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Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 5 episode “Between Two Fires.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
Welcome back, sassenachs! I get the sense that you're probably reeling from the events of this week's episode just like I am, but fortunately for both of us, this is the place where I'm going to break it all down for you and offer a space for us to process everything. Sound good? Good.
Previously: It was a day of celebration, as Brianna and Roger finally tied the knot! Of course, even the happiest nuptials on Outlander can't pass by without a black cloud or two, and Jamie's came in the form of a guest appearance by Governor Tryon, who laid down the hammer on The Search for Murtagh in a big way — assigning him a babysitter in the form of one Lieutenant Knox to make sure he finally apprehends that wily wabbit wegulator Regulator. Meanwhile, Brianna received a shock of terrible news when she inadvertently heard Jamie and Lord John Grey whispering about the fact that Stephen Bonnet may be alive and well after all. It was a lot of ups and downs and tonight's episode was slated to promise us much more of the same. Let's dive in, shall we?
Life on Fraser's Ridge seems fairly idyllic most of the time, but there are moments when the relative peace its settlers have established shatters practically in an instant — and when you're the resident healer on the land like Claire is, it means you've got folks rolling up to your house in need of emergency medical assistance without any warning. This time, it's a woman named Mrs. Farrish and her husband, who genuinely seems like he might be on death's door. Instantly, Claire goes into doctor mode, trying to ascertain his condition and asking the woman what she might have provided to her husband to alleviate his symptoms — which, apparently, included the incredibly outdated practice of bloodletting (yeesh). By the time Claire realizes Mrs. Farrish has given her husband mercury, it's too late for her to do anything to help a man who has essentially been poisoned by folk medicine.
In secret, away from the eyes of his widow, Claire performs an autopsy on the man to confirm the cause of death, and it's exactly as she feared; Mr. Farrish was only suffering from a burst appendix, but the treatment his wife provided only worsened his condition and ultimately killed him. But she's disadvantaged as a physician in this current time period because, as a woman, no one will necessarily take her medical recommendations as anything more than advice to be followed or discarded. Certain advancements won't happen for several more centuries, but if there's one thing we know about our girl Claire, she's going to find a way to get the right information into people's hands — even if it means forging letters spelling out tips for basic healthcare under the alias of "Dr. Rawlings," the man who used to own the medical kit that's in her possession now.
But Claire's got several other more long-term plans in the making too, including hiring Marsali on as her new apprentice (which involves the very direct approach of showing her Mr. Farrish's autopsied body) and figuring out a way to harvest a strain of penicillin from moldy bread. Brianna warns her mother that introducing something as lifechanging as penicillin to society before it's supposed to be invented could have monumental repercussions — but as Claire reminds her daughter, she changed history when she came back through the stones to warn them about their impending deaths in a house fire last season. It's a risk Claire feels prepared to take in order to save lives, consequences be damned.
Meanwhile, Jamie's dealing with his own internal conflict about doing the right thing versus the safe thing. He's traveling alongside Knox — and on the road, they're warned about a riot in a nearby town, one that culminated in the tarring and feathering of several local officials and the capture of a few Regulators. Things seem to be off to a fairly amicable start between the two men in spite of their differing loyalties, but that shifts as soon as Knox talks about how much he's looking forward to seeing Murtagh hanged, and well, it only gets worse from there. When it comes time to interrogate the prisoners, Jamie's all but performing complicated gestures to try and indicate to them that he's secretly on their side, but an argument between Knox and one of the Regulators turns hostile and the lieutenant brandishes his sword, stabbing the man and killing him instantly.
As far as Knox is concerned, he gave the other man a soldier's death, a quick death, and later reminds Jamie that they've both sworn an oath to King and country. But Jamie's not about to leave the other prisoners to hang in the morning, and under cover of night sneaks over to where they're being kept to help free them. If he thought he'd be received with gratitude and appreciation, that's ... not the reaction he gets. The men don't depart without a dig at Jamie about his honor, while Jamie warns them that both of them — and Murtagh — need to leave town immediately. War continues to loom in the distance, and methinks Jamie is going to need to reassess his loyalties even as he proclaims he's trying to save as many lives as possible.
And finally, we conclude the episode with confirmation that Stephen Bonnet, the a-hole, is alive and well, dressed in some deceptively fine clothes and wielding a cane that may or may not be needed. He's amidst a crowd of onlookers placing bets on the outcome of a brawl between two women, making small talk with none other than Mr. Gerald Forbes (aka Billy Boyd, aka one of Brianna's potential suitors at Cross Creek last season) and offering his services to the man in terms of shipping goods that might not entirely be procured legally. When the woman Bonnet's placed money on wins, another man in the crowd accuses him of cheating. As you can imagine, Bonnet doesn't take well to that, and a duel by sword results but escalates all too violently when Bonnet chooses to cut the man's eyes out rather than allow him to yield per gentleman's terms. When he's chided for not killing the man outright, he chillingly declares, "I considered it, but I want to set a better example. I'm a father now."
- Roger's definitely having some insecurity in regard to his masculinity this week, and to be honest, I don't know how sorry I feel for him. A lot of it is, unfortunately, wrapped up in the commonly held ideals of the era and how a man's worth is defined by his ability to defend and protect his family, and I understand why, between Jamie leaving him behind at Fraser's Ridge and Brianna being a notably better shot than he is, he'd be feeling more and more motivated to go back to the present where it's less of a dog-eat-dog world. At the same time, my feeling is that there are ways for him to contribute to society on the Ridge, even if he might not know what they are just yet.
- Similarly, re: Roger and Bree, I couldn't really tell what kind of reaction he was having to discovering his wife's series of drawings depicting Bonnet's face. It's clear that this is a way for Bree to work through her feelings about the man, and if scribbling it out in charcoal or pencil over and over again is cathartic for her, then I say give her an empty sketchbook and let her go to town. Unfortunately, I have the sinking feeling that this is going to be the source of some conflict for them later on.
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. Will Jamie's oath to Tryon ultimately override his better nature? What kinds of newfangled medical techniques will Claire invent this season? And will Roger and Brianna go back through the stones after all? See you next week!