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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Firefly: Big Damn Hero Firefly
Big Damn Hero
Written by James Lovegrove
Original story concept by Nancy Holder

(The page numbers come from the first printing, trade paperback edition, February 2020)


Browncoat vigilantes accuse Mal of being a traitor to the Independent cause during the war.


Notes from the Firefly/Serenity chronology


The events of this novel take place shortly after those of "The Message". Mal states in his journal that it is currently 2517.


Didja Know?


The three Chinese characters on the spine of the book (and on the book flap) represent the word "firefly" in two different ways. The two right-most characters stand for "fire" and "bug", so "firefly". The left-most symbol is the contracted version of the other two, a one-character symbol for "firefly".


The title of this book is based on an exchange of dialog between Mal and Zoe in the episode "Safe":

Mal: Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?

Zoe: Big damn heroes, sir.
Mal: Ain't we just? 


Characters appearing or mentioned in this novel




Tracey Smith (mentioned only, deceased)

Tracey Smith's parents (unnamed, mentioned only)


Jamie Adare (in flashback only, deceased)

Tobia "Toby" Finn (aka Rusty, Little Orange, dies in this novel)

Jinny Adare (in flashback only, deceased)





Shepherd Book



Sir Warwick Harrow (mentioned only)

Hunter Covington (dies in this novel)

Harlow (dies in this novel)



Professor Yakima Barnes (a fake person, mentioned only)


Taggart's bartender


Elmira Atadema

Mattie Cobb (mentioned only)


Donovan Philips (dies in this novel)

Badger's doorman


Mika Wong

Charlie Dunwoody


Sea Wolf bartender


Stuart Deakins

Panda Alactraz


Sheriff Bundy (in flashback only)

Ma and Pa Adare (mentioned only)

Mr. Reynolds (mentioned only)

Ma Reynolds (Mrs. Reynolds, mentioned only)

Mortimer Ponticelli (in flashback only)

Anders Hendrickson (in flashback only)

Linn Finn (in flashback only)

Marla Finn (in flashback only)

Sonya Zuburi (dies in this novel)

David Zuburi (dies in this novel)

Harriet Kyle (dies in this novel)

Bo Hopkirk (mentioned only)

Marcus (mentioned only)

Greg (mentioned only)

Willard Krieger (mentioned only)

Deputy Orville Crump

Major Aubrey Bernard


Covington's maid

Covington stable guards

Cat Camcaho (mentioned only) 




Didja Notice?


The first paragraph of page 7 describes the events of "The Message".


On page 7, Mal states that the Unification War ended in 2511. This was established in "Serenity".


Also on page 7, Mal states that it is currently 2517.


On page 8, Mal erroneously states that the crew obtained medical supplies on Osiris. It was actually on Ariel, as seen in the episode "Ariel".


On page 9, Mal mentions finally getting the shuttle repairs completed by Guilder's Shipwrights on Persephone. The shuttle went in for repairs in "The Message".


Page 10 states Mal has accepted a job from Badger to transport a dangerous load "halfway across the galaxy". Of course, there is no faster-than-light travel in the 'Verse, so perhaps we can accept this statement as a bit of hyperbole in regards to "galaxy" that is common in the 'Verse, meaning something closer to halfway across the 'Verse, the multiple-star system in which the Alliance worlds and the "outlying worlds" exist.


On page 10, Mal reflects on the herd of cattle Badger had his ship transport on behalf of Sir Warwick Harrow. This occurred in the episodes "Shindig" and "Safe".


Page 11 mentions Alliance Day, a holiday on Persephone celebrating the day the planet joined the Alliance.


Page 12 mentions that trusting your business partners is like trusting a rattlesnake not to bite you. Does this mean there are rattlesnakes in the 'Verse, imported from Earth-That-Was?


On page 13, Badger remarks that his previous deal with Mal, involving the herd of cattle, "went down the khazi." "Khazi" is a Cockney term for "toilet". Badger speaks with a Cockney accent, as seen in "Serenity" and "Shindig".


The cargo Serenity is charged with delivering to Aberdeen is the explosive HTX-20 (Satan's Snowflakes), used largely for mining. This novel is the first appearance of the planet Aberdeen. HTX-20 appears to be a fictitious explosive, though it sounds quite similar in usage and volatility to nitroglycerin.


