Monday, March 2, 2020

“A question of will” - A recap of season 5 Episode 3 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown 

The concept of free will is a complex one. With every choice that is made in life, a consequence will follow. These consequences can vary widely; resulting in danger, hope, redemption, isolation, joy, sorrow, conflict, peace, responsibility, guilt or acceptance. Each character in this episode deals with the idea of free will. While some characters act from their own free will, others act from the lack of it. The majority of this philosophy takes place against a backdrop reminiscent of a suspense movie and the production team are to be congratulated for the mood which they create throughout. From the set to the music, to the lighting and visual effects, the final result is full of atmosphere and creates a different feel to the previous two episodes that is utterly compelling.

As the hour begins, it is almost as if the writers had anticipated the criticism of the fans from last week, who had pointed out that bread wouldn’t develop mould from underneath glass jars. This episode opens with Claire tending her bread samples by pouring water onto each specimen in turn. Marsali is watching intently and asks Claire how she knows what to look for. Claire compliments the younger woman on the question, saying that it is exactly what Marsali should be asking, but at the same time refuses to tell her the answer. As her teacher, Claire says, she must encourage Marsali to work it out for herself, turning the question back onto her student: How does Marsali think she knows what to look for? 

Marsali begins to suggest possibilities: an experiment, a book, or even new fangled ideas from Boston, before running through the facts that she knows. They are looking for mould that is grey, white, light blue or sometimes light green, Marsali says, and avoiding mould that is dark green or black because those are harmful. The more food the have, the more likely they are to find the sort of mould that is useful as medicine. Claire is impressed. She tells Marsali that soon they will start to look at the samples under a microscope, which is when the real work will begin. 

The camera pans over the bread samples, starting off a timelapse sequence. As one piece of bread becomes mouldier and mouldier, Claire’s voiceover tells us that in the past, she and Jamie had tried and failed to stop history from happening. This time she is tempting fate, as she wills events to happen that will bring the future forward.  Penicillin is something that Claire hopes will have a place in the past and she is, she says, daring history to try and stop her. But at the end of the voiceover, as Claire looks under the microscope, it appears that for now at least, history is doing just that. “Damn,” Claire says. The mould she is looking for is not there. As the opening credits fade away, we see a blurred figure surgically stitching a pig. The figure is blonde haired - it appears that Marsali is a quick study and is already proving a worthy apprentice. 

It is night and Jamie is riding. He stops at the top of the Ridge and looks down: he is home. Quietly, he makes his way inside, laying his pistol down on the table. A violin begins to play Claire and Jamie’s theme as he walks over to his sleeping wife. Looking down at her, he crosses himself and murmurs “Deo gratias.” His voice wakes her and she sighs in pleasure to see him there. They kiss gently and Claire asks him what he was thanking the Lord for. 
“For the sight of you, Sassenach,” he replies. It is a simple response, but a poignant one. Here,at the Ridge with Claire, Jamie doesn’t have to walk between two fires, or divide his loyalty between causes. With Claire, Jamie is whole. 

Awake now, Claire puts another log on the fire, as Jamie tells her what has happened since he left with Knox. Jamie agrees with Claire’s assessment that he had liked Lieutenant Knox, adding that even though Ethan had provoked the Lieutenant, he hadn’t thought that Knox would act in a vengeful or reckless way. 

“You can’t feel responsible for the choices others make,” Claire reminds him. As it is, Jamie has made his own choice by freeing the other two men and Claire hopes it will make a difference. But Jamie fears that it will, in fact, make no difference at all. The regulators have an army, which he has seen, and they are not afraid to face death.

But, Claire reminds him, at this point in time Murtagh is safe and Jamie is home. She tells him how she has missed him, adding that everyone will be glad to have him back. It is what Jamie wants to hear and we see a smile play across his face as he picks up Claire’s hand and kisses it. But, he tells her, he doubts that the tenants who swore an oath to him at the Gathering will agree with her sentiments: he must gather a militia and return to Hillsborough with all due speed. 
“To fight?” Claire asks.
“I hope not,” Jamie replies. 

Knox has asked Tryon for reinforcements. If Jamie can gather enough men, perhaps it will be a show of force that will prevent war. Claire comments that there isn’t anything written about the Regulators in the future as far as she knows, so the conflict can’t amount to much.  Wryly, Jamie replies that the man killed by Knox would disagree with the historians. 

