Saturday, March 26, 2022

“Negotiating the Rapids” A recap of season 6 episode 3 by your Aussie Blogging Lass


Outlander Homepage Originals 

The third episode of season 6 is called “Temperance”. A simple definition of this word is “the abstinence of alcohol", but a more nuanced one mentions “moderation in action, thought or feeling.” A number of characters throughout the episode are forced to moderate their actions, thoughts and feelings, and none of these moderations come without challenge. It is a masterclass of writing, directing and acting and definitely this reviewer’s favourite of the season so far. 

The episode opens in dramatic fashion. A crying baby in a basket is being carried down the river, the current picking it up and taking it dangerously close to the waterfall. The basket is being chased along the riverbank by 5 boys, Aidan McCallum and young Germain amongst them. The baby, we realise, is Henri-Christian. Roger is cutting wood when he hears the cries of the boys and, realising what is happening, gives chase. He jumps into the water, but the current is strong, and his initial desperate attempts to reach the basket are futile. The boys watch in horror a few moments later, as the basket tips over the edge of the rapids. Fortunately, though, a dripping wet Roger is emerging from the water, cradling an unharmed Henri-Christian in his arms. Branding them wee bastards and asking whose idea it was, an irate Roger watches as the boys try to escape, but his angry command of “Don’t you dare run!” stops them in their tracks. The boys try to explain themselves, cautioning Roger not to touch the baby, lest he burn himself. Germain says that the boys had wanted to see if the baby would float. Since it did, one of the boys reasons, it means that the child is the devil’s seed. 

Roger tells them that the baby floated because he was in a basket. Scooping some water from the river, he immediately baptises the child, drawing the boys’ attention to the name, Henri-Christian. 

“He belongs to the Lord,” he says. “Trouble him again and Satan will pop up and drag you screaming straight down to Hell!” 

This terrifies the boys and this time Roger lets them run, aside from Germain, who he stops by bellowing his name. Head down, the young boy returns to stand in front of Roger, who stares at him, incredulous. 

At Fergus and Marsali’s cabin, Claire and Jamie have arrived. Claire has examined Henri-Christian, who is now warm, dry, sleeping and unharmed. Germain sits in disgrace in a corner, as Marsali rages. She should drown all the boys in a well, she says. Roger explains that the trip down the river had been a test; the boys’ parents having apparently told them that Henri-Christian was demon born and that water would reject the wickedness. Claire comments that it is a good thing that they didn’t try to take the baby out of the basket. Roger replies that the boys were afraid to touch the child because they thought Henri-Christian would burn them. 

A disturbingly still Fergus looks at Germain and asks, “And you believed this? You think your brother is a demon?”

Germain replies that he thought they would leave them alone, to which Marsali scoffs that he should know better than that. The baby starts to cry and she leaves to tend to him. Roger promises to talk to the boys and tries to tell Fergus not to let them trouble him, but Fergus leaves the cabin without a word, as Claire and Jamie share a look of concern. 

Jamie eyes Germain sternly and tells the young boy to find his associates. They are all expected in Jamie’s parlour that evening to receive a punishment. Roger takes pity on the crestfallen boy, promising to go with Germain to find the others, receiving a tearful nod in response to his offer. 

Outside, Claire sits down next to an equally tearful Fergus. He explains that in the mountain villages of France, a dwarf child would be left for the wolves. Claire assures him that they won’t let anything like that happen on Fraser’s Ridge. The child will be surrounded with love, she says and begins to paint a rosy future for the boy, that includes education, a trade and children. But Fergus is not convinced. He tells Claire that with respect, she has never seen the life of a dwarf. He tells her of his life in the brothel, and of times when someone known as “The Dwarf Master” would bring dwarf children to satisfy clients who wanted something more “exotic”. The children were not badly treated, but considered of value, so much so that the dwarf master would buy such children from their parents or collect them from the streets.  

Fergus recalls one child who he knew quite well. Luc and Fergus would sometimes work together pickpocketing the wealthy customers. Fergus tells Claire that he found Luc in an alley with his throat cut, and that after the body had been retrieved, it was sold to a physician, who cut it up into parts which were sold for divination. 

It is a horrific story and one that also moves Claire to tears. Fergus tells her that when he first met herself and Jamie, he had finally found a world beyond the brothel and had vowed never to return to one. He worries now that it may lie in his son’s future. Claire immediately tries to reassure him again. He can’t think that she or Jamie would allow such a thing? Fergus replies that neither of them will live forever and neither will he. But his child will be a dwarf forever, something for which he blames himself. The child was beaten in the womb, he says, and he wasn’t there to protect Marsali. Claire tries again, telling him that Henri-Christian’s condition has nothing to do with what happened, but an anguished Fergus simply stands up and walks away. 

This was a beautiful scene, poignantly acted by both Caitriona Balfe and Cesar Domboy. We are used to seeing Ms Balfe’s emotional work, but this was Cesar Domboy’s time to shine. From being frustrated with Fergus’ behaviour in recent episodes, we are immediately sorry for him now. 

Claire arrives back at the Ridge to find Tom Christie waiting for her. He makes a slightly barbed comment about the length of time that he has been sitting there and she tells him the reason for her absence, adding that she hopes that he hasn’t been encouraging the sort of nonsense and superstition that has resulted in Henri-Christian’s trip down the river. Christie bristles a bit at this, telling Claire that he is an educated man and doesn’t believe in superstition. He is sorry for what has happened and vows to talk to the boys and their parents. Claire replies that this isn’t necessary as Jamie is handling the matter. She asks Christie what she can do for him and he replies that it is time to have the operation on his other hand. Claire invites him in, saying that she will prepare the surgery and the ether. 

But Tom will not agree to the ether, branding it a potion that is the “devil’s work.” Jamie enters just in time to hear Claire use the phrase “stubborn as rocks.” He tries to tell Tom that the pain will be considerable. He knows, from experience, how much it hurts to have your hand cut into, telling Tom how Claire had healed his own hand years ago. But Tom has made his choice and won’t change his mind.

