks Simon and cuts his arm when he tries to avoid telling him where Jayne is. The crew transfers the cargo successfully. Jayne gives a short, somewhat decent, speech to the mudders before being confronted by Stitch who tells everyone the truth about what Jayne did. Stitch tries to kill Jayne, but one of the mudders who has been idolizing Jayne most jumps in front of him and is killed. Jayne proceeds to beat Stitch to death with the base of his own statue. Jayne tells the crowd that there are no heroes. There are just “people like [him].” With that, he destroys his statue.


With the help of Fess, the crew takes off. Book goes to talk to River who is highlighting a Bible. She tells him to “Just keep walking, Preacher man.” Simon and Kaylee flirt again, with Kaylee pointing out that his manners don’t mean anything in their position, but Simon insists that’s how he’s respectful. She then makes a joke about them sleeping together to mock him.

The episode ends with Mal and Jayne sitting together, and Jayne remarking that it’s stupid for the man who died for him to have done so, and that they’re probably putting the statue back up. Mal agrees, but tells Jayne:

“It’s my estimation that…every man ever got a statue made of him, was one kind of sumbitch or another. Ain’t about you, Jayne. About what they need.”

Jayne closes the episode saying, “Don’t make no sense.”


Railroad strikes were fun

Alright, so, this episode again highlights a big theme of Firefly: The inequity of the system of government. In Canton, the Magistrate holds all of the workers in indentured servitude. It’s even a selling point for the mud. The Foreman flat-out says: “We have over 2000 workers, mostly indentured. We pay them next to nothing, that way we can pass the savings directly to you, the customer.” Basically, they’re advertising “hey, we force people to live in terrible conditions to enhance profits.” Now, many people might point out that this is similar to the business model of [insert almost any major corporation], but the difference in Canton is that the Magistrate is the one in charge of this and also the one who has legal right to enforce debts. It’s basically like if Wal-mart had a private army keeping their workers in the store… or if this were the railroad and mining conglomerates of the 1800s and early 1900s.

This automated planter exists

However, while watching this episode, one other aspect of the society in Firefly becomes apparent: There’s almost no automation within the series. While we know that computers are capable of auto-piloting spaceships, we don’t see some of the basic automated processes we see emerge in the present, like crop-sprayers or self-driving harvesters. The focus of this episode is on “mudders,” literally people who farm mud, something that lends itself readily to being done by machines. And yet, somehow, slave-ish labor is apparently the way they choose to do things. There are only 3 ways this makes sense:

Option 1 is if indentured servitude is cheaper than automation. Given that the workers A) constantly are trying to undermine the Magistrate and B) appear to only work during the day, this seems unlikely. It’s not like it’d take a complicated mechanism to harvest mud and, as evidenced by the very existence of Serenity’s engine, near-limitless power is not particularly expensive in the future. I can’t imagine it costs less to feed, clothe, govern, etc. the mudders than to upkeep some machines. Since the Magistrate is rich and able to both import and manufacture goods (as shown by his home), there’s also no scarcity of materials issue.

Yeah, she’s a sexbot

Option 2 is if the Union of Allied Planets has banned robotics. This actually seems probable, since the only robot I remember from the series is Mr. Universe’s (presumably illegal) robot bride. The only problem is that banning AI or humanoid robotics wouldn’t likely prevent the kind of mechanisms required for harvesting mud. It’s not like you need to be able to process emotions or quantum physics to figure out “check how muddy this mud is. If it’s muddy enough, collect it. If not, muddy it more.” It’s at this point I should reveal that I’m not 100% sure what the mudders actually do, since they don’t actually make the ceramics, but I can assume it involves purifying the material and making it the appropriate chemical composition to be made into ceramic plating. Pretty much no matter what, it seems like a relatively simple set of algorithms could handle it, compared to the ones required for INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL. To those of you who would point out that interplanetary travel is not as complicated when you don’t have to account for fuel… yeah, okay, but it’s still a lot of math to figure out the closest routes based on orbitals and such, or routes that don’t intersect with certain territories, so shut up you pedants.

Option 3, and probably the actual reason, is that many of the members of the Alliance, like the Magistrate, thrive on preserving their status. For the Magistrate to be wealthy and authoritative on his moon, he has to make sure that no one else on the moon ever has any wealth or authority. Power only exists in relative terms, after all. Even though pseudo-slavery might not be the most economically viable model for the Magistrate to be rich and powerful on an Alliance-wide scale, it makes sure that he’s the most powerful man on his little moon. I’m sure there’s an analogy one could make to certain historical models of government or society where people were kept in an intentionally deprived state for the claimed purpose of easier economic exploitation but might instead have been based more heavily around preserving a power structure by suppression of a large group, but my slavish attempts to name one have been feudal.


And, really, this is somehow one of the most ridiculous and yet one of the most understandable aspects of the Firefly future: People have shitty lives entirely because the Alliance wants them to have shitty lives. This is the future. Energy is now post-scarcity (though not to the Star Trek level). Interplanetary shipping is part of life. Asteroid mining is stated to exist repeatedly. There are dozens of planets worth of resources and finding more is no longer a ridiculous concept. Everyone should basically have all of their base needs met at all times, just because it would be easy to provide them. The starting point in a future society with this level of resources should be above safety on the hierarchy of needs, and yet it’s often below physiological, with people dying from lack of medicine or adequate shelter, and a huge percentage of the population not being “burdened with an overabundance of schooling,” despite the fact that they have an interplanetary internet. Even without knowing that the government experimented on River in a completely unethical and immoral way, the state of the future speaks volumes as to their cruelty.


River and religion is just a very funny aside for me. It’s a perfect point-counterpoint when she’s trying to make the Bible into a scientifically viable, logical system, something that Book, accurately, states is not the point of faith. Faith is supposed to make you better through your interactions with something bigger than yourself.

Overall, I love this episode. It’s not in the top-tier for me, but it’s a damn good hour of television. The idea that Jayne, literally the LEAST moral member of the crew, becomes a folk hero through complete happenstance is hilarious, but the message at the end is really what makes the episode for me:

The truth of a person isn’t what people need. They need the idea.

Jayne himself even says that there aren’t really heroes in the world, that there are only people like him, who do good through failing at their own selfishness. But, in the end, the mudders need someone to believe in. They need something to unite them, so they can keep going. They even point out that the only things they’ve ever been able to beat the Magistrate on was to keep the money they believed that Jayne gave them and to keep up the statue of Jayne. Those were the two things that convinced them to have a riot serious enough to defeat the administration. And maybe one day they’ll believe in the story of Jayne enough to unite and change their circumstances again for the better. You’d think they’d realize they could do that based on the fact that their riots actually forced the Magistrate to change his mind, but history says people in oppressed groups often take a while to hit their breaking point. However, faith in a focal figure also helps, since interaction with something bigger than yourself can make you better… oh, wait, I said that already. Weird.

Also, the “Ballad of Jayne Cobb” should have gotten certified gold.

Score: 4.0 Fireflies (or 1 Jug of Mudder’s Milk)


See you next Friday, Browncoats.

PREVIOUS – 6: Our Mrs. Reynolds

NEXT – 8: Out of Gas

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.



Reader Request: Riverboat (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.)

This was an interesting request to get, since it both didn’t come through the request page and also is a bit of a random choice for an episode within a random choice of a series.

I dunno what my favorite is…

Readers of this page will be aware that I consider Bruce Campbell to be an amazing actor, and this is… well, nowhere near the best show he’s done, but it’s still a really fun series. When I first watched this show when I was 6, it blew my mind. It had action, humor, cowboys, sci-fi, chins, gunfights, bowler hats, you name it. But, it also got cancelled after a season, didn’t really get re-run at all, and, honestly, I forgot about it until I was in college. I’m surprised it isn’t streaming on any service currently, since this is exactly the kind of series that you should binge-watch, but I guess Fox wants too much money for it.