Claire tells Jamie that she is coming with him. He begins to try and dissuade her, but doesn’t get far. If there is a war with the regulators, Claire says, then he will need a physician. Murtagh, Knox and Tryon have all made choices and now so has she. 
“You need my help,” she says.
Jamie doesn’t disagree. “I always have,” he replies with a smile, “and I always will.” Toasting each other, they drink.

This was a lovely scene, impeccably performed as always by Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. It underlines just how well the two characters understand and draw strength each other.

The next morning, Jamie is standing on the porch when Fergus and Germaine arrive. After sending Germaine off to play, the conversation takes on a more serious tone. Fergus has talked to other men at the still and knows that Jamie is raising a militia. Jamie agrees, telling Fergus he is glad that Fergus has arrived and asking if the younger man can deliver an advertisement to the printer in Cross Creek. Fergus fetches paper and ink from Claire’s surgery, but the camera focuses in on the page that he takes from Claire’s desk, accompanied by some atmospheric music - both indications that whatever paper Fergus has chosen to take is going to cause some problems later down the track. 

Jamie dictates his message, which calls for an army raised against the regulators, consisting of all good and able men between the ages of 16 and 60. When Jamie mentions the date on which he will be passing through the counties to gather the men, Fergus comments on its closeness. Jamie agrees, before asking Fergus to organise the printing of a dozen broadsheets to be distributed to the counties nearby. Roger, Jamie says, has been sent to tell the men of the Ridge that they will be leaving in a week. Fergus will be back in time to join them, Jamie tells him, adding that they will be taking the whisky to share with the men who enlist. Fergus expresses his gratitude, but Jamie replies that he is equally as grateful, telling Fergus to go, but to hurry home. (Though everyone at this point is wondering what was on the other side of the paper Fergus grabbed and used)

A week passes and the men of the Ridge are preparing to leave. Jamie says that they will gather more men along the way, with the first stop being in Brownsville. He hands a pistol to Claire, telling her that he hopes she doesn’t have to use it. Fergus has returned in time, and hands Jamie a letter. Jamie takes it, remarking that he knows who it is from and tucks it into his coat. 

Claire is saying her farewells, thanking Mr and Mrs Bug for all they have done and telling Germaine, who is hiding behind Marsali’s skirts, to stay out of trouble. For Marsali, Claire has some extra instructions: to keep up her studies and to use pig flesh to practise her stitching, as she may need to sew up a wound or two. Claire has also left drawings of penicillin mould, so that Marsali can keep checking the samples underneath the microscope. 

The time has come to farewell Brianna and Claire hugs her daughter tightly, promising to write from Hillsborough if it looks like they will need to stay longer. When Brianna tells Claire to take care of herself, Claire reminisces about another lifetime, when she farewelled Frank as she went off to war. Brianna reassures Claire that unlike that farewell, the conflict to come will not result in a war and tells her mother that she loves her. 
“I love you,” Claire replies.

This is not the only farewell Brianna has to make. As Jamie watches, Brianna goes up to Roger and rests her head on his shoulder. She feels like Scarlett O’Hara she says, watching as all the men leave the plantation. This is a 20th century reference to a story set in the 19th century, and Roger chuckles briefly, before hugging her tight. Roger tells Bree that she should be honoured, as Jamie has left her in charge. Brianna asks what that means and Roger replies by saying, “Welcome to my world”, before commenting that no amount of studying can ever prepare them for what is to come. 
“Well,” Brianna says, “I guess that can apply to life in any time.”
Roger commends her for her pioneering spirit, and kisses her goodbye. It is obvious that neither want to be parted from the other.

In a scene reminiscent of season 2 before the battle of Culloden, Jamie and Claire lead the group on horseback, the line of men following behind them. A travelling montage begins, with the group in good spirits as they work together to get a supply cart safely across streams. When they stop in a clearing, Jamie takes immediate charge, ordering the collection of wood for the fire. The men set about following his orders, as Jamie draws Claire outside. There is something he needs to tell her. 

This is not news that Jamie wants to share. He tells Claire that he hadn’t wanted to tell her at the wedding and that since he had then left with Knox, there hadn’t been time. But now there is. Jamie reveals that Stephen Bonnet is alive. The expression on Claire’s face is a mixture of shock, anger and disbelief (all perfectly conveyed by Caitriona Balfe). Claire begins to pace from side to side, as she asks Jamie about the explosion at the jail. Jamie explains that Lord John had told him that Bonnet’s body had not been found amongst the rubble. Pulling out the letter that Fergus had given him, Jamie reveals that Lord John has been making further inquiries and that there are confirmed sightings of Bonnet in Wilmington. He has begun smuggling again.

