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Outlander: Between Two Fires

"This is what a world without civility looks like."

Did that fluffy wedding in the season opener make us forget that this show is R rated for violence? This episode began and ended with scenes that made me cringe.

Shame on you, Murtagh Fitzgibbons. Grievances, yes, but nothing justifies tar and feathers. It didn't make the Regulators look good. Although I'll readily admit that Lieutenant Knox didn't make the Crown look good, either.

At first Knox seemed like a relatively decent guy, talking with Jamie about manners and civility and aiding the poor – and then he lost his temper and stabbed a bound, helpless prisoner to death. Later, Knox called himself a hypocrite, but then tried to justify his actions to Jamie by claiming he'd given the man a soldier's death instead of a criminal's. Shades of Black Jack's rationalizations at Wentworth, huh?

After a subtle exchange of expressions of sympathy while in Knox's company, Jamie managed to covertly free the other two Regulators, but was shocked that Murtagh was capable of the horror of tarring and feathering anyone. I didn't think it possible that Jamie could ever turn on Murtagh, but now I'm starting to wonder if that's the way this situation will end.

Meanwhile back on the Ridge, I thought at first that Farrish was a tar victim from the riot, but no. He died of appendicitis that was worsened by mercury poisoning, administered by his own wife. Nice housewives didn't dissect dead bodies in 1770; they could hang or burn Claire for doing such a thing, much like Jamie could have been hanged for freeing those two Regulators. Interesting that Claire used that secret autopsy to recruit an assistant. It would have made sense if it had been Brianna, but I really liked the fact that it turned out to be Marsali. (Laoghaire would have a cow.)

Claire is a doctor, a healer. She can't turn away someone in pain because it might change the future. Would Jamie even be alive right now if it weren't for Claire bringing a small supply of penicillin back in time with her? Will making penicillin 157 years early change things in any significant way other than for the people Claire can save? It was smart of Claire to attribute her medical wisdom to "Dr. Rawlings," a (one assumes) male physician, but will it even help? But how can she not at least try?

The time travel thing is also becoming a serious issue for the MacKenzies. Brianna may feel that losing an education at MIT is a fair trade for the lives of both her parents, but Roger is a fish out of water in 1770, and not just because he's a terrible shot. It's possibly polarizing that Claire is backing Roger this time; she thinks they should go back to the future because it's safer. Claire mentioned heredity in regard to Roger's eyesight, but where it might make all the difference is with baby Jemmy. Is it hereditary, "hearing" the stones? If it is, does that increase the possibility that Jemmy will be able to hear them, too? That is, if Roger is indeed Jemmy's biological father.

That final scene at a lady-fight in Wilmington gave Roger and Bree an extremely good reason to take Jemmy to the 1970s: Stephen Bonnet, who is an even worse human being now than he was last season. Damn your eyes, indeed.

Book versus series

(...and by the way, I will never post a serious spoiler in this section.)

One thing the Outlander producers do often is move events around and/or give plotlines to other characters. Claire indeed acquired a physician's assistant, but it was in book six, not five, and it was a new character, not Marsali. I actually liked that they gave this to Marsali – it works for me. And Claire did indeed perform an autopsy, but it was on another person and at another place. I shouldn't say more in case it still happens.


— The title card vignette was Claire making bread for her penicillin experiment. Did she really need that much bread? And where did she get all of those jars?

— In Hillsborough, Jamie ran into Edmund Fanning, the Governor's buddy. Fanning was the man Claire operated on in "Wilmington" and he had nice things to say about Claire's skills. That's the answer to Claire's problem, isn't it? The people at the Ridge simply have to become accustomed to her. It's too bad for anyone who dies in the meantime, though.

— While Claire was checking Roger's eyesight, we were reminded that Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, was an RAF pilot, and that Roger met his ancestor Morag MacKenzie on board ship last season.

— Loved the candle-making scene, mostly because of how beautifully decorative all those candles looked hanging from the gorgeous trees in front of the Big House.

— The Regulator encampment made me think of the Hole in the Wall Gang. And of course, Ethan's "I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons" was an "I am Spartacus" moment.

— Last season, Roger sang at the Scottish festival, but that was it. In two episodes now, he's sung three times: "L-O-V-E" in the wedding episode, and here, "Joy to the World," and "Abide with Me."

— Title musings: "Between Two Fires" was pretty much perfect. Everyone is performing a balancing act, and a dangerous one.


Claire: "It's bad enough I'm fighting the disease. I'm also fighting the cure."

Knox: "Where is Murtagh Fitzgibbons?"
Ethan: "I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons!"

Roger: "The whole thing goes against nature, Bree. It's like shooting at Tufty Fluffytail."

Brianna: "Our family is here."
Roger: "You and Jemmy are my family. James Fraser is my colonel."

