All signs pointed to Fergus’s story getting much worse before getting better, but just because it wasn’t surprising doesn’t mean it was any less heartbreaking. Man, our Fergie Ferg is hurting. That doesn’t excuse him being a drunk and awful to Marsali, but he is in a low place. And at the start of “Temperance,” he only goes lower.
Well, this is one way to begin an episode of television. Fergus and Marsali’s newborn, Henri-Christian, is in a basket and a bunch of asshole children have launched him down a river. A river! And he’s heading toward a waterfall. I know this is part of the book, but you know, show, we don’t have to do everything in the book. That POV shot from inside the baby basket as Henri-Christian beelines it for that cliff? It is too damn much. I am tired, and we are only like three minutes deep into this thing.
Do not worry, dear reader, because Roger Mac saves that baby. He jumps into the river and swims through, I guess, rapids, maybe (I’m an inside girl), and pulls dear, sweet Henri-Christian, who did nothing but be born, out of that basket to safety. Now I do not know what is going on with Roger, but if you have been reading these recaps for a while, you probably know I am not typically what people call a “fan” of Roger, but whatever he’s doing this season, it is “working” for me. First, it was that giant-ass beard, and now he’s diving into what seems like very cold rivers to save babies from plummeting down waterfalls and screaming at the dumb kids who did this to the baby that “Satan will drag [them] to hell” in, like, the deepest voice. It is … affecting. Is this my new type? I’ll work that out on my own time. Anyway, the kids did this horrific thing to Henri-Christian because many of their idiot parents believe that a child with dwarfism “must be the devil’s seed” and that if you touch him you’ll burn and also that he floats on water or something. It’s all insanity. Thankfully, Henri-Christian is totally fine. Jamie says he’ll talk to the kids, which includes Aidan, the kid who has taken a liking to Roger, and Germain, Henri-Christian’s brother! Marsali is shaken up, of course. But it is Fergus who takes it the hardest. He’s so upset he has to walk out of the house.
It’s Claire who follows him and listens to him as he’s in tears, telling her awful stories about what happened to people he knew with dwarfism at the brothel where he lived and how he thinks Henri-Christian will have a tragic life and it’s all his fault because he wasn’t there to stop Marsali from getting beaten up by Lionel Brown and his men and that’s what caused his son to be born this way. Claire tries to explain that that’s not at all how it works and that Henri-Christian is perfectly able to lead a full and wonderful life. She and Jamie will make sure of it. They’ll all make sure. But he won’t hear any of it. He walks off. I can’t help but think about when Fergus was a little kid in Paris with Claire during scenes like these. She loves him so much — he’s her son! — and she can’t do anything to help him right now.
So … things get worse! Fergus gets drunk again, and he and Marsali have a huge fight in which Fergus melts down even more about how he can’t provide or protect his family. He is beside himself. And then Marsali, in an effort to explain that the burden of providing and protecting the family isn’t solely on his shoulders in this family, tells him that she killed Lionel to protect this family and that she doesn’t regret it one bit. Okay, first of all, the way Marsali says this is such big-dick energy, and I love it. Second of all, it only upsets Fergus more because, well, murder, but also he’s of the patriarchy and thinks all of this is a man’s job. She dumps water on his head and yells at him to get out and stay out unless he can sober up. Everything is terrible.
It gets worse! Fergus shows up to a gathering at the Big House super-wasted and ends up in a fistfighr with an older couple (!!) because they say some truly awful things about Henri-Christian. Even Tom Christie is like, Uh, that’s fucked up, so you know they sort of deserved it. But it is just another example of the turmoil Fergus is going through. He can’t find his way out of it.
Later, Jamie catches Fergus looking upset and walking off into the woods. Jamie follows him for a bit and sees him take out a knife and begin to slit his wrist. Jamie takes off after him to stop him, covering up the bleeding as he pleads with him. Fergus tells him he wants to die. Then Marsali could marry someone who can actually take care of her and protect her and the kids. Jamie begs him to stop and tries to remind him of all the ways he’s taken care of all of them — while Jamie was in Ardsmuir, when Jamie was grieving Claire — and tries to get him to see that they all need him. “It’s you, not what you give or provide — it’s you that we need.” Jamie stands him up and holds him as he cries, telling him he’ll get through this. It’s fine, not like I’m still crying just thinking about it or anything. Jamie and Claire’s relationship with Fergus has been such a surprisingly special one on the show, and as heartbreaking as this story line is to watch, the silver lining is the show has been able to highlight what the three of them mean to each other.
