Firstly, I want to say I’m very happy the season didn’t end on a cliffhanger. Personally I find cliffhangers a little insulting… as if I need that as a reason to come back next season!
We get a quick, but very disquieting, shot by shot recap of Claire’s kidnapping, accompanied with drum beats. Then it’s a surprise to see the episode open with a record player with Claire’s manicured hand putting on music… taking us into another dimension. The song is “Never My Love” a 1967 song by The Association (and now I have it forever stuck in my head, and I dont mind!). We quickly realise we’re in Claire’s dissociative state of mind as the scene changes to one where Claire is tied up and gagged. The song plays over and over as the soundtrack to Claire’s dreamlike state.
We see a literal bodice ripping scene (much talked about in the press regarding Outlander but rarely before seen). Claire is brutally beaten by Lionel Brown. He may be a cruel, nasty man, but he was quick witted enough to understand Claire was the one writing as “Dr Rawlings”… that a woman could be in control of her circumstances is anathema to him. He likes his women downtrodden and compliant.
Flick back to Claire looking serene, dressed in a sleek red dress (the colour a callback to Paris)… and silent as you would be in your own dream state looking at an abstract painting of what appears to be the big house. Is it on fire? Maybe. There seems to be a looming presence over it.
Back in the vision of the 20th century the Jamie wraps a blanket around Claire saying “You’re shaking so hard it’s making my teeth rattle”. We have both seen and heard this play out before, in Season 1, episode 1, reflecting on when Jamie fell in love with Claire.
All too soon we’re in an 18th century flashback to Claire being transported in a wagon. A man named Tebbe offers her food and asks that she remembers he was good to her. Claire asks how much longer till they get to Brownsville… it’s two days after they cross the creek. We see an aerial view of forest and a fast running river. On the bank Claire convinces Tebbe she has power over the water horses and she can save him if he helps her. She promises all the others will die. Claire’s plan is foiled by Arvin Hodgepile who drags her away from Tebbe. Claire exclaims “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”. To prevent Claire from speaking further she is gagged by Brown.
The brigands make camp. After Claire defiantly stares at Lionel Brown he hits her on the face, her nose bleeds. She is tied to a tree, rope around her neck, gagged and helpless. The men by the fire laugh and joke and we hear ominous words… her legs aren’t bound.
Back in Claire’s fantasy state the joyful conversation around the table is about a name for Marsali and Fergus’s unborn baby. Ian thinks “Ian” is a good choice! Marsali prefers Ringo! Jocasta suggests her name as well. It’s fun to hear them chatting and we desperately need some fun, just like Claire.
In Claire’s survival fantasy the family is preparing for what looks like Thanksgiving. Murtagh is alive and happily with Jocasta who has her sight! Fergus has his hand. They are whole! Marsali looks vibrant in yellow, Ian looks very grown up in a military uniform, and Jamie… Jamie looks slightly at odds with the era, not totally 18 century, not totally 20th century either as he arrives home in Claire’s alternate existence, leather coat, linen shirt and black denim pants, despite a modern twist on his 18th century clothes, he still looks somewhat out of time, his hair long and rather disheveled. We know Jamie can’t time travel and think this gives us a glimpse into how out of time he would look, just as Claire looked out of place in the Scottish Highlands in Season 1.
The house is peppered with “Easter Eggs”, which are elements fans notice from the books or previous episodes, as well the dialogue which contains many callbacks.
The design of the Mid Century Modern house seems to be the one on the front cover of the magazine in the surgeon’s lounge in episode 505, so something we know is in Claire’s memory. Here is a list of the call-backs/Easter eggs which have been noticed – this is not comprehensive! Karmen Schmidt of Outlander Anatomy has done a great job in collating them all https://www.outlanderanatomy.com/fun-fact-anatomy-of-an-easter-egg-hunt/
Here are some to start you thinking!
Red dress (harking back to Paris)
Typewriter – Frank and Printshop
Cork board – the Reverend Wakefield’s office
The orange, Claire maintaining her dignity after her personal sacrifice to the King of France to get Jamie back.
Blue vase – S1
An abstract painting of the big house which to some appears to be on fire.
A tapestry on the wall (the same as the master bedroom at Lallybroch)
The car crash reference – Frank’s death/Claire’s parents
Leaking ceiling – a book reference as well as a callback to the Beardsley’s cabin and also reality leaking into the dreamscape.
The water horse reference from book 1 – Outlander
Jamie says to Claire “Dinna be afraid it’s just the two of us now”. This was from season 3, episode 6 (A. Malcolm) when Claire returns to him and they are together in the print shop.
