SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Free Will,” the third episode of “Outlander” Season 5.
“Free Will” was an interesting “Outlander” episode because a big chunk of the plot took Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) away from the main storylines and diverted them into a complete horror show at the cabin of a couple named Aaron and Fanny Beardsley.
Non-book readers may wonder about this choice, but it’s something straight out of Diana Gabaldon’s novel on which the season is based, “The Fiery Cross.” It may have taken the show out of the action a bit, but it certainly helped paint a picture of how awful frontier life can be.
While Marsali (Lauren Lyle) continued her medical studies, aiding in the penicillin experiment and learning how to sew up wounds and began to learn to read, Jamie returned to form the militia that Lt. Knox (Michael Xavier) dispatched him to gather. He expressed worry about his kinsmen getting hurt or killed fighting for the English against the Regulators, so Claire, a doctor, insisted on coming with him.
While out gathering the men, Jamie caught a young boy named Keziah (Paul Gorman) robbing their campsite. He and his deaf twin brother, Josiah (also Gorman), whom Claire previously examined for tonsillitis, were indentured servants to the Beardsleys. Their family died of illness on the ship during their journey to America, so the twins were sold to the Beardsleys as toddlers. As soon as they could, they ran away — partially because Aaron beat Kezzie so badly as a young boy he lost his hearing.
When they told Jamie and Claire of the horrific situation at the Beardsleys, Jamie and Claire set off to buy their contrac, but came upon circumstances even more horrific than they could have imagined.
When Claire and Jamie arrived, they found young Fanny Beardsley there, claiming her husband was dead and living in the house with her goats. But something was obviously amiss, so Claire and Jamie poked around under the guise of trying to find Kezzie and Jo’s indentured servant papers. What they discovered was that something was rotting through the floor from the second story of the cabin: Aaron wasn’t dead. It turned out he had been abusing Fanny for years. One day, he was chasing Fanny to presumably rape her and he had a stroke. She left him lying in his own filth and fed him just enough to keep him alive, torturing him by burning the soles of his feet. It was her punishment for the way he treated her.
It also came to light that Fanny was pregnant when her water broke all over the floor. Claire helped her give birth and saw that the baby was not Aaron’s — Fanny had an affair with a runaway slave. Fanny also told Claire that she was Aaron’s fifth wife. He killed his first four wives because none of them could give him a baby. Fanny said their spirits haunt the area because he buried them in the woods.
Fanny insisted that her baby’s father was a good man and that she loved him. So the next morning, Fanny decided to return to him and left the baby there in Jamie and Claire’s care while they slept. When they awoke, Claire and Jamie found Jo and Kezzie’s indentured paperwork as well as the baby.
Meanwhile, Aaron was still sitting there, barely able to communicate after his stroke and all the torture he endured. So after confirmed it was what Aaron wanted, Jamie put him out of his misery. Then Claire and Jamie were left wondering what to do with a newborn baby girl. They never did get to raise a child together, so it certainly crossed their minds to keep her and raise her as their own. However, that decisions was a cliffhanger, left to be resolved in future episodes.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.