First, apologies: For Reasons, it became apparent that I would need to roll last week’s Outlander into this one. Anecdotally, 20 minutes into the finale, the Starz app told me it was an hour and 49 minutes and I screamed. Turns out they were just sneakily packaging a promo episode of something else afterward and counting it toward the running time. NO THANK YOU, Starz. So, this only covers two hours — “only” — but if you want to skip straight to the finale, Episode 12, click here.
Second: I did not put graphic images into the slideshow, other than one close-up of Claire and one shot from the very end of the finale that shows some bruises. Just… so you know. I went light on the details and the verse in that bit also.
So, in Episode 11, there is an extremely noteworthy plot twist: Claire invents peanut butter. When she realizes Brianna and Roger are going to travel back through the stones, she remembers them packing PB&J for her journey back to Scotland, so she wants to arm them with emotionally relevant sustenance. Just in time for their final supper, she brings out a platter of them. Yes, Claire figured out how to turn peanuts into a smooth spreadable paste, enough to serve at least six, in a time period with no major appliances — and in the space of what feels like a day, although in Outlander, that could also as easily mean it’s been six months. (Jamie does make a joke about it being thick enough to plug a boot hole, so… she basically invented the bottom half of the Laura Scudder’s jar.)(Also we need to talk about how there is no Reduced Fat Jif to be found anywhere right now. What is the deal? Does it have secret disinfectant in it? It’s my favorite! Obviously this is the great tragedy of our era.)
Backing up: The beginning is Jamie and Roger stumbling on a burnt-out house. A charred little girl struggling to breathe is stuck outside, and it’s clearly a doll, but it’s hard to see anyway; Roger ends up suffocating her as a mercy. It’s a precursor to the law-enforcement stuff that’s coming, but also… I mean, between this hour and the next, my GOD did Outlander disembowel me.
Ian is playing around with Otter Tooth’s opal — the talisman of the long-dead Mohawk who turned out to be a Traveler — and when Jemmy holds it, he feels heat. So does Brianna. Then Jemmy holds it again, and it cracks, and Brianna, Roger, and Claire all hear buzzing but nobody else does. This, everyone decides, is the clue that Jemmy is a Traveler. They’re talking about this freely in front of Ian, by the way, who has NO IDEA about any of this and is listening patiently but formulating a very long list of mental questions. Later, he approaches Claire and Jamie.
HELLO UNCLE I AM NOT A MORON
YOU’VE GIVEN ME LOADS HERE TO GO ON
SOMETHING’S ALWAYS BEEN OFF THERE
WITH SCARY AUNTIE CLAIRE
BUT NOW YOU’RE BREAKING OPALS AND TALKING ABOUT STONES AND TRAVELING AND I AM PRETTY SURE THIS MEANS SHE IS A FAERIE WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY THE TAKEAWAY HERE FROM ALL THAT TRAVELING TALK! I’VE DONE IT! IAN!
Claire gently tells Ian she’s from the future, and then Jamie closes the study doors so that we don’t have to hear the full retelling again. Later, though, Ian is excited, because it means maybe he could go back in time and undo The Great Backstory Of Which We Know Nothing Yet. He is crushed to learn that any old bozo can’t just trip through the stones. I have notes, and I will have more later, but for now: When, exactly, did everyone decide they knew how this worked? And when, exactly, did they conclude it’s whether or not you can hear the stones? Brianna did not seem fussed about this issue when she tried it, and neither did Roger. Why do they assume it’s inborn, and why didn’t Claire notice the opal being hot when SHE held it before? She’s the one who FOUND it lying around and carried it with her, and traded it back to the Mohawk, and she never stopped and thought, “Hey, this stone is toasty”? And if it’s inborn, why is ROGER equipped with this ability?
