Sunday, April 3, 2022

“Walking Between Two Fires” A recap of Season 6 episode 4 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

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Suddenly we have reached the midpoint of the season. This episode deals with the important theme of identity and explores the question: can you be two people at once? Both Ian and Jamie are dealing with this issue - Jamie as he plays both sides of the war to come, and Ian as he struggles to find his place in a world where he has been both Christian and Mohawk. While both men show their struggles in this episode, the hour clearly belongs to Ian, as underlined by the title: “The Hour of the Wolf.”

The episode begins in the past, with the aftermath of Young Ian’s successful initiation into the Mohawk tribe. We watch the ritualistic removal of his hair and the application of his facial tattoos. Kneeling by the river, the tribe stand in witness as water is poured over his body, and the Chief presents him with a blanket and beaded belt, announcing that all the white blood has been washed from his veins and that Ian has now been adopted into the Mohawk family. 

“Flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone,” says the Chief, the words reminiscent of the Scottish pledge that Jamie and Claire have made to each other in episodes past. Ian need not fear, for the Mohawk will love and defend him as one of their own. At the announcement of his Mohawk name, which translates as “Wolf’s Brother,” the tribe erupt in joyful whoops, led by Kaheroton, who makes an important and welcome return for this episode. Ian looks around at the group and smiles - but it is the gaze of one particular woman that gets Ian’s attention. The opening credits begin and the episode’s title is displayed, accompanied by the slow motion footage of two wolves running through the woods. The Hour of the Wolf has begun.

Back in the present, Jamie and Claire are finishing some morning lovemaking,  with Claire explaining to Jamie the meaning of the phrase, “Greased Lightning” as being a reference to extreme speed rather than “lubricated brilliance.” The mood is playful and relaxed, but any plans to resume their lovemaking session are thwarted by the sound of Major MacDonald sneezing violently downstairs. The Major’s visit is nearly over, Jamie tells Claire, as MacDonald will leave for New Bern the following morning, while Jamie delivers the guns to the Cherokee. Jamie’s efforts as Indian Agent have not gone unnoticed - indeed, the Major has brought a letter from the Governor praising Jamie’s enterprise. They are in no hurry to go downstairs, but repeated sneezing and the possibility of there being no food left change their mind.

As the next scene begins, Jamie is issuing instructions to Fergus, who is to trade goods on Jamie’s behalf in Cross Creek. When this is done, Jamie suggests that Fergus call in on Aunt Jocasta, who would be glad of the company. But Fergus is not fooled. He knows what Jamie is doing, he says - trying to give Fergus a little distance from his problems so that he may heal. He is grateful, telling his foster father that he has saved his life more than once. Jamie replies that he has merely “balanced the scales.” 

Jamie, Roger, Brianna, Ian, Mr Bug and some of the men from the Ridge are demonstrating their target shooting in front of Major Mac Donald, with Roger triumphantly announcing, “I hit it!” after he has taken his shot. 

‘You’ve been practising,” Bree replies, but she is not her usual bubbly self. 

Roger asks MacDonald to confirm the required standard of two rounds per minute for the British army. MacDonald does so, while Jamie calls out that some people can manage three rounds.

MacDonald comments that it remains to be seen whether the Cherokee will ever be able to manage that and Mr Bug adds that perhaps they should “stick to their booze.” Ian is listening to the conversation and is visibly uncomfortable. The guns may not be new, MacDonald muses, but they will kill more and at greater speed than any arrow, which is why the Cherokee want them. He instructs Jamie to tell Chief Bird-who-sings-in-the-evening that the rifles have been field tested and will aim true.

“I will tell him they have your personal guarantee,” Jamie replies. 

MacDonald has misnamed the Chief and Ian corrects him, giving both the Mohawk name and its translation - Chief Bird-who-sings-in-the-morning.

The Major responds by asking why the Cherokee can’t use a simple name.

“Aye,” Ian says, sarcastically, “Like Donald, son of Donald.”

