Tuesday, February 18, 2020

“As Long as We Both Shall Live” A recap of Season 5 Episode 1 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown 

 Separations are never easy. The time drags. Thoughts of loved ones are never far away. We wonder how those close to our hearts are faring and count the days until we can see them again. Just like Diana Gabaldon’s characters, Outlander fans have become accustomed to separations, having now endured their 5th “Droughtlander”. As a result, both excitement and expectation were high as the first episode of the fifth season began. Time was a factor immediately, as it quickly became apparent that we had travelled back in it yet again… 

With pipes playing gently in the distance, a kilted man strides across the lands of Lallybroch towards a young boy. The man is a younger Murtagh; the boy is Jamie Fraser. Murtagh kneels before his godson. Jamie’s mother, Ellen, has died, and we see the beginnings of the bond between the two characters. Murtagh tells Jamie that he has sworn an oath to follow him always and to guard his back when he becomes a man grown. Ellen may be gone, but Murtagh will always be with him. Jamie regards him solemnly, as Murtagh grips first his shoulder and then his hand, before giving a tentative half smile. The bond is established and the season is underway. 

The theme music is a glorious acapella rendition of the familiar Skye Boat song, and is perhaps symbolic of what is to come: many voices joining together as one, to powerful effect. As the notes die away, we see flowers being placed in a young woman’s hair, and a white dress being smoothed lovingly, a Scottish thistle setting off its beautiful embroidery. It is a wedding dress and although we cannot yet see faces, we know exactly who the two women are.

In a nearby cabin, Jamie is cautioning Roger. The younger man is nervously attempting to shave himself with a cutthroat razor and is not making a good fist of the task, only succeeding in cutting himself, as Jamie watches on critically. He decides to take over, commenting that he doesn’t want Roger looking like he has been to the war and back. The two men are well dressed: this is Brianna and Roger’s wedding day. Pulling Roger’s head to one side to shave his cheek, Jamie asks if Roger is nervous. Roger comments that it is difficult to distinguish between his nerves over what the day has in store for him versus the fact that Jamie has a blade to his throat. It is a comment which earns a brief smirk from his soon-to-be father-in-law. 

The two men make uncomfortable small talk, Roger commenting on the progress on the big house and the resulting gift of the cabin to Roger and Bree. It is a gift for which Roger expresses thanks, but Jamie merely remarks that he couldn’t have his grandson sleeping in the woods. As the conversation progresses and Roger mentions the possibility of adding a loft by following Brianna’s carefully drawn plans, it is clear that he is falling short of many things in Jamie’s eyes. By his own admission, Roger has no experience with farming or building, driving horses, gutting deer or wielding swords. He is determined, he says, to find a suitable trade to provide for his family. Jamie remarks that until then, he will have to rely on the skills and trades of others, dropping into Roger’s hand the wedding ring that  Roger had asked Murtagh to make. It is delicate, intricately worked silver and Roger expresses surprise: he had only been expecting copper or brass. But this ring, Jamie says, is one befitting of his daughter. The implication is clear: while the ring may be suitable, Jamie is unsure whether Roger will be. The scene ends with Jamie pulling a nervous Roger’s head back to shave his upper lip.

Claire’s voiceover takes up the story, as the camera pans along Fraser’s Ridge. Claire speaks of the community of settlers around herself and Jamie: the men and women who had made them feel at home, standing behind them as seasons came and went, and who are now looking forward to sharing in both the forthcoming harvest and their daughter’s wedding.

Brianna and Claire are making final adjustments to the dress. Claire remarks that it is even better than the white satin and orange blossom she had always imagined for her daughter. She had been without her mother for either of her weddings, she says, and has been dreaming of this day for so long. Brianna reassures the emotional mother of the bride that the day couldn’t be more perfect: she is there with Claire and the man she loves. The closeness between mother and daughter is in stark contrast to the tension of the previous scene. The two women embrace, before Claire goes in search of Jamie, as it is almost time for the ceremony.

