Content warning: There are references to sexual assault (and if you watch the episode, you will see some flashbacks), as well as a few beatings. I don’t go into detail, but wanted you to be aware.

Also, as usual, we’re avoiding book-related spoilers about what’s to come! Thank you!

Greetings! The year is 1773, and if I executed my deep dive correctly, those two smokeshows up there are supposed to be about 60 years old. Maybe late fifties. You can tell because they have given Caitriona Balfe about two and a half wisps of grey hair, and Sam Heughan occasionally does stage business with glasses. Sixty. SIXTY YEARS OLD. And they KICK, and they NAIL, and they KICK. The actors both have said that it’s important to show that lust and heat and sex do not die just because Jamie and Claire are members of AARP. That is true. However, our two ageless leads are still as pert as they day they first banged, so watching their sex scenes is like watching two hot forty-somethings go at it, because that’s what they are, and no one is trying that hard to make it anything else. I don’t begrudge Outlander for wanting to lean away from a potentially distracting and cartoonish age-makeup situation, especially when they still want people to consume this show as a kind of Fifty Shades of Tartan. But at this point, Roger and Brianna look more like their siblings than a generation below. (Now, Jocasta and Murtagh… there are two delicious fifty-somethings who actually WERE made to look sixty-something, who only snuck in two gentle boudoir scenes before the show killed him off. We were RUDELY denied them regularly and energetically enjoying the fruits of each other’s looms, and I am still not over it.)

Okay. It’s been two years since we last hung out with Jamie and Claire, who put the sex in “sexagenarian,” and I feel like I forgot everything that got us here. Claire, though, has not. In fact, everybody on this show is haunted, or about to be: Jamie, by his past; Claire, by the brutal events of the season 5 finale; Roger, by waking up every day and realizing he’s still Roger. When we were last together here, sleazy old Lionel Brown, whose brother Richard is the other man of wide renown in the province, figured out that Claire was publishing progressive sex and contraceptive advice under a false name. Naturally, he had a mantrum about this that involved lighting the Fraser’s Ridge whiskey distillery on fire, which drew the menfolk away long enough that he could club pregnant Marsali over the head and abscond with Claire. He and his gang then violated her, until Jamie and the Ridge men killed them all — except for Lionel himself, whom they decided NOT to kill, so they could… talk to him about all of this, or something? Marsali, however, understood that Lionel did not need to be given any more lines, and angrily poisoned him in a total boss move. Jamie delivered his dead body to Richard, who understood but also made it clear that perhaps he will expect a similar understanding someday. Also, Brianna and Roger tried to go back to the future, and it didn’t work.

are you there, diary
it’s me, dogface
weve decided frasers ridge is our real home
it’s because we dig how it’s so rustic and smelly
and not at all because the future said ‘no thanks’ and shoved us back
no no no this is totes legit
i love outhouses
they are my passion now
outhouses and peril

Caitriona and Sam, I believe, talked diplomatically about the show moving away from being so heavy — the implication being, perhaps, that finally we will get a season without the depiction of a rape — but the premiere is an hour and a half of grumpy people. It drags all the surly chess pieces around the board, setting up nine more episodes of a lot of snarling. If they’re not miserable one way, they’ll be miserable another. But I cannot lie: It’s good to see the world’s hottest 72-year olds on my screen again.


In order to move forward, we have to go back to the past — namely, to Ardsmuir, the prison where Jamie was held after Culloden. I have to be honest, this opening was a 23-minute slog. It’s hard to plunge into season six after a two-year break, only to be thrust into events that took place in the season three timeline. The context is not always clear. For example, Jamie is drag-assing around like he’s still physically battered and broken from Culloden, but nobody else is. They all call him by his longtime honorarium “Mac Dubh,” which, parenthetically, is in a dead heat with The Dunbonnet for Jamie’s worst nickname. So clearly they all knew him, but they also act like they’ve been there much longer than he has. Were they not on the battlefield? Was Jamie transferred there? Why is only Jamie behaving as if all his ribs have just been played like a xylophone? Oh, and speaking of Jamie’s bonnet, someone apparently forgot to double-check what Mac Dubh’s hair looked like back then, though, because his fake piece looks off — like they accidentally threw out the old ones and had to scramble. I don’t have a picture. Just trust me.

Three years ago you knew him
Now he’s back with terrible hair
It’s Ardsmuir’s best dude
The burly MacDubh
Surviving on a wig and a prayer.

