Monday, February 24, 2020

“Walking the Line” - A recap of season 5 episode 2 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown 

Where does your loyalty lie? Is it with your loved ones, for whom you would do anything to ensure that they remained safe? Or is it with a cause, where you would seek justice for those who have been wronged, even if by doing so you end up causing more harm to others? Or is your loyalty to the authorities and a belief in order and respect, even if that loyalty comes at the expense of compassion? These questions and themes are prevalent throughout the second episode of Outlander’s fifth season and they are difficult ones to answer. But as all fans of the series know by now, life for Diana Gabaldon’s characters is never eas

Following on from the Gathering in the season opener, the second episode begins with another symbolic burning. But instead of the fiery cross that united the Ridge, this time it is a redcoat uniform alight and the crowd surrounding it is angry. The Regulators are exacting revenge on the authorities of Hillsboro by tarring and feathering two of its most prominent citizens. And far from being “hard to find”, Murtagh is leading the retribution, angrily yelling at the men being punished, asking where the mercy was for the people of the town who had begged for time to pay their taxes. With a look of disgust, Murtagh tells the other regulators, “Go to it, lads” and the violence of the night fades into the opening credits. The romantic start to the season is already a memory: conflict is the order of the next 50 minutes. 

Back at the Ridge, Brianna is sitting under a tree sketching. The music tells us, however, that she is far from relaxed. As the camera pans in, we see the face of Bonnet looking out from the sketch, Brianna’s pencil angrily shading the outline of his jaw. Her growing anxiety is interrupted by screams of help and a woman drives a carriage up to the house, desperately holding on to the man sitting next to her. The couple is known to everyone, and Mr and Mrs Farrish are quickly ushered inside, with Brianna telling Claire that something is wrong. Claire swings into doctor mode immediately, laying the man on the table and sending for pillows and water. After Claire has confirmed that it is Mr Farrish’s stomach that is causing him such pain, Mrs Farrish explains what she has done to try and help her husband, listing a number of home remedies which both Brianna and Claire know to be useless. But when Mrs Farrish speaks of giving her husband tablets that contain mercury, Brianna closes her eyes in sorrow and Claire informs the woman that nothing more can be done. With the benefit of their 20th century experience, Claire and Brianna know that death is inevitable. Marsali ushers everyone out of the room and Mr Farrish soon breathes his last. The scene ends with Claire watching Mrs Farrish as she sobs over the body of her husband. 


Meanwhile, Jamie is in conversation with Lieutenant Knox, who admits that he has been privy to Jamie’s correspondence with the Governor. Knox is quick to tell Jamie that this has merely been so that he could understand the lay of the land and how the search for Murtagh has been going. But Jamie is not fooled. Tryon had wanted his lieutenant to find out for himself what sort of a man Jamie is, he says, and Jamie asks Knox for his verdict. Knox replies that Jamie is a man with whom he is pleased to break bread. He goes on to compliment Jamie on his efforts to cultivate the land, saying that it confirms Jamie’s loyalty to King and country. Finally, Knox has been impressed by the Gathering and in Jamie’s ability to bring people together. 

Jamie thanks Knox for his opinions, adding that he will be sure to return the compliment in his next letter to Tryon and speak favourably of the affable Lieutenant. Looking out over the Ridge, Knox expresses his longing to have a parcel of land that is of similar size to Jamie’s own. Knox’s expression is both hopeful and eager, as he suggests that the capture and hanging of Murtagh could bring him such a reward. Jamie’s look is careful in response and we see him calculating what to do next. It is going to be a difficult situation to negotiate. 

