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The episode "Out of Gas" tells of the recruitment of Serenity's crew via a series of flashbacks. Kaylee's roundabout route is shown;

The next two to join the crew are Hoban Washburne, an accomplished pilot who bothers Zoe for some unexplained reason, and a laid-back mechanic named Bester. On a layover for repairs, Bester brings a young woman to the engine room for some sex; this woman, Kaylee Frye, soon replaces him as engineer when she shows an instinctive rapport with the ship's engines.

Given that Mal's "Hat" is basically loyalty to his crew, did I miss anything that would explain why he was so quick to drop Bester when Kaylee come along?

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    Mal may not be as loyalty-based as you think. Consider how he recruited Jayne by convincing him to betray his own team. – Kyle Delaney Jun 26 at 17:43
115

Bester appears to be extremely incompetent, lazy and often running over his deadlines. It would appear that he just "ran out of loyalty" and when Kaylee came along, who was easily better than him (she fixes the engine there and then when Bester still didn't know what the problem was), he jumped at the chance to hire her instead. Look at how clueless Bester is when Kaylee is explaining his own job to him. Also the fact he was caught having sex in the engine room when he was meant to be working and was over the deadline certainly didn't help.

Mal: What's this I been hearin' 'bout yet another delay?

[...]

Mal: You do realize we been parked on this rock near a week longer'n we planned?

Bester: Yeah, but... there's stuff to do.

Mal: As for example that job we got waitin' for us on Paquin. When we landed here you said you just needed a few days before we were space worthy again and is there somethin' wrong with your bunk?

[...]

Kaylee: (reappearing) Sure it is. Grav boot ain't your trouble. I seen the trouble plain as day when I's down there on my back. Your reg couple's bad.

Bester: (clueless) The... the what?

Kaylee: Reg couple. Right here. See?

Bester: No.

Kaylee: This. (Bester is still of the blank expression) I'm pointin' right at it.

Firefly, Season 1 Episode 8, "Out of Gas"

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    @Randal'Thor I'm not sure Mal has the knowledge needed to estimate how good any given mechanic is. Bester may have seemed great, but Kaylee upstages him casually, substantially, and obviously-- even if Bester were a genius mechanic, Kaylee totally eclipses him. – Upper_Case Jun 24 at 18:56
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    @Randal'Thor Another possibility is that Mal was using the Trump method: "We've got the best mechanic, he's the best, he's got huge hands, can fix anything," etc. – John Doe Jun 24 at 21:57
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    @Randal'Thor: My memory of that line is that it was Mal’s dry sarcasm: he was well aware that Bester wasn’t up to much. – PLL Jun 24 at 22:27
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    I remember that scene to be prep talk to convince Zoe that all is fine, might have been ironic as well, likely a mix of both. In those days he really wanted to get an awesome crew and ship, so whatever he got was by definition an awesome crew and ship - and in the end he was right, it just took a while ;) – Frank Hopkins Jun 24 at 22:48
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    As a more serious suggestion for improvement (take it in if you want), Bester might also have still been on probation. It also takes a while until the priest and doc get full "crew status" (yes they aren't exactly hired at the beginning, still ...). – Frank Hopkins Jun 24 at 22:49
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Bester ain't crew.

Now if you ask me, a man who comes aboard, claiming to be some kind of "genius mechanic". That man has to prove his salt, afore he can be counted among the crew. And Bester, he couldn't fix the gorram engine! He spent all his time chasing tail instead of doing his job. Didn't even know what a reg coupler was. Ain't no way Mal is gonna keep a man like that on board ship, not when he has a replacement right afront of his eyes.

Now if there's one thing that Mal and Zoe learnt in the Unification war, it was that a leader has to make a decision, make it fast, and make it stick.

It's a tough 'verse out there. Tougher for some than for others, but if you ain't pulling your weight, you ain't crew, and you better expect to be left on the next rock Mal makes landfall on.

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    I love this answer, both because it explains the reasons why, and it does it in character. – Wayne Werner Jun 25 at 16:18
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    This is actually the best answer. Mal fired Bester because he's loyal to his crew: if the ship doesn't fly, they don't get paid. – Nate Abele Jun 25 at 19:01
  • This may very well be the best stack exchange answer I have ever read. Utterly correct and brilliantly entertaining. – linksassin Jun 26 at 6:14
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    +1 Joss Whedon himself could not have written it better. – A. I. Breveleri Jun 26 at 14:54
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    It took a while until I could attribute it to a character, but now I'm pretty sure this was written by Jayne! – Frank Hopkins Jun 27 at 15:08

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