Claire asks if Bree knows and Jamie replies that she does not, a fact that Claire describes as one small blessing. Jamie nods in agreement, remembering the time that he had thought Black Jack dead and how it had offered him some peace.
“Peace from contemplating revenge?” Claire asks.
But Jamie doesn’t answer, saying only that half of him hopes never to see Bonnet again .

The mood in this scene has shifted swiftly: instead of being the confident Laird (and Lady) of a newly formed militia, Jamie and Claire are now simply parents who long to protect their daughter from any more harm. It is a mood change that works seamlessly, thanks to the talents of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. 

Around the fire though, Laird Jamie returns. He tells the senior members of his group that there will not be time for drills, so they will need to teach the men to fight like Highlanders, gathering and scattering on command. John Quincy Myers returns to the fire, commenting on the coldness of the evening and how he can’t feel certain parts of his anatomy as a result. Jamie joins in on the banter as the mood lightens and the men begin to tease each other. Claire joins in on the teasing too: when Jamie comments that he will sleep well no matter which way he’s laid near the fire, Claire responds with “That’s what you think!” 

These short scenes, as well as advancing the plot, also serve to show the way in which Jamie and Claire are united under any circumstance: whether it is to lead their new group towards a conflict, protect their daughter from a predator, or simply to calm nerves and make people feel part of a clan.  

It is very early morning as “Stop Thief!” is heard through the campsite. Claire comes out of the tent and a young man is led towards her. He has been pilfering provisions, Claire is told. But the face of the thief is familiar and Claire addresses him as Josiah.
“The hunter?” Fergus asks and Claire promptly asks him to get the young boy a blanket. 

But Josiah shies away from Claire’s touch and Roger notices that the thief’s brand that Josiah has carved on his hand is missing. This is not Josiah, a fact confirmed by Jamie, who approaches, pushing the real Josiah in front of him. The truth is revealed. The thief is Keziah, Josiah’s twin brother. 

Reminding Josiah of the fact that as his tenant, the young man has his protection, Jamie states that he also has a right to the truth. So Josiah explains that both brothers are indentured servants of a man who lives close by, and adding that he had run away a year ago. Jamie asks about his brother, but Josiah explains that the woods aren’t safe for Kezzie, as he can’t hear things approaching. So Josiah had gone it alone, promising his brother that he would return once he had secured something for himself. Josiah had returned the previous evening, But Kezzie, who was half starved, hadn’t been able to resist the provisions.

Jamie reassures Josiah that both boys are welcome to the food and Kezzie indicates that he wants some more. It is obviously from the way he speaks that something is wrong and Claire asks Josiah if his brother has always been deaf. 
“Since we were 5,” Josiah replies, going on to explain that their master had boxed Kezzie’s ears. Claire asks Josiah if she can examine Kezzie’s ears. Josiah replies that his brother can read lips. He can speak too, but is shy to do so. 

As Claire goes to perform an examination, Roger asks Josiah why his brother isn’t wearing any britches. Josiah reveals Kezzie’s gentle nature, by explaining that the barn cat had had its kittens on them while Kezzie slept and Kezzie hadn’t wanted to move them to get his trousers back when he awoke. 

Claire’s examination reveals ruptured ear drums. She expresses surprise that they haven’t healed, but concludes this means that the boxing of Kezzie’s ears was not an isolated incident, a fact that Josiah confirms.  Jamie asks if the boys have any other family, and learns that the boys’ parents and sisters had perished from an illness at sea. Or so Josiah has been told, as he and Kezzie were only two years old at the time that they left the family home.  The only thing they were left with, according to the wife of the man who bought them, was their Christian names. 

Mr Aaron Beardsley, an Indian trader, had bought the Beardsley brothers from the ship’s captain for a term of 30 years. A term of slavery is abhorrent to Claire, but the length of time is a further shock. Jamie asks Josiah about the brand on his hand and Josiah explains that he had stolen a cheese in the town and his crime was witnessed by the dairymaid. The Sheriff has branded him as a warning, but Josiah is terrified of being returned to Beardsley, who has both beaten and starved them, and he begs Jamie not to send them back. Jamie agrees, but adds that he must buy their indenture, so  that Beardsley will no longer have a claim on them. He asks if their master will be at home, or away trading. Josiah replies that he doesn’t know, but saw Beardsley’s horse when he had come for Kezzie and he warns Jamie to be careful.

