Thursday, April 2, 2020

Oaths and Obligations: A recap of Season 5 episode 7 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown 

To swear an oath means to make a solemn promise regarding one’s future actions. It is something that is not taken lightly, as an oath brings with it the obligation to act in a certain way, regardless of the consequences. To this point in the season, many characters have sworn oaths to different people and for different reasons. But it is in this episode where we finally see the consequences of these promises. 

As the credits come to a close, we are briefly taken to modern times. A man is playing the guitar, and turns away to jot down the musical notation to a song called “The Ballad of Roger Mac.” This is an interesting sequence, hinting that whatever is to come is going to be memorable. In literary terms, ballads are narratives that tell a self-contained story, a story which can be tragic, historical, romantic or comic. Given that a ballad is traditionally passed down through generations, this brief scene hints that Roger’s time in Jamie’s shadow is over and that something momentous is about to occur.

The episode itself begins in Hillsborough. Claire’s voiceover tells us that they have come prepared for battle, although the outcome of that battle is uncertain. A good soldier, Claire says, is ready to fight and die if needs be. But what can’t be prepared for is the possibility of fighting family in the time of war. And that is precisely what Jamie faces, since Murtagh will be on the opposite side of this particular battle. 

Roger is another reluctant fighter. When we first see the MacKenzies this episode, Roger is singing “My Darling Clementine” to Jemmy, who sits on the floor, mesmerised. Brianna stands nearby, smiling at the father and son moment. It is all too brief however, as Roger has to go.  Picking Jemmy up, he promises that he will be back to sing the rest of the song. 

The impending separation is weighing on them both. Roger wishes that Brianna had stayed at the Ridge, but she had wanted to be close to him for as long as she could. They will be safe here with friends, she assures him. Knowing that Jamie will be expecting him, Roger hands Jemmy to Lizzie, who has also travelled with them. Tactfully, Lizzie takes Jemmy to get breakfast, leaving Roger and Brianna alone. 

Brianna comments on the differences between their lives in the 20th century and in the present time. In the future, Brianna says, they would be preparing lunches and sending each other off to work, whereas here she has to send him off to war instead. 

Roger has something on his mind. He tells Brianna that he barely knew his own father before he had been killed in World War 2 and Jemmy is much younger than he had been. “If I don’t make it back,” he begins, but Brianna will not allow him to finish the sentence. Telling Roger that it is not going to happen, she promises that while he is away, she will tell Jemmy how brave his father is. 

Roger offers one hopeful alternative: perhaps Tryon will come to his senses and reach an agreement with the Regulators. They smile sadly, both knowing that this won’t happen and share a farewell kiss. Not quite prepared to let the previous conversation drop, Roger takes a more lighthearted approach, checking that Brianna knows all the words to Clementine. She assures him that she does, but since that she is no singer, Roger must keep the promise he has made to Jemmy and return to sing it himself. Tenderly, she strokes his cheek. 
“Goodbye, Roger Mac,” she says. 
“Goodbye, Mrs Mac,” he replies, equally tenderly. Slowly, he walks to the door and looks back one last time before he goes.

This is a lovely scene, gently and emotionally acted by Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. The reluctance and resignation of each character is achingly apparent, as is the love the two have for each other. For book readers, the dialogue is clever too, as the scene contains a number of moments that, with the benefit of the knowledge of Diana Gabaldon’s novel, are particularly poignant.

In Tryon’s camp, Claire and Jamie are lying in their tent. Claire turns to face Jamie and sees him slowly opening and closing his fist. It is morning, but not just any morning. “Happy Birthday, Colonel,” Claire murmurs and they kiss. She asks whether he has been taking stock and Jamie admits that he has been doing something of the sort, adding that he was born in the evening, so he won’t have lived a full half century until supper time. 

Teasing, Claire wonders whether he is planning on disintegrating much before the end of the day, offering to fetch him a cane or a hearing trumpet. Jamie joins in the banter, pretending not to hear her, before conceding that it is unlikely anything will fall off before nightfall. He asks how she knew what he was doing and Claire admits that it is something that she also does before every birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. She adds that she thinks it is a common practice for most people, a way of reassuring themselves that they are the same people that they were the day before. 

Jamie asks Claire if she sees any marks or changes in him. 
“No,” she whispers, before kissing him again. “You’re still you.”  
Jamie sits up. He has realised that he has now lived longer than his father did, who had died at 49. Claire says that his father would have been happy to know that Jamie had lived, and now has children and grandchildren who love him. Jamie agrees. The world and every day in it is a gift, he says. Whatever the next day brings, he is grateful to see it. He finishes taking stock, stating that he has all his teeth and body parts, all of which are in good working order. With a smile, Claire sets about proving this, seductively singing Happy Birthday as the two begin to make love. 

Later that morning, Tryon and the other redcoats are showing Jamie and his men the weapons that have been sent to them. There are some impressive pieces, and Tryon and his general are confident. If the insurgents want a fight, they say, then they will get one. Including Jamie’s company, the militia number over 1000 men, divided into infantry, artillery and cavalry. More men are expected, with extra gunpowder on the way as well. 

Jamie points out that the Regulators are mainly farmers with no military training, who will not have access to the calibre of weapons that Tryon’s men do. It is a scene vaguely reminiscent of the hours before Culloden, where Jamie was trying to convince Bonnie Prince Charlie not to fight. Now, as then, his attempts fall on deaf ears. Tryon merely asks Jamie if his men are all in order and Jamie confirms that they are ready. After a brief inspection of the company, Tryon says simply, “Well done, Colonel.”

Roger arrives on horseback and comes over to Jamie, formally reporting for duty. Jamie greets him equally formally, addressing him as Captain MacKenzie and asking him to fall in. Roger does so, taking his place next to Myers. The two men exchange glances and it is obvious that things are serious now. 

Jamie distributes yellow rosettes amongst the men, telling them to fix them to their coats or hats. It will be the only way to tell the difference between militia and regulator. 
“I’ll have one of those,” says a voice. 

It is Isaiah Morton, who has come to join the group, much to the disgust of the Browns, who want to know where Alicia is, commenting that her place should be at home, not living in sin with Morton. The tension is immediately high, but Claire reminds the men that Alicia had made her decision. Brown responds by telling Claire to stay out of it, with enough menace to make Jamie stride forward to Claire’s side. Morton is defiant, saying that he and Alicia are happy. Brown replies that he should have killed Morton when he had the chance and nailed his hide to the tavern door. 

Jamie has had enough, and drags Morton away. He tells Morton that he shouldn’t have come, but Isaiah replies that Jamie had helped him once, so now he wants to return the favour. Loudly, Jamie tells the group that Morton is prepared to lay down his life and he won’t turn him away. If the Browns can’t fight alongside Morton, they can go. They respond that they are aren’t going to miss out on a battle, and agree that the unpleasantness should be forgotten. The words may have been said, but they don’t ring true. At any rate, Jamie hands Morton a rosette and gives him the same instructions as the others. 

Meanwhile, the young Findlay brothers are excitedly discussing their preparations for fighting. Each have been practising by shooting deer and possum. Jamie overhears them talking and comments that war is not like hunting. The deer and possum haven’t been trying to kill them, he reminds the boys. They are confused: their mother has said that the point of hunting is to kill something and the point of going to war is to come back alive. Sitting down opposite them, Jamie shares his experience. War is killing, he tells them, and they can’t waver. If they think of anything else, or worry about their own skin, then they will be dead before nightfall.

But in another parallel with Culloden, something has gone wrong. Wagonloads of munitions have been destroyed and General Waddell’s troops have been forced to retreat, by none other than Murtagh and the rest of the regulators, who have been spotted across the creek. 
“Prepare the men,” Tryon replies. “Engage the enemy here.”

