The problem this season has is: The war isn’t here yet, but it’s coming, but it’s not here, but it’s COMING, but it’s not here, BUT I PROMISE IT’S COMING. So every episode has a whiff of filler about it, and this one is no different — we know Jamie is conflicted, we know this is hard for him, we know, we know, we know. But at least it serves up Lord John Grey’s return and some seriously creepy shit from Malva Christie — weirder even than last week. I keep trying to come up with another word for her, but “creepy” fits the bill too nicely.
First, though, we begin in June of 1746 in Scotland, where a woman named Flora MacDonald is helping Bonny Prince Charles escape to safety after the disaster at Culloden. He’s disguised as an old weaver named Betty Burke, in a full bonnet and cloak and bitching mightily about it, who is meant to travel with Flora to sew a death shroud for whatever relative she is pretending is about to die. The ruse works and the redcoats let them get on a boat “over the sea to Skye.” If that twigs a memory, it should: The theme song of Outlander is based on an 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson poem about the Bonny Prince’s escape, which itself was a rewrite of the 1870s “Skye Boat Song” that Stevenson deemed lyrically wanting, and both use that line. (That is both a dick move of RLS’s, and kind of great. Imagine Diane Warren being like, “You know, they really messed up My Country ‘Tis of Thee, I can do it better.”) So, as our Charles’s boat leave, the episode’s theme kicks in, sung in Gallic by the dude they got for this season’s duet and played over haunting, stark overhead b-roll of a lonely boat trip. So it might be the original lyrics — “Sing me a song of a lad that is gone…” — although Outlander’s usual “lass” would have worked given Charles’s disguise. In fact “lass” is cleverer in that respect, so KABOOM, Robert Louis Stevenson, now it is I with some notes.
Flora MacDonald, by the way, is a real person. She was caught when the men driving the boat flipped on her, and sent to the Tower, though she ended up out and living under supervision for a while and then was totally freed when she told the king she’d have done the same for him. She and her husband eventually tried to make a life in North Carolina, but lost all their land when they fought for the loyalists and had to re-settle in Canada and then eventually back in Scotland. Flora, it seems, is someone who would have benefited greatly from a time-traveling friend.
JAMIE and CLAIRE
These two have gone to Wilmington to see Flora MacDonald speak to a group of loyalists, firming up their anti-independence resolve. But, Jamie has also gone to join the Sons of Liberty, led by one Cornelius Harnett, for some covert revolution action. What he doesn’t know is that Governor Martin received his Indian Agent resignation letter and did not care for the part where Jamie cited his personal convictions, so he’s rung up Lord John Grey and asked him to pop by the party and get assurances that Jamie is still their man. John’s mouth says, “I have no doubt I can allay your fears,” but his eyes say, “OH SHIT JAMIE IS IN HOT REBEL MODE, I NEED XANAX.” Yes, that’s right, everyone give it up for your favorite fighting redcoat:
LORD JOHN GREY
I’m taking Red J by the reins!
Ha ha, no
He’ll never be that tamed
LORD JOHN GREY
And he’s never gonna stop
At being so damn hot
And being my life’s bane
LORD JOHN GREY
Watch him defying me
And trying me
And having those thighs near me
LORD JOHN GREY
I go to seek his loyalty
LORD JOHN GREY
All I will get is more horny
Oh, John, you love it. John knows he has Jamie’s heart more than anyone will other than Claire, and it’s enough for him, until Claire dies and Jamie finally gives in to the fomenting passion and the two of them retreat to the moors of Scotland and live in a sex yurt.
Back in their hotel room, Claire tells Jamie that Flora MacDonald became something of a legend, and that the image of her and the prince on a boat “became emblematic of a certain spirit of Scottish rebelliousness” that she finds hard to square with Flora being there to defend the Crown. But Jamie points out that all these former Jacobites have fought for a dream before, and got massacred; there is too little to gain and too much to lose for them now. It’s very sad when you put it that way — this notion of them being on the losing side the first time, and then trying to stabilize themselves and ending up on the losing side again. Jamie is, in fact, certain he would have kept his oath and fought for the Crown if he didn’t know the outcome already. But he does know the winning side, so he’s gonna take it. Jamie is that guy who moves to America in like 2004 and becomes a Patriots fan.