Ignoring the jibe, MacDonald explains that the Chief will be expected to take an oath, assuring the tribe’s intention to support the Crown should they be called upon, adding that the Governor is counting on Jamie to get this agreement from the Cherokee.

Brianna has moved away from the shooting party and is standing on the balcony of the Big House. Jamie has noticed and comes to ask her what is wrong. Brianna tells her father what she knows of the events to come. The oath won’t be enough to save the Cherokee, she says. In sixty years’ time, the government will force the Cherokee off their land and move them a thousand miles away. Eight thousand will die, with the journey called the Trail of Tears. Jamie looks troubled and Brianna comments that it didn’t seem right to know what would happen and not tell him.

Jamie and Ian arrive at the Cherokee camp. They store their own weapons and are taken to the Chief, but Ian notices some horses tethered nearby. They do not belong to the Cherokee, he tells Jamie, but Mohawk. As he says this, one of the Mohawk walks forward to greet him, formally addressing him with his Mohawk name - Wolf’s Brother. But it is clear, from the look on Ian’s face, that this is no happy reunion. 

In their tent that night, Ian begins to tell his story to Jamie. He remembers the time when he was beginning to learn the Mohawk language and how he couldn’t properly pronounce the name of the woman who had caught his eye. He had called her Emily instead, which had made her laugh. 

Another flashback scene begins and we see evidence of this, with Emily correcting him when he calls her by name. She has been carving a stone into the shape of a wolf’s head, her clan. She hands the stone to Ian who admires its intricacy. When he tries to hand it back, she pushes it back into his hands. It is a gift that he prizes, smiling to himself as she walks away. 

As he continues to become one of the Mohawk, Ian learns of another of their customs. It is the woman who chooses the man. Men have no say in relationships, instead, it is the woman who has the power. Luckily for Ian, Emily has indeed chosen him, and as time passes they become inseparable. In their tent one night, she presents him with a beaded bracelet. It is to remind him, she says, of when they were joined as one. Tying it around his wrist, they then make love.

In the longhouse, men are passing a cup around the group, telling stories. Ian is asked to tell one of his own, but he replies that his story is being there with all of them. But this doesn’t satisfy his newly adopted family. One of them tries to take the drinking cup away, but Emily intervenes, saying that Ian should have it, as he tells better stories when he is drunk. The story that everyone wants to hear is about Geillis Duncan, the woman with the green eyes. Ian explains that Geillis was a witch and a very wicked woman, but he doesn’t have enough of the Mohawk language to do the story justice. Emily suggests that he sing instead about his home across the sea, which he does.

More time has passed. Emily is now pregnant and asks Ian if he ever misses his home.

“You are my home,” he says. “Both of you.”

But later that night, Emily wakes in pain. Something is dreadfully wrong. Pulling back the covers, Ian is shocked by the sight of a lot of blood and calls for help. The women carry Emily away, leaving an anguished Ian, who wants to be with her. 

“The women will help her now,” he is told by two of the men, who suggest that he go to the woods and pray.  This Ian does, going into the woods and falling to his knees, reciting the Hail Mary prayer and also imploring the Mohawk creator to not let this be the hour of death.

Kaheroton finds Ian the next morning and tells him that Emily lives. The child, however, has died. 

Ian tells Jamie that he never saw his daughter, as they had already wrapped her up and buried her in furs. Although Emily managed to conceive again, another miscarriage followed. A few months later, Ian says, everything changed. 

Led out of the woods by a female elder, Ian is told that while he has been made Mohawk by an old custom, his spirit is not Mohawk. It is not strong enough to allow a child to take root in Emily’s womb and he is told to return to his own people, among whom his spirit will be strong.  

When Ian refuses, he is told that Emily agrees. Proclaiming himself “flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone”, Ian returns to their home to speak to Emily. But instead, he finds Emily with Kaheroton, who, he quickly realises, has replaced him.

“Is this what you want?” he asks Emily.

“It is what must be,” Kaheroton replies. 

Ian cuts him off, insisting that Emily be allowed to speak, but the result is the same.

