For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Firefly: Carnival Firefly
Written by Una McCormack

(The page numbers come from the first printing, hardcover edition, November 2021)


The Serenity crew takes on the sinners of a gambling mecca on the Rim world of Bethel.


Notes from the Firefly/Serenity chronology


The events of this novel take place before the events of "Heart of Gold". Page 80 also implies that the events of "War Stories" were just a couple weeks prior.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this novel 


Ava Jones

White Dragon t-shirt

black beard (later named as Michael Doherty)

Aunty Eve (mentioned only, deceased)



Private Tracey Smith (mentioned only, deceased)



Shepherd Book



Uncle Nate (dies in this novel)

Mrs. Freeman (mentioned only)

Ava's mother and father (mentioned only, deceased)

Preacher Wiley (mentioned only)

Dr. Katarina Neilsen (aka Dr. Karolina Nolan)

Hilde Becker

Jacob Roberts

Anna Liu

Joseph Liu

Mr. and Mrs. Liu (mentioned only, deceased)



Sheriff Marcus Zhao

Patience (mentioned only)

Dr. Martin Naismith (mentioned only, deceased, Simon takes the name as an alias)

Lawrence Dobson (mentioned only)

Aloysius Frye (mentioned only, deceased)

Jemima Frye (mentioned only, deceased)

Captain Olsen

Mack Thorne

Will Carlsen (mentioned only)


Adelai Niska (mentioned only)

Annette Stern (mentioned only)




Dr. Mayhew



Emory Braxton

Anna and Joseph's parents (mentioned only, deceased)


Jacky's wife

Carleson James (mentioned only) 




Didja Notice?


This novel is the first mention of both the city of Neapolis and its planet, Bethel, in the 'Verse.


On pages 12-13, Shepherd Book remarks that "Bethel" was the place where Jacob had a vision of a ladder to heaven, according to the Bible, and that it means "House of God". This is all correct; bethel is a Hebrew term for "house of God".


Shepherd Book's quote on page 14 about the stone and the pillar is from Genesis 28:22.


Page 15 reveals the Ava is from Evansville on Bethel. This is the first mention of the city.


Ava has a squishy toy bear called Patches.


On page 17, Ava sees an advertisement for Joozy Frooty Treets on the public vidphone before she makes her call. This is the first mention of this treat in the 'Verse.


Ava calls for help to the number given to her by Mrs. Freeman, P.R. Quigley's Cleaning Services. The novel's author, Una McCormack, is British-Irish, so it's possible this company is a wink to the Quigley's Cleaning Services business in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon, Republic of Ireland.


Dr. Katarina Neilsen works at St. Freda's Hospital in Neapolis.


Anna Liu inherited several casinos on and near the Platinum Mile in Neapolis.


Joseph Liu had once planned on opening a restaurant on Sihnon. This is one of the major core worlds, with an Eastern influence.


Bethel is known for the mining of verterium, which Wash informs the Serenity crew is used in components for calibrating navigation systems. This is a fictitious mineral. The word used here may have been inspired by the fictitious element verterium in the Star Trek universe, used in verterium cortenide, a material in the construction of starship warp nacelles. This novel's author has also written a number of Star Trek novels.


Serenity is hired to protect a shipment of erbonium. This is another fictitious mineral, useful in the manufacture of lasers and this is the first mention of it in the 'Verse.


Other settlements on Bethel include Nashton, Lauriston, Mount Greyling, and Catsville.


Malefinium is yet another fictitious mineral mined on Bethel.


On page 36, Simon reflects on Jayne's having called the Feds on him and River when they were on Ariel. This occurred in "Ariel".


Ava finds shelter at the Mag Coirc Motel and Bar on Celestial Way in Neapolis, near the Roby Docks.


On page 45, Book compares Bethel to Babylon the Great. Babylon the Great is a symbolic female figure and city of evil in the Bible's Book of Revelation. The quote Book makes about sharing not in her sins refers to Babalon, found in Revelation 18.


On page 46, Mal is disturbed to find that the local sheriff will be keeping an eye on the crew during this job, thinking, Gorram sheriffs! Not too long after this adventure, starting in "New Sheriff in the 'Verse", Mal will himself become a sheriff in the Georgia Space Sector for a time.


On page 48, Mal reflects on the time the crew hauled some stolen crates of energy bars to Patience. This was in "Serenity".