The dissociation crumbles occasionally allowing Brown and Hodgepile into her dream state. We see Brown through the window and briefly at the dinner table.
Claire sits serenely calm until we flick to her reality in the 18th century. Tied up, battered… with Lionel Brown sneeringly making snide remarks. Just like Claire we’re not seeing enough of her dissociative state, yes, I’d like to stay in that alternate reality too.
One of the men comes to talk to Claire in the dark. He has noticed her out of time expressions. He loosens her gag, she takes deep breaths then he directly asks if the name Ringo Starr means anything to her. It does of course. Gasping for air, she replies “he’s a drummer”. Despite recognising another time traveller he is too afraid to help her, but does say the year he’s from… 1968. His name is Wendigo Donner. Claire tells him Otter Tooth, his friend Robert Springer, is dead. Claire says she will help him return home if he helps her. She advises him to leave, if he stays he will die with the others when Jamie comes. He heads off towards the fire after Brown calls out to him. While he didn’t hurt her he didn’t help her either, except for loosening the gag. His words “You don’t act afraid of men… you ought to act more afraid” ring in our ears as he puts the gag back in Claire’s mouth.
They come to Claire in the darkness. One is Brown’s inexperienced nephew, and then Brown himself. Rape in these times is a fact of life, a cruel demonstration of power rather than sexuality. Yes, the books and show contain rape scenes, and as abhorrent as any rape is it is not exaggerated, or gratuitous. They are regrettably representative of the power men held over women. They are part of the story, and can’t be glossed over nor should they be embellished. Claire’s escape is in her mind as we join her in seeing Jamie wrap his plaid around her and the family play fight… Notable for their absence are Brianna, Roger and Jemmy.
Brown invites the other men to violate Claire, but thankfully we don’t see what happens.
The doorbell rings, Claire opens the door. Two policemen have news. Brianna, Roger and Jemmy have been killed in a car accident. Even in Claire’s dream state she mourns their loss, thinking they have gone through the stones, lost to her forever.
Next scene we see Bree, Roger and Jemmy laying on the leafy ground, having gone into the stone and thrust out again, only to realise they are in the same time. Thankfully Ian was still there… it would have been a long walk back! Their attempt to go through the stones was thwarted by their own thoughts, they were thinking of home, and home proved to be the Ridge.
They set out for the return journey to the Ridge. We see the moon phases, showing the passage of time. They are almost home… deciding to rest before the final leg of the journey until Bree sees the lit cross. The lit cross is a call to arms for those loyal to the Frasers.
Instead they complete their journey home, meeting Jamie in front of the house. They both want to go with Jamie, but sensibly, Bree needs to stay home, her marksman skills may be needed to protect the Ridge. Roger says Jamie called him at the gathering… “Stand by by side son of my house”. Roger declares there is time for men of peace and a time for men of blood, and we know exactly which time this is.. Ian shaves the sides of his head. Slowly, and with great deliberation he paints his scalp and forehead red in a ritualistic manner. Jamie gathers his men and they ride away to bring Claire home, and do what must be done.
Jamie and Claire slowly dance… the song “Never My Love” wrapping around them.
The men of the Ridge arrive at the Browns camp, camera angles askew as we see from Claire point of view. They wreak havoc on the men camped in the dark, coming upon them with the force of all that is right. We see Roger kill a man. Jamie finds Claire, he is lost for words and gentle with her as he cuts her bonds and removes the gag from her mouth. He says the same words he said to Roger after he was hanged “you are alive… you are whole”. Behind his gentleness we see steely resolve. The men who have brutalised Claire will pay. Mountain man John Quincy Myers holds out a dagger to Claire offering her vengeance. Does she wish to kill the men they have gathered? Jamie speaks “She has an oath upon her… It is myself who kills for her”. Fergus and Ian chime in likewise. Jame asks her how many. Claire doesn’t know. Then Jamie utters the words “Kill them all…”
The deed is done, the men die at the hands of Jamie’s men. Jamie wraps Claire in his plaid and carries her to see the dead, so she knows they cannot hurt her again. John Quincy Meyers finds one still living. It is Brown… Roger says there are questions which must be answered, Jamie says to bring him back to the Ridge.
We see Claire and Jamie by a river, in the clear light of day, in a scene reminiscent of earlier episode. Claire asks after Marsali who she feared dead. Jamie assures her Marsali and the unborn babe are well. However a man of the Ridge, Geordie, has died. Claire asks Jamie if he saw an Indian there, he was like her, from the future. No he was not among the dead. Claire thinks her mind is playing tricks on her, she thinks she saw Roger. Jamie reassures her it’s true… “they’ve come home”.
