The show opens with Kaylee insisting that the always-proper Simon never uses swear words, despite his protestations that he does whenever they're "appropriate." Inara departs for an overnight meeting with a client. A noise in the infirmary brings Kaylee and Simon to find Jayne trashing the room in a search for bandages to tape concealed weapons to his body. It seems that Jayne is concerned about enemies he made in the territory a few years ago.
As they arrive at the Canton factory settlement, Kaylee suggests to Mal that Simon join them on their expedition to recover some hidden loot. Mal considers that having the well-dressed Simon pose as an upper-class buyer of Canton's special ceramic-making mud is a useful strategy. Shepherd Book reassures the dismayed doctor that he will watch over his sister. Simon ineptly plays his role before the unconcerned foreman, then the crew wanders off to locate their contact. Mal comments on Jayne's absurd attire — a heavy coat with a hood and goggles during an apparently hot day. When Wash remarks that he doubts anyone will remember Jayne, they come upon a life-sized mud statue of Jayne. An astonished Simon remarks to himself, "Son of a bitch...."
While an alarmed Jayne fails to break his compatriots away from their admiration of the statue, Inara is meeting with the local magistrate, Higgins — the man Jayne crossed years ago. The officious slaveowner has hired Inara to bed his timid son Fess, who is 26 and is not yet "a man." Higgins reveals a penchant for dominating his son's life by attempting to rush the ceremony, but Inara intends to give Fess a proper Companion union and politely but forcefully shoos the father out of her shuttle. She reassures the naïve Fess that he need not be like his father, only to be himself, which will make him stronger.
Book enters Serenity's commons area to find River "fixing" his Bible by cutting, pasting, and marking up the pages. Her erratic patter alternates between logical analysis of its "contradictions" with oddly connected streams of thought. Book tries to explain that "you don't fix the Bible," but she complains, "It's broken. It doesn't make sense." Book explains that faith isn't a matter of making sense, but a matter of allowing a belief to change one's life for the better. Book tries to retrieve his torn Bible pages, but River refuses to let them go, he reluctantly lets her keep them.
In a bar, the crew "enjoys" the local beer, "mudder's milk." Simon explains that it's similar to the beer that ancient Egyptian rulers fed their slaves to keep them healthy enough to work and sleepy enough at night to prevent unrest. A well-dressed gentleman arrives to tell the smugglers of complications to their job — namely, the brutal death of their middleman Kessler. The contact suggests lying low until they come up with a way to move the loot past the foreman, but a troubadour suddenly strikes a chord and sings "Jayne / The man they called Jayne." Their jaws dropping, Serenity's crew listens to the entire bar singing "The Ballad of Jayne Cobb." When the song mentions money falling from the sky, a stunned Jayne realizes what happened to the missing cash he and a partner had stolen from the magistrate, and had been forced to jettison in order to escape from anti-aircraft fire.
Back on Serenity, River brings the wrecked Bible back to Book, but when he rises from his sink with his white hair untied and sprouting from his head, she shrieks and runs off. Zoe chuckles as Book unsuccessfully tries to coax the frightened girl to come out of hiding.
As the crew leaves the bar, they find a huge crowd cheering for the beloved "Hero of Canton" outside. Trying to escape the crowd, Jayne runs back inside, only to find himself offered the best whiskey and accolades from all. The smuggling contact is horrified by Mal's supposed idea of "lying low," but Mal soon develops a plan around this considerable distraction. While Jayne carouses with the admiring locals, Mal heads back to Serenity with Wash and tells Zoe how this unexpected celebration of Jayne is exactly the cover they need to sneak the stolen merchandise past the foreman and his "prods." Unfortunately, the foreman has learned of Jayne's return, and reports this to the magistrate. The official then releases a man from a cramped prison box and gives him a loaded weapon. The freed prisoner's surprise is increased when he learns about Jayne's return. The man happens to be Stitch Hessian, the partner Jayne abandoned four years ago during his flight from Canton.
Mal returns to fetch Kaylee and Simon, finding the engineer draped over him on a couch. He tries to explain to Mal how "nothing happened," but once again manages to insult the frustrated Kaylee. Collecting a tipsy Jayne, they head off, but Kaylee stops Simon in his tracks with her scorn. As the doctor eats breakfast alone, Stitch arrives. The scarred criminal brutalizes him in an attempt to locate Jayne, but the roars of an approving crowd outside give away his location instead. Stitch drags Simon along as a hostage to confront Jayne.
Back in Inara's shuttle, Fess expresses disappointment in not feeling different after losing his virginity. Fess's self-discovery, however, is interrupted when he finds himself summoned to a criminal hearing for a villain whom the magistrate plans to capture.
Mal, Zoe, and Wash haul the cargo on their buggy and load it onto Serenity, while Jayne, warming to the idea of positively changing the mudders' lives, gives a moving, if not particularly eloquent, speech before the adoring crowd. Suddenly a shot rings out and Stitch appears, dragging the doctor along. After tossing Simon aside, Stitch addresses the crowd, telling them what really happened, and how Jayne's Robin Hood-like act was just a mistake. Stitch moves to shoot Jayne, however a young mudder leaps in front of the "hero," blocking the shot. After Jayne kills his former partner, he runs to the mudder boy and yells at his lifeless body, unable to accept his sacrifice. He shouts to the crowd how he is no hero, that there aren't any people who'd ever be willing to help them, just "people like me." Jayne knocks down his statue in disgust.
When the crew reboards Serenity, Wash attempts to take off, but finds the ship "land-locked" per the magistrate's order. It is quickly released, however, as Fess has decided to prove himself a man by defying his father's attempt to capture the "Hero of Canton." Kaylee has a heart-to-heart talk with Simon and briefly makes him worry about his propriety after the previous night's party.
In the cargo bay, Jayne broods about the mudder's selflessness and how it eats at him that, despite Stitch's telling them the truth, they're probably going to put his statue back up. Mal attempts to reassure him by pointing out, "Ain't about you, Jayne; it's about what they need."
Jayne, heartbroken and confused, looks down to the empty cargo bay. "... Don't make no sense."