Jamie and Knox lead their men past a group of people who are obviously down on their luck. Knox throws some coins in the direction of some of them, and one of the men spits derisively in response. Turning to Jamie, Knox laments the lack of manners of the people of the back country, commenting that it is only civility that keeps them from killing one another. Jamie reminds Knox that there is no time for manners when there is a family to feed, adding that perhaps they should be grateful they have only been spat at. But Knox disagrees. He tells Jamie that His Majesty’s army should always be respected. “Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect,” Knox says. “We should take what is offered and be thankful that it is no worse than it is.” After all, it is he and Jamie who provide protection, Knox says, so that life for the people isn’t any worse.  
When Jamie observes that the man who spat at them doesn’t share Knox’s beliefs on the matter, Knox asks what Jamie’s beliefs are. Jamie asks why Knox wants to know, asking the lieutenant if he is taking notes for his own dispatches to the Governor. Knox denies this, but still presses Jamie for his answer. Jamie says that he agrees with Knox, in as much as they are united in their aim to offer protection to those they have sworn to defend. Knox surprises Jamie somewhat with his next comment, saying that he admires a man who puts duty and honour above all else. In that case, Jamie says, Knox must admire someone who would rather starve than dishonour his own conscience. Knox immediately asks if this means Jamie sympathises with the Regulators and Jamie sidesteps the question somewhat, saying that he has sympathy for anyone who can’t afford to eat, adding that Knox’s generosity with his coin would suggest that he thinks so as well. Knox confirms that he does think it right to give to those in need, musing that it is reasonably true that there is no convenient time for death or taxes, a comment that prompts Jamie to turn the lieutenant’s question back on him - does Knox have some sympathy for the Regulators?  

Knox smiles wryly, but a rider soon halts their conversation. The man has come to tell them that the Regulators have been rioting in Hillsboro. Knox asks if there have been any injuries and the rider confirms that there have been a few, but adds that they have managed to capture three of the Regulators. Knox turns to Jamie and suggests that they head for Hillsboro at once, as their presence there could reassure the people.  Jamie says nothing, but picks up the pace, obviously concerned that one of the three prisoners could be Murtagh. 

Back at the Ridge, Claire is performing an autopsy on the body of Mr Farrish when Brianna knocks on the door. She has come to see if she can help, but pales at the sight of Mr Farrish’s organs laid bare on the table. Claire says that she understands it is difficult to see someone like this but that it had been necessary to confirm the cause of death. Taking a deep breath before turning around to face her mother, Brianna remarks that Claire’s thinking makes perfect practical and intellectual sense, if they are talking about 1969. In this time period though, it is a far more dangerous prospect. Brianna asks Claire: what is someone found out? Claire reassures Brianna that she will make sure that this won’t happen. What makes the situation worse, she tells her daughter, is that Mrs Farrish accelerated her husband’s death. His appendix had burst and he was in septic shock, with the bacteria in his abdomen creating a serious infection. The only thing that blood letting and mercury pills would have done would be to kill him faster. Brianna finishes the sentence for Claire, but adds that no-one in this time will understand.  Claire agrees that this is possible, but that if she is to keep people safe in this time, she needs to know what has caused their illnesses. She doesn’t want to watch people die, knowing that if they had come to her sooner, they could have been saved. This is particularly true of Mr Farrish, who could have been cured with a simple appendectomy. 

Brianna’s understands how Claire feels to have lost a patient, but reassures her mother that there was nothing she could have done. 
“It’s bad enough that I’m fighting the disease, Claire says, “but I’m also fighting the cure.” 
Brianna wants to continue to comfort her mother, but the sight of Farrish’s body is too much and she leaves the room quickly to get some air. Left alone once more, and no doubt mindful of Brianna’s opinion that no-one in this century would understand her actions, Claire quickly shuts and locks the door, drawing the curtain across. 

Outside, Marsali is conducting her own version of an autopsy, by gutting the carcass of a deer. Unlike Brianna, Marsali is not squeamish at the sight of blood and organs and she slices away at the animal with a sharp knife. Claire comes out onto the balcony and the two women exchange a brief smile. As Marsali returns to her work, Claire watches, thoughtfully. 

Jamie and Knox arrive in Hillsboro. The townsfolk are attempting to restore some order to the town, as Knox comments to Jamie that this is what a world without civility looks like. A man comes out of a house, a cut above his eye. Jamie recognises him as the Governor’s friend, Mr Fanning and calls out to him. Telling his men Sinclair and Morton to look after the horses, Jamie dismounts and walks towards Fanning, who recognises him and expresses relief at the sight of a familiar face. Jamie provides introductions between Fanning and Knox and the two men bow formally to each other. Knox expresses regret at the circumstances under which the two men have met, saying that he hopes the situation will improve now that men are stationed in the town . 

Fanning tells the other men what has been happening, saying that the situation has been getting worse and worse. Jamie asks what had been done and Fanning offers to show him. He leads Knox and Jamie inside, telling them that the regulators had seized control of the court house, forcing the Honourable Judge Henderson to hear their case under duress. The judge, fearing his life to be in danger, had fled. Fanning walks towards another man, who he introduces as Evans, and explains that when the Regulators had not received the justice they had wanted from the court, they had done something else. Evans removes the blanket that has been covering him, revealing his tarred and feathered torso. 