BriscoCountyCastSo, here’s the premise of the series: It’s 1893 and a gang of outlaws led by John Bly (Billy Drago) are captured by legendary lawman Brisco County (R. Lee Ermey, RIP). However, on the way to their trial, the gang escapes, killing County. At the same time, nearby, a strange Orb is discovered, which appears to grant supernatural powers to people who touch it. The newly-freed Bly shows interest in the Orb. Wishing to prevent Bly from getting the Orb and running amok through the West, a group of Robber Barons, usually called the members of the Westerfield Club in San Francisco, hire County’s son, Brisco County, Jr. (Bruce Campbell), a Harvard-educated lawyer who is now a bounty hunter, to track down Bly and his gang. To track his progress, the Barons assign timid lawyer Socrates Poole (Christian Clemenson) to act as a go-between and assistant to County. Other recurring characters include: Lord Bowler (Julius Carry), a rival bounty-hunter who usually teams up with County at the end of the episode; Professor Albert Wickwire (John “I was the bad guy in all the Killer Tomatoes sequels” Astin), a scientist who usually creates steampunk inventions that drive the episodes; and Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford), a singer and con artist who is Brisco’s main love interest.

Now that you know all that, forget most of it, because this episode’s mostly a standalone. If you’re wondering why I bothered to write that whole summary if most of it doesn’t apply, that’s because 2 more episodes of this show have since been requested, and I’m gonna copy-paste when I get to them.



BriscoCountyEp6BrettBones.pngThis episode begins with Brisco receiving a telegram from Socrates asking for help. Brisco finds his assistant in jail in Gateway, Louisiana, having been gambling… poorly. In fact, it turns out that Poole had been entrusted with a large amount of money by the Robber Barons to buy a plantation and ended up losing it. However, Poole says that he’s been cheated and refused to pay, which resulted in him being thrown in the hoosegow. It turns out the gambler who beat him is Brett Bones (Xander Berkeley), a member of John Bly’s gang. Brisco forms a plan to get him out of jail and to get Bones at the same time.

Clothes make the man

Brisco dons a typical Western gambler’s outfit and the name Roscoe Merriweather and introduces himself to Bones as a man looking for a poker game. At the time, a young man named Wylie Turner (Montae Russell) shows up with the law looking to have Bones arrested for murdering his brother. It turns out, however, that Bones has a pardon for all crimes signed by the Governor of Louisiana. Brisco agrees to meet with Bones on his riverboat later.

Brisco returns to town, only to find Wylie being attacked by several men. Brisco saves him and finds out that Wylie’s brother was killed by Bones because the Turner Brothers had invented a new fabric. They tried to sell it, but it’s Bones’s town and he wanted his cut. They refused, he committed murder with seeming impunity. The fact that the Turners were black and this is Louisiana in 1893 never comes up as why he might have done so. He sends Wylie to town while he goes to confront Bones.

Bowler vs. Dynamite. Good names.

On the Riverboat, Brisco cheats at cards to beat Bones, earning Socrates’s freedom. He returns to his hotel room to find an unconscious Wylie and Bones’s henchman Mr. Hatchet (Don Stroud), who knocks Brisco and Poole out and takes back the money. Brisco decides they are going to have to bankrupt Bones if they stand a chance of getting rid of him, so he wires the Robber Barons for $50,000 and calls in Lord Bowler, offering to pay him to win a boxing match against one of Bones’s goons. Bones’s boxer, Dynamite Sullivan, is approached by Wylie in secret, offering him a role as a boxer “on the circuit” if he takes a dive against Bowler. Brisco places a large wager on Bowler against Bones. Sullivan proceeds to take a dive on the first punch, but Bones can’t cover his bet, which Brisco publicly calls out to Bones’s ire.

Dixie arrives in town to see Bones and almost blows Brisco’s cover. Brisco goes to the riverboat to collect the money but is captured and tied to a giant wheel of fortune for Mr. Hatchet to chuck his namesake at. Brisco manages to escape in the nick of time, then sends Socrates to Bones acting as a rat. Socrates proposes that Bones makes a large wager on a re-match between Bowler and Dynamite which would bankrupt Brisco’s character. Brisco and Dixie have a fight which Bones overhears.

Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana BRISCO!

Bowler is excited for a rematch until he finds out that the first fight was fixed, but Brisco offers him enough money to stay in. Bones grills Dixie about Brisco’s true identity, which she ends up divulging. That night, Bones has secretly moved the fight onto the riverboat to keep Brisco from capturing him. Despite getting the living crap kicked out of him, Bowler actually manages to stay standing for the full 12 rounds of the fight and even knocks Dynamite out. While everyone is focused on the fight, Brisco and Dixie sneak away and take over the bridge of the ship. As Bowler stands victorious, Dixie pulls the boat over onto the side of the river… in Mississippi, which makes Bones’s pardon useless. As Bones is taken away, he finally loses his calm, collected façade and screams at Brisco. Brisco and Dixie part ways until next time, and Brisco and Poole ride away discussing the new fabric that Brisco bought from Wylie: Denim.


BriscoCountyEp6Sting.jpgThis is not my favorite episode of the show and it doesn’t quite have the steampunk and more overtly anachronistic elements of most of the episodes. However, what it does have is that it’s a tribute to The Sting, which is one of my favorite movies, and to Maverick, a great show starring James Garner whose best episode inspired The Sting. At one point, a riff from “The Entertainer,” the Scott Joplin theme song to the movie is heard. Brett Bones’s name is a reference to Bret Maverick, from the latter show, and Brisco’s outfit in the episode is a tribute to Brett’s usual attire.

Brisco’s plan is basically a nested series of gambits in order to eliminate Bones’s immunity, including everything that Bones believes he has learned which gives him an advantage. This is a traditional aspect of a high-level con, feeding information to the mark from a seemingly-adversarial source in order to force them to take actions they think are undermining the con, but are actually playing into it. Similarly, it’s a common strategy to humiliate the mark, especially if they’re a big shot, in order to make them more desperate to beat the con.

This episode still makes more sense than a major movie franchise

While there aren’t a huge number of anachronisms in the episode, the reveal at the end that denim is the brothers’ invention is, since denim had been invented more than 50 years before the episode in France (fun fact: Denim is short for de Nimes, a French city), and Levi Strauss had begun marketing denim jeans in 1873. Also, while Boxing with gloves existed in 1893, Bowler’s dancing style wouldn’t really come into being for 60 years. “The Entertainer,” too, is an anachronism, as it wasn’t written until 1902.

This episode also contains one of the more elegant and bloodless captures of the 10 members of the Bly gang. This matches up with the typically more peaceful tone of Maverick compared to the other westerns of the time, which helped at the time of the show’s original run, since parents’ groups were complaining about the show’s violence. Brisco even makes a point of not carrying his gun in this episode.

Overall, I do really like this episode, and I think it might have wider appeal than many other episodes of the show. Give it a watch sometime. Like, now.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

COBRA KAI: Strike First, Strike Hard, Be Awesome (SPOILER-FREE)


What if the key moment in your life has passed? What if there was one thing that defined everything that came after it and could never be overridden? This isn’t an idle question, it’s probably something that everyone addresses at some point in their lives. Well, Cobra Kai manages to address it on several levels, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t impressive for a show that’s a spin-off of one good movie with two terrible sequels, one decent sequel, a weird animated series, and a re-make that didn’t have karate in it. Especially since Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi), sadly passed away in 2005.



The show starts 34 years after the original Karate Kid. Johnny Lawrence (William “I have a well-deserved Academy Award nomination” Zabka), the “bad guy” from the movie is now a stereotypical unemployed drunk. He’s a little racist, a little sexist, is divorced with a kid he never sees, has almost no comprehension of any technology after 1995, and definitely does not care about being politically correct, or kind, with anything he says.


On the other side of town is our “hero,” Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who has made it big. He’s married to a beautiful woman, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), with whom he has a successful luxury car dealership and two children. His wife is notably not Ali (Elisabeth Shue), the girl he fought over with Lawrence, who dumped him before Karate Kid II to go travel through time and get nominated for an Oscar. Daniel advertises himself heavily as being a martial artist and offers a bonsai tree with every sale at his dealership. And, of course, he still talks like he’s Ralph Macchio.

Basically, through a series of unlikely events in the first episode, the two get thrown back into contact with each other, leading Lawrence to decide to restart the Cobra Kai dojo (which has been shut down since Karate Kid III, though Johnny left after the first movie). He takes in a kid from his building who is the chronic target of bullying, much like Daniel from the original film, and starts to mentor him in the ways of Cobra Kai. This, naturally, infuriates Daniel, who hates Cobra Kai for… well, you’d think it’d be for basically trying to brainwash and kill him in the third movie, but it seems like it’s mostly just for bullying him all the time 30 years ago. They keep escalating their rivalry throughout the season.



