Monday, May 16, 2022

“Traversing the Unknown” - A recap of season 6 episode 8 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

 

Outlander Homepage Originals 


I am Not Alone. 


So says the title slide of the final episode of season 6 and it is an appropriate descriptor. Throughout the considerable tension and drama of the hour, much is made of the connection between characters. As always, the partnership of Jamie and Claire is on display, each refusing to leave the other no matter what the consequences. But there are other connections too: Tom Christie and his refusal to leave the Frasers alone without protection; Brianna and Roger’s discussion of their family’s past and future; the guardian angels of Ian and the Mohawk shadowing Jamie and Claire’s journey; the small but dedicated residents of the Ridge banding together to try and help; even the malevolence of the Fisher Folk, the villagers along the way, or Richard Brown and his committee of safety - no one acts alone. There is always someone nearby and depending on the combination, the presence of others can be a comfort or a threat. There is little time to draw breath, and it certainly makes for an action packed finale. 


As the theme song draws to a close, we are taken briefly into the future, to what looks like a 1950s diner. Music is playing on the juke box and a woman and girl resembling Claire and Brianna are being served burgers and fries. A glass of Coke with a straw sits in front of each of them. It is only a brief glimpse of the 20th century though, as the music quickly fades and we are back on the porch of the Big House, picking up the action from the end of the previous episode. 


Richard Brown announces that they have come to arrest Claire for the murder of Malva Christie. While Jamie orders Brown and his Committee of Safety off his land, and Brown retorts that they will leave as soon as Jamie hands Claire over to them, Mrs Bug appears on the porch. Claire hisses to the older woman to go and get help, and Mrs Bug quickly vanishes. Similarly, Jamie nods to Lizzie and one of the Beardsley twins, who have appeared in the stables. They too disappear, and we can only hope that Jamie can stall long enough for an army of Ridge supporters to be gathered and come to the rescue. 


Brown tells Jamie that he has a responsibility and while he hadn’t expected Jamie to simply give Claire up, he is confident that Jamie will in fact do just that. Meanwhile, Claire has retreated into the house, and has grabbed a rifle with which to arm herself. It is not a moment too soon, as one of Brown’s men has broken away from the group and enters the house with a pistol, which he aims directly at Claire. She implores him not to shoot, and he tells her to put down the weapon she holds. This she begins to do, but then whips out a pistol of her own from behind her skirts and fires. 

“You shot me!” he says, incredulously.

“I did,” Claire replies. “And I’ll bloody do it again if you don’t get out of here.”

The man runs, holding his stomach.


Outside, Jamie has heard the gunshot and is trying to get to Claire, but is being restrained by Brown’s men. Claire appears on the porch, rifle in hand and fires a shot that allows Jamie to pick up a knife. But she also sees Brown aim a pistol directly at Jamie’s head and she screams out, “Duck!” which he dutifully does, just in time. As shots begin to fire, he races towards her and the two of them run into the house. 


They begin to protect themselves as best they can, closing doors and putting furniture in front of open windows. But there are numerous close calls, with shots whizzing through window panes and shutters. As they somehow manage to avoid being hit, Jamie tells Claire that the story about arresting her for Malva’s death has just been an excuse: Brown really wants to exact revenge on them for the death of his brother and is planning on killing them both. 


Outside, Brown begins to walk towards the house, making a great show of waving a flag of truce. Jamie doesn’t trust him and fires. Brown again tells Jamie what he wants, referring to Claire as a “murderous witch”, but promising a fair trial for her in nearby Salisbury. Jamie responds by shooting Brown’s hat from his hand.


Slowly making their way home from Edenton, Brianna and Roger are wandering through the woods, discussing the benefits of knowing future events. There will be no battles at Edenton, Roger says, and they will all be safe. As the conversation continues, they start to wonder how much they should tell Jemmy about time travel. Brianna muses that children are told if they are adopted, or if there is some family secret, and that the earlier they are told, the less of a shock it is. They compare this to their own circumstances, with Brianna finding out the truth of her own life so late. Roger’s case was different, Brianna says. It wasn’t as if the Reverend could have told him, but chose not to. Roger asks if Brianna feels that her parents should have told her sooner and her answer at first is an emphatic, “Yes.” But she quickly follows with, “And no.” She can see why they didn’t, she says. Roger comments that while it might not matter to Jemmy if he is told early on, it would certainly have an impact on Jemmy’s friends, were he to start talking about going through the stones. Brianna says that they will have to wait until Jemmy is old enough to realise that the information must be kept secret, but Roger adds something that Brianna hasn’t thought of. If Jemmy knows, he might also choose to leave them one day. 