“Paraded through town like a boiled goose,” Evans says bitterly, as Knox expresses horror at the sight, “for enforcing a tax they did not want to pay.” 
Jamie tells Evans that in time he will wear his scars with honour, knowing that he received them doing his duty. 
“I pray you’re right,” Evans replies. 
Fanning tells Jamie that another man, William Hooper, has received the same fate and is not faring as well. Hooper is in bed unable to move, Fanning says, and may yet succumb to his wounds. 

The mood against the Regulators is dark, to say the least. Knox refers to them as cowardly dogs, while Fanning tells Jamie that he had been beaten and forced to watch. Fanning adds that he wished Claire had accompanied Jamie, as a surgeon with her skill could certainly be employed. Jamie nods, obviously discomforted at the extent of Evan’s wounds. Seeing this, Knox asks if Jamie is still feeling the same sympathy for the regulators and Jamie admits that he didn’t think them capable of what they have done. 

Conversation turns to the men who have been captured, as Evans, voice raised in anger, says that they ought to hang. Fanning comments that this is now a certainty, given that providence has brought them Lieutenant Knox and Colonel Fraser. Knox tells Fanning that as it happens, they are looking for one of the insurgents themselves. Jamie asks if Fanning knows whether Murtagh Fitzgibbons is one of the men they have captured. Fanning doesn’t know, but offers to take them to see the prisoners. 

Jamie asks Knox if he needs time to compose himself, offering to question the prisoners alone. When Knox expresses his desire to face the men, Jamie asks to be allowed to speak first, “highlander to highlander”, a tactic that he suggests may loosen the men’s tongues. The prisoners are brought out, in chains. With a jolt of recognition, Jamie looks at two of the men to whom he and young Ian had offered parcels of land when they first arrived on the Ridge and it is obvious that the men have recognised him too. This is potentially dangerous for Jamie, as the men will also know of his connection to Murtagh, given that he and Ian had also attended one of the meetings that Murtagh had held. 

Staring meaningfully at each man in turn, Jamie introduces himself as Colonel Fraser, before formally introducing Knox. He tells the men that they are in search of their leader, Murtagh Fitzgibbons and asking whether Murtagh was the one who had put them up to this. The men look back at him, glancing between Jamie and Knox. Jamie continues, adding that he knows how persuasive a highlander can be since he is “grown from the same ground.” THe first man to speak is Brian Cranna and he comments that given where Jamie is standing, he must have a few thousand acres of new ground now. This is a coded confirmation that he remembers Jamie well enough. Jamie replies  that he does indeed have settlers, men and women who depend upon him. This comment earns him derision from the other man, Ethan Mackinnon, who had also refused Jamie’s first offer of land. “Spoken like a true Laird,” Ethan says, adding that both Jamie and Knox are on their high horses, when in reality, they are no better than them. 

Jamie asks the man to look him in the eye and say that their actions had been justified. Mackinnon does so, saying that their actions were indeed justified, referring to the Hillsboro authorities as crooked thieves and extortionists, and expressing regret that they hadn’t bathed more of them in tar. Jamie is horrified at this, saying that they can’t possibly mean that. He frowns when he is told that the men will wage war if they must and will bring towns down around their ears. Knox says to Jamie that the men are nothing but white livered miscreants and cites their crimes are evidence. 
“Try saying that to me again when my hands are untied,” Ethan responds. 
Knox steps forward, demanding that the men tell him where the rest of the regulators are hiding. Jamie is behind Knox, staring ferociously at the men, as Knox asks specifically for Murtagh’s whereabouts. But the men are not likely to give up this information, Ethan adding that he would rather bite his own tongue off than tell Knox what he wants to know.

Knox initially turns back to Jamie, but then draws his sword, reminding the men that he is a lieutenant of His Majesty’s army. it is not a title that they respect and Ethan says that Knox’s red coat is the colour of the devil himself. Knox is angered by this. He pushes his sword against the man’s chest, asking him again where Murtagh Fitzgibbons is. 
“I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons”, he answers, spitting in Knox’s face. 
At this point, Knox loses control and stabs Mackinnon in the stomach before Jamie can stop him. As the other horrified prisoners watch their friend die, Jamie turns on Knox. “What have you done?” he says. “You’ve executed a man without trial!”

