Caitriona Balfe’s pregnancy means that Outlander has had to find other ways to make Jamie and Claire intimate with one another, and that’s chiefly happened through conversation. It’s nice, because that’s where marriage truly is made. Covid, as we’ve discussed before, seems to have forced Outlander’s hand in terms of smaller-scale scenes with more meaningful talking, and it’s working for it. (And not for nothing, it might remind the producers that the sex isn’t a crutch or a quota they need to fill.)
This episode has a really brutal ending, though, and watching it unfold was like a slow-motion horror flick — in a good way; I kept typing, midsentence, in my notes, “No Claire NO THIS IS BAD CLAIRE THIS IS VERY BAD.”
We open with Roger giving a sermon, and honestly, even in this small snippet I zoned out and had to rewind it three times, and I STILL didn’t click with it. Roger, as Brianna has pointed out many times, is not a minister.
what do you mean
i am too a minister
minimum + disaster
i am the minimum
and i am a disaster
And to my knowledge he hasn’t been inducted into the Freemasons, either. I guess the only qualifications they’re looking for at this facility are “Willing to Pontificate” and “Oblivious to Boredom,” which… I grew up Catholic, and I’d argue those were also the two most common qualities among many of our priests. As they leave, Roger asks if anyone enjoyed the service, because Roger is a puppy and he cannot read a room and routinely sets himself up for people to lie to him. Jamie cracks a joke about only one person falling asleep, and then says, “You’re doing a fine job, Roger Mac.” I’m SURE he means it. Fine is to preaching what “he’s a really good friend” is to your college hallmate who wants you to agree to go on a blind date with her boyfriend’s roommate.
ok fine im no minister
but im a mister
you cant spell minister without mister
and also ni
and i like shrubberies, so
This is a setup for Roger to notice that the MacNeills did not come, despite never missing a Sunday, so starved are they for Roger’s word-sustenance. Claire says she’ll take Malva and Lizzie to check on them, and Brianna comments that Malva has been glued to Claire’s side lately. Claire sighs that Malva is doing very well, but she really misses Marsali. WAIT A MOMENT. Last week Marsali told Brianna she wasn’t leaving for a while, and now she’s GONE? YOU BASTARDS. I LOATHE EVERYONE. Jamie blah-blahs about how at least now Fergus can now finally provide for his family. I don’t understand why he wasn’t able to do that at Fraser’s Ridge already — Jamie, were you stiffing your son on wages?!? — but maybe it’s a dumb macho pride thing.
Anyway, the captioners helpfully identify that the MacNeill house visuals are accompanied by Moody Music. They’re all sniffing the air, wondering what reeks, and speculating that something nearby is dead. No one stops and says, “Guys, the house is silent and smells of decay, come on now, this isn’t rocket science.” Long story short: Everyone inside is in the process of dying of “the bloody flux,” which is dysentery. Children, the baby, the parents, all lying there in their own stench, fatally dehydrating before our very eyes. The captioners explain that we’re listening to Heavy Emotional Music as one by one they all kick off this mortal coil (the Outlander Wiki says the father survived, but I couldn’t tell here). This was NOT an uplifting hour-plus of television, friends. It is the bloody flux of viewing experiences. Sadly, while the MacNeills had not missed a Sunday, they did miss every single Outlander episode. For the amount of time we spent here trying to save all these people’s lives, I wish they had been people I recognized.
Back in her lab, Claire peers through the microscope and says, “I’ve found our villain,” and then looks up… at Malva. This is so meta that I actually did laugh out loud. Claire is referring to an amoeba, though. Malva wonders how something so wee can totally destroy a comparatively giant human, as a large anvil drops from the sky and lands on top of her foot. Claire tells Jamie that they need to look for a tainted water supply, and that it’s deeply contagious, so they need to warn everyone to boil their water and take great care. I was sure we’d find out that Malva’s Marvelous Dead Meat Maggot Emporium was messing with the drinking water, but no. I’ve been wrong so many times this season.
Unfortunately, it’s too late, and people keep dying. Claire hasn’t slept. Brianna wonders aloud where the Sin Eater is, so I guess nobody is yet aware he is currently the Grade A Prime Beef being butchered for parts. Claire abruptly collapses with a fever, and Jamie carries her to the clinic.