On page 15, Mal is said to consider an explosion to be one of the worst kinds of surprise he could imagine, surprise marriages being another. "Surprise marriage" is a reference to the events of "Our Mrs. Reynolds".


Also on page 15, River is referred to as a formerly cryogenically frozen mad genius. River was smuggled aboard Serenity cryogenically frozen in a crate by her brother in "Serenity".


On page 16, Mal thinks, if there is a God, "...He ain't welcome on my boat." In "The Train Job", Mal said something similar about God to Shepherd Book, "You're welcome on my boat. God ain't."


On page 20, Badger remarks on River's (fake) accent being like his, a "bit of the old Dyton patois..." In "Shindig", Badger said he came from Dyton colony, which appears to have been the source of his Cockney accent.


On page 21, Badger remarks that on Alliance Day he does a brisk trade in float and angel tears. Float and angel tears are presumably recreational drugs.


Page 21 reveals that Serenity has a forklift aboard.


Page 22 mentions Londinium. This is the capital planet of the Alliance and is the most like Earth-That-Was.


On page 22, Jayne puts on his yellow and orange woolen hat with the pom-pom on top. This is the chullo he received from his mother in the post in "The Message".


Also on page 22, two of Jayne's guns, Vera and Boo, are mentioned, with the notation that he has pet names for all of his weapons. Vera was first seen in "Our Mrs. Reynolds". Boo, a .38 caliber Civil War-styled wheelgun, makes its first appearance, at least by name, in this novel.


Mal and Zoe meet a client at Taggart's Bar and Lounge in Eavesdown on Persephone to accept a second job. This is the first appearance of Taggart's.


On page 30, Mal recognizes the store where he bought Kaylee a frilly, pink dress for a society ball. This occurred in "Shindig".


On page 31, Mal muses that the Taggart's sign might as well read "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." This phrase originated in Dante's Divine Comedy as part of an inscription above the gateway to Hell.


On page 32, Taggart's is said to have a holographic window. A holographic window was also seen at a bar in "The Train Job".


Covington tells Mal he wants a package delivered to Bellerophon. Bellerophon is a world of rich estates which was previously seen in "Trash".


On page 47, Mal muses that just because something's small doesn't mean it's not dangerous, like River. But, at this point in the Firefly timeline, he shouldn't really be aware so much of her dangerous abilities, though she did slash Jayne with a knife in "Ariel" and shoot down three opponents in "War Stories". She also killed six potential kidnappers in "Downtime", but no one on the ship is aware of it except, possibly, Shepherd Book.


On page 53, a game of tall card is interrupted by the brawl at Taggart's. Tall card is a card game previously seen in "Shindig".


On page 67, Shepherd Book remarks that he's good at handling River as long as his hair's tied back. River was frightened by his long, frizzy hair when he had it loose in "Jaynestown".


Harlow carries a Baird and Chu Special snub-nosed .38 caliber pistol. Baird and Chu is a fictitious brand.


On page 81, Harlow and Zoe walk up to a wall topped with concertina wire. Concertina wire is the coiled type of barbed wire often seen on prison fences to prevent escape or on freeway signs to prevent graffiti vandalization.


On page 94, Allister's mother is said to suffer from Foster's Wheeze. This is a fictitious disease.


Jayne reflects on his brother Mattie's disease, damplung. Jayne's brother and his malady were previously mentioned in "The Message" as well.


On page 107, Mal asks his captors if they're headed for Pelorum. Pelorum is a resort world in the 'Verse later seen in "Better Days" Parts 2 and 3 and The Magnificent Nine.


On page 113, Badger says "Wotcher," when Zoe walks into his office. Wotcher is a British slang term basically meaning "What are you up to?", as in, "Wot'cher up ta?"


Also on page 113, Badger begins eating an apple while talking with Zoe. As noted in the study of "Shindig", he seems to be fond of apples.


On page 117, Badger recalls an incident that occurred between Mal and Wash and a certain Adelai Niska. This is a reference to events in "War Stories", when Niska captured and tortured the two for having betrayed him in one of his operations ("The Train Job").


On page 120, Wash mentions that Inara did great on Higgins' Moon. This refers to events in "Jaynestown".


On page 123, Wash reflects on a fortune he once received in a fortune cookie at Li Shen's Space Bazaar. Serenity visited this bazaar in "The Message", but this incident with the fortune cookie was not seen. It may have occurred off-screen during this episode or during a previous visit to the bazaar.