At this point, Fanning enters and demands to know what has happened. Jamie speaks quickly, saying that sometimes a man has to draw his sword to defend himself. It is a lie which everyone bar Fanning recognises. With another fierce look at the prisoners compelling them to remain silent, Jamie orders the men taken back to their cells. He is treading a very dangerous path, and he knows it.

Brianna and Roger are practising shooting in the woods. Or rather, Roger is practising - and failing miserably. “ Captain Roger Mackenzie at your service,” he says sarcastically, as a squirrel scampers to safety when his shot goes wide. 

Brianna tries to console him, saying that squirrels are quick, but Roger will not be pacified. It is ridiculous, he says to be a captain of a militia when he can’t shoot and equally ridiculous to be shooting at squirrels - like shooting at Tufty Fluffy Tail, he says. 

Brianna looks at him, confused and Roger explains that Tufty is a squirrel who, back in the 20th century, teaches children about road safety, somewhat akin to America’s own Smokey the Bear. Brianna comments that she would rather be part of the militia and Roger replies that he knows he is being kept occupied shooting at squirrels while the “real men” are away. 

Brianna disputes this, saying that Jamie had left Roger behind to protect the Ridge while he was gone, but Roger is not buying this argument. “Protect it from what?” he asks her. “Rabies?” Serious now, Roger says that the Regulators pose no threat to them on the Ridge and that Jamie doesn’t respect him, a situation compounded by the fact that Jemmy had been baptised by a Presbyterian minister. 

Brianna is still trying to jolly him out of his mood, saying that there was already one heretic in the family and two are better than one. Choosing a target that doesn’t move, she instructs Roger to aim at the tree. She stands behind him, correcting his stance and whispering instructions, both actions that Roger finds arousing. But just as they turn to kiss, a group of pheasants wander into view. Both Bree and Roger immediately take aim and fire, but while his shot once again misses, hers immediately dispatches one of the birds. Grimacing at this confirmation of her superior skill, Roger walks forward to collect it.

“You want to go back, don’t you?” Brianna asks him. He replies that he doesn’t know, adding that perhaps he just wants Jemmy to be part of the Tufty club. Again Brianna tries humour, suggesting that since there are plenty of squirrels on the Ridge; they can just choose one and name it Tufty. When this doesn’t work, she tries a different approach, saying that maybe they should be glad that there is no need for road safety in this time and that at least Jem won’t die in a car accident. But when it comes down to it, she only has one real argument. “Our family is here,” she says.
Roger comments that it is she and Jemmy who are his family, whereas James Fraser is his Colonel. 
“What about Mama?” Brianna asks him. 
After a long pause, he replies simply with the fact that they both know to be true: Brianna doesn’t want to leave Jamie and Claire.

Jamie and Knox are sitting in a tavern. Distraught, Knox asks what he has done, musing that he has become the very thing that he despises and that he is a hypocrite.
“What’s done is done,” Jamie replies, practically, before suggesting that Knox try to make amends, by ensuring a fair trial for the others.
But Knox knows this is not possible, saying that the other men will be found guilty and hanged. “I gave him a soldier’s death,” he says of the dead man, adding that the other two will not be so lucky. In mere seconds, his entire attitude changes. The other two will be taken to New Bern, he tells Jamie, to be hanged as proof of the work that the soldiers are doing. 
“Is that what they deserve?” Jamie asks.
“It’s better than they deserve,” Knox replies, prompting Jamie to ask the Lieutenant if there is no cause he would die for. 
Knox replies, “We’re here, aren’t we? To die for King and Country,” reminding Jamie that that is an oath they both have sworn. 
“Aye,” Jamie agrees, reluctantly. “We have.”

Farrish’s coffin is being lowered into the ground, as Roger sings the hymn, “Abide with Me.” The ceremony over, Claire asks Fergus if he will look after the children while she has a word with Marsali. Claire tells the younger woman that there is something she wants to show her, but asks Marsali if she trusts her.
“Aye,” Marsali replies, a little puzzled. 

