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Outlander's 'Never My Love' powerfully wraps up the season
Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 5 episode “Never My Love.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
It's hard to believe we're already here, at the finale, and to say this week's concluding episode (which, contrary to what your stream might have told you, only clocked in at a little under an hour) gave us some of the most heartwrenching visuals and powerful performances of the series to date might still be selling it short. It was also a really difficult watch, so in lieu of recapping everything beat by beat, certain details will be spared for the sake of readers. Nevertheless, I'm going to add in a content warning for discussions of rape and sexual assault for anyone who might be sensitive to those topics in case they don't want to read further.
Previously: A Lot happened. I know I say this every week — but truly, A Lot went down. Brianna and Roger finally decided it was time to travel back through the stones with baby Jemmy in the hopes of returning to their own time, only to wake up in seemingly the last place they ever expected to be. Meanwhile, a snooping Lionel Brown inadvertently stumbled across the evidence that the mysterious "Dr. Rawlings" who has been publishing medical advice in the newspaper is none other than Claire — and while Jamie, Fergus and some of the men of the Ridge were diverted away from her surgery by an explosion at the still, a group of men charged in, knocking Marsali unconscious and dragging Claire away. When Jamie returned to find his wife missing, his first act was to light the fiery cross that would call those who once swore an oath to go to war for him if necessary.
In moments of trauma, it can be easier to disassociate from the present, to imagine a happier time — something to cling to, to hold onto. It's what Claire returns to over and over again while she's being held captive by Lionel Brown and his men: a bright sunny house, a '60s song on the record player, a painting of a house that looks like the one she and Jamie built for themselves on Fraser's Ridge, her husband wrapping her in a blanket to keep her from shivering. The doorbell rings and it's a series of old and familiar faces showing up for one big Thanksgiving family dinner — Jocasta and Murtagh, Fergus and Marsali and their children, and Ian dressed as though he's just come home from the war. It's not a memory but one that Claire has crafted in her mind to fall back into, to offer both herself and us as the audience a retreat to lose ourselves in when the horrors of her reality become too much.
Just as we suspected, Lionel's reasons for orchestrating Claire's kidnapping are due to him learning that she'd been "Dr. Rawlings" all along, and he views her medical advice as an insult to him, blaming her for his own wife's reluctance to sleep with him. He plans to take her to Brownsville and expose her as the fake he knows her to be. Some of the men are warier of her given the rumors that she might be some kind of witch — including one named Tebbe, who gives her food and even considers letting Claire slip free as the group prepares to cross a creek ahead of Brownsville before that plan is ultimately foiled. But the biggest surprise of all comes at nightfall, when one of the others sneaks over to Claire and asks her if she knows who Ringo Starr is. He identifies himself as Wendigo Donner, a member of a group who had first traveled through the stones from 1968, and he's suspected she's like him for a long time now, realizing that "Dr. Rawlings" had to be someone from the future. Claire promises to help him travel back to his own time if he'll free her and help her escape, but Donner, afraid of what Lionel will do, insists they need to wait until the rest of the men fall asleep. He seems to be convinced that they're all talk as they sit around the campfire making lewd jokes about their plans for Claire — but, as we soon learn, that's not the case.
Rather than linger, we're taken back to that bright house, that same song playing, Jamie setting the table and checking on the Thanksgiving turkey, everyone sitting together and talking about what they're grateful for. Claire's trying to lose herself in the fantasy, hugs and happiness — but even in her mind, Roger and Brianna are absent from the table, and when the doorbell rings again, it's two police officers with the shocking news that they were lost along with Jemmy in a car accident. As the safety and warmth of Claire's dream start to fade away, we also check in with the MacKenzies themselves to find that they're, fortunately, alive and well. But Roger and Brianna have woken up inside the standing stones to find that... they haven't gone anywhere at all. Well, maybe they disappeared for a second, but they're right back where they started, with a confused but grateful Ian running over to greet them. There's no way they can try again with the gemstones now gone, so the only thing they can do now is head back to the Ridge. From a distance, they can see the fiery cross burning on the hill, and decide to hurry back as fast as they can. There's no time for happy reunions, and as soon as Bree and Roger learn what's happened, everyone's springing into action, every man who once pledged an oath to Jamie to fight for him and to rescue Claire.