Also on page 123, Kaylee mentions that Inara took the Flying Mule to pick up Zoe. This would seem to indicate that the Flying Mule was either already on board or purchased not long after the events of "War Stories", where the ground-based mule ATV was heavily damaged, possibly beyond repair. The Flying Mule is next seen in "Clipped Wings".


On page 125, Wash is reminded of the men wearing powder-blue gloves who came after River, leaving dead bodies in their wake. They appeared in "The Train Job" and "Ariel".


On page 130, Jayne, eager to be off even if they have to leave the missing Mal behind, says, "As a wise man once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." This quote was said by Mr. Spock in the 1982 film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.


On page 136, Book mentions Southdown Abbey. This is the religious cloister where he received his training as a shepherd, as shown in The Shepherd's Tale.


Page 148 has Simon reflecting on Jayne's past attempt to sell out he and River to the Alliance. This occurred in "Ariel".


Page 148 also reveals that the bounty on the Tams' heads has gone up several times more than it was in "Ariel".


Jayne remarks that Simon and River might have to suit up and hide on the surface of the ship again to escape an inspection by the Alliance. The first time took place in "Bushwhacked".


On page 153, Kaylee worries about having the I.A.V. Magellan looming over the ship if Simon were to make a transmission to his and River's parents. The crew encountered the Magellan previously in "Safe".


On page 155, Book muses on the prayers he makes for everyone on board Serenity and how Inara had advised him not to tell Mal about that. Inara's advice to him occurred in "The Train Job".


Page 157 mentions the two moons of Persephone, Renao and Hades. This is the first in-story reference to the two moons.


On page 158, Book recalls an old Earth-That-Was saying, "Trust Allah but tie up your camel." This is an old Arabic proverb.


On page 164, Book reflects on the time Mal masqueraded as Inara's bondsman on Regina as part of a plot to steal something from a train for Niska. This occurred in "The Train Job".


On page 166, the bartender at the Sea Wolf Tavern at the Eavesdown Docks has a pet Zulian spider-monkey. Zulia is a state in the South American country of Venezuela, so it would seem that spider-monkeys from Zulia were included in the colonly ships that came from Earth-That-Was to the 'Verse.


Page 179 explains that gravity produced by artificial gravity generators on ships do not feel the same as real gravity. "On-world, your weight distribution was more even and there wasn't that vague dizziness which dogged you all the time when you were shipboard and which you never quite got accustomed to, no matter how good your 'space legs' were."


On page 183, Mal tries to think who might have wanted him captured, reminiscing on Niska, YoSaffBridge, and Patience. "YoSaffBridge" refers to Saffron, who has also used the aliases Bridget and Yolanda Haymer, who conned Mal into thinking they'd been married in a ritual on a backwater planet in "Our Mrs. Reynolds". Mal took to calling her YoSaffBridge in a subsequent encounter in "Trash". Patience is the matriarchal leader of the backwater moon Whitefall, whom Mal has crossed more than once in the past, as seen in "Serenity".


Chapter 16 reveals that Seven Pines Pass is the town on Shadow where Mal grew up. He and his friends Toby, Jamie, and Jinny were known as the Four Amigos.


During the flashback on page 193, young Mal is described as an incorrigible Romeo. This, of course, is a reference to the character in Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.


The flashback on page 194 states that the Silver Stirrup Saloon was the only drinking establishment in Seven Pines Pass.


During the flashback on page 197, the Four Amigos lead heads of cattle out of Ponticelli's corral two-by-two "like latterday Noahs with a very singular notion of which species they were going to load aboard their Ark." This is a reference to the Biblical account of the flood and Noah's Ark and how Noah gathered a male and female member of every species of animal, loading them onto the ark two-by-two in order to repopulate the world once the flood should recede.


Mika Wong was the commander of the Alliance's Anti-Terrorism Division while serving aboard the I.A.V. Cortez with Book. He was Book's superior officer.


On page 219, Book asks for quid pro quo from Wong. This is Latin for "something for something".


On page 221, Book tells of a quote from the Bible about there being more rejoicing over the repentance of one sinner than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. He is referring to the Parable of the Lost Sheep spoken of by Jesus to his followers as related in the Book of Luke. The parable goes, "Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn't leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends, his family and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance."