Roger and Germain have reached the McCallum cabin. Aidan immediately begs Roger not to tell his mother what has happened. Roger explains that Jamie has requested Aidan and the other boys to visit before supper, otherwise Jamie himself will come and visit Amy McCallum and explain what the boys had done. The conversation is interrupted by a shriek from inside the cabin and Roger goes to investigate, telling Germain to stay with Aidan.

Amy McCallum is standing with her back against the wall, and expresses relief that God has sent the minister. Roger tries to explain that he isn’t really a minister, and Amy replies that nevertheless they had enjoyed his sermon the previous week and asks for his help. She points to the covered milk jug, saying that she had gone to pour some out for Aidan, but that the devil himself or something else has gotten into it and it is haunted.  

Roger lifts the cloth over the jug, flinching back at the sound of a groaning noise. Realising with a chuckle what it is, he steps forward and pulls out a large bullfrog. He puts the frog outside, commenting that one of the local boys must have been playing tricks. But Amy has collapsed to the ground, asking Roger why she has been brought to this place. Why has God allowed her to be left without a husband, left to starve here so far away from Scotland. She asks Roger if she will ever see Scotland again. He replies that he doesn’t know what God has in mind, but he can promise her that he won’t let her starve. 

Meanwhile, Marsali is marvelling over the spinning wheel that Brianna has made for her. She says that she will work twice as fast now, and will have more time for the children. A wooden toy, thrown by Jem, interrupts their conversation. Brianna tells him to be careful or there will be no more “vroom.” It is a toy car, but of course Marsali doesn’t know this. She asks why it is called a vroom and Brianna replies that it is just the noise that Jem makes when he plays with it. She changes the subject, wondering if Roger and Germain have had any luck finding the boys. Marsali comments that it’s the parents of the boys who should be punished, adding that they have agreed to go up to the house with Henri-Christian later on, for whatever the punishment will be. Fergus has yet to return and Marsali is worried. She tells Brianna that Fergus has promised to stop drinking. 

“Good,” Brianna replies, adding that she is sure that Fergus will return soon. “It will get better,” she says, putting her arm around Marsali. “You’ll see.” 

An obviously nervous Tom Christie is watching Claire make her preparations. The scalpel has been heated, his hand strapped down, and Jamie has placed both a glass of whisky and a bible in front of him. Claire offers Tom a stick to bite down on for the pain, but he refuses, saying that he would prefer to say his prayers. Jamie and Claire share a look and after a “At your convenience then, Mistress Fraser,” the operation begins.

Tom’s composure is quickly shaken, with the pain of the first cut. Jamie clamps a hand onto Tom’s shoulder, holding him still as he reads loudly from the bible while Claire works. Tom speaks along with Jamie, punctuated by cries of pain. 

Malva is peering through the window, and is caught by Young Ian. They begin a brief, but flirtatious conversation. Ian asks why she doesn’t go inside, given that she is Claire’s apprentice. It is a label that obviously pleases Malva, but replies that her father is concerned about her female sensibilities and wouldn’t want her to see him suffer. Ian comments that she is strong enough to stand the sight of a bit of blood, but Malva says that her father is more worried about the health of her eternal soul. Ian offers to walk her home, rather than them waiting around like two souls in limbo. Malva comments that she is not Catholic, so her soul is not in limbo, but agrees that Ian can walk her home. 

Inside, Tom and Jamie are reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Claire joins in for the last few lines. Tom is pleased to see his hand laid flat: the operation has been a success. Claire tells him that more movement will return to the hand once the wound heals and the sutures have been removed. Obviously pleased by this,Tom agrees to stay the night in the surgery, so that Claire can observe him. 

Malva and Ian are discussing why there should be any concerns over Malva’s eternal soul. Ian remarks that he can’t believe that Malva would have sinned too much and she replies that looks can be deceiving . Ian adds that if his mother could see him, she might be concerned for his eternal fate as well. Malva says that her own mother was not so spiritually inclined, having been hanged as a witch. It is a shocking admission and Ian is rightfully shocked, asking when this was. Malva says that she hardly remembers, as she was very young. They have nearly reached the Christie cabin and Malva remarks that her brother will be home and wouldn’t be pleased to see her walking with a young man, so they part, Malva looking briefly back over her shoulder and smiling as she walks away. After a moment, Ian, now accompanied by Rollo, walks off himself. 

Back at the Big House, Jamie is in full Laird mode. The boys who had put Henri-Christian in the basket stand before him, watching as Jamie heats a poker in the fire. Pulling it out, glowing red, he remarks that he knows that they had been eager to play with fire. He says that he is half tempted to burn them himself, but given that they are growing men and need to learn by doing, he will give them a choice. They can touch the baby (Henri Christian is now lying in a crib nearby) or they can touch the poker. 

One boy is volunteered by the others to go first. He doesn’t want to touch the baby, but does so. Henri-Christian gurgles in contentment and the boy reluctantly smiles. Jamie remarks that the baby is a sweet child and that surely the boy must see that. Aidan goes next, ticking Henri-Christian under the chin and making him laugh. Jamie comments that the baby likes him. The remaining two boys follow suit and Germain says, “See? I told you he wasn’t a demon.”

One of the boys asks whether what Roger has told them is true: does Henri-Christian belong to the Lord? Sternly, with arms folded, Jamie replies that they shouldn’t argue with anything they have been told by Mr MacKenzie, but whoever the baby belongs to, Henri-Christian also belongs to him and that they had best remember that. After a round of “Aye, Mr Fraser, Sir,” the boys are allowed some bread and honey before being on their way. 

Left alone with Germain, Jamie reminds the young boy that Henri-Christian belongs to him too. “He is your wee brother,” Jamie says, kneeling down in front of Germain. “He needs your protection. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Grand-Pere,” Germain solemnly replies.

When Marsali returns home with Henri-Christian, she hears the cries of the other children. They are hungry. Fergus is sitting in a chair, a mug in his hand. He has been drinking. Marsali is upset. He had promised, she reminds him, saying that he is so much better than this. She asks how she can help. She has seen what drinking does to a man. Her own mother had put up with it, and she and her sister had suffered because of it. She will not put up with it again. Fergus says that he is the one who is meant to protect her and the children, but Marsali reminds Fergus that the burden is not his alone. She can fight for them too. Not against Lionel Brown, Fergus argues. Marsali disagrees, saying that she did just that, admitting that she is the one who killed Lionel when he threatened them. 

