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Outlander: The World Turned Upside Down

"It feels like a punch to the gut."

This episode began and ended with similar, deeply disturbing scenes. The opener where Mrs. MacNeill chose to die with her sick baby made me cry. And the final scene where Claire couldn't save Malva's baby – almost literally a punch to the gut – was so realistic and upsetting.

Jessica Reynolds has done such an exceptional job portraying the complicated and conflicted Malva Christie that her unexpected murder was a frustrating period at the end of an incomplete sentence. Even after the despicable things Malva did, I wanted more of her. I wanted to understand what was driving her, what happened to her to make her do what she did.

I could have sworn Malva adored Claire and wanted to be just like her. In many ways, Malva was a younger version of Claire – clever, strong, talented, beautiful. Malva showed more than once that she loved Claire, and was thrilled to be Claire's apprentice. Malva refused to believe Claire was a witch, wouldn't leave Claire when she was sick. In a way, Malva took after Claire more than Brianna, who would never choose to be a doctor. Why would Malva lie about the paternity of her baby, knowing it would destroy Claire?

The confrontation scene at the big house was just so well done. Jamie was completely dumbfounded at Malva's accusation, then confused, and then furious. Claire slapped Malva, not Jamie, making it clear from the outset whom Claire believed had betrayed her. Allan was angry. But Tom appeared to be relatively calm when you'd expect him to be foaming at the mouth. Why? Did he already know it wasn't Jamie?

The scene at the stables that followed was also exceptional, with a particularly moving performance by Caitriona Balfe. Like Claire, we the audience have known Jamie Fraser since he was 22 years old. If he was capable of having an affair with Malva and lying to Claire about it, he wouldn't be the man Claire had given up her life for. Mostly, and this was the kicker, Jamie would never abandon a child of his. He stayed at Helwater for six years because he wouldn't leave William, and only left because his presence endangered William's future.

All that said, perhaps it wasn't the best time to bring up the One Hot Night in Jamie's Cave. Jamie has an interesting way of looking at infidelity. He had no choice with Geneva because she blackmailed him, and Laoghaire was his wife. But he saw his one night stand with Mary MacNab before prison as cheating, even though Claire had been gone for years.

Jamie: "By daybreak, the whole of the Ridge will ken what happened."
Claire: "But no one will believe it."
Jamie: "They'll all believe it, Claire. I'm sorry."

And Jamie was right. Even Brianna was wondering because of what happened with Frank and Sandy. Claire now has no patients, and no one will enter the church if she is there. The gossip followed Jamie to the Provincial Congress in New Bern and kept him from being a candidate for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. (Too bad. That would have been fun.)

Who killed Malva? Her father? Her brother? Obadiah Henderson, or one of her other lovers? The father of her baby? It couldn't have been Ian, because he's, well, Ian. In the scene where Claire came to talk to Malva, Malva was crying and ashamed and responding to Claire right up until Allan came out of the house and reminded her what happens to witches, an interesting shift in body language.

I noticed that Claire's newly shorn hair made her look even more like an outsider in her own community. We didn't see the haircut happen. Was it maliciously done, an attempt by Malva to deprive Claire of her beauty? (Like that could happen.) Or were Malva and Mrs. Bug simply trying to save Claire's life?

And why did Claire and Tom have a different illness than the rest of the Ridge? That cannot be a coincidence, especially since the only person connecting Claire and Tom was Malva. And by the way, I loved the scene where the weakened Claire made a house call and asked Tom for a fecal sample. He was outraged, but I thought he was also amused. He did insist on escorting her home.

Book versus series

Sometimes I think that being a fan of the Outlander books hinders me as a reviewer of this series because I knew everything that was coming, and it didn't shock me. This episode was straight out of the book; the only exception was Claire having that ether-induced nightmare about Malva right before she found her body in the garden. (Did Claire hear the murder happening while she was semi-conscious, and include it in her dream?)


— After failure at other things at the Ridge, Roger is finding success as a minister.

