Let’s not even play coy here. I spared you spoilers in the headline, but: MURTAGH IS BACK. I AM WHOLE. There is a lot of joy in this slideshow.
There has been some griping about the show diverging from the books in such big a way. Murtagh originally died at Culloden, one of many — one of most — and plenty tragic. I understand why the novel’s aficionados would side-eye reversing a major loss for Jamie, but think about how consistently all of Jamie’s friends die. He essentially lost his entire clan, and even the Scottish buddies that survived have since departed this mortal coil. He is the Lady Mary’s Vagina of Outlander. Giving him this one present doesn’t undo the tragedies of his life. It’s not like changing Harry Potter to reveal that Lily and James never died, or turning 50 Shades into a book about abstinence. Letting Murtagh live is, to me, not disrespectful to the source material, and might even enrich Jamie’s journey for however long we are allowed to have him. So I say DIAL M FOR MURTAGH.
Having said that, if the show has given us back Murtagh only to kill him again soon, I AM GOING TO BE UNHAPPY. I do not have faith that they will want to spare Jamie and Claire more trauma and drama, but for the love of God, please don’t make me grieve him twice. Not yet.
We begin the episode with Jamie and Claire parting ways for the duration of the hour, and the breezy way Claire is like, “It’ll be FIIIINE, what could happen?” made me extremely paranoid that she was going to get assaulted. Because that’s just how Outlander usually rolls. Oh, there is also this brief scene where Jamie asks if Brianna has a birthmark on her neck, because he dreamed it was so — and indeed, he’s right, and Claire is overcome.
In Brianna’s time, it’s 1971, which I know because a helpful chyron anchors us in Inverness as Roger — just told by Gail that Brianna hared off to Scotland to “visit her mother” — tries to locate Brianna. So for them, it’s basically a continuation of the previous episode, unless Roger moped for six months before doing anything. Claire, however, is now tending to a bustling farm that consists of a pig and some goats, and a beautifully built cabin, cosy and well-appointed with expert furniture. There are even a couple other settlers in the area, like a priest, and a German family. Does this mean we are not aligned in timelines? It has to, right? Unless time moves faster in colonial America, or Claire’s traveling gave her Hulk-like strength.
NO, RECAPPER, IT WAS I
WHO BUILT THE WHOLE HOUSE AND PIG STY!!!!
I OOZE MANLY HUSTLE
JUST CHECK OUT MY BIG MUSCLES
WHO NEEDS A CREW WHEN YOU HAVE ONE VERY BURLY MANPERSON WHO—
Oh, Ian, calm down, everyone knows none of that is true.
Claire and Rollo spend a very charmed couple days going through the routines: dumping veggies in to feed the pigs (so, does that mean they have a thriving vegetable garden as well?), mending things, drinking whiskey, barking. She bonds with Adawehi, who teaches her rudimentary Cherokee words and says opaque things about how Claire’s daughter is here (this being the more obvious argument for Brianna’s scenes not necessarily corresponding with where we are in Claire’s). Claire also journeys out to deliver the baby of a widowed German woman who is there with her parents, ALSO living in a fully tricked out cabin. Is she just the REGIONAL healer, and she’s put up her flyers on every tree in the forest, or are they living on Fraser land? There is so much about the development of Fraser’s Ridge that I don’t care about, and yet somehow that is also exactly what I want to know right now. THIS is one of those rare times when Claire doing voice-over could actually come in handy.
