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Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 5 episode “Better to Marry Than Burn.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
We meet again, sassenachs! I must admit that when this show is firing on all cylinders — all those emotional, heart-wrenching cylinders — it really knows how to deliver a solid episode, and this week's was a winner as far as I'm concerned. I was reminded of a lot while I was watching — that Roger really can prove a valuable asset to the Ridge with his brains rather than his brawn, that Jocasta and Murtagh continually know how to make me FEEL THINGS, and that Jamie and Claire still sometimes have that same simmery tension that they used to when they were first dancing around each other in Scotland back in the day. (That scene in the stables. WHEW.) But before we get there, let's circle back and refresh our memories on what happened last week.
Previously: Claire performed a pair of twin tonsillectomies like a badass, Roger and Bree had a much-needed talk about the seemingly impossible-to-kill Stephen Bonnet before deciding it would be safer for their family if they and Jemmy went back through the stones, and Jamie... strangled a dude? Not great, even if it was a kill-or-be-killed situation, and it remains to be seen if that's going to have any negative ripple effects throughout the rest of the season. Anyway, we're officially at the halfway point as of tonight! Hard to believe, but nonetheless true.
It's never a dull moment on Outlander, and while we kicked off Season 5 with one wedding, it's time for another one: Jocasta's! That's right; Jamie's aunt has officially accepted Duncan Innes' proposal, and as Jamie, Claire, and many other guests converge on River Run, it's poised to be the social event of the season. But as we see, Jocasta's reflecting on her previous marriage — to Hector Cameron — while she prepares for her next one. In a flashback, we're introduced to the family back in Scotland as they're stopped on the road by the English, which includes Jocasta, Hector, and their daughter Morna. When one of the redcoats spots a concealed chest beneath their carriage, he breaks open the lock to reveal gold bearing King Louis' insignia on it and (correctly) deduces that Hector is a Jacobite sympathizer smuggling it for Charles Stuart. Pistols are drawn on both sides, but in the chaos of the standoff, Hector accidentally shoots Morna instead, and a heartbroken Jocasta is forced to leave her daughter's body behind as she and her husband flee, with nothing but a blue ribbon to remember her by. When Duncan shows up to her chamber for a pre-wedding conversation, it's clear that Jocasta's operating under the mindset that this is a business proposal, nothing more — but that isn't stopping the mistress of River Run from making it a big party, and the ceremony's not even for another day!
Of course, Jamie and Claire are present and looking all fancy and dapper, even as Jamie quietly bemoans the lack of Murtagh at Jocasta's side. He's not looking forward to rubbing elbows with the people who had actively campaigned for his godfather to be hanged — including Governor Tryon (who comes off a bit frosty with Claire when she inadvertently acknowledges his wife by the incorrect title), and in the course of the conversation, we learn that a recent law has been passed preventing 10 or more men from gathering together, presumably to prevent any more covert plotting. When Tryon brings up Lieutenant Knox's recent demise, his wife takes that as a sign to lead Claire away from the men and their "morbid talk of politics," but then their paths cross with an even more odious person: Phillip Wylie, one of the plantation owners we met back in Season 4. Mistress Tryon attempts to do our girl Claire a solid and divert him away, but she can only keep his attention away from grossly inserting himself into Claire's space for so long.Back at Fraser's Ridge, Roger and Brianna have been dealing with a wee sick Jemmy (fortunately, it's only a cold), but their problems are about to get more complicated. When Adso the kitty brings in a "gift" from outside, they realize it's a locust — and the tenants of the Ridge might have a Biblical plague on their hands. If they don't get this under control quickly, the full swarm will arrive and ruin their crops, and their livelihoods by extension. Roger assembles the farmers together and one suggests setting fire to the fields, but there's a risk if the wind changes and the blaze heads for their homes instead. In terms of an alternate solution, Roger's at a loss, and the tenants are less than pleased when he doesn't come up with a strategy right away. But then he's reminded of a story his father read to him about a plague of locusts in the American West; the settlers used smoke to drive the insects away before they could even land on the crops to begin with. Granted, they have to use pots filled with literal poop and goose fat and set them on fire to create the effect, so it's a very stinky operation, but as the smoke begins to billow and the tenants use clean sheets to waft it over the fields, they're able to keep the swarm from landing.
Meanwhile, Claire really can't seem to shake Wylie, but in the process of being forced to make painfully awkward conversation with him — seriously, the man either does not know how to read the look of extreme get-me-out-of-here on Claire's face or doesn't care — he divulges that he's been working with "an Irish sea-faring gentleman" in Wilmington who can procure rare and desired items. Seeing an opportunity to learn of Bonnet's current whereabouts, Claire tries to loosen Wylie's lips further over a glass of Jamie's whiskey, but Wylie, mistakenly interpreting this as a come-on, makes a very unwelcome advance on her in the stables. Claire, to her credit, can definitely fend for herself and literally shoves Wylie down into a pile of horse dung — but Jamie also shows up to threaten the rake at knifepoint, promising that if he sees Wylie near his wife again, he's a dead man.As Wylie slinks off, Claire realizes that they're going to have to find another way to get information on Bonnet out of him, and Jamie decides to use Wylie's love of gambling to their advantage via a game of whist. If Jamie wins, he'll take Wylie's prized stallion; if Wylie wins, he can leave with his pride intact. But Wylie laughs in his face at the suggestion that pride is even on the same scale and suggests Jamie return when he has something of more value, i.e. Claire's gold wedding ring. Understandably, Claire is not happy about Jamie gambling with the one thing she has left of Frank, but Jamie insists she needs to have a little faith in his ability to hold on to what she treasures. Claire's not so sure that it's Bree's honor Jamie is considering in this situation, and after a tense staredown, she drops both of her wedding rings into Jamie's hand and storms away.
While we don't witness the game of whist, we don't have to wait long to find out that Jamie's luck at cards has only continued. When husband and wife reunite later on that night, Jamie is tipsy on victory and drinking a little too much and Claire is still feeling sensitive after their argument, but they're definitely both riled in another sense, if you catch my drift. If there's one thing we know about these two, it's that they, ahem, f*** as passionately as they fight — sometimes at the same time — and all of that rising tension between them has to go somewhere, so why not channel all their frustrations via a little romp in the stables? By the time they come up for air, it's clear they've made up, and Jamie gently puts Claire's rings back on her fingers with a solemn promise: "These... will never leave your hands again, I swear it." He also reveals that he'd allowed Wylie to keep his horse on the condition that the man buy into the family whiskey business — and get him an introduction with Bonnet, albeit under the alias of "Alexander Malcolm."
And as for Bonnet, well, he's sitting down for tea with Gerald Forbes, who divulges that Jocasta Cameron has just signed over ownership of River Run to his son...
- It will never not delight me when David Berry makes an appearance on this show. Lord John Grey grinning and bearing his way through dancing with all the marriageable girls in the province at Jocasta's pre-wedding party was a terrific side moment, although I continually wish we were getting more of him this season. What's the status on that spinoff show, Starz?
- It looks like Claire's healthcare tips, written and printed under the pseudonym of Rawlings, have circulated into high society too; she overhears one of the guests at Jocasta's wedding whispering about how her husband is now "sleeping in the guest-chamber" during certain times of the month, per the doctor's suggestion.
- Are Murtagh and Jocasta going to keep breaking my heart? Signs point to yes.
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!