Claire leads Marsali into the surgery, where something is lying on the table, covered in a sheet on which blood stains are visible. Claire locks the door and tells Marsali that she must be allowed to explain. She turns back the top half of the sheet, to reveal the face of Mr Farrish. Marsali begins to call out, prompting Claire to put her hand over Marsali’s mouth to quieten her. Reciting part of the Lord’s prayer, Marsali asks Claire if Laoghaire had in fact been right. Claire reassures Marsali that she is not a witch, adding that Marsali has more sense than that. “Knowing me as you do,” Claire asks her, “why do you think Mr Farrish is on this table?” 

Before she answers, Marsali asks who was in the coffin that has just been buried. Claire replies that Roger had helped her to fill the coffin with rocks. When Marsali reminds Claire that she is a physician who should be concerned with the living, Claire responds that the curse of the living is that they can’t tell the secrets of the dead. Marsali asks what those secrets could be. “How to save those that are still with us,” Claire replies, “How to perform life saving surgeries.” Claire tells Marsali that physicians need to practise and do so on the dead, adding that Marsali would be a good apprentice. She has watched Marsali butchering, Claire says. Marsali is good with a knife and understands the part of an animal and what they are for. People are similar in many ways, Claire says, turning back the rest of the sheet to reveal the body. 
“God help us,” Marsali whispers.

Using this as an argument, Claire suggests that God does indeed help them, by providing a body that can help her to teach Marsali, so that together they can protect God’s miracle. 
It is a big gamble, but a clever one on Claire’s part. While it would have been far simpler for Brianna to assist Claire, given their shared knowledge of the 20th century, Brianna’s physical revulsion at Farrish’s body had put paid to that. Marsali, on the other hand, is made of sterner stuff. She is practical and intelligent and also susceptible to flattery. Claire continues to praise her, describing the younger woman as a kind and caring woman, with the right instincts. It is genuine praise, with Claire admitting that she needs help. Marsali is torn. Although they had a rocky start, she admires Claire and there is no doubt a certain amount of pride in the fact that Claire has handpicked her for such an important task. But, she tells Claire, she could never defile a body. Claire assures her that she didn’t defile Mr Farrish, explaining that she performed what is known as an autopsy, in order to learn why he died. Despite herself, Marsali is curious, asking if Claire can truly find out how a man died by cutting him open. Claire confirms this. She couldn’t save Mr Farrish, she tells Marsali, but this way his death will mean something and will help save others.  She adds that once she has finished teaching Marsali, they will stitch him up and give Faros a proper burial, with Roger’s help. 
“Stitch him up?” Marsali asks. “Like a seamstress?”
Claire nods and we can tell from Marsali’s expression that she is intrigued. 

This is an important scene, beautifully acted by Lauren Lyle and Caitriona Balfe, who, with facial expressions and voice inflection alone, manage to further the bond between the two characters. We get the very real feeling by the end of the scene that Marsali and Claire have grown closer in the space of a few minutes.

It is night and Jamie watches as a heavy sack - likely to be the body of the stabbed regulator- is loaded onto the back of a cart under the cover of darkness and wheeled away. Palming a tool into the sleeve of his coat, Jamie enters the jail and goes over to the cells. He doesn’t get a warm welcome. Cranna addresses him as Colonel Fraser and asks if Jamie has come to finish them off. Cranna mentions Murtagh too and muses what would have happened if Murtagh had seen Jamie standing with Knox. Jamie replies that Knox shouldn’t have done what he did, but neither should they have tormented the Hillsboro men. Jamie apologises for Mackinnon’s death and for his part in the whole business. When they question whether Jamie’s involvement is linked to Tryon’s money, Jamie explains that he has been bound to Tryon, but that he is trying to save all of their lives. 

The other prisoner, Withers, remarks sarcastically that Jamie is being very noble but isn’t doing very well so far. This angers Jamie, who tells them not to question nobility.  They believe in their cause and he believes in his: to save as many lives as possible. With that, he uses the palmed tool to break the lock, freeing the two men. Checking outside to see that it is safe, Jamie tells the men that the redcoats are guarding the town. He had told Murtagh to be hard to find, he says, but hadn’t counted on Murtagh’s friends laying a trail of tar and feathers to his doorstep, He is shocked by the men’s response: Murtagh had been there with them. 
“Then tell him not to return,” Jamie says, adding that Knox has an army at his command.  
The warning doesn’t worry the men though. Knox’s army is across the water, they say, whereas they have an army of men close at hand, men who have nothing to lose and who have been secretly training for battle. Asking how many men Jamie has, the former prisoners disappear into the night. 