“Please,” she says tearfully. “It is what must be. Go. Leave.”

Heartbroken, Ian goes, and we at last understand the state of mind that he was in when he returned to the Ridge.

Ian tells Jamie that Kaheroton had been his friend, and had known how much Ian had loved Emily. Tearfully, he asks Jamie if he was weak. Should he have fought harder? 

“Would you have left,” he asks, “if it had been Auntie Claire?”

Jamie comes to sit beside his nephew, replying that it wasn’t the same. 

Ian says that he doesn’t think he has it in him to give the rifles to Chief Bird that evening, as a celebration will be expected and he is not in the right frame of mind for that. Jamie tells his nephew not to worry. He will tell the Chief that they will present the rifles in the morning. 

Walking alone in the Cherokee village, Jamie is greeted by a man named Alexander Cameron, also known as “Scotchee”, another Indian agent. Jamie’s reputation has preceded him and Cameron asks if he is really known as Bear Killer. Jamie downplays the title, asking why Cameron has come so far East. Cameron tells him that he has come to marry off a lass of Chief Bird, noting that Mohawk have also come to trade. He comments that the Chief has been boasting of the hundred rifles that Jamie has brought, but Jamie corrects this number, telling Cameron that the number is actually twenty. The talk of whisky is true, however, and Jamie offers Cameron a dram from some of his last good barrels. 

A number of drams later, Cameron leads Jamie away from the fire. He has bought land, he tells Jamie, from the Cherokee in Overhill, Tennessee and offers Jamie a good deal. Jamie reminds him that it is against the treaty to take land so far west, a promise having been made by the King not to settle beyond the Treaty line. Cameron argues that if the Indians choose to sell the land then it’s a different matter. Jamie replies that he has enough land and doesn’t want to be involved in illegal dealings.

“Nor should you,” he cautions Cameron. “You’re risking your neck.”

Cameron declares that his neck has been through worse. He had been hoping to interest Chief Bird, he adds, but the Mohawk are interfering with his plans. 


Back at the Ridge, Claire, Malva, Lizzie and Josiah Beardsley are in Claire’s surgery. An ether trial has been proposed, so that Malva, as Claire’s apprentice, can practise administering the drug like she would need to do during surgery. Claire explains that she can’t operate and give the anaesthetic, but reassures the pair that the procedure is perfectly safe. Josiah tells Lizzie that he will go first, “in case anything goes awry.” Malva replies that he is being ever so brave, shortening his name to “Joe”. This awakens the green eyed monster in Lizzie. Pointedly calling him Josiah, she agrees that he is indeed being brave, but that she is not afraid and will go first.

With an anxious Josiah watching, Malva administers the drug under Claire’s instructions. The ether works fast and Lizzie is soon unconscious, failing to flinch when Claire makes a small cut on her finger. Josiah can’t believe that Lizzie hasn’t felt the cut and Malva tells him that patients could be cut open and whatever was ailing them removed, without them feeling a thing. Claire shows Malva how to sense the vibrations on a patient’s skin to monitor when the patient is about to wake. After making a note in her book, Claire instructs Malva to remove the mask. Lizzie soon wakes, asking when they are going to begin. Josiah tells her that the procedure is already over and that she has been asleep. To prove it, he takes the next turn.

Lizzie is mesmerised by the process, asking if it is really true that Josiah won’t wake until the mask is removed. Claire confirms this, but also adds that a patient shouldn’t be kept under for too long. Next, Lizzie wants to know where the soul has gone and Claire replies that Josiah isn’t dead, only sleeping. She tells Lizzie that the experience is different for everyone. Sometimes people dream, other times they see things, but that it is all in the patient’s mind. 

The mask is removed, and Malva watches as Josiah begins to wake.

“I’ve never seen the like,” she says. “It’s as if we killed him and brought him back to life.” Malva adds that she can understand why her father would say that this is devil’s work and that only God has the right to do such things. Claire suggests that it might not be a good idea to tell him. Malva agrees, saying that if she did, he would stop her from coming to the surgery at all. 