After a moment’s thought, Jamie calls Roger to him. He instructs Roger to take the boys and the rest of the company on into Brownsville, to fill the muster book with the names of as many men as possible. Jamie asks Roger if he realises what is at stake and Roger replies that he does and promises not to let Jamie down. This is an important moment, as it is the first time that Jamie has entrusted Roger with an important task and represents a step forward in their relationship, something that Roger is well aware of.  Jamie and Claire, meanwhile, are going to play a call on Mr Beardsley.

As they ride, Jamie and Claire discuss the possibility that it had been Kezzie, not Josiah, who had stolen the cheese, but that Josiah had taken the blame for his brother. Jamie says that Claire must cut the brand from the young boys hand, to keep him safe from thief takers in the area and also to make sure that he is truly free of his past once his indenture has been bought. Claire agrees at once. 

On arrival at the Beardsley house, all is quiet. Someone is at home, nut no-one answers Jamie’s call. Claire checks the barn while Jamie goes closer to the house. Inside the barn, Claire finds the cat and its kittens still laying on Kezzie’s trousers, so Josiah has indeed been telling the truth. Meanwhile Jamie has no success in getting anyone to answer his knock. Peering through the windows of the house, he can see a goat moving around inside. He looks away for a brief moment, but when he looks back he is shocked to see a woman’s face glaring back at him. Returning to the front door, Jamie is greeted by the woman, who tells him to go away. Presuming her to be Mrs Beardsley, Jamie introduces himself and asks if he can speak to her husband, only to be told that Mr Beardsley is dead. Jamie expresses his condolences and begins to explain the purpose for his visit, asking to buy the indentures of Josiah and Kezzie. He doesn’t get far, however, with Mrs Beardsley telling him to keep them, as she has no use for them. The door slams in his face. 

Claire is coming back from the barn and Jamie explains the conversation he has just had. Claire is pleased at the outcome, but Jamie explains that he must have the papers, or else Mrs Beardsley could change her mind. Claire is keen to leave, saying that there is something strange about the place, but Jamie promises to be quick. With a resigned expression on her face, Claire follows him to the house once more. 

This time the door opens quickly. Jamie says he needs the papers and Mrs Beardsley walks away. With a brief glance at each other, Jamie and Claire go inside into the dingy house. The smell is overpowering and Jamie and Claire cover their mouths and noses. Mrs Beardsley says she doesn’t know where the papers are and Jamie points at a desk in the corner of the room. While she looks, Claire asks why the goats are kept inside. Mrs Beardsley says it is too cold for them in the barn.
“But not for the bond servant,” Claire observes, prompting Mrs Beardsley to ask whether they want the papers or not. 
“Aye, we do,” Jamie says and the search continues.

A loud banging is heard and Jamie asks what it is. Mrs Beardsley doesn’t react. The music builds as Jamie moves towards a door, the lock on which is being banged against. Jamie and Mrs Beardsley shoo away the goats and Jamie, ignoring the woman’s demands that he stay away from the door, draws his pistol and lifts the latch. Out clatters a male goat and Mrs Beardsley explains that she keeps Billy inside, to stop him rutting with the other goats. Billy seems intent on doing just that, much to the frustration of Mrs Beardsley, who begins to chase them. But Jamie insists she keep looking for the papers and tends to the goats himself, chasing the animals outside.

Left alone with Mrs Beardsley, who has begun to suggest that perhaps her husband had lost the papers, Claire is still troubled by the smell, which, she says, isn’t goat. Mrs Beardsley claims to smell nothing, but Claire knows something is wrong. She looks up towards the ceiling and back to  Mrs Beardsley, asking her how long ago her husband had died. As the music once again builds ominously, we know what Claire is thinking - is there a dead man upstairs? When Mrs Beardsley answers that he died a few months ago, Claire picks up a candlestick and starts up the stairs. This worries Mrs Beardsley, who yells at Claire not to go up there.

But Claire will not be deterred. We see her distress as she walks slowly but deliberately down the hallway, as insects buzz around her. Sure enough, there is a man’s body on the floor and Claire , breathing heavily, walks towards it. With all the atmosphere of a horror movie, Claire leaps back from the body in alarm, as the old man’s eyes open and he gasps a wheezy breath. 