Also, Geillis did a whole human sacrifice for her journey. Imagine if she’d known she just had to have a gemstone and listen hard. But, this conveniently explains why Claire can’t whisk Jamie off to the safer future, although they never had that conversation and no one acted like they knew this was the case. I just assumed she knew Jamie could only ever truly be of one time.
John Grey, meanwhile, has turned up to see Jamie. And I love a story of true friendship love as much as the next person, but I’ve decided that Sam Heughan and the John Grey actor have privately made the decision to play every scene as if Jamie IS a bit in love with John — or at least that John completes him in some vital way — because whenever Jamie lays eyes on John unexpectedly, Sam Heughan’s ENTIRE BODY behaves as if he is exhaling a breath he didn’t even know he was holding, and his face lights up. Jamie and Claire are fine, but TV Jamie and TV John Grey are where the heart is. John tells Jamie that all the Dunsanays are dead and that means Willie is inheriting the Earldom, so John has to go back and be helpful and WHO KNOWS when he’ll turn up in the Colonies again. He gives Jamie a recent drawing of Willie and goes on and on about how much Willie looks like Jamie. He doesn’t. He never has. They have NEVER cast an actor who does, and never rendered a photo of him that does. It… seems like a really correctable mistake, that they just simply refuse to do anything about.
Brianna and Roger decide to leave, and tell everyone that he’s gotten a job as a professor in Boston (they agree this is about the only believable lie). The rest of the time is taken up with everyone saying overly florid goodbyes and then presumably whispering about it on their Colonial-era WhatsApp chains, which Claire has also invented.
John Grey: Did you all hear? Brianna and Roger are leaving.
Marsali: Oh thank GOD.
Fergus: Vive la liberte!
John Grey: I know. She’s an odd one.
Lizzy: She’s BORING.
Marsali: What does she even do around here? I’m pregnant ALL THE TIME and I work in her mother’s surgery AND I slaughter and butcher animals AND I have forty children, and she … draws?
Lizzy: Well I’m NOT GOING. I don’t care if I’m her ladies’ maid. There are so many cute boys here.
Marsali: I’ve half a mind to tell her what I think of her before I go.
John Grey: Do it. DO IT. For all of us.
Fergus: Vive la vérité!
M: I blew it.
M: I don’t KNOW. She marched up to me and told me, and I BLANKED and told her she’s like a sister to me.
JG: Since WHEN?
M: I KNOW. I think it’s the hormones.
F: Vive la oops!
L: HA HA HA HA. But seriously I’m not going with her, when she asks.
M: I can’t go back NOW and tell her she’s a pain in my arse. Someone else do it please.
JG: Blast. I’ve bungled it as well.
L: You too???
JG: She’s tricky! Jamie told her some… sensitive stuff… about our past… and she brought it up and suddenly I was telling her I like her?
L: What is wrong with you?
F: Vive le mensonge!
M: SEE? Not so easy, is it.
JG: I did say “impossible not to like,” actually, which implies that I’ve at least tried very hard?
M: But it wasn’t hard!
JG: WELL IT’S BETTER THAN CALLING HER A SISTER.
M: It’s all on you now, Lizzy.
L: I’m not going with her. Period.
L: Well, it’s true. I’m not going with her.
L: But… somehow I offered?
L: She didn’t even ASK ME. She just came up and hugged me, and suddenly I was blubbering about how we’re a team and she needs me, and she was like, “Nah, I’m good…”
L: And THEN somehow I was telling her she’s the bravest person in the universe? And she still didn’t want me to come. So I’m not going. Not that I wanted to. But WHATEVER.
Seriously, we get so many lengthy embraces and tears and people telling Brianna she is INCREDIBLE and has redefined what an awesome human can be, but do we see her say goodbye to Jamie? No. We get a scene where Jamie decides to tell her about Willie, so she can look up what became of her half-brother in the future, and reinforces that Brianna looks like him too (she doesn’t)(NO ONE DOES)(AT ALL), but there is no moment of Jamie holding his daughter for the last time. Or holding her face in his hands, or whispering a tender Gaelic blessing. All stuff he would do with Claire and we would eat it up, but the show has cheated us out of a thousand tiny moments between him and Brianna — a relationship I was heavily invested in back when it was purely theoretical, and the development of which the show has almost entirely skirted — and I was ALL SET for a gut-punch of a goodbye and nope. Bleh.