The hours are passing at the Big House and there is a temporary truce in place. Jamie has lit a fire and asks Claire for water. He tells her that it won’t be a long siege, predicting that Brown’s men will torch the house when it gets dark, in order to smoke them out, or possibly even burn them alive. They both remember the obituary from the newspaper that Brianna had brought to them when she first arrived. Claire says it can’t be that, as the dates are wrong. The paper had mentioned the sabbath before January and it is now May. Jamie reminds her that she can’t believe everything that the broadsheets print, but agrees that it is unusual to be out by more than four months. The two discuss what they will do if they are smoked out. Claire says that she won’t go with Brown and his men and Jamie says that he would never let her go. They muse about what possible help is on the way. Mr and Mrs Bug will likely go for Kenny Lindsay, Jamie says, while Lizzie and her husband will have gone to find Ronnie Sinclair. 


Brianna has put Jemmy to bed in one compartment of their tent and when she climbs into bed next to Roger, he is playing with the wooden toy car. Brianna comments that he should be a woodworker, as well as a minister, like Jesus. The two reminisce about driving in cars at 75 miles per hour and wonder if they will ever do so again. Remembering a weekend when they had broken up, Roger comments that he had then pursued Brianna through time. The car metaphor soon takes an erotic turn, and the two negotiate both their sleeping son and Brianna’s pregnant belly as they make love. It is a scene that is a perfect mix of humour, reminiscence and affection, beautifully acted by Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin - and a perfect break from the tension and drama occurring back at the Ridge.


Indeed, the next scene takes us back there. It is night now and Claire and Jamie are eating by the fire. Claire explains the phrase, “The condemned man ate a hearty meal,” telling Jamie that in her time, a condemned prisoner can order whatever he wants for his last meal, adding that it is often something from childhood. Jamie asks what Claire would choose and she answers immediately, “Cheeseburger, fries and a coke from Carmi’s.” That was her regular order when she would take Brianna to a diner as a little girl, she explains - and immediately the brief scene from the end of the credits makes sense. Jamie however, tells her that he would have precisely the meal he is having now, in their house, with her. 


Claire wants to know where their help is. Ian would have come immediately if he had heard the gunfire, so it stands to reason that he is off hunting - but where is everyone else? Jamie tells her that if no-one has come by now, then they won’t be coming. It is a huge adjustment for Claire to make: has everyone really turned against them? Do they really believe that Claire killed Malva?


Jamie tells her not to worry and to lie down by him. She does, with her head in his lap, commenting that there really is nothing else that they can do, except wait. Jamie suggests saying an Act of Contrition, something that he has always done before a battle, just in case, and commenting that he can recite it in French, English or Gaelic. Claire asks for English, and he obliges.


Jamie asks how many times he has been close to death. Together, they count off the times: Wentworth, Culloden, when he was shot by Laoghaire, the snake bite and the floggings on his back. Claire comments that Jamie is a hard man to kill, something that brings her a great deal of comfort. In answer to why he has brought up the subject, Jamie tells her of a fortune teller that he had met as a young man in France. The woman had spat into his palm and told him that he was like a cat. She could see the number 9 and death in his hand, a revelation that prompts Claire to ask if Jamie thinks he has nine lives.

“I hope so,” he replies. 

“I never thought that hearing a litany of your past death experiences could bring me so much peace,” Claire murmurs. “Or maybe it’s just the nearness of you.” 


Time has passed and Claire has been sleeping. Jamie wakes her with news: a group of Fisher Folk are coming. The group is led by Hiram Crombie, who insists that Jamie and Claire come out. Despite the fact that the situation is still very grim, Jamie is reassured by Hiram’s presence: no matter what Hiram thinks of them, he tells Claire, he won’t let Brown torch the house, or hang them outside their own home. Moreover, Crombie has put himself between the Committee of Safety and the house, so more shooting is unlikely. Jamie and Claire know that they are at a stalemate, so agree to go outside, although they remain armed. 


