Season five of Outlander has been juggling some pretty large-scale storylines — the Regulators versus Tryon and what it means for the impending Revolutionary War, Claire playing with history through her DIY penicillin, and even the Bonnet scheme — but “Monsters and Heroes” strips things down with a more insular story about simply surviving on Fraser’s Ridge. Okay, well, “simply” is never the right word when it comes to the trials and tribulations of the Frasers, because even though this episode takes a step back from the madness of the outside world to focus on one family getting by, madness follows this family wherever they go. In this episode alone, the Frasers have to deal with a near-fatal snake bite, babies being born in the woods, and yes my friends, a buffalo attack. Outlander really is a gift.
Meanwhile, we, the audience, have our own trials to deal with right up front: Mainly, the juxtaposition of a lovely scene that made me want to cry tears of joy — Marsali, ready to pop out her third child any day, calling Claire, wait for it, Ma — immediately followed by a scene so awkward I wanted to pull my tear-stained eyeballs from my head. Did Roger really have to start talking about his father-in-law while trying to hookup with Bree WHILE their son sat mere feet away? Not to be dramatic, but that whole Morning with the MacKenzies scene really took a piece of my soul with it. Anyway, Roger’s feeling better!
Lucky for him, that means Bree pushes her husband into joining Jamie, Ian, Fergus, and Josiah on a hunting expedition after a herd of buffalo is spotted nearby. Jamie and Roger split from the rest of the group and Jamie ends up getting bitten by a venomous snake. Ah, nothing like having to suck venom out of your father-in-law’s leg for two men to truly bond. Roger’s unable to track down the other guys and Jamie can’t walk on his leg — which looks worse by the actual minute — so the father and son-in-law duo will have to camp out in the woods overnight.
Things are dire! And I don’t just mean because now Jamie and Roger have to spend an entire night alone together, which is probably on both of their lists of True Nightmare Situations, and that is really saying a lot for these two. It’s dire because, oh boy, Jamie does not look good. I know that seems impossible, but this is a show about time travel, guys, remember that all things are possible.
Despite that obituary that Bree found in the future warning us all that Jamie and Claire seemingly meet their end in a house fire, Jamie begins to think that this snake has done him in. Roger refuses to believe that, but even so, Jamie starts talking about getting Claire back to her time and, perhaps most importantly for this season, killing Stephen Bonnet. Jamie tells Roger about his plans with Wylie and that Bonnet might have a real claim to Jemmy. Bonnet’s coming for their family and if Jamie can’t stop him, Roger must do it.
The next morning, Roger fashions a stretcher out of wood, etcetera, and uses all his strength to drag Jamie back home, but Jamie is heavy and Roger is worried. He prays over him. He says “have mercy” but not in the fun Uncle Jesse way, in the scary, “this guy is probably going to die” way. This is bad, friends. Thankfully, Ian and the gang ride out first thing and are able to track down Roger and Jamie and get him back to Claire. Things should be totally fine and cool now, right?
No, not right, folks! Claire takes one look at Jamie’s leg and is scared. You may recall that back in the Battle of Alamance that Brown Town Clown Mr. Brown crushed Claire’s syringe full of penicillin. Since that was the only syringe Claire brought back with her from the future, and since Jamie, like, really, really needs an injection of penicillin directly into his bloodstream right now lest the infection in his leg kills him, that is a huge problem.
Even Jamie can tell his wife is worried: Normally, she’d yell at him for being an idiot and getting hurt. Now that she’s being kind, he knows how serious it is. And when he notices the saw she has laid out with her instruments, he immediately realizes what it’s for. When Claire finds Jamie panicked in her surgery room clutching the instrument she might have to use to cut off her own husband’s leg, she’s furious. But Jamie won’t have it — he makes Claire promise that no matter what, she won’t amputate. It puts Claire in an impossible position since she already knows that this thing is going to come down to Jamie’s leg or his life.