Claire has been preparing the medical tent, when she sees Jamie coming towards her. She asks if there has been any sign of Murtagh. Jamie hasn’t seen him, but has seen his companions, Cranna and Withers. Their conversation is interrupted by one of the men, who tells Jamie that a minister has arrived with a petition for the Governor. 

It is Reverend Caldwell, the same minister who married Roger and Brianna. Tryon greets him, lamenting the circumstances under which they are meeting this time. Caldwell agrees that a wedding is a far more enjoyable occasion but he comes in hopes that the matter can be settled without bloodshed. He presents Tryon with the petition, but Tryon merely shakes his head. He disagrees with the language the petition contains, he says, but nevertheless agrees to consider the regulators’ grievances. He will give his response the following day at noon and Caldwell thanks him for the concession. 

Once Caldwell has gone, Tryon issues his orders: the men are to remain ready for battle. Jamie tries again: why doesn’t Tryon pursue a parlay as they ask? But Tryon, like Culloden’s Bonnie Prince, is immovable. He will not be trifled with, he says. Jamie suggests waiting for reinforcements, but Tryon is determined to make a bold stroke, stating that to hesitate would mean defeat. As Governor of the province, he will not allow a blatant disregard of the law to go unpunished. “Their course is set,” Tryon says, “so is mine.” He strides away, leaving Jamie looking serious. As it was so many years before, a battle is inevitable. But this time, Murtagh will not be by his side. 

Back in Hillsborough, Brianna is thanking Mrs Sherston for their hospitality. Jemmy has gone to sleep, Lizzie says, and the women are relaxing, when Mr Sherston comes home with news. The militia are preparing for battle and the regulators are across from Alamance Creek. Something about the name rings a bell for Brianna and Mr Sherston shows her a map. Mrs Sherston talks of Alamance too, saying that it was named by the Indians and it means, “All Man’s Land.” Brianna is sure that something has happened there and finally we see the realisation dawn. Moments later she leaves on horseback, galloping towards the militia camp.

Jamie is at the creek, going through a pre battle ritual. He pours water over his head and cuts his hand with a knife. Then, reciting in Gaelic, he crosses himself with the blood. Claire has come up behind him and Jamie turns to see her standing there. She comes towards him. She has recognised one of the words and asks him if God has an answer to his question. Jamie hadn’t been calling on God, he says but on Dougal MacKenzie. This surprises Claire, but Jamie explains that Dougal was a war chief and had taught him everything he knows. He had made his peace with Dougal and knows that his uncle would have understood his actions before Culloden, in order to protect his men and to protect Claire. “And I’ll do it all again now,” he tells her. 

Again, as they had done before Culloden, Jamie and Claire discuss the state of play. Tryon is determined to fight, Jamie tells her, adding that he has seen such a look in men’s eyes before, one that is beyond reason or compromise. Claire asks if Jamie thinks that Dougal will help. 

“If he can,” Jamie replies. Blood is blood after all, and the two men had fought hand to hand and back to back in the past. But there is another with whom Jamie shares blood this time. Rather than fighting back to back in this battle, Jamie and Murtagh will be fighting face to face and no amount of prayer will help that. 

Brianna reaches the camp and is greeted by a shocked Jamie, Claire and Roger. She has come to warn them, she says. Showing Jamie the map, Brianna points out where the fight will take place and tells him that the militia will win. She doesn’t know how many lives are lost, only that her history professor had told her that this battle was considered by some to be the start of the American Revolution. 

Jamie asks Brianna if she is sure that Tryon wins, and when she confirms it, suggests that they get a message to Murtagh. If he can be told that the regulators will lose, perhaps Murtagh can convince the men to stand down and then lives will be spared on both sides. But Brianna offers another perspective. If the fight doesn’t happen, there is a chance that the Revolutionary war also won’t happen and then America won’t ever become the America that she, Claire and Roger know. Jamie muses that the spark for Revolution could come from somewhere else and they all agree that it could. In that case, Jamie says, what is important is the lives of the men in his charge and the life of Murtagh. 

Roger agrees, and offers to take the message to Murtagh, but Jamie tells him that it is too dangerous. Roger doesn’t dispute this, but adds that he is the only one who can deliver it. Murtagh knows Roger to be from the future and is more likely to believe him. The others cannot argue with his logic and Jamie tells him to leave at nightfall. He is to hide his yellow rosette, wave a white flag of truce if he is threatened and wait for Jamie to come to his aid. The scene ends with Roger and Brianna looking sadly, but proudly, at each other. 

Nightfall comes and Roger sets off. Claire and Brianna are in the medicine tent, checking supplies. Claire names all the herbs, then adds her “secret weapon”, holding up the syringe. She has brought penicillin and, making her own comparison to Culloden, comments on how many lives she could have saved if she had had the drug at Prestonpans. 
“Maybe you’ll save some today,” Brianna says. She adds that she will stay and help, to keep her mind from worrying. Claire reminds her that Roger will be safe under the flag of truce, but Brianna is dubious. How much will the flag of truce help if Roger is still there when the shooting starts? 
If the shooting starts,” Claire corrects her, adding that they can only hope that Roger will be able to convince Murtagh.

Roger arrives at the Regulator camp, in time to hear Murtagh in full force. He is rallying the troops, reminding them that Tryon has left them with no choice. They can’t submit to tyranny, they are fighting injustice. Tryon will regret ignoring their demands, and his blood will soak the ground. Murtagh sends the men off to prepare for the next morning, and looks across the crowd into Roger’s face. Going over to the younger man, he asks Roger what he is doing there and Roger replies that the two men need to talk. 

Roger passes on the message, explaining that Brianna had remembered the battle and its result. The regulators will lose. He tells Murtagh that Jamie has said the best thing to do is to convince the men to disperse. But Murtagh knows that this will be impossible. “You saw the men,” he says. “Do you think they are yielding this fight?” Roger replies that they might, if Murtagh tells them to. Otherwise, he warns, they will be slaughtered.

Murtagh wants to know how many men Tryon has, commenting that they have twice that number when Roger gives him the total. But what they don’t have, Roger says, is a trained militia. The regulators are farmers with knives and pitchforks, whereas Tryon has canons. They might be brave as lions, but they can’t stand up to that. Moreover, the regulators have no officers, no artillery, no cavalry. 

Roger is pleading for Murtagh to listen to him. History has been written: the Regulators will not win. But Murtagh wants to know how he can possibly ask the men to give up. 
“They won’t be giving up,” Roger replies. “They’ll be living.” If they wait, he adds, in a few years everyone will be fighting on the same side. 
“Do you know how long a few years is to men who have lost everything?” Murtagh asks. Roger has no answer to this. It is an impossible situation and both men know it. 

Tryon is dictating his formal response to the Regulators’ petition and the next scene is split between this dictation and Murtagh’s recitation of the delivered letter. The tone is defiant: Tryon has been attentive to them, he says and laments the fatal necessity to which he has been forced. He insists on surrender and gives them an hour to prevent a war against King, country and laws. The Regulators are equally defiant, but it is obvious that Murtagh at least is now reconsidering his position. 

Roger is waiting in a tent when Murtagh comes to join him. He has spoken with the men, he tells Roger, but they are not prepared to turn back, despite his efforts to convince them. The battle will happen. Murtagh tells Roger to return to his own camp, but Roger tries one last time. He begs Murtagh to leave and save himself, for the love that Jamie bears him. But Murtagh doesn’t answer.

This is a great scene, with both Richard Rankin and Duncan Lacroix perfectly demonstrating the helpless position that both men find themselves in. The two actors play easily off each other and we are left in no doubt of the situation: Roger is desperate to convince Murtagh to avoid the last battle; while Murtagh has an inner struggle to resolve: which will be more important - his oath to protect Jamie, or his obligation to the Regulator cause? 