In her very first scene, Caitriona Balfe has introduced a new Claire. Maternal, calmer, and focused on the happiness of sharing in her daughter’s wedding day, this Claire walks with a different purpose. While it is unlikely that tempestuous Claire has gone for good, this Claire is comfortable in her skin, in a way that we haven’t seen in quite this way before. 

Jamie, meanwhile, has assumed the role of nervous father of the bride. He is checking the ritual of “old, new, borrowed and blue”. Old is represented by his mother’s pearls, new by the whisky that he quickly downs, making a face at its raw quality. Borrowed and blue are both represented by a sprig of flowers that Jamie pushes into the centre of a simple bouquet, as he hears Claire calling for him. 

“Wait till you see her,” Claire proudly tells her husband, commenting on his preparations and acknowledging that he has been busy. Jamie replies that he must do what he can for Brianna while he has the chance, adding that they haven’t had enough time together. Claire remarks that it was always going to happen one day, and that at least they are giving her away to a man who loves her. Jamie snorts at this, prompting Claire to ask him if he doubts Roger’s love. Jamie replies that Roger had doubted it himself. “Well he’s here now,” Claire says, “and he loves her.” 

This is precisely what Jamie fears, telling Claire that he knows what love can make a man do: it is an emotion that brings with it courage, but not the sense to go along with it. Love won’t do either of them any good if Roger gets himself killed, he says. Claire agrees, describing Roger as a scholar and remarking that she’s not sure that his expertise covers the dangers of a Carolina wilderness. Drawing Jamie closer, she says that Roger has Jamie to teach him. They kiss, smiling at each other for a moment. But it is time for the wedding and as Claire leaves the room, we see Jamie’s “nervous father” expression return. 

Similarly to Catriona Balfe, Sam Heughan presents a new Jamie in the opening moments of season 5. The disapproving father-in-law persona allows Heughan to inject some more humour into the character, whilst also allowing for some endearing moments of uncertainty. This Jamie is patriarch rather than laird and it represents a fascinating new layer to a much loved character.

Jamie carries his old, new, borrowed and blue items into the room where Brianna waits, gazing with pride at the sight of his daughter. The tensions between the two of them in the previous season are long gone and this is a beautifully tender scene. Brianna notices what Jamie is carrying. 
“You remembered!” she exclaims. 
“Something old, new, borrowed and blue,” he recites, “plus a silver sixpence for your shoe”. At this, he holds up a coin, saying that it is from Murtagh. Brianna expresses regret that Murtagh cannot be there and Jamie replies that Murtagh is equally sad. He picks up the pearls, saying that he is glad Brianna brought them back with her, and that he had hoped she would wear them one day. He fastens the strand around her neck, and she turns back to face him. Now it is his turn to get emotional, his eyes shining as he whispers “Bonny”.  Composing himself, he says that it probably isn’t the wedding she had imagined for herself. 
“Not quite,” Brianna agrees, before adding that the best thing is that she doesn’t have to imagine Jamie. He responds that it is a blessing that she came to him, musing somewhat plaintively that having just gotten her back, he doesn’t want to give her away so soon. 
“Da,” Brianna responds, “No matter where I am, I will always be your wee girl.” 
Jamie kisses her on the forehead and pours them each a dram. “Are you ready a leeannan?” he asks. 
“Je suis prest,” she replies with a smile and they drink. 

Moments later, they walk down the steps of the house together, towards Claire, who tells her daughter how radiant she looks. The three of them gaze out for a moment, before Jamie calls loudly, “The Frasers of the Ridge are here!” Cheers ring out from below (and from the fans watching on TV!) and the ceremony begins. 

Claire goes first, followed by Jamie and Bree, acknowledging faces in the crowd as she walks, Lord John Grey and Governor Tryon amongst them. Claire reaches a visibly nervous Roger, telling him that everything will be fine and reminding him that the two of them together can conquer the world.  Jamie and Bree approach, to the strains of the Fraser’s Ridge theme, and Jamie bows to Roger as he leaves Bree by his side. Roger is momentarily speechless, and Brianna responds to his stammering “You… look…” with “I love you too.” The minister begins to speak and the couple gaze down at the assembled congregation. Baby Jemmy is sitting on Marsali’s lap, with young Germaine sitting next to Fergus. Aunt Jocasta and Ulysses are also there, as is Lizzie. Jamie again acknowledges Governor Tryon, seeming a little puzzled by his attendance. 