Jamie has a quick meeting with Harnett so that they can take the measure of each other, and Jamie notices that Harnett is wearing a Freemasons ring and so they do the handshake. That is enough for Harnett to tell Jamie that they’re meeting at the tavern bar after closing. On his way out, Jamie notices some jars on the fireplace and one of them proudly claims to be preserved nuts in a jar — specifically, “the Bollocks of the Notorious Pirate Stephen Bonnet, taken from his corpse.” This is macabre and hilarious. Jamie seems fairly satisfied, knowing that Stephen had his berries picked after death. Don’t tell Malva Christie or else she’ll come steal them. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Everyone arrives at the plantation that’s hosting Flora. As usual, time stops as soon as Lord John and Jamie see each other. It’s very Bridgerton. I want a whole supercut of Anthony Bridgerton and Lord John Grey just EATING with their eyes, please. And Jamie does that full body exhale of a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Whether he knows it or not, Sam Heughan — and I know I’ve said this before — definitely plays their relationship as if John is his other true love and I am here for it. They’re surprised to see John, and he twinkles, “I have a particular fondness for reformed Jacobites,” and Jamie and Claire laugh delightedly. HAVE A THREESOME. Ahem. Sorry. John starts to wind his way toward the topic of loyalty, and it’s very clear that Jamie is pleased that he can wriggle out of an answer because Jocasta has arrived.
Jocasta, though, is just a vehicle for hasty exposition, and if you love Fergus then it’s going to annoy you. I know that in the books, Fergus and Marsali move to New Bern to run a print shop. From what I can tell, in the books, this is an idea Jamie had because Fergus so fondly remembered their time in Edinburgh, and then they happily found the right fit. But here, it’s that Fergus was visiting Jocasta and reminiscing, so she impulsively bought him one and now they’re moving. I really think that some of this filler time could have been spent making this inevitability feel way less abrupt. It’s all being handled at warp speed in scenes that don’t involve Fergus, and though they aren’t officially GONE yet, it’s a frustrating way to handle characters we actually LIKE. Jocasta goes on and on about how Henri-Christian will be safer in New Bern. By what logic, though? Is New Bern an asshole-free zone? (No. The answer is no.) Somehow, everyone has decided this is the best course of action, although Jamie is sad and keeps saying he’s losing his son. And I am losing Marsali. In fact, my notes read, “DON’T TAKE MY MARSALI, I HATE YOU.”
Major Mac is bummed that he didn’t hear about Jamie’s resignation from Jamie, and Major Mac is correct about this. Jamie hopes that the pledge of fealty he got from the Cherokee was enough. I don’t get why he’s no longer concerned about the evil Mr. Blake doing the job? Oh, right, that was all just a contrivance to put him it the Cherokee’s orbit for two hours. Flora enters at this moment, and there are jokes about how many unrelated MacDonalds there are in the room. Wait until they find out about McDonald’s. They are vowel away from a fortune. If only they’d thought to deep-fry some potatoes and invent a clown. Claire watches with amusement as Jamie excitedly tells Flora he is James Fraser “formerly of Broch Tuarach,” and she immediately remembers that they played together when they were kids, and he pulled her braid and she stole his snacks, and probably messed around in the hay wagon but nobody discusses that part. Flora is especially happy to meet Claire because she heard all about the time Claire performed surgery at the theatre, and Claire — a little disingenuously, to my mind — is like, “Ohhh, golly, are people still talking about that?!” as if a woman cutting a dude open in an impromptu ER and saving his life would somehow be unmemorable. There’s also a moment where Flora says she’s late because her hotel room was being robbed, and they caught the man, but one of the emeralds is missing from her necklace. There is a REALLY weird close-up of Jocasta digesting this, in a way that made me think maybe she would turn out to have arranged it because SHE is a secret rebel, but no. That is not the case.
However, Jocasta starts feeling faint (which would have been CONVENIENT TIMING if she were hiding something, but again… no), and Claire and Flora escort her outside, where Claire correctly diagnoses that Jo’s eyes are causing her pain and that Flora is very very nervous about her speech. She has a little something in her bag out in the car that will be JUST the ticket for both of them. I wrote down, “GET ‘EM HIGH, CLAIRE,” and you know what? That’s exactly what she does, out in the gazebo.
