Claire kisses Castle Leoch goodbye (for now) and must decide how much of the future she'll let seep into the past.

Credit: Ed Miller
S1 E5

There comes a moment in every young time-traveler’s journey when she must ask herself the question: “Will I use the knowledge I have of the future to affect past events?” And that moment for Claire Beauchamp is now. Sure, she’s been using her 20th-century skills to remedy 18th-century ails, but one could argue that the impact of those ministrations is minimal. (Of course, one could also logically argue the opposite, but I’m woefully unprepared to write a 10,000-word treatise on chaos theory at the moment.) So when Claire learns of the clan’s political scheming, she has to decide whether or not to reveal that they are, in fact, doomed.

“Rent” kicks off the on-the-road portion of Outlander, setting Dougal, a dozen or so clansmen (Jamie included), and Claire on a journey through the Highlands to collect taxes on behalf of the Laird. Yet their encampment might as well have a No Girls Allowed sign posted out front for as welcoming as the men are to Claire.

“I wasn’t offended by the lewdness of their jokes or squeamish over the fact that my dinner looked like a shriveled Easter rabbit. Nor was I too dainty to sleep on a pillow made of stone. What troubled me was that they were clearly using Gaelic to exclude me,” Claire muses in voice-over.

Dear Jamie takes pity on her, offering her a lump of bread and words of encouragement: “Don’t worry what they’re saying, lass.” But Claire finds real comfort in another source: the lawyer Ned Gowan, who with his ponytail and spectacles could be Benjamin Franklin‘s long-lost Scottish cousin. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, Ned gave up his comfy practice to seek adventure, finding employ under Colum’s father, Jacob MacKenzie. He’s traveling with the group to mind the ledger. (No pigs, please!)

As they make their collections in the first town, Claire becomes restless and wanders off, meeting a village woman keen to put the Sassenach’s idle hands to work. Claire takes a place at a table with a group of women to sing and rhythmically work the wool, tenderizing it, as it were, with “hot piss.” (Do you think that’s how J.Crew made my favorite merino sweater?) During a break, they get to talking about Claire’s journey, and she casually inquires as to the distance to the standing stones of Craigh na Dun (where the fairies live according to local lore). “Three days as the crow flies,” answers one of the women. So, like, kind of far. As Claire squats with a bucket to “donate” for the next round of wool working, Angus barges in and violently pulls her out and back to the clansmen. Angry—for being manhandled and on behalf of her hostess who doesn’t have milk to feed her child because she had to turn over her goat for taxes—Claire grabs the beast in question and tries to return it. Riling up Angus—and Dougal—even more. The scene draws a crowd, including an Englishman who asks after Claire’s well-being. She says she’s fine, but as he retreats to a nearby barn, we see him put his red coat back on. (Was he working undercover? Or just offering some help at the farm? This point was a little unclear.)

NEXT: Penny for your thoughts

That night, with tempers simmering, Dougal gives a fervent speech to the villagers, and as his climax, rips open the back of Jamie’s shirt, exposing the gnarly scars. Because the speech is in Gaelic, Claire (and by extension, the viewers) aren’t privy to its specifics. But when Ned starts accepting coins, Claire assumes Dougal is double-dipping. She confronts Ned with her theory: Two bags of money, two books, one big scam. And he doesn’t dispute her claims.

They carry on their canvassing for several weeks. At one stop, Dougal shows a Redcoat-ransacked land owner mercy (once again revealing he has something of a kind soul), not only forgiving his debt but giving him a bag of grain to feed his family. Claire thinks it’s all lip service.

“I know what you’re doing,” she tells him. “The more mercy you show today, the more you collect for yourself tonight.”

“What is it you’re accusing me of?” he asks.

“Penny for the Laird, pound for your pocket,” she replies.

But during that evening’s usual monologue, Claire picks out a name that she recognizes: Stewart. And with the help of a Frank Flashback, it all becomes clear: Dougal is raising funds for a Jacobite army, to install Bonnie Prince Charlie (a.k.a. Charles Edward Stuart) as king. Of course, there aims are all for naught, as Claire knows.

Tired of being used as Dougal’s object lesson, Jamie later confronts him only to have his Gathering promise thrown back in his face. Out of frustration, he starts pounding into a tree as if he plans to single-handedly fell it. Claire intervenes, asking why he puts up with it all. “He’s my uncle,” Jamie replies. “A man has to choose what’s worth fighting for.” It’s an answer that feels very loaded with meaning.

As the not-so-merry band hits the road again, they run into a terrifying sight: two men strung up on makeshift crosses with traitorous “T”s cut into their abdomens—done by the hands of Redcoats, for sure. Dougal wants to give the men a proper burial, and uses the day’s horror—not Jamie’s scars—as the illustration for his speech that evening.

Later, while lying in bed, Claire hears a thump outside her door and lights a candle to investigate. Surprise! It’s Jamie trying to sleep outside her door to protect her from the drunkards downstairs. (Have you noticed how often Claire falls over Jamie? Is this metaphorical or what!) When she suggests he come sleep on the floor in her room, he’s shocked.

“Sleep in your room? With you?” he gasps. “Your reputation would be ruined!” He kindly accepts a blanket, though, which is exchanged over intense glances. Can you feel it? Oh, the sweet buildup.

NEXT: Flack to the future

And here it is: The moment Claire decides to let a bit more of the future seep into the past while chatting with her new confidante Ned.

“What if I told you the odds were stacked against you?” she asks. “You’re raising money for a war you can’t win.”

“You talk as though the future is already decided,” he replies.

“You are going to lose… it’s a fact Ned,” she says. “You have to believe me.”

But there’s no deterring Ned. And for her part, Claire needs to be careful dropping all that knowledge, lest someone think she’s a witch…

Then, possibly the most oddly heart-warming moment of the series thus far: Throughout Ned and Claire’s discussion a group of men at the next table had been joking loudly in Gaelic. And Angus has had just about enough. He leads the MacKenzies into a brawl with the unsuspecting men. When Claire tends to their mangled hands and faces, she learns the truth: They were fighting to protect her honor after the men called her a whore.

“You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you but god help any other man who does,” Murtagh says. (Awwwww!)

It seems as though, maybe, just maybe the No Girls Allowed sign has been retired for the time being. As the party mount their horses, one of the men entertains the group with his tale of two women fighting over him in bed, Claire offers up the perfect tart reply: “I believe your left hand gets jealous of your right. That’s about all I believe.” Pause. And then the men break out in hearty laughs. She’s still a Sassenach, but now she’s their Sassenach.

The merry mood soon sours though, when—as Claire is washing at the river—Dougal confronts her and once again asks if she’s a spy. He’s interrupted by none other than the Redcoat from before—and he’s brought back up.

“Once again, I ask you, is everything all right?” the Redcoat says to Claire. “Tell me, madam, are you here by your own choice.”

And… fade to black. Guys! Our first real Outlander cliffhanger! If you haven’t read the book, that is. If you have, you know the awesomeness this turn of events is setting us up for. Until next week, slàinte mhath!

Episode Recaps

Outlander Season 4 2018

Diana Gabaldon's genre-bending time-travel novels come to life in the Starz series.

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • TV-MA
  • Ronald D. Moore
  • Starz
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