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Outlander: Journeycake

"We can't just go poof."

I loved this one. In spite of how sadly it opened.

So much happened that afterward, I started wondering how I was going to review this thing. And then I realized that it all fell pretty much into two sections: (1) the malicious Brown brothers of Brownsville and the so-called "Committee of Safety," and (2) Brianna and Roger's decision to go back to their own time.

Time travel first. (Always!) While playing with Otter Tooth's opal on the lawn, our time traveling family realized that Jemmy felt heat coming from the opal – as did Claire, Bree and Roger – while Jamie and Ian thought it was cold. Little Jemmy was so strong with the Force that the opal shattered in his tiny hand. The obvious conclusion was that Jemmy could indeed travel through the stones, and there was no reason any more for Roger and Bree to stay.

And that led to Ian's reveal, that the Mohawk had given him Otter Tooth's journal, written in ballpoint pen. Along with some otherwise meaningless existential meandering and poetic observations in Latin, Otter Tooth revealed that he didn't know what time period he had landed in. Ian had deciphered enough of it to realize that Claire was indeed a fairy, or something like that. And now, like Murtagh, Ian knows the truth.

I must be fonder of Brianna and Roger than I thought I was, or I wouldn't have cried so much. The goodbye scenes were so poignant and powerful that they kept wrenching the tears out of me. Lizzie's assumption that she was going with Bree, and her shock and grief when she learned she was not. Roger giving Ian their guilt-compensation land from Governor Tryon. Bree telling her cousin Ian that she loved him.

The best, of course, was Jamie gently telling Bree that she had a brother. Absolutely lovely performances by Sam Heughan and Sophie Skelton. The way he told her in the end that he had never thought he would know Bree at all and that she had made his life whole was so moving. I'm dripping tears even now, just writing about it.

After everything that has happened to Bree and Roger in this century, I certainly understand why they decided to go. Where did they end up, though? They went somewhere. Where? At least the three of them are together, wherever they are.

Extending the goodbyes, Lord John dropped by to give Jamie that new portrait of William, who would be about fifteen these days. Lord Dunsany has died, and John was planning to return to Helwater to assist William with his inheritance. Did Lord John stay in Virginia all this time to be closer to Jamie, I wonder?

I so enjoyed all of these time travel reveal and farewell scenes. They were beautifully written and acted character pieces evocative of the book series, which made sense because this episode was written by book author Diana Gabaldon, who knows these characters better than anyone else ever could. That extended to a couple of adorable Jamie and Claire scenes. I loved Claire's expression as Jamie was describing the sperms in her microscope without knowing what they were. (Although it lacked the too funny book bit about Jamie asking Claire to give them a decent burial.)

The love scene was also perfectly in character and reflected the nature of their marriage – Jamie apologizing for falling asleep and missing Claire's perfume signal that she had wanted to make love. I have to add that Claire trusting Jamie not to let her fall out of the window was symbolic of the way she trusts him to keep her alive in a dangerous time period. Because the eighteenth century is certainly as dangerous for Claire as it is for Bree and Roger.

Which takes me to the cliffhanger at the end of the episode. Was Claire abducted because Lionel Brown realized that she was "Dr. Rawlings," or was it punishment because Jamie refused to join the Committee of Safety? It was definitely Brown minions who took Claire – Corporal Hodgepile and the guy with the black wavy hair, whose character name is Wendigo Donner. (Marsali was knocked out during the attack. She'd darned well better be okay.)

Whatever the reason, Jamie ran to the cliffs with a torch and finally lit the fiery cross, calling his people to arms. Guess we know what the finale will be about.

Book versus series

As a book reader, this episode was a particular pleasure to watch. This was only the second episode written by Diana Gabaldon (season two's clever and amusing "Vengeance is Mine" was her first).

Much of "Journeycake" was taken from books five and six, although there were minor differences mostly relating to Bree and Roger, and I think I should leave them out, since we haven't seen what happened to them yet.