The Ardsmuir opening scenes set up Jamie’s present-day adversary: a man named Tom Christie, who was the sinister version of what Jamie became at Ardsmuir.

Outlander Season 6 2022

Tom is the white dude with the ponytail. You know the one. I guess you could also say that he’s the one on the right who is the most in the foreground. Tom got to this foreground-y place by pledging loud allegiance to the king so that he can curry favor with the guards and the prison governor, and generally ingratiating himself with information. But while Christie is a Grade A Suck-Up, he preens and proselytizes constantly, which stokes religious infighting between prisoners. The governor is fed up, so he brings Jamie into the inner sanctum as the representative of the other side (the Catholics, and also I believe Jacobites), which Christie clearly doesn’t like and which Jamie resists — but not before noticing that Christie and the governor did a secret Freemason handshake. Later, Jamie chats up a sweet lad who is slowly going blind, and I’m not even going to recap this because the minute he presents as a) sweet, and b) blind, he’s Mac Doomed and we all know it. When a fight breaks out the next day, someone clubs the poor confused Mac Doomed over the head in the scuffle, and he dies instantly. A doddering older prisoner gently puts a piece of tartan atop the corpse as a way of wishing him well on his journey to his celestial home, and the redcoats freak out because TARTAN IS CONTRABAND. Christie immediately points his finger at the old man, but Jamie steps in and says it was his; he’ll take the whipping. Being a human shield for the addled older man cements Jamie’s legend, but Christie hisses, “That wasn’t justice.” Jamie disagrees. He also tells the guards the men will not work that day, because Mac Doomed is dead. The prison governor summons him and tsks that he’s trouble, but Jamie insists their goal is the same: get through this, do their duty, and move on to a better life. He tells the governor that right now it’s a prison of factions — Catholic or Protestant, Jacobite or loyalist, Pope or divine King, Mac Dubh or Christie — and so the governor needs to make Jamie a Freemason too. The idea is, if Jamie is a Freemason, he can run the prison like a lodge where all the men identify simply as Scots “united in our belief in the Great Architect of the Universe.” In other words: They all believe in a higher power, so let’s not fuss about the particulars. The Catholic Church specifically disavowed Freemasonry in the 1730s, and the prison governor is surprised Jamie even suggests it. And no one mentions that being a Freemason didn’t work so well for Tom Christie. But Jamie is pretty sure he can get both his men and Christie’s to listen to him, and believes the Pope — and all the prison Catholics, I guess — will be cool with this means to a more peaceful end, given the circumstances. And… I guess that works? IT WAS THAT EASY. Everybody become Freemasons, and it will rend every crack in our social fabric!!!! This is all really dense stuff to throw at us right off the top. I am honestly only even mentioning the freemasonry because it’s SO specific that I worry it will come up later and I’ll have to compensate.

And who does come up later? Tom Christie, also not having aged a day, and clutching a flyer Jamie had put out inviting all Ardsmuir men to the Ridge. Roger is there to greet him, which is the first mistake. Roger should never be the face of your settlement. Roger does not even do a very good job being the face of Roger. Despite Christie acting really shifty and surly and weird, Roger is like, “Cool, one of Jamie’s besties, BRING IT ON DOWN TO FRASERVILLE!”

it’s just
i mean
no one tells me anything, so
dogface gonna dogface

Jamie is shocked to see Christie, but welcomes him, his children Allan and Malva, and his crew. Christie is ornery. He makes a few comments about how he’s just sure they have a Church (nope) because how could a man build his own house before he built one for God (oh well!), and lightly insults Catholics in front of Roger, who is not one, but who clearly feels awkward about all this. Christie also tries to hold a morning Mass of sorts where he sermonizes to his crew: “We will build them a school, and a church, and show them what pious women and men of faith can do,” he intones, while passing around bread he has falsely blessed. Jamie correctly views this as Christie trying to carve out a place of influence for himself, but doesn’t push back too hard yet, beyond nudging them all toward building their cabins instead. Jamie confesses to Claire that he’s hoping a guy that stubborn, and brazen enough to speak English and not Gallic to a bunch of imprisoned Scots, might be a valuable ally when Jamie needs men alongside him during the Revolution. Which, of course, Jamie has to figure out how to fight from the correct side of history, a problem they have not solved yet. But Christie seems more interested in how Jamie got all this land, and during a party at the Fraser homestead, he sees Jamie sharing whiskey with the amiable Major Macdonald of the redcoats. So he’s taking mental notes all over the place, and not from a place of love.

