This review contains Outlander spoilers.
This week’s Outlander episode intensifies the oncoming storm of the Revolutionary War. Jamie realizes that this is the time to use Claire and Brianna’s future knowledge to join the growing colonial rebellion. Meanwhile, on the Ridge, there might be a domestic war brewing as Malva escalates her spying and creepy behavior to blackmail. This episode is the second directed by the first Black director for Outlander, Christiana Ebohon-Green, and it shows off her ability to helm both emotional development scenes and chaotic action.
Once again this season, an episode starts with an extended flashback to Scotland. This time it’s the story of how Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped after Culloden. A well-known Jacobite, Flora McDonald, assists his escape by passing him off as one of her traveling companions to see a sick relative abroad. At the end of this sequence, Flora accidentally drops her purse which a redcoat picks up. What treasures or damning information is she seeking to hide from a search?
Back in the current timeline, Jamie travels to Wilmington on business. The governor received his resignation from the Indian Agent position but he is concerned Jamie has the manpower to turn guns against royal troops. He asks Lord John Grey to find out Jamie’s real plans. Meanwhile, Jamie’s proving the governor partially correct as he makes contact with representatives of the Sons of Liberty. There’s a risk of them meeting up as spies are everywhere but Jamie wants to be at their next meeting.
Jamie is also in town as Aunt Jocasta is hosting a gathering with Flora MacDonald as the special guest. Jocasta is escorted around the event by her new husband and an “attendant” Mary. Claire treats Mary like an acquaintance but it’s very obvious she is enslaved. Everyone else in these scenes is focused on Flora’s visit. Since Culloden, Flora has become a staunch supporter of the British Crown and is now urging the Scots in North Carolina to not risk losing what they worked so hard to rebuild after the failed rebellion. This message is a little too late for Jamie, but Flora persuades many of the Scots in attendance. Jamie says that Jocasta has lost her fighting edge. Claire notes that Flora MacDonald in the future will be remembered on biscuit tins as the defiant Highlander and not as a Royalist.
Jocasta starts to feel dizzy and Flora is nervous about her speech so Claire offers them some hemp flower. I’m pretty sure that’s 18th Century for weed. Flora also notes that a jewel from her necklace was stolen. Their conversation in fact is more interesting than Flora’s actual speech because Flora reveals she was never really in love with Bonnie Prince Charlie. She also admits he didn’t have the leadership skills for long term success. Their discussion of royalty triggers Claire into remembering Season 2 at Versailles when she was forced to have sex with King Louis. Claire decides to take some medicine herself to bury the painful flashback. So far no one has figured out Claire isn’t coping, so this is likely a thread that will have to be picked up in a later episode this season.
Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, two separate conflicts appear to merge into one thanks to Malva. Earlier in the season, Roger promised to help the widowed Mrs. McCallum and her son Aidan build their cabin. Not only has he been working on the house, he’s also applied his lay preacher skills to help her adjust to life in a new place. In this episode, Bree tells him that the villagers are starting to talk about how much alone time Roger is spending with her. At first, he dismisses it as people being mean or uncaring and possibly Bree developing a jealous streak. Will he listen to this good advice?
Later on in the episode, Bree and the other women are walking in the woods to survey a location for a water wheel. The party stumbles upon a weird formation in the grass. Marsali points out that it’s a love spell based on the items and the positioning. Bree tells Roger what she saw in the woods and he realizes Mrs. McCallum is looking for a new husband. Roger commits to staying around to help Bree and Jemmy. Bree corrects him and says she’s pregnant again. Roger is now extra excited to tell Mrs. McCallum he can’t help her anymore.
Roger along with Alan and Tom Christie are moving the new bell to the meeting house. Roger opens the door to install the bell and he finds Malva and Mr. Henderson in a state of semi undress clearly about to have sex. Clearly Malva figured out from spying on Claire and Jamie how that’s done. She then tells Roger if he says anything about what he saw, he’ll tell everyone he was kissing Mrs. McCallum instead of fixing the chimney. YIKES. Roger ropes in Mr. Henderson not only to assist on the bell project but also to go visit Mrs. McCallum as he’s single. Honestly Roger is almost too nice handling this situation, but he realizes he can’t entirely trust Malva.
Back in Wilmington, things are really heating up now. Lord John Grey urges Jamie to stop talking to the Sons of Liberty as he will surely get arrested. Jamie ends up revealing the location of the next secret meeting as a sign that he’s not intending violence. Meanwhile, the print shop that Jocasta used to print the flyers advertising Flora’s visit is under attack. The colonists are not at all happy the flyers are pro-Royalist. Jamie realizes Jocasta offering money to Fergus to open a print shop in New Bern isn’t about Fergus healing and reliving the good ole’ days, it’s about printing more of these controversial pamphlets. He fends off the crowd armed with tar and feathers to get the printer to safety. Fans may want to watch this scene twice just to get the full scale of the complexity of the riot choreography and staging.
At the Sons of Liberty meeting later on Jamie is ostracized for helping the printer. He thought they would support freedom of speech and the rights of the common man but clearly they’re extremists. Jamie also criticizes the Sons of Liberty for attacking the printer for doing his job. As a historical note, while some printers loudly advertised their politics, others wanted as many clients as possible to make a profit from owning an expensive piece of machinery. Jamie is thrown out of the meeting but he warns the men that the British soldiers are coming to arrest everyone. They hear commotion outside signaling Jamie isn’t lying and sneak out the back. The soldiers find a quiet late night billiards session and they go back to their barracks disappointed.
The episode ends on a bittersweet note for the Ridge residents and a mysterious one in Wilmington. Marsali is starting to pack up to join Fergus. She’s going to miss Bree and likely the arrival of her new baby. A mysterious figure in a jail cell is holding Flora’s missing emerald. Who is that man? Will Jamie find a way to support the colonists while avoiding becoming directly involved in violence? Will Malva decide to blackmail Roger anyway. Hopefully, next week’s Outlander episode will answer some of these questions.