Spoilers galore ahead
This was the first episode of Cowboy Bebop I saw, because a friend knowledgeable about the series (and who had superlative taste in anime) said it was an excellent introduction to the series as a whole.
He’s exactly right, and the episode not only stands alone, but has staying power. We encounter our bounty hunters alone in space, bored on their ship, and without any work for money. An alien is on board the ship unbeknownst to them, hunting them one-by-one.
Without any work, they live their principles wholly. Jet loses a dice game to a cheating Faye, and loses all his clothes and possessions. He articulates a principle that the episode says is “Lesson One:” Humans were meant to work and sweat to earn a living. Those that try to get rich quick, or live at the expense of others, all get divine retribution somewhere along the line. He’s clearly punishing himself, but he’s also the first bitten by the alien. Jet passes out while Spike, trying to diagnose what afflicts him, reads out various ailments and worries Jet all the more eliminating their possibility.
Faye gets bitten by the alien shortly after stating Lesson 2: Survival of the fittest is the law of nature. We deceive, or we are deceived. Thus, we flourish, or perish. Nothing good ever happened to me when I trusted others. If Jet fainted fearful of possibility, Faye hits the deck when thinking about how unfair it is to die. Something about “deception” and “flourishing” and maybe even “perishing” alone cannot grasp nothingness; it’s too overwhelming a concept for Faye.
Ed and Ein go out with heat-sensing equipment to hunt the alien Spike suspects is on board. Ed is the first to say it’s an alien creature they’re dealing with, but does so oblivious to the consequence that they could all die. Ed’s hunting is loud and childish; the lesson Ed has for us is: If you see a stranger, follow him. How does this lesson compare to the other two? It rejects justice/injustice wholly and the fear accompanying both Faye and Jet. It replaces fear with curiosity. Curiosity alone solves nothing for others. Ein, hanging out with Ed, gets promptly bitten by the creature. Ed herself gets lost and Spike finds it impossible to find her. Ed doesn’t get bitten – as we find out at the end of the episode, when confronted with the alien, she simply ate him and went to sleep with a full tummy.
Spike caused the whole problem of the alien creature. He got his hands on a Ganymede rock lobster a year ago and hid it. This is, at least for this episode, a combination of Jet and Faye. We can see his willingness to try and store good fortune, an extension of Jet’s reasoning. And he certainly was deceptive in trying not to get anyone else to eat his good find. The rock lobster, left in a fridge in a remote part of the ship, mutated into a whole bunch of biting alien slime and god-knows-what-else. Thus, Spike’s lesson: Don’t leave things in the fridge. It is notable that Spike, as hunter, is following Ed’s principle. But “don’t leave things in the fridge” is the whole of the series from one perspective. Spike never escapes his past.