Barney knows heroes

Now, in the past 30 years, a lot has been said about The Karate Kid, and surprisingly a lot of it has been on Johnny’s side. There’s a theory that has been gaining traction about how Daniel is, in fact, the bad guy of the movie. How I Met Your Mother had a fairly long rant by Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) about how Johnny Lawrence is the “real Karate Kid.” A lot of this is because Daniel is kind of dickish, and a little bit because one of the only rules stated at the karate tournament in the movie is “NO KICKS TO THE HEAD,” meaning Daniel’s famous “Crane Kick” was illegal. The show itself even points this out right away, though Daniel implies that the judges allowed it to balance out Johnny’s “elbow to the leg” right before it.

It also helps that Johnny comes off as being abused by his sensei, John Kreese (Martin “I’m Lorenzo Lamas’s Brother” Kove), especially since Kreese proceeds to try to beat the crap out of Johnny for losing, while Johnny hands Daniel the trophy. But the nature of the two boys isn’t the only thing.

Some culture commentators, including writer of “John Dies at the End” David Wong, have pointed out that the Karate Kid is a movie that fundamentally undermines any realities of hard work by showing Daniel going from bad at something to good at something with almost no work whatsoever, because we only see the training montages. While Wong includes a shot at the Rocky sequels in his article, I’d counter that Rocky was already a professional boxer when he did his montages, so at least we knew he already had all of the basics down, he’s just elevating his game. Also, Rocky loses, Daniel doesn’t, and one of them is f*cking Rocky!


Daniel LaRusso, in under two months of training while still attending school, manages to win a karate tournament against Cobra Kai, people who have been doing karate for years. Johnny had been doing it for 6 years at that point, 1/3 of his life. Now, I love Mr. Miyagi as much as the next guy (God rest you, Pat Morita), but that’s logistically impossible even if Daniel is some kind of prodigy who was in good shape to begin with. Hell, the Karate Institute of America doesn’t allow someone to be eligible for a Black Belt (although apparently the All-Valley doesn’t require a Black Belt, Johnny is one) unless they’ve been enrolled for 36 continuous months, because of-f*cking-course they don’t. It’s not that “guy who practiced most always wins,” but it’s “no one attains mastery in any complex skill in a few weeks.”

Is the water made of steroids?


People complain about Luke Skywalker being able to fight with Darth Vader after only training with Yoda for a few months in The Empire Strikes Back, but 1) Vader toys with him for most of the fight and 2) that involves the Force which is basically magic. Harry Potter goes to school for 6 years, he only beats Voldemort through tricking him into killing himself, and that series involves actual magic.

More realistic than The Karate Kid.

So, yeah, over the years, people have formed surprisingly strong opinions about who the bad guy is in The Karate Kid, and what’s good and bad about the movie. What’s great about Cobra Kai is that this show clearly listened to all of that, and came to the conclusion: “Eh, they’re both just people hung up on the past.” And that’s absolutely the best thing they could do, because it let them make a show that is more nuanced than “Johnny bad, Daniel good” or vice-versa.

Johnny is the guy who is hung up on his past failures, believing that he was cheated out of his future and the love of his life, Ali (who, incidentally, is not his ex-wife), by a kid who showed up out of nowhere, stole his girl and rendered all of his efforts at karate meaningless. He left the dojo and his mentor, and since then, he has had no direction. He isn’t on the path he was carving for himself, and he doesn’t know who he is without it. As the show progresses, he starts to clean up his act because re-starting Cobra Kai gives him purpose.

Clearly, he’s totally over the ’80s.

Meanwhile, Daniel, while definitely objectively more successful, is also caught in the past. His self-image is almost entirely derived from the events of the first movie, which, again, were more than 30 years ago. The things he likes: Karate, sushi, luxury cars, and bonsai trees, are all just things that Mr. Miyagi liked. He thinks he knows himself, but, really, he’s just been trying to carve himself into the image that he believes Mr. Miyagi would have wanted. He still feels lost without Miyagi’s guidance, despite now being FOUR YEARS OLDER THAN PAT MORITA WAS IN THE ORIGINAL (feel old yet?).

This totally screams “I’m a legitimate businessman in my 50s”

Miyagi was his surrogate father, but he also never really learned the truth about Miyagi’s lessons on balance and bonsais: You need to learn the lessons of your elders and appreciate their guidance, but you still need to be your own man. Oh, and he’s still a little hung up on Ali, despite not having seen her in 30 years and having been married for 20 (awkward). At the same time, Daniel’s family has its own issues, partially because his children don’t do Karate, which was his own father figure’s primary way to relate to him, and partially because he still feels he needs a mentor to answer his questions. However, as he finds his own students, he becomes more of a master himself.

The fact that both of them are still so mired in the past is also reflected in the fact that they are both unable to really be mature about anything related to each other. They’re two men, in their f*cking 50s, who are almost instantly driven to blows over petty bullshit that could easily be talked out or ignored. At several points, other, more actually mature, characters seem to find the entire situation ridiculous, and they’re entirely correct to do so. The fact that the kids in the show mirror what they’re doing makes it even more obvious that their behavior is childish.

Reminder: THEY’RE BOTH FATHERS. Daniel’s even a pretty decent one.

This is carried over on the meta-level with the stars of the show: William Zabka and Ralph Macchio. Both of these men are remembered mostly for roles they played more than 20 years ago. Now, to be fair, Macchio’s natural youthful looks allowed him to play Vincent Gambini’s early-20s nephew when he was 31 in My Cousin Vinny, and Zabka co-wrote and produced an Oscar-nominated Short Film in the 2000s, but, let’s be honest, you mostly remember them from The Karate Kid. They’re two people whose identity is tied up with… well, the movie that they’re now making a show about. Their lives have basically constantly been tied back to that film and, while they’re both good sports about it, it’s likely not been helpful to their careers that audiences have a hard time not envisioning them as those characters.

How I Met Your Mother
Some other actors have managed to survive child roles, though.

There’s also a bit of an extended meta-commentary on the idea that society is too hung up on old stories and old ideas, even ones that weren’t really that amazing, to the point that it’s slowing down our growth, but, frankly, nothing about wanting to revive mediocrity is new, even within television and movies. They revived Leave It to Beaver in the 80s, guys. They made a sequel series to The Likely Lads. What the hell is The Likely Lads, you ask? Exactly. Does it set us back a little that we make it so much more marketable to play to youth-colored nostalgia than to show us something exciting? Yeah, it absolutely does, but it’s not inherently bad to be nostalgic, and not all revivals, re-boots, or re-imaginings are bad. It’s good to re-address old ideas and concepts, especially if you can put a new twist on them or change them to better reflect Hell, this show’s an example of that. It’s just about balance, which brings me to the show’s big, brilliant point and why everyone should watch it.

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that point without spoilers, so go watch the damn thing, then click below. First Episode’s free here:

Continue reading COBRA KAI: Strike First, Strike Hard, Be Awesome (SPOILER-FREE)


By: The Grouch on the Couch

It’s tough to make any list about Moms in fiction. No matter who you pick for “Best” or “Worst,” there are still gonna be people whining about the results. So, instead, I’m just gonna make up awards for 10 Fictional Mothers. 7 of these were on the list to begin with, the other 3 were picked at random from a list of around 50 names.


Linda Belcher (John Roberts on Bob’s Burgers)


Linda doesn’t live the high-life. Her family’s restaurant is generally in the red, her husband is perpetually stressed, and her children consistently make everything worse. Despite that, Linda is almost unfailingly positive, being a source of optimism and cheer for her whole family. Sure, she has a few drinks now and then and then and then and then, but she approaches everything with an enthusiasm that usually is contagious even for her very-resistant family. She’s supportive of her children’s unusual pursuits, and even her sister Gayle’s borderline-insane hobbies. She can be pushed to the limit sometimes, but she always bounces back. Also, she’s a naturally theatrical person, coming up with songs constantly, including the “Thanksgiving Song,” the holiday hit the world really needed.


Jessica Walter as Malory Archer/Lucille Bluth (Archer/Arrested Development)

She can drink.

Jessica Walter is a treasure, but her ability to portray a woman able to absolutely destroy the mental health of her own children is so great that they gave her two different shows to do it in. Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the Bluth family, not only has raised 4 emotionally crippled children, but she makes sure to manipulate them against each other every chance she can just to maintain her status. The fact that she’s revealed to be the mastermind behind everything in the original run of Arrested Development is one of my favorite comic twists.