AS IF WE NEEDED MORE PROBLEMS: Lizzy and Jemmy are hanging out doing some laundry when a fucking buffalo shows up. Honestly, could this buffalo read the room?
It’s Bree who sees the buffalo preparing to charge at her son first. Bree, who is looking fashionable as hell in her Colonial pants, is distraught because she just learned about the Bonnet murder plot and the fact that Bonnet could take Jemmy away, and perhaps she uses those emotions to gather up courage and scream at the buffalo until it turns its focus away from her son and squarely on her. Just as the buffalo flings her into the air — she’s totally fine, maybe it was the pants — Claire runs out with a rifle and shoots that buffalo to hell. The Fraser women are doing it for themselves, everybody.
Jamie’s getting worse. He makes Roger and Ian carry him from the surgery room to his own bed. When he tells them that Claire wants to amputate and he refuses to live like that, Ian is livid. Ian’s father lost his leg, Fergus lost his hand, what would Jamie say to them? “Never thought I’d see the day I’d be ashamed of you, Uncle,” Ian spits at Jamie. It is harsh, but very necessary. Aren’t you so glad Ian’s back? Later, Ian has a chat with Fergus, and Fergus really couldn’t be kinder about it. Fergie Ferg’s just over here breaking my gosh dang heart with all his talk about being lucky to have Jamie as a father and how he needs to be there for him. And then he’s out in the woods helping Marsali give birth to their healthy baby girl? Now more than ever it’s clear: We deserve a Fergus-Marsali-centric episode. I am begging.
Hey, speaking of begging, Claire is straight-up pleading with Jamie not to die on her. He’s gone completely cold and wants her to sleep beside him, to touch him. For a moment, it seems like he really is gone, but then Claire uses some, um body contact, and brings him back. When they wake up the next morning, Jamie’s had a change of heart: He’s finally stopped being a dipshit and he wants to live, no matter what. That means Claire needs to prepare to do the thing she’s been dreading this entire time. Caitroina Balfe is given some great scenes in this episode — her chat with Bree on the stoop about Jamie resenting her? Yes, please and thank you.
Just as Claire and Ian are preparing Jamie for surgery, who should burst into the room but our little engineer! Earlier in the episode, Bree had a heartfelt conversation with her mother about how awful it is that she can’t use her engineering skills — her true calling — in this time period. If anyone knows how to figure out how to pursue a career that was impossible for women in her current time period of residence, it is our doctor-healer-witch, Claire Fraser. Bree will figure it out, too, Claire assures her daughter. And so Bree does: She takes the fangs from the snake that bit Jamie (Roger had kept its head, just in case!) and builds a syringe for Claire. It’s all very “Jack and Sun perform blood transfusions with a sea-urchin needle on Lost” and I am into it. Now Claire can inject penicillin directly into Jamie’s bloodstream. They can save his leg. The doctor and the engineer, people. This mother-daughter team is getting it done.
Later, we see Jamie recovering — we know he’s getting better because those hot little glasses are back — and he finally explains to Claire what happened that night he grew cold in bed. He had seen a “passageway” of sorts and knew he could move forward through it and die, or he could turn around and come back. He needed Claire close because she was “the one thing that could bring [him] back.” When she asks why he chose to stay, he tells her it’s because he knew she needed him. She’s a little miffed it’s not because he loves her, but he explains: “Whether I’m dead, or you, whether we’re together or apart, I will always love you.” Hot damn! You know his disgusting, infected leg must smell so bad, but who cares? Smash faces!
So, Jamie has been saved, but he wastes no time reminding Claire that he’ll be fighting in the war that’s coming — it’s his duty, his purpose. On top of that, Roger, who is very glad his father-in-law is alive, still wants in on the mission to murder Bonnet. All of this means that although it was truly a welcome change of pace to focus solely on the Fraser family working together to survive life in the Back Country, we shouldn’t forget that there are three episodes to go and several loose ends to tie up. We might soon be wishing for the days of buffalo attacks.