Yes, Claire has now invented medical marijuana, via letting Jocasta smoke a little hemp flower. Claire, you cannot give these people weed until you have invented Doritos Locos Tacos. Get on it. Flora says that, in truth, she wasn’t that into the Bonny Prince, but once she saved him people made all kinds of assumptions, including that they’d banged. “IN THE BOAT?” squeals a very baked Jocasta, and they all laugh. Flora admits he was a lousy leader of men. Interestingly, they play Flora as being really uncomfortable with her job here — which is to give a speech to rouse the Scots and remind them that they’re part of a united Kingdom, and should fight with the Crown to keep control of the colonies. She says things like “prepare to face them,” like she hates the idea, and I kept waiting to find out that she’s secretly a rebel, but no. That doesn’t go anywhere either. The smoking gun of her reluctance does not go off, and given her Wikipedia page, I don’t think it will. So unless the show rewrites her life, it’s an odd choice. Flora also fears her name will be linked to that weak-ass moron Charles Stuart forever — Claire resists an OH SHIT, PAL expression — and Jocasta says it sounds like meeting royalty is not all it’s cracked up to be. This is a ham-handed way to get her to mention how many times Claire has done so, so that Claire can have a flashback to Versailles, when she had to trade sex for Jamie’s life. It is not a pleasant flashback for her. Claire stays behind for a moment under the pretense of making Jocasta a to-go bag of weed, but in reality she gives herself a teeny dose of ether and takes a nap in the drugzebo.
Flora’s speech is fine. Claire is late, and pretends she just needed a quick rest, though she arrives in time to hear Flora say that meeting Dr. Claire has reminded her that we cannot fix ourselves outwardly — we have to tackle what ails us from within, AHEM, CLAIRE, ether is not the answer. John pulls Jamie aside and tells him that his name is on a list of men expected to gather at a Sons of Liberty meeting. That was fast. Jamie lies and says he doesn’t know where the meeting is, and is saved by a commotion in town: It would seem that Jocasta is funding this event, and the print shop she employed for the flyers is now being vandalized by angry rebels who want to tar and feather the man. Jamie defends him, saying he was just a man doing an honest day’s work, but the men hurl tar — some gets on Jamie’s ear — and shoot and wound the printer.
The redcoats come to break it up, and Major Mac seems pleased that Jamie was helping. Lord John cannot lick the tar off Jamie’s ear for a variety of reasons, so Claire has to get it off later with a swab, and she reminds Jamie that the war starts much sooner than July 4, 1776. Jamie says it’s hitting home for him that this means turning on his brethren, and his own settlers, and that Fiona’s speech earlier was as if “a great blade from Heaven has come down to cleave us apart.”
Jamie confronts Jocasta about paying for and publicizing Flora’s party, and he’s really worried that half the reason she bought Fergus the print shop is so that she can use him to spread more loyalist flyers. He just hates Fergus doing this at all: “I don’t want him hung for treason, or tarred for not being treasonous enough,” Jamie laments. Well, that’s the dilemma of being a printer, Jamie. Basically, this scene, in which Jamie also learns that Jocasta is not sleeping well and has been mumbling things during her naps (about money stained with blood, and French gold, and such), reminds Jamie that Jocasta is doing all this because of Murtagh. He died fighting the good fight, but she can’t bear the loss, so she will spend however much she can on peace. Jamie is sad for her broken heart. Especially because he knows he’s going to put his life on the line, too. I ALSO do not sleep that well, so it’s possible Murtagh’s death is still haunting me too.
Lord John, meanwhile, has learned the location of the Sons of Liberty meeting, because apparently nobody can keep a secret, and will be sending redcoats to make arrests. Jamie says he’ll be at that meeting, and at first John — perhaps willfully — interprets this as Jamie offering to spy, but Jamie just stares at him. John reads Jamie like a book — a very sexy, sexy book — and is crushed to find out that Jamie is running with the Sons of Liberty and he is lovin’ it. Jamie tries to suggest that John should come and perhaps learn something, get a new perspective, but that is bananas and they both know it. John, true to form, doesn’t really care if he and Jamie disagree; he’s just scared Jamie is going to get himself killed over this, because he has it on good Broadway authority that that’s what happens when you’re up against the ruffians — you’re in the shit now; somebody’s gotta shovel it. Jamie asks John to delay the soldiers as long as he can, and John is astonished at the size of THAT favor. Jamie lamely says he doesn’t want this to come between them, even though he was JUST going on about Heaven’s blade, which sadly is not a euphemism for anything on John’s person. But the thing is, Jamie’s very Jamieness is why John loves him, so he says, “You surprise me at every turn,” with some indignance, and then softens: “But then, you always have.” He will do what he can to delay things. “Be careful,” he calls out to Jamie, and the last glance they exchange is basically confirmation that NOTHING will cleave their bond. LOVE WINS.