On page 225, Wong reminds Book that he was there when Book took the fall for the Alexander disaster. The story behind this event and Book's discharge from the Alliance military is told in The Shepherd's Tale.


On page 237, Zoe and Kaylee tell Simon that they can't really hide him and his sister on the hull of the ship this time because Mal had the hull degaussed at the docks, so the magnetic boots on the spacesuits won't stick now. It seems to me the boots would still stick to the metal as long as the boots are magnetic, which Kaylee says they are. The only thing I can think of is that the hull is made of a nonferrous metal that will not attract a magnet, but when it becomes charged enough to generate it's own magnetic field, the magnetic boots will stick to it. After degaussing, the magnetic field is (mostly) gone, so the boots won't stick.


On page 239, Simon chooses not to attempt to enlist Jayne in the search for River on Serenity's decks because he didn't have time for the "snail-crawling Socratic dialog" that would be required to convince him. "Socratic dialog" is a discussion between two or more individuals about moral or philosophic issues.


On page 241, Wash warns Simon and Zoe that the proximity scanner's lit up like Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanzaa all in one. These are all religious or ethnic holidays of various types.


Serenity is pursued by the I.A.V. Stormfront, a Longbow-class patrol cruiser. This is the first appearance of the Stormfront and, chronologically, of a Longbow-class patrol cruiser. A Longbow appears later in "Living Weapon".


On page 242, River seems to be singing an altered version of the lullaby "Hush, Little Baby" to the HTX-20 crates in Serenity's hold. The opening lines of the standard lullaby are "Hush, little Baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a Mockingbird." Here, River sings, "Hush, little high-ex, don't say a word, Papa's gonna stop you and your crazy whirl." By "high-ex", she probably means "high explosive".


During the flashback on page 251, Mal is returning to Seven Pines Pass from Da Cheng Shi, said to be the largest city on Shadow. This is the first mention of the city.


On page 254, Jinny mentions a town called Sageville on Shadow. This is the first mention of it. Page 321 indicates that Sageville can be reached via Arroyo Road.


Willard Krieger owns a hardware store in Seven Pines Pass.


On page 258 the narrative states, "...where Jinny went, Toby was sure to follow." This seems to be a play on a line from the nursery rhyme of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "...anywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go."


On page 261, Deakins remembers that Mal saved his life on New Kasimir during the war. Presumably, this is meant to say New Kasmir, a world mentioned in "War Stories".


On page 267, Book reflects that even a bowl of soup could make all the difference to a person. Book himself found God in a bowl of soup, as related in The Shepherd's Tale.


On pages 269-270, Inara informs Book that a Companion's shuttle has special multiphase communications enciphering programs that are essentially impenetrable in order for them to conduct business with absolute guaranteed discretion. Apparently, she has installed it on the Serenity shuttle she uses.


On page 288, Inara shows Covington's bodyguard her credentials etched with the insignia of House Madrassa. House Madrassa is the training school for Companions on the planet Sihnon that Inara attended.


On page 295, Book thinks of the people who had done whatever they did to River at the Academy as "Dr. Frankensteins". This, of course, is a reference to Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein (and subsequent film adaptations) about Dr. Frankenstein, a (possibly insane) scientist who brings to life an artificial man from the stitched-together body parts of human corpses.


On page 299, Book quotes from the Book of Matthew in the Bible about the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. His quote is Bible accurate.


Page 313 divulges the battle hymn of the Independents from the Unification War (or, at least, part of it):

"Browncoats, look up to the skies!

Browncoats, hail the dawn!

Today will see tyranny

Dying with the morn.

Browncoats, are you weary?

Browncoats, rise and sing!

Your time has come, your war is won.

Victory takes wing."


A store in Seven Pines Pass is called Camacho's Grain and Feed, owned by Cat Camacho. The name "Cat Camacho" is borrowed from that of a senior editor at Titan Books, the publisher of this novel.


On page 337, Toby describes how a Zeus missile fired by Alliance forces destroyed an Independents weapons cache that Jinny was guarding, destroying the weapons and killing her. This is the first mention of a Zeus missile in the 'Verse.