As the door opens, chants can be heard. Some of the Fisher Folk are calling, “Burn the witch!” and aiming rocks at the house. It is a mob reminiscent of the witch trials at Crainesmuir. Jamie says that Claire is neither witch nor murderer, answering cries of “Justice for the murdered lass and her unborn bairn”  with a quote from the bible, “Justice is mine, sayeth the Lord.” It is quickly turns against him though, with Brown saying that the committee merely want to take Claire to trial and that if she is innocent, how can Jamie refuse? Jamie replies that if he were to hand Claire over to Brown, she would not live to stand trial, as Brown blames Jamie for the death of his brother. 


Others weigh in. Allan Christie says that Jamie should be tried for debauching and murdering Malva, whereas Mrs McGregor says it was definitely Claire. A man might kill a lass he’d gotten with child, she says, but would not do something as wicked as steal an unborn child from the womb. A compromise of sorts is suggested by Hiram: that both Jamie and Claire be taken together, and that way Jamie can see that no harm comes to Claire.


Noises from behind them announce the arrival of Jamie and Claire’s rescue party, as dutifully gathered by Mrs Bug and Lizzie. There are a few men, armed with rifles, but it is not enough. They will not be able to overpower the Committee of Safety and any fight would only result in death. They have no choice.


 “If you deliver us into this devil’s hand, Mr Crombie, then our blood be upon your head,” Jamie says. “You’ll answer for our lives on the Day of Judgement.” 


“And I will answer for them now,” says another voice.


Tom Christie steps out of the darkness. His hair is unbound and he looks much older. He says that he will travel with both Jamie and Claire to ensure that no further evil is done, and adding that if justice belongs to anyone, it should belong to him. This calms the crowd somewhat and Jamie reluctantly agrees, to the horror of Lizzie and the others who have come to help.  Jamie hands over his weapon and Tom suggests that they leave in the morning, adding that there is no reason why Jamie and Claire should not spend the night in their own bed. Guards will be set to watch the house, both by Tom and by Brown. The decision made, Jamie and Claire go back inside and the crowd disperses. 


Inside the house, Claire walks sadly around their bedroom, fingering bits of shattered glass and musket balls. She comments to Jamie that they have a beautiful home and he promises her with his life that it won’t be the last time that they see it together by moonlight. Lying in bed, Claire turns to Jamie, telling him how scared she is. Slowly he reaches for her and they begin to make love. It is slow, gentle and tender, with their theme music playing behind them. It is a goodbye that slowly builds in passion and intensity. As they did when they said farewell before Culloden, they are sharing their fear and despair, joining their souls once more against a backdrop of uncertainty.


Dawn comes, and with it, the inevitable procession from the Ridge. Jamie and Claire have been loaded into a wagon and Brown warns them against trying to leave it, introducing one of his men as their guard. After a while they stop and Claire, ever the doctor, wonders whether or not she should go and tend to the men who were injured in the skirmish the day before. Jamie reminds her that she owes them nothing and while she agrees, she says that it will hardly help their cause if one of the men dies from infection. Their conversation is interrupted by Tom Christie, who brings a plate of food for Claire, which she accepts. 


Meantime, Brown is having trouble finding somewhere for the trial to take place. Salisbury is no good, as the sheriff has quit and circuit court has closed down. The impending revolution has had an effect, with the town split on the question of independency. Brown says that they must press on for Wilmington, ignoring the closer town of Cross Creek because of its proximity to Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta and the subsequent low chance of a fair trial. But unrest is beginning to be noticeable amongst the men. Wilmington is a further 200 miles away and their desire for vengeance is clearly waning. Brown can’t resist having the last word though, telling Jamie that while there may not be a court at Salisbury, he has made sure that everyone knows of Claire’s guilt. The news, he says, is spreading like wildfire and we are reminded once again that his only definition of a fair trial is one in which the verdict is guilty. Throughout it all, Tom Christie has been sitting apart from the others, staring silently at Claire.


Ian arrives back at the Ridge, and Lizzie runs towards him sobbing. As she sinks to her knees and catches her breath, she is able to say only “They’ve taken them!” Ian is by her side immediately, asking her what has happened. 


Inside the tent, Claire and Jamie are trying to analyse the situation. It is clear that Brown is losing control of his men, who had expected quick revenge and are as exhausted as they are. Claire comments that none are as tired as Tom, and wonders what his purpose is. Is he protecting them only to see Claire hanged? 