On his way out of the camp, Roger passes a woman pegging out washing on a makeshift line. It is Morag MacKenzie, from Bonnet’s ship. She recognises him too and they exchange pleasantries. Roger asks after her son, and is pleased to hear that they are both well. He tells Morag of his own son, also named Jeremiah, after his father, adding that he has thought of her too, now and then. Morag takes the opportunity to thank Roger again for helping keep them safe from Bonnet. She drops the shirt she is holding and they both go to retrieve it, cracking their heads together. Laughing, she assures Roger that she is fine and that she has a hard head. Roger laughs too: he also has a hard head, adding that it runs in the family. He asks Morag if her husband is one of the regulators and on hearing that he is, leans forward to warn her. He is with the militia, he says and the Governor is intent on a battle. Morag must convince her husband to leave before anything happens. 

“Leave and go where?” Morag asks, revealing her pregnant belly. “We have no home to go back to.” 
Roger has to leave, but tells Morag that if she needs help she should come to him and he will protect her and her family, who will all be welcome on Fraser’s Ridge. Overcome, he draws her in for a hug, pulling away when he hears a man’s voice say, “Get away from my wife.” 

Jamie is calling for Roger, who should have returned to the militia camp by now. It is past dawn and Jamie asks Myers if anyone has seen Captain MacKenzie. No one has and Jamie is getting worried. Tryon calls out to him and beckons him over. Jamie does as Tryon asks, followed closely by Myers.

Tryon has a gift for Jamie. Holding out a red coat, he says that Jamie will cut a fine figure in it. As one of his best officers, he doesn’t want Jamie mistaken for an insurgent. Jamie tries to sidestep, commenting that it isn’t proper for him to wear such a garment. But Tryon brands him too humble. He holds out the coat and asks Jamie to do him the honour. The rest of the men look on and we see the conflict on Jamie’s face. He doesn’t want to put the coat on, but cannot refuse the governor. Stiffly, he removes his own coat and allows Tryon to help him into the redcoat uniform. Tryon brands him a striking figure and calls the company to order. Holding out his hand towards Myers, Jamie takes back his hat and, without a word, puts it on his head. He is trapped in a situation he doesn’t want to be part of, dressed in the uniform that represents the enemy of his past. The look on Jamie’s face is a mix of anger, despair and resignation - brilliant work by Sam Heughan! 

Roger is backing away from Morag’s angry husband. He tries to explain, saying that he had met Morag on board the Gloriana, and had only thought to ask after the family’s welfare. Morag joins in, defending Roger and reminding her husband that it was Roger who had looked after her and her son, bringing them food and water.  

But William “Buck” MacKenzie is not interested in these facts. He is consumed with the fact that Roger had been embracing his wife, and with the help of his friends, intends to settle the matter. Morag tries again, but Buck handles her roughly, hurting her arm. Roger responds by punching him, a move that results in him being captured by Buck’s cronies. 

In the scuffle, Roger’s militia rosette drops to the ground and Buck picks it up. With his arms held by Buck’s friends, Roger says that he has no interest in Buck’s wife. He has his own wife, only wanting to warn a fellow MacKenzie about Tryon. Buck calls him a traitor and a wife stealer, while his friends advocate for slitting Roger’s throat. Making one last plea, Roger demands that Buck let him go and in return, he will not speak out against him, for his wife’s sake. For a second it looks as if Buck will accept this. He turns away, nodding and Roger takes a breath. But Buck, his back turned, picks up a rifle. 
“No,” he says, “I don’t think you will. Speak against me, that is.” He swings back, hitting Roger in the face with the rifle and knocking him unconscious. 

Since the airing of the episode, many fans have commented on the casting of Buck and what a stroke of genius it was to have Graham McTavish return to play him. This reviewer didn’t recognise him at first, but was ready to compliment the actor on his ability to sound so similar to Dougal MacKenzie! Kudos to the costume and make up departments for the transformation - and to Graham McTavish himself for his portrayal of another angry, aggressive man! Book readers will no doubt be anxious to see if future storylines involving Buck come to pass…

It is time for the battle to begin. The militia make their preparations as Jamie comes to farewell Claire. She stares at his appearance, muttering, “Jesus H Roosevelt Christ.” Briefly, he explains. Tryon insisted and he was in no position to refuse. She strokes his face and he kisses her hand: this is not their first battle farewell. There is still no sign of Roger and they have no idea whether he has succeeded in delivering the message to Murtagh. Jamie asks if she will wish him luck. Claire replies that she can’t let him go without saying something and that good luck will do. “I love you, soldier,” she says, kissing him.
 “Good luck will do,” Jamie replies, “but I love you does so much better.” They smile, Claire tearful. Kissing her one last time, Jamie promises her that while there may come a day where the two of them must part again, it will not be this day. 

Jamie gives last minute instructions to his men: to go in hard and protect themselves. They are not there to kill their brothers, he says, only to end the conflict. They need to put the fear of God into the Regulators to force their retreat. By taking prisoners, Jamie says, they can save souls. At the first sign of the Regulators across the field, he issues his final command: they must watch for MacKenzie. 

The canons are fired and the first line of redcoats take their shots. The effect is immediate. The Regulators are not prepared for this. Jamie’s line is next and everyone hesitates. They do not want to shoot. Tryon screams at them to either fire on the regulators or fire on him. Given no choice, Jamie yells to fire, but most of the shots go wide. 

The redcoats continue to advance and Jamie and the others charge across the field, not unlike the charge at Culloden. But while that charge led to certain death, this time they have the upper hand. The fighting is fierce, but they are not aiming to kill. “Fight as they do,” Jamie tells the men with him, as he and Myers set out on their own, swinging fists and rifle butts instead of shooting. Behind them, one of the first casualties to Jamie’s men is suffered by Isaiah Morton, who is shot in the back. 

Claire and Brianna are hard at work, dealing with minor injuries. Brianna looks haunted, there is still no sign of Roger. Claire tries to reassure her, but Brianna doesn’t know which is worse: that Roger is missing, or that he has joined the fighting and is being shot at. Their conversation is interrupted by Morton being dragged into the tent. 

Claire examines him quickly: he has been shot through the lungs from behind. As Morton gasps that he wants Alicia to know that he loves her, Claire assures him that he is not going to die and that he will be there to see his child born the following month. She prepares a shot of penicillin, watched by the Browns, who want to know what she is giving him and commenting that she shouldn’t be wasting medicine on “that coward”, claiming that Morton was running away.

Morton disputes this, saying that he wasn’t running away, reminding the man who brought him in that he had seen what had happened. The penny drops for Claire, as she looks at Brown. The powder burns were on Morton’s back, meaning that he had been shot at close range. Without directly saying so, she is accusing Brown of shooting Morton deliberately, and he understands the implication. Commenting that no woman speaks to him like that, he knocks the glass syringe from her hand and deliberately stomps on it, breaking it into pieces. 

Claire is horrified. “What have you done?” she cries. Not only has Brown deliberately destroyed the treatment for Morton, Claire’s 20th century defence of penicillin is now useless, as she has no way of injecting it. With his aggressive act, Brown has potentially cost many people their lives. 

On the battlefield, the fighting is fierce. While there are casualties on both sides, the Regulators are in retreat and the redcoats are showing no mercy. Men are being tied to the backs of horses and dragged along the ground; others are being bludgeoned with rifles. A man takes a shot at Jamie, but misses. Jamie recognises him as Lee Withers, from the jail in Hillsborough. Jamie tells Withers that he means him no harm, but Withers doesn’t believe him, saying that if Jamie means him no harm, why is he wearing the coat of his enemies? Bryan Cranna is dead, Withers tells Jamie and draws his pistol. He aims it at Jamie, but is hit from behind before he can fire. 

Jamie looks up at his rescuer: it is Murtagh. The two smile at each other and move closer, but another shot rings out and Murtagh stops, dropping his rifle. He has been shot. Jamie turns around. It is one of the Findlay boys, who calls proudly, “I did what you said, Colonel. I didn’t waver.” It is a horrible irony that Jamie’s words to the young boy, meant to keep him safe, have resulted in the shooting of the man dearest to him. 