Roger and Brianna exchange vows and, as is often the way at weddings, the already married couples reminisce about their own nuptials. Fergus and Marsali lean towards each other and smile. Jamie and Claire share a meaningful look and the scene morphs briefly back to their own ceremony from season 1. “As long as we both shall live,” they repeat, softly echoing Brianna’s words. They continue to smile at each other and we see not only the strength of the love they still have for each other, but an acknowledgement of everything they have endured in order to arrive at this point in time.  They are brought back to the present by the cheers of those around them and they rise to their feet to join in the congratulations. 

The ceremony over, a large outdoor reception begins. Children run around, while the adults talk, drink, eat and personally congratulate the happy couple. One of the well-wishers is none other than Governor Tryon. Jamie apologises for not knowing in enough time of the Governor’s attendance, as he should have thought to offer him a room. Tryon waves away these concerns, remarking that the Government has provided fine pavilions for him instead. He indicates that Jamie should walk with him, and with a brief look at Claire, Jamie follows. 

The conversation begins pleasantly enough, with Tryon asking Jamie if there will be a hunt in the couple’s honour and Jamie replying that while Roger can sing like a bird, he isn’t much good at shooting. But after some more brief pleasantries, Tryon’s tone changes. He mentions Jamie’s letters to him, adding that while they have kept him entertained the past few months, there have been too many twists and turns of plot. He would prefer, he says, to see a villain get his comeuppance. The intimation is clear: Tryon is running out of patience with Jamie’s delay in fulfilling the order to kill Murtagh. But Tryon doesn’t press the point any further, commenting that he must be keeping Jamie from his guests. 

Meanwhile, Roger is being congratulated by Germaine, Fergus and Marsali’s son. Roger ruffles the young boy’s hair and Germaine is unhappy with this,  saying that Roger has ticks. 
“Ticks?” Roger asks, confused, before Germaine explains that Grandpere (Jamie) says that all presbyterians have “hairy ticks”. Putting Germaine down with a small grimace, Roger tells the young boy to go and play. 

A short while later, Roger and Bree are cutting their wedding cake, while Jamie raises a toast to them. Through false smiles, Roger asks Brianna if Jamie truly thinks him a heretic. Brianna assures him that it’s nothing personal: Jamie thinks the same of all presbyterians. But Roger isn’t convinced. Jamie has never forgiven him, he says, for taking as long as he did to return to the Ridge following his rescue from the Mohawk. 
“But you did come back,” Brianna replies, “And that’s all that matters.” 
“Tell him that!” Roger exclaims and is immediately surprised with a large wad of cake being pushed into his mouth. Brianna explains that in her America, it is traditional for the bride and groom to feed each other a piece of wedding cake. Roger says that he wishes she had mentioned that beforehand, as he had been thinking she was just trying to shut him up. Brianna responds with sarcastic meekness: a wife should never contradict her husband, she demurs, prompting Roger to cram another mouthful of cake into her mouth.  

The byplay is interrupted by the arrival of Jocasta and Ulysses. Jocasta offers her congratulations before making a request for Roger to visit her in her pavilion before her departure. Somewhat puzzled, Brianna and Roger agree. Jocasta assures them that she is looking forward to it and turns away again, leaning on Ulysses’ arm. 
“At least your aunt likes me,” Roger says. 
“Well, you do look dashing,” Brianna replies. She wipes the crumbs from his face, but his next comment unsettles her. He suggests that when they go back, they should do all this again, and that when they do, he will be more prepared. Roger is thinking of the 20th century and it is obvious that this is unexpected. Any reply to his comment is cut off by the musicians, who start up a tune which heralds the beginning of the dancing. With a smile, Brianna and Roger go to join in. 