Indeed, protection does seem to be Tom’s primary motivation. As they pass through a small village, Brown whips up the folk into a frenzy with his talk of depraved murderers and hanging. The people begin throwing rocks at Jamie and Claire’s wagon and one man even tries to get inside it to attack them. Christie yells at Brown to get control, saying that what is happening is not justice, but to no avail. Finally, he fires his own weapon and is able to restore order. 



Brianna, Roger and Jemmy are also on the move, but their progress has been halted by a herd of cows crossing their path. While they wait, Roger shows Brianna a copy of a paper called the New Bern Onion. It is Fergus’ first edition as proprietor and Roger explains the choice of the word “onion”, meant to symbolise layers, complexity and the reasoned discourse that the paper will provide. As they discuss whether or not Marsali could be the author of the “Poet’s Corner”, Jemmy plops himself into Brianna’s lap, saying that he wants to talk to the baby. He is scratching at his head and Brianna realises that he has lice, probably picked up from the Fisher Folk children with whom he has been playing. Brianna announces to Jemmy that they will have to cut his hair “even more than Grandma” and Roger retrieves the kit that he has brought with him. Soon enough, the cut is done (Trivia fact: Only one of the twins playing Jemmy was prepared to have his hair cut, so they had to swap the children in and out during the scene) and Brianna notices a mark on Jemmy’s scalp that has previously been hidden by his hair. Roger tells her not to worry: it is a nevus - something that can appear from the age of about 2 or 3. He has one himself, he says, adding that they’re hereditary. The implications of this statement hit them both at once: there can be no doubt now that Jemmy is Roger’s child. In joyful celebration, Roger declares that he too has lice and needs his own haircut. 


Brown’s men have stopped at a meat camp and Jamie and Claire are checking each other’s wounds after the stoning. Claire’s hand is painful - she had attempted to hit the man who tried to get into their wagon - while Jamie had been hit by a stone behind his ear. He comments that Brown likely regrets stirring up the sentiment against them, given that Brown also had suffered a blow to the head. Jamie praises Claire for her actions against their intruder, saying that he will treasure the memory of the “look of blood in her eye” as she struck out. He kisses her tenderly on the forehead, an action witnessed by Christie standing a distance away. 


Later, after Claire has gone to sleep, one of the men walks Jamie over to the bushes to relieve himself. Musing that Jamie is unlikely to make a run for it without Claire, the man leaves him alone. Jamie looks into the bushes, and is shocked to see Ian looking back at him. Ian has been following in their tracks and tells Jamie he can’t believe some of the stories he has heard along the way. Ian has not come alone, and says Jamie only need say the word and they will all come out. He says that Jamie and Claire can be hidden by dawn, but Jamie replies that they would then be fugitives with a price on their heads. So Ian promises to stay and watch - and it is certainly comforting to know that he is there! 


The next morning, plans seems to have changed somewhat. Jamie tells Claire that Brown had left in the early hours and came back with “a friend”, but he doesn’t know who it is. On the move once more, one of the men (the man that Claire had shot) falls off his horse, dead. One of the other men wants to take him home to be buried, but Brown refuses. 


“Let the dead bury the dead,” he says, declaring that they will ride on and that the dead man should be tied across his horse. 


At the next stop for water, Jamie is taken out of the wagon to get a drink for himself and for Claire. But as soon as they are separated, some of Brown’s men hold Jamie down while others get into the wagon and grab Claire. The wagon drives away, with the two of them screaming for each other. Suddenly, Jamie is hit on the back of the head and is knocked unconscious. 


The wagon halts again and Claire confronts Brown. She wants to know what they are going to do to Jamie and he replies that it is none of her concern. Claire calls him a petty bastard, to which he responds that he isn’t doing this because of what had happened to Lionel. He describes Lionel as a lout, and brands the rape of Claire as cruel and unforgivable. But she has committed murder, Brown says, and that is all he needs. 


“Then again,” he says as he starts to ride away, “he was my brother.” 

Once again, we are unsure as to his true motives. 


