Outlander recap: A tale told by an idiot
It’s the second to last Outlander episode this season (say it ain’t so!) and boy is it a doozy. Roger gets into some serious spiritual conflict after finally making camp in a Mohawk village, while Bree tries to get down to the heart of the matter (that would be — forgiveness, forgiveness, even if, even if [Roger] doesn’t love her anymore).
We pick up precisely where we left off with Roger receiving a grade A beatdown from the Mohawk villagers as walks through a gauntlet. He is going to remain a captive, not one of them, and they pull at his beard and give him a pet name in their language, which he later learns means “Dog Face.” Richard Rankin, you are not a dog face, I promise. Far from it.
Back in Wilmington, Fergus tells his fellow regulators that Murtagh was arrested alongside Bonnet. They immediately fear the governor won’t grant Murtagh a fair trial and he’ll be hung. They resolve to get him back somehow.
At River Run, Lord John tells Bree of Bonnet’s capture for charges of smuggling, piracy, and murder. The news takes her off-guard, but she wants to know if rape can be added to his charges. Lord John says it will only bring shame to her, and that in the end, Bonnet will pay for all of his crimes. He’s condemned and will hang next week. Bree tells Lord John she wants to see him, but John refuses, insisting she’s in no condition to travel – not to mention, witnessing an execution isn’t good for the baby. But she doesn’t want to watch Bonnet die – she wants to talk to him.
This is all because of the letter John brought her from Jamie. He advised Bree not to seek revenge, but, for the sake of her soul, to find the grace to forgive. Bonnet carries the seeds of his own destruction, but he cannot die by her hand. She has to see Bonnet so she can try to forgive him and free herself of the trauma he inflicted on her. Always morally upright, Lord John has no choice but to acquiesce to this request, particularly when he can feel the baby kicking in Brianna’s womb.
Roger has been put to work by the Mohawk, though he’s still tying his string to keep track of the days. His arm is in pain and in a sling, and a young Mohawk woman with a baby speaks to him in French and gives him herbs to chew. He wants help escaping, but she insists he needs to heal first. The Mohawk man who speaks English, Kaherton, warns her to stay away from Roger because he was sold by his own people and therefore can’t be a good man (which, honestly, is a fair point).
Lord John and Bree make it to Wilmington for her forgiveness mission. She’s struggling with her size and missing her mother, which it turns out — so is Lord John. She hopes her parents return before the baby is born, and John assures her he knows they’ll do everything in their power to return Roger to her. “You are impossible not to like,” she tells John. And we couldn’t agree more.
Roger accidentally offends Kaherton when he points and speaks over him, which is not Mohawk custom. He pushes Roger to the ground, and at the pleading of the young woman with the baby, drags Roger away to what shall henceforth be known as the punishment hut. He questions Roger on how he became an outcast, and Roger admits it was a mistake that arose out of his loyalties to a woman.
Roger is shoved into the punishment hut right on top of his bad arm. He chews on the herbs for the pain and realizes there’s another man in there too. The man introduces himself in French as Father Alexandre Ferigault. The priest tells him he is in a village called Shadow Lake in the province of New York, which brings Roger to tears.
Fergus has a bunch of thimbles and bowls out on the table, plotting to break Murtagh out of jail. Marsali realizes what he’s up to, and much to Fergus’ surprise, is extremely supportive of the plan. They ask themselves WWCAJD – what would Claire and Jamie do? They decide to free Murtagh with the help of the regulators and use the trouble as their cue to take Jamie’s offer to leave Wilmington and make a home on Fraser’s Ridge. They share a tender moment, making them the best couple of this episode, where they basically pledge to face down the devil himself together.
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Back in the punishment hut, the priest tells Roger his story. He came to the Mohawk village to spread the word of God and convert members of the tribe. He was struck down by fever after a year in the village and promptly fell in love with the woman who nursed him back to health. He broke his vow of chastity and even fathered a child — the child Roger met in the young woman’s arms before being sent to this hut. The Mohawk welcomed their union and the child, but they wanted the priest to baptize the baby. Because he broke his vows, he feels unable to perform the sacrament and refused to do so, which is why he is restricted to the punishment hut.
He has prayed for his love for the woman to end and gives a touching speech about praying to stop seeing her face in his dreams and feeling the touch of her hand. This understandably hits Roger right in the feels. The Mohawk come to take the priest away and make him strip down naked — and when they’re gone, Roger immediately starts working on an escape route, digging a hole in the side of the hut with a bowl.
Later that night, after plenty of screaming, the priest is returned to the punishment hut. He is still naked and they have cut off his ear. Roger tries to clean the man’s wound and says a prayer for him. Once again, they asked the priest to baptize his child and when he refused, they took his ear off. They have given him until the morning to change his mind or they will burn him at the stake.
Roger tries to convince him to save his own hide, explaining that the tribe doesn’t understand the ways of the Church fully and he should just pour some water on the baby’s head and say the Lord’s Prayer and call it a day. The priest insists he cannot and this fate is his punishment for his sins. Roger is incredulous that this man would consider falling in love a sin. “You’re being an idiot,” he tells him. “You know how I can see this? I’ve been an idiot myself…I loved this woman just like all those great love stories written by all those great idiots.” Wow, cynical much Roger?