The women of the Ridge are making candles, talking of poor Mistress Farrish and how they will light a candle for her. One of the women, Mistress Chisholm, says that bad luck comes in threes and talks of her lad Thomas, who has burned his hand badly at the kiln. Claire is listening, approving at first of the treatment of honey that the woman suggests. But as the conversation continues, Claire becomes concerned. The woman has consulted a doctor who has said that honey is for old wives and has instead recommended St James Fever Powder that is used by the King himself. Anything that is good enough for the King, Mistress Chisholm says, is good enough for her boy. 

The powder, besides being totally unhelpful when treating a burn, also has an ingredient in it that is poisonous and will induce vomiting. Indeed, Mistress Chisholm confirms that her son has been ill. The powder can be dangerous in larger doses, but the women are dismissive of Claire’s warnings. She is a fine healer, they tell her, but Dr Wilson  is a learned physician and they will do what he tells them. Besides, they joke, could anyone imagine what would happen if it was discovered that the King was being poisoned by his own physician?

The exchange prompts Claire to create a manifesto of sorts: Tips For Preventative Health Care. Brianna comes across her hard at work, creating copies of a list that tells people what not to do for an illness or injury. Brianna asks how Claire will explain how she knows all these things. She compares her mother to Otter Tooth, doubting that people will listen to her. Claire agrees, which is why she has decided to use a pseudonym. The list is purportedly from the previous owner of her medical kit and microscope, Dr Daniel Rawlings. Brianna is impressed by Claire’s ingenuity and offers to help copy the document. 

Jamie is listening to Knox and Fanning as they examine the lock on the cells and conclude that it was broken from the outside, indicating that there are more traitors in town. Jamie suggests to Mr Fanning that he could make some enquiries, which Fanning readily agrees to do. Left alone with Knox, Jamie continues his subterfuge, suggesting that perhaps the whole situation will work in their favour. If the men reach Murtagh, he says, no doubt they will tell Murtagh what lengths Knox is prepared to go to in order to bring about an end to the situation. 

But Knox is less optimistic. He tells Jamie that they had only sought one man, but he now fears that war is inevitable. After all, he says, one man fighting for his home is worth the same as “100 fighting for pay,” Jamie finishes for him. Knox tells Jamie that he needs more men, commenting that the men he called at Brianna’s wedding are not enough. Jamie agrees to leave the following day and gather a militia. Knox tells Jamie to meet him back in Hillsboro as soon as he is able, and to come prepared for war. The men bow formally to one another and Jamie takes his leave. 

Claire is testing Roger’s eyes and he asks whether Marsali had passed her own test. Claire confirms that she has a new assistant and thanks Roger for his own part in the proceedings in helping her to hide Farrish’s body. The topic changes to Roger’s own heritage and Claire confirms that Roger’s father, Jerry, had not worn glasses as a spitfire pilot during the war. This makes a hereditary vision problem less likely. Roger is slightly shortsighted in one eye, but this is not enough to cause any real difficulties, meaning that Roger cannot blame his eyesight for his inadequate shooting skills. 

Roger muses that maybe his inability to shoot is psychological, as he was in fact raised by a minister. “I don’t want to shoot anyone,” he tells Claire, whereas Brianna by comparison is a crack shot. Roger admits that Brianna is happy with her life in the 18th century. He knows she wants to stay, which makes perfect sense, given that all her family is around her, whereas Reverend Wakefield had been the last of his. Claire reminds him that he probably has ancestors living in the current time, a fact that Roger acknowledges, but comments that should he ever cross paths with Morag MacKenzie again, explaining that they were in fact related, would be tricky. Claire smiles and places her hand over his own. “Either way,” she says, “we are your family, Roger.” Her next words are surprising, as she admits to Roger that she hopes that ultimately they don’t stay. While she would miss them all terribly, it is safer in the future for the three of them. She is trying, she says, to make the 18th century safer, but it isn’t. 

Claire blames herself for the fact that they are all in this time. She speaks of Jemmy and her fear that he could get an infection from something as simple as a scraped knee and that, without something as simple as an antibiotic, she may not be able to save him. Roger reminds Claire that it is a moot point at present, since that they couldn’t consider travelling until they know whether Jemmy can hear the stones as well. It is something that they might find out in a matter of days, or a year. “Or never,” Roger says. 