Major Mac, by the by, wants Jamie to be an Indian Agent (their title), whose function would be to convince them to fight on the side of the Brits. Jamie does not want to do that, not least because Jamie knows how this is going to end, and so convincing the natives to join the losing side has all the appeal of spending more than 15 seconds in conversation with Brianna. So Major Mac is going to offer the gig to Richard Brown instead. Jamie is like, “THAT doucherocket? The one who burned down my distillery?” Major Mac is like, “Your word versus his, and I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.” So the job will go to Brown, though they both agree that Beyonce had a better year.

All of which means we absolutely are not done with the Brown family. Dead Lionel is dead, but when he passed, his spirit of villainous overacting passed directly into his brother. Richard finds a way to saunter into all his scenes even when he is on horseback, sneers at everyone with the nostril curl of a man who constantly smells dung, takes three times as long to say anything as is necessary, and governs the treaty lines between settlers and natives with ill-will and distrust — including trying to pin the distillery fire on them, when they all know Dead Lionel did it. Essentially, Richard is Jamie’s power struggle outside Fraser’s Ridge, while Tom Christie will be the power struggle within it, and at some point the twain may meet. I think “_____ feels threatened by Jamie’s Jamieness” is written in permanent marker on whatever wall Diana Gabaldon uses to brainstorm. Right alongside “____ gets assaulted.” (If this hews anywhere close to the book on which the season is based, we may not get an on-screen one, but the specter of sexual assault still will loom large. Fair warning.)

The plot ends with Richard galloping up to Jamie’s house while the whole neighborhood is there, and sashaying up to Jamie with a curl of his lip to accuse Allan Christie of stealing a gunpowder horn. Which, unfortunately, he did. Allan was out hunting with Ian, making bitter fun of his father’s sermons and waving around a giant rifle he did not look like he knew how to use, when he showed off the horn and claimed he’d made the carvings on it himself. Brown and his Community Safety Squad rode up, shot into the air just to mess with Ian, and then stood on a hill delivering like ten minutes of exposition about their job as enforcers. One of his henchmen, even from a substantial distance, noticed the horn and its carvings. Dumbass took a horn that had someone else’s initials inscribed in it.

Outlander Season 6 2022

Allan confesses to the theft, at his father’s urging. (“Do you want to end up like your mother? Because she’s BURNING IN THE FIRES OF HELL,” Tom says, oh so tenderly.) Richard and Tom, with his scripture quotes and the like, are doing a whole lot of Serious Acting here. As Richard picks pieces of a prop fence out of his teeth, he demands that Allan get ten lashes. He does a half double-take at his own self where he’s clearly thrilled by his own evil, and I wish I could GIF it for you. Richard further stirs the pot by suggesting that a kid stealing gunpowder might be a sign that there’s a rebel lurking on Fraser’s Ridge lands. I don’t totally understand the logic — they all have guns for hunting — but it works to convince Jamie that Brown will only leave satisfied if someone gets spanked. But Jamie insists on administering it himself, in a “my house, my rules” situation, and rejects Richard’s whip in favor of what I assume is a gentler belt. So where Jamie once asserted his leadership over Christie by offering his own back to the whip, he now asserts it by making sure he delivers Allan’s flogging (in a way that, one assumes, is guaranteed to be less sadistic than it would have been). Tom Christie also takes this opportunity to profess his loyalty to the King, while Jamie internally wishes eternal damnation on freaking everyone. Worst house party ever. On his way back inside, Jamie tells Major Mac that, dammit, fine, he’ll be the Indian Agent; he knows Brown will torture the natives into submission. Major Mac even seems to know this. It’s not like Brown does a good job hiding how awful he is. He REVELS in it. I’ll say this for Stephen Bonnet: He was a bad guy who understood the value of appearing to be charming.

So, things are tense with Christie. Things are really tense with the Browns. The natives are going to get involved in a minute. And it all hinges on our man.

Well I don’t know why you want me to fight.
You can’t win when I deploy all my might.
I’ve got muscles and I’ve got all this hair
And don’t even get me started on Claire.
The Browns to the left of me
Christies to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle, Mac Dubh

Yes I’m stuck in the middle of fools.
And I’m wondering how much scenery to chew.
This is going to be a very long grind. 
Nine more episodes is way too much time.
The Browns to the left of me
Christies to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle, Mac Dubh.