One specific thing I greatly enjoyed about this episode was Jamie and Claire smelling each other and describing what they smelled. Gabaldon often describes how people and things smell. It's a prominent and effective feature of her writing style that I particularly like.


— It is now autumn of 1772.

— The title card vignette was Claire at the end of "Freedom & Whisky" eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just loved everyone around the table eating them. And that Jamie ate his with a knife and fork.

— I tend to be overly sensitive to such things, but I thought the opening scene with the burned little girl was more sad than gruesome. I liked Jamie praying as Roger was helping her die. Maybe it was intended as another reminder that the eighteenth century is a dangerous place.

— This episode was so full that Ulysses' departure got short shrift. Although we did learn that Jocasta freed Ulysses when Hector Cameron died, and he chose to stay for her. It's nice to know that he's going with Lord John and will soon be genuinely free.

— The book Jamie gave Ulysses was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, considered to be the first English novel.

— Bree drew portraits to leave with Claire and Jamie. I hope Bree also drew a picture of Jamie to take back with her. (She would have photographs of Claire.)

— Ian still hasn't said what made him leave the Mohawk, only that it had to do with his wife and that he wanted to fix it with time travel. Next episode? Or will we have to wait?

— The new governor of North Carolina is named Martin.

— Marsali is pregnant again. How many bairns is enough, Fergus Fraser? Maybe Claire and Marsali should have another talk about birth control.


Claire: "I haven't quite mastered ice cream yet, but I'll be damned if Jemmy grows up without tasting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Claire: "My god. He wrote with a ballpoint pen."
Ian: "What's a ballpoint pen? Who or… what are you?"

Ulysses: "I chose not to leave... her."

Bree: "There's a war coming."
Ian: "Ye dinna have to be a – whatever you are – to tell that."

Claire: "Gunpowder. Hay. And oh, the faintest whiff of manure. It's very manly."

Jamie: "Busy wee strivers, pushing and writhing. So many of them. You know, when you told me about germs, I thought they'd have wee teeth, but these don't. Never kent they'd have such handsomely thrashing tails."

Jamie: "After your mother left me with you in her belly, I never thought I'd see you. But I kent you were there. I was a husband and a father, and now I'm a grandsire. And even though I may never see any of you again, you have made my life whole."

Bree: "My brother is lucky to have you in his life. And so am I."
Lord John: "You really are impossible not to like."
Which was what she said to him in "Providence."

Jamie: (re: peanut butter) "Very tasty. But, uh, are you sure it's to be eaten? Ye could seal letters or mend your boots with it as well."

Jamie: "Maybe in the future she can finally be an engineer."

A beautiful, intensely emotional episode full of big changes. Ian knows. The MacKenzies are gone. Huge cliffhanger. Four out of four ballpoint pens, of course,

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


  1. A fine review and a meaningful read. "The goodbye scenes were so poignant and powerful that they kept wrenching the tears out of me." I took a course in Joseph Campbell on college. He explains that we all take our own personal experiences to the literature we read. That scene tore my heart out as I related to when my daughter passed away from breast cancer and I held her in my arms as she lay dying. I ended up having to stop the program and it was hours before I could get back to it. I was sobbing. Yes, very poignant good by scenes.

  2. Unknown, yes, this is one of the reasons I care so deeply about long form fiction like this. We do indeed relate this stuff to our personal experiences.

    And my deepest sympathy on the loss of your daughter.

  3. Roger giving Ian their guilt-compensation land from Governor Tryon.

    OMG, you're right! I'd thought it was just really nice of Roger to do that, but it's a lovely example of Roger and Ian swapping pain (and now swapping land) over the course of this season.

    This episode was so full that Ulysses' departure got short shrift. Although we did learn that Jocasta freed Ulysses when Hector Cameron died, and he chose to stay for her. It's nice to know that he's going with Lord John and will soon be genuinely free.

    Such a lovely and well-deserved end for Ulysses. Or a new beginning!

    The book Jamie gave Ulysses was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, considered to be the first English novel.