But rather than this news being the comfort that she had hoped, Fergus reacts badly. He says that he doesn’t need a woman to protect him, but he does need a drink. Marsali responds by pouring water over his head, remarking that she hopes it has quenched his thirst and yelling at him to leave the cabin. When Fergus yells back that he is the man of the house, she retorts that he can come back when he is acting like one. He drops his mug and takes his cloak, moving to the door.

“You promised me, Fergus Fraser,” says a tearful Marsali, “And I will have a whole man, or none at all.”  Fergus leaves, and Marsali begins to cry, as does Henri-Christian in the background. 

In their room, Claire asks Jamie what he would have done if the boys had chosen the poker over touching the baby. He remarks that he would have let them take their punishment.

Claire replies that she hopes that the boys will go home and tell their parents. Jamie muses that if people truly believe that the boy is demon born and they are his grandparents, what does it say about them? 

“It says that you’re of the devil yourself,” says an apparition of Lionel Brown, appearing in the mirror in front of Claire. 

Obviously shaken, she turns from the mirror and Jamie asks her what is wrong. 

“Nothing,” Claire replies, looking back at the mirror. The apparition has gone, but she tells Jamie that she is going downstairs to check on Tom.

This she does, but her obvious intention is to head for the ether and the oblivion it will provide. She is distracted from this by the voice of Tom, who has heard her come into the room. She snaps back into doctor mode. He is slightly feverish and she reaches for the water. He flinches away from her touch, but she assures him that she only wants to check his hand. As she does so, he asks why she never properly covers her head, quoting once more from St Paul. Claire remarks that the man obviously had a bee in his bonnet about women. Showing him some exercises to do, Claire can see that the touch of her hands is having an effect on Tom. She asks if he is hungry and goes to get him some food.

Claire is still struggling to get her control back after the vision of Lionel, and is helped by the appearance of Adso the cat. She begins to talk to the animal, saying that she will find some milk, but that the ham is not for him. When she returns to Tom, he asks if there was anyone in the other room, as he had heard her talking. She says that she was talking to the cat, adding that it is not her familiar. 

Christie reminds her that he is an educated man. He doesn’t believe her to be a witch. He goes on to apologise to her for not being able to keep still during the operation. Claire remarks that she wouldn’t expect anyone to remain still while their hand was being cut into. 

But Tom compares himself to Jamie. Jamie wouldn’t have cried out, he muses. Claire replies that everyone is different and that she has treated many highlanders. Tom asks if she knows that Jamie’s back bears the scars of flogging.

“Yes, of course,” Claire replies. 

Tom remarks that Jamie had arrived at Ardsmuir with a great many scars, but recounts the tale of how he earned more, by claiming a piece of tartan that had belonged to an old man. It was an act of courage and he wonders why Jamie had done so. Claire says that Jamie would do anything to protect his men. Tom asks if that was the reason for Jamie’s presence during his own operation. Does Jamie believe him to be one of his men, because he does not consider himself one. Claire replies that she is sure it was just an act of kindness, one that Christie would surely perform himself in similar circumstances? This assumption earns her a curt nod, before a now tired Tom lies back down to sleep.

Claire returns to Jamie and asks whether Tom is afraid of women, remarking that he had seemed so uncomfortable being touched. Jamie tells her that he was the same himself, at Ardsmuir. It was shocking to be touched. He tells Claire of the atmosphere at Ardsmuir, and how sometimes it would change, with the longing and need of the men. Some men would reach out to each other. But Tom, Jamie says, turned inward. Claire confirms that Tom was already at Ardsmuir when Jamie arrived, and that they left at the same time. She is trying to work out the timeline of Malva’s conception - wouldn’t Tom have still been at Ardmuir? Jamie muses that perhaps Tom remarried when he arrived in the colonies. 

Claire brings the subject back to touch: had any of the men attempted to touch him? Jamie replies that none would have thought to do so, as he was their chief and they loved him. Did he want them to? Claire asks again. Jamie tells her that he hungered only for the touch of a hand and for sleep, so that he could dream of her. 

Malva and Ian are working in the field, collecting rushes. The tension between them is charged, the flirting continuing. Malva asks about Ian’s relationship with Jamie, assuming that Jamie doesn’t mind about the marks on Ian’s face, or him not being a Christian. Ian replies that Jamie would give him the coat off his back if he asked and that Jamie has given him some land of his own to farm. Jamie must think of Ian as like his own son then, Malva muses and Ian agrees, calling himself a man of worth, adding that he is not sure whether his place is on Fraser’s Ridge, or for how long. 

Malva steps forward, brushing her hand over Ian’s facial tattoos and asking what they mean. It is a highly intimate gesture. Ian answers that they mean there is much that he is proud of, and also much that he regrets.

“You’ve lived then,” Malva replies. 

“I have,” Ian replies. “There’s no sin in that.”

“No,” Malva agrees. “None at all.”

The scene ends with them standing close, but not touching, looking into each other’s eyes. 

A week has passed and Claire is once more examining Tom’s hand. It has improved a great deal and Tom agrees when Claire asks if he has been doing his exercises. He is looking forward to having the full use of his hand, he tells her. He notices the books on the table. Claire says that she has been having trouble sleeping, so she has been coming downstairs to read. She asks if Tom reads novels and he says that he does, but has not read the book that she is reading, “Tom Jones.” Tom says that his wife had read novels, but that he himself had not approved, back then, and had thrown them all away. 

Claire remarks that his wife must not have been pleased and Tom agrees. When asked what changed his mind, Tom replies that it was Ardsmuir. They had no books there, but Jamie had recounted stories to the men and he had come to the conclusion that fiction was perhaps not evil, but merely a distraction. It was always desirable to return to prayer, he says, however he saw that it nevertheless drew the men together. The men were starved, cold, covered in sores, but could still comfort themselves that they did not suffer in the way that fictitious characters did. Claire offers for Tom to borrow the book. Initially he refuses, but Claire insists. It will be a good distraction, she says, promising to collect it in a few days when she comes to check on his hand. Christie agrees and smiles. He is clearly warming to Claire. 

