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Outlander: Sticks and Stones

"Without you, our whole world crumbles into dust."

I love Outlander. But I didn't love this episode.

Honestly, I get what they were going for. What happened to Claire in "Never My Love" wasn't something they could just blow past. And the way "Lionel" haunted Claire, constantly telling her that everything was her fault, was quite effective; every time he popped up, I cringed. Of course Claire carries a massive amount of guilt for everything bad that has occurred as a result of her trip through time, especially what Stephen Bonnet did to Brianna.

But the root of Claire's guilt was that deep down, a part of her wanted to kill Malva, just like a part of her wanted to kill Lionel Brown. Who wouldn't, after what they did to her? And who had means, motive, opportunity? Of course, it all pointed to Claire. It totally made sense, that Malva's death would push Claire toward the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The best part of the episode was near the end, when Claire finally told Jamie what was going on with her, and he responded just as we would expect of the king of men. He pointed out that if Claire hadn't gone through the stones, Brianna would never have been born, Roger wouldn't have a wife and son he adores, Fergus would never have met Marsali. Jamie himself hit bottom after Wentworth, and Claire pulled him back from the brink. Now he can help her, and they can face it together.

Who killed Malva? The obvious suspects are her father, her brother, or one of her lovers. I just can't believe it was Tom. He was so oddly calm, standing near Malva's body and asking Claire – clarifying carefully that it was only in her opinion as a healer, not as Malva's killer – if Malva had suffered. Then Tom pissed me off by once again rejecting Malva in death, saying he would bury her and her baby in the woods instead of in holy ground. Allan Christie was grief stricken and cried while blaming Jamie and Claire, to the point of grabbing the baby's tiny coffin away from Claire at the funeral service. Didn't seem like he could have done it.

And there are no obvious suspects on the lover front. Obadiah Henderson, indignant and angry, appeared to sincerely believe that Claire did it. Claire has always been an outsider in the eighteenth century, a stranger in a strange land, and now everyone on the Ridge, even the superfriendly and supportive Bugs, have turned against her.

The situation with Lizzie and the Beardsley twins felt like comic relief, except I found it touching and bizarre rather than funny. Was it exposure to Jamie and Claire and their household of love and gender equality that made Lizzie so honest about her choices, so open to possibilities? I think it's wonderful that Lizzie decided to follow her heart, marry both Beardsleys, and trick Roger into making it happen, even while living in a community where she risks stoning for fornication.

In the midst of all of this drama, Roger finally realized that he's found his calling. Roger wants to be a minister for the best of reasons – he simply wants to help people. How lovely that Roger has gotten so close to his father-in-law that he confided in Jamie and asked his advice before telling Brianna. Of course Brianna was supportive, and of course Roger refused her offer to convert. And now the MacKenzies are off to Edenton in search of ordination...

... just in time for a massive cliffhanger. Richard Brown and his enormous, heavily armed Committee of Safety have arrived to arrest Claire for murder. With Jamie and Claire alone in the house, Bree and Roger gone, and the entire Ridge turned against them. The season finale should be interesting.

Book versus series

Yes, this one was again all book, with the exception of ghostly Lionel and the ether plot. Maybe the producers felt that book Claire's strength was less believable and were going for something more realistic.

In the book, the twins did fool Lizzie, but not maliciously; they just automatically shared everything and they genuinely both adored her. Lizzie thought she was only sleeping with Josiah, but gradually realized that sometimes it was Kezzie. And she did indeed choose to marry both of them.


— The post-credit vignette was a ladybug on a bloody stalk in Claire's garden, evoking the children's poem. Possibly symbolizing Malva's soul? Mr. Bug did tell Jemmy about ghosts.

— The opener showed Malva confessing in church, saying she had been betrayed by someone she trusted, a devil in the guise of a man. Note that she didn't say it was Jamie.

— Ian found the body of the Sin-Eater with his missing fingers, and Brianna connected it to the love charm.

— It was Lizzie who knocked on the door while Claire was stoned, not Malva.

— I thought the close-up on the hook needle piercing Malva's throat was particularly disturbing. It was like a physical manifestation of Claire's emotional pain, especially as a doctor unable to heal this particular patient.


Ian: "Who's Perry Mason?"

Roger: "Probably sounds ridiculous to you, but in the future, there are some who are opposed to eating animals altogether."
Jamie: "Aye, Claire told me. Vegetarians."

Jamie: (to Claire) "Without you, our whole world crumbles into dust."

Roger: "Just let me put my britches on. I'm not conducting my first marriage bare-arsed."

I had a hard time writing about this episode and am feeling conflicted. What did you all think? Please post a comment!

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


  1. Anonymous, I had to delete your comment because it contained a spoiler. Please feel free to post another without the spoiler if you like.

  2. I am a book reader. There were several parts where I explained to my husband what was going on as it wasn't clear on the show. I laughed out loud when I read about the two Indians coming to Jamie's bed. It didn't translate as well in the show. Jamie giving one of the twins a black eye so he could tell them apart wasn't done. I know there is a time limit on the show. I still love both. Seeing the characters come to life makes the changes worthwhile. I hope the show continues through all of the books. Covid, weather and Catriona's pregnancy (I'm so happy for her) all had to contribute to a shortened season 6. I'm excited that filming has started for season 7. Watching the out takes brings clarity to some events that passed by so quickly. I'll rewatch this season as I pick up things I missed the first time around.

  3. I liked this one better than you and maybe it's partly because I haven't read the book. It felt emotionally true to Claire's character arc this season, and while I never believed for a second that Claire killed Malva, ether use can cause hallucinations. And it's not unreasonable for Claire to feel some guilt as it's quite possible Malva was running from her murderer when Claire put herself to sleep. The B plot was a bit weird. I was relieved that the Beardsleys didn't accuse Jamie of fathering Lizzie's child and trying to foist it on them, which was where I thought the plot was going.

    I'm almost certain that Malva's brother was the father of her child but not sure he killed her. Does he hate Claire & Jamie that much as to frame them this way? Or was Malva threatening to reveal the truth because her reputation is already destroyed? But I'm not sure who else would have both motive and opportunity.

  4. This episode was a lot to take, especially what Claire is going through. I'm glad she finally spoke to Jamie about it.

    The Lizzie polyamory plot is delightful and silly, but it felt oddly placed here. It was comic relief for me, but not for the characters.

    Did we know Brianna was Catholic? So Claire got her baptized as a Catholic?

    Billie, you told me via email that Claire wouldn't be hanged as a witch, but I'm actually starting to worry that you were skirting around a more horrible outcome. They don't hang her as a murderer, do they?

    I'm so glad Roger has figured out his calling, because I think we all figured that out for him a while ago.

    1. Josie, yes, we knew Brianna was a Catholic, although I can't remember where it was mentioned.

      The Lizzie/Josiah/Keziah thing was more spread out in the books, not plunked into one somewhat upsetting episode as comic relief. But that's pretty typical. There's a lot of funny bits and threads in the book that didn't make it to the screen. There's just so much material that they really do have to pick and choose.


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