— In the opening scene at the MacNeill's cabin, Lizzie was upset that Claire was cursing. I wasn't sure what to make of that, other than Lizzie must have been very upset by what was happening to the MacNeills to scold Claire for anything.

— Loved the hat. And the cat! Adso got a scene with Claire and he even had a line: "Meow."

— Title musings: "The World Turned Upside Down" is what the British soldiers were singing when the Colonials won the Revolutionary War (see Hamilton). It's also obviously applicable to what has happened to Jamie and Claire in what they thought was their happy and secure home on the Ridge.


Malva: "She wouldn't let her child go alone."
Some major foreshadowing there.

Brianna: "I wonder where the Sin-Eater is?"
Someone is going to find his fingerless corpse eventually. Will anyone figure out what Malva was doing to it, or why?

Claire: "I don't want him to see me like this."
Roger: "He's seen you – it – already. I mean... he saw it."
Claire: "What did he say?"
Roger: "He didn't say anything. He just... cried."

Roger: (to Claire) "Nothing could ever make you less beautiful."
That, and Brianna telling Claire she was going to have another grandchild, so sweet.

Jamie: "You did try to die on me, did ye no? I'd be very angry, Claire, if ye'd died and left me."
A parallel to the snake bite episode where Jamie nearly died on her.

Claire: "I think calluses on a man's hand are deeply erotic."
Jamie: "Well, if I didna have calluses down there, it's no fault of yours, believe me."
Not exactly sure what to make of this one, other than as a reminder that Jamie and Claire's active sex life made it even more unlikely that he would cheat.

Claire: "I don't belong here! Brianna, Roger, they don't belong here. And Jemmy shouldn't be here. But yet, here we all are, all of us, because I loved you more than the life that I had. And because I believed that you loved me in the same way. Because you do. And I know that."

This episode made me realize that this season has a pacing issue: every episode is a bit too long, and way too much is happening. (I blame covid.) But it was still an exceptional episode, and I have to give it four out of four rattlesnake dreams,

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


  1. This one got dark and just kept getting darker. I especially liked how they used the fever dreams of disease and ether to sow just enough ambiguity about what we were seeing to maybe even make us doubt, just a little, what was going on within Jamie and Claire, even though we know better. And with the superstitions of the Ridge folk on top of that, the whole of it was given an emotional tint of anxiety, confusion, and distrust. Well done show runners!

    I never gave much thought to the position you as a reviewer are in knowing what the fiction future holds (like Claire!). I haven't read past book one, so this one hit hard. Probably wrong guess here: the fact that the murder happened where it did points to a premeditated ploy to ruin the Frasers', although that could be a plot misdirection. It could also be more mundane, especially with teenagers involved. Either way: damage done.

    I wonder how many takes and little bits of tuna were needed to get Apso to do just what they wanted.

  2. milostanfield, that is such a good point about the doubt and the darkness, the anxiety and confusion. Especially Brianna saying what she did about Frank.

    I suspect that Adso's "Meow" was dubbed. :)

  3. I have started reading the books at Book 7, specifically so that I'm mentally prepared for stuff like this! (I had severe post natal anxiety and don't do well with dead baby stuff). The downside is trying to say neutral 'mmmms' to my partner's speculations!

    Great review as ever Billie. I especially appreciate the book/show comparisons because for some reason these things fascincate me.

  4. By the way this and the Anonymous comment above are me, Juls - I seem to have got signed out of Google!

  5. As a non-book reader, this episode's pacing felt weird, too. It was basically two episodes in one.

    For the first half, I kept thinking "it's too bad Claire is sick, but I really doubt she's going to die."

    For the second half, it was like watching a Malva-induced train wreck. I'd love to call her a lying little minx, but no one deserves a death like that.

    I'm curious to see how all of these interpersonal dramas get resolved.

    In general, I've realized that I do prefer shows where characters solve external problems over shows in which the characters are constantly forced to defend/explain themselves. I think that's why I've struggled so much with this season: Claire is always under attack from really petty people.

    That doesn't mean I dislike the season. It just makes me feel really, really bad for Claire.


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