‘Outlander’ Review: Episode 506, “Better to Marry Than Burn”

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[This is not a spoiler-free review of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]

Episode 506:  “Better to Marry Than Burn”

Written by Stephanie Shannon, Directed by Meera Menon

The opening of “Better to Marry Than Burn” immediately resurrected Scotland in my mind.  Flying over the stream and the open fields of grass surrounded by mountains, I thought surely; they are not trying to pull this off as North Carolina.  Much to my relief, it is Scotland.  A flashback for a character that I never thought the show would spend any time on, but I am so grateful for a look into Jocasta’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) past.  For book readers, her past might ring a bell, but for show-only fans, this is a more in-depth look into what made Jocasta who she is in the show’s timeline.  I do not remember any of the characters last season, making any reference to her children.  Never in a million years would I think to see a younger Jocasta, her husband Hector (Christopher Bowen), and her youngest daughter Morna (Rosie Graham) speeding down the road in a horse-drawn carriage.  It is only when they are stopped that a time burned into the minds of all of the fans of Outlander would be uttered in the present tense again: Culloden.  If you did not catch it in Maria Doyle Kennedy’s acting, Jocasta and her daughter knew nothing of the gold stashed under the carriage.  A mistake that Hector will pay for the rest of his life given what this folly has brought to his wife.  Jocasta tugs at the ribbon in her daughter’s hair as they drive away.

The ribbon is the continuity between the past and the present for Jocasta.  It reminds her of what was lost when her family ended up on the wrong side of a war.  This remembrance pushes her towards marrying Duncan Innes (Alistair Findlay), a person who she is not in love with but provides some security and constancy in her twilight years, especially since she is a woman of worth.  He is a good man.  As a reader, I appreciated the production team maintaining that he only has one hand (although it is his arm in the book, this may have been reflected in the show, but he did not have much screen time).

Jocasta sticks to her promise of giving River Run to Jeremiah, and the document is signed during her wedding festivities.  Jamie (Sam Heughan) is a signed witness, and Gerald Forbes (Billy Boyd) is obviously the one who drew up the document.  Ever the lawyer, Gerald makes sure Jocasta knows what she is doing before she signs the document considering she is about to wed another man.

Gerald Forbes is a man with a bad taste in friends because who wouldn’t want to hang out with a guy who has it within his capacity to mutilate a guy after a fight so severely.  For some reason, Gerald found it to be a good