At first, when Jamie shows up at the meeting, they reject him. They heard he was defending the printer who promoted Flora’s loyalist event. Jamie uses this to climb up on a very tall soapbox and wax rhapsodic about free speech and a free press, and having faith that these principles will “serve the greater good, in time.” Did Claire give him a seminar on the Bill of Rights? Sometimes Jamie is almost too wise and progressive to be believed for a man of that era, without having had a little life coaching. It’s too bad Lord John didn’t show up, because he would have been astir at Jamie’s speech about how “liberty” does not mean threatening a man into silence or submission, or destroying his property. Mac Dubh Dunbonnet, he needs no introduction; you knock him down, he gets the f*ck back up again. Then, Jamie warns them that the redcoats are coming, and moments later they march on the bar, giving everyone time to escape except for Jamie and Cornelius Harnett, who pretend to be up late alone playing billiards. The ruse works, and once again, Jamie is the victor.
But! When they are leaving the next day. Claire hears a noise on the wind. It is somebody whistling “The Colonel Bogey March,” a name I only know because of the closed captions, and a song which I would have defined as, “The thing they start whistling in The Breakfast Club.” She thinks she imagined it, but then we cut inside the prison, and we see a disheveled man rubbing an emerald that he clearly had stashed very effectively upon his person. It’s clearly a traveler who stole his exit pass, and if I had to lay money, I’d say it’s Wendigo Donner, the man among Lionel Blake’s group who revealed himself as a traveler, but didn’t help Claire. His death was never confirmed, and the show cuts way before we see his face; unless Stephen Bonnet left his gonads here and fell through a stone for a while, or Geillis survived a beheading and became a baritone, I can’t think who else would be any kind of reveal. Not that I remember what Donner, Party of One, even looks like.
Roger is fixing Amy McCallum’s chimney, as if he would know how. He and Brianna sent them some veggies, and Roger starts singing “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen” under his breath. Amy catches him and he tries to cover by claiming it’s an old standard where he grew up. Good thing his earworm on this day was something that sounds believably of this period, and not, say, The Beatles. Roger cannot be allowed to invent “Yellow Submarine.” Anyway, blah blah blah, Roger spends a lot of time there.
Meanwhile, Brianna, Malva, Marsali, and Lizzie are hiking along the river looking for JUST the right spot for Bri to put her water wheel, and pipes, so she can create indoor plumbing. The HOOTING SOUND I MADE. They find a circle of stones with ashy finger bones in the middle, and Marsali fumbles around and diagnoses it as a love spell called “Venom of the North Wind.” She’s an encyclopedia. Don’t take her from me. They all speculate who might have done it — superstitious fisher folk, random people they know — and conclude that maybe the Widow McCallum is trying to land herself a replacement husband. Trouble is, everyone knows she’s been with Roger a whole lot, and when Malva Christie opens her face to add a little fuel to that argument… I mean, clearly Malva has been dabbling in the dark arts, right? Lizzie starts to feel dizzy and feverish, and Brianna, now a doctor, decides it’s malaria. So, hilariously, Brianna stands there and watches while Malva and Marsali lug Lizzie home. I mean. Gotta build that water wheel and lay those pipes. No time for friend care!
I assumed Lizzie would turn out to be pregnant, and maybe she yet will, but it doesn’t happen here. So far all my assumptions in this episode have been wrong EXCEPT ONE, which is coming up. Brianna later gives the worried twins, Josiah and Kezzie, some “gallberries” to make a magic malaria-healing ointment that she totally would not know about, and also, nobody coached poor Sophie Skelton on the fact that a girl born and raised in America would say “berry” as if it rhymes with “merry,” so she offers the boys some “gallbries” in her awkward accent. Spoiler: The gallbries will work and Lizzie feels better; we don’t see her again, though Marsali does note how much the twins doted on her in her sick bed. This is clearly all code for “orgy” and she’s absolutely going to be pregnant, right? Don’t tell me. I try not to Google what happens in the books unless it’s already taken place here, or I am stuck on something. But like, this should be a soap. Stephen Bonnet was absolutely in a soap. It’s why he worked so well. I will go to my grave believing he was Stefano DiMera’s ancestor.
Brianna hears Roger singing his tune, and when she finds out he was crooning it to poor lonely Amy McCallum, she has HAD IT. She tells Roger that he’s been spending way too much time over there, and that they found a strange love potion. Roger is shocked.
say it again
just do it
‘love potion for dogface’
pretend you mean it
Brianna insists that Amy is going to get way too attached to having a man around the house, and she’s sure to call Roger “handsome” so that he will listen to her. Roger whines that Brianna is out there inventing utilities, and he just wants to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING. “She sees me as her minister,” he insists. “BUT YOU’RE NOT A MINISTER,” Brianna practically shouts, pointing out that all the rest of the world sees is a married man alone with a widow a whole bunch. “Amy needs to find a husband of her own, and she won’t if you’re already the man of the house,” Brianna insists. Roger half-scoffs at this.
the thing is
you said ‘man’ a lot
and you said handsome
my plan is working
the church of dogface
is now in session
The next time we see Roger, he’s helping Tom and Allan Christie push a bell up the hill to the church. They need a rope for a pulley to get it in the steeple, so obviously Roger is the one they send inside, which automatically means he’s going to walk in on something.