A “Bonding” Experience

Malory Archer, while having only one child (that we know of), managed to raise simultaneously the world’s greatest super-spy and the world’s most incompetent human being. She’s had so many affairs that she legitimately doesn’t seem to know her son’s father, gave birth to him on a bar after assassinating a man, left him for five years, and then spent the rest of his life keeping him underneath her. Also, she killed the Prime Minister of Italy after putting him in a gimp suit, and then called her son to help get rid of the body. No amount of context helps this.


Ramonda (Angela Bassett in Black Panther)


She definitely served her country as a ruler, but you know she wasn’t slacking on her mothering duties. Queen Ramonda of Wakanda has two children. The first is T’Challa, the current king of Wakanda and holder of the title of Black Panther, a superhuman athlete with a mind for both science and battle tactics that is almost unsurpassed in the world, as well as a noble heart. The second is her daughter Shuri, and while T’Challa’s mind is almost unsurpassed, Shuri is actually stated by at least one source to be the single smartest human in the Marvel Universe. And you know the only thing both of them listen to above all else? Their mother. And since it’s Angela Bassett, no one really questions their deference.

Oh, and they’re damned good looking.


Molly Weasley (Julie Walters in the Harry Potter series)


Molly Weasley has seven children and is portrayed in the first books of the series as being a wonderful, caring, albeit slightly overbearing, woman who loves all of her children deeply and makes sure that they know it. She also basically adopts Harry, an orphan, into her family and treats him with more affection than he’s ever known. She’s a dear, sweet lady.


And with one line, Molly Weasley moves from “Sweet Lady” to “Unstoppable Force of Wrath.” When Bellatrix Lestrange, who had previously killed one of Molly’s sons, attacks her only daughter, Molly, despite not being the strongest witch in the world, challenges the single most psychotic (and likely the most powerful) female villain in the books to one-on-one combat. And proceeds to remove her from the face of the Earth. Do. Not. F*ck. With Molly Weasley’s kids.



Bell-mère (One Piece, episodes 34-36)

MothersDayBellMereBell-mère was a female marine who was wounded in a particularly vicious battle and, as she was dying, saw two girls alone in the wreckage of the battlefield. Realizing that if she died, so would the children, she found the strength to move, bandaged herself up, and took the two kids back to her home village. She adopted and raised the two, and, while she wasn’t a perfect mother, she definitely tried her best and loved them both deeply.

MothersDayBellMere2.pngUnfortunately, the town was targeted by a group of quite literally inhuman pirates, who decided to take it over as a base of operations. While Bell-mère was able to actually attack and pin the pirate Captain, Arlong, she was quickly overpowered. The pirates put a decree on the town: Everyone had to pay a tax for themselves and their children, but it was being checked by the town birth register. Her daughters, Nami and Nojiko, not having been born there, weren’t on it. Since they couldn’t afford to pay for Bell-mère and her daughters, the town conspired to make it seem like Bell-mère lived alone and smuggle the two out when they could. Unfortunately, this was confounded immediately… by Bell-mère herself, who used the money for her own life to instead pay for the girls. When asked why she would do this, it’s because she would have had to live without them, and, as she tearfully explained to them, she’d rather die than deny having been their mother. Her last words were “I love you” as she was publicly executed.

This was just a short flashback in the series, but it’s still one of the most intense moments in a show that’s now been running for 20 years. It’s a mom dying not just to save her children, but because she couldn’t live if she couldn’t live with them. That’s why I was happy when this was one of the random ones I pulled.


Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner on The Simpsons)

MothersDayMarge.pngWhat? It’s true. Marge Simpson has been the mother to three pre-teens for so long that people born during her debut now mostly have children of their own.

Despite being married to a legendarily stupid man and having an oldest son who has slowly gone from “problem child” to “sociopathic monster,” Marge somehow manages to keep her family together and out of jail. She’s usually a housewife, but she’s also been a successful baker, entrepreneur, novelist, real estate agent, and police woman. In fact, several episodes have implied that the only reason why the Simpsons aren’t homeless is because Marge’s little side-gigs are so profitable that she ends up paying off their debts. She’s a talented artist, a sexual dynamo (hey, a mom’s got needs), and has the ability to keep hair standing four-feet tall. And, to be fair, while Bart may be a Hellion, Lisa is a polymath and Maggie is portrayed as unnaturally intelligent (though, she has shot 17 people as a baby). As Meatloaf tells us, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.



Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey on Game of Thrones)


Cersei Lannister is the worst. Actually, no, she’s not. Cersei Lannister’s eldest son Joffrey Baratheon was the worst. Joffrey was sadistic, malicious, amoral, egotistical… pretty much every bad label you can put on a person, Joffrey earned it, and, above all else, he was completely incompetent. He wasn’t a good fighter, a good leader, a good planner, a good speaker, or even a good son. Despite that, his mother loved him unfailingly, never realizing that she was constantly making him worse by not correcting him. And Cersei herself is so bad that, when Joffrey is finally killed (thank the Seven), it’s almost impossible to feel bad for her, even with Lena Headey’s great performance as a mother losing her beloved son. Same when she loses her daughter, Myrcella, who she basically condemned to death through her own stupidity. But, when Cersei’s bombing of the Great Sept of Baelor leads her last surviving son, Tommen, to kill himself, making her the Queen of the Iron Throne, we’ve truly hit the “Kill her, kill her painfully” point. She’s still alive as of this writing, but if there is any form of justice within Westeros, she will die screaming, alone, and be pulled into the Seven Hells by the spirit of Joffrey, the worst sin she ever committed. Man, that got dark.

Not. Nearly. Enough.


Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series)


To those of you pointing out that Ellen Ripley actually does have a biological daughter, I’m aware. In fact, it’s sad that the movie Aliens cut out the scene where Ripley is told that her daughter has died while she was lost in space, because it’s a great performance that genuinely makes her actions later in the film much more emotionally compelling and understandable. But, in the category title, I’m referring, of course to her “adopted” daughter, Newt. Ellen finds the only survivor of the Xenomorph attack on LV-426, a young girl much the same age as her daughter would have been had she made it back on time, and a bond is struck quickly.


After the team she is with is devastated by the aliens, she makes it to safety, but Newt is captured. With no one else left to go back into the nest of the very creatures that just annihilated a crew of Marines armed to the teeth, Ripley instead duck-tapes together a flame thrower and a pulse rifle, goes into a hive of some of the deadliest monsters on film, and brings Newt back, killing dozens of the bastards on the way. And that would be impressive enough, but unfortunately, Newt and Ripley get attacked by the Queen Alien. As Ripley gets away, Newt is cornered by the beast, until Ripley, in what is a strong contender for the single most bad-ass scene in movie history, comes back operating a power loader and calls out a 20-foot tall, super-strong, acid-blooded, nigh-indestructible monster with the line:


The fact that Molly Weasley had to steal her line from this one tells you everything you need to know about exactly how little you ever want to mess with Ellen Ripley.



Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

To be clear, I don’t actually think there should be a demarcation between biological and adopted children, I just couldn’t put one of these women on the list without the other and I wanted some flimsy justification.

MothersDaySarahConnor1.pngSarah Connor was a normal woman, until a robot in the shape of a giant Austrian bodybuilder decided to show up at the nightclub she was at and try to kill her. She was rescued by a man from the future, who told her that her son would one day save humanity. Sarah managed to destroy the robot and realized that she would have to get ready for a dark future.

When we catch up with her 11 years later (yes, that’s when T2 happens relative to Terminator, check the movies), we find a very, very different Sarah Connor. She spent the entire interval turning herself into a living weapon. She’s in peak physical condition, can make a weapon out of anything, can pick locks, hack ATMs at will, and is both willing and able to wield lethal ordinance. The only thing that really scares her in the movie is the T800, which… well, is completely reasonable. She’s so determined that being stabbed repeatedly doesn’t weaken her resolve. And she did all of this in the name of keeping her son alive.



Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston in The Addams Family)


Look into your heart, you know it to be true. Morticia Addams may be weird as all get-out, but she’s the best overall mother on this list. She’s supportive of her children but can also be a disciplinarian when she needs to be. For example, when she sees Wednesday about to attack her brother with a cleaver, Morticia stops her, takes the cleaver, and then gives her a scythe, which is going to be much more appropriate for the environment that he’s located in. She’s going to want the reach, after all. Morticia puts family first, and always wants harmony among them, but unlike most families, hers actually is pretty much perfectly harmonious. She keeps a lavish garden, including a one-of-a-kind African Creeper named Cleopatra, helps out with school functions and charities, and has a close relationship with both of her children (and later her third). “But she lets her kids attack each other all the time,” I hear you saying, “at one point she even watches her daughter electrocute her son while playing the game ‘Is there a God.” Yeah, she gives her kids their independence, what’s wrong with that? The only reason why this bothers you is because your wimpy kids would die from a large bowl of arsenic or a shotgun to the chest, but she’s clearly a better mother than you. She makes sure her kids are prepared for the real world by ensuring that they’re prepared to deal with hardships like “decapitation.” Plus, she can still instantly arouse her husband with a word in French, even after 3 kids. Can you name another mother that can do all that?


This article is dedicated to my own mother, who deserves better than she gets, gives more than she needs to, and loves her children and grandchildren more than anyone I know.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews. If you want more from the Grouch on the Couch, wait a week for something… bigger.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays – Episode 6: “Our Mrs. Reynolds”

This was the third episode to air, following “Bushwhacked.” It didn’t have a ton of added-on material, it seems, and I will say the following: This might be the only good decision involved in the re-order. Putting this episode on earlier is a great idea. It’s lighter in tone, but still has a lot of great character work, it’s cast-centric, has one of, if not THE, best openings in the show, and has Christina Hendricks really nailing her guest role as Saffron. Great hook episode. Also, having it after “Safe” has one logical flaw that I’ll address at the end.



The episode starts with a covered wagon moving through a shallow river-bed. A group of bandits on horseback appear to ambush the wagon.

FireflyEp6FloralBonnetThe leader asks for the goods in the wagon, and then implies he’s going to rape the woman sitting at the front of the wagon. The man driving the wagon, revealed to be Jayne, advises against this, because his “wife” is a “powerful ugly creature.”

At this point, the wife is revealed to be Mal, who quickly banters with Jayne before addressing the bandit leader and telling him to surrender, because:

“…if your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.”

FireflyEp6CrownHe touches metal, and Mal, Jayne, and Zoe quickly kill all of them. The locals throw a party to celebrate their liberation from the bandits, at which Mal and Inara flirt, Jayne gets drunk and is given a rain stick by the village elder, Zoe and Wash cuddle by a bonfire, and a local girl places a crown of flowers on Mal’s head before offering him wine. Mal is amused by this. I’m also amused because Mal wears both a floral bonnet and floral crown in the span of 5 minutes.

The next morning, the crew leave, and Mal finds a stowaway onboard in the cargo hold. When he asks who she is, the young woman, Saffron, responds “Mr. Reynolds, sir. I’m your wife.”


Jayne and Zoe enter the cargo hold and are mildly amused by the situation. Mal, however, is panicked about this turn of events, which leads to him constantly denying that the marriage exists, to the apparent dismay of Saffron. Zoe invites the rest of the crew down to meet Saffron, to a variety of reactions. Simon, confused, congratulates him, Wash mocks him, Book asks to see a dictionary, Kaylee is excited and defensive of Saffron, and Inara just looks unhappy. Mal continues to deny that he’s married, causing Saffron to burst into tears.

FireflyEp6Saffron2Mal asks to return her to the planet they left, but Wash points out that the Alliance landed after they left, and that one of the bandits was a citizen, so they’re potentially wanted for murder if they go back. Book returns to inform Mal that, by the customs of the planet they were on, he is INDEED married. In fact, she was given to him as a form of payment for services rendered. When Mal asks about divorce in front of Saffron, he is yelled at by Kaylee and Inara before Saffron leaves.


Mal follows after her and talks with Saffron about what to do with her. She’s worried he’s going to kill her, but he assures her that he’s going to find her a job and a life on the next planet they land on. She seems disappointed, but he says that she’ll realize he’d be a terrible husband. Upon hearing they have five days, however, she seems to be determined to prove her worth. First, she runs off to cook him dinner.

At this point, Book meets Mal in a hallway and instructs him that divorce is difficult in her religion, but he will help. Book then tells Mal that if he takes sexual advantage of her, he’s “going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.” Mal takes some offense to this statement, so Book agrees to set Saffron up with a separate room. Mal agrees. Book then pops his head back in to remind Mal:



FireflyEp6WashZoeMal goes to the dining room where Saffron has made him dinner. Wash and Zoe join him and Wash quickly manages to put his foot in his mouth concerning his wife making him dinner. Zoe begins to find the situation less humorous as he does so, until Mal finally leaves, which allows Wash to finish his dinner. Saffron, in a hilarious moment, asks Mal if she wants her to wash his feet. Mal merely walks off.

Mal goes to see Inara who isn’t exactly happy with him. Tempers quickly flare with them shooting barbs back and forth. Inara is clearly upset that Mal’s actions have hurt their relationships, while Mal is subtly trying to remind her that they don’t actually have a relationship and he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. He ends up getting kicked out by Inara and running into Jayne.

When this face says “Great,” it ain’t.

FireflyEp6VeraJayne, in another hilarious moment, offers to trade Mal his best gun, Vera, for Saffron. Mal, of course, finds that idea repulsive. “She’s not to be bought, nor bartered, or borrowed, or lent. She’s a human woman doesn’t know a damn thing about the world and needs our protection.” Jayne, unhappy, accepts this.

Mal runs into Saffron, who comments that he’s a good man for resisting Jayne. She agrees to find a job at the next planet. We’re then shown two men planning to “net” Serenity if they come their way, but nothing else.

On the bridge, Zoe is now angry at Saffron’s presence on the ship. Wash tries to justify Saffron’s behavior by pointing out that she’s from a different culture, at which point Zoe becomes angry that Wash is defending her. She heads to bed, leaving Wash alone. Mal returns to his bunk, only to find Saffron naked in his bed.


She tries to seduce him, but Mal resists at first. She stands up naked in front of him, and Mal says that it’s not that she isn’t pleasing to him, he just thinks it’s immoral. She proceeds to read the Bible:

On the night of their betrothal the wife shall open to the man as the furrow to the plow. He shall work in her again and again, ‘til she bring him to his full. And rest him then upon the sweat of her breast. – Iplayah 6:9

Mal can only respond, stunned “Whoa. Good Bible.”

Bone not, Lest ye be Boned

She attempts to seduce him again, but he resists, saying that he can’t consider them married as payment for a debt. Not that he isn’t tempted, because it’s been “a long damn while since anybody buy me took ahold of my plow.” She persists, saying:

“If I’m wed, I am a woman, and I’ll take your to leave to be bold. I want this. I swell to think of you in me. And I see that you do, too.”

And yes, that line comes with the obligatory crotch glance.

I don’t know why Mal has to look.

She tells him that she will absolutely get off on the next planet, but just begs him to give her one night. He says “Oh, I’m gonna go to the special hell,” and kisses her, before regaining his senses and starting to tell her that he can’t… right before he realizes he’s been drugged and collapses.

FireflyEp6KissSaffron joins Wash on the bridge and tries to seduce him, but he never really considers it, leading her to kick him unconscious. Saffron drags him out, seals the bridge door, and heads for the spare shuttle. She runs into Inara, who eventually realizes that Saffron is trying to manipulate her, but Saffron attacks her, gets into the shuttle, and takes off. Inara runs to check on Mal, finds him alive, and kisses him from relief. She calls for Simon, then realizes that she’s also been drugged, and passes out.

Mal awakens to find out that Saffron has disabled steering, navigation, and communication, in addition to sealing the bridge. They manage to make it inside the bridge, but still cannot steer, and then learn that they’re headed for an electromagnetic net that a chop shop runs. When they hit the net, everything in the ship gets electrocuted. They manage to destroy the net from outside of the ship using Jayne’s gun “Vera,” as well as kill the chop shoppers. Kaylee manages to fix the ship’s steering.

FireflyEp6MalInara.jpgMal tracks down Saffron and attacks her in her room, but ends up sparing her life. Mal then confronts Inara, who claimed earlier that she had “tripped” rather than admit she kissed Mal. Mal makes her admit that she didn’t trip, but instead of realizing the truth, assumes that she also kissed Saffron, leading Mal to walk away smiling with Inara looking stunned.