Time passes, but the dancing continues. It is night now, but the reception is still in full swing. John Quincy Myers is leading a tongue twister game; the losing competitors having to drink from a communal bowl. One of the guests, Morton, successfully recites Peter Piper, but Fergus is not so lucky. Marsali also recites Peter Piper, but is asked to think of another of her own. She responds with the rhyme about the pheasant plucker, which he recites flawlessly. She chooses Lord John as the next competitor, but his offer to recite Shakespeare is rejected and he must take a drink as forfeit. 

Meanwhile, a puffed out Roger and Brianna try to extricate themselves from yet another dance. Roger says that there’s a saying that suggests that no-one dances if they are sober, so suggests they get a drink. This plan is thwarted by Lizzie though, who asks Brianna if she would mind if she danced with Roger too. Brianna is happy to allow this, Roger less so! Brianna leaves them to the dance and goes over to join Claire, who is minding baby Jemmy. Brianna suggests they teach him some 20th century moves, acting out the mashed potato and the twist. The two women laugh at their private joke and Brianna remarks that she’d like to see Jamie give the dancing a go. Her mind made up, Brianna goes in search of him, as Claire wishes her luck in her quest. 

Jamie is walking with John, the two of them discussing Willie and how he is faring. 
“There is no rest where youth and pleasure meet”, John says, adding that youth and pleasure are currently being found in England. Jamie comments that he always enjoys hearing John’s news and John replies that he always endeavours to share glad tidings. He reminds Jamie of the request he had made in his own letters, for John to undertake a task on his behalf. He is pouring a drink as he speaks, offering one to Jamie. 
“Do I need one?” Jamie replies. 

Brianna is walking towards them and hears John say that he has shocking news: there have been sightings of Stephen Bonnet in the province. Brianna’s breathing becomes uneven as the men continue their conversation. John remarks that he should have checked, but had assumed that Bonnet had perished in the rubble when the jail cell had exploded. Jamie responds that Bonnet has always had a way of cheating death. 
“Maybe hell’s too good for Stephen Bonnet,” Jamie muses, “Heaven wouldn’t let him in.

Brianna is reacting badly to this news, her mind flashing back to the night of her rape at Bonnet’s hands. Trancelike, she turns and wanders back to Claire and Jemmy. In answer to Claire’s query about Jamie’s dancing, Brianna replies distractedly that she couldn’t find him. Claire notices immediately that something is wrong, but Brianna brushes aside her concerns. She says she had simply been thinking that it was a shame that cameras had not yet been invented. Taking her by the shoulders, Claire says that it has been a day to remember, even without photographs. Brianna replies that even if they had been in their own time, Frank wouldn’t have been in the photos either. “But he would have been so proud of you,” Claire says, “And he would have been delighted that you are marrying an Oxford man.” Claire reveals that she and Frank had always joked that, living in Boston, Brianna would end up with a husband named Chad or Chip.
 “Well, I have a Roger,” Brianna replies, “and a MacKenzie to boot.”

At this point, the aforementioned Mr MacKenzie appears, now a trifle drunk and offering to “cut a rug” with one of the ladies. Claire accepts and the two begin a reel. Immediately distracted once again, Brianna picks up Jemmy and holds him close as the scene ends. 

Under cover of darkness, Ulysses leads Jocasta into a wooden cabin. Waiting inside is Murtagh, who laments missing a beautiful service, although he had managed to catch a glimpse or two. Murtagh asks Jocasta if he had also seen redcoats and Jocasta confirms the truth of this, telling him that Governor Tryon had been there. Moving from news of the wedding to the real purpose of her visit, Murtagh teases, asking what had taken Jocasta so long to come to him. Jocasta replies, somewhat flirtatiously, that she is not in the habit of meeting her acquaintances in a shed. The flirting continues, with them finally settling on the term “enchanted woodland palace” built by nearby woodland nymphs and Jocasta dubbing Murtagh their fairy King.

The mood is not as jovial back at the big house, as Jamie and Claire discuss Governor Tryon’s less than subtle warning. Nursing baby Jemmy, Jamie muses that in politics there is little difference between making the right friends and the right enemies. Given the choice, he would rather that Tryon remains a friend. With nothing more to be done in the immediate future, Claire suggests they get some sleep, as they are bound to be woken by Jem before the night is over. The baby boy in question proves her point almost immediately, by beginning to cry.

