I think "Shindig" really may be one of my favorite episodes. It just makes me so happy.
I had forgotten how many gorgeous shots are in there (at the ball predominantly, but not just there), and there is just so much awesome.
Mary Alice is definitely in the "Mmm, Jayne" camp. Eric said something nice about Kaylee and said he doesn't like the captain. I can't keep track of whom he likes and dislikes and am really okay with that evolving as he watches the show; it just means I'm frequently thrown.
He said at the end today that he's not a big fan of the plots but that the writing is very good; he says the show isn't better than Buffy but then little is. Of course, he constantly talks throughout the show (the first half of an episode especially), which frustrates me no end -- though with the subtitles on this is less of a problem. He said he fully understood what was going on, but I feel like you miss the subtleties if you're not paying attention. Of course, this is in part because having watched these episodes multiple times before, I'm watching largely for little stuff.
I don't have much to add to my previous commentary, but when Inara and Mal are arguing and Mal says, "And you think following rules will buy you a nice life, even if the rules make you a slave." and Inara turns away, I was reminded of the fact that Inara was on Sihnon for years and made the counter-intuitive decision to ship out with smugglers -- something I didn't think much of when I was first watching the show but which I've seen talked/thought about a lot in fandom -- so obviously there's a tension inside her in regard to that world.
Edit: I forgot to mention, Eric was explaining that Simon+River are on the run and that Mal took them on because he's nice, and I added that he tries to act like he's not a nice guy but he really is -- "Like you, actually," I said, turning to Eric. (This has actually come up in conversation a lot recently -- talking with people and agreeing about what a good guy Eric is under the front he puts up.)