As he goes, Tom tells Claire that Richard Brown has come to offer the River Folk the protection of his Committee of Safety. Claire warns him that Brown is not to be trusted, adding that she hopes he has refused. A knock interrupts them before Tom can answer. It is Claire’s next patient and Tom takes his leave. 

Jamie is out hunting and comes across Malva, who is looking for mushrooms for her father. Jamie remarks that Tom will need to find someone to do for him once Malva has left the house, adding that she must have many suitors. Malva remarks that she doesn’t intend to marry for quite some time and hopes that Jamie will not say such things to her father. Jamie adds that he was only teasing and offers to show her where there are more mushrooms. 

As they walk, Jamie asks if she and her brother have the same mother. 

“Of course,” Malva replies.

Next Jamie asks whether she was born in Scotland or the Colonies. 

“Am I such a curiosity to you, Sir?” Malva asks, before adding that she was born in Scotland, although she doesn’t much remember it. She says that some people have remarked that Fraser’s Ridge reminds them of Scotland and Jamie agrees that there are similarities, although there is no peat and no heather. They walk off, companionably.

Meanwhile Tom is reading through Tom Jones. He quickly becomes horrified at the language used, shutting the book after reading the word, “fuch” a number of times. 

It is Quarter Day at the Ridge and the tenants are paying their rent. Lizzie is flirting with the Beardsley twins, while inside Jamie and Roger are collecting the money. Marsali and Brianna are enjoying some child free time, courtesy of Mrs Bug’s babysitting and Fergus is wandering around drunk, to disapproving stares from one couple. He also notices Evan Lindsay, who is talking to Marsali. 

Brianna asks Roger if they should set Evan up with Lizzie, but Roger replies that he would need to get past the Beardsley twins first. He is surprised that Brianna hasn’t noticed how protective they are of her. 

Outside, Fergus confronts the disapproving couple, asking them to say whatever is on their mind, since they have been watching him all day. The woman refers to him as hideously drunk, and to Henri-Christian as “grotesque”, asking whether Fergus can bear to look at the boy himself. Fergus responds by throwing the contents of his hip flask into the woman’s face and punching her husband in the stomach.

The others rush to intervene. Claire asks Lizzie what happened, while Allen Christie restrains Fergus. Lizzie says that it is the woman’s fault for saying what she did. 

The woman concerned doubles down on the insult, saying that it is surely a curse from God for a child to look that way. 

“How dare you!” Claire responds.

The woman looks to Tom for support, adding that whisky is the devil’s juice and that Fergus is rarely seen without a cup.

Tom admonishes her, saying that the Frasers have opened their doors to them and that they should be respected. 

At church, Roger is giving his sermon, preaching on the importance of loving thy neighbour. He tells the story of a baby in a basket to the initial discomfort of Aidan McCallum and the other boys, who visibly relax when Roger says that he is talking about Moses. As Roger’s voiceover continues, we see Claire picking up her copy of Tom Jones, which has been returned by Tom Christie, along with a note that reads, “This is filth. I thought better of you.” 

Roger’s voice continues, “It was fear that made them do it” and we watch as Malva is being whipped by Tom while her brother Allen waits tearfully outside. We are yet to see precisely what fear is driving Tom.

When Roger speaks of Moses’ mother, we watch Marsali and Fergus. Marsali is spinning alone in the cabin; Fergus is sitting alone outside. As Roger’s words “She entrusted him to God, in spite of  her fear” are heard, we see Jamie watching as Fergus walks away. Something is wrong, and Jamie knows it. He follows his foster son at a distance. 

“Many of you are parents,” Roger concludes. “To what lengths would you go to protect your innocent children? You never know what you’ll be willing to do, until…”

For Jamie, what he is willing to do immediately becomes clear, for Fergus has something truly horrific in mind. He has brought a knife and before Jamie can reach him, he slices into his wrist. Desperately, Jamie fights to get the knife away from Fergus, who begs Jamie to leave him be. Jamie pulls off his neck scarf to make a tourniquet, telling Fergus that Marsali and the children need him. 

Fergus counters that he is doing this for them. Marsali can marry again and find someone to provide for her and the children and to protect Henri-Christian.

“You can,” Jamie replies.

“You know damn well I cannot,” Fergus cries. “Roger saved him. You protect him. I’m nothing, I’m useless.” 

Jamie reminds him of the things that Fergus has done: keeping the family together while he himself was in Ardsmuir, helping him at the print shop while he was grieving for Claire and making fine whisky with his one good hand.

“You are the only one who can show your son what a ‘useless’ man like you can achieve and how proud he can make his father. It’s you we need.”

Fergus says that he is not the man he once was and he doesn’t know if he can be that man again.

“You can,” Jamie replies, pulling him to his feet. “You will.” 

Fergus clings to Jamie, who kisses him on the forehead.

This was a stunning scene. All kudos to everyone involved with its creation, but especially to Sam Heughan and Cesar Domboy, who were perfect. 

Later Marsali stands in the doorway, holding Henri-Christian, as Claire and Jamie bring Fergus home. 

“I’m sorry,” Fergus says to Marsali, “Never again.”

She hands him Henri-Christian and kisses him, as Jamie and Claire turn and walk away, their arms around each other. 

Claire and Jamie return home to find Major MacDonald and a number of soldiers bringing wagons of guns to the Ridge. Jamie’s letter about weapons for the Cherokee has been well received and MacDonald remarks that the support of the Cherokee couldn’t have come at a better time. He hands over a newspaper that shows a report of the Boston Tea Party, which MacDonald deems an inconvenience, but one which the King will no doubt view as an act of aggression. He asks where Jamie wants the weapons stored and directs the men to deliver them. 

As the soldiers move off, Jamie asks Claire what it means. 

“It’s starting,” Claire replies. “The storm, the war, it’s almost here.” 

The music swells and the episode ends to a brief military rendition of a well known theme.

This was a brilliant episode, and no accident that much of the dialogue came straight from the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s novel. Every actor played their role perfectly, but the award for the most poignant performance must go hands down to Cesar Domboy, who showed the vulnerability, despair and ultimately the strength of Fergus with every word and action. As we approach the midpoint of the season, there is much emotion and turmoil ahead. This reviewer can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She knows that she would do anything for her loved ones - but definitely wouldn’t agree to an operation without anaesthetic!

