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In the beginning of episode "The Message" we see that in the space station a barker extols an exhibit featuring "proof of alien life".

Inside the exhibit, Simon and Kaylee were talking about "The Alien" in the jar, who turns out to be a mutant cow. Simon then manages to upset her after some talk.

As Kaylee departs, Zoë and Wash enter, and Wash declares that "It's grotesque" before noticing "something in a jar".

I know he meant it as a joke but I am still not clear what he was referring to as "grotesque".

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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

He was referring to Simon, or perhaps merely how horrifically Simon managed to put his foot in his mouth when talking with Kaylee.

Wash and Zoe come in right after this conversation between Simon and Kaylee:

SIMON (smiles) Ah... Well, you're a, a kind of a genius when it comes to machines... you always say what you mean, and your eyes are...

KAYLEE Yeah? Eyes, yeah?

SIMON And, um... I don't know how to, um... (joking) Plus, every other girl I know is either married, professional, or closely related to me, so you're more or less, you are literally the only girl in the world.

Those famous eyes of her darken considerably. She draws back.

KAYLEE Mm. That's a hell of a thing to say.

SIMON I was joking...

KAYLEE No, no, I get it. I do. Back on Osiris you probably had nurses and debutantes crawling all over you. But down here at the bottom of the barrel, it's just me.

SIMON No, that's, that's, that's not even --

KAYLEE Well, I'm glad I rated higher than dead bessie here. < Why don't you tell the cow about its beautiful eyes? > [Nee GAO-soo NA niou, TA yo shwong mei-moo?]

She is storming out just as Wash and Zoe are coming in. Simon watches Kaylee despairingly.

WASH Oh my god, he's grotesque! Oh, and there's something in a jar.

Immediately after, Zoe comments that he (Simon) scared her (Kaylee) away again, and asks if there is anyone he is good at talking to, so it seems likely that Wash and Zoe overheard at least part of the conversation.

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The Chinese appears to be 你告诉那牛,她有双美目 (nǐ gàosu nàniú tā yǒu shuāng měi mù), which is approximately “you tell that cow she has a pair of beautiful eyes”. (Uncertain about what they mean by “shwong”.) Edit: just realised that the angle brackets are a translation, not that she repeated herself. D’oh! –  Jon Purdy Dec 23 '13 at 19:38
    
At first I thought the same. But then realized that Wash says its grotesque and not he's grotesque. Could it be possible that he was referring to the curse words used by Kaylee. –  kmdhrm Dec 24 '13 at 12:29
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@DipakYadav According to the translation I listed, and which Jon Purdy confirmed, Kaylee isn't cursing; she's saying "Why don't you tell the cow about its beautiful eyes?". Wash says "its" instead of "he's" because it is intended to create ambiguity about the subject... until the punchline of "Oh, and there's something in a jar", which strongly implies that he's referring to Simon in a mocking fashion. The subsequent conversation with Zoe continues the theme of mocking Simon. –  Beofett Dec 24 '13 at 13:03
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@kmdhrm , I kinda took "it" as meaning either Simon's botched conversation, or the spectacle of his disastrous "flirting", either way, referring to what they had just witnessed of Simon and Kaylee's interaction. –  eidylon Mar 27 at 3:31

He was making a joke about Simon being an alien (I'm pretty sure he's looking directly at Simon when he says it), likely due to his occasional social awkwardness - on display immediately before when he says the wrong thing entirely to Kaylee.

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At first I thought the same. But then realized that Wash says its grotesque and not he's grotesque. Could it be possible that he was referring to the curse words used by Kaylee. –  kmdhrm Dec 24 '13 at 12:29
1  
@DipakYadav I don't see how "it's" rather than "he's" changes anything; if you're implying that somebody is an alien you don't need to use something gender specific. –  Anthony Grist Dec 28 '13 at 14:48

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