Listen, we will get to the Revolutionary War of it all, but first, we need to talk about Fraser’s Ridge — there are shenanigans afoot!! Ominous shenanigans. Malva Christie shenanigans. The last time we saw Malva, she was pulling up for a front-row seat to Jamie and Claire partaking in a little afternoon delight, but now she’s gone full creep, baby. And I hate to say it, but this is probably just the beginning with whatever Malva’s really up to.
And what she’s up to is [checks notes] cutting fingers off the sin-eater’s rotting corpse and making freaky seaweed-based love charms. Once a fisherfolk, always a fisherfolk, I guess. The women of the Ridge are out on a hike looking for a place for Bree to build her water wheel (she’s building indoor plumbing for the Ridge!) when they come across the offering site. Malva plays it off well, tossing suspicion on Amy McCallum, who has been spending an awful lot of time with Bree’s husband, Roger. Maybe it’s a love charm for him, she wonders aloud. Malva uses Roger and Amy’s growing friendship to her advantage more than once in this episode: Later, when Roger catches her and Mr. Henderson having sex in the church, she blackmails Roger into keeping quiet about it by threatening to tell everyone that she saw him and Amy kissing and that everyone will believe her. She’s not wrong here, they’ve been spending a lot of time together, and while devious, at the very least the threat opens Roger’s eyes to how people might be perceiving his friendship with a widow, and he finally backs off. Malva’s true intentions are yet to be revealed, but she has been hanging around with a lot of different men on Fraser’s Ridge and at the end of the episode, we find her cutting off more of the sin-eater’s fingers (it never gets less weird to type any of that). So all signs point to things getting weird and terrible soon, as they are wont to do on Outlander.
Doesn’t she know we don’t have time for this shit? Jamie is over in Wilmington getting his first taste of what life is like deserting the crown to become a rebel. His first real conflict regarding his sudden change of heart is with none other than Lord John Grey. They always say the first cut is the deepest, which is true here. Just some grown-ass men tearing up over being on opposite sides of the coming war, nothing to see here, folks!!
So, how does this come to pass? Well, when the governor gets Jamie’s Indian Agent resignation letter that contains language like “my personal convictions no longer allow me” to perform the position’s duties, the guy’s like, uh, this doesn’t sound good. Jamie has a lot of influence in the area and a militia under his command, and if he turns rebel, well, it’ll be a big loss. So he calls in Lord John Grey to get the scoop, and while in the moment face-to-face John covers for Jamie, saying that he is a man of honor who would never break an oath to the crown, he’s actually pretty suspect about a man he calls “one of [his] dearest” friends.
To figure out what’s going on, John attends a big event that Jamie and Claire are attending, where the famed (and real historical figure) Flora MacDonald will be giving a speech about staying true to the crown and maintaining peace and unity in these uncertain times. Flora MacDonald is famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland alive after Culloden (we get a flashback to this famous 1746 escape and boat ride at the top of the episode), and now this one-time Jacobite is working for the English, trying to get Highlanders amped up for staying the course. Although it’s not always the most fun to get a history lesson wedged in between story beats, I’m glad Outlander took the time to explain why former Jacobites, who were once so against the English monarchy, are now very much for it in the colonies. At first, it sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But, as Jamie and Claire discuss, so many of the Highlanders who survived Culloden saw firsthand what being on the losing side of a rebellion is like and have fought too hard to rebuild their lives to go up against the crown again. Everyone is exhausted, mostly.
That includes Aunt Jocasta, who, it turns out, is funding this Flora MacDonald event. When Jamie discovers this, after he and John have to stop the Sons of Liberty from tarring and feathering a local printer for printing Jocasta’s pamphlets, he knows so much of it is tied to her grief over losing Murtagh. Instead of backing the rebellion he lost his life for, she blames it for his death. She is funding the loyalists and even going so far as to buy a print shop in order to do it. A print shop that she hands over to Fergus to run. This alone terrifies Jamie, who just watched a printer almost get killed for doing his job. Fergus could be hurt or killed for printing materials against the English, but he could also be hurt or killed for printing ones in favor of the English. It’s a dangerous time to be a printer, and he tells Jocasta that if anything happens to him (“my son,” he calls him over and over and I’m swooning), he’ll blame her.