Friday, March 18, 2022

“Where does your loyalty lie?” A recap of season 6 episode 2 by your Aussie blogging lass.

Outlander Homepage Originals 

What price would you put on your allegiance? Would you give it in exchange for weapons? Would you give it in exchange for your family? There are a number of characters considering their allegiances in this week’s episode, allegiances which all come with potentially significant risks, and consequences.

As the episode begins, Jamie and Ian ride into the Cherokee camp. The Cherokee leaders waste no time in saying what they want: more weapons, in the form of muskets, rifles, guns. Jamie is asked what he thinks and he speaks plainly. It will be difficult to arm them with guns, he says, as the King will be hesitant to give them weapons that they can then use to kill him. The Cherokee point out that they can kill without guns.

“Of course you can,” Jamie replies. “But you’re wise enough not to.” 

But the Cherokee leader goes further, explaining that while he likes Jamie, the allegiance of his people to the King is by no means certain. They have fought on his side before and may do so again, but that is a decision for another day. Their main quarrel is with people who those who cross the treaty line, building houses and planting crops, and taking from the Cherokee. 

Another leader asks, if the King cannot keep his people where they belong, how can he protest when the Cherokee defend their land? Jamie is asked whether he will pass on their message, to which Jamie replies that he will consider it. It is a response that clearly does not please the men, Ian included. 

“It is only that I cannot promise it,” Jamie clarifies.

“Thank you for your honesty at least,” replies the Cherokee leader, inviting both Jamie and Ian to stay the night, as the opening credits begin. 

Back at the Ridge, Tom Christie and Malva are with Claire in her surgery. Claire is checking the wound in Tom’s hand, which is almost healed. Again, she mentions the operation that she could perform on his other hand. But Christie has decided to refuse her offer, saying that if God has intended him to have such an infirmity, then so be it. Claire tries to counter this argument, mentioning that she had tended his goat’s leg - did Christie really think himself less deserving than his goat? 

But Tom is not about to be put in his place, quoting a letter from St Paul to Timothy, that basically admonishes women speaking their mind. Malva knows this argument well, quoting parts of it to Claire and earning a look of reproach from her father as she does so. The argument praises the idea of a woman’s silence, but Claire is neither impressed nor silenced. 

“Clearly St Paul also met a woman he couldn’t out-argue,” she counters. 

Tom dismisses Malva, telling her to find something to do. Left alone, Claire challenges Tom: he is afraid, she tells him. Afraid that she will hurt him, or that he will further lose the function in his hand.  She reminds him that the ether she has will allow him to feel no pain, but Christie cuts her off, saying by way of explanation that he has lots to do.

On her way out of the camp, Claire passes Allan and Malva, and asks if Allan’s back has improved. He confirms that it has. Malva opens the conversation, saying that they have been amazed by the fact that Claire is a physician, given that she is a woman. Allan agrees, adding that some would be accused of witchcraft.

This is certainly not the first time that this label has been applied to Claire and she is not phased by this description either. She jokes with Allan: if she needs to sharpen her broomstick or her surgeon’s knives, she will go to him first. 

Malva tells Claire that her brother has no interest in the art of healing, whereas she has and is eager to learn. Immediately, Claire invites her to accompany her when she visits Marsali, but just as immediately, Allan refuses to allow her to attend, merely remarking that Malva has chores to do at home. 

“Perhaps another time,” Claire replies and leaves. The two Christie children look after her. There is a definite tension here.

Jamie is asleep in the Cherokee camp, when two women steal into the quarters. One begins to touch Jamie, who, half asleep, believes it to be Claire. When he opens his eyes and realises where he is and what is happening, he calls out to Ian, saying, “There’s a woman in my bed.”

“Two of them, Uncle,” Ian replies. “The other is waiting her turn.” 

Ian explains that since Jamie is the King’s agent, they must think it a privilege to lie with him. He continues to watch, amused, as Jamie tries to convince the two very persistent young women that he cannot lie with them. But the women will not be dissuaded and Jamie asks for Ian’s help. Ian replies that he speaks Mohawk and hardly any Cherokee. Nevertheless, he manages to get the woman to stop their amorous attentions, explaining to Jamie that he has told them that the Creator came to Jamie in a dream and told him that he must not lie with a woman until he brought guns to the Cherokee people. Jamie is not impressed with this story, but Ian counters that it is the best he could come up with at short notice. 

As they leave, Ian translates what the women are saying. One of them is disappointed, as she had been very impressed with Jamie’s manhood, while the other is more philosophical, saying that if she had borne Jamie children., they might have had red hair. Left alone, Jamie is equal parts relieved and annoyed at Ian, who is making no secret of his amusement at the whole situation. 

This was a very amusing scene, played to perfection by Sam Heughan and John Bell. In a season that promises to be very dramatic, it is scenes like these that provide much needed comic relief.

Malva has made her way to Marsali’s cabin and knocks on the door. Inside, Claire and Marsali are listening to the children and the games that they are playing. Marsali comments that the game changes, from highway robbers, to sailors, to pirates. Malva enters, explaining that she has finished her chores, while Claire asks if Marsali minds Malva’s presence. 

Indicating her heavily pregnant belly, Marsali cautions Malva never to let a man touch her, or this is the fate that awaits her. Claire explains to Malva what she is doing, and how with practice, it is possible to feel the position of the baby. Marsali comments that the proper position would be “out of her womb” and Claire smiles in agreement. She continues to instruct Malva as to the correct method for taking a pulse. In taking Marsali’s hand, Claire notices a large bruise. Although obviously concerned, she says nothing, letting Malva feel for Marsali’s pulse and begin to measure the heart rate. 

The children have come inside and their noise upsets Marsali, who begins to lose her temper with Germain, calling through the bedroom door that she will smack his bottom so that he can’t sit until the Sabbath. Realising her distress, Claire asks Malva to take the children back outside, which she immediately agrees to do. Marsali apologises to Claire, admitting that she is at her wit’s end with her eldest son. 

