If you thought we were going to get some type of joyful or lighthearted re-entry into the world of Outlander (season five kicked off with a wedding, remember?) after almost two years wandering in the desert that is droughtlander, oh wow, you are dead, dead wrong. We left Fraser’s Ridge in the bleakest of circumstances — I don’t think I really have to remind you about Claire’s violent attack and kidnapping at the hands of the Browns — and when we return to it in 1773 things … aren’t great. Yeah, sure, the Ridge is running like a well-oiled machine at this point, but there is tension, and there are threats, and there are lots of knowing glances that none of this is good. Not like this is anything new in the Ballad of Claire and Jamie Fraser — these two have been through the worst of it all and somehow found a way to forge ahead. But this time, things feel different and I think it’s because the normally resilient Claire and Jamie both seem defeated for the first time. I mean, Claire’s voiceover starts with a line about how “memory is the devil” and ends with her telling us that we create our own ghosts and “we haunt ourselves.” That’s some dark shit — and I haven’t even gotten to the part where Claire is huffing her homemade ether to knock herself out!!
We’re only one episode in, and things are increasingly suffocating. Part of that is, most definitely, thanks to the fact that the Revolutionary War hangs over the heads of all those in the know, but part of it is also the much more tangible threats encroaching Fraser’s Ridge.
There are so many bad dudes hanging around Jamie’s land right now! Jamie, bless his heart, is way too nice to just be like, get off my lawn, but he definitely should be like that. And yes, I understand how wild it is to call someone who has dabbled in murder “too nice,” but in this instance, he is, over and over — and he’s going to pay the price for it eventually. All of this leads us to Tom Christie. Christie, along with his son Allan, daughter Malva, and a group of other fisherman folk he’s gathered along the way, are the newest settlers on the Ridge. But Tom Christie isn’t a stranger to Jamie. In fact, we get an entire twenty-minute prologue set at Ardsmuir Prison in 1753 that shows us their embattled history. The whole thing could be half as long — this super-sized episode is supposed to be a treat, I guess, but it just feels bloated; do we need to see Jamie flogged some more? This man! However, we get some valuable info to set up this Jamie/Christie conflict that is sure to be a throughline for the season. Mainly, it’s that Tom Christie, also a prisoner at Ardsmuir after Culloden, is a real dick. He hates Catholics while being a fervent Protestant, he buddies up to the Governor of the prison by becoming a freemason, and he’s a guy who preaches to worship God above all else but is always looking out for himself first. He then gets super pissed when Jamie, someone who just wants to serve his time and be left alone, gets pulled into the middle as factions amongst the prisoners begin to fight, so Jamie decides to become a freemason to keep the peace. It’s Jamie who tells his fellow prisoners that the prison is to be treated as a freemason lodge where politics and religion aren’t allowed to be discussed — and it works. Of course it works! Jamie is a born leader and the new favorite of the Governor. That really grinds Christie’s gears.
When Tom Christie arrives on Fraser’s Ridge after running out of options and seeing the sheet Jamie put out inviting all Ardsmuir prisoners to settle on the land, you can tell this dude is still holding that grudge. He’s got a face you really want to punch, you know? Unfortunately, Roger does not know. Nor does he know the bad blood between this guy and his father-in-law. So when Tom Christie comes knocking at the door and Roger and Bree are the only ones home, Roger is happy to extend a warm welcome to this Ardsmuir Prison man. Oh, friends, I feel like I could write 1,000 words on Jamie’s facial reaction when he’s confronted with not only Tom Christie sitting in his kitchen but the news from Roger that Christie will be permanently settling on the land. Those bug eyes say what Jamie cannot, which is a resounding is this guy fucking kidding me right now? It’s pretty much a physical representation of this entire father/son-in-law relationship. Roger still cannot get a win when it comes to Jamie, but he does have a super thick, hot beard now, and that isn’t nothing. It is very much something. To me, personally. Not to Jamie, who probably does not care for it.
