SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Between Two Fires,” the second episode of “Outlander” Season 5.
The latest episode of “Outlander” definitely lived up to its episode title, as several characters found themselves caught “Between Two Fires.” Most notably, Jamie (Sam Heughan) found himself having to make a difficult decision in the face of men to whom he once tried to offer a home.
What started everything was when the Regulators, led by Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), dragged some English men into the streets to tar and feather them as punishment for enforcing a tax they felt was unwarranted. Sometimes in modern times, it’s easy to forget what tarring and feathering actually means, but it was pretty brutal to watch.
After the incident, Jamie and Lt. Knox (Michael Xavier) faced three captured Regulators who just so happened to be three men to whom Jamie offered a place on Fraser’s Ridge in Season 4. Jamie tried to get the men to say that Murtagh Fitzgibbons put them up to it, trying to save them from a harsher punishment, but they wouldn’t back down or give up their fellow Regulators. Then, when one of them spit in Knox’s face, Knox stabbed him with his sword and he died on the floor of the jail with his hands cuffed.
Jamie said that Knox was acting in self-defense, but he was obviously sickened by having to back a man who executed someone without a trial. The other two captured Highlanders were also shocked at this turn of events.
To give Knox a modicum of credit, he felt terrible about what he did — but that didn’t change the fact that there was no justice for the Regulator who was slain while his hands were tied. So, under the cover of darkness that night, Jamie sneaked into the jail, apologized to the other two Regulators and let them escape. He argued to them that his cause was “preserving as many lives as possible” and that was more important than anyone else’s cause. But before the Regulators left, they told Jamie that Murtagh was part of the tarring and feathering, something he was saddened to hear.
Later, Lt. Knox told Jamie that he needed more men — the ones that Jamie called at the wedding were not enough. Needing to gather a true militia, Jamie left Knox and said he would return with a full group ready to do battle.
It’s easy to see that Jamie is on a collision course for having to choose sides — his countrymen throwing off the yoke of Britain, or keeping his oath to the governor and the Crown, either of which could put his loved ones in danger.
Meanwhile, Brianna (Sophie Skelton) also found herself caught between two fires in regard to Roger (Richard Rankin), their baby, and the fact that Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) was still alive. Basically, despite the hard go of it she has had in the 1770s, Brianna hadn’t even considered going back to the 1970s. But Roger was confident that once they knew that baby Jemmy could time-travel, they would go back to the future as a family. It created a bit of a conundrum for the newlyweds.
Roger saw them as being fish out of water in the past, while Brianna finally felt like she had found her home. Roger argued that it’s too dangerous in the past for them to stay there, but Brianna didn’t see it that way. There are dangers in the 1970s just as much as there are 200 years in the past, she argued, plus she couldn’t bring herself to leave her parents.
Interestingly, when Roger told Claire (Caitriona Balfe) about his concerns, she agreed with him. She wanted them to go back to the 1970s, lest something like a small infection kill her grandson because there were no antibiotics in the 1770s. But it’s all a moot point until they know if Jemmy can travel through the stones.
In the meantime, Claire found herself facing her own conundrum because she was desperate to use her knowledge from medical school to help the people of Fraser’s Ridge, but not only would her knowledge seem frightening to them, also they would never take her advice or treatment because she’s a woman.
In fact, a man needing a simple appendectomy died because his wife didn’t bring him to Claire soon enough. (The wife also hurried his death along with the cockamamie treatments of thetime, blood-letting and mercury pills.) Furthermore, some local women talked about treating a young boy’s burn by giving him St. James Powder because that’s what a local doctor told them to do, — and because that powder was the same thing King George used. But St. James Powder contains antimony, which is poisonous, with effects similar to arsenic poisoning.
Ironically, when Claire told them this, one of them said, “Can you imagine if it was discovered the King was being poisoned by his own physician?”
That actually might have been exactly what was happening. A 2005 analysis done on some of King George III’s hair suggested that his doctors may have exacerbated his hereditary porphyria with inadvertent arsenic poisoning. George’s porphyria was what caused his physical pain and mental incapacity and eventually his death in 1820.
Anyway, when Claire tried to warn the women against using St. James Powder, they dismissed her as being “a fine healer” but not “a learned physician,” and Claire showed great restraint by not telling them off on the spot. She instead found another avenue to reach them.
Claire started writing out basic treatments and guidelines for the settlers under the guise of it being from “Dr. Rawlings,” the man whose medical kit Jamie bought for her. She was going to distribute them throughout the ridge, and she also started trying to make penicillin.
Additionally, Claire found herself an apprentice in the form of Marsali (Lauren Lyle), which is a change from the book, but one that the show’s writers thought would be an interesting addition to the action on Fraser’s Ridge.
“Marsali is such an obvious choice to be Claire’s apprentice, and we wanted to give Marsali more to do because Lauren Lyle’s amazing,” executive producer Maril Davis tells Variety. “When you’ve got such a big ensemble, you don’t get to see Marsali and Fergus as much as you want because you’re trying to give everyone story time. And we just felt this was such a natural thing for her.”
It should be fun to watch Marsali and Claire work together — first, because it was really funny when Claire revealed to Marsali that Mr. Farish was not in the coffin they just buried, and second, because of the fraught relationship Claire had with Marsali’s mother, Laoghaire (Nell Hudson). That created another level of tension between the two of them.
Finally, at episode’s end, there was a peek of what Stephen Bonnet had been up to: he was apparently taking part in a female fight club of sorts, betting on the fights. When another gambler angered Bonnet, they fought and Bonnet brutally cut the man’s legs and eyes, even after the man yielded. Bonnet then said the reason he didn’t kill the man outright was to “set a better example” because he’s “a father now.” He then donned a red coat and set off. It was quite an ominous ending.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.