Credit: Aimee Spinks/Starz
Outlander Season 4 2018

Welcome to season 5, episode 2 of Outlander, special blood and guts edition!

Somehow Sassenachs, in spite of the blatant gore in this episode, this remains one of the dullest episodes to ever air — my fears going into this season stemmed from my firm belief that The Fiery Cross is the worst of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels because it’s so darn boring. So far, my worries have not been allayed.

We open with a scene ripped from the pages of American history — Murtagh leading the regulators in a tarring and feathering of local politicians and judges. Raise your hand if somehow you’d always envisioned tarring and feathering as involving a lot less boiling, blistering skin. Chalk it up to naïveté and a sensitive mind, but wow, this scene has my Anglophilia going full Pro-Redcoats. Sorry, not sorry.

Back on the Ridge, it’s far from peaceful and quiet. One of the settlers brings her husband to Claire’s surgery, in a panic over his difficulty breathing. As Claire tries to suss out what she’s done to treat him, she discovers the wife fed the husband mercury for his swollen stomach. In essence, she’s hastened his death — and sure enough, he quickly expires on the operating table in full view of his wife and a bunch of the neighbors.

Jamie is finally making a half-hearted attempt at honoring Tryon’s wishes, hitting the road with Lieutenant Knox, who definitely has a man-crush on Jamie — and even more importantly, Jamie’s land. Knox dreams of capturing Murtagh to win his own land grant. The two argue about honor and manners, and let’s move on before I fall asleep.

Perturbed by the perils of 18th-century medicine, Claire embarks on an autopsy of her dead neighbor. Bree walks in to have the completely rational response of wanting to vomit at the sight of an open chest cavity. She also fears anyone finding out and thinking Claire is a witch. But Claire had to know his cause of death — the man had appendicitis, proving that if they’d come to her straight away he wouldn’t have died. And worse, his wife accelerated his death. Then, Claire ominously and thoughtfully watches Marsali butcher a goat (WHY WAS THIS NECESSARY GUYS?!).

Jamie and Knox go to the site of the regulator riot that opened the episode, and there they encounter Mr. Fanning, one of Tryon’s cronies that Jamie knows from last season. He introduces them to the victims of the riot, showcasing their wounds still raw with tar and feathers. Jamie is stunned, clearly shaken by the violence Murtagh and his men will perpetrate.

Three men have been arrested, and he wants to try speaking with them highlander to highlander (code for playing both sides and trying to protect Murtagh any way he can). Interrogating the captured men, regulators who previously refused Jamie’s offer of a settlement on Fraser’s Ridge, he tries to give them easy ways to get out of their situation. But they are defiant, proclaiming, “I am Spartacus Murtagh Fitzgibbons.” One of them spits in Knox’s face and provoked, Knox runs him through with a sword, killing him instantly. Jamie is horrified they’ve now executed a man without a trial, throwing Knox’s earlier words about honor back in his face.

Jamie and Knox have a heart-to-heart about Knox’s fatal loss of control, but Knox eventually talks himself into believing he was in the right, giving the man a soldier’s death instead of the hanging reserved for traitors the other men are likely to get. Naturally, Jamie uses this as an excuse later that night to go and jailbreak the remaining regulators. He tries to explain what an impossible position he’s in and that he’s trying to save as many lives as he can. But they’re still disgusted with his choices. And then they drop the bomb — that Murtagh was there the night of the riot. Not exactly staying hard to find like Jamie asked, is he?

Back on the Ridge, Roger is struggling to learn to shoot, feeling emasculated and inadequate in his new title as a militia captain. He reminisces about Tufty Fluffytail, a cartoon squirrel who teaches Scottish children about road safety. Bree makes their shooting lessons a little sexy, getting cozy with Roger and his gun (not a euphemism) in her capable hands. But they’re soon arguing again as she realizes he wants to go back to their time. She doesn’t — their whole family is here in the past. Guys, should you not have discussed all this BEFORE the wedding?