Murtagh staggers and falls, and Jamie catches him. He lowers his godfather to the ground, trying to stem the flow of blood. “I released you from your oath,” he says. “You should have done as I asked.” Murtagh is finding it hard to talk, but tells Jamie that he would never have betrayed Jamie’s mother, no matter who asked. He is dying before Jamie’s eyes and Jamie tries desperately to keep him talking, calling him “Godfather” in Gaelic. Murtagh looks at him and smiles, putting up a hand to stroke Jamie’s face. Then, using the words that Diana Gabaldon had written for the battle of Culloden, he says gently, “Dinna be afraid. It doesn’t hurt a bit to die.” 

Jamie’s eyes widen in shock and he looks around, desperate. He starts to scream, “Help me!” Myers and another one of Jamie’s company are nearby and they race to his side. Myers can see that Murtagh has gone and begins to tell Jamie so, but Jamie screams again, “Help me now!” They do, carrying Murtagh between them. As they go, Jamie speaks to Murtagh, telling him not to worry. They are going to Claire, who will know what to do. 

They reach the tent, Jamie calling to Claire to save Murtagh. They lay him on the table and Jamie, frenzied, starts moving around grabbing supplies, asking what she needs. “Heal him,” he says again. Claire and Brianna look at each other in shock: they know it is too late. Jamie is breathing hard, looking at Claire, his eyes wide. Tearfully, she shakes her head. “I’m sorry,” she says. “He’s gone.” Brianna draws the makeshift curtain around them as Jamie refuses to believe what she is saying. “He can’t be,” he says. “Do something!” he continues, his voice rising is desperation. “Save him!” Wordlessly, she looks back at him. There is absolutely nothing she can do. 

Jamie turns to Murtagh, telling him that he takes it back. He doesn’t release Murtagh from his oath, he says. “You can’t leave me, Godfather,” he pleads, his voice softening. “You can’t leave me.” Finally, he understands. Murtagh is gone. Claire calls to him, but Jamie staggers out of the tent. Left alone, Claire strokes Murtagh’s face and her own tears come. “Murtagh,” she cries. “My friend.”

Outside, Jamie meets a triumphant Governor, who tells him that victory tastes sweet. The Regulators are finished, Tryon crows, and they must celebrate this glorious day. Jamie, his voice thick with grief, asks Tryon if the slaughter of innocent men is something to celebrate. Tryon replies that he realises that engaging his own countrymen must have been difficult for Jamie, but that what they have just achieved will be written about in history. 

Jamie asks Tryon whether it will be written that the Governor’s men killed and maimed and paid no heed to the destruction they left, bringing canon against their own citizens. Of course, Jamie says, that won’t be what is written. Instead, history will say that Tryon’s men put down rebellion, preserved order and punished wickedness, while doing justice in the King’s name. 

Tryon is no longer smiling as Jamie hisses that both men know the truth of what has happened at Alamance. Again he quotes Tryon’s earlier words: “There is the law and there is what is done” saying that what the Governor has really done is to kindle a war for his own glory.

Tryon has had enough. He had no personal stake in the battle, he tells Jamie and had no need to glorify his own exploits. Jamie reminds him of the Governorship of New York, but Tryon still defends his actions, reminding Jamie of his desire not to leave North Carolina in a state of disorder and rebellion. Hissing in turn, he says that he has done what he has done as a matter of duty. Since he knows Jamie to have done the same, he will overlook Jamie’s insolence.

Jamie agrees that he has paid his debt. He has finished, he says, with his obligation to both Tryon and the Crown. As Myers and some of the others watch, Jamie rips the red coat from his back, and flings it at the Governor’s feet, before staggering away, his legs barely able to hold him up. After a few steps, he stops, dropping to his knees. He begins to weep, running his hands through his hair. 

Inside the tent, Claire is weeping too. She has taken the brooch from Murtagh’s coat and puts it in he pocket. Then, she gently raises the sheet up to Murtagh’s chin, and after a moment’s hesitation, pulls it up over his face. 

Jamie walks over to where Brianna is standing. They look at each other for a moment, before he asks a one word question of her: “Roger?”
Brianna shakes her head. She too, is suffering.

In the aftermath of the battle, as prisoners are taken, and wounded men are being helped by the women of the village, Jamie, Claire, Brianna and some of Jamie’s company are all out searching. “Have you seen Captain MacKenzie?” we hear Claire asking. As they walk, they come across a gruesome sight: three hooded men have been executed, their bodies hanging motionless from a large tree. Jamie stops one of Tryon’s men, asking the fellow Colonel what has happened. 

The man explains that the three were regulator prisoners, who have been executed at Tryon’s command. Jamie asks the Colonel if he has seen Captain MacKenzie and he replies that he has not. The party continue to ask everyone they see, until Jamie notices a white piece of material protruding from the pocket of one of the hanged men. 
“Roger?” he says, disbelieving.

Brianna runs over, her breath catching in her throat. Claire holds onto her, saying her name, but Bree is unable to tear her eyes away. Jamie orders his men to lower the body to the ground, as the episode ends on Brianna’s horrified face. 

This was a phenomenal hour of drama. Every single actor gave their all in this episode, but arguably the stand out performance came from Sam Heughan, whose grief at the loss of Murtagh was so believable that it was truly heartbreaking to watch. Famously, there are 7 stages of grieving and Heughan ably demonstrated the first three - shock, denial and anger - to perfection. While book Murtagh’s fate was sealed on a different battlefield and Jamie had to cope with the loss of both his godfather and Claire, the stakes are somewhat different here. Still numb from the shock of Murtagh’s death, Jamie must now be father to Brianna, who has just witnessed horrors herself. Claire too, needs to look after them all, with the knowledge that her main weapon, penicillin, is now essentially useless. Everyone ends this episode floundering.

With an extra week before the eighth episode (why?!) we are left with much to ponder. Virtually all the horrors in this episode have occurred because of obligations, with people making oaths to either another person or to a cause. For Murtagh, it was his oath to Ellen and Jamie, plus his obligation to lead the Regulators; for Roger, it was his oath to Jamie and his obligation to warn both Murtagh and Morag MacKenzie. For Morton, his oath to Jamie’s militia brought him back to fight and into the path of the Browns once again. For Tryon, his obligation to leave North Carolina free of chaos, or perhaps, his oath to himself and his own ego, led him to pursue the slaughter of the Regulators. Finally, Brianna’s obligation to share her knowledge of the Alamance battle led her into the centre of the action and to the sight of her husband hanging from a tree. And so we wonder: what price an oath? When should obligation be abandoned? Can loyalty cause more harm than good? Is our fate in our hands, or does destiny play a part? Whatever the answers, one thing is certain: grief now surrounds everyone at Fraser’s Ridge. 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, an author and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She is in awe of everyone who helped create this episode - including her friends Gemma and Aaron, who appeared in the crew credits for the first time this season! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

“To shine or to burn”: A recap of season 5 episode 6 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown 

Given the choice, what would you prefer to do: shine or burn? The concepts of sacrifice and of staying true to your beliefs are the underlying themes of this, the sixth episode of the current season. Whether fighting against locusts at the Ridge, or against a broken heart at River Run; whether challenging a dandy to a game of whist at a wedding, or beginning the inevitable preparations for war, the MacKenzie motto seems particularly apt. Quick solutions are not an option - it is better to shine with possibility than burn in despair. 

