Friday, March 18, 2022

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

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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!

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