Anyway, the charming new mother names the baby Clara, and excitedly accepts the gift of a doll from Germany from her father. Claire is so happy that it’s immediately clear somebody has to die and/or be otherwise compromised. Her scale is never allowed to tip too far in one direction. Herr German even creepily asks her whether her husband is home, and Claire merrily says, “Nope,” even though Claire has no reason at all to be trusting of strangers and has been nearly raped like five times. Her skepticism comes and goes like the tide. But Claire is not the concern at the moment: Herr German starts screaming and cleaning his rifle, because he’s spotted the Cherokee across the creek, filling a canteen with water. He believes it’s HIS water and unleashes a tirade about savages. His son (?) also grabs a gun and they go out and point them right at the natives and scream at them some more. As you can imagine, the Cherokee react by drawing their own weapons, and Claire goes outside and throws her body in front of them to try and diffuse the tension. (Interestingly, Claire argues to the Cherokee that Herr German and his son are good people — even though they are judgmental jerks — but does not argue to Herr German that the Cherokee are good people even though I think she believes them to be. That’s an unfortunate choice in the writing.)
After a lot of throat damage to Caitriona Balfe, Claire convinces both sides to lay down their arms — she invites the Cherokee to water their horses further down the creek, explaining that Herr German doesn’t understand the nuances here — but then the Cherokee scatters something by the riverbanks and Herr German flips his toupe again. “IT’S JUST A BLESSING,” Claire screams. Everyone scatters, and Claire wishes immediately that she’d brought some throat drops back with her from the ’70s. Seriously, Caitriona’s voice ends up sounding as strained as mine does after a night of talking to people. Wait, that sounds so sad now that I read it back. But when you work from home, you don’t talk that much, so it REALLY doesn’t take much to overwork yourself.
DON’T WORRY, FAIR RECAPPER, YOU CAN SHOUT!
THAT IS WHAT ALL CAPS ARE ABOUT!
THEY HELP ME YELL LOUD AND STRONG
FOR AS LONG AS THE DAY IS… UM… LONG
AND I STILL SOUND VERY PERKY AND SEXY-LIKE DON’T YOU THINK?
No, Ian, I don’t.
Claire’s problems are of course not over. Reverend Gottfried frantically comes to tell her that Herr and Fraulein German are inconsolable because the baby and their children have died of measles, and Herr German believes the Cherokee cursed them and that Claire allowed it. Gottfried is very afraid for Claire’s safety. Does he offer to keep her company, or perhaps bring anyone with him to stand guard? No. Well, God, maybe, but that’s about it, and frankly he doesn’t even offer THAT. So Claire hunkers down with her rifle, and sure enough, Herr German pops by and sniffles that the Cherokee murdered his family. Claire attempts to explain to him how diseases work, but the good Herr points out that they had measles back at home and got better with in a week, so he’s not buying what Claire is selling. Heartbroken, he hands her the same cloth he’d wrapped his daughter’s doll in, and says he wanted her to have a memento. Claire is moved, and unfolds it, and then I barfed. Because what he has given her is ADAWEHI’S BLOODIED SCALP. You bastard. SHE NEEDED THAT. Also, see again how everyone Claire and Jamie like is doomed to a brutal demise. It’s a wonder anyone talks to them at all.
Hey, anyone want to come over for dinner?
That pig we’re plumping’s a real winner.
We’ll laugh and we’ll bond
You’ll feel so warmly fond.
For our friendship, a beautiful beginner.
Hey, Claire, no thanks, I’m all set.
All your loved ones with tragedies are beset.
I don’t want to drop
Just for your good pork chops
So if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna jet.
Anyway, Herr German growls that Adawehi was their witch and that she caused his family’s death (this, despite him not… ever having seen her before, at all, as far as I could tell?). Claire, disgusted that he murdered a kindly healer just because she was of a race he didn’t understand, kicks him out of her house — I was instantly relieved, because I was so sure he was going to try and rape her — and then tearfully buries Adawehi’s scalp. The Cherokee are being slightly more proactive: They burn Herr German’s house and his wife, whom they also shot with an arrow. When he returns home and sees her aflame, he screams, and they let him sit with the awareness of what’s happening for just long enough before killing and burning him too. The fire is masterfully contained, however, so perhaps Claire and Jamie should look to them for some tips. And thus concludes the story about how Germans truly never get to be history’s heroes.