On page 66, Wash remarks about the time both he and Mal got strung up and hurt, Mal got bits of himself cut off, and Mal died (temporarily). This was in "War Stories".


Page 84 reveals that Kaylee is able to tell the presence of many different types of spaceships in a dock by the distinctive odor of fuel and fumes. The Series 3 Firefly-class transporter she smells here is presumably just Serenity itself.


On page 91, Kaylee reflects that Mal had asked her not to find any more passengers after the last couple she'd brought on board. I presume this is a reference to the events of "Serenity", where she found Simon, fleeing Alliance authorities, and Lawrence Dobson, an undercover Alliance agent.


Kaylee almost gets work at the docks fixing an ailing Lambert 1900 engine. This is the first mention of this engine model in the 'Verse.


White Dragon is the name of a well-known musical band in the 'Verse. Kaylee thinks they are lousy.


Page 99 reveals that Simon had been roommates with fellow medical student Will Carlsen during their sophomore year.


On page 99, Katarina pulls a Whitaker 380 hand pistol from her desk drawer. This is the first mention of this weapon in the 'Verse.


On page 103, Book remarks to Zoe that he hopes Roberts doesn't have any torture facilities similar to that of Adelai Niska. This is a reference to the torture of Mal and Wash by Niska in "War Stories".


On pages 108-109, Katarina tells Simon and Inara that she's working at St. Freda's Hospital under an assumed name because she is undercover investigating the theft of drugs and other supplies to be sold for profit on the Rim worlds and Inara shakes her head, remarking, "Isn't it remarkable, Simon, what some people will do for money?" This is a light jab at Simon for his scheme to heist drugs and supplies from St. Lucy's Hospital on Ariel in "Ariel".


On page 112, Inara sends a wave message to her Guild friend Guanyin. Guanyin also appears in "No Power in the 'Verse" Part 1.


Jayne dresses in a blue velvet tuxedo and bow tie he got from a tailor on Prophet. Apparently, he's kept it hidden since then until the chance to use it while gambling at a casino here on Bethel.


Ava tells Mal and Kaylee that her hometown of Evansville is in Croker Valley on Bethel.


River, Jayne, and Wash gamble at a casino called The Golden Balloon.


On page 150, the cryo cases Book discovers the schematics for on Roberts' computer remind him of the case Simon had used to carry River aboard Serenity. This occurred when the Tams first boarded, in "Serenity" and "Government Goods".


River uses the alias "Joy" at the casino.


Book's voice is said to ring out like the trumpet on Judgment Day as he delivers a bit of sermon on page 168. Judgment Day is a reference to the foretold judgment of God upon the people of the Earth believed in by the Abrahamic religions. The quote Book uses is from Deuteronomy 32:35 in the Bible.


On page 170, Wash is delighted to find the limousine Joseph Liu has provided them is filled with snacks such as packets of NutsSaltiNuts.


On page 178, as the crew celebrates, River hands Simon a mug of champagne and asks, "Is it champagne if it doesn't come from Earth-That-Was?" This is a play on the oft-asked question of wine drinkers, "If it's not from the region of Champagne, France, is it really Champagne?" In the real world, the use of the word "Champagne" is protected by European law for sparkling wines made in the Champagne region. Otherwise, it's just "sparkling wine".


On page 183, Book remarks "The Good Lord himself kicked over a few tables at the Temple at the sight of the money-lenders." This is the narrative of the Cleansing of the Temple in the New Testament of the Bible.


Page 206 reveals that the red flyer Zoe and Book stole in their escape from Roberts' villa was a Huxton 44. This is the first appearance of such a vehicle in the 'Verse.


On page 210, Book again quotes about the stone and the pillar from Genesis 28:22 in the Bible.


On page 223, Book tells the child-trafficker Uncle Nate, "There's a special hell for men like you." Book warned Mal about a special hell if he were to take advantage of a certain underage girl (Saffron) in "Our Mrs. Reynolds".