However, there’s an entire beat where Claire is horny, but Jamie falls asleep. Later, he wakes up and finds her at the open window and REALIZES she was horny, and then obligingly pleasures her orally such that she leans extremely far back and has to be at least 60 percent at risk to fall. Claire, it will totally negate your medicinal hand-jobs if someone cunnilinguses you to death, okay? And THIS scene is only there so Claire, implying they then moved on to other delights, can giggle while Jamie looks at something under the microscope and then learns it’s his sperm. “I was in possession of it this morning,” she says. Claire. Why.
Ian escorts Roger and Brianna to the stones. Roger, it’s worth noting, sucks at everything, so how did he figure out where the stones are? Stones he happened upon while trying to escape his captors? Is it because Ian knows the route the Mohawk would take to go back and forth, and could simply intuit where Roger rolled away from them and briefly got lost?
supermassive internal compass
also plot contrivance
in the words of anna kendrick
youre gonna miss me when im gone
Anyway, they tie themselves to each other and to Jemmy, clutch their stones, and touch the tree. Ian blinks and they’re gone. On the Other Side, they arrive splayed out on the leaves, and then stand up and gasp at what they see. What is it? A DISAPPOINTMENT, that’s what, but we’ll get there in the next hour.
I bring two other bits of news. Ulysses, our dear dulcet-piped hero, is now on the run because he killed Billy Boyd and apparently nobody in the house was prepared to come up with an alternative explanation for his broken neck (like, hi, Duncan Innes, I know you’re old, but the guy DID try to kill your wife so MAYBE you were seized with superhuman strength?). Jamie is hiding him in Jocasta’s and Murtagh’s old Sex Yurt. Ulysses confesses that Jocasta had emancipated him but he chose to stay on, and it’s implied VERY HEAVILY that it’s because he loves her. If I remember correctly, the books may have included the reveal that Jocasta and Ulysses had a sexy fun time for many years, but this is the only hint of that we’ve seen. When Jamie realizes that Ulysses would be a free man anywhere else, he basically arranges to smuggle him to John Grey’s ship when John leaves for England, and then once there, he’ll be able to live a robust life that I hope involves a shitload of talking. He is THE BEST and the look on his face when he admits his devotion is really moving. I want the John Grey and Ulysses chronicles. But on TV, because I need both these actors in my life. Also throw in Jenny please. Ship her down from Scotland. Thanks.
Finally, remember all those dudes who lent their manpower to Jamie to fight the Regulators? And how there was a LIGHT power struggle there and then the one sleazy old misogynist named Lionel broke Claire’s syringe? Right. Well, they have noticed a wave of crime — burnt-out houses and whatnot — and want to form some kind of group to patrol this. Jamie declines, claiming he simply wants to be home for a while protecting the Ridge, but clearly because he’s only interested in cooperation when he’s the one who needs the favor. Seriously, this doesn’t seem like THAT bad an idea, and the only reason Jamie roped all these people into The Battle of Much Death is because HE made a deal with Governor Tryon and had to back it up with muscle. I’m supposed to hate these dudes, AND SOON I WILL, but for now I thought Jamie came off like a complete dingus.
Lionel, however, needs some medical help. Claire gives it, and he returns later with his young injured bride who it turns out pissed him off because she was trying to follow the Dr. Rawlings instructions for not getting pregnant. And while he’s in Claire’s surgery, he of course sees the nameplate DR. RAWLINGS on her med kit and puts two and two together. Later, he sets the whisky still on fire and waits for the menfolk to leave — this, by the way, is what I kept waiting for Stephen Bonnet to do — and then comes and punches out Marsali, puts a bag on Claire’s head, and absconds with her.