    I loved this detail, because I've been thinking, for about two seasons now, how one of the worst things about time traveling to the eighteenth century would be the lack of novels to read.

    Watching this episode, I realized that I don't know much about Claire's parents. They died when she was young and she was raised by her uncle, right?

    But did they really die? Or do you think they were time travelers, too?

  4. Josie, yes, that's right -- Claire's parents died when she was about five, and she was raised by her uncle the archaeologist. That's an interesting thought, that they might be time travelers too.

  5. Here are my notes on the podcast for "Journeycake," episode 5x11. Commentary was by showrunner Matt Roberts.

    Roberts said that their mantra for season five was to balance the big moments with small moments (which was perhaps an acknowledgement that season four wasn't as successful with those). This episode had a lot of those "small moments" but Roberts thinks they're important because they're big moments for the characters. Like Bree telling Lizzie she wasn't coming along was gutwrenching. Roberts really liked the scene where Roger gave Ian the land.

    There has always been a lot of conversations in the room about time travel, how it works, how to show it. Diana Gabaldon took them through the time travel rules, and they try to adhere to them. They decided to never show people traveling through time, to just let us imagine it. The scene where Jamie and Claire tell Ian the truth about time travel was supposed to be at the end of episode eight, but it didn't fit because eight ran long.

    The "sperm in the microscope" scene was originally in episode three when Jamie cames home but it didn't work in that episode, so they moved it here. They had to decide what Jamie was looking at. It was on the schedule-- 'sperm meeting.' Quite funny. Not every person on the crew has read every book and they were like, what are we going to be talking about? They've had quite a few unusual meetings over the course of five seasons.

    Production notes:

    They had talked about doing the peanut butter and jelly sandwich title card a couple of seasons ago, but it fit perfectly here. Roberts said that in the UK, peanuts at a sporting event aren't a thing and the crew didn't know how to shell peanuts.

    In the Jamie and Brianna scene, the portrait is of the actor who played William in season four.

    Roberts says that seeing Marsali hit that brick floor so hard was a devastating moment, just horrifying.

    The Ulysses scene revelation that he's not a slave was a great plot twist from the book.

    They can film almost 360 degrees at the big house, meaning they don't have to erase things in the background, enhancing production values. Like at Fort William, Blackness Castle, across from the fort is a military base and a water plant they have to take out.

    For the opening scene, they had to find a location, build a cabin, then destroy it, quite the undertaking. They enhanced the little girl's wounds with visual effects to make it clear that she had no chance of surviving, that Claire couldn't help her.

    The lean-to (where Ulysses hid) is the bane of Gary's existence. He'd ask, does it have to be in the lean-to? Couldn't it be someplace else? A goodbye gift for him was a mug with a picture of the lean-to on it. We miss you and love you, Gary, said Roberts.

    Jamie and Claire finally have a bedroom. They wanted to move it to this point for this particular love scene at the window. Roberts said, we do think ahead.

    They tell the director to work Adso into any scenes that they can.

    They filmed the lighting of the fiery cross much earlier, knowing they'd need it for the end of the season.

    The cast and crew have differences but really get along well and he's not just saying that. It's a family.

  6. I just finished this episode and the season finale. I can't bring myself to comment on the big moments from either episode, but I had to comment on a small moment in this one. As a woman around Claire's age in the show, I'm so glad the show has found subtle ways to show the characters aging. Jamie wears reading glasses, has grey around his temples, and falls asleep early. Claire's silver streaks are slowly multiplying, and this episode actually captured her having a hot flash, unexpectedly leading to one of the tenderest, sexiest love scenes in a series that has no shortage of them. I love that the characters and actors are allowed to age, but are also shown having a strong physical relationship. I'm trying to think of other shows or films that are so frank about a physical, romantic relationship between two leads in their 50's (the characters, anyway), and there aren't many. Thank you, Outlander.

    1. Anonymous, I loved your comment and I so agree. So often in popular television, older people are only supporting characters. I love that our lead characters are growing old and how it is being portrayed.


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