Jamie has come back into the house and bolts upstairs at Claire’s cry. He finds her bending once more over Beardsley and asks what is wrong with the man. Claire guesses a stroke, using the 18th century term of apoplexy. The stench is not of a dead body, but of a man lying in his own filth. Giving the candle to Jamie, Claire approaches Beardsley and tells him that they have come to help. She estimates that Beardsley has been lying there for weeks, if not months and Jamie muses whether or not this is God’s judgement. But Claire notices a bowl of food nearby, and comments that it is not entirely God’s judgement, as Mrs Beardsley has been feeding her husband enough to keep him alive in misery. Jamie asks if there is anything she can do. Claire replies that there is nothing she can do for the apoplexy, but as to anything else, she will need better light in order to examine Mr Beardsley properly.

A noise behind them makes them turn around. Mrs Beardsley is there, watching. Claire asks how this has happened. Mrs Beardsley explains that a month earlier, her husband had chased and struck her in a rage. She had run upstairs to get away from him and he had followed, but had fallen down and lay there, writhing. She hadn’t been able to move him, she adds. Claire tells her to go and prepare some hot water, as they are bringing Mr Beardsley downstairs. 

Meanwhile, Roger is trying to add names to the muster book. He explains to one woman, Mistress Findlay, that it is Governor Tryon’s orders that all able bodied men join the militia. Joan Findlay is unimpressed, saying that poor men must bleed for rich men’s gold. She adds that her husband would have joined, but that he has already gone to his reward in Heaven. Roger expresses his condolences, when Mistress Findlay asks if there will be a reward for her sons and is told she would be paid 40 shillings for each son from the Governor’s treasury, plus an extra two shillings each day for as long as they serve. 

Joan Findlay asks what happens if they don’t come home, prompting Roger to guarantee that he make sure they do. 
“Is that so?” she asks sarcastically. Heavily emphasising his title, “Captain” Mackenzie, Joan Findlay says that she will take Roger at his word, that if she lends him her sons, he will send them home safe.
“So far as it lies in my power,” Roger clarifies. 
The muster book is open and Joan instructs her two sons to sign it. With an excited “Yes Ma”, they do, introducing themselves as Hugh Findlay and Iain Og Findlay. Roger’s first negotiation as a Captain of the Fraser’s Ridge Militia has been completed. 

Back at the Beardsley cabin, Claire is examining a gurgling Mr Beardsley. He is covered in bed sores and his muscles have wasted away, she tells Jamie, but at least the wounds have been kept clean by the many maggots that she is now removing from his flesh. Jamie observes that Mr Beardsley had been trading, with bundles of fur and barrels of food outside, yet he lay where he fell, cold and starving. Jamie wonders why Mrs Beardsley hadn’t just let her husband die.
“So she could do this,” Claire says, pulling back the blanket and revealing some deliberately inflicted wounds.

Mrs Beardsley appears behind them and asks whether her husband can be healed, but Jamie sends her back to look for the indenture papers. Jamie asks Claire whether Mrs Beardsley had been bleeding her husband to try and heal him, but Claire shows him the man’s feet, which have been deliberately burned multiple times, in order to torture him. Mr Beardsley seems to gurgle in agreement and Jamie thinks that Beardsley actually understands what is being said. Instructing the man to blink once for yes, Jamie asks Beardsley if his wife is responsible for the wounds. One blink is immediately given, prompting Claire to wonder aloud what he has done to deserve it.

Meanwhile, Mrs Beardley has found a rope. Unaware of this, Claire and Jamie are discussing firstly the gangrenous nature of Beardsley foot and the need to amputate, followed by the need for Jamie to rejoin the others and head for Hillsborough. A plan of sorts is made. If Beardsley can be made comfortable enough after the surgery, they can take him with them to Brownsville and find someone there to look after him. But the conversation is interrupted by the sound of choking. Mrs Beardsley has the rope around her husband’s neck. 

Jamie and Mrs Beardsley struggle, She doesn’t want her husband saved, she says, she wants him to rot and yells insults at her husband’s inert frame. The struggle ends with Jamie nursing a punch to the nose and Mrs Beardsley crashing into a cupboard. There is a sudden noise of the rush of liquid and we realise that Mrs Beardsley’s waters have broken. There is a baby on the way. 