Malva refuses to leave Claire, so she and Lizzie and Brianna and Jamie take turns by her bedside. Jamie decides Claire will be more comfortable in her own room, so he carries her up the very long curving staircase that SURELY he is regretting building right about now. I also, at this point, said out loud, “NO JAMIE, DO NOT LET MALVA INTO YOUR BEDCHAMBER,” because HER NAME IS MALVA. Etymology is your friend here, James. It’s written right into her name.
M is ’cause she’s a MALEVOLENT stew
A means she’s ABSOLUTELY cuckoo.
L means gird your LOINS and
V’s for VENGEFUL joy
A again means AVOID HER, BOY and
Malva’s name is just a code pour vous;
Malva’s here to be your bugaboo.
She’s confused but cunning
Watch your back when she comes running
Malva’s here to ruin you.
Montage! Claire remains unchanged and everyone is shitting bricks. Malva makes Jamie some willow bark tea, and at this moment I was very concerned it might have some Sin Eater Soup in it. He remembers Claire making him that tea when he had a snake bite, and Malva tells him an amusing story about a prank someone played with a rattler up at the church, which is just her excuse to say that the person who got bitten would never come to Claire because everyone thinks she’s a witch. She is the person who would read your book reviews knowing that you don’t, and come back and tell you what the bad ones say, even though you did not ask. Malva avers that she of course believes Claire is a perfect human, and they make friendly banter that’s all here to underscore the fact that Jamie trusts her. We know Malva is bananas, so the whole time I’m looking for the ulterior motive, but I guess Jamie just thinks she’s being kind to a 60-year old landowner. Jamie might need to tattoo BTW NO I AM NOT 38 onto his forehead. He also might need to learn boundaries, because when Claire has a fever dream of snakes and holding her own beating heart, she opens her eyes briefly to see a blurry Jamie by the window tipping back a bottle of whiskey, and what appears to be Malva coming up behind him to touch him on the back. That’s obviously coming back to haunt us all. Claire, pass the ether.
Claire wakes up with a short haircut that looks like someone sawed off her curls with a butter knife. Roger nervously tells her that Mrs. Bug and Malva did it because they thought it was a cure for fever. Claire doesn’t want Jamie to see it, and Roger is like, “Um.”
he loved it
so much that he wept
over and over and over
such happy wailing
Honestly, I’m sure he meant that Jamie was crying all over the place with worry, but it did not come out correctly, because that’s The Dogface Way. Claire learns she’s slept for a week, and Brianna freaks out that she’s awake and makes her promise not to die because she’s going to be a grandmother again. Claire is thrilled, and Brianna rewards this reaction by trying to fix her hair.
It’s like someone on the show watched season two of Felicity and wanted to incorporate it all into one episode. Even if it is in the books, I’m not sure it needed to make the leap to the screen because Claire’s hair is short for a whopping five minutes. So unless we find out later that Malva used her discarded strands to make a voodoo doll, did we need to add this time to the show? They don’t even really hang a bell on whether Malva was trying to make her look hideous to Jamie. As if THAT would work. Claire is a sexual sorceress, people.
Jamie tells Claire they found a dead elk that was poisoning the river, or so they think. Tom Christie is the only ill person left. Claire muses that when she was delirious and losing Faith, all her hallucinations had positive meanings, but this time she saw terrible things and yada yada yada, Jamie’s all, “Any snake that crosses our threshold will lose his head before he reaches the staircase.” But of course MALVA IS THE SNAKE. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE. Claire is still unsettled, and Claire is also suspicious that her ailment is not the same as the one that wiped out the Ridge. So she sneaks out to visit Tom Christie. She puts on one of those wide-brim hats that every influencer has tried to wear in the past five years, so I guess she’s an hour away from inventing that profession. Tom can’t seem to decide which he hates more, her hair or her hat. Both are correct. “You look like a monk,” he sputters. She gives him a look, and he is astonished to learn that she trudged all the way out there after almost dying just to check on his health. He describes his symptoms in a way that the captioners misspell as “dunpleasant.” Is that related to The Dunbonnet? Claire listens, concludes neither of them had bloody flux, and tries to explain epidemiology to Tom, but it’s absolutely NOT his jam. So she has to admit that she came all that way to have him shit in a jar so she can look at it under her microscope and see if the rogue amoeba is present. Tom is HORRIFIED at the idea of handing over his fecal waste and calls her question VILE and then insists on walking her home. These two honestly amuse me in all their scenes. Both actors make smart choices. Claire plainly finds Tom to be a sexist dink, but enjoys goading him immensely, and the actor playing Tom is GREAT at being disarmed by Claire’s sass and how much he might secretly respect and enjoy it — and her refusal to kowtow to him makes him speak his disapproval to her in clearer and clearer terms, too. Basically, Tom Christie is learning that having a frenemy is fun.