Woman: "Can you imagine if it was discovered the King was being poisoned by his own physician?"
Well, yeah.

Claire: "Thank you for helping me hide the body."
Roger: "The Apprentice Under the Root Cellar. Surely that's a Nancy Drew novel begging to be written."

Claire: "It's my fault you're all here."
Well, technically, it's Jamie's fault for surviving Culloden.

Brianna: "What if it messes with some cosmic balance, or breaks some rule of space and time? Isn't this playing God?"

Turnbull: "Tis unlike you, Bonnet. Why not kill the man outright?"
Bonnet: "I considered it. But I must set a better example. I'm a father now."

Definitely heavier and less fun than the first episode, but including plenty of set-up for the season. Three out of four fluffytailed squirrels that teach road safety to kids,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. thanks for this review, billie! it enables me to avoid torturing myself with another attempt to view and make sense out of this plot-fragmented and excessively violent episode. if the rest of season 5 is no better i will remain strictly a book reader!

  2. inge oppenheimer, you're very welcome and I'm also hoping that season five won't be too violent. Honestly, though, both the tar thing and the eye thing were also in the books. Maybe it's just not as shocking as when we're looking at it.

  3. So glad Marsali is becoming Claire’s apprentice. Lauren Lyle is a real scene stealer. The scenes between her and Claire were my favorite of the episode. She will be between two fires of 18th century superstition and rational science, with possible danger to Claire. Hope the writers run with it.

    Jamie is really in a jam but at least he can play Knox like a violin (so far). Jamie’s political instincts are amazing.

    I think the excess of violence (this was a violent time) helps add weight to Roger’s arguement to go back through the stones. Don’t blame him one bit. So much depends on Jemmy. If Jemmy can hear the stones what will Bree do? So many rocks and hard places.

    Excellent "setup" episode. Thanks again for the review.

  4. milostanfield, yeah, I love Lauren Lyle's Marsali, too, and she definitely hasn't had enough to do since crossing the Atlantic.

    I agree that Jamie's political instincts are indeed amazing. Probably because he grew up with Colum and Dougal MacKenzie as uncles. :)

  5. In the previous episode, I agreed with the evil governor about wanting some resolution to the villain narrative--in his case, Murtaugh. In my case, Bonnet. It was unpleasant to see him again, but at least his presence means we'll get to shut the door on his narrative soon, I hope.

    It's a fun question to consider: what sort of time travel is this? I'm leaning towards the idea that it's the sort of time travel in which Claire, having always traveled back in time, therefore doesn't change history but does participate in it.

    Ditto to Jamie's excellent "political instincts." He's a master at playing both sides while somehow retaining his honor.

    Roger and Brianna are so poorly equipped for life in the eighteenth century. I'm not judging them; I'd be a disaster, too. But all Roger brings to the table is a repertoire of songs. Jamie's right to be slightly dismissive.

    At least, as long as Roger's around, Tufty Fluffytail is safe.

  6. Here are my notes on the blu-ray podcast for the episode, "Between Two Fires" (5x2). Commentary was by Toni Graphia and Luke Schelhaas, the two executive producers who wrote it.

    Graphia and Schelhaas talked more about the plot than the production or the acting. Schelhaas said we often see Jamie and Claire on two different tracks but doing essentially the same thing -- here, it was protecting their family. With Jamie's situation, the writers were going for ambiguity. They wanted to emphasize that Knox isn't a villain and Jamie rather likes the guy, and we also see the real damage the Regulators are doing, even though their cause is just. In the books, Murtagh is dead at this point in the story; keeping Murtagh alive in the series gave Jamie even stronger motivation here.

    At the Ridge, Claire has to balance her own need to step up medically and do her best to save lives with the possibility of being seen as a witch again. Graphia said they pride themselves on their authenticity (re: the dead body Claire autopsied) and that the autopsy was in a different circumstance in the book, but they wanted to include it. They really loved Lauren Lyle's performance when Claire showed Marsali the body and recruited her.

    Re: the Roger/Bree Tufty Fluffytail shooting scene, they said they have to have production meetings every time they use a gun in a scene, much less fire one, and that those old-fashioned firearms are very heavy and difficult to use. And no turkeys (or squirrels) were harmed in the making of this episode.

    In the book, the cock fight with Bonnet and the vicious eye stabby thing was in a letter. When they decided to film it, they realized they couldn't do an actual cock fight (endangering animals) so they did some research, and betting on the fight between prostitutes did sometimes happen back then.

    They nearly called the episode "Abide with Me," because of the hymn Roger sang at the graveside.

    Edmund Fanning was a real person. So was Hermon Husband, one of Murtagh's guys. The riot in Hillsborough happened in real life, too.


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