Jamie is having an equally dramatic experience in Willem’s Creek — a town heavy with Scots — what with passing out flyers, and making land offers to people, and purchasing ale. It’s fire… of an oratorical variety! VERBAL scalpings! FIGURATIVE deaths, of dreams! He’s having zero luck recruiting settlers, because it turns out that — as usual — Jamie’s plan forgot some major factors: He’s allied himself with a particularly evil governor whose crooked tax collectors are scooping way more than their fair share, and bankrupting all the landowners. They’ve all given up their farms, moved to town, and become tradesmen. No one will touch Jamie’s very reasonable, sexily proffered 100-acres-and-a-tax-break. Worse, Jamie needs a silversmith to discuss the matter of his mother’s candlestick — I believe he’s trying to forge it into something else, behind Claire’s back, given that he was covert about putting it in his knapsack — and a blacksmith to repair some of his horsy equipment. Jamie handles the former, which involves fending off the advances of an extremely comely silversmith’s wife who eye-bangs him into oblivion in the course of about 30 seconds of screen time.
UNCLE, LET ME HANDLE THOSE DANGERS.
YOU KNOW THEY CALL ME THE SEXUAL LONE RANGER.
I CAN BRAVELY HAVE SEX
WITH WHOEVER’S UP NEXT
IF IT HELPS, I MEAN, I HAVE ALL THESE SKILLS AND I AM NOT AFRAID TO GO INTO BATTLE SO JUST LET ME KNOW HOW I CAN EASE THE WORKLOAD!!! ME! IAN!!
This leaves Ian with the blacksmith. He finds a cranky old codger who is closing up shop for the night, and who doesn’t want to do the job for anything less than a small fortune.
CRUEL SIR I CAN ONLY PAY A BIT.
OR, A BIT, PLUS THIS OTHER WHOLE BIT.
BUT THAT’S THE FINAL PRICE TAG
NO MORE FROM MY BAG
UNLESS YOU WANT IT THOUGH BECAUSE I AM DESPERATE, BUT DON’T TELL YOURSELF THAT, BECAUSE THEN YOU’LL — WHOOPS! I BLEW IT! IA– UM, I MEAN, SCHMIAN!
Somewhere during the negotiations, the codger with resplendent silver hair turns around and we see THE FACE OF AN ANGEL. It’s not that I think Murtagh is hot, y’all; it’s that he has a mischievous kindness to him, and he loves Jamie and Claire and accepts the truth of her without telling them they’re insane, and… he’s MURTAGH. He’s one of the few good ones (irrespective of how he is currently negotiating with IAN!!!!, although he kind of brought that upon himself). Let us keep the good ones, world.
Jamie, though, is furious to find out that Ian forked over their entire budget for this. Just when you think he’s about to take this final lump and head home, taut tail between his chiseled legs, Jamie instead hops off his rig and marches into the smithy’s lair and growls his displeasure as only a real Highland sex god can. Murtagh, whose back is to Jamie, immediately recognizes his godson’s voice and turns around in the slowest wonder. Unlike when Claire returned, Jamie does not lose consciousness. But he does stare in utter disbelief, before his eyes fill with tears. I was almost as excited for this moment as I was for Jamie and Claire. When the two of them hugged in this scene, I hugged MYSELF, just because I wanted in on the action.
More adorableness follows. Jamie proudly introduces him to Ian, and Murtagh winks that Ian drives a hard bargain. Ian, for his part, immediately loses his veneer of irritation.
YOU’RE MURTAGH! I’VE HEARD ABOUT YOU!
YOU AND UNCLE ARE BRAVE THROUGH AND THROUGH!
YOU’VE ADVENTURED SO MUCH
IT COULD MAKE A BOY BLUSH
BUT I’M NOT A BOY AT ALL, I’M A VERY IMPRESSIVE MAN, SO LET’S GO TALK ABOUT IT ALL RIGHT NOW!! IAN!