Jamie and Ian present the rifles to Chief Bird, Jamie saying that both the King and the Governor hope that the Cherokee will be pleased. They are, but the Chief muses that it is not just his happiness that concerns the Government. Jamie agrees: the loyalty of the Cherokee in battle is now expected. 

“Today is a day of celebration,” replies the Chief. “Let’s have no talk of war.” He invites Jamie to meet his new wife who, he says, asks for his loyalty to no-one but her.

Ian, meanwhile, walks over to Kaheroton’s companion, who asks where Rollo is. 

Pointedly, Ian replies that Rollo has not abandoned him, but has been left at home with Ian’s kin.

“There are some who did not want you to leave,” the man tells Ian, also giving the news that Kaheroton and Emily have had a son, who was walking when the men had left home. 

Kaheroton approaches and Ian loses his composure. He goes up to his Mohawk rival, accusing the other man of stealing his wife and using his happiness against him. The two begin to fight, and are soon separated by Jamie, who takes Ian, and Cameron, who takes Kaheroton. But Cameron has an ulterior motive. Taking a knife, he holds it to the Mohawk’s throat, saying that the trading is done and that Kaheroton needs to go. Calling out to Jamie, he mocks Kaheroton’s headdress, telling Jamie that it makes it harder for him to be scalped. Jamie tells Cameron to let the man go, as he is drunk. Cameron does release his prisoner, but it results in a challenge and a duel is planned. Jamie is furious, telling Cameron that he is better than this, but Cameron is equally furious. 

“A challenge has been laid down and accepted,” he replies, before stalking away. 

Jamie finds Ian by the river. Ian tells him that God granted Kaheroton and Emily a son, but had taken his wee girl. The child had not been baptised and hadn’t been given a name, either Mohawk or Christian, but Ian had always thought of her as Iseabail. He asks if it is his fault and whether God is punishing him.

“No lad,” Jamie replies. “Don’t think it.” 

He tells Ian that they must trust that God has a plan, for He is gracious and merciful. 

“If that’s true,” Ian asks, “then where is she?” He can’t bear the thought of his daughter wandering and lost. 

Jamie then tells Ian about Faith, and how he had not been able to hold her, either. He doesn’t have an answer for Ian, he says, only that after life comes death, and that after that people are brought home to the Lord. 

“Come,” he says, kneeling. “We shall ask my daughter to look for yours in Heaven. I ken she will find her there.” 

This was a lovely scene, beautifully acted by John Bell and Sam Heughan. The bond between Uncle and Nephew is clearly shown, as is the sharing of a similar tragedy. Both men have lost daughters, but their own bond has been strengthened by the sharing of this loss. 

Ian approaches Kaheroton and hands him Jamie’s pistol for the duel, telling the Mohawk man that it is the finest weapon there is.
“You would do this for me?” Kaheroton asks.

“You deserve a fighting chance,” Ian replies.

Kaheroton asks Ian to go to Emily and his son if he should die. He unties a beaded bracelet similar to the one Emily had given to Ian, asking that Ian give it back to his wife. Again, he asks Ian to swear that he will care for his family if he dies. Ian takes the bracelet, but turns away without answering. 

The Chief approaches Jamie and confirms that the Cherokee will fight on the side of the Crown. Jamie replies that he wishes to tell the man something and the two retire to the Longhouse. Jamie tells the Chief that the women in his family are those who see in dreams what is to come. He proceeds to tell the Chief of the Trail of Tears and what will happen 60 years into the future. The Chief comments that it is good that the tribe has been given muskets, but Jamie counters that twenty muskets against twenty thousand will not save them. He continues that he cannot warn many people without being thought of as a madman.

“When the time comes,” Jamie says, “your people must hide.” Perhaps, he muses, if the Chief passes the warning onto his descendants, then they may escape and live. 

“I will tell my sons and my son’s sons,” the Chief responds. “We will remember.”

“Whoever you fight with,” Jamie says, “fight for yourselves.”

“This wife you have,” the Chief asks, “Did you pay a great deal for her?”