This is where Episode 12, the finale, picks up. And I’m not gonna lie: It’s brutal and I’m not writing verse about it. The previously-on is a wordless and vicious retelling, and then we whipsaw between Claire’s reality — lying bleeding and tied-up in a wood — and the events that led to that state, and also the quaint, technicolor 1960s fantasy that Claire’s brain is using to dissociate her from all this. Of all the gimmicks this show has employed, this one was the most effective, to me, because of the juxtaposition of the violence with what is clearly Claire’s way of locking a part of herself away from it. Whenever she’s in her ’60s headspace, “Never My Love” by The Association plays on her record player as we see beautiful snippets — they must have been so fun to film — of everyone gathering for Thanksgiving. Murtagh is alive and sexy as hell in a turtleneck (did I not comment ages ago that he should have escaped to the future and lived a groovy 1970s existence? This is as good, and so right), and he’s with a sighted Jocasta. Fergus, hand intact, is with a banged Marsali who looks freaking adorable. Ian is in the military. Only Jamie is clad as she knows him now, but with the shorter hair from their youth together. See? He is of his time, always. There are tons of Easter eggs here by the show, including lines of dialogue ripped from other episodes, and constant flashes to a vase on the table that evokes the subject of a big Claire monologue from the pilot, in which she walks past a shop in Scotland and wonders whether even one alternative choice — like buying a vase, instead of walking away — might have changed everything.
I will spare you an in-depth recap, but basically, Claire tries and fails to talk herself to safety by pretending to be a witch who could curse a few of the nervous believers. Lionel and some of his men beat her. They drag her around. He slashes her chest. All the while, a young man with long brown hair watches quietly with a frown. He later pretends to be checking the tightness of her bonds, and then asks her if the name Ringo Starr means anything to her. Wide-eyed, she says, “He’s a drummer.” This man, Wendigo Donner, was part of Otter Tooth’s group of native Americans who came back to try and change the fate of their people. [SIDE NOTE: If the ability to travel is innate, how did they so easily find an entire group of people who could do it? Is this show/book series treating native Americans as universally mystical? What is the internal logic here?] He notably does not ask Claire anything about his pet cause and how that’s going, relative to when he traveled; he just tells her that he can’t do anything right yet to help her and that her biggest tell — not the slang or the Rawlings advice — was that she doesn’t “act afraid of men” the way women of that era do. “You ought to act more afraid,” he whispers, before scuttling off to protect his cover. Later that night, as you probably knew was coming, Claire is gang-raped. We witness two — Lionel’s virgin nephew, and then Lionel himself. He slurs, “Who’s next for a go with the hedge whore?” and we’re left with the chilling image of every man at camp (except Donner, I think) staggering toward her with a leering grin and a loosening of the pants. It’s awful. And at a certain point, it infects even Claire’s protective mental bubble; Lionel appears in there as a cop telling her Brianna and Roger are dead in a car wreck. She is left a trembling, battered, fully bloodied mess.
We then learn the fate of Brianna: When they groggily sat up from their journey, Jemmy bounded away… to Ian. “You’re back,” he gasped. Apparently, the trio went through the stones only to end up right back where they started. “I was thinking about home,” she says, puzzled. “So was I,” Roger says. And OF COURSE it means they’re more at home in this time than they thought. [SIDE NOTE 2: Since when is what you’re thinking about part of this? Do we really think Claire was thinking about Frank and her exact departure year when she went back, leaving the love of her life to maybe die in battle, after having JUST shagged him? Are we to think Claire went back to Black Jack Randall’s time because she and Frank happened to have discussed his ancestor over the last week, and that when she discovered a magic stone that was buzzing at her, and she reached out to touch it, she ALSO happened to be thinking, “Oh, hey, I wonder if Black Jack Randall has ever been here”? Do the books do a better job with the time-travel rules and how they learn them? It’s sure lazy on the show’s part to drop a bunch of them here as if we’ve always known them to be true.]