This is a lovely scene, acted with real warmth by Caitriona Balfe and Richard Rankin. Unlike the uneasiness of the relationship between Jamie and Roger, the relationship between Claire and Roger is natural and is full of respect and affection. Each truly understands the plight of the other and you can clearly see the camaraderie that exists between the two, 

Cranna and Withers are making their way through the darkness when a rifle is pressed into their backs.
“What are your names?” a voice demands. When they reply, they are immediately asked for the watch word. Cranna says the only word he knows, commenting that he doesn’t know if it has changed since they have been imprisoned. 
“No,” says a familiar voice. “It hasn’t changed.”
The men are relieved to see Murtagh, who is standing with two other Regulator leaders, referred to by Cranna as Mr Husband and Mr Hunter. Husband asks for news from Hillsboro, asking how the men have come to be free and asking where Ethan is. 
“A sorry tale,” Cranna replies, but I’ll tell it.”

As they walk through the Regulator camp, Murtagh agrees with Jamie’s assessment of the situation. Although they mourn Ethan’s loss and want to avenge his death, they need to bide their time. If Jamie has told them not to return to Hillsboro, Murtagh says, then there is good reason for it. Cranna is not so sure. He knows that Murtagh trusts Jamie, but isn’t convinced that Jamie is on their side. Murtagh describes Jamie as “walking between two fires”, but Cranna remarks that it is a term that could just as easily apply to Murtagh himself, caught between the Regulators’ cause on one hand and his godson on the other. He asks Murtagh where his allegiance will lie when the time comes to fight. 

Husband remarks that they pray it will not come to that.  If it does, Murtagh adds, they will be ready. Moving forward towards Cranna and Withers, Murtagh assures them that while he has no sway over his godson, neither does Jamie hold sway over him. Withers says that Jamie stands with the crown, but Murtagh corrects him.
“No,” he insists. “He stands with his people. And I stand with mine.” 

It is a simple enough statement, but shows the turmoil that both Murtagh and Jamie face at this point in time. Circumstance has dictated that they are on opposite sides, and each is trying desperately to protect the other. Nevertheless, Murtagh gives his word to Bryan - when the time comes, he will fight by Cranna’s side. 

At the Ridge, Mrs Bug is fearing for Claire’s sanity. She tells Brianna that Claire has been up all night baking, with enough bread to feed the multitudes, like the bible tale of the loaves and fishes. Brianna walks into the surgery and sees what Mrs Bug means. The table is full of bread rolls and Claire is busily placing hunks of bread underneath glass containers. 

“You’re not planning on eating all of that, are you?” Brianna asks her mother. When Claire replies that she is planning on letting it go mouldy, Mrs Bug deems the exercise a terrible waste and leaves them alone. It is then that Claire reveals her actual plan. She is making penicillin, she tells Brianna, or rather, she is going to try. Hearing this, Brianna starts to agree with Mrs Bug - perhaps Claire has lost her mind. “You can’t do that,” she says, but Claire is determined to try, not just with bread, but also with food scraps which she has sent Marsali to find. Brianna reminds Claire that penicillin will not be invented for at least another hundred years and Claire responds with the exact number: 157. Brianna tries again - while producing lists that go against the accepted wisdom of the day is one thing, making penicillin is another thing altogether and could in fact be dangerous. What would happen, Brianna asks, if a cosmic balance is interrupted, or space and time is interfered with? “Isn’t this playing God?” she says.

Claire reminds Brianna that she had done exactly the same thing, by coming back in time to warn Claire and Jamie of the fire that was reported in the newspaper. Claire changes the future with every life she saves and Jamie’s presence on the Ridge has also affected many lives - Brianna’s, Roger’s and Jemmy’s included.  “So time, space and history be damned,” Claire says, and Brianna, although obviously still concerned, gives her a small smile in return. 

Outside, Roger is sharing his own piece of the future, by singing a song that hasn’t been invented yet. Jemmy sits playing on a blanket in front of the cabin, listening to the strains of “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”. Roger starts talking to Jemmy, not hearing Brianna approaching behind him. Brianna tells him that she loves the song and compliments Roger on what a good father he is. Roger takes the basket she is carrying and takes it inside, allowing her some time with their son. 