He does, AND HOW: Malva is in there, right on the floor, shagging some guy that Roger calls Mr. Henderson, age unknown (not Tom Christie old, but not a teenager either; probably Roger’s age). Roger is like YOU’RE DOING THAT IN HERE???? and that was also my reaction. There are a whole lot of unpopulated woodsy areas she could use instead. Roger, by the by, is giving me Murtagh vibes in the above photo, and while he will NEVER ascend to the levels of majesty of Murtagh Fitzgibbons, I admit it was a very confusing moment for me. But let’s not digress. Bonking in her dad’s still-under-construction church is very ballsy of Malva in a time where a) the church is her father’s only project so you know he’s got an eye on it, and b) she isn’t going to get any texts from Allan to be like, “On our way back up the hill, put the kettle on!” I think Malva wants to get caught on some level, or clearly gets off on the possibility. She immediately fixes her skirts and jumps into blackmail mode, saying that if Roger breathes a word of this, she’ll tell the entire town she saw him kissing Amy McCallum: “Everyone knows you spend more time with the widow than you do your own wife.” Malva is a nasty little sneak, for sure, but I also thought she was a BIT cleverer at hiding her mischief than this. Then again, we all thought she was ooky AF even before she played peeping Tom on Jamie’s thrusting ass, and no one else noticed, so. Perhaps she just correctly thinks everyone is a dumbass here.
Speaking of dumbasses, Roger then goes to Amy’s house to finish fixing the chimney, not a euphemism, and Aidan is THRILLED to tell him that he caught a big old fish just the way Roger taught him to, and Amy has cooked it and laid the table for Roger to eat with them. She exerts minimal pressure on him and Roger goes inside and sits at the head of their table. He would look a lot less idiotic if this had happened BEFORE Malva’s cutting remark, but I guess he fancies himself too polite to say no. But when he skulks back to Brianna, he leaves all those details out, and instead tells her that he’s arranged for Mr. Henderson — he of Malva’s vulva — to look in on Amy and take up the mantle of Man of the House. So that’s her taken care of, I suppose. Roger goes off on this really self-aggrandizing spiel about how there’s just something about young mothers he can’t resist, he just MUST take care of young mothers at all times, he NEEDS TO CARE FOR YOUNG MOTHERS.
an excuse really
let me lie to you
and to myself
it’s what you do
i mean we
Brianna does use this time to coyly tell Roger she’s pregnant. He’s delighted.
Meanwhile, we learn that Malva — FREAKING WACKADOO MALVA, who is Geillis Jr. to me now — is not only our resident witch, but has a whole CORPSE stashed in a random tent somewhere (!!) and is cutting off the fingers (!!!) very calmly (!V) to use in her love potion. It looks like the Sin Eater, so I guess he died, and is just baking in the afterlife right now while she casually dismembers him? How are we supposed to think she got him tucked away in a death tent? Or is this just where he lives and he died and no one noticed but her? Did she KILL him? There is no way she stole a body and made a tent all by herself. Also, I assume Mr. Henderson was merely either sex or potion-making practice, and that Malva has her sights set on someone bigger. Its clearly Jamie, right? She’s going to try and entrap Jamie, because she wants to be Claire. I can’t think of anyone else on the Ridge who would need a potion to hook up with her. Ian seemed pretty willing on his own, and Mr. Henderson did not seem terribly bewitched. Fergus is off printing, or not, seditious pamphlets. It’s gotta be Jamie’s form for which she is warm. That is going to end very badly for… probably everyone, honestly. Please, nobody tell her about Stephen Bonnet’s balls. IMAGINE what she could use them to do.
– Brianna and Marsali have a nice scene where Brianna is sad that her sister is leaving, and Marsali correctly sniffs out that Brianna is expecting. They’re sad their kids won’t play together, but Marsali resolves that they will, that this won’t be forever. Her every glance is tinged with rueful acceptance, like, she knows they need to leave, but it hurts her anyway. IT HURTS ME TOO, MARSALI. Couldn’t they just pretend Fergus lives really close by and Marsali is still there all the time? THINK OF THE VIEWERS.