Anyway, they all go back to Fraser’s Ridge. It’s a two-week journey. So presumably Claire got abducted near the END of their return journey, and it did not take Jamie a full two weeks to muster a revenge gang. (He did light The Fiery Cross, so THAT came full circle.) They were going to camp out and make it the rest of the way home later, until they saw the cross, and… I can’t tell how long it’s supposed to take them to get anywhere, but by the time they make it back, STILL no one has left. Everyone is taking their sweet-ass time. Ian carefully shaves his head and applies war paint. People mull what weapons to take. And Roger and Jamie have a long slow conversation about whether Roger will come with them, and Roger wastes lots of time in speechifying that “you called me” to fight that night in the Cross ceremony. “Stand by my side, son of my house,” he quotes. Did Jamie mean it? Yes. Did Roger mean it? Yes. “There are times for men of peace and times for men of blood,” Roger intones. Yes, and there are times for NOT STANDING AROUND YAPPING. GO KICK SOME ASS. Sheesh.
One sec more
Another moment just to give a speech
Before we plunge ahead into the breach.
These men are here to get Claire back
But we’re megalomaniacs
One word more
i did not hear until today
that claire was gone and wed go after
tomorrow ill be miles away
id better stop and frown and natter
One more second just to pose
will i ever speak again?
One quick mo for poignant glances
i want them all to think im cool
What a time for mighty prose
better puff my chest out too
Before I don my Revenge Pants.
One word more!
ONE MORE TIME I’LL SHAVE MY HAIR OFF
IT’S MY THING NOW AND IT’S FUN
I RESPECT MY MOHAWK CUSTOMS
AND I HAVE LOADS OF TIME TO DO IT PROPERLY SO THAT I LOOK GOOD WHEN WE–
(Why are they still here.
Shut up and get out.
What the hell is everyone still talking about?
Marsali is bruised
Mom is probably worse
Seriously you people are a pokey curse.)
One word for this new beginning.
Choose it slowly and choose well
Every look here should be deep
Pregnant as a Marsali
There’s a rescue to enact now
We should probably go real soon
Let’s make all our feelings known
ONE SEC MORE.
Eventually, they piss off and slay all of Claire’s captors. During the melee, Dogface kills a man and OF COURSE has to stop for a minute and ponder what this means, and should by all rights have taken a knife to the face while he did it. Jamie finds Claire tied up and barely conscious, lying where they left her. Fergus and John Quincy Myers approach too, and then stop short when they see; it’s apparent what happened to her. “You are alive. You are whole,” he says as he ungags her and cuts her free. JQM reports that a few of the men are still alive, and they offer Claire vengeance. Jamie, trying not to look broken, chokes that Claire has taken an oath to do no harm and so he deputizes them to have the revenge she won’t take herself. We are on Jamie’s and Claire’s faces as we hear the sounds of the final executions, which is also a great choice. Jamie scoops her up then and carries her to the pile of bodies, so she can see the carnage. This is… thoughtful? (Claire later asks if Donner was among the dead, and I think Jamie isn’t sure and believes so. She says he is a Traveler. “Did he harm you?” Jamie asks. By way of answer, Claire chokes, and it’s moving, “He didn’t help me.”)
Lionel, however, is still alive, and SOMEBODY says something dumb about how there are still questions to be asked, so these doofuses decide to bring him back with them, for no reason other than to fill time and space in this hour. Jamie would NEVER. He has supposedly learned, from Stephen Bonnet, that you don’t let a bastard live if you can help it.