I love almost everything in this episode. The dialogue has almost no weak points. Mal’s personality and values are explored. Saffron is an amazing character to have in the episode. Inara and Mal’s relationship is deepened. Zoe and Wash’s relationship is… not really tested, but I bet Wash is getting the good sex that night for not even really considering sleeping with Saffron. Book and Mal have one of the funniest sequences in the show. It starts off with a shootout in a covered wagon, and most of the episode is in a spaceship. Pretty much as space-western as it gets.

FireflyEp6Saffron6.jpgSaffron’s character is perfect for the setting of Firefly. She uses the rural and odd nature of the colonies of the Outer Rim to bind herself to Mal, who she knows won’t hurt her. She quickly ingratiates herself to some of the crew, while sewing discord amongst the others. She does it all so perfectly and so naturally that, until Wash refuses her, everything she does really seems to be going to plan without anyone suspecting that she even HAS a plan. She’s just that good with reading people and playing her character. And, full credit to Christina Hendricks, she does slightly alter her behavior when around the other characters to really sell that she’s conning all of them in subtly different ways. Best of all, this is to basically set up an ambush in the middle of space. Or… the left of space. The down? Space is weird.

FireflyEp6NetWhen the plan does start to break down, first with Wash, then by running into Inara and being rushed to cover for herself, Saffron is still competent and efficient. She gets into the shuttle and leaves immediately, abandoning the crew to their fate. Given that the chop-shoppers say that she “gets it done,” this appears to just be her standard operating procedure. One can only imagine how many people she’s left to die in ships headed for the net.

Mal’s character in this episode is pretty great, too. When he finds out that he’s married, his first instinct was to be horrified and insist that he wasn’t, because Mal actually cares about marriage and other such pledges of loyalty, so he doesn’t want to do one lightly. Everyone else just seems amused by Mal’s carelessness in letting it happen, or thinks Mal is being overly cruel to Saffron, with the exception of Inara, who is just upset with Mal. When he is finally confronted by a very seductive, and very naked, Saffron using the full extent of her implied companion training, he still manages to hold on to his principles, even after he wavers long enough to kiss her. It’s a hell of a moment.

He resisted this after years of not having sex. He deserves a medal.

It’s really hard to single any part of this episode out because the entire thing is pretty great. This was the second episode I saw originally, and it was the reason why I said “this show could be amazing.”

FireflyEp6RiverThe only weakness in the episode is that they had to keep River out of it, for the most part. As aired, she has no lines in the episode. In the intended order, this is kind of a necessity, since we just had an episode that made it explicit that she can read minds. In the actual airing order, since we didn’t really have as much understanding of River’s abilities, it doesn’t raise as many questions.

Of course, it turns out that there actually WAS a scene filmed with River speaking in the episode, it just got cut for time. That scene was actually pretty funny, since it involves River trying to convince Simon to marry him so that they’ll always be together. During that sequence, when Mal and Saffron come in, River calls her a thief, but Saffron admits she took some food. Saffron says she didn’t realize she was seen, and River says “I didn’t see you.” Then, they move on, dismissing River, who now tells Simon they have to get married. She shoves a pillow under her shirt and says “I’m in the family way.” It’s a great scene and at least addresses the issue. Oh, hey, I found it online:

Since River gets a huge part of another episode focused on a guest character, I’m willing to overlook the lack of her in this one. It’s not the best episode of the show, objectively, but it’s one of the best for people who like the show. It’s got western elements, plenty of space elements, great performances, great dialogue, and humor out the wazoo. Great episode all around.

Serenity Scale: 5 Fireflies (Or 1 Night with Saffron)


See you next Friday, Browncoats.

PREVIOUS – 5: Safe

NEXT – 7: Jaynestown

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Reader Request: Sub Rosa (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Sometimes my readers love to torture me. This is one of those times. Honestly, I think I have been putting off doing reader requests specifically to avoid watching this episode again. As you’ll note from my list of the 100 Greatest Episodes, plus another review since then, I think highly of the show Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes, they missed the mark, and this episode is definitely not a bullseye. This is more akin to throwing the dart, missing the board entirely, and having it ricochet into your buddy’s eye. It’s not the worst episode of TNG, but it’s solidly in my bottom five. If you want to know my least-favorite TNG… well, request it. I’m not watching that piece of shit again without reason.

Quick Recap of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takes place about 100 years after the original Star Trek and features the crew of the next starship Enterprise. The notable crew members are Captain Picard (Patrick “I’m basically made of magic” Stewart), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes, the episode’s director), chief engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Chief of Security Worf (Michael Dorn), Android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Commander Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis), and this episode’s focus Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). They explore the universe dealing with random problems ranging from legal issues to reality-warping aliens.

Not pictured: Wil Wheaton, who wisely wasn’t in this episode.

That’s enough background, on to the creepy ghost sex!


StarTrekTNGFuneral.pngThe episode begins at the funeral for Beverly Crusher’s grandmother, Felisa Howard (Ellen Albertini Dow), who was apparently a doctor on a Scotland-esque planet called Caldos IV. During the funeral, Crusher sees a weird guy (Duncan “I was Zorro in the 90s” Regehr) leaving that apparently does something to her ladybits, but from her face might just have been gas. No one else appears to have seen him.


Crusher goes back to her grandmother’s cottage (which, despite it being the future, is still a cottage), and looks through it for mementos, finding her grandmother’s diary and a candle which apparently had great spiritual value to the Howard Family (Crusher’s maiden name). As she heads upstairs, a man named Ned Quint (Shay Duffin) enters and blows out the candle, saying that it was bad luck for her grandmother. Beverly kicks him out, because that’s what you do to creepy strangers who come in and mess with your stuff.

You mean I don’t look sane?

Back on the Enterprise, the engineering team determine that there is a problem with Caldos IV’s weather system, and that an unexpected storm is brewing. Subtle. Meanwhile, Crusher has been reading her grandmother’s diary and discovered that, despite being 100 years old, her grandmother was in a casual sexual relationship with a man in his 30s named Ronin. From the diaries, it appears that Ronin started seeing Crusher’s grandmother, Felisa, shortly after the death of her own mother. Since we already had dialogue in the episode that mentioned that Crusher’s own mother died when she was young and that her grandmother raised her, this is the creepiest foreshadowing ever.

Stroke that… knee?

While Crusher sleeps on the ship, a ghostly presence starts to undress her then says her name, waking her up. Crusher goes to talk to Counselor Troi about it, saying it’s a dream, and the dialogue in this scene might be the worst in almost any episode of any version of Star Trek. Not just because Crusher is discussing reading a “particularly erotic chapter of [her] grandmother’s journal,” something that SHOULD NEVER BE IN A TV SHOW, but because it comes off as a weirdly clinical discussion about sexuality. I suspect this is tied in to the fact that women getting sexual gratification, even in the abstract, is essentially guaranteed to get your ratings boosted to MA, but maybe the person writing the dialogue just hadn’t ever heard anyone talk about sexual experience. The credit for the screenplay is a woman (Jeri Taylor), while the teleplay credit is a man (Brannon Braga), so I ultimately have no idea what led to the weird-ass sequence between these two characters.

This is not normal.

The next day, Crusher visits her grandmother’s grave and runs into Quint (sadly, not the one from Jaws). Quint warns her that a ghost is causing the weather problems, and that if she lights the candle, the ghost will come for her. He also warns her not to go to her grandmother’s house. However, a thunderstorm comes up, which prompts the Enterprise crew to start working on fixing the weather control system. Crusher is forced to take shelter in her grandmother’s cottage, finding it full of flowers.

She hears things moving around the house and sees the reflection of Ronin (the guy from the funeral) in a mirror. Ronin talks to her as a disembodied voice, telling her that he was the visitor from the night before. She moves to call the Enterprise, but is struck with sudden disorientation and either arousal or pain (maybe both?). The voice says that it loves her, just as it loved her grandmother before her. It claims it was born in 1647 in Glasgow and lived with Crusher’s ancestor Jessel Howard, then stayed with every Howard woman after the last one died (apparently the surname was matrilineal until Beverly?). This includes moving to Caldos IV at some point.