Roger recounts his whole sad tale of pursuing Bree, marrying her, fighting with her, being beaten nearly to death, being sold to the Mohawk, escaping and finding a way to get home, but hesitating until he was captured again. “I hesitated like an idiot because after all that I still loved her,” he explains. This entire speech is a heart-in-your-throat, tearjerker from Richard Rankin — the depth of his love for Brianna, his disgust at his inability to choose self-preservation over love, and his despair are all so palpable. Rankin has always turned heads (and captured hearts) as Roger, but this is his finest piece of acting yet.
He encourages the priest to look out for number one and turn his back on love. If you don’t save yourself, no one will. He reveals he’s been digging a hole to escape and asks the priest to go with him. He even says they can take the woman and the child with him if that’s the new life he chooses. The words seem to get through to the man because he grabs the water spoon and starts helping Roger dig.
They dig through the entire night but need at least another hour’s work that they don’t have. The priest decides to stay and face his fate — he has to follow his conscience. The Mohawk come and ask him his decision — he refuses to baptize the child and they take him away. Roger immediately returns to digging his hole.
In Wilmington, Fergus is pouring a ring of gunpowder around the prison just as Bree and John arrive. Governor Tryon has arranged for them to visit Bonnet. Bree is nervous but steadfast and they bring her in as she insists she wants to visit Bonnet alone. He has been chained to the wall and can’t hurt her — but John waits just outside the cell for her.
She walks into Bonnet’s prison cell and stares him down. He recognizes her face and some other things — even on the brink of death, this man is a pig (a charming pig, but a pig all the same) — but not her name. He stands and gets as close to her as he can, forcing her to lean against the bars. She tells him her name and that her parents are Claire and Jamie Fraser, the couple who saved his life and he robbed. He remembers, but he taunts her, saying he sold her father’s jewels for a ship. And he gave her the ring back she was after.
While this goes on, Fergus and the other regulators hold the prison guards at gunpoint, demanding to visit Murtagh. Bree tells Bonnet she came to forgive him and reveals her pregnant belly to him. He accuses her of lying, but she insists she’s not and says that she has told him in the hopes that it might make dying easier for him, knowing something of him is left behind on this earth. But make no mistake – he will be forgotten – their child will never know his name or that he existed. Bonnet turns surprisingly paternal and pulls the last gemstone he stole out of the back of his mouth — he gives it to Bree for the baby’s “maintenance.” Side note: why does everyone assume the baby is a boy, calling it a “he” the whole episode? Bree hasn’t had an ultrasound…
The regulators and Fergus wreak havoc in the prison and Lord John grabs one of them to try to stop their prison break. Fergus recognizes him and tells him they’ve only come to free Murtagh, not to harm anyone. Fergus breaks Murtagh out and Bree even assists, while Lord John allows them to continue with their lot. They are all rushed out and the keys are left on the ground within Bonnet’s reach.
Murtagh is angry Bree was permitted to visit Bonnet, and he wants to return her safely to River Run. John says he will do it because if Murtagh does, both he and Bree will be sent to the gallows. Murtagh sees reason and leaves her in John’s hands.
John realizes they’re going to blow up the jail, and Bree even insists they not leave one of the unconscious guards to die. Though she’s fine with Bonnet staying chained to the wall. As they rush out, Bonnet reaches for the keys with the toe of his boot. Marsali is waiting in a wagon, which Murtagh and Fergus hide in, and they ride off.
The prison explodes and John and Bree walk off unscathed, much to the relief of some redcoats they encounter. John says the regulators wanted to release their leader Murtagh, but he doesn’t say anything more about what he knows of their plot — putting up a false front to protect Murtagh and Fergus.
Back in the Mohawk village, Roger has managed to crawl out of his hole and escape. He can hear the priest’s screams and he starts to cry but forces himself to start running through the forest. He tries to talk himself out of his more noble instincts as he continues to hear the screams, insisting there’s nothing he can do and the man chose his fate. “For once in your stupid, idiotic life, be smart,” he tells himself. But with a gasping “f—king hell,” Roger breaks down and turns around. His compassionate nature comes through, for better or worse.
He runs into the village in slow motion, accompanied by the iconic Adagio for Strings used to haunting effect in countless film and television projects. The entire village, including the young woman and her baby, watch as the priest screams in agony and is burned alive. Roger can’t take the man’s pain any longer and he runs out and throws a barrel of whiskey into the flames, causing an explosion which hastens the man’s death. Before anyone knows what’s happening, the young Mohawk woman kisses her baby, sets it on the ground, and leaps into the flames to join her lover in one final flaming embrace. Everyone, including Roger, looks on in horror. Kaherton picks up the baby and orders Roger back to the “idiot hut.”
Outlander never skimps on emotional moments, but this sequence is one of their most affecting and tragic they’ve ever done (certainly the most powerful moment of the season). Every piece of it, from the camera work to the acting, to the deeply emotional, haunting score is perfectly attuned to capture the solemn horror of what unfolds. If you’re not crying by the end of this sequence, I don’t even know. It’s nearly unbearable to watch the tragic love story unfold, to witness Roger’s agony, to see what love and pride and faith have wrought. But at the end of the day, it’s what drives the soul of the Outlander story – what propels Roger, Bree, Claire, Jamie, and all the rest – love, in all its attendant glory, beauty, folly, and idiocy.