“She cost me almost everything I had,” Jamie replies. “She was worth it.”

The duel is about to begin and a crowd has gathered. Ian watches too, tense, as Jamie asks both men if they can reconcile. Neither will, so Jamie tells them to pace out the distance and to wait for his command to fire. Ian is watching Cameron closely and sees the older man turn early. Throwing his own weapon, he knocks the pistol from Cameron’s hand and tells Jamie what has happened. Having broken the rules, Kaheroton may fire at will and he walks towards Cameron, who begs for his life. Kaheroton shoots into the air, as Cameron falls to the ground.

“He has proven himself a coward,” Kaheroton says. “Let him live with his shame.” 

Calling after him, Ian approaches Kaheroton and returns the bracelet. “God chose you,” he says, “to be with her.” 

His peace made, Ian walks away.  But he has one last thing to do. Going to the river, he unwraps the carved wolf stone that Emily had once given to him. Kissing the stone, he puts it into the water and watches as it is caught by the current. 

“I thought I had to choose who I had to be,” Ian tells Jamie moments later. “Wolf’s Brother or Ian Murray. I know now that I can be both.” 

Jamie replies that he himself has been called by many names, and that Ian can call himself whatever he wants. “All that matters,” Jamie says, touching Ian’s heart, “is who you are here.” 

It is time to go home.

At the Ridge, Lizzie is explaining to Kezzie what happened with the ether, telling him how everything went dark, and holding her hand in front of his eyes to illustrate the point. 

Kezzie takes her hand, and we see the effect this has on her. He asks if she was afraid, and when she says no, he responds, “But you’re afeared of much, are you, Lizzie?”

Claire is writing in her notebook, and Malva watches. She expresses an interest in what Claire is doing, so Claire invites her to take a look, explaining that she writes recipes for medicines, but also surgical notes. Malva wants to know why Claire makes detailed drawing and notes - surely she won’t forget? Claire tells her that every body is different and that others may one day benefit from what she has learned. 

‘Like me?” Malva asks.

“Yes,” Claire replies with a smile, adding that Malva is doing very well. 

Malva says that she will tell her brother that she has seen Claire’s book and that there are no spells in it. She had been warned not to touch the book, she admits, for fear of “ensorcelment.” Malva does find the book enchanting though, she admits, and Claire replies that she is glad.

The sound of approaching horses stops their conversation. Claire opens the door and sees Jamie leading the horse and wagon towards the barn. Taking off her apron, she asks if Malva will stay and tidy up and the younger woman agrees. 

Claire meets Jamie in the barn. He is a day late, and she asks if there was trouble. Jamie replies that there were Mohawk there that Ian had known, and that Ian had at last shared everything that had happened to him in his time with the tribe. Jamie doesn’t have the strength to tell it all now, he says, but that Ian is finally finding a way to be both Scottish and Mohawk.

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Claire asks, as she moves to kiss him. 

Jamie remarks that he also can’t be two things at once: a loyalist, a rebel, an agent for the Crown and an enemy of the King. It is pulling him apart and it is time to change horses. He has decided to resign as Indian agent and will write the letter the following day.


Moving closer, Claire remarks that the last time he had returned from the Cherokee, Jamie had not been able to keep his hands off her. Not much has changed this time, it appears, as the two begin to make love. But this time, there is one obvious difference - they have an observer. In a creepy end to the episode, we see Malva, peering through the barn window, standing on tiptoe, watching them. For book viewers, it is a hint at what is to come… 

While the core of Outlander is obviously the love story of Jamie and Claire, we have been blessed so far this season to see the stories of some of the other characters in more detail. We have met the Christies, seen the struggles of Fergus and Marsali, and now we have seen the emotional turmoil of Young Ian. John Bell deserves all the kudos this episode, for his sensitive depiction of Ian’s story. As we move into the second half of the series, with more stories to come, we will no doubt need to steal ourselves for what lies ahead.

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She has always been scared of wolves, but wants to congratulate Wolf’s Brother aka John Bell, for his beautiful acting in this episode!  

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