The episode begins at an urgent pace, with a carriage being driven at breakneck speed. The year is 1746, just after the Battle of Culloden. The carriage is brought to a halt by 2 dragoons, who are searching every carriage at the Duke of Cumberland’s instructions. The man inside the carriage introduces himself as Samuel Torington, expressing relief at seeing the dragoons on the road. He says that he, his wife and daughter are getting as far away from Culloden as possible. The dragoons ask for the women to alight from the carriage so that it can be searched and we then realise that the woman inside is none other than Jocasta, in full possession of her sight. The younger woman, her daughter, is cautioned by Jocasta as they exit to “not say a word.” 

This means of course that the man is not Samuel Torington. Rather, he is Hector Cameron, Jocasta’s husband. A quick search of the carriage is done and the family is given the all clear to leave, when the young woman’s boot gets stuck in the boggy ground. In kneeling down to free it, one of the dragoons notices a box hidden under the carriage. It is full of gold - gold that has been sent to aid the Stuart cause. This is news to Jocasta and she eyes her husband in shock. The mood swiftly changes, with the dragoons branding the Cameron family Jacobites. Pistols are drawn and fired, and by the end of the brief confrontation, both dragoons and young Morna Cameron lie dead. Distraught, Jocasta lies sobbing over her daughter’s body, but a desperate Hector drags her away. There is nothing to be done for their daughter and they must escape. Jocasta only has time to pull a ribbon from her daughter’s hair as a memento and her anguished cries end the flashback scene.

In the present, Jocasta is twirling that same ribbon between her fingers, when there is a knock on the door. It is Duncan Innes, Jocasta’s fiancé. He has come with a pre wedding gift for Jocasta, a small cushion, stuffed with lavender (for nerves, he suggests, although Jocasta’s expression leaves us in no doubt what she thinks of that suggestion) and embroidered with the MacKenzie motto, “I shine, not burn.” It is a kind gesture and we immediately form an opinion of the man’s nature that stands in stark contrast to that of Hector Cameron. While Cameron was demanding, Innes is gentle and kind - and also hesitant in Jocasta’s presence. He is under no illusion regarding Jocasta’s feelings (or lack of them) towards him. 

Beginning an awkward but sincere speech, Duncan says that he knows that she doesn’t burn for him, but that the name Innes is a Gaelic word for an island that is formed by two branches of a stream. He is trying to make a poetic speech about time and the merging of their two clans, but Jocasta cuts him off with a slightly impatient, “Thank you.” 
Ulysses appears, telling Jocasta that Jamie and Mr Forbes are waiting for her below. Knowing himself to be dismissed, Duncan takes his leave. 

Once he has gone, Jocasta correctly surmises the look that Ulysses had been giving Duncan. Ulysses says that he only wants Jocasta to be happy. But Jocasta is a practical woman. Happiness doesn’t come into it, she says, adding that in time, Duncan Innes might provide her with a bit of peace. Taking Ulysses’ arm, she heads downstairs.

Jamie and Forbes are indeed waiting for her. There is an official parchment on the table, one that will transfer the ownership of River Run. Forbes praises Jocasta’s generosity, but wants to check that Duncan also understands what it all means. Has Mr Innes given his consent, for example? Jocasta explains that Duncan has graciously agreed for Jocasta to serve as River Run’s guardian until its new owner - none other than baby Jemmy - comes of age. Taking the quill that is placed into her hands, Jocasta confidently signs her name, which is then witnessed by Jamie. Jamie declares that River Run has a new master and Jocasta suggests that in the new master’s absence, she should tend to the guests. 

As it turns out, the new Master of River Run is not having a good day. Roger is trying to jolly him along, telling Jemmy that it is just a “wee sniffle.” Roger and Brianna are reminiscing over supplies of tissues and baby aspirin that they had just taken for granted in the 20th century and Roger wants to know why they haven’t been able to find a cure for the common cold. They have all stayed away from Jocasta’s wedding, despite Brianna’s statement that Roger could have gone, given that she is perfectly capable of handling a kid with a cold. Roger had wanted to help her, he says, but Brianna is not deceived. She knows that Roger’s absence is actually a bit of revenge. Jocasta had insulted Roger at their wedding, so now he is insulting her by refusing to attend hers. 

The conversation is interrupted by Adso, who is pawing at an insect on the cabin floor. Brianna comments that Adso has brought them a gift, but a noise from outside makes them look up. There are many more insects outside and ominous music begins to build. Roger says that he doesn’t think this insect is a gift from Adso and hopes that it isn’t a gift from the Gods instead.  

At River Run, the crowds have gathered for a wedding. Jamie is standing on the porch deep in thought. Claire comes and joins him and he shares his regret that Murtagh is not the one standing with Jocasta. Jamie feels guilty, he says, for having to rub shoulders with the people who would see his godfather dead. Claire reminds him that Murtagh’s situation is his own choice and that they should try to enjoy the day for Jocasta’s sake. 

As with Brianna and Roger’s wedding, the dancers, including Lord John Grey, are in fine form. John is relieved to see Jamie and Claire, given that by now he has danced with most of the young ladies, all of whom seem to have been intent on catching his eye. Their light hearted conversation is interrupted by the sight of Governor Tryon, and, showing considerable reluctance, the three of them go pay their respects. But Tryon is not alone and is at his most officious. When Claire greets his wife as Mistress Tryon, she is promptly corrected. But “Her Excellency” is not insulted and shares the news that they are actually on their way to New York. The Tryons have another companion with them, Judge Atticus, who laments the fact that everyone he meets becomes a philosopher or expert in the law. Ironically, Tryon immediately mentions his own legislative victory. 

Jamie plays his part by publicly complimenting the governor on his decision to pardon “dishonourable men” but Tryon has more to say. He quotes Samuel Johnston’s Act for Preventing Tumultuous and Riotous Assembly, which prohibits 10 men or more from gathering under certain circumstances. Lord John confirms the reasoning behind this law: if men cannot gather, then they cannot conspire. Tryon muses that if the law had been enacted sooner, Lieutenant Knox may have lived. The conversation is rapidly entering dangerous territory and it is a relief when Tryon’s wife chides him on his choice of topic, deeming it unsuitable for a wedding. She suggests to Claire that they leave the men to it, confiding as they leave that there will be a game of high stakes whist later that evening and that she is looking forward to watching the men gamble away their fortunes.

Back at the Ridge, there is now no doubt that the insects are no gift, but a definite threat. A swarm of locusts is on the way and everyone’s crops are in danger. The men of the Ridge are confronting Roger, suggesting that they burn Jamie’s field and be done with it. Roger is trying to quell their discontent, but one look at the worried faces of Brianna, Marsali and Fergus show that he is not being successful. The men’s voices grow in intensity until Roger finally yells, “Fire!” in order to gain their attention. He reminds them that if they were to burn the field, they might be rid of some of the locusts, but more would come and that one shift of the wind could destroy their homes as well. Roger asks the ringleader, Lindsay, if he is prepared to risk that. Sullenly, Lindsay mutters his wish that Jamie were there, as he would have an idea of what to do. The men ask Roger what his own plan is, but Roger has no answer for them. Angrily, the men leave, as Brianna looks distressed and Roger frustrated. It is yet another example of Jamie having left him in charge, but without the respect and authority to go along with it.

Mistress Tryon and Claire are talking, when a new guest makes a grand entrance. Claire recognises Phillip Wylie, an annoying gentleman that she had met at a dinner in Wilmington. Mistress Tryon agrees: the man has become an insufferable dandy, she says, since his return from Paris. He has earned a reputation as a gambler and is rumoured to be in some financial trouble. Wylie comes towards them and Mistress Tryon offers to run interference. 

As Claire gratefully moves away, she overhears two women talking. They are speaking of some contraceptive measures that Dr Rawlings has suggested and are not in agreement. While one of the women has already begun to follow Rawlings’ advice, much to her husband’s disgust, the other is disapproving. What sort of woman would willingly prevent herself from having children, she asks. Claire can’t help herself and joins the conversation, suggesting that perhaps a woman who couldn’t provide for an infinite number of “blessings” might want to use such a method. Her opinions are not appreciated though, and the women stare at her in stony silence. 