Claire asks where Fergus is and why he hasn’t been helping her. She asks about the bruises, saying that she has noticed more, but Marsali replies that she had fallen. Claire clearly doesn’t believe her, but continues to ask medical questions. Marsali mentions that her feet feel as heavy as lead. Claire says she has noticed some swelling and while it is probably nothing, it would be food to keep an eye on it, suggesting that Marsali come and stay at the big house, so Claire can keep an eye on her. She tries once more to find out the reason for the bruises, saying that she must ask, for the sake of the baby. Has Fergus hurt her? It is obvious that he has been drinking more.

Marsali admits that Fergus did grab her arm, but only because she was going after him. She has been cursed with her mother’s temper, she adds, but it is clear that she is quite upset, sick of Fergus always being at the still and always being drunk. Claire says that they need to get to the bottom of what has been troubling him, but Marsali already knows. Fergus has been blaming himself, she explains, for not being there when Claire and Marsali had been attacked by Lionel Brown and his men.  

The mere mention of Lionel’s name begins to have an effect on Claire. Marsali sees this and apologises, saying she didn’t mean to upset Claire. But Claire dismisses her concern, claiming she has a headache coming on. 

Walking back into her surgery, Claire daydreams that she hears Lionel Brown’s voice, mockingly calling her Dr Rawlings. Distressed, she immediately heads for her ether supply, her hands shaking as she adds a few drops to the leather pouch. Hurrying over to the bed, she breathes in deeply, escaping from her memories loses consciousness. 

(After the opening episode, fans asked Diana Gabaldon how she felt about this change to the storyline, with Claire using ether to self medicate. She replied that having had the benefit of seeing the entire season, she was happy with what they had done and understood why this device was used. This particular reviewer will have to trust the author’s opinion and hope that it will all work out in the end. At the moment, it seems particularly jarring…) 

A happy family scene begins, with Jem playing with Lizzie. Inside the MacKenzie cabin, Brianna is making preparations. Thanks to some white phosphorus sent from Lord John, she has what she needs to make matches. She explains to Roger that she knows the theory, and promises to be careful - given that phosphorus will burst into flame on contact with air. (Lord John has exercised caution too - the phosphorus was packed in water.)

Roger has news of his own. There has been a death amongst the new tenants, with Hiram Crombie’s mother-in-law passing away. The preacher has been delayed, so Tom Christie has asked Roger to officiate at the funeral. Roger has agreed, although he admits to Bree that he has no idea what to preach about. 

Fresh from his escape from the two amorous Cherokee women, Jamie arrives home with one thing on his mind - making love to Claire. Tossing his coat towards Mrs Bug, he heads directly upstairs, calling loudly for his wife. Claire is already in the bedroom and fortunately, she is just as willing. Their enthusiastic lovemaking is overheard by Mrs Bug downstairs, who gives a knowing smile. 

Afterwards, Jamie and Claire good-naturedly tease each other until the conversation turns to more serious matters. Jamie needs some knowledge from the future, but is hesitant to ask. He needs to know which side the Cherokee will fight on in the war to come, but Claire admits that her knowledge of Cherokee history is patchy. Jamie explains the dilemma: the War Chief has asked for the Cherokee to be provided with guns and if he gives them, he has no idea whether he will be arming a potential enemy. Without the guns, the Cherokee are more likely to fight with the rebels; with them, they will likely fight for the Crown. 

While Jamie understands the compulsion for providing the means to protect oneself, he is also wrestling with his conscience. Claire adds that either way, the Cherokees will be the loser. She tells Jamie that Richard Brown would have made a terrible Indian agent, whereas he will do the right thing. The two embrace, and just as it looks as if another round of lovemaking is about to begin, they are interrupted by Ian’s knock on the door. Major MacDonald is arriving. 

Ian stands uncomfortably in the doorway as Jamie and the Major discuss the situation. The Major is providing a long list of past allegiances and asks Jamie what it is that the Cherokee want. Jamie says it is more about what they don’t want: settlers ignoring the borders and crossing over into their lands. Ian looks ready to speak, when Major MacDonald sneezes explosively. He asks Jamie whether the Crown should intervene and send soldiers. Ian does interrupt at this point, directly contradicting Jamie and saying the Cherokee had in fact said what they wanted. Jamie shoots him a warning look, but Major MacDonald barely notices. He asks if Jamie has a cat, and is obviously highly allergic to them. He leaves the room, sneezing loudly, giving Ian the opportunity to confront Jamie. Why, he asks, did Jamie not mention the request for weapons? 

Jamie begins by admonishing Ian for speaking up, as it was not his place to do so. He tells Ian that he had only promised the Cherokee that he would consider their request, then explains the dilemma in which he finds himself. Claire is unable to tell him which side the Cherokee will support, and if he provides them with weapons, they could very well end up with them being pointed at the Ridge. Jamie further explains that the outcome of the war will involve the creation of a new united nation, but one without a King. The loyalists will lose the war. This knowledge of the future means that it must be used when making decisions. It can be both a blessing and a curse, and it is a knowledge that Ian has now been trusted with as well. Ian comments that it would be a shame for their Indian neighbours to become enemies, but he understands why Jamie has made the decision. His allegiance is to his uncle and he promises to stand by him. 

Jamie and Claire bring young Germain to the newly constructed church, where Roger is beginning the funeral service for Hiram Crombie’s mother-in-law. Germain is curious and asks Jamie why there is bread on the woman’s lap - is she going to eat it? Jamie explains the customs and shushes Germain, as Roger begins to pray. The young boy is the only one watching the body, and so the only one who sees Mrs Wilson’s chest begin to rise and her eyes open. Germain tugs on Claire’s skirts, just as the old woman takes a dramatic breath. Claire rushes to examine her and tells Roger that she has suffered an aortic aneurysm, and is bleeding internally. The aneurysm had been leaking, causing her to lose consciousness and feel cold to the touch. It is however, only a temporary resurrection. The aneurysm will rupture and she will die, within the space of a few minutes. It is clear from Roger’s expression that this is not welcome news. 

The few minutes’ reprieve allows Mrs Wilson time to give her opinion on her own funeral and she isn’t impressed. She calls Hiram a skinflint; and he responds by saying that he has given her a home for 20 years and put up with her wicked tongue. At this point, Roger intervenes, telling the warring relatives that it is not fitting. Mrs Wilson is still standing before God.