The next scene begins with the birth of a baby girl. One look at the colour of the little girl’s skin though, tells Claire and Jamie that Mr Beardsley is not the father. Mrs Beardsley asks to see her daughter, taunting her gurgling husband with the confirmation that the little girl is not his. But then her tone changes. “Oh, she isn’t his,” she says softly, and we hear the relief in her voice. 

It is night now, and a calmer and more responsive Mrs Beardsley tells Claire her story. Beardsley had taken her from her family home in Baltimore 2 years, 3 months and 5 days earlier. Hearing this, Claire assumes that scratch marks she had noticed on the door to have been made by Mrs Beardsley as some sort of tally, but tis informed that they were made by another wife, named Mary Ann. She is the fifth wife. The others, she tells Claire, have all been buried under the rowan tree. Mrs Beardsley says that she sees their ghosts, especially Mary Ann, who tells her things. 
“He killed them all you know,” she says. “He would have killed me too. None of us could give him a baby.” 

Claire asks who the father of her baby is and the answer is simply, “A good man.” Mrs Beardsley provides no more information that that, other than to say that he doesn’t live nearby. She continues to tell Claire that Beardsley had beaten both her and Josiah and Kezzie too. She says that if she could find the papers she would give them to her, as the boys should deserve some happiness. 

“So should you,” says Claire, softly, “and your baby.”
This is the first time we see a vulnerable Mrs Beardsley, who is suddenly shy and looking for approval. “Even though she is born of her mother’s sin?” she asks.
“Yes,” replies Claire, with a small smile. “Hopefully she was born out of love.” It is a brief connection to her own situation. Frank had loved Brianna fiercely, despite her being another man’s child and Bree had definitely been born out of love. 

But Mrs Beardsley’s situation is different. When she says that her daughter will need more than love to get by in the world, Claire reminds her that there is the home and property. Mrs Beardsley agrees that the place may be her daughter’s birthright but to her it is nothing but ugliness and evil.
Claire tells Mrs Beardsley that they will take her husband with them to town and that he can’t hurt her anymore.
“You’re a mother now,” she says, but Mrs Beardsley is not convinced. 
“Having a baby doesn’t make me a mother, any more than sleeping in a stable makes someone a horse,” she replies. 

Claire suggests that maybe things will be different once the little girl has a name, which makes her realise that at no point has she asked Mrs Beardsley her own name. 
“It’s Frances,” the woman replies, adding that her mother had called her Fanny, which is supposed to mean free. “And your name is Sassenach,” she says to Claire.
Claire smiles and replies, “Only to my husband,” adding that Fanny can call her Claire. This is the one and only time we see the other woman respond with a brief, gentle smile.

At night, Claire puts the baby down in a crib near the fire, while the prone Mr Beardsley snores nearby. Jamie and Claire are discussing what to do next. It is time for another plan. Claire says that she knows that Jamie is anxious to get going, but she must stay at least another day or two, and will need to find someone to look in on Fanny and the baby. And there is still the problem of Mr Beardsley. As a doctor, Claire doesn’t feel that she can walk away, but isn’t sure that Jamie owes Beardsley anything. 
“What kind of world is this to bring a baby into?” she asks, disagreeing with Jamie when he answers “The only world,” 

It is this answer that serves as the catalyst for Claire to bring the situation a little closer to home. She wants Brianna and Roger to return to the 20th century with Jemmy, where it will be safer. Roger feels the same, she says, an observation which sees the return of disapproving Jamie. “Of course he does,” he replies. He asks Claire whether the penicillin she is making will mean it is safer for everyone, but Claire says it will only help control infection.
“Perhaps it would be safer in your time,” concedes Jamie, “but they would be without their family, without their blood.” Seeing how exhausted Claire is, he tells her to put the thoughts away for now and to sleep. She agrees.

Jamie and Claire lie together, sleeping, Jamie’s arm protectively around hers. The figure of Fanny Beardsley appears in frame and we see her watching them. It is perhaps the only time she has seen love in this house.

Morning comes. Jamie’s arm is still around Claire’s and the baby begins to stir. Jamie wakes and realises that Fanny is no longer there. He goes to look outside and Claire tends to the little girl. As she lifts the baby up, she sees that there are papers underneath the blankets. Jamie returns with the news that Fanny’s horse has gone, suggesting that maybe she has gone to find help. But Claire shakes her head and holds the papers out towards Jamie. They are the deed to the property and the indenture papers for Josiah and Kezzie. 
“She means for us to keep her,” Claire says, looking down at the little girl.