In the bridal cabin, a still shaken Brianna pours 2 drinks. It is reminiscent of Claire and Jamie's wedding night, when an overwhelmed Claire - albeit for different reasons - downed glasses of whisky in quick succession. But while Jamie had attempted to calm Claire with storytelling, Roger uses music. He asks her to sit down on the bed, while he picks up a guitar to serenade her with a 1960s love song. As Richard Rankin’s impressive voice morphs into an instrumental version of the song, a montage begins of all the lovers on the Ridge: Jamie and Claire, Murtagh and Jocasta, Roger and Brianna, Fergus and Marsali, the latter sharing news of another pregnancy by tenderly touching her belly as they take a break from dancing. The other three couples are making love, although Claire and Jamie’s is interrupted, as predicted, by Jemmy’s cries. The montage ends with some gentle, if not slightly poignant, humour, as John Grey sits alone by the fire, smiling wryly at the drunken men of the Ridge passing out on either side of him! 

Following their lovemaking, Roger sleeps peacefully, but one look at Brianna’s face shows her inner torment. Both wedding nights - first the handfasting ceremony and now the more traditional one - have been marred by Stephen Bonnet, and it can only be assumed that this will have an effect on her state of mind as the season continues. 

Meanwhile, Jocasta and Murtagh are having a deep and meaningful post coital conversation. Murtagh muses that under different circumstances they might have had more time together, but he knows what he is and he can’t be changed. Jocasta shares her own potentially changing circumstances, telling Murtagh that Duncan Innes has proposed marriage to her. The name is familiar to Murtagh, as Innes had been with Jamie and himself at Ardsmuir. He asks what Jocasta has said to him and, taking his hand and intertwining his fingers with her own, Jocasta replies that she is yet to give him her answer. It is obvious that she wants Murtagh to ask her to refuse, but he merely says that he will not stand in the way of her happiness. Slowly, Jocasta removes her hand from his and just like that, their relationship is over. This is a lovely scene from two consummate actors, portraying a loving, yet ultimately doomed romance. 

Outside the big house, patients are lining up outside Claire’s clinic. Lizzie is waiting with some of the younger children and begins a flirtation of her own, with young Josiah, the hunter. The two acquaintances discuss the animals that Josiah hunts and Lizzie, somewhat breathlessly, introduces herself with a formal curtsey. Jamie appears at this point and both young people jump. Josiah reassures him that they were only discussing skin, immediately clarifying that he meant skins and pelts, as Lizzie ushers the children into the clinic. Jamie continues to talk to Josiah. He has heard of the young man’s skill at hunting and wants Josiah to move to the ridge to continue his skill, although he suggests that it might be a mistake to have a charming lad amongst the women folk. Josiah is quick to reassure Jamie: he has more on his mind than kissing, adding that his throat is very sore. 

Roger approaches Jocasta’s pavilion as requested and she asks him to join her. Jocasta speaks of her original intention to make Brianna her heir, and Roger remarks that his wife is most conscious of the honour. Jocasta chuckles, expressing her doubts. At any rate, she says, she has changed her mind, meaning to leave the entire fortune to baby Jeremiah. Speaking plainly of her belief that Protestants are known for their tendency to divorce, coupled with the fact that a woman’s property becomes her husband’s upon marriage, Jocasta adds that if Roger can’t love Jemmy for himself, perhaps he could treat him well for the sake of his prospects. This attitude enrages Roger. He asks Jocasta if she truly thinks that he doesn’t believe Jemmy is his own, and wondering how she dares to say such things to him. Jocasta immediately offers an apology, holding out her hand, which Roger takes after a moment’s hesitation. Yet Jocasta soon repeats her concerns, saying that it is only to be understood that a man may feel less kindly towards a child that his wife has borne to another. Roger pulls his hand away in disgust, saying “that’s enough.” He begins to stalk away, before turning back towards the older woman. He tells Jocasta that while he doesn’t have money or property, he has time, which he will give entirely to Brianna and Jeremiah. Leaning in closely, he says that he doesn’t want her money, Brianna doesn’t want her money and Jeremiah certainly won’t have her money, before rather crudely telling her what she can do with her offer and storming away. Left alone, Ulysses and Jocasta begin to giggle. Ulysses asks if it had gone as she had hoped. 
“Even better,” she whispers in response. By expressing supposed doubts as to Roger’s sincerity, she has galvanised him into action and banished any concerns he might have still been harbouring. In his fierce desire to prove Jocasta wrong, Roger is now acting like the family man she has expected him to be. 