Jamie, though, is peeved that Claire popped off without him, when she was so recently at death’s intercom. He’s worried that she lost too much weight, and her ring is loose, which leads to her swearing she will never take it off ever again, ever, EVER, so I assume that thing is a goner (but my season 6 track record is like 1-80). They snuggle and coo about how vital they are to each other. Jamie gives a very romantic speech about how the sun rising and setting each day has always been a comfort to him even in the worst of times, but that it would stop coming up and down forever if he lost her. She is his sun. It’s honestly just as sexy to hear him worship her with words as with his hands. Especially because they follow it with a scene where he climbs into bed with her and they talk about each other’s hottest qualities. She teases that calluses on a man’s hands are deeply erotic, and he jokes that if he doesn’t have calluses on his wang, it’s not for lack of them trying. He tries to tell her that her short hair is arousing, and they do a lot of gentle teasing — her lack of culinary skills and stubbornness — but then he concludes that one thing he prizes above all else is her faithfulness. Look, they are caressing each other’s hands and giving light kisses and it’s idle intimacy at its finest, but that… is not the sexiest answer I have ever heard. “Your best quality is your enduring devotion to meeeeeeeee” is a libido killer. The point of it all is a) giving Jamie and Claire some non-pounding bonding time, and b) having Jamie and Claire assert fidelity to each other, for reasons you can probably already imagine.
And then, lo! Claire’s voice over tells us she’s fine and no one is dying anymore. Jamie’s loyalties are becoming more overt, as he’s been asked to give a speech about ceasing trade with the British and is a candidate to be sent to the Continental Congress. But before he can go make a case for himself, Tom Christie rides up with drippy Allan and Malva and insists on a private audience with the Jamie. Malva stands off to the side clutching at her stomach, and yes, you guessed it: Malva is pregnant.
Jamie, bless his soul, can’t figure out what any of this has to do with him, not even when Tom and Allan are glaring at him like he’s a sperm cannon on legs. “Oh, sir, how can you say that to me when you know the truth as well as I do?” Malva wails. Jamie is so bemused, he’s almost going to laugh at her. He genuinely does not understand the words coming out of her mouth as Malva begins to weep and apologize to Claire.
Who spread his seed within ye
And planted a garden of sin?
Not Farmer Mac Dubh;
Not the Dunbonnet’s tube.
ALL my aliases are innocent men.
Allan decides to make himself useful and takes a swing at Jamie. Tom Christie is super bored by that — I can’t help but respect how little he is into Allan — and tries to kick Allan out of the room. Jamie pulls it together enough to deny it, even though Malva keeps braying on about how she only wanted to ease his pain. Malva describes “the first time,” and it matches the scene Claire thought she hallucinated: Jamie was scared and sad and drinking whiskey by the window, and Malva touched him to comfort him, though Jamie’s version ends with him dismissing her from the room and Malva’s version ends with him swiftly nailing her to the wall. “It wasn’t rape, just him being off his head with sorrow, and me as well,” she sniffles. Claire hauls off and slaps her, then leaves, unable to hear more. A furious Jamie compliments Malva on being a clever enough liar to know nobody would believe he forced himself on her. Malva and Tom say that it was a dozen more times after that, and Malva triumphantly says she can identify all of Jamie’s scars — not just his back, but the one on his ribs, high on the inside of his leg, and more. Jamie can’t deny those are real. Ooooh, Malva, you little barn-peeping sneak. I can’t decide if Malva was just horny and curious that day and got lucky, or if she’s been in survival mode about her pregnancy for THAT long. There are a lot of questions about when she figured out she was pregnant, and which of her actions were in aid of covering up a worse situation. We still don’t know whose baby it is (with her f’ed up family dynamic… I have theories), but we know whose it isn’t, and so does she. Malva is a walking soap. She is young and restless, she is bold and beautiful, these are the days of her lives, but she only has one life to live.
Tom tells Jamie that he’s drawn up a contract that will acknowledge the child is Jamie’s, and provide for it. Jamie kicks them out instead. Allan looks feebly angry and Jamie says, “I’d like nothing more than to give you your head in your hands. Leave now before I do it.” Allan does not need to be told twice. Allan sucks, and I think we can all agree that he’s just weird enough and JUST peripheral enough that his true presence on the show has yet to be explained. Nudge, nudge.