Bronwyn James is to be commended for her portrayal of Fanny Beardsley in this episode. From her first threatening appearance, through her desperation and anger, to her vulnerability and finally her courage in making the decision to leave her daughter behind in the hope of a better life, James shows the different parts of Fanny’s personality beautifully. The scene between Claire and Fanny is poignant and touching. Under different circumstances, we get the feeling the two women could have been friends. Christopher Fairbank also deserves praise for his ability to create menace in a character who has no spoken lines other than phlegmatic gurgles and who communicates only by blinking. Yet we are left in no doubt that Aaron Beardsley is an evil man. 

The goats have been loaded into the wagon and Claire and Jamie are preparing to leave. Claire comments that they will have goat’s milk for the journey and hopes that there will be a nursing mother in Brownsville. Jamie adds that they will keep looking for Mrs Beardsley as they travel, but Claire predicts that they won’t find her. Mr Beardsley gurgles again. They still haven’t decided what to do about him.  

Jamie tells Claire to take the child outside and not to come back until he calls for her. The implication is clear, but Claire begins a feeble protest. Mounting an 18th century argument for euthanasia, Jamie replies that he would do it for a dog, why do less for a man? Jamie urges Claire to let the decision be Beardsley’s. He will call for her if necessary. Claire does as he asks and takes the baby outside, but we see how uncomfortable she is about doing so.

Left alone with Beardsley, Jamie picks up a crucifix, which he puts above the fire and approaches the older man. His tone is stern as he instructs Beardsley to blink once for yes and twice for no. Jamie states the facts: Mrs Beardsley has gone and her child is not Beardsley’s. The man blinks once. Beardsley has suffered an apoplexy and cannot be cured. His foot is putrid and if it is not removed, he will die. Jamie asks if Beardsley understands. The man blinks once. Jamie asks if Beardsley wants Claire to operate and then tend to his wounds. He blinks twice. “Do you ask me to take your life?” Jamie asks. Beardsley blinks once. 

Leaning closer, Jamie remarks that by all accounts, Beardsley is a wicked man and he doesn’t wish to send a soul to hell. He asks if Beardsley will pray for forgiveness. Beardsley blinks twice. 
Jamie stands, his expression hard. “Then may God forgive us both,” he says and crosses himself. He picks up the pistol and aims it towards the older man’s head.

Outside, Claire is nursing the baby, when a gunshot is heard. The little girl cries and a large flock of passenger pigeons fly from the trees, the air thick with the sight of them and the sound of their wings echoing in the clearing. Jamie emerges from the house. Something other than Beardsley’s lack of repentance is troubling him.

Jamie tells Claire he had always thought that apoplexy killed a man outright. He had never thought to ask Jenny if their father had suffered. Claire reassures Jamie that Jenny would have told him, but Jamie isn’t so sure. Claire walks over to him. “She would have,” she repeats. Jamie asks Claire to swear to him that should he ever suffer the same fate as his father, that she will give him the same mercy he has just given to Beardsley. Claire nods, promising that she will do what must be done. Above them, the birds still fly, covering the sky with their beating wings as the episode ends.

This was an episode with philosophy at its heart. Who truly has free will? And what are the consequences of exercising it? When we make a decision, what happens to others as a result? By choosing to try to make penicillin, what consequences will Claire bring to the 18th century? By choosing to follow Tryon’s orders to form a militia, what consequences await Jamie and the others when they confront the regulators? By choosing to make Roger a captain in this militia, is Jamie placing his son-in-law in danger and risking Brianna’s happiness? By choosing to leave her child behind, is Fanny Beardsley ensuring a better future for her daughter? By giving Aaron Beardsley the free will to choose to have his life ended quickly, is Jamie interfering with justice in some way? And what will await the Frasers in Brownsville when they arrive with a mixed race baby and the responsibility for Josiah and Kezzie Beardsley? That question, at least, will probably be answered in episode 4!

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She really enjoyed the suspenseful nature of this episode. She also found herself wondering about the parallels between Claire and Fanny. Claire was lucky, in two centuries, to find two men who loved her and the child that she brought into the world. How different could Fanny’s life had been, if her free will had not been denied her for so long?

No comments:

Post a Comment