Claire is examining Josiah’s throat, swiftly diagnosing abscessed tonsils. She tells Josiah that she can remove them, warning that it will hurt and lamenting the fact that she doesn’t have better medicine and equipment. The tray of Claire’s surgical instruments frightens Josiah, and he claims to feel much better. But Claire reassures him that the scissors and blades on the table are not what she would use and that the operation doesn’t have to happen immediately. Jamie makes a bargain with Josiah - if Claire cures his throat, the young man will settle on the Ridge and take care of the hunting while Jamie is away. Josiah agrees and is shown out of the surgery. Once gone, Claire and Jamie discuss the proposition. Claire has noticed the “T” brand on Josiah’s hand, which brands him a thief. Jamie is less concerned, and Josiah’s hunting prowess is also not to be ignored. Jamie leaves Claire to her patients and her war on the “invisible beasties”. “Bacteria,” Claire corrects, as Jamie opens the door to the noise of people coughing. She remarks that it feels like a war and Jamie, with a formal bow, tells her that she needs to find herself a lieutenant.  

Outside, Jamie is once again approached by Governor Tryon. Tryon explains that he had not mentioned the true purpose of his visit the day before, out of respect for Brianna’s wedding. While he is impressed by Jamie’s efforts in cultivating the land, he is more interested with the second part of the bargain Jamie had struck. In Tryon’s opinion, it is time for Jamie to fulfil his oath to the Crown and to the Governor himself. He orders Jamie to gather his men, in order to bring Murtagh and the insurgents to justice, either by rope or by ball. Tryon wants to see Murtagh’s body hanging in New Bern as a warning to all. The reach of the Regulators has gone beyond the province, Tryon states, and the people are mindful of the outcome. The Governor indicates Lieutenant Knox, who is to wait behind with some men in order to assist Jamie, while Tryon goes to the sheriff to reassure him that steps are being taken to eradicate the “regulator pestilence” and  to end the indignities and insults to his Majesty’s government. Again, Tryon makes a veiled threat. He chose Jamie for the role, he says, because of Jamie’s own Scottish heritage and his understanding of the Scottish people. 
“Do not disappoint me, Colonel,” he says before departing. 
Keeping up the charade of loyal servant to the Crown, Jamie smiles and bows, but we can see his mind working behind this mask of obedience. As Tryon departs, Knox suggests that a week should be enough time to ready the troops and Jamie nods. Left alone, Jamie looks back towards the house, deep in thought.

Still riled up from his encounter with Jocasta, Roger noisily enters the cabin, waking Jemmy in the process. Brianna shushes him, as he walks over to her. He tells her that while yesterday was a celebration of their love, from this day and every day from now on, it will just be the three of them. Kneeling in front of the crib, Roger cuts his finger with his knife. Brianna asks what he is doing and he answers that it is something he should have done a long time ago. Placing a bloodied fingerprint on Jemmy’s forehead, Roger formally claims Jeremiah Alexander Ian Fraser MacKenzie as the blood of his blood and bone of his bone. As the music of their own theme song swells, Brianna smiles tenderly at Roger and he kisses her hand. 