Jamie finds Claire down by the barn. He isn’t sure what to say; he can’t apologize, because that makes it sound like he’s admitting guilt, and he isn’t. Claire insists she has faith in him, but she’s also in shock and really thrown off by the fact that she did see the first half of what Malva claims was their rendezvous. Claire is trembling, and says, “Jamie Fraser, if you could do such a thing as that — and I don’t mean lying with a woman; I mean doing it and then lying to ME about it — then everything that I’ve done and that we have is a lie, and I’m not prepared to admit such a thing.” He’s confused, and she clarifies that she is not meant to be there. Neither is Brianna, neither is Roger, “but here we all are because I loved you more than the life that I had, and it was because I believed you loved me the same way.”
Jamie gulps and says that he DOES feel that way, but also does have something to confess. They really drag this out, with Claire looking sucker-punched and Jamie coming over all pale and queasy, and then finally he confesses that he cheated on her… with Mary McNab, back when he was living in a cave as a vigilante and about to turn himself in to the British. So like two decades ago. He recaps the scene for Claire — lonely woman who’d been helping him survive, sad and scared man thinking he was off to his death, weepy banging ensued — and said it was about giving each other the tenderness they lacked in their lives. Claire wishes she’d known this sooner. Do you, Claire? You slept with Frank, or tried to; you don’t get to weigh in on something Jamie did when you were with Frank in Boston and he was LIVING IN A CAVE. But Claire knows Jamie would never ice out his own flesh and blood, so the fact that he turned Malva away means he really didn’t do it. Claire is like, “Well, at least no one will believe it,” and Jamie’s response is, “HAVE YOU MET PEOPLE?”
Who’ll gobble up all your gossip
And spread around every last smidge?
Why, Red Jamie’s curse,
The worst of the worst,
The denizens of Fraser’s Ridge.
And of course they do. I guess Mrs. Bug is the one who picked up the metaphorical telephone, and word spread far and wide until some toddler sat up and yelled, “Jamie got Malva pregnant purple monkey dishwater!!!” Brianna is furious, and Roger figures Malva is either afraid to identify the real father, or she just wants Jamie’s money, but he knows Jamie is the most devoted husband there is. Brianna remembers meeting the woman she’d later find out was Frank’s mistress, and how up until that moment, she would have sworn on her life that Frank was an honorable man devoted to Claire. Roger defends Jamie, saying that was completely different, and that Frank only strayed because he knew Claire loved another man. Roger — I cannot believe I am saying this — is correct. Jamie and Claire have loved each other across the freaking space-time continuum. But Brianna is off-kilter and can’t trust her instincts.
Claire, meanwhile, tries to talk to Malva. Naturally Malva is defensive and expecting Claire to excoriate her, but Claire is SUPER kind to her, offering to listen and refusing to judge her for anything. Apparently Tom Christie made her confess what happened at church in front of everyone, even though Roger tried to stop them.
means minimum stir
which is what i made
Is it wrong that I wish we’d seen that? I would love to bear witness to Dogface’s pointless pleas. Claire calmly lets Malva know that nothing can come between her and Jamie, and that she personally thinks Malva is a bright, enthusiastic learner who made a youthful mistake out of fear and desperation — but that it’s not too late to erase it. Malva seems like she’s about to crack, until Prince Dipshit comes out of their tent and calls Claire a witch, and says that it was her devilish ways that made Malva misbehave. Malva backs up Allan, saying that it’s true that Claire’s potions wake the dead. Claire’s face hardens, all, “Wow, this child SUCKS.” Allan sneers that they know what happens to witches, which is obviously that they burn in the fiery fires of fiery Hell, just like their mother did. Claire then completely shuts off and tells them to stay away from her family.
And then! Mr. Henderson, He Who Shagged Malva in God’s House, starts talking shit about Jamie in front of Ian, and fisticuffs ensue. You’d think Ian would have told everyone that Jamie is so faithful, he turned down a threesome at the Cherokee camp. Now THAT is news you can use, people. Later, Claire briefly imagines that Lionel Brown is watching her, only to open her eyes and see that it’s Ian. He wants to talk about Malva. Doesn’t he know? We don’t talk about Malva, no no no. Ian awkwardly explains that there is a nonzero chance the baby is his. So much happens off-camera on this show, MY GOD. Ian says he was wooed by Malva’s curiosity about his life, and so one day down by the river they did the horizontal mambo, but he was disgusted with himself later because he still loves Emily. So he dumped her, and now he frets Malva is out for revenge.