The spirit then tries to “merge” with Crusher, which she resists… only for her to be seen back on the Enterprise acting as if nothing has happened. When Troi questions her, she says that she’s “seeing” Ronin, but only in the physical sense.


On the bridge of the Enterprise, fog is rolling in, as weather control is now malfunctioning onboard the ship. The crew catches Quint trying to alter something on a panel, saying that someone is going to kill them all. An energy discharge kills Quint before he can explain. Beverly determines that he was killed by an anomalous energy pulse, meaning it was no accident (Dun dun duuuuun).

Beverly returns to the cottage to talk with Ronin, who is now corporeal, but only for a few minutes at a time. Ronin begs her to light the candle, which is where he lives. She has to go back to the ship to get it, while Ronin travels to the ship in a beam of energy. She lights the candle in her quarters on the ship, which allows Ronin to appear and merge with her. Crusher then resigns her post with Starfleet and states her intention to become a healer on Caldos IV. Picard is unable to stop her, legally. Searching for the energy source that killed Quint, Geordi and Data find it coming from Crusher’s Grandmother’s grave. Crusher and Ronin “merge” again, this time in a manner which appears pretty much fully sexual. Picard comes to check on Crusher, finding her in a mildly compromising position.

Oh, yeah, merge that weird non-corporeal essence with me, baby.

StarTrekTNGRonin2Picard points out that something is wrong with Crusher, forcing Ronin to appear as himself. Picard questions Ronin until he disappears, resulting in Ronin shocking Picard in the same way that he killed Quint earlier. Refusing to let Picard die causes Ronin to separate from Beverly, with Ronin intent on stopping Geordi and Data from exhuming Felisa Howard’s grave. Ronin, in Felisa’s body, rises from the grave and disables the pair. When she arrives, Beverly realizes that Ronin is an Anaphasic lifeform which has to bind with a host in order to keep living, finally destroying the candle. Ronin tries to possess her again, but she kills him with a phaser, before dropping to her knees crying.

At the end of the episode, Crusher and Troi are talking about the fact that Crusher is somewhat sad that she couldn’t be with Ronin, because he made her grandmother very happy.


This was not an easy re-watch, and I was tempted to just do it from memory, but in the end I caved.


Here’s the thing about this episode: It never feels anything but creepy to me. Crusher says at the end that Ronin “seduced” her and her grandmother, but the first time we see her interacting with him, he’s undressing her while she sleeps. The next time, he keeps her from calling out to the Enterprise, makes her physically weak, then apparently “merges” with her without her consent. From then on, we’re shown that she’s now almost physically dependent on Ronin, to the point that she’s shaking like a heroin addict while waiting for him on the ship. He’s literally corrupting her mind to make her want him. Nothing about this is “seduction,” unless you have a very messed-up idea of courtship. And that could very easily have been brought up at the end. Beverly could have expressed some anger at the fact that she was basically mind-raped for the entire episode, but no, instead, she says “oh, who cares if he literally manipulated her mind to make her love him, as he had done countless times before, he made her happy.” And then she’s kind of sad that she couldn’t just stay happy with Ronin. I get that the ghost orgasms were really good, but, seriously, he was clearly altering your mind, woman!

For the record: Yes.

This isn’t a new concept, that maybe it’s worth losing your free will to gain happiness. And if the story was about addressing that idea, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not. That’s not even a particularly great concept to address in Star Trek, since one of the primary conceits of the series is that humanity is basically always in a state of self-actualization, which makes it basically incomparable to the search of happiness in the modern world, where humans rarely achieve that point in their lives. So, the ghost banging continues to seem more akin to sexual assault and brainwashing than seduction or pleasing. This episode kind of reminds me of why I don’t like some modern “semi-erotica” like 50 Shades of Gray, because it’s basically treating an abusive relationship as just being sexually aggressive.

Also, everyone’s behavior in this episode is a little off. First, no one seems to be super weirded out that Crusher would have sex with a guy who had just been sleeping with her grandmother. I dunno all of what happened in the next 350 years in Star Trek, but I really hope we don’t follow the timeline that assimilated “normal to be wiener cousins with your grandmother” into the culture. And, understand, this isn’t like a distant relative Beverly never met, her grandmother is the one who raised her, making her effectively her mom. Second, Crusher really doesn’t seem affected by the fact that Ronin straight up kills a guy for almost no reason. Despite the fact that she’s later extremely concerned when Picard gets mildly injured. Is it that it’s Picard who is her on-again-off-again love interest? Maybe, but it’s still weird that a guy gets killed and nobody really comments on it. Third, what the hell is wrong with Troi? Why does she never realize that Beverly, one of her closest friends, is being controlled by a strange force? Instead, she basically keeps advising her to “go with it.” She’s the worst counselor ever.

You don’t do your job well, and you never wear your damn uniform.

The dialogue in this episode is also notably bad, even by Star Trek standards (look, I love the shows, but the dialogue is generally either crap or gold, no in-between). On Memory Alpha, there’s even a quote by writer Rene Echevarria that he can reduce this episode’s writer to a shuddering mass by saying “I can travel on the power transfer beam,” a particularly stupid and useless line that somehow still made it into the episode.

The episode’s inspiration, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, also doesn’t really help sell any kind of love story. If you haven’t read it, go read it now, it’s not particularly long and it’s online for free . Or, if you’re gonna be lazy, let me just summarize it as “governess looks after two young children while dealing with a haunting by two former lovers.” Ultimately nothing about the story really lends itself to this idea of an “inherited ghost lover,” except for the gothic setting.

So, I don’t like this episode at all, and I regret watching it again to write this review. I had to re-watch “Darmok” just to get the taste out of my mouth. Thanks, readers, for torturing me again.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.


Reader Request: The Barbarians (1987)

Back in the 80s, there were a bunch of movies made which featured a lead who was a ripped body-builder. They usually took place in a fantasy world, filled with magic, swords, and women wearing completely impractical outfits. There was often some comic relief, some loincloths, and a voice-over narration at the beginning and end. This was one of those movies, but this one has twins!



I’m not saying this movie was a rip-off of Conan the Barbarian, but the beginning of the movie is a monologue which appears to just have been someone with a thesaurus altering parts of the opening that Mako delivers in that film.

So, when the movie begins, there’s a tribe called the Ragnicks who dress like the discount LGBTQ pride float at Carnival in Rio. They’re the only tribe that has the ability to go between all of the barbarian kingdoms in this world, because they have a magic ruby that makes people laugh or something like that. The tribe is a group of peaceful entertainers, basically a traveling circus. There’s also only like 50 of them, despite being hundreds of years old, so I’m pretty sure they have a vow of chastity. Or high infant mortality.


The tribe adopts three orphans, twins Kutchek and Gore (Peter and David Paul, the Barbarian Brothers) and Kara. While the orphans are still kids, the magic ruby is given to Canary (Virginia Bryant), the new queen of the tribe, but a group of black-leather-clad raiders attack the tribe under the orders of the generic bad guy Kadar (Richard “I was literally the bad guy in a movie called The Sword and the Sorcerer” Lynch). The troupe appears to defend themselves successfully, right until they find out that the other side had an insurmountable number of reserves, which… honestly makes everything about the initial chase sequence really dumb.

Canary and Kadar

Queen Canary is captured by Kadar, and most of the tribe is killed. The orphans attack Kadar and bite off two of his fingers, but Canary agrees to marry him if he will spare them. Some witch under Kadar’s control, named China (Sheeba Alahani), predicts that the two cannot be allowed to live to adulthood, but Kadar has taken an oath that they cannot die by his hand or any of his followers. So, she sends them into separate prisons overseen by the Dirtmaster (Michael “You know me” Berryman) with the intent that they’ll one day kill each other. They grow up to be jacked beyond reason, because that’s what slavery does in an 80s movie.

China and Dirtmaster

In what is one of the only clever parts of the movie, each of the brothers is tortured by someone wearing a particular helmet, which leads them to grow up to hate everyone who wears those helmets. It turns out that, in the years preceding this, Canary had managed to hide the ruby, and has never told Kadar where it is. Kadar brings out the twins to fight each other in the hopes of convincing her to talk. Each of the twins is given the helmet of the other’s torturer, which leads them both to attack each other furiously… or what passes for furiously under this budget. Eventually, Kutchek’s helmet is knocked off and, realizing that they both look identical, the two remember they are brothers, stop fighting, and escape the arena with the intent of rescuing Canary.