After a moment, Claire excuses herself and promptly bumps straight into Phillip Wylie, who spills his drink on her. Forced into polite small talk, Claire feigns pleasure at seeing him. He responds by taking her hand and kissing it suggestively. Claire pulls her hand away, but Wylie continues to lavish praise upon her until she is finally rescued by Mistress Tryon, who tells Claire that Jocasta is in need of her opinion. 

As Mrs Bug sweeps locusts from the porch, Brianna and Roger are talking. Brianna tries to comfort Roger, reminding him that he is doing the best that he can. Roger replies that Evan Lindsay and Ronnie Sinclair don’t think so. He agrees with Brianna’s assessment that the men are scared, but adds that they have reason to be. If the locusts destroy their crops, they will be without food for the winter. He joins in their wish for Jamie’s presence, prompting Brianna to ask what Jamie could possibly do that would be any different. 
“I wish I knew,” Roger replies. He can’t try to think like Jamie anymore. 

It is as if admitting this fact unlocks something in Roger. Almost immediately, we see an idea come to him, as he remembers a story his father had read to him about a plague of locusts. In the story, the people had used smoke to drive the locusts away before they could land. Commenting that there is much truth in fiction, a plan is made. Fires can be set around the fields using green wood, so that when the main swarm arrives, there will be so much smoke that the locusts won’t land. Some of the crop will be lost, Roger concedes, but the rest could be saved. This is the most determined we have seen Roger. Repeating that the plan could work, he reiterates that all they have to do is to create enough smoke to cover the fields. 

Meanwhile, Tryon is going through the specifics of his plan with Jamie. While the Riot Act forbids assembly, it also gives Tryon permission to arrest anyone seen at Hillsborough, or indeed at any other past riot. He refers to it as delayed justice, adding that the men should have been arrested months earlier. Jamie asks what will happen if the men refuse to comply and Tryon says that the sheriffs have his permission to discipline anyone who resists. He reminds Jamie of one of his first sayings: there is the law and then there is what is done. Jamie asks why Tryon is choosing to do this on the eve of his departure to New York. Tryon reveals that he has actually been offered the governorship of New York and that friends have assured him it is a fait accompli. Jamie asks if these friends know of the trouble with the Regulators and Tryon states that he doesn’t want to leave North Carolina in a state of chaos and lawlessness. Jamie muses that while the men may be savage, they aren’t entirely godless. He begins to suggest that Tryon leave a legacy of mercy instead, but the Governor’s idea of mercy is different to Jamie’s. The men will have mercy if they choose it, Tryon says. It will be the best of both worlds: heaven or hell. 

Roger has embarked on his plan, with Josiah’s assistance. He is making smudge pots, a mixture of oil and dung, in order to repel the insects. When the pots are heated, smoke will pour from the top. With enough of the pots in the field, he says, they should cover the areas where the green smoke won’t reach. The only problem with the plan is that he doesn’t know how to push the smoke over the entire field. Josiah comments that the wind is picking up, but there is no way of knowing what it will be like by the time the insects arrive. Brianna now has an idea of her own, as she looks out at the washing flapping in the breeze. 
“I’ll handle this,” she says, promptly leaving Roger to his smelly job! 

In just a couple of short scenes, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin have furthered the characters of Roger and Bree, highlighting their own ability to work together as a team, supporting each other and sharing their respective 20th century strengths, in order to deal with an 18th century dilemma. Now that he has pulled himself out of Jamie’s shadow and has abandoned trying to emulate his father-in-law, Roger is suddenly more confident. Brianna too, has some of her old spark back, teasing her husband as they set about trying to save the crops together. They are in charge of the Ridge and for the first time, look comfortable in their role. 

Claire is looking for Jamie, but comes face to face with Philip Wylie instead. Indicating the gift he plans to give Jocasta, Wylie plays a game of cat and mouse, continually stepping in Claire’s way as she tries to get past him. Claire shouldn’t be languishing in the back country, he says, but enjoying the finer things in life, and offers to procure for her whatever she wishes. But in a second, the mood turns ominous, as Wylie speaks of an Irish seafaring gentleman who does business in Wilmington. Thinking immediately of Bonnet, Claire asks for clarification: is the man a smuggler? Wylie feigns being wounded. He is no common thief, he replies, but has friends who are in the business of acquiring rare and exquisite things. 

Taking a gamble, Claire suggests to Wylie that she has something he might be interested in. She takes him into another room, pouring a glass of Jamie’s whisky. When Wylie comments on how sinfully good it is, Claire informs him that her husband makes it. But Wylie has noticed Claire’s two wedding rings, and asks her which one her husband is: silver or gold. Claire answers, explaining that the gold ring is from her late husband. Wylie expresses his sympathy, but comments that Jamie must be an extraordinary man to allow her to wear another man’s ring as well as his own. He asks for more information: when did her first husband die?
“A lifetime ago,” Claire replies.
Wylie persists, commenting that her first husband must have been quite a man, to still be “a star fixed in the firmament of a heart forever.” He toasts to love and they drink.

Claire has plans of her own. Changing the subject, she pretends to ask Wylie’s advice on a matter of business. She returns the conversation to Wylie’s “associate” asking if he would know ways to circumvent financial inconveniences, and implying that Jamie’s whisky business is in trouble.
At last she gets the confirmation she is looking for. Wylie mentions Bonnet by name, saying that he has a notorious temper and that he doesn’t do business with people he doesn’t know. Turning up the charm, Claire smiles flirtatiously, saying that she would only be dealing with Wylie, further sweetening the deal by mentioning a share of the profits. But rather than agreeing, Wylie states that he doesn’t want to talk about tedious things such as profits. Claire has shared her pride and joy with him, he says and now he wants to reciprocate. The scene ends with Claire looking slightly disconcerted. 

Grass fires are being set and smudge pots are being lit. Roger is in charge: telling Josiah to take the rest of the smudge pots to Evan Lindsay’s field. Brianna comes to join him and Roger is resigned about his luck since Jamie left him in charge. He had thought he might have to fix a fence or wrangle a cow, he tells her, but instead he has been given a biblical plague. The two hold hands as they look out over the fields slowly filling with smoke. It is a pose reminiscent of Jamie and Claire, furthering cementing their growth as a couple.  

Wylie has led Claire into the stables, where he shows her a stallion called Lucas. Claire is impressed. She begins to describe the horse, using words like magnificent, sweet, good natured and spirited. Wylie adds the word beautiful, but it is obvious that he is not describing the horse. Claire is facing away from him, stroking the horse’s neck, when Wylie lurches up behind her and kisses hers. Claire beats off his advances, pushing him away and the force of her push lands him in a pile of manure. His mood quickly changes and he begins to insult her, just as Jamie strides in. In seconds he has a knife at Wylie’s throat, while Wylie tries to accuse Claire of attempting to seduce him. Of course Jamie doesn’t believe him, but it does take Claire to remind her husband that killing someone at his aunt’s wedding would not be a good idea. In the end, he contents himself with warning Wylie that if he goes anywhere near Claire again, he will indeed be killed. 

After Wylie has beat a hasty retreat, Jamie embraces Claire and asks her what she was thinking, spending time with a man like that. Claire explains, telling Jamie that Wylie had claimed to know Bonnet. Knowing that Wylie had a large gambling debt, she had thought to tempt him with a business deal that would need to involve Bonnet. Jamie has heard his own story of Bonnet courtesy of Lord John, who has told him of the time that Bonnet gouged the man’s eyes in Wilmington. Knowing how dangerous Bonnet is, they wonder about Wylie’s character too. Of course, in order to get to Bonnet, they will need to get back into Wylie’s good graces, which Claire concedes will be difficult, given that she has flung him into manure and Jamie has threatened to kill him. But Jamie has an idea. “You say the man likes to gamble?” he says.

