In Episode 9, Ariel, Mal and Zoe steal the medicine and Jayne guards Simon and River as they sneak into the hospital. Previously Jayne had expressed some disgust at River staying on Serenity, since River slashed his chest with a large knife. What ends up happening is predictable--Jayne betrays the Tams, therefore betraying Mal--which he knew would happen someday.

But Mal could easily have taken Jayne with him and left Zoe with Simon and River. Why didn't he do that? Did he intentionally do this because he knew he would be able to get Jayne and the Tams back safely this time, or to ensure Jayne's loyalty?

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    They applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural response.
    – CHEESE
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:16
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    Their pupils were fixed and dilapidated.
    – Kerr Avon
    Nov 30, 2016 at 4:16

2 Answers 2


I don't think we have any canon statement to this effect, but my interpretation was that Mal was doing his best with limited manpower.

They could only bring three people into the hospital in the guise of EMTs. He, Zoe, and Jayne were the best people to have along if things went wrong and there was a fight, so they were picked. They needed to split up, and there were only so many ways that could go:

Mal and Jayne could go for the valuables. This isn't a good idea. Mal knows full well that Jayne isn't loyal to him; put him in direct control of the loot is asking for a bullet in the back.

Zoe and Jayne go for the loot. Same problem, only now it's Zoe asking for a bullet.

If things go wrong in the pharmacy, Mal and Zoe are the ones best equipped to get out of it. If things go wrong in the scanner suite, Simon is the one best equipped to get out of it. So Mal kept his untrustworthy mercenary away from the loot and under the eye of their mastermind. It almost didn't work out, but it was still the least bad plan.

  • I feel like Mal would prefer having the untrustworthy one under his eyes. Jayne gets rich by selling River and Simon, but he can't return the medicine to the hospital without admitting that he stole it, and he certainly can't overpower Mal. But he would be a fine faithful big-man-with-a gun, no worse than Zoe IMO.
    – CHEESE
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:16
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    @Cheese with hindsight yes, we know that's what Jayne did, but from Mal's perspective it was the lesser of two evils. Jayne could absolutely shoot Mal in the back when faced with all those drugs right there for the taking, whereas turning River over to the feds is pretty risky - he'd need to divulge his identity as well, and you just know there are plenty of arrest warrants out for a guy like Jayne.
    – Werrf
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:20
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    As Mal says at the end of the episode, "Next time you betray me have the guts to do it to my face." Or something like that. To Mal it would be obvious that Jayne would betray River and Simon--he hates them--but he would never betray Mal, not when so much money is on the line. For Jayne, the most money possible in if he's with Mal is if he helps Mal and they get the medicine.
    – CHEESE
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:24
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    It's like that riddle about the man who needs to get a cabbage, a goat and a wolf across the river in a canoe that can only carry two things.
    – Steve-O
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:59

Mal is fully aware of a the growing tension between Jayne and Simon and of the overt animosity Jayne displays toward the Tams. Mal even asks Jayne if he's going to have a problem with him and Simon in the Air Ambulance on the way down and gets an answer that he accepts. As Jayne says "Nuthin' buys bygones quicker than cash" and Jayne is all about the payday.

Mal had no idea Jayne would be stupid enough to call the feds - especially in the middle of pulling a job on a core world in an Alliance facility. Neither did the writers initially. According to Jose Molina (writer credit for Ariel), Joss wanted to do "a story where Simon hired the crew to rob a hospital so he can get River onto a machine and look at her brain". Jose was holed up in his office with Brett Matthews and Cheryl Cain and kept going back because something was missing in the story and then came up with the idea of Jayne betraying the Tams which they then pitched to Joss.

So, Mal could have taken Jayne with him but why would he? Zoe's with him because that's how it usually is (and possibly also because there's some readin' involved and some smarts required). Jayne's already indicated to Mal that he thinks the Doc came up with a good plan and the worst he's thinking of doing is giving Simon a tattoo whilst he's asleep. The writers had to place Jayne with the Tams so he could have the opportunity to betray them and also get an understanding of what these butchers did to the poor girl and Jayne still wants to hand her back over - the money must've been real good.

Mal, Zoe and Wash were at the rally point fully expecting to rendezvous with the others and, when they were 10 minutes overdue, realized something was definitely wrong and had to find them. So there was no "plan B" that meant Mal knew he could get River and Simon out safely if he truly thought Jayne might betray them. Mal wouldn't have found out that Jayne "changed" the plan and took them out the back 20 minutes early until he was told about it afterwards. Mal then grills Jayne for the truth.

There's nothing to indicate that Mal was anticipating Jayne's betrayal and intentionally putting everyone at risk by sending Jayne with the Tams.


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