They flee into the forest and find a captive woman, Ismena (Eva La Rue), who has been taken captive by the remainders of the Ragnicks. The twins are also captured (after, weirdly, being called “Fatty” by one of the leaders), and are almost hanged to death. However, the twins each comically escape their nooses, before finally being recognized by the tribe by the extremely distinct tattoos that they have… that the tribe apparently didn’t notice when they were literally looking at their necks to hang them.

BarbariansArmWrestling.jpgThe brothers, with Ismena as a guide, go to acquire weapons from a local dealer (George Eastman) in order to fight against Kadar. The dealer challenges the twins to arm-wrestling, because… f*ck, I’ve re-watched it 3 times now, and I don’t know. But, the dealer loses, then attacks them, resulting in the three leaving with nothing, rendering this entire side-quest mostly pointless.

They then sneak into Kadar’s harem, and, at one point, the twins kiss each other as a distraction. This scene is dumb both in and out of context, since they’re twins. If you saw two guys making out, you might be uncomfortable, but if they’re literally identical, then that’s not the kind of thing you just shrug off and ignore. Or is it? Maybe I’m just weird.


We then get a bunch of nudity in the harem to compensate for the brotherly love, which… well, at least is something. The two find Canary, but she opts to stay captive so that the twins can recover the ruby after she tells them its location in the Forbidden Lands. Given that the two have been uneducated slaves, their only knowledge of the situation is through childhood fairy tales that they clearly only half-remember. But, that’s enough I guess. The two then, apparently, bang their way out of the harem, because saving the world is secondary to a good bone train.

Gilded for Battle

The twins and Ismena quest to find the sacred weapons to fight the dragon that guards the ruby, but the weapons are guarded by… a were-mole? It’s some kind of monster that sticks hands out from the ground that are apparently easily ripped out, rendering it harmless. They’re then attacked by a were-bear that they kill with a single arrow. This is seriously the worst guarded mystical spot in history. At the same time, China, the sorceress, betrays Kadar and tortures Canary for the location of the Ruby, which she receives, but without the warning about the dragon. When she and Dirtmaster find the ruby, they’re eaten by the dragon.


The trio arrives in the Forbidden Lands, but don’t find the ruby. The twins begin arguing, for some reason, but are interrupted by two of Kadar’s men. They defeat the pair, only for the dragon to rise out of the swamps, and, let me tell you, in the history of special effects, this is a special moment. I assume that the puppetry was done by Jim Henson’s blind cousin, not just because all of the movements appear arbitrary, but also because it’s only the same 2 shots repeated like 4 times. The pair defeat it without any effort and find the ruby inside it.

They send the ruby with Ismena, who Kutchek now recognizes as Kara (something to which Gore shows no surprise or reaction at all), while the twins go to fight Kadar at his castle. This proves ill-timed, however, because Kadar has now reached the Forbidden Lands with Canary in tow.


Canary calls out to Kutchek and Gore, apparently using some sort of magic to make them hear her, and gets them to turn around and return to the Forbidden Lands. Canary then tricks Kadar into killing her for… some reason. Apparently, it’s so that the ruby will lose its magic, but also so that she can be “free” in death. Despite the fact that she just called for someone to free her in life.

BarbariansKaraIsmena returns to the Ragnicks, where the ruby starts to glow again, signifying that a new queen can be chosen from the virgin maidens. Way to be judgmental, ruby. Some women can both like getting laid and be qualified for leadership. It’s then revealed that there are only 2 virgins in the tribe, and neither one passes the ruby’s test. Weirdly, when they fail, the little person in the tribe laughs amused, despite the fact that this is dooming them. Ismena/Kara gets forced to try, despite her claims of not being a virgin, and the ruby picks her, forcing her to reveal that she’s Kara, and thus eligible. Apparently, magically passing the test isn’t enough? What the hell, Ragnicks?

The twins finally catch up to Kadar, who attacks them alone on horseback while blinding them with a reflective shield. Naturally, they break the shield with a single strike. Kadar then sheathes his weapon and turns his back on the pair, waiting for them to slay him, but when they approach, he turns around and stabs both of them with concealed blade. They then pull him down from his horse and, together, stab him to death by throwing their swords after his crossbow malfunctions.


The brothers return to the tribe, everything is happy, yada yada yada.


BarbariansConanOkay, so, there was kind of a lack of Sword and Sorcery movies in the 1970s. If you check out the Wikipedia list, there’s only three even on there, although I’ve tried to add Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings. There had been some of those movies in the 60s, but most of them were of the quality that makes for a good MST3K. Then, Clash of the Titans and Excalibur came out in 1981, Flight of Dragons, Beastmaster, and, of course, Conan the Barbarian came out in 1982, and the genre kind of exploded. Since the “barbarian” variant required a big, muscled lead, it was kind of inevitable that bodybuilders and pro-wrestlers were going to be trying out for these roles. For this one, the Barbarian Brothers were put in the lead, probably based on the assumption that people would like two better than one. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger did it, how hard could it be?

Well, three things:

1) Arnold was not just A bodybuilder, he was THE bodybuilder. Few people have ever looked the part of the over-muscled warrior as well as he did. While the Barbarian Brothers were probably actually bigger than Arnold in terms of muscle mass, they somehow look less like people whose muscles were formed from combat, and they don’t carry themselves in anyway like someone who actually used their muscles to do heavy work. Still, they did at least kind of look the part, even if they couldn’t actually play it, because:

2) Arnold had at least some acting ability, even though he still was starting out (he got better). The Barbarian Brothers… don’t. They literally don’t react correctly to any scene in the movie, which robs the film of pretty much any depth or tension. The fact that they constantly speak with heavy American accents doesn’t help, either. On the other hand, they probably couldn’t have done much with this script, which brings me to:

3) This movie is written terribly, and choreographed even worse. They gave the brothers a lot of dialogue, most of which doesn’t read naturally, and is delivered worse. At least in Conan, Conan’s character doesn’t actually speak that much, which helps with Arnold’s unpracticed delivery, and what he DOES say is usually pretty freaking awesome, because most of it is taken from other sources (Genghis Khan, Robert E. Howard, etc.).

Game. Set. Match. Conan.

In this, the brothers often just start arbitrarily insulting each other, and… not in clever ways. It’s mostly just the same 5 lines over and over again, and it’s usually unprompted by anything in the movie. Occasionally it’s even during scenes that should be intense, but it doesn’t come across as subversive humor. Also, the plot is so random and rushed, most of the fight scenes last about 10 seconds. The were-animals and the dragon are defeated in basically one hit. The longest fight is against Kadar, and he is literally the only villain that even minorly wounds the heroes, making it seem like they’re never in any danger.

BarbariansKadar2Now, let’s address the villain, Kadar. He wants the ruby for its magic, but at no point does it ever say what he was going to do with it. Apparently, the ruby pretty much can only be used for the purpose of making people feel joy and adoration, which, I guess would be useful, but it also seems like it can’t be used unless it chooses you. Also, he spends years with Canary trying to get her to talk, but apparently China convinces her in like an hour of torture. It’s said that it’s because he’s in love, but why didn’t Canary just tell him the location without warning him of the dragon like she did with China? Also, he has a f*cking sorceress and an army. What exactly is stopping him from just conquering the other kingdoms as is? He just comes off as impotent.

But, it’s not all bad. Here are some great things that you can find in this movie. First, even though the brothers don’t act well, they’re still pretty fun to watch. They’re so stupid and muscular and unresponsive to stimulus that it’s borderline hilarious. Second, this is Eva La Rue’s first role, which, while she had a long way to go in her career before she got on CSI: Miami, her responses to the brothers’ weird antics is often enough to lampshade them appropriately. Third, and most importantly, the bear head. After they kill the were-bear, the brothers start joking around with its decapitated head and moving it around to creep out Ismena/Kara. It’s such a weirdly awkward moment, but it’s also the most genuine and believable one in the movie.


Overall, this definitely isn’t a “must see” for most people, but if you like cheesy 80s Sword and Sorcery movies, and you’ve already watched the Ator movies, Red Sonja, and Fire and Ice, this should make its way onto your queue. However, if you just want to see the Barbarian Brothers, you should watch the vastly superior film D.C. Cab starring Adam Baldwin and Mr. T.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.