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SYFY WIRE Outlander

A lurking threat returns in Outlander's 'Mercy Shall Follow Me'

By Carly Lane
Outlander 510 Roger and Brianna

Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 5 episode “Mercy Shall Follow Me.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.

Wow. Wow wow wow. We're heading into the final stretch of this season, and it really doesn't seem like this show is pulling any punches anymore. What Outlander has always done well is its depiction of dramatic moments riddled with tension, and even if you've read the books (like your faithful recapper has) and know what's coming, it doesn't make those scenes feel any less powerful or weighty. There were several instances where I paused to clock the time in this week's episode and was genuinely surprised at how much the show managed to fit into a single hour. And just think: we still have two more eps left, one of them written by Diana Gabaldon herself!

Previously: The Frasers had another scary brush with death, this one for Jamie after he was unexpectedly bitten by a pit viper during a buffalo hunt with his fellow men from the Ridge. After an intense debate with Claire over whether or not he wanted her to save his leg and let the venom eventually kill him or cut it off in order to save his life, Jamie consented to the amputation — but Brianna, in a bit of quick thinking and some engineering skills, rigged a syringe out of one of the snake's fangs so that Claire could inject penicillin into the wound and save both Jamie and his leg. Just another day on Outlander, really.

In Wilmington, Stephen Bonnet is meeting with Gerald Forbes — apparently, the man has appointed himself Bonnet's lawyer? — who's trying to impart some wise advice to him in terms of his business dealings. Smuggling tobacco and whiskey into North Carolina is one thing; trafficking women, however, appears to be regarded in a less honorable light. Forbes also points out that if Bonnet wants to claim custody of young Jeremiah as his son, he needs to cease certain "business dealings." But Bonnet waves it off, telling Forbes it's none of his concern — and Forbes has his own motivations for not pressing the issue, because he's only rendering his legal services to Bonnet with his own compensation in mind. Once Bonnet has Jeremiah declared his legal heir, the plan seems to be that Jocasta and her new husband Duncan Innes will meet with an untimely accident, and thus River Run and all its holdings will revert to young Jemmy. Forbes wants a piece of that pie, but he's also still carrying a grudge of his own against Jocasta for Brianna's rejection of his courtship last season. To that, all I'll say is: get over it, bro.

Outlander 510 Claire and Brianna

Also in Wilmington? The Frasers and company, since Jamie and Roger are preparing for their meeting with Bonnet. Ian's been assigned the part of "Alexander MacKenzie" to lure the man into a trap. Brianna and Claire are hanging out in town too, partly so Claire can get a replacement syringe made — but their presence is noticed by an unseen person lurking behind some stalls. At dawn, while the men prepare for their rendezvous with Bonnet in a rowhouse off the beaten path, the ladies are collecting shells and sponges on the beach, watching a pod of whales swimming in the distance. Roger tells Jamie he wants to be the one to fire the killing shot at Bonnet, but when a group of sailors arrives, the man in question isn't among them. Instead, he's followed Brianna and Claire to the beach, and after grabbing Claire to hold at knifepoint, he knocks her out with the hilt of his blade when Brianna's pistol doesn't fire. Claire wakes up on the beach alone an untold amount of time later — to find her daughter gone.

Brianna wakes to find Bonnet casually pouring tea like he hasn't just kidnapped her and brought her to an undisclosed location. Slowly, the truth of his intentions unravels — he continues to insist that Jeremiah is his son, and his reason for taking her is so that they can be one big happy family together. But his desires are warped in some twisted sense of what it means to be a true gentleman, and right now, Brianna is the sole participant in his messed-up fantasy. What choice does she have other than to play along, putting on the pretty dress he's bought for her to wear? It turns out that Bonnet is attempting to practice for his proposed future at River Run, living out a wealthier existence, and Brianna demonstrates the correct way to hold a fork at the dinner table but also uses her captor's insistence on being proper to enforce some distance between them. Taking advantage of Bonnet's inability to read, she recites the plot of one of her favorite novels, Moby Dick, to him from memory. 

In her close-quarters confinement with Bonnet, though, Brianna begins to learn some interesting information — for starters, the fact that the man is plagued by a recurring nightmare of dying by drowning, of dark waters closing in over his head while he's helpless to stop it. She gently informs Bonnet she'll be going to bed alone, and thankfully he doesn't force the issue. In the morning, she tries to sweet-talk Bonnet into letting her leave so she can collect Jemmy herself and return — and at first, Bonnet seems accepting of the idea, but when he tries to seal the agreement on a kiss, her lackluster response convinces him that she's been lying to him all along. In retaliation, or in his words, to show Bree what she's missing, he calls in a prostitute named Eppie (who apparently considers Bonnet one of her regulars) and proceeds to have sex with her right there in the sitting room — in front of Brianna. When Bonnet redresses and leaves, Brianna pleads with the other woman to get a message to her family, but Eppie advises her to mind her tongue and just go along with whatever Bonnet wants.

Outlander 510 Jamie and Claire

Back in Wilmington, the rest of Bree's family is searching high and low for her — and their first attempt is with Phillip Wylie, who swears that he has no idea where Bonnet is but knows he takes regular meetings at a brothel known as Mistress Sylvie's. Lo and behold, who do the Frasers run into at said brothel than Eppie herself? Claire notices the woman is in pain and correctly diagnoses her with anisomelia, or leg length discrepancy. After she offers her healing aid, Eppie quietly (albeit reluctantly) comes out with the truth, telling Claire they'll need a boat if they want to find Bonnet on the island where he resides. The timing couldn't be more crucial, either, because Bonnet has decided to sell Brianna off to a "friend" of his named Captain Howard, and after an inspection scene that's as distressing as it is viscerally uncomfortable, Brianna's taken down to the beach where a rowboat is waiting to bring her to a ship docked off-shore. But Claire, Jamie, Roger, and Ian come in with pistols blazing! Howard gets the right idea and peaces out, and Roger gets the satisfaction of punching Bonnet several times in the face. As the group assembles over Bonnet's bloodied body, Brianna declares that she wants the man lawfully tried for his crimes.

Of course, what is Bonnet eventually sentenced to? Death by drowning. As the waters begin to close in and he starts to live out his most persistent nightmare, helplessly chained to a wooden post, someone fires a shot from land that hits him in the head and kills him instantly. It's Brianna on the other end of the rifle, and she hands it back to Roger, an impassive expression on her face. "Was that mercy, or was it to make sure he's dead?" Roger asks. Brianna doesn't answer. Maybe she doesn't even really know the reason herself.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:
- I cannot believe anyone would dare try and kill Aunt Jocasta, let alone Gerald Forbes. HOW COULD YOU, BILLY BOYD. But when Jocasta suggests divvying up her fortune among her family, Forbes sees all that potential money slipping away and lashes out in rage, trying to smother her with a pillow. Thank God for Ulysses, who literally comes in and snaps the man's neck for attempted murder. But she's OK, she's fine, everything's fine. And I thought this episode couldn't get any more thrilling! 

That’s it for this week, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, as well as your predictions for where the next episode will take us, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. See you next week!