Chinese translations
Page # Chinese English
7 A crowd member says, "Zāo gāo!" "Not good." (Literally "spoiled cake")
9 One of Ava's pursuers says, "dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
9 Another of Ava's pursuers says, "niú fèn." "Cow poop."
11 Kaylee says, "Fang xin." "Rest assured."
12 Simon thinks, ta ma de. "Oh, fuck."
15 Simon thinks, gou shi crap
52 Mal says, "Bi zui, Jayne!" Bi zui=shut up
55 Kaylee thinks Simon is so shuai. shuai=handsome
62 Zoe mutters, "Gou shi!" crap
63 Book yells, "Lao tian ye!" "God!"
65 Wash says, "Wa, Simon." "Wow, Simon."
69 Mal says, Bi zui shut up
77 Wash says, "Qu ni de, Jayne!" "Screw you, Jayne!"
79-82 Simon refers to River as mei mei. little sister
82 Mal says, "dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
89 One of Ava's pursuers says, "Ta ma de hun dan!" "Fucking bastard!"
90 Kaylee thinks, Zāo gāo! "Not good." (Literally "spoiled cake")
93 Kaylee mutters, "Gen hou zi bi diu shi..." "Genuine monkey coins lost..."
93 Kaylee calls Mal a ke wu de lao bao jun "nasty old tyrant"
94 Mal says, "Wo de tian da, what just hit me?" "Oh my god, what just hit me?"
94 Mal refers to Ava as mei mei. little sister
108 Simon thinks, Wa. Wow
113 Inara refers to River as mei mei. little sister
114 Wash says, gou shi crap
116 Wash says, "Wo de ma!" Essentially, "Mother of Jesus!"
116-117 Jayne says, "dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
118 Wash says, gou le enough
122 Mal says, tian xiao de "name of all that's sacred"
122 Mal says "dong ma?" "Understand?"
123 Kaylee accuses Mal of being a real hun dan today. bastard
128 Mal says "dong ma?" "Understand?"
140 Jayne says, "dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
141 Wash says, "Wa." "Wow."
142 Wash says, tian xiao de "name of all that's sacred"
144 Wash mutters, "Zhe ge ji hua zhen ke pa." "This plan is terrible."
145-146 Inara refers to Merry as mei mei. little sister
147 Guanyin refers to Inara as mei mei. little sister
151 Book yells, "Lao tian ye, Zoe, I hope these tian sha de e mo burn for this..." "God, I hope these God damn monsters burn for this..."
152 Mal mutters, "Zāo gāo." "Not good." (Literally "spoiled cake")
157 Wash mutters, "Ren ci de fo zu, my poor heart." Ren ci de fo zu=Merciful Buddha protect us
158 Anna says, lao tian ye God
159 Inara calls Mal a yu ben de idiot. yu ben de=stupid
163 Mal says bi zui and niu shi "shut up" and "cow dung"
166 Joseph Liu tells River, "Zhu fu ni, mei mei." "Blessings on you, little sister."
168 Zoe thinks, Lao tian ye God
170 Wash thinks, Ta ma de. Oh, fuck.
170 Wash says, "Wo de ma." Essentially, "Mother of Jesus."
171 Zoe says, "Honey, is this zhan dou de yi kuai rou botherin' you?" zhan dou de yi kuai rou="dangly piece of flesh"
174 Mayhew mutters, "Gou shi." "Crap."
176 Kaylee says, "Wo de ma..." Essentially, "Mother of Jesus..."
178 Mal says, tian xiao de and dong ma "name of all that's sacred" and "understand".
178 Simon refers to River as mei mei. little sister
182 Jayne says, "dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
183 Anna says ta ma de "Oh, fuck"
186 Inara says, "Ren ci de fo zu..." "Merciful Buddha protect us..."
188 Simon refers to River as mei mei. little sister
189 Mal says, "Lao tian ye." "God."
190 Mal thinks, Ta ma de. Oh, fuck.
191 Mal says, "Ai ya tian a." "Merciless Hell."
191 Anna whispers, "Ren ei de fo zu, qing bao you wo men." "Merciful Buddha protect us."
198 Simon refers to River as mei mei. little sister
202 Simon thinks, Ai ya, tian a and wo de ma "Merciless Hell" and essentially, "Mother of Jesus."
202 Mal thinks, gou shi and fei wu "crap" and "junk"
204 Sheriff Zhou says, "...we're going to get to the bottom of this niu fen..." niu fen="cow dung"
205 Simon thinks, Lao tian ye. God
206 Mal mutters to Book, "Shen sheng de gao wan, preacher." "Holy testicles, preacher."
210 Mal says dong ma Understand
210 Simon thinks, Wo de ma. Essentially, "Mother of Jesus..."
211-212 Simon refers to River as mei mei. little sister
216 Zoe says, "Ta ma de!" Oh, fuck.
223 Uncle Nate is referred to as a mean-looking little piece of le se. le se=garbage


Back to Firefly/Serenity Episode Studies