Anyway, Jamie feels like he has to let this slide — he invited all his Ardsmuir buddies to his land, he doesn’t feel like he can exclude just one. It’s a dang shame because Tom Christie is trouble from the start. He looks like he’s going to choke every time he has to acknowledge that this is Jamie’s land, the first thing he wants to do is build a church, and Jamie knows Christie’s brand of “preaching” is only going to rile people up, he tries to get in little jabs about Jamie’s scars (honestly, how dare he) and time in prison, implying he’s not a good man, Christie’s daughter is a creepshow, and his son Allan is the walking embodiment of daddy issues. Weird, weird stuff is going on within the Christie family, and it is only a matter of time before it boils over onto the Ridge.
And when I say “only a matter of time,” I mean immediately because wouldn’t you know it, just as the Frasers are hosting a hog feast at the Big House for everyone, who should ride on up to ruin the party but those fucking clowns from Brown Town, there to arrest Allan for stealing a gun powder horn, which is a thing. That’s right, on top of Jamie having to deal with Tom Christie, he also has Richard Brown on his back. Richard Brown, remember, and all the Browns from Brownsville, started a “Safety Committee” for the area, which basically means they are taking the law into their own hands, and that basically means they are doing whatever they please.
Richard Brown wants to arrest Allan immediately. Tom Christie agrees his trash son should be punished, but he asks if instead of taking him away, they can just take care of it there. He also has a super disconcerting sidebar with Allan about how he could end up like his mother, who is, apparently, “burning in the fires of hell.” So that’s a cute lil’ father/son moment.
You know, Richard Brown ALMOST agrees to let Fraser’s Ridge handle this, probably because he looks at Tom Christie and assholes recognize assholes, you know? As if Richard Brown will just walk away and let Jamie think he has any type of authority here. Poor Jamie, he’s trying his best to be like, “this is my land!” and “I make the rules!” and it’s very cute, but no one cares. Instead, Brown makes it a thing. He knows Major MacDonald from the King’s Army is in attendance and so goes on about how if Jamie is so lax on someone stealing gun powder, maybe it’s because he’s harboring rebels and is stocking up to rise up against the King. Jamie’s left in a tough spot: He wants to slowly cut all ties with the Crown ahead of the Revolutionary War, but he knows he has to look loyal to England for as long as he can, lest he be arrested. Once again, Jamie is walking a dangerous line. In this instance, it means he has to give Allan ten lashes right there in front of everyone. And you know that’s really got to mess with his head for so many reasons.
And so, as hard as Jamie might try to exert his power over the people on his land, Tom Christie, Richard Brown, and Major MacDonald are going to make that very difficult.
Richard Brown showing up causes some other issues of note we should talk about. Claire can’t even stand to look at him when he shows up and quickly goes into the house. His presence there stirs up all sorts of emotions and memories she’s been trying to keep at bay. She may tell Jamie — who still can’t bring himself to let Claire go anywhere without him by her side — and Bree that she’s fine, but no one believes her. She’s in a bad way. When she can’t stop the nightmares, she decides to head down into her surgery and take a few hits of her fresh batch of ether — and we were just celebrating how great it was that she now has anesthesia, too!! — so she doesn’t have to feel anything and can just sleep. So, that’s worrisome, right?
As it goes on Outlander, Claire isn’t the only person we need to be concerned about at the moment: Something’s up with Marsali and Fergus. Marsali, who is extremely pregnant with their fourth child, is showing up with bruises on her wrists and trying to cover for Fergus, who everyone can see is drunk almost all of the time now. We don’t have all of the info yet, but he’s been going through something since the attack on Fraser’s Ridge, and if the “sorry for being such a disappointment” he spits at his wife is any indication, some deep wounds he’s been carrying around are bubbling up. Just add him to the long list of people on Fraser’s Ridge who we need to be concerned about.