Whatever medical school Claire went to deserves a LOT of credit, because not only did she learn enough there to invent penicillin last season, but now she’s mastered ether. That’s right. Claire dabbled in her 18th century home lab and created actual anesthetic, which we learn because Jamie finds her passed out on the bed in her clinic and thinks she’s dead. What the hell kind of doctor takes a random new chemical they casually brewed, and doesn’t tell anyone what she did, or leave them with any life-saving contingency plans? That is some broadcast TV Manifest nonsense right there. The good news is, Claire can now perform complicated surgeries with way less screaming and thrashing, which will also probably do great things for her laundry, as she has not invented Tide Pods yet.

Outlander Season 6 2022

Unfortunately, at the end of the episode, Claire eagerly ethers herself to escape her nightmares about what Lionel Brown did. So that’s not ideal.






Fergus, in my highly professional estimation, is torturing himself because he wasn’t there when Marsali was assaulted. I also keep forgetting that he has a childhood full of trauma, and yes, rape, and I question whether he really dealt with any of that before he found his soft place to land with Jamie. So whether some of that is rearing its head here, or he’s just feeling powerless and pathetic because his wife was hurt and he wasn’t there, I don’t know. But, it’s at least logical that Fergus would not be able to bop along being cute and sensible and darling forever. Outlander is a Bermuda Triangle of suffering. Everyone gets sucked in eventually. And when you think about it, he was kind of born into it.

Anyway, Fergie Fergs is hiding up at the distillery under the guise of making sure it’s working, and seeking forgiveness at the bottom of a bottle; he’s not going to find it there, although if he pulled his shit together he MIGHT get some from his wife. Fergus is drowning in booze and self-pity, which is not helped when Lizzy — who seems MUCH happier now that she’s just regularly working and not being forced to spend time with Brianna — makes a careless, flip remark about two hands being better than one. (She was trying to flirt with one of the twins about whether she needed both of them to help her serve food, and it was as inept as you might imagine. Lizzy, of all these people, REALLY needs a subscription to a streaming service that has old WB shows. Or the original 90210. She’s got a whiff of the Hapless Donna Martin Years about her and I’d like to see her explore her inner Emily Valentine. I’m SURE Claire can invent ecstasy.)

Brianna bumps into Marsali at a work site and tells her she should go rest. Marsali says Lizzy took the kids to help tire them out for her, and Marsali realized she didn’t want to sit home alone. She’s overheard by a widow with two kids of her own who’s new to the settlement (more on this later). The widow gets excited that maybe there’s another kindred spirit on the Ridge, and Marsali has to clarify that Fergus isn’t permanently absent. The widow is like, “Oh, bummer.” Do they make condolence cards for this? “So sorry that your husband is alive. I shall pray for you and for death’s iron grasp to come with haste.” This exchange, I think, makes Marsali even more determined to fix Fergus, or drag him up onto his feet herself until he can stand on his own, because he is only mostly dead and therefore slightly alive. She valiantly lugs him into the Fraser’s Ridge kitchen and tries to feed him to sobriety before the party begins, but it doesn’t work. Lauren Lyle does a great job. You can tell Marsali is heartbroken and upset and lonely, but she’s holding it together as tightly as she can — all those other emotions shine through her veneer of grit and nonchalance. It’s a performance with a lot of texture.

Later, Marsali tries to express her frustration to a woozy Fergus that he’s barely present even when he’s technically physically in front of her, and in the style of many a passive-aggressive manchild who’s deep in his cups, he slurs, “I’m so SORRY that I’m such a DISAPPOINTMENT.”  Fergus! Don’t you know that you’re behaving this way because you believe that you’re a disappointment to yourself? Claire, please invent psychiatrists next. Although, Claire spots a telltale bruise on Marsali’s wrist, and to my mind is far too quick to believe Marsali’s excuses. There is also some setup about whether Marsali’s baby is moving enough, and no one worries enough about that, either; worse, Jamie notices Fergus lolling around drunk during the day, as does Tom Christie, and yet does nothing. Will no one prioritize Marsali? She is the best one of all of you.


