In his past life, when he was still working for the syndicate, Spike had what you might call friends. Julia and Vicious were part of his crew until everything got blown to hell. Since then, Spike has purposely distanced himself from others, especially those who live with him aboard the Bebop. But every once in a while, that cold steel facade drops ever so slightly -- followed immediately by intense regret.
In the episode "Waltz for Venus," Spike is aggressively befriended by a man named Rocco. After seeing Spike take down some goons with ease, Rocco has a new idol. He pesters Spike into teaching him how he was able to turn his opponent's momentum against them. Spike eventually relents, and gives his new student a crash course.
Turns out, Rocco needs the lesson a little more than he was letting on. When some goons show up looking for him, Rocco bolts, leaving Spike with a special "package," which he'll pick up later. It's not a fake placenta full of Bloody Eye, but it's close.
The very rare, very fragile plant known as "Grey Ash" is worth millions upon millions, mostly because it's a cure for a disease called "Venus Sickness." Oh, by the way, all of this takes place on Venus, the planet second closest to the sun, the same rock whose average surface temperature is around 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Venus itself doesn't have a ton to do with the story here -- I just always thought it was weird that, in the world of the show, mankind colonizes and terraforms a good amount of the solar system within the next 60 years.
Humans made Venus livable via the use of giant floating plant islands. Though these massive sythetic/organic structures did a good job of filtering out the atmosphere's copious carbon dioxide, the spores that rained down from them made some people blind. This is what happened to Rocco's sister Stella, who Spike finds hiding out in an abandoned starship.
So now it makes sense. Rocco has gotten himself mixed up with some bad guys, all in an effort to help cure his sister's blindness. What he doesn't seem to understand is that Stella seems completely fine with being blind. Nevertheless, Rocco is determined to risk his life to restore Stella's sight. At least now he's got some new moves, since Spike taught Rocco to "move like water."
Of course, that can't be it. When the past catches up with you in the Cowboy Bebop universe, it's not like you can just grab it by the wrist and flip it on to the ground. There are consequences, most of which involve a heartbreaking but inevitable death, preferably when said character is at their happiest.
We all knew this was coming. The moment Rocco befriended Spike, he was dead. There aren't many happy endings for the people in this show, much less the ones who get mixed up with the wrong people. But even at Death's door, staring up at his idol, he found something to be happy about.
Before he passes, Rocco wonders if he and Spike could have been friends, in another life. That may be, but then again, part of what brought them together was that they were both men with checkered backgrounds who started running with a shady crowd. Without that, what do they really have in common, besides a fondness for quoting Bruce Lee?
After Rocco's demise, Spike puts up the money for Stella's eyesight operation without telling her. It's an uncharacteristic move for someone who tends to try his hardest not to get involved in the affairs of others. Maybe Spike felt responsible for what happened, or perhaps he saw something of himself in Rocco. Either way, when Stella finds out that her brother died trying to help her, she's understandably upset. She'd rather have Rocco around and never see him than gain eyesight just in time to see him lowered into the ground.
In the last scene of the episode, Spike walks outside and notices those blindness-causing spores float down from the sky.
It's left ambiguous as to just what this is supposed to mean. I get the feeling that look on his face is Spike realizing that while he helped one person, there are always going to be spores making sisters blind, and stupid brothers needlessly killing themselves to help them.
Or maybe the animators just thought it looked cool.
Though she had arguably the healthiest upbringing, that's exactly why Faye's backstory is so painful. She grew up as a regular kid in Singapore, until she was involved in an accident so severe that she had to be put into cryogenic stasis until science was able to fix her condition. In the episodes leading up to "Speak Like a Child," we learn that Faye has no memories of the time before she awoke, and because of the whole "moon blowing up" thing, all the data on her previous life was lost. Upon her awakening 54 years after going under the ice, Faye is faced with mountains of debt, and decides to live life on the run.
That takes us to her time on the Bebop, which she spends getting to know and then attempting to distance herself from the rest of the crew. And so, when a mysterious package arrives with her name on it, Faye bolts; she assumes it has to be from a collection agency or one of her enemies, and asking her space roomies to help out is absolutely out of the question for someone with a fear of abandonment.
Spike, lovable dummy that he is, just opens the package. It's not a threat, or a bomb, or a bomb threat -- it's a tape.
A Betamax tape, to be precise. Much of the episode revolves around Jet and Spike's quest to find the proper equipment to see what's contained on the analog relic. These misadventures are of course delightful, the highlights being the techie hipster/geek who worships the now-ancient techology, and points them to an derelict mall find a proper VCR. But the real important here is the payoff, when Ed helps the gang finally boot up the tape. They find out that the person who sent the tape to Faye is... Faye.
More specifically, it's a young, pre-amnesia version of Faye, a recording made to send to herself 10 years in the future. Somehow, that tape survived decades of forwarding though the postal system, bouncing around until it finally hit paydirt. We see Young Faye is shy but very bright, precocious yet still naive. Besides the obvious physical similarities, Young Faye is an entirely different person than her older self.
Naturally, Faye has all sorts of feelings about this, but one of the most interesting parts of this scene is how the rest of the Bebop reacts to it. Spike and Jet, who don't know Faye is peeking in on the tape from behind them, are nothing short of awestruck. They know next to nothing about Faye beyond the fact that she's an opportunist and a compulsive gambler, so seeing her as more of a person comes as something of a shock -- especially since Young Faye has some insights as to how Old Faye operates.
Young Faye is hopelessly optimistic about the future, unaware that a hyperspace gate incident will kill billions and drive humanity to populate other astral bodies of the solar system. The girl on the tape just wants a good life for her older self -- and not just because she's the person Young Faye will eventually become. Through it all, Young Faye knows that she won't be there to help Adult Faye through hard times, so that's what the tape is for. YF even goes as far as to perform a cheer that not only encourages Faye to be the best person she can, but also never forget the person that she was.
Adult Faye, of course, has no memory of this. She can't remember her accident, much less sending a tape to her future self. This is the first thing Faye has really seen that proves she has a past, but it doesn't trigger any flashbacks. This tape has made Faye more whole, but since she can't grant Young Faye's wish to never be forgotten, it also makes her feel emptier than ever.
Those familiar with the show know that Faye later learns more about where she came from, and we'll get to that soon. But she might wish she never knew anything at all.