The purpose of Marsali’s gratuitous goat butchering suddenly becomes clear when we learn Claire and the settlers have buried an empty coffin. The dead neighbor is still in Claire’s makeshift doctor’s office. Why? Because she believes Marsali would make a good apprentice, and Claire wants to use the body to teach her anatomy and surgical practices. Marsali is convinced after Claire promises they’ll give the man a proper burial when they’re done with her lessons.

But Claire still has to contend with the perils of old wives’ tales and historical medicine. Sitting with other women on the Ridge, she’s horrified to learn one of them has given her son antimony, a potentially lethal poison, for an external burn on his hand. She decides to make a list of tips for preventative healthcare, writing under a pseudonym, one Dr. Rawlings (the previous owner of her medical kit). It does make you wonder – what crazy things are we doing now under the guise of modern medical advice that people will find insane and barbaric in 100 years’ time?

In Hillsborough, Knox and Fanning bemoan the jailbreak with Jamie pretending to know nothing. The lesson here — war is coming and Jamie doesn’t have enough men. Knox wants him to gather a true militia and be prepared for battle. Eek.

It’s time for a Claire and Roger heart-to-heart. She’s giving him an eye exam, but he comes to the disappointing conclusion that he doesn’t have a serious vision problem so much as he’s just a terrible shot. But he surmises it’s probably psychological. Having been raised by a minister, he’s reluctant to shoot anyone or anything. But then they get to the heart of the matter — Roger and Bree’s argument about whether they should stay in the past. Surprisingly, Claire sides with Roger and wants them to leave. She believes it’s safer for all of them in the future — Jemmy could die of a simple infection because they lack antibiotics. But they agree no decision can be made until they know whether Jem can travel through the stones.

The Regulators from Hillsborough, Brian Cranagh and Lee Weathers, return to the woods and Murtagh, who welcomes them back with open arms. Murtagh defends Jamie to them, explaining his godson is walking between two fires trying to stay alive and do right by everyone. Though he does assure them neither he nor Jamie has any say over the other.

It seems like Claire has gone mad baking dozens of loaves of bread — and Bree feels that estimation is correct when Claire explains she’s going to try to make penicillin. Bree accuses her of playing God, throwing off the cosmic balance by trying to invent something 157 years too early. But Claire retorts that Bree played God by traveling to the past to save her and Jamie from fire — so through it all, somehow space and time seem to right themselves just fine.

Roger seems to be making peace with their current situation, singing “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” to Jemmy. Apparently, Bree is less concerned that Three Dog Night songs will disrupt the fabric of spacetime. They bond over his paternal tendencies, but when he goes in their cabin, he’s clearly disturbed to find stacks of drawings of Stephen Bonnet’s face in Bree’s notebook.

Speaking of Bonnet, he’s back in Wilmington, watching (and betting on) a brawl between two women (sigh, really Outlander, this was necessary? Like WTF?). Bonnet is doing well for himself, transferring wealthy men’s goods away from the prying eyes of those taxing them. So well, in fact, that his current employer introduces him to Gerald Forbes (he who once wanted to marry Bree) as a potential new customer.

But just in case you forgot who Bonnet really was deep down, the episode ends with a fellow gambler accusing Bonnet of cheating and challenging him to a duel. It’s too much to hope that they’ll duel at dawn (and maybe rap a little first) — instead, they immediately parry. Of course, Bonnet isn’t satisfied with just beating the man, slicing him in the back of the leg. Once he’s down, he kicks him further by blinding him, going full Oedipal rage and dragging a knife across his eyes. Is this your way of telling us Bonnet has mommy issues, writers?

His colleagues are horrified, wondering why Bonnet didn’t just kill the man outright. He ominously replies, “It would set a bad example. I’m a father now.” Which can only be VERY, VERY bad news for the whole Fraser clan.

What do you think Sassenachs? Was this episode a snooze? Was it gratuitously bloody? Sound off in the comments below. For more Outlander listen to Outlander…On Demand! We’ll continue to do our weekly recap show for Sirius XM. And you don’t have to tune in live to catch it! Outlander…On Demand! can be found on the website or the app every Monday morning. Just search the name of the show.

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Outlander Season 4 2018

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

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