Claire is cleaning up when Jamie comes in to tell her the bad news: Tryon has left a troop behind to help him gather the men and they must leave in a week. The two embrace, understanding the gravity of the situation. If Jamie refuses to hunt Murtagh and the others, Tryon will reclaim the land and brand Jamie a traitor. Even though they both know that Tryon would renege on his side of the deal if it suited him, Jamie simply doesn’t have the luxury of refusal. He has sworn an oath to the Crown and until such time as the Revolutionary War that Claire has spoken of has come to pass, he cannot reconsider his vow. The family has to be thought of, as do all the tenants. If war does come, Jamie says, he has to make sure that the tenants are loyal to him and not to Tryon. Claire reassures him that the men of the Ridge would do anything for him. The real problem however, is Roger. As a fit man of fighting age, he would be expected to fight at Jamie’s side. But Roger is no fighter and is not yet ready for any sort of battle. Claire pleads with Jamie to keep Roger out of it. He doesn’t answer, but heads towards the door, prompting Claire to ask where he is going. 
“Tryon wants a Scot,” Jamie replies. “I’ll give him a Scot.”

It is entirely possible that a little cheer was heard from many long term fans at the beginning of the next scene. Jamie runs his hands over a heavy wooden chest, as a familiar Gaelic battle tune begins to play. He lifts the lid and the camera pans over the contents. Jamie runs his fingers over the fabric, his mind made up, Finally, the kilt is back!! 

As always, Jamie cuts an impressive figure in full Fraser regalia and he is soon standing before Claire, a look of determination and pride on his face. Claire’s own expression is a mixture of emotions - love, her own pride in him, an understanding that this is necessary, and fear for what may lie ahead. Both understand that this is inevitable however, and Claire nods in a silent “Je Suis Prest” of her own. Jamie immediately appears more confident as he strides out into the night. The Laird has come to the Ridge. 

Thrusting a torch into the flames, Jamie uses it to light the straw cross in the centre of the field. The flames leap high, as the people surge forward, with Roger, Jocasta, Ulysses, Lord John, Brianna and Claire amongst them. There is a sense of confusion and anticipation in the air, as Jamie looks out at them all and begins to speak, his voice strong and clear. 

Jamie tells the gathered crowd that in the highlands, when a chieftain is preparing for war, he will light the fiery cross to send a message to the people of his clan. It is a call, Jamie says, for the men to gather their weapons, and to come prepared for battle. But this is not the highlands, and while they might be friends, neighbours and countrymen, they are not a clan and he is not their chief. Regardless, Jamie tells them, he hopes that if the time comes, they will all stand by his side. Already, he is having an impact. Men are nodding, Lord John smiles, even Lieutenant Knox and the redcoats seem mesmerised. Jamie continues to speak. Oaths must be made, he says - not just to wives and loved ones, but to brothers in arms in this new country. 
“Stand by my hand,” Jamie calls, reaching out towards Roger. But it is not Roger who first answers the call. Despite Jamie’s pointed stare at his son-in-law,  Roger stands mute. It is another kinsman who eagerly answers steps forward, kneeling in front of Jamie and making the formal oath. 

Brianna and Claire are watching the proceedings and Brianna asks her mother what is going on. She wonders why the men are making oaths already and Claire replies that since all the men are gathered, Jamie had thought it would be wise to prepare for the future. 

The first oath taken, Jamie again turns to Roger, this time calling him by name and referring to him as the son of his house, asking Roger to be a shield for both their families. Roger can do nothing but accept, baulking slightly at the formal title of Captain that Jamie immediately bestows on him. In an undertone, Jamie assures Roger that he will be safe by Jamie’s side. He tells Roger to repeat what he says, but Roger needs no such prompting, flawlessly reciting the oath in turn. 

Jamie looks at Brianna and Claire for a moment, before grasping Roger’s shoulder and raising him to his feet. Something has shifted in their relationship now. No longer the slightly disapproving father-in-law and the slightly resentful son-in-law, they have forged a new bond, which Jamie is quick to acknowledge before the crowd. 

Jamie tells the crowd that the oaths represent the founding of a kinship in a new world. It is a two way arrangement, with Jamie pledging to serve them in return. This is a speech reminiscent of the one Jamie gave to his men before Culloden and it is having a similar effect. Jamie promises he will not light the cross again until it is time to do battle. 

The next to be called up is Fergus, who Jamie refers to as the son of his name and of his heart. Both Fergus and Marsali are shocked, but Fergus immediately makes the oath. Marsali smiles proudly and the men begin to line up to make oaths of their own. The Clan of the Ridge has been formed.