Back home, Claire hugs Brianna, then takes Marsali’s bruised face in her hands. She and the baby are fine. Then, because they used up all their words already, we get an incredibly impactful silent scene in which Claire is huddled in the tub trembling and tremulous. Brianna is bathing her, wishing her mother would open up to her but unwilling to force it. Sophie Skelton has gotten better in some scenes the last few weeks, but is still better when she’s playing angry; she renders a bit flat otherwise. It works here because Caitriona Balfe is acting her buns off, all but convulsing, and Sophie’s energy is a counterbalance. It’s only later, with Jamie, that Claire’s fury rises to the surface. She seethes, and I’ve MOSTLY got this down but it won’t be exact, “I have lived through a fucking World War and I have lost our child, two husbands, I’ve been starved, and beaten, and betrayed… I’ve been imprisoned… I survived. Am I supposed to be shattered by this? I won’t be.” It’s both an avowal to Jamie of her strength and, I think, her lashing out at herself because she is frustrated to be struggling with this.
Roger is dozing by the fire when Brianna comes in, and apologizes for waking him practically before his eyes are even open. She says Claire still won’t talk about what happened. He Dogfaces.
have u heard about me
and what i did
im sure theyre all talking about it
i killed a man
but u didnt ask
Claire nervously returns to her surgery, choking back her rage and disgust and fear as she sees Lionel recovering on her table. He begs her for mercy, and not to let Jamie kill him; she turns her back and reaches for her scalpel. This is another symbolic moment: She flashes to her ’60s fantasy, in which she picks up a lone orange and leaves her awesome living room, and then back in her present she releases the scalpel and leaves him to Marsali’s care. It’s a callback to when she slept with the King at Versailles to save Jamie’s life, and took an orange with her on the way out — per the showrunners, it’s Claire’s subconscious’s way of reminding her to take the high road. She does, and makes it all the way up to her upstairs hallway before collapsing in a puddle of tears. She curls up on the floor and cries. Ugh. I’m glad this was the finale so that Caitriona Balfe could take a vacation after shooting.
Alone with Marsali, Lionel’s tone shifts. He clearly doesn’t find her either authoritative or dangerous, and starts demanding a meal and lavish care. “If I’m not well treated, my brother will come with his men. And he will slaughter you and burn the houses over your heads while you sleep,” he leers. Marsali turns and brightly holds up a syringe and says she’ll give him the absolute bestest treatment because Claire has taught her so well. Then she jams it right into his neck and hisses, “She took an oath to do no harm. I’ve taken no such oath… I will watch you burn in hell before I let you hurt another soul in this house.” Lionel twitches and sputters from the poison, until he expires. GET IT, MARSALI. I love her. She slides onto the floor, which is where Jamie later finds her fretting over whether Lionel will haunt her. Oh, Marsali. Lionel should BE so lucky.
Jamie covers and binds Lionel’s body and returns him to the nicer brother, explaining roughly what happened and that he’s returning Lionel out of courtesy so the family can bury him. “He reaped what he sowed. And you did what you must,” Brown says, gruffly. Jamie turns to leave. “As will I. When the time comes,” Brown adds. “It’ll be next season, though, so you’re welcome for the warning, although I’m guessing you won’t use that time to make a good plan because your reputation precedes you.” That last bit was in his eyes.
By the way, Brianna and Roger have now realized that thinking of home brought them here for a reason. There’s some blah-blah about taking the road less traveled, which Brianna uses as an excuse quote a whole lot of Frost flawlessly. “Show off,” Roger jokes, and on that we are in agreement. Just wait until she tells him she read 75 percent of Moby Dick from memory.
i can do ‘ant and bee go shopping’
Jamie and Claire stand on the porch, watching their family play on enviably gorgeous land. Claire feels better, and is enjoying a moment of peace in the face of what she knows is coming. Obligingly, thunder clouds roll in and start to make noise. That night, she is curled up naked with him, Sam’s hands placed awkwardly and strategically over her body by the director. “How do you feel?” he asks. “Safe,” she whispers, and Garth Brooks pops his head up through the floor and winks as the thunder rolls.