It’s both Claire and Jamie who, after cleaning Fergus up and helping him pull himself together, deliver him back to Marsali and his family. Hopefully, this is a turn for the better.
There’s someone else Claire’s cleaned up in this episode: Tom Christie. The guy finally showed up, ready for his hand surgery. This entire sequence — with Tom refusing to take the ether and insisting on being awake while Claire opens up his hand so he can pray, while Jamie stands by his side sort of egging him on but also sort of helping him — is excellent. Jamie is just handing the guy shots of whiskey and reading from the Bible and trying not to look like he’s enjoying Tom screaming out in pain too much. Jamie is the best OR assistant in town.
It seems as if Tom is warming up to Claire in his own way, or at least he is continually curious about her. She checks on him the night after his surgery — she’s still seeing Lionel Brown, and Tom is near her ether stash — and as she helps stretch out his hand and gets him something to eat and drink, they have a long talk. It veers pretty easily between insults and compliments and back again. He still doesn’t know what to make of Jamie — he brings up his flogging scars again and asks why he would ever take the fall for something he didn’t do. Claire has to explain that Jamie would do anything to protect those he loves, those he considers his family, like the Ardsmuir prisoners, but also that Jamie is simply kind. Tom doesn’t really get it, but you see him take the notion in.
Back in bed with Jamie, Claire asks what Tom was like in prison and Jamie explains that while everyone craved for the coldness and agony to be lifted even just a little bit, and that some men found that in other people, Tom only turned more and more inward.
One day, while Tom comes to see Claire so she can check on his wound, he asks her about the novel she’s reading. Again, this conversation lives entirely on the edge of adversarial and friendly. It’s as if he wants to be nice to her to form a bond — maybe he is into this woman who healed him and who refuses to let him spread his patriarchal religious bullshit around — but he’s just so much of a dick he can’t help himself. Eventually, Claire persuades Tom to take a novel and read it for himself. He almost seems … excited to have this thing to share with her? But then he reads it, and it is just filled with too much smut for this dude’s taste. When he returns it, he leaves it with a note to Claire about how he thought better of her than “filth” like this. With his hand healed, he goes back to doing things that make sense to him like whipping his daughter with his belt. One has to wonder if he’s just looking for a woman to take his conflicting feelings for Claire out on.
• That’s all the punishment Jamie will give those kids who almost killed Henri-Christian?! This makes me so angry. Sure, does he scare them by saying they can either touch this burning-hot fireplace poker or touch Henri-Christian? Yes. But come on! I guess it’s nice they all touch the baby and realize he is just an innocent baby, but at least make them sit on a step for 20 minutes to think about what they’ve done.
• I do love Jamie giving Germain that stern grandpa a talking-to. Freaking, Germain!
• Alert! Alert! More Lizzie and Kezzie and Josiah flirting!!
• Who is this Evan Lindsay character, and why is he so good at making things and also flirting? Also: I love that Bree, who suggests setting up Evan with Lizzy, is totally clueless about whatever is going on between Lizzie and Beardsleys, and it is Roger who has to be like, “Uh, you might want to pay attention to that.”
• Roger tells Aidan he’ll need to go see Jamie after the Henri-Christian thing, and while there, he hears Aidan’s mother, Amy, scream from inside. It turns out there was just a bullfrog in her milk pail (#SettlerProblems). She’s having a tough time being away from Scotland and being without her husband, but Roger promises her he will never let her starve. She’ll be okay; he’ll make sure.
• When Jamie tells Claire about Ardsmuir, he says he often longed for sleep, not just because he was tired but because he dreamt of her. Now if that isn’t the swooniest!
• Ooh, okay, Malva spends some alone time with both Young Ian — I really thought those two were going to kiss once she started touching his face markings — and Jamie, and it all seems pretty suspect.
• During one of Malva and Young Ian’s walks, she tells him her mother was hanged for being a witch but does not offer any other details!! And Ian just leaves it at that! Have some follow-up questions for “My witch mom was executed,” dude! Come on!