The next morning, Claire and Jamie stand alone on the mountain above the Ridge. There is one last thing to do and they both know it. 
“It’s time,” Claire says, as they walk away from the unlit battle cross hand in hand. 

Murtagh and Jamie talk by the stream, Murtagh holding a stone in his hand. Perhaps he should take it as a compliment, he says, that Tryon wants to display his body so prominently. Jamie remarks that Murtagh has gotten under Tryon’s skin “a wee bit.” Murtagh mentions the war that Jamie says is to come, remarking that while the outcome is known, the fate of the Regulators remains a mystery. Jamie confirms this, urging Murtagh to wait, so that they can be fighting on the same side. The war, he says, will change the face of the land. 

Murtagh smiles wryly, saying that there is always a war coming. The only decision is to pick which ones to fight. He has been arranging stones as he speaks and it is now apparent that he has made his own stone circle on the ground before them. Murtagh suggests to Jamie that perhaps those who can travel to and fro can go back and change things, in order to make a difference to the present. Murtagh tells Jamie that because Claire, Brianna and Roger came to this time from another, Jamie has everything he has ever wanted. It is a fact, Murtagh says, and not one that he resents Jamie for, but comments that he, in turn, must do what he must and Jamie cannot resent him either. 

Uttering a Gaelic term of endearment, Jamie tells Murtagh that resenting him would be impossible. He knows that Murtagh has stayed close because of his vow to both Ellen and Jamie all those years ago. Murtagh looks back at him: he cannot dispute this. After a moment’s hesitation, Jamie releases Murtagh from his vow. Struggling to maintain his composure, he tells Murtagh to go, and the older man nods, dropping his gaze. Tears filling his eyes, Jamie walks towards his godfather. 
“Go,” he repeats. “Please. Be hard to find.” 

Murtagh is also struggling to keep his emotions in check. With a half smile, he formally tugs on Jamie’s coat, as if to make his godson more presentable. Then, in movements almost mirroring those of the opening scene, his hands linger first on Jamie’s chest and then grip his shoulder in a silent farewell, before he strides briskly away without looking back. It is a clever device: bookmarking the episode with two poignant Murtagh and Jamie scenes. 

Left alone, Jamie’s breath catches and the tears fall. He picks up the centre stone from the makeshift circle, holding it briefly for a moment before tossing it away. 

This first episode has been universally praised for the strength of the writing and the way in which it sets up numerous storylines to be played out as the season progresses. Relationships have been front and centre throughout the hour and we, as the viewers, are already invested in them. 

Claire and Jamie’s love shows a maturity and strength that comes with the shared experiences of many years and it is lovely to see how naturally they are drawn to each other, no matter the circumstance. As always, they are a real team; but now they are matriarch and patriarch as well.

Roger and Brianna’s relationship is reminiscent of the youthful Jamie and Claire. Their passion for each other is undeniable, along with a fierce determination to protect each other and their son. But, as Black Jack was the constant malevolent presence for so long in Jamie and Claire’s life, it is already obvious that Bonnet will pose a similar danger to the MacKenzies’ happiness. It remains to be seen how they will navigate the challenges ahead.

Fergus and Marsali remain enamoured of each other, with moments of mischief that extend to the parenting of their son Germaine (although the young boy seems too old, given that he was a baby in a crib in the previous season, which was only 2 years earlier at most), while Jocasta, Murtagh and Lord John remind us that love on its own cannot always conquer all. Circumstances can get in the way.

And circumstances, it would appear, are about to loom large. Season 5 has hit the ground running and it is going to be an exciting ride! 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She take her hat off to the writers for this episode and thinks they deserve all the kudos they are receiving. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your recap very much, Suzie. It promises to be quite a ride this season. However, I don't believe the baby in Marsali's arms was Jemmy, but Fergus and Marsali's second child, Joanie. Lizzie was the one who was holding Jemmy during the ceremony.

    I look forward to reading more of your recaps now that Droughtlander 5 is over!