During the flashback on pages 346-347, Mal gives Jinny a locket with a homing device inside linked to one he also carries so they will each know the other is okay. He says, "Doesn't mean we're engaged to be wed or anything." This may be a nod to the 1986 film Aliens, where Corporal Hicks gives Ripley a locator device so he can find her anywhere in the alien-infested complex, saying, "Doesn't mean we're engaged or anything."


Page 349 implies that Sheriff Bundy became county governor of the Seven Pines Pass region after the Alliance arrived on Shadow and executed the current governor.


Toby and Jamie were part of the 19th Sunbeamers in the war, space commandos.


Toby relates how Jamie died at the Battle of Sturges while boarding the Alliance freighter Sublime, which was blown up by its captain to keep its spoils out of Independent hands. This is the first and only mention of the Sublime, but the Battle of Sturges is mentioned again in "Those Left Behind" Part 2.


After the Battle of Sturges, the 19th Sunbeamers were disbanded and Toby became an infantryman in the 31st Raiders, called the Angel Makers. Toby and Mal were reunited and fought alongside each other at the Battle of Du-Khang. The Battle of Du-Khang was flashbacked to in "The Message".


On pages 361-362, Toby reveals that, back during the Battle of Serenity Valley he discovered Mal's silver crucifix pendant in his tent and that it had a homing beacon inside it. We saw Mal kiss this pendant in "Serenity".


The Browncoat vigilantes make use of a patched-together Komodo-class resupply ship. This appears to be the first appearance of this type of ship in the 'Verse.


On page 374, Deakins performs CPR on Mal. CPR stands for "cardiopulmonary resuscitation", a technique for keeping a person alive who is not breathing or has just suffered a heart attack.


On page 380, Philips calls Deakins a Judas. This is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for 30 pieces of silver in the New Testament of the Bible.


On page 385, Mal asks Toby what sickness he has, suggesting possibly Wilson's palsy. Wilson's palsy appears to be a fictitious disease and this is its first mention in the 'Verse.


Chinese translations
Page # Chinese English
19 Mal says, "Tā mā de!" Essentially means, "Oh, fuck!"
19 Mal says, "Dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
23 Kaylee says, "Gŏu shĭ!" "Shit!"
42 Drunk says, "gŏu shĭ" "shit"
61 Kaylee says, "Shén me?" "What?"
65 Zoe says, "Zāo gāo." "Not good." (Literally "spoiled cake")
80 Zoe thinks, gou cao de "dog fucking"
109 Mal thinks, gu yang zhong de gu yang "motherless goat of all motherless goats"
118 Zoe thinks, Qīng wā kao de liú máng. "Frog-humping son of a bitch."
123 Kaylee says, "Niú fèn." "Cow poop."
125 Wash thinks, Wŏ de tiān a. "Oh my God."
128 Inara thinks, "gŏu shĭ" "shit"
132 Wash says, "Wĕi! Look out, hún dàn!" "Danger! Look out, bastard!"
132 Wash says, "Ta ma de." "Oh, fuck."
133 Inara says "méi méi" "little sister"
138 Zoe says "hòu zi de pì gŭ" "monkey ass"
140 Kaylee says, "hún dàn" bastard
146 Simon thinks "méi méi" little sister
181 Someone New says, "lăo tiān yé" "God in Heaven"
202 Sheriff Bundy says "fèi wù" "junk"
210 Toby calls Mal a lying "tā mā de, hún dàn." "fucking bastard"
231 Wong refers to Covington as lè sè garbage
237 Kaylee says, ""Zāo gāo." "Not good." (Literally "spoiled cake")
238 Simon says "Méi méi?" "Little sister?"
244 Inara calls River băo bèi darling
249 Wash says jīng căi brilliant
264 Mal says fēng le insane
327 Bundy says tā mā de, hún dàn fucking bastard
355 Wash says, "Wait just one xī niú second." "Wait just one cow-sucking second".
357 Mal says xióng māo niào panda urine
361 Mal says "Tā mā de, hún dàn!" "Fucking bastard!"
375 Wash says, "Fèi fèi de pì yăn." "Baboon's ass-crack."
375 Kaylee says, "Badger sure handed us a zhēng qì de gōu shī duī." "neat pile of shit"
395 Mal says, "...that's his tough dà tiáo." shit
397 Jayne says, "You have some baijiu?" sorghum spirits
Acknowledgements Author Lovegrove refers to Cat Camacho and Sam Matthews as zhēn de tiān cái during the editing process. "really genius"


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