Plus, Jamie grapples with his knowledge of the future and Claire is once again accused of being a witch.
Outlander Season 4 2018

I think we can all agree that we watch Outlander for the love stories. Diana Gabaldon knows how to write them. Showrunners know how to shoot them. Yes, romance will always be a driving force in my interest regarding this show, but a newfound truth has blossomed thanks to the latest handful of episodes. One thought continues to circulate through my mind as I watch details unfold on Frasier's Ridge.

I'm so glad I didn't (or don't, depending on one's ability to teleport through magical rocks) live in 1774. 

Take Jamie (Sam Heughan), for instance. As the newly appointed Indian Agent, his first visit with the Cherokee has the chief asking him for guns and two naked women sneaking into his teepee at night. Young Ian (John Bell) is able to explain in broken English that Jamie has no interest in any amorous activities. He's sworn an oath to Claire (Caitriona Balfe) — and later cashes in on that pent-up energy. But he's confused by the indigenous peoples' request. Knowing what he knows about the future, will he be giving weapons to them, only to have them used against him later? 

Outlander Season 6 2022
Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser
| Credit: Robert Wilson/Starz

And then there's Claire, who once again is accused of witchcraft. She's a strong female with a brain and a mouth. But, every time she turns around, someone is questioning her personality. Today, that person is Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones). As a healer, Claire not only mends one of his hands, but she has the ability (and the ether) to operate on his other one. 

Nope. A woman has no authority to operate on a man. Plus, Tom feels God has given him this infirmity for a reason. Claire is used to this treatment, so she lets bygones be bygones. Then, seeing that Tom's daughter Malva (Jessica Reynolds) is more than eager to accompany Claire wherever she goes, she invites the young girl to help with Marsali (Lauren Lyle), who should be going into labor at any moment. 

Question: Is Malva interested in Claire's medical training? Or does she secretly think Claire is a witch and she's all about the dark arts? Moreover, would she be in Gryffindor or Slytherin house?

Assuming Malva sneaked away from her father and brother, she arrives at Marsali's house ready to learn. Marsali is in the worst mood and warns Malva not to get married, let alone be touched by a man, lest she wants to end up big and pregnant. When Claire notices another bruise on Marsali's wrist, she sends Malva out to play with the three kids in Marsali's brood.

We learn that Fergus (Romann Berrux) is not getting drunk and beating Marsali. Hooray! Unfortunately, Marsali is the one getting angry at Fergus. She's mad at him for drinking and staying away for days on end. Fergus is defending himself by grabbing Marsali's wrists so she won't beat him over the head. 

Claire is concerned. What is wrong with Fergus? Why is he behaving so uncharacteristically? He loves Marsali!

Marsali knows what's wrong with Fergus. He is riddled with guilt that he wasn't there to defend Marsali and Claire when the Brown family attacked them. Claire is visibly shaken by Marsali mentioning the altercation and suggests Marsali move to the big house so Claire can keep an eye on her. Then she self medicates with ether when she hallucinates Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) in her operating room. 

The next day, Jamie returns home to find Major MacDonald (Jim Sweeney) waiting for a report. Young Ian is perturbed when Jamie doesn't request arsenal for the Cherokee. After the major leaves, Jamie explains to Ian that the rebels are going to win the war and there will be a new nation that runs without a king. They must use the knowledge of the future to make informed decisions.

P.S.: What are the odds that Bree (Sophie Skelton) or Claire make an antihistamine for Major MacDonald's cat allergy? And what are the odds that the reaction is the same as to Bree's match invention?

Another reason I'm glad I didn't live in 1774 is that awkward moment when you assume someone is dead, only to discover at their funeral that they aren't really dead. Poor Roger (Richard Rankin). Tom Christie asks him to perform Granny Wilson's service. Lo and behold, the older woman starts breathing just as the sin eater arrives.

Yes, I said "sin eater." Not only is this woman breathing, speaking, and berating her son-in-law for not remembering to place her nice broach on her chest, but a sketchy-looking man is there to eat the pitiful crust of bread balancing on her stomach. What is going on?