“So are you,” she retorts.

“Aye, but you’re closer,” is his witty reply, adding that she is still bound for eternity and that she would do well to compose her soul.

The proceedings are interrupted again by the arrival of the Sin Eater, whose job it is to eat the bread that represents the old woman’s sins. He is rather taken aback to discover that Mrs Wilson is still alive, all the more so when she tells him that since he has been paid to eat her sins, he had best be about his business. As it turns out, he hasn’t actually been paid, but Hiram assures his mother-in-law that he has brought the money with him. The old man eats the bread, absolves Mrs Wilson of her sins and holds out his hand for the coins, which are duly passed to him. Mrs Wilson then lies back, tells Hiram that she forgives him and proclaims him to be a good lad. Her final words are that she is not afraid, and with one final sigh, she passes away. 

With a look at both Jamie and Claire, Roger moves to pick up the bible. “I am the resurrection,” he begins, his voice ringing out clearly. He is in impressive control here - it seems as if he has found his calling. 

It is dinner time at the Big House, and Mrs Bug and Lizzie are serving the family, while Mr Bug entertains young Jem with stories. Mrs Bug asks Marsali if Fergus will be joining them, but she quickly replies that he is at the still. Mrs Bug and Claire share a brief knowing look.

Brianna and Roger announce that they have news. This is immediately misinterpreted. 

“You’re with child!” Lizzie exclaims.

Marsali says that she is happy for her and Jamie stands to make a toast, but Brianna quickly puts a stop to this. She is not with child, she tells them, but has invented something. Holding up the matches, she gives a demonstration. She doesn’t get the reaction that she thought she would, however. Neither Marsali nor Lizzie seem to see the value in them. Brianna is rather deflated, sitting back down and apologising for it not being the news they were hoping for. In a united display of parental pride, Claire and Jamie praise the matches. Jamie says that they will be very useful and Claire adds that she can’t wait to use them. She continues her praise, congratulating Roger on his handling of the bizarre funeral.

Roger says that Tom Christie was also impressed and has asked him to preach the Sunday sermon as a lay preacher. 

Brianna asks why Tom doesn’t do it himself and Roger replies that Tom is not a preacher.

“Neither are you,” Brianna replies and Roger, a little uncomfortably, says that it is only temporary. 

Jamie remarks that if there is preaching to be done then he would rather than Roger do it, since  Tom can stir up trouble with his beliefs. Roger says that he will be happy to fill in. Claire adds that she has been ask not to darken the doorstep of the church again. Following the unusual circumstances of Mrs Wilson’s funeral, talk has begun that Claire is a witch.

“And that doesn’t bother you?” Brianna asks.

Claire replies that it isn’t the first time she has heard comments like this, and besides, she has no intention of giving in to their demands.

“Especially when I’m doing the preaching,” Roger adds.

The conversation is interrupted by Marsali, who cries in sudden pain. Something is wrong, she says. It feels different than before. Everyone jumps to their feet, and Claire and Brianna help Marsali to the surgery. 

Hours have passed. Marsali is pacing around the surgery, while Claire and Jamie discuss the situation in hushed tones. The baby hasn’t moved in hours, Claire says, and the reason for that could be one of many things, some of which she is not prepared to deal with in this time. A caesarean would save the baby, but not Marsali.

“Where the hell is Fergus?” Jamie asks and Claire replies that she had hoped that Jamie would know. She explains to Jamie that Marsali has told her that Fergus is feeling guilty over what had happened with the Browns, slightly hesitating before she says the name. 

Jamie understands completely, which baffles Claire. She says that it wasn’t Fergus’ fault and Jamie counters that it makes no difference. He has felt similarly for what had happened to her, he says. Claire reiterates that there was nothing either man could have done to prevent it, adding that they had also come to the women’s rescue. She cautions Jamie that Fergus needs to be found quickly, because if anything happens to Marsali, he will certainly have more to regret. Jamie replies that he will have Roger go and fetch him, while Brianna has brought Malva to help. 

Roger indeed goes to fetch Fergus, taking with him every bit of the control and presence he displayed at the funeral. He wastes no time in telling Fergus what he thinks of his drunken behaviour and cautions the younger man that if Fergus doesn’t go to be with Marsali, he will regret it. Words like “What are you playing at?”, “Your wife needs you. Now.” and “Be the man that Marsali thinks you are” are delivered to perfection by Richard Rankin, who is at his best here. 

Back at the Big House, an obviously worried Claire is watching over an obviously frightened Marsali. With Adso sitting next to her, Marsali speaks directly to the cat, saying that if she dies, Claire is not to be allowed to do any autopsies on her. Marsali asks for pen and ink, so that she can write to her mother. Claire reassures her that she will be all right and that everything possible will be done. Marsali nods, but it is clear how scared she is. 

Fergus chooses this moment to make his appearance, and he goes straight to Marsali’s side. Her relief is immediate, telling Fergus that the baby must come quickly, and that she needs his help. Fergus tells Claire of a method that was used in the brothel, to help women whose babies were in difficulty. It is an intimate one, so Claire leaves them in private. 

Marsali confesses to Fergus that she is afraid that she will die and he reassures her that she won’t, in the most life affirming way that he can. In the adjoining room, Jamie, Brianna, Claire and Malva realise what they are overhearing. Bree says she will go for a walk, while Jamie mentions post that needs sorting. This leaves Claire to explain to a curious Malva that the act of making love can be a pleasurable experience for all women, the young woman obviously having been told that only sinners and whores would enjoy themselves during such a time.

Brianna comes across Ian, who is saying a prayer for the baby. He asks her about the war to come and what happens to the Cherokee in the new land that comes after it. Brianna explains that in the United States of America, the Indians are not treated well by the white settlers, who will continue to come to the country, and the Indians will be forced to live far away from their ancestral homes. Ian apologises, commenting that since he now knows what will happen to them, then he is responsible too. 

Their conversation is interrupted by Lizzie, who comes running to say that the baby is coming. They all run back to the house, where Marsali is indeed in the throes of giving birth. When the newborn cries are heard, Fergus goes into the room, hearing Claire say “Bonsoir, Monsieur.” But his joy at meeting is son is shortlived. Looking closely at the baby, he can see that something is wrong. Claire tries to reason with him, but Fergus rushes out of the room, pushing past the others, who now realise that something has happened. 