As Roger puts the basket down, he knocks over Brianna’s folder of sketches and a couple flutter onto the cabin floor.  But when he goes to replace them, Roger is shocked to find not one, but several drawings of Bonnet. His concern is interrupted though, by Brianna’s excited cries. Putting down the folder, Roger goes outside to see what has happened. He has missed it, she tells him, but Jem is walking. Roger tries to smile, but it is obvious that his mind is still on the sketches.

The final scene of the episode opens with another fight. This one is not in Hillsboro, but in Wilmington and this time, it is two women who are fighting. It quickly becomes obvious that this is an arranged match and the members of the yelling crowd that surrounds them are not an angry mob, but interested punters who have wagers on the outcome.  One of the men is putting his money behind the larger of the two women, when he hears another man yelling nearby. The second man is Gerald Forbes, the man who had attempted to propose marriage to a pregnant Brianna back at River Run. The first man, Turnbull, recognises Forbes and immediately offers to introduce him to his companion. 

The companion is none other than Stephen Bonnet himself. Dressed in much finer attire than when we last saw him, Bonnet agrees that he has been known to make the odd wager, but comments that he finds the sight of women engaged in violent combat to be a vulgar one. Forbes explains what the two women are fighting about and Bonnet replies that he is not one to pass up a good wager, placing his money on the smaller of the two women. 

Forbes asks how Bonnet and Turnbull know each other. Turnbull explains that Bonnet transports goods for those who wish to avoid the King’s taxes, adding the fact that Bonnet is very discreet in his dealings. Bonnet says that one good deed deserves another and Turnbull agrees, expressing his pleasure at the fact that they have “untethered Bonnet from his past.”  Bonnet tells Forbes that should the need arise, it would be a pleasure to do business with him as well and Forbes replies that he will keep the offer in mind. 

Suddenly the fight takes an unexpected turn. One of the two women is quickly overpowered and everyone except Bonnet groans in disappointment. Bonnet is gleeful, saying that he knows a winner when he sees one. But another man in the crowd is not convinced, calling Bonnet a cheat. He accuses Bonnet of being in league with the woman, saying “I know who you are, Mr Bonnet” and adding that he would rather lose with honour than win by trickery. 

Bonnet responds that it is his own honour that has just been insulted and insists that they settle the matter like gentlemen. This means a duel and Bonnet quickly takes the upper hand, slicing at the back of his opponent’s leg with his sword. The man goes down and immediately yields. But Bonnet is not satisfied with one wound. Displaying the vicious cruelty viewers know him capable of, Bonnet strides over to the man, pulls his head back and runs his blade across the man’s eyes. When the man falls to the ground in agony, Bonnet slashes again at both legs, before smoothing back his hair and stepping over the stricken man.

Turnbull is surprised, asking why Bonnet hadn’t killed the man outright. Bonnet replies that he had considered it, but that he needed to set a better example. “I’m a father now,” he explains, and the matter-of-fact way he announces this makes it all the more chilling. The episode ends with him leaving the tavern, pulling on his expensive coat and striding out into the night. We can only wonder how long it will be before he comes in search of his son.

While the first episode of season 5 was almost universally praised, there has already been some dissatisfaction from fans about this second one. The calmer, unified parental force of Jamie and Claire didn’t seem to last overly long, with both of them back to doing seemingly reckless things. Moreover, some fans have pointed out the potential errors in Claire’s actions - from the amount of time Farish’s body remained hidden and partially autopsied, when by rights it should have started to decay, to the attempted creation of penicillin underneath glass containers which would have stopped potential spores from landing on the bread. Other fans questioned whether Roger would have readily helped to hide a body and still others fear that the continued survival of Murtagh is taking the plot further and further away from Diana Gabaldon’s original story.

Yet the fact remains that this episode succeeds in setting up conflict, by revealing a dual turmoil for many of the characters. It is not merely Jamie who is “between two fires”. For while Jamie is indeed trying to walk the line between his oath to the Crown and the need to protect Murtagh and his men, Claire is walking the line between the limitations of 18th century medicine and her own knowledge of what 20th century treatments can do. Roger is walking the line between wanting to return to the future, while knowing that Brianna wants to stay with her family and Brianna is walking the line between a happy life with Roger and Jemmy, whilst the spectre of Bonnet threatens her emotional wellbeing. 

The trouble with fire walking is that sooner or later, someone will get their feet burned. Time will tell as to who this will be…

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She appreciated the heightening of the tension throughout this episode, but like Brianna, would have needed to take some air if she ever came across her mother performing an autopsy on a table! 

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