The swarm of locusts is getting closer. The people of the Ridge are making their final preparations. The smudge pots are in place and Brianna has shown everyone the direction in which to fan the smoke. Roger is striding through the field when he turns around and sees the swarm approaching. He yells out to everyone to keep their fires going. Brianna has noticed the swarm too, and gradually, the sky darkens as the locusts appear overhead. Everyone in the field drops to the ground, covering their mouths and noses to protect themselves from the smoke. They look up anxiously, as the noise increases and the music builds.

Jamie tosses a coin pouch into the centre of Wylie’s gambling table. Mistaking him for another gambler, Wylie’s demeanour changes when he realises it is Jamie and he tells Jamie it will cost a lot more to pay for the replacement of his coat. Jamie tells him that since he can’t kill someone at his aunt’s wedding, they will need to settle their disagreement another way. Wylie is sticking to his story, telling Jamie that he had been the perfect gentleman. Rather than losing his temper, Jamie indicates Mistress Tryon, telling Wylie that she is not known for her discretion and that, with one carefully told story, everyone will know precisely what sort of man Wylie is. Wylie is not bothered by this at first, stating that Mistress Tryon has already formed an opinion of him. But Jamie points out that no-one has heard the stories that he can tell. He offers a different solution and suggests one game of whist. If Wylie wins, he can leave with his honour in tact. If he loses, Jamie will take the horse. Wylie laughs in his face. He tells Jamie that the Scots place far too high a price on honour. Lucas is worth ten times the amount of the bag of coins, so in order to play, Jamie will need to provide different collateral. 

In the next scene, we discover what that collateral is to be. Wylie wants Claire’s gold wedding band. Claire refuses, saying that Wylie has only suggested it because he knows how much she values it. Jamie tries to convince her, but it’s to no avail. He reminds her of the ultimate goal: to get to Stephen Bonnet. Claire, her emotions rising, reminds Jamie in turn that Bonnet had tried to prise Frank’s ring from inside her throat. Jamie says that she has to trust him, promising not to lose it. 

Claire is really upset now. She asks Jamie why he is choosing to do this and he says that it is for Bree and her sense of honour. But Claire doesn’t believe him. “For her honour?” she asks, “or for yours?” Jamie doesn’t answer. Her voice trembling with unshed tears, Claire removes both wedding rings and drops them into Jamie’s palm. “If you’re going to take this,” she says, “you might as well take both of them.” She stalks off, leaving Jamie looking after her, his hand closing around the rings.

This is the first time we have seen Claire and Jamie fight in quite some time, but their sparring has lost none of its power. They remain a passionate couple and while this is an emotional fight, we don’t really worry about their ability to sort everything out. 

Back at the Ridge, the danger has passed. The fires are being put out and Roger sighs in relief. They have lost some beans, but the cornfield has been saved. Evan Lindsay calls out to Roger, addressing him, as he always has, as Captain MacKenzie. But the tone is completely different now, and all traces of sarcasm are gone. Lindsay says that he had thought the plan to be a ridiculous one, but now he is indebted to Roger. He has only lost half an acre and his family won’t go hungry. 

Roger smiles. “We all helped,” he says. Both Lindsay and Sinclair return the smile and head back to their own land. Brianna jokes with Roger that after this, Jamie will probably promote him to major on his return. Roger laughs, expressing his hope that that doesn’t happen. Brianna puts a stick through a lone locust, before kissing him. 

This plot line is important because it shows the emergence of Roger as a leader in his own right. He has stopped trying to live up to the impossible standard of Jamie Fraser, and now trusts his own instincts. Like Claire, he used his 20th century knowledge to assist him and it has resulted in not only an increase in self confidence, but in him gaining the respect of the settlers of the Ridge. Brianna is no longer focused on building up his self esteem, but is working alongside him. It was a beautifully acted shift in perspective by both Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton, right down to their changes in posture and expression. 

Jocasta is in her chamber, when Ulysses enters, announcing the late arrival of a visitor who has a gift for her. Jocasta tells Ulysses she is seeing no more visitors and the gift should be left downstairs. But then the visitor speaks, and we discover that it is Murtagh. As he did with Brianna and Roger’s wedding, where he hid away from Governor Tryon in a secluded cabin, he has once again attempted fate, by appearing while Governor Tryon is still downstairs. Murtagh tells Jocasta that he had run into Ulysses before he could do anything rash and Ulysses adds to the black humour of the moment, saying that he hadn’t thought it would do to have a man shot the night before the wedding.

Left alone, Murtagh and Jocasta embrace. Murtagh promptly places his gift into Jocasta’s palm, a twin of the brooch he wears on his own coat. Jocasta reaches up to touch it and their hands entwine. Jocasta asks why he has come and Murtagh answers that he has something to ask her, something he has no right to ask. He strokes her face, telling her that he can’t face the rest of his days if he doesn’t say something and kneels in front of her, asking if she will wait for him. 

Both of them know that she doesn’t love Duncan Innes, but Jocasta is incredulous. She berates Murtagh for leaving it until the night before the wedding to declare his love, reminding him that when she had told him of Innes’ proposal he had only said that he wouldn’t stand in the way of her happiness.
“Well, I’m standing in the way of it now, aren’t I?” he replies sharply. Getting to his feet, he admits that he hadn’t thought she would accept Innes and begs her to listen to him.

Jocasta reminds him that he is a wanted man, but Murtagh counters that this is only for now and he wants her by his side in spite of everything. He reminds her of what he had once told her: that he wanted a woman who could hear in a man’s voice that he meant all the right things, even if he didn’t have the right words with which to say them. They kiss again, but Jocasta soon pushes him away, telling him that she is sorry. 

Murtagh asks why she wants to grow old with a man like Duncan Innes. She counters that she has long since grown old and that she can’t be blamed for spending her remaining years with a good man who will be concerned only with her happiness. She recites the MacKenzie motto in Gaelic, and asks Murtagh if he knows what it means. 
“I shine, not burn,” he immediately replies.
Jocasta says that her father had always told them that a MacKenzie could be put into the hottest fires of hell itself, fires that would burn any other man, but a MacKenzie would survive. 

And this is what Jocasta has done, ever since the night after Culloden, when her husband Hector had come running into the house with a madness in his eyes. He had told Jocasta and her youngest daughter, Morna, to gather up their belongings because they were going to America to a better world. They had obeyed and rode off into the night. They had been heading for the estates of Jocasta’s eldest girls, both mothers themselves. Jocasta had known what the redcoats would do if they reached them, drunk as they were on the blood of Jacobites. What she hadn’t known, she tells Murtagh, is that Hector had also stolen a case of gold, the Stuart gold that had arrived from France too late for the battle. The family had been travelling until nearly dawn when two dragoons had come upon them. 

Jocasta begins to weep as she tells Murtagh of Morna’s death. She was sixteen, Jocasta says, and so beautiful. Yet she had left her daughter’s body there lying next to strangers and wonders whether her bones might still be there, gone to dust. By contrast, Jocasta has sat for 30 years growing old in a palace made from the gold that took her daughter from her. Her older daughters are also dead, she says, and begins to lose her composure. Murtagh puts his arms around her and draws her back towards him, murmuring how sorry he is. Jocasta shares more of her torment: whenever she closed her eyes, she says, she would relive the loss of her children. She could hear Morna screaming for her, and smell the fires that would take her other children, burning to the north. When the world grew dim around her, Jocasta continues, she saw it even clearer. She views her blindness as a punishment for leaving Morna and not looking back. Pushing away from Murtagh, she tells him that Hector had believed in the Jacobite cause and, like Murtagh, had also believed he could change the world. It was a belief that had caused Jocasta to lose everything. 