Marsali asks what is wrong and Claire tells her. The baby is a dwarf, but perfectly healthy. Claire places the baby into Marsali’s arms. The mother-son bond is instant, with Marsali kissing the baby’s head and pronouncing him to be beautiful. 

Brianna has kissed Jem goodnight and rejoins Roger in the main room. Roger has just lit a candle with one of the new matches, commenting that it “works like a charm.” But Brianna remarks that nobody cares. The only worthwhile thing that a woman can do, she says, is to get pregnant. Roger pushes her further: is that really what she is bothered about, or is it more that they have been trying for a while without any luck. Brianna replies that she will just have to be patient. They begin to kiss, but are interrupted by a knock at the door. It turns out to be young Aidan McCallum, who had been out chasing rabbits, but had lost his way and couldn’t get home. Roger says that he will show him the way, but offers to show him a magic trick of sorts first. Picking up one of the matches, he lights it in front of an amazed Aidan, who says, “How did you do that?” 

“My wife made it,” says Roger. “She’s a genius.”

Bree smiles at him in pleasure. 

Mr Bug and Kezzie Beardsley leave with a wagon of supplies headed for River Run. Jamie asks Mr Bug to see if his Aunt Jocasta has any letters for him, while Lizzie flirts with Kezzie, saying that she will miss him “a little, perhaps” and adds that she will try to keep his brother “out of trouble.” This is a little allusion to storylines to come, with which book readers will be familiar. It is a teasingly brief exchange, acted beautifully by Caitlin Ryan and Paul Gorman. 

Meanwhile, a delegation of Cherokee arrive at the Ridge and Jamie and Ian go to greet them.  The Chief wants to know if Jamie had conveyed the message to the King regarding the weapons they want. Jamie replies that he has decided not to, adding that the Cherokee must trust him, as it is for the best. Unhappy with this, the Chief remarks that this is not the last time that Jamie will see them. Fixing Jamie with a long stare, the group turn and go. 

The Cherokee are not the only ones who disagree with Jamie’s decision. Ian too, makes his dissatisfaction plain. Knowing what he does of the future injustices that the Indians will suffer, he argues that the Cherokee deserve every chance to protect themselves. If Jamie will not help them, says Ian, then he will. Jamie asks how he expects to find and pay for the guns that he needs. Ian replies that he doesn’t know, but that he will find a way. 

Brianna comes across Jamie deep in thought, cleaning his own guns. She remarks that they should call him Atlas, as he looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Jamie answers that he doesn’t think there is much in the world that is put right by gunpowder and bullets, but that seems one of the ways most favoured by men. Changing the subject, he asks if Brianna has been at the Fisher Folk camp. She answers that she and Roger have been at Amy McCallum’s building her cabin, and comments on the progress that Tom Christie has made on the church. Jamie is concerned. In Tom Christie’s hands, the church could become a weapon of war.

Jamie rides to the Fisher Folk camp and inspects the church. He sees Tom Christie and comments that he had thought Christie was going to build a cabin for himself and Tom retorts that a house had to be built for God first, before any personal gain. Jamie asks if Christie remembers his freemason’s oath, suggesting that the church be a meeting house for any man, woman or child. This open invitation must include Claire and the rumours about her being a witch must stop as well. Christie merely asks if he will need to take down the steeple. Jamie replies that no, it is a fine thing and it should have a bell to draw every man, woman and child to worship. 

Malva is inside the Christie cabin when Tom enters, obviously annoyed. He checks the milk, telling Malva that it has turned. She apologises, saying that she had been meaning to make butter. Christie asks why she hasn’t, adding that she has been spending too much times with Claire. His temper rises quickly, telling Malva that she has the same dark soul as her mother.  Taking off his belt, Tom barks commands at his daughter, telling her to stand up and lift her skirts, which she does.

But the beating does not happen. Tom’s hand is causing so much trouble that he can’t even dole out the punishment that he wishes. Malva realises that her father is unable to punish her and she fixes him with a defiant stare.

“Take that look off your face,” he says, leaving the cabin. 

From this one Malva facial expression alone, book readers know that we are in for a treat in future episodes... 

Marsali has introduced Ian to the baby, who has been named, Henri-Christian. Ian says a blessing for Henri-Christian, where he calls on the winds to welcome him, the sky to give him shelter and the water and the earth to give him food. He tells Brianna that he had had a child. This is a big revelation, overheard by Jamie who has just arrived outside. Ian tells Marsali that Fergus is grieving but reassures her that he will return. 

Tom approaches the house, and sees Claire outside her surgery. His hand is getting worse, he says, and after considering thought and prayer, he has decided to undergo the operation. Claire reiterates that they need to wait until his other hand is better and suggests he comes back. 

Inside, Claire finds Jamie writing to the Governor. He tells her that he intends to suggest that Governor give the Cherokee what they want. Claire asks him what has made him change his mind. 

“Ian,” Jamie answers. He tells Claire that Ian had a child with his Mohawk wife, which is news to her. Jamie explains that Ian’s allegiance is to the Cherokee, while his own allegiance is to Ian. Claire replies that she thinks it is the right thing to do. Jamie drizzles wax over the letter and affixes his personal seal to the document.

“Come what may,” he says, as the episode comes to an end. 

This episode highlighted the bonds of allegiance and how complicated they can be, particularly when family, emotions and frustration all form part of the equation. By the end of the episode, we know that many characters are torn in their allegiances. Jamie is both an English agent to the Crown, and a rebel. He is also a family man and a landowner on whom many depend. It is a difficult road to walk. Ian meanwhile, is choosing between his allegiance to his real family and to the Indian nation that he had joined. Malva is choosing between an allegiance to family and upbringing and her curiosity to know and experience more out of life. Brianna too, is torn between what is expected of a woman in this time, and her desire to do and be more. Claire’s allegiance will always be to Jamie - but what of her growing need to escape from the horrors of the past? How many more allegiances will be formed and broken in the episodes to come? We will have to watch and see.

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. Her allegiance is to the story written so expertly by Diana Gabaldon!