Tom Christie rides up to them and Claire appeals to him directly, pleading with him to go back, as they are going to kill Jamie. Tom is furious. He reminds Brown that he had been promised that neither Jamie nor Claire would be hurt on his account. Brown replies that Jamie wasn’t going to be hurt, merely “sent home”.  The two talk out of earshot for a moment before Tom returns to Claire. He tells her that Brown has sworn not to kill or hurt Jamie, but Claire does not trust this supposed “word of honour.” Again she implores Tom to go back, but he refuses. He has sworn to protect Claire, he says, and to go back would mean letting her out of his sight, which he will not do. The wagon starts up again, with Tom riding directly behind it. 


Claire’s voiceover completes the journey into Wilmington. She admits that without Tom, she is as good as dead and is pinning her hopes on the fact that perhaps news of her arrest may have travelled far enough for Roger and Brianna to have heard about it. Her constant thoughts are for Jamie and she is also alarmed by the behaviour of her new protector. Tom will not look at her in the eye and she is worried that this means that Tom either knows or suspects that Jamie is already dead. 


Wilmington is looking the worse for wear when the party finally arrives, with destroyed buildings, graffiti and effigies of dead men suspended from scaffolding. The people are looking suspiciously at Claire as she peeps out from the wagon. Soon enough she is led down a long dark corridor (reminiscent of Wentworth prison) and locked into a cell. The sheriff tells her that she has missed supper, but that there is always tomorrow. Brown asks for a word and the two men move away. 


Tom comes up to the bars and passes a pouch of coins to Claire for her maintenance. He promises her that Jamie is still alive and that he wouldn’t have the death of either of them on his conscience. Tom tells her to trust in God, for He will deliver the righteous out of danger. He will not leave town, he assures her, briefly touching his hand to hers before he is gone. As he walks away, we are left wondering again what his motivation could be. If he believes Claire guilty, why is he protecting her? If he believes her innocent, why isn’t he doing more to help her? 


Brown is leaving too, but his parting words are far more sinister: “I’ll see you at the gallows, Mistress Fraser.” 


Jamie regains consciousness, as a sack is pulled off his head. He is on a beach, tied to a wooden stake. He asks where Claire is and what they have done to her. Oakes, the man who had been tasked with watching them in the wagon, replies that he hasn’t done anything to her, but he can make no assurances about the actions of Mr Brown. Branding Claire a bitch for the trouble she has put them all to, and for killing his friend, Oakes adds that he hopes Claire dies. He then informs Jamie of his fate: he is to be put aboard the ship waiting off shore and then sent back to Scotland. They will leave for Edinburgh within the hour and Jamie will never see Claire again. 


Oakes leaves to pay the ship’s captain and Jamie looks up just as a man is coming towards him with the butt of a rifle, readying to knock him unconscious once more. But the blow never comes, because an arrow suddenly appears in the man’s chest. We look up to see Ian, in full hero pose with crossbow and arrow raised, and hear the shouts and whoops of the Mohawk behind him on the hill. The battle, such as it is, is swift, with Ian and his friends making short work of the group of Brown’s men. In no time at all, only Oakes remains, aiming a pistol defiantly at Ian, Quincy Myers and the Mohawk chief, who are all advancing on him.


“Don’t,” Jamie calls out. “He knows where Claire is.”

“So do we, Uncle,” Ian replies. 


Horror dawns on Oakes’ face, as the Chief aims his rifle. We see the bullet pass directly through Oakes’ hand into his eye socket and he falls to his death. 


“I told you I would fight with you, Bear Killer,” says the Chief, as Ian cuts Jamie free. 


The final shot of the episode, and the season, is of the party on horseback, riding back across the beach as the music swells. They are obviously in pursuit of Claire, but now we must endure another Droughtlander before we can see how it all plays out. 


Given that this was not the original intended final episode for season 6, it certainly serves its purpose well, right down to the now familiar panned drone shot technique at its end. Throughout the episode, there are a number of parallels to earlier dark times, particularly from season 1, which further serve to heighten the drama. Even the love scenes between the two couples of Jamie & Claire and Roger & Brianna juxtapose each other cleverly, moving from joy to despair. Much is made of journeys in this episode: from journeys seeking justice, to memories of journeys past, to possible time travelling journeys of the future, to journeys of the soul and journeys of rescue. It is a clever episode, well acted and directed, and certainly whets the appetite for an extended season 7. In a show where time is a central theme, we will all have to endure the slow passing of it until the questions of this finale are answered! 





This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She was impressed by the drama of the entire hour, but her favourite moment is probably the shot of Ian looking down from his horse, as he came to Jamie’s rescue.

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