Back home at Fraser’s Ridge we see the wagon arrive bringing Claire home. Jamie helps Claire down, Brianna and a bruised Marsali are shocked at the sight of Claire, battered, bruised and bloody. They wrap her in their loving arms. Later Brianna helps her mother clean her body and soothe the outward traces of the ordeal. Claire gingerly feels her battered face. Jamie expresses his rage as Claire asks him if he will let Lionel live. He asks her is her oath is so strong… Claire admits she is glad they are dead, but she is sorry that she is. Claire insists she is a little shaken and will not be shattered by what has happened. We know despite Claire’s assurances there are deep wounds.
Roger harbours guilt over the man he has killed and must tell Bree about it, but he can only do it the dark… Bree extinguishes the candle and he tells her.
Brown is tied to the table in the surgery with Marsali is attending to him. Brown pleads for mercy. That is a coward is obvious. He pushes for leniency, Marsali pushes back, is it not mercy he’s receiving? He pleads for his bonds to be loosened. Claire enters the room and Brown implores her for help, for his life. Claire fingers the scalpels and we see Claire in her alternate reality pick up an orange, maintaining her dignity just as she did with King Louis in France. She says she will not harm him and hurriedly leaves the surgery, only to collapse in tears of private grief on the steps in the upper hallway.
Brown continues to taunt Marsali until she has had enough, Brown has devastated her family, brutalised her Ma, killed a man of the Ridge and almost killed her. And he continues to threaten them. She decides upon action, she can no longer tolerate his mocking.“You’ve hurt me, my family, my Ma. I’ll see you burn in Hell before I let you harm another soul in this house. She fills a syringe (a replacement for the syringe destroyed by Brown at Alamance) with water hemlock and plunges it into his neck. He goes limp. Claire has sworn an oath, but she has not… Marsali is shocked by her actions collapses to the floor. Jamie enters and sees Brown’s body. Marsali speaks “He thought me no better than the dirt under his boot. A mere woman of no consequence”. Marsali is suddenly distressed, will he haunt her? Will she go to Hell? Jamie reassures her.
Next we see Jamie on a white horse, leading another horse carrying the unpleasant burden of Brown’s wrapped body. Jamie is returning Lionel Brown’s body to this brother. The peace of the countryside belying his mission. Lionel’s body lands on the floor with a dull thud. Jamie explains a band of men came upon his land, abducting and violating his wife, he followed them… killed them all. He has brought his brother home. Richard Brown is stoic, saying Lionel “reaped what he sowed” and Jamie did what he must. They acknowledge each other with a small bow of heads. For a just a moment you think Richard Brown is going to be reasonable, but as Jamie is leaving Brown says he will also do what he must when the time comes. An ominous threat.
We see a sweeping view of the forest opening up to the Ridge, we hear voice over from Jamie “I have lived through war and lost much I know what is worth the fight and what is not. Honour and courage are matters of the bone. And what a man will kill for he’ll sometimes die for too. A man’s life springs from his woman’s bones, and in her blood is his honour christened. For the sake of love alone I will walk though fire again.”
Time has passed… Roger and Brianna walk towards the big house, towards family, teasing each other by quoting poetry. They find themselves in a life they never expected, but it’s home.
Life seems to be retuning to normal the family and tenants engaged in daily chores…
Claire stand on the verandah looking over the scene, remnants of her injuries are still visible. Claire notices a post is crooked and Jamie offers to fix it, but Claire says no… let’s just enjoy this ordinary day. As a storm rolls in Claire quietly tells Jamie she loves him. He reaches out to cover her hand uttering the magnificent words “when the day shall come that we do part if my last words are not “I love you” Ye ken it’s because I didna have time”. The sound of thunder is louder, as Claire, tears in her eyes, not able to speak nods to him.
The camera shot flows up the stairs, into the hallway outside into the privacy of Jamie and Claire’s bedroom. They are in bed, naked, intertwined, her healing wounds partly visible. Jamie says “Ye’re a brave wee thing” and asks Claire how she feels… her answer is “Safe.” And that is the end of the Season 6 finale.
For me the production of this episode was genius… the dissociative state also allowed us some light and levity despite the terrible events occurring. To have unrelieved distress would have been too much, especially thinking back to Jamie in Wentworth. So many people say they can’t watch those magnificently acted episodes again it’s tragic. This episode is a Masterclass in editing and well as concept.
This was hard to write, given the rapid changes… so if it seems disjointed then it correctly reflects Claire’s state of mind.