When we return to Claire, she's lost in her dream, slow dancing with Jamie in the living room — but the sound of screaming and gunfire brings her out of it. The men of the Ridge have caught up to the group and now, there's going to be hell to pay. Josiah Beardsley, Ian, John Quincy Myers, Roger, Fergus, among others, cut down Claire's attackers with no mercy, and Jamie makes his way to where his wife lies bruised and traumatized. Myers approaches them with the news that some of the Brownsville men have survived the initial attack and offers the knife to Claire to carry out her own vengeance — but Jamie says that his wife has taken an oath to do no harm, so he will carry out vengeance in her place, and one by one, the rest of the men of Fraser's Ridge vow to do the same. Only two of them are spared — Donner, who seems to have disappeared at some point during the night, and Lionel Brown, who's left alive to answer for his transgressions.
After carefully, gently wrapping her in his plaid, Jamie takes Claire home — where she's reunited with Brianna and Marsali, among others. It's evident that the Fraser matriarch has been shaken by her experience, but, as she expresses to Jamie in private later, she doesn't want this to be the thing that shatters her for good. "I have lived through a f*cking World War. I have lost our child. I lost two husbands. ... I've been beaten and I've been betrayed. I've been imprisoned and I... I survived." But there's no time limit on processing trauma, and Claire's still reeling when she comes face-to-face with Lionel Brown, tied up in her surgery. There comes a beat when she picks up a scalpel, torn between using it or not and then finally lets it drop from her fingers before walking out. Less conflicted, however? Marsali, who privately informs Lionel that she's learned much in the way of healing from a woman she considers as a mother... but unlike Claire, she never swore any Hippocratic oath. When she injects him in the neck with Claire's syringe, it contains medicine that has been prepared with comfrey... and a dash of poisonous hemlock root.
Jamie delivers Lionel's body to Brownsville, where he informs Richard Brown in no uncertain terms of his brother's role in orchestrating Claire's kidnapping and rape. Richard's response is to point out that Lionel reaped what he sowed, and that Jamie did what he had to — but he may have to seek revenge on his brother's behalf, someday. It's on that ominous note that we return to the Ridge, where Claire and Jamie stand together on their porch and look out over the land. But storm clouds are gathering in the distance, and there might not be peace for much longer with the American Revolution brewing too. Still, it's a moment of quiet for them both as they take each other's hands. Claire reasserts her love for her husband, and Jamie gives her his own promise: "When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not 'I love you,' ye'll ken it's because I didna have time." Later that night, lying in each other's arms and listening to the rain on the roof, Jamie asks Claire how she's feeling. "Safe," she whispers.
- Honestly, give Caitriona Balfe and Lauren Lyle all the awards for this episode. These women have been turning in amazing performances and this finale was just a reminder of what acting powerhouses they both are in their own right.
- Raise your hand if you were moved to tears by the men of the Ridge swearing to deliver vengeance on Claire's behalf. It was then I realized just how big their family has become — Ian and Fergus are like sons to her now, and the fact that all of them would be ready to ride into battle for her was a beautifully emotional scene.
- Side note, but did anyone else not realize that Marsali was pregnant again until Jamie said something about it?
- Anyone wonder if the reason the MacKenzies didn't go back through the stones was that Jemmy might have been thinking of the Ridge as home and that kept them from traveling back to the present? It's really the only home he's ever known.
That’s it for this week, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. It's been a genuine privilege getting to recap this show for another season, and it was definitely a journey. Back to the Droughtlander we go — at least, until Season 6!