But, of course, another layer to this is that he and his aunt will soon be on opposite sides of the fight. Last week, when Jamie decided he was ready to let his rebel flag fly out in the open, he probably didn’t think just how hard it would be to face some of the people closest to him who would undoubtedly become his enemy when the war starts. Sometimes being true to yourself is easier said than done. This brings us back to Lord John Grey: John thinks he knows Jamie would never betray an oath and that he’s “smarter” than that. But he also has seen Jamie’s name on a list of people mingling with the Sons of Liberty, of rebels who are not hiding their affiliation anymore. At first, Jamie lies to his friend and assures him all is well. But he can’t do that for long. Oh buddies, when John finds out when the next secret Sons of Liberty meeting in Wilmington is and Jamie tells him that he’ll be attending that meeting and it slowly dawns on John what he means, you can see his heart breaking in real-time. John Grey is easily one of the best characters on this show and David Berry is just so, so good even when only given smaller moments, but here, in this major character moment, holy hell, you will be moved. At once, John feels betrayed, fearful for Jamie’s life, and angry that Jamie could possibly think of him as the enemy. “Is that how I appear to you, Jamie? As the face of tyranny?” Both men (and your recapper) are holding back tears here. This is tearing them both up inside!! And you know that even though John hates it, he will try to delay the British soldiers coming to arrest the men at the meeting. No matter what, he will do anything to keep Jamie safe. He is cursed that way.
John upholds his promise and gives Jamie enough time to warn the other men that the British soldiers are coming to arrest them if they remain here. They’ve questioned Jamie’s loyalties since they saw him protecting that printer, but this proves which side Jamie is on once and for all. Jamie Fraser is a rebel now, and there’s no turning back.
• When Flora arrives at the party, she notes that someone was trying to steal her emerald necklace, and although the man was arrested and the necklace returned, one emerald is still missing. Then, when Claire and Jamie are getting ready to leave Wilmington, for a fleeting moment, she thinks she hears someone whistling “Colonel Bogey March,” which doesn’t exist at this time yet, but she brushes it off. But Claire isn’t just hearing things: The song is coming from inside the jail, from the person in possession of Flora’s lost emerald. We don’t see his face, but perhaps he knows how to whistle that tune thanks to its use in The Bridge On the River Kwai … because the guy sure looks like our time traveler from the 1960s, Wendigo Donner, and now he has a gem so that he can pass back through the stones. Add this to the list of more troubling things that shall soon pass.
• This episode has some genuinely great moments, but one of the best is Claire giving weed to Jocasta to help with her eye pain and watching the ladies, joined by Flora, get high and drunk and giggle together. That’s fun.
• There’s not a lot of Claire in this episode, but during the Ladies’ Gentleman’s Club session, she has a flashback to her assault at Versailles and is so unmoored by it that she huffs some more ether that she brought along. Basically: Claire is in a really bad way and no one seems to see it yet.
• Fun fact! Cornelius Harnett from the Sons of Liberty ends up being a delegate for North Carolina at the Continental Congress and signs the Articles of Confederation. Jamie’s hanging out with the big dogs.
• Bree is building an indoor plumbing system all by herself, which is amazing and insane, but most people seem more excited that yes, in fact, she is pregnant. Hooray?
• Marsali seems so sad to be leaving the Ridge for New Bern! It will not be the same without her!
• Lizzie gets a touch of malaria, and Josiah and Kezzie are the ones left to “tend” to her. I’m exhausted just thinking about where this is headed.
• Stephen Bonnet’s balls in a jar at the inn? Sure, why not?