But Murtagh won’t give up. He kneels in front of Jocasta again. He is not Hector, he says and will not risk her happiness. “After the war to come -“ he begins, but Jocasta won’t let him finish. There will be another war, she says, and another, on and on until long after both of them are gone from the world. Stroking his face now, Jocasta reminds him that he had also said that he wanted a woman who knew what life was, not what she wished it to be. And that is precisely the heartbreaking problem: Jocasta knows what this life is and what sort of man Murtagh is: the sort of man who will lose everything for what he believes in and the sort of man she had sworn never to give her heart to again. Desperately trying to regain her composure, she asks him to go, as she needs to rest for the following day. 

Murtagh stands, fighting to control his own feelings.
“I love you, Jocasta MacKenzie,” he says. “This world may change but that will never change.” He places the brooch on the table and his voice finally breaks. “I only wish I’d been brave enough to say it sooner.” He turns and leaves and the scene ends with Jocasta sobbing.

This was an amazing few minutes of drama, spectacularly acted by Maria Doyle Kennedy and Duncan Lacroix. The title of the episode, “Better to marry than burn” is a direct reference to Jocasta’s situation. She has decided to marry Duncan because she could not bear another heartbreak: one that would surely come by choosing a man who was lit with the fire of wanting to change the world. We find ourselves fervently wishing that the two of them could find a way, against all the odds, to be together. This scene is, of course, only written for television, as the Murtagh of the books perished at Culloden and so never formed a relationship with Jocasta at all. While this reviewer is often sceptical of changes made to Diana Gabaldon’s work, this relationship has been an emotional exception to the rule. Both Maria Doyle Kennedy and Duncan Lacroix have created their characters so exquisitely that their relationship is every bit as compelling as that of Jamie and Claire, or Brianna and Roger. It is all the more heartbreaking that love cannot find a way for this couple, as it has managed to do for the other two. But then again, since the relationship was never meant to be in the novels, we can be grateful that we were able to explore even its possibility on screen. 

Claire is in the stables, standing in front of the stallion, Lucas. “I hope you’re worth it,” she says. Footsteps announce the arrival of someone else. It is Jamie, dishevelled and staggering. He is drunk, and Claire is obviously still upset with him. He has been looking for her, he says, as he had cause to celebrate. He opens his hand, showing her the two wedding rings.  

But Claire is not in the mood for celebrating. She tells him that she didn’t think there was anything else that Bonnet could take from them, yet Jamie had almost let him take the rings.

Jamie disagrees, saying that Bonnet had nothing to do with it. He can’t understand why Claire is condemning him for wanting to make Wylie pay for what he had done to her.
Claire tells him that she is condemning him for letting his hatred for both Bonnet and Wylie come between the two of them. Jamie had let Wylie use his Scottish pride against him, she says. 

Jamie counters, asking Claire about her own pride. Claire says and does what she likes regardless of the consequences, he observes, adding that she thinks too much from her own time. 
When Claire replies that she doesn’t need Jamie to remind her how to behave, he smiles. 
“Sometimes, you do,” he tells her. 
She goes to push past him, but he grabs her arm. “You’re a woman like no other, Sassenach,” he says, “But don’t forget, you’re still a woman.” 

Claire responds by slapping him hard across the face. Jamie hasn’t been expecting this and is instantly aroused. He kisses her roughly and although she tries to maintain her anger, Claire is quickly aroused too. They kiss passionately and are soon having hasty sex up against one of the horse stalls. 

Despite this being an anticipated scene and also despite the best efforts of both Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, many fans - and indeed Diana Gabaldon herself - were not impressed with it. It has been suggested that something about the scene doesn’t quite work. Whether it’s the dialogue, or the choreography of movement, or the way it has been directed, it certainly doesn’t have the emotional impact that Claire and Jamie’s lovemaking usually has. Perhaps it is simply that viewers haven’t recovered from the emotion of the previous scene: this one, it could be argued, seemed to suffer by comparison. 

Their frantic lovemaking over, Jamie and Claire sit on the stable floor. Jamie asks if she minded him coming after her like a beast. Claire replies that she rather liked that part, but adds that she is now sporting a rather nasty bruise. Jamie kisses the back of her neck, as Claire remarks that she would have liked to have seen Wylie’s face when he lost. Jamie confirms that Wylie had almost been in tears, until he had made him an offer too good to refuse. He has exchanged his winnings: allowing Wylie to keep the horse in return for a whisky partnership and an introduction to Bonnet. Jamie is going to use his old alias of Alexander Malcolm and pose as a purveyor of the finest whisky in the Carolinas. While both Jamie and Claire had thought that Alexander Malcolm’s smuggling days were behind him, it will be worth it to see Stephen Bonnet pay for what he has done. 

Serious now, Jamie admits that Claire has been right all along. He isn’t doing this for Bree, he says, but because he wants to see the monster that hurt their daughter dead, for no other reason that he needs to see it done. He asks Claire if that is wrong and she shakes her head. But she needs Jamie to promise her that Stephen Bonnet will not take anything else from them ever again. Taking the rings from his pocket, Jamie slides them onto Claire’s fingers and makes the promise. 
“I promise that these rings will never leave your hands again,” he says. “I swear it.” 

Gerald Forbes is reading a newspaper when a man comes to sit down at the table. The music builds as we see who it is: none other than Stephen Bonnet himself. Bonnet picks up a cup and takes a sniff, frowning and asking if the contents are what the men of America are drinking.
Forbes tries to make a joke, saying that they don’t serve ale at the coffee house.
Bonnet is not amused though, asking Forbes why he thinks that Bonnet would prefer ale. 
Forbes stammers in response and it is obvious that he is scared. He thanks Bonnet for coming, adding that he knows he is a busy man. 

Forbes tells Bonnet that he has just come from River Run and the wedding of Jocasta Cameron, now Innes. Bonnet recognises the name, confirming that Jocasta is related to Jamie. He jokes that Forbes should give the “old bat” his heartfelt congratulations. But Forbes has an ace up his sleeve. He says that Bonnet is to be congratulated too and, as the music builds further, speaks the chilling words: “Your son is now the proud owner of River Run.”
Bonnet stares into the distance and we know that there is drama to come. 

Jamie enters Tryon’s tent and is told that the Governor has received regrettable news. None of the regulators have submitted themselves to the mercy of the courts and although Tryon had hoped it wouldn’t come to pass, it appears that there is going to be a war after all. Tryon proceeds to tell Jamie that he has arranged for a convoy of munitions to be delivered to a General in Hillsborough and instructs Jamie to gather his men and meet them within a fortnight. As an afterthought, Tryon tells Jamie that he is free to enjoy the evening’s festivities and that he shouldn’t worry, as the fight is sure to be quick. Jamie agrees that the Regulators are disorganised and not prepared for a war against the Crown. Tryon is facing away from him, so Jamie doesn’t need to mask the look of worry on his face. Once again, a war is coming and there is nothing he can do to stop it. 

This episode marked the halfway point for the season and it served to set up a number of conflicts for the remaining episodes. Sacrifices have been made by multiple characters and will continue to be made. Some of these sacrifices were necessary for the greater good, in the case of the locust plague at the Ridge. While some crops were lost, the respect that Roger gained was far more important. Claire’s rings were also a temporary sacrifice, but will hopefully lead to the opportunity of defeating Stephen Bonnet once and for all. Other sacrifices were heartbreaking, chiefly the loss of the relationship between Murtagh and Jocasta. Jocasta has further chosen to sacrifice love and passion for stability and kind affection. While Duncan Innes will certainly devote himself to Jocasta’s happiness, it is Murtagh who, under different circumstances, would have been her perfect companion. The final sacrifice is yet to be known and we wonder: what will Jamie do to try and protect Murtagh? Where will he fit on the MacKenzie motto - will he shine or will he burn? 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, an author and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She was simultaneously impressed and heartbroken by the scene between Jocasta and Murtagh and believes that both actors deserve all the awards!