Claire explains that Granny Wilson (Anne Kidd) has suffered from an aortic aneurism. This is why she was cold to the touch and had an incredibly low pulse. Sadly, Granny has only a few minutes before she's all the way dead, and Roger reminds her that she's standing before God. The sin eater "absorbs her sins" and is paid a few token coins. Then she dies in peace. 

Poor Claire is blamed for Granny Wilson's resurrection. The term "witch" is thrown around again, and Claire is forbidden from entering the new church. Of course, she doesn't plan on complying with such nonsense, but that doesn't stop Jamie from reminding Tom that he is a freemason and this building Tom is calling a church is a meeting place. Anyone who wants to gather, no matter if they are Protestant or Catholic, is welcome. Jamie allows Tom to keep the steeple but insists Tom adds a bell. Is it a school? Is it a church? 

That's Jamie's point. It's a building.

But there's no time to argue that now. Marsali is in labor, and Claire wonders if the baby is in distress. There's something different about this birth, and she can't find a solution other than shoving seaweed in a place seaweed should not go. (Reason No. 338…) Claire is confident she could perform a C-section and save the baby, but she can't promise to save Marsali. 

Bree fetches Malva, who acts strange to me. Roger fetches Fergus, who is drinking at the distillery. Roger informs Fergus that his wife is in harm's way, and Fergus needs to act like the man Marsali thinks he is, or at the very least, pretend to be that man. 

Fergus transforms into the man we all know. He gathers Marsali in his arms, and her face softens. Then Fergus starts massaging her breast, and I feel the need to look away. When he starts the suckling process, I want to leave the room, as Claire does. 

Thank goodness Fergus grew up in a brothel and knows how to "open the womb" with tricks such as these. I myself want to hide behind a couch cushion when things get rowdy. Bree and Jamie follow my lead, leaving the house as Fergus and Marsali find other ways to open her womb. 

Malva is fascinated by this solution. She thought Marsali hated Fergus. By the sound of things, Marsali seems to be enjoying herself. This gives the good doctor Claire a reason to share her feelings on the act of making love and how tons of women — who aren't sinners or whores — actually like it. 

The baby finally arrives (thank you, Fergus), and we see Claire hand the baby off to his father, who speaks lovingly in soft, French tones. Then, suddenly, his facial expression changes, and the blood drains from his face. Is Fergus going to drop the baby? Something is wrong! Is the baby missing a limb? 

Claire retrieves the bundle and watches as Fergus rushes out of the house. She hands Marsali her son and announces that the baby is healthy, but he is affected by dwarfism. Marsali peeps behind the folded blankets and stares back in awe. Marsali is in love. Fergus is MIA.

The next day, the Cherokee visit Jamie, asking if he requested guns. When Jamie tells them that it was not a good idea and they should trust him, the chief leaves angrily. Ian steps in and confesses he can't agree with Jamie's decision not to give the Cherokee people the chance to defend themselves, come what may. He vows that if Jamie won't' help them, then he will. 

Later, when Ian cuddles Marsali's baby, Jamie overhears through an open window when Ian shares that he had a child once with his Mohawk wife. This spurs Jamie to write the governor, asking for guns and ammunition for the Cherokee. He now understands that Ian fights with them because they are his family. And he will fight for Ian, because he is Jamie's family. 

Speaking of family, Tom Christie is back to ask Claire if she will operate on his hand. Did he turn over a new leaf? Did he decide that a minor surgery that could change the quality of his life was worth having, even if a woman performed it? Absolutely not. When he can't hold the belt to strike his daughter for not having any milk, Tom resolves that sparing the rod and spoiling the child trumps female doctor all day long. 

What do you think Malva's smile meant as her father struggled to manage his belt? Is she embracing her mother's dark soul? Is she into witchcraft? Is she gleeful that her father is a weak man? Will she borrow some of Bree's matches and burn the place down? Or am I entirely off with that theory, and Malva wants to embrace science? 

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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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