WELL AUNTIE IT’S NOT SO UNLIKELY
MY SKILLS ARE ENTICING AND MIGHTY
ONCE YOU’VE SAMPLED MY HAGGIS
AT LENGTH AND FOR GRATIS
YOU WILL OBVIOUSLY WANT TO KEEP SHOPPING AT THE SAME MEAT COUNTER BECAUSE QUALITY MATTERS AND ALSO MY MEATS ARE ALWAYS ON SPECIAL! IAN!!!!
Claire says he needs to calm down, because apparently Roger has told her and Jamie about spotting Malva with Mr. Henderson, and Claire isn’t entirely sure there aren’t more contestants on this episode of Wheel of Fallopian. That baby could be anyone’s. Ian is willing to marry her anyway, to get Jamie off the hook, but Claire tells him not to do anything until she’s had a minute to talk to Jamie. And then…if she talks to Jamie, we don’t see it. Claire voices-over that the damage was done along the Ridge; no one would talk to her, and she had only Brianna in her corner. That sounds like the worst fate imaginable and I sincerely would move to New Bern and start over.
This passage of time is long enough that Claire’s curls have grown back into a cute bob. This would take months on most people’s heads, so… I guess it’s been months. Outlander is allergic to rooting you in space and time. Roger and Jamie come home from their meetings about the fight for independence and tell their wives — in separate scenes that are intercut — that they did as much drinking as talking, because an astonishing amount of alcohol goes into making history. It was a pretty funny observation, and also enormously true, from what I can glean. But, as Roger says, there wasn’t enough booze in the world to wash away the gossip that beat them to it, so Jamie the Dirty Infidel was NOT chosen as the delegate to go to Philadelphia for the Continental Congress. Jamie asks Claire how bad it’s been in his absence. Claire says she’s fine. “She’d say, ‘I’m fine,’ she’d be LYING,” Angelica Schuyler sings. And we later see Claire alone and miserable in her pristine surgery, with no one to see and nothing to do but sponge off the table one more time. Lionel pops up in her imagination, and she’s spooked, and then she spies Malva charging toward the building from the barn. Claire locks herself inside the surgery and hastily ethers herself on the bed, which… is right by a window. No, Claire! Malva could just look in and see! Also you need to be AWAKE and have your wits about you when Malva is sniffing around your property!
Or at least ether yourself in your upstairs master bedroom, Claire, my goodness. The door handle rattles and Malva calls out for her just as Claire’s eyes roll back in her head, and the captioners tell me that Eerie Ethereal Music is playing.
Next we hear Malva asking Claire to wake up, and Claire recoils, wondering how she got inside. This scene has a dreamlike quality. Malva sing-songs that she knows Claire is dying and coming back to life, and “it’s of the devil, YOU’RE the devil.” Claire shoves her and Malva continues to taunt her, saying that she must have been beautiful once but now she’s an old grey dried-up hag who couldn’t keep Jamie’s interest: “I pleased him so, over and over, he couldn’t get his fill. I’ll have him, I’ll have this house…” So Claire grabs her scalpel and holds it to Malva’s throat and growls, “You come near me or my husband again and I will F*CKING KILL YOU.” The next thing we see is Claire waking up, looking around, weirded out. So was it a dream, or wasn’t it? I don’t know, but if you’re thinking CLAIRE I DO NOT LIKE THIS CLAIRE then you are correct. Because she goes outside and begins to garden, but gets a very strange vibe, and looks around to see a trail of blood in the bushes.
It’s Malva. And she is really most sincerely dead.
Her throat has been slit, her eyes are open, and her face is bluish. Claire freaks out and immediately takes her gardening knife and slices open Malva’s sizable bump (!) and takes out the baby (!!) and tries to resuscitate it (!!!) but it’s dead, so now Claire is kneeling in a field with TWO corpses, one of whom supposedly shagged her husband and the other of whom was allegedly the fruit of his loins. And everyone thinks she’s a witch. And she has lots of scalpels and knives, including one in her hand. CLAIRE. THIS IS VERY BAD, CLAIRE. THIS IS SO BAD.
OTHER BITS AND PIECES
– There are none. CLAIRE THIS IS BAD.