The more I learn about the books, the more I realize how dense they are, and how much combining, condensing, and shuffling the producers have needed to do. For example, Stephen Bonnet died last season, but I believe that actually happens in the sixth book — whose summary is so jam-packed that I’m not at all surprised they wanted to peel off a few things. And the traveler Claire encountered last season is actually from this season’s source material. The point being: They clearly have read all the books before deciding how to flex the timelines, and what to excise and what to keep, because we’ve seen evidence of that throughout. And yet… why were they not able to plant the most basic seeds? Last season, when Brianna banged on about her profound need to be an engineer, it was practically a comedy moment because they NEVER — unless I hit my head on the toilet and was too busy inventing time travel to notice — established her as having scientific brilliance, or any particular brilliance at all. Now here, Brianna starts talking about her big modern ideas that she wants to implement, like a water wheel, and it rings as false as as a bad toupee. Brianna is understandably nervous about coming across as too progressive, given that Claire’s Dr. Rawlings charade got her abducted (and worse). Claire tells her to ignore that and use the gift of her sudden wellspring of knowledge. Roger, meanwhile, still wants to build a school, or… something.

are you there, diary, it’s me dogface
all i want to do is teach children
because children respect me and will listen when i speak
well ok they listen anyway

at least they’re supposed to
i have at least a ten percent chance
which is forty percent better than i have with adults
that math works right
i teach history anyway
like the revolutionary war and civil war and
how bout we learn speling

Rog and Bree are also affected by the story of the widow that Marsali met: Her husband died on the ship over, leaving her with two little kids. They decide they want to help. At the Fraser’s Ridge Random BBQ Party Hoedown, which would be a full Bluebell town festival of some kind if this were Hart of Dixie, the widow’s son throws a fit about wanting to go home and she can’t get him to behave. Roger sees this, and sits down next to him on the stairs and tells him that he needs to stay and eat if he wants to be man enough to help Roger build them a cabin.

not me exactly
i will supervise
i am super at vising
lots of people will help
everyone actually
i will watch them help
helpfully watching

but listen
i can stack things
im very good at stacking
manly stacking
what is building if not just lots and lots of stacking

dogface for the win
im a man-stack

So first Roger invites the Christies and their large party of settlers to stay without consulting Jamie, and now he’s got the whole gang building a cabin and telling this woman she will not have to repay them for it. It’s a nice gesture. But does Roger have privileges at the Ridge? Does he have Ridgeleges? We spent such a long time dwelling on how he was Jamie’s useless relative, the true albatross of the extended Fraser clan, that it’s very funny to imagine that this offer involves anything other than him being like, “Claire, have you invented wood glue yet?” Much less him having authority to dole out land parcels.

Roger’s gesture works to cheer up the kid, and the widow gets stars in her eyes. This clearly means we’re setting her up to be too reliant on Roger. Sweet lady, you can do better than Dogface. You just can.


– This season’s remix of the theme song turns it into a duet. I don’t love it yet, but thematically I suppose it’s referencing the fact that this is no longer just Claire’s story, and hasn’t been for some time.

– I made a joke about it in the recap, but sincerely, Jamie is in the same room as Brianna a handful of times in this 80-minute episode, yet says not a single word to her, nor even seems to look in her direction. It will always be sad to me that we got cheated out of watching the two of them develop a real relationship. The show has never seemed committed to sharing that bond-building with us. They just ask us to accept that it exists, but on-screen, Brianna and Roger feel like tourists in that family.

– Malva Christie seems to have a particular fascination with Claire. Allan Christie seems like a tool. Seriously, don’t go waving your gun and your powder horn around, kid.

– My favorite scene in the whole episode was about 20 seconds of Lizzy and two older house workers saying nothing. They are setting the communal food table for the Fraser Food Fest, and each of them walks in, has a second alone, and uses it to rearrange whatever plate placement the previous person did. It made me laugh, and reminded me of Butler Wars. Surely we can get Butler Wars: 1773.

– At one point, Claire fixes up a cut on Tom Christie’s hand, and notices that his other one is gnarled by something that she believes she can surgically fix. He is not interested, and then he waves his hurt hand at Jamie and smarms that at least he has honorable wounds. Sir, you are a fool. Don’t poke the Dunbonnet.

– Our lone sex scene involves Jamie and Claire languidly feeling each other up, right before she straddles him and rides his 81-year old back to completion. Jamie talks about how Claire is an angel who’s saved him from the deepest recesses of his own mind and bleakest suffering, and the way they look at and touch each other is as if it’s the first time since she came back from the future. Sam and Caitriona are very, very good at this, especially when you consider they carefully shot around Caitriona Balfe’s real-life pregnancy. Well, okay, they wrapped her waist in a sheet, but. I look forward to them having sex behind large ferns next.

[Photos courtesy of Starz]
Tags: Outlander