Murtagh certainly isn’t making Jamie’s already extremely precarious job any easier, huh? When Jamie told his godfather to get out of town and “be hard to find,” Murtagh apparently heard “go to the next town over and tar and feather a bunch of high ranking dudes,” because that’s exactly where we find our head Regulator (will Outlander ever do us all a solid and play some Warren G over a Murtagh entrance at some point? A girl can dream) at the start of “Between Two Fires.” The Regulators are wreaking havoc in Hillsborough, and Murtagh is front and center.
As if Jamie doesn’t have enough to handle without the Regulators causing problems, you know? He and Lieutenant Knox are out and about roaming the backcountry for Murtagh and for now, Jamie has everything under control. Knox actually seems like a normal guy, albeit 100 percent dedicated to serving “King and country.” Things seem to be going smoothly as Jamie tries to play the part of loyal subject and Colonel, while also doing everything he can to protect his own people.
Well, until they receive word of the Hillsborough riots and Jamie and Knox get to see firsthand that tarring and feathering people is extremely uncool. Knox wants justice, and he may get it because they ended up arresting three unnamed Regulators. It’s here that we get our first real glimpse of Jamie trying to keep up his ruse. Knox won’t leave Jamie alone with the men — two of whom Jamie knows because they refused to settle on Fraser’s Ridge — so he makes sure at the very least, he’s the one to speak first and control the narrative: He’s never met them and Murtagh is only a man they’re hunting down, not Jamie’s godfather. Alas, this trial run to see if Jamie can protect fellow Highlanders while pretending to be loyal to the English fails spectacularly when ol’ Knox goes to stabby-town on Ethan, one of the prisoners who spits directly in Knox’s face when the Lieutenant tries to get information on Murtagh’s whereabouts. “You executed a man without trial,” Jamie yells at Knox, making the law very sexy. It is a confusing time for all of us.
At least Knox sort of feels bad for what he did. I mean, it’s not guilt over killing a man, but over being as bad as the lawless Regulators he’s trying to wipe off the face of Colonial America, still, there is some guilt there. Regardless, Jamie knows the other two men have no shot of making it out of Hillsborough alive, so he resorts to Plan B: breaking into the jail and setting them free. He’s very high and mighty about these two men making things difficult for Murtagh, who is in hiding, until the two men are like, “uh guy, Murtagh basically plucked those feathers himself.” This is alarming for several reasons, but mainly because Jamie knows a war is coming and he might not be able to protect his godfather much longer. It’s not like Murtagh doesn’t understand the gravity of the position Jamie’s in — because he’s in it, too. His fellow Regulators are questioning where his loyalties will really lie when it comes down to it: with their cause or with his godson. Murtagh tells them unequivocally that he’s fighting for the cause. So this inevitable war is going to be super fun to watch and not at all emotionally devastating. Cool, cool, cool.
Can we just pause on the “will Jamie have to stand by and watch Murtagh die” spiral currently raging in my brain and talk about normal stuff like autopsies and homemade penicillin? I’m very pleased to report that after sitting on the sidelines in the season five premiere, Claire actually has some urgency in this episode! I love Claire Fraser, Doctor and Scientist of the North Carolina Backcountry, and it looks like we’re going to be getting a lot of that this season.
Claire’s going about her day when Mrs. Farrish, a settler on Fraser’s Ridge, races up to the main house with her husband who is, um, not doing well. She needs Claire to save him, but when the good doctor learns Mrs. Farrish treated her husband’s extreme stomach pain (appendicitis) with leeches and mercury, Claire’s like, “oh, sweetie, this guy’s so dead.” But our Claire won’t allow this to be a total loss. She wants to perform an autopsy in the hopes of getting answers. It’s Bree who has to remind her mother that autopsies are great in the 1960s, but they are basically witchcraft in the 1700s. It’s very cute of Bree to think that Claire cares, but she doesn’t. In fact, Claire goes so far as to have Roger fill Mr. Farrish’s coffin with rocks so that she can keep his body to study. I get the pursuit of science and all, but that’s some legit body-snatching and also, think of the smell. Holy hell, the smell.
Claire is a woman on a mission. And what does every person on a mission need? A good sidekick. Friends, countrymen, people still reading this recap, I am super hyped over Claire’s decision to bring Marsali — excellent butcher, extremely cool person — on as her apprentice. I mean, obviously, at first Marsali is like, “girl, you a witch?” but then as Claire explains how much information they can get by studying a dead body, Marsali is interested. Marsali is the best of us.
The problem is, however, that Marsali is just one person. Claire has an entire settlement of people who are very prone to do things like ingest mercury and other poisons because male doctors over in Cross Creek tell them to. In addition to secret autopsies, Claire decides to make up a doctor named Rawlings who has some “extreme” ideas about medicine and writes some medical do’s and don’ts for the people of Fraser’s Ridge. This is dire, people! Dire enough that people are dying from simple infections! Because of this, Claire also decides that she’s not going to let simple infections kill off her people, and so attempts to make penicillin out of moldy bread. Bree once again corners her mother to remind her that trying to bring 20th-century medicine to Colonial America is a little reckless, and not just because people might turn on her but also because it could, like, break space and time. Claire argues that every time she saves a life she’s changing history, that Bree traveling to the past to warn Claire and Jamie of their deaths changes history, so it’s no big whoop. Just as my brain starts to hurt thinking about the rules of time travel and how Outlander has, like, zero, Claire says “Time, space, history be damned!” while wearing another fierce lady headband and I’m back in on this crazy train. I’ve never been so invested in preventative healthcare!
Bree is really 0-for-2 this episode when it comes to trying to temper the people she loves. Sure, the newlyweds are all cute as Bree tries to teach Captain Roger McKenzie how to use a rifle, but Roger is making it increasingly clear that he feels extremely out of place here and once they find out if Jemmy can travel through the stones, he wants to go back to their own time. Even Claire is on board with this plan — she would miss her family, but knows they’d be much safer in the future. It’s going to take a little more persuading to get Bree on board with leaving her parents behind.
This is sure to be a conflict discussed throughout the season, but for now, Roger and Bree are going to have to put a pin in it. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you guys, we have a Stephen Bonnet problem. Just as Roger discovers Bree is obsessively drawing increasingly frightening sketches of the man who assaulted her, we learn that Lord John Grey’s intel was correct: Bonnet is in Wilmington. Like the true trash human he is, he’s betting on a Colonial Women’s Fight Club event and then torturing a man who calls him out for cheating. When asked why he doesn’t just kill the man, Bonnet responds that he needs to set a better example because he’s “a father now.” Anyway, I want to barf. Bonnet’s coming for the Frasers of the Ridge.