The best part, though, is when Murtagh — who is going to turn Jamie’s mother’s candlestick into “a surprise for his wife” — actually looks sort of disappointed to learn Jamie re-married. Jamie quickly dismisses Ian on a pointless errand so he can tell Murtagh that he did NOT re-marry: Claire found her way back to him after twenty years. Reader, Murtagh’s delight is so complete and satisfying that I hugged myself again. He is the No. 1 Claire and Jamie ‘shipper of all time, and that includes Brianna. And then Jamie tells him all about Brianna, and how she went to university, with a note of awe and pride in his voice that is extremely cool. Murtagh thinks it sounds totally rad that women in 1971 are kicking so much ass. If we have to lose him, PLEASE can it be to the stones, so that he lands in 1971 and gets to experience indoor plumbing and good conditioners and empowered ladies?
But, Murtagh declines Jamie’s offer to return to Fraser’s Ridge. It seems he is so enraged by the behavior of the tax collectors that he’s joined the regulators, a.k.a. the band of settlers who refuse to take any corrupt guff (and might be in some violent scuffles). He even takes Jamie to a meeting, where he incites the other farmers to keep fighting against Governor Tryon’s goons.
Twelve men in the room all talkin’ bout tax
Murtagh’s at the front, runs the whole ball of wax
Now they’re thumpin’ and yellin’
Gonna fight their fate
Murtagh and his boys gotta regulate.
Ergo, we are at an impasse: Murtagh can’t see his way toward getting tangled up in Jamie’s whole situation, and Jamie doesn’t want to risk Fraser’s Ridge by joining the ranks. So they part with love.
Jamie returns to Claire with this wonderful news, but he takes one look at her — she’s practically shaking with relief at the sight of him — and senses that all the really tense plot twists were hers this week. “Just hold me,” she quivers, burying her face in his shoulders. I wonder if Sam Heughan gives as good a hug as he seems.
We are, sadly, denied Jamie’s WTF expressions at all the madness he missed. But the lack of Claire’s face when she hears the Murtagh news is partially mitigated by the next scene: As she works merrily in the yard, she suddenly hears a man whistling “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy,” which is a song she taught him from the future. She whirls around and is so thrilled that Murtagh changed his mind and decided to come, and she too envelops him in a wonderful embrace. For all the trauma this week, there was a LOT of satisfying squeezing.
But, let us not forget about 1971. Roger has wrapped up all his feelings in a woolly toque and sought out Brianna’s hotel.
we were in love
take my word for it
was she here?
you can tell me
because of the love we were in
even though she left
and im alone
He is kicked aside, but then the kindly proprietress changes her mind and produces a letter for him that Brianna left. Apparently the instructions were to mail it a year from then, if Brianna did not return to claim it, but the woman can tell Roger is a broken man so she sees no harm in completely disregarding hotelier-guest confidentiality. Your Yelp review just plummeted, madam.
As predicted, the letter states that Brianna went ahead and microfiched her parents herself, and learned about their tragic fate, so she decided to go through Creigh na Dun and warn them. (Assuming Laura Donnelly was not bluffing about her unavailability to play Jenny, are we really revving up for an entire scene of her finding Lallybroch and having to explain herself to… Old Ian? I like him just fine, but man, what a bummer that would be. Maybe they’ll just sort of skip that part. I also would have accepted a Jenny hologram.) Brianna closes by telling Roger that she does care about him and that she hopes he’ll be happy, which… if these two are Made For Each Other then she needs to take a course in love-letter writing, because that reads like what you say to someone who’s deeply into you but whom you hope never to see again because they make your Fallopian tubes wilt. Roger looks heartbroken, as we see Brianna face off with the stones — whenever that was; could have been up to about two weeks ago, based on Gail’s intel — clad in period garb and hair that perfectly evokes Claire’s curly updos. She moves toward the stones with her hands outstretched, as the camera pans around behind, and when it reaches the other side she is gone.
i will have to find another place
to put my wang
i mean my face
i mean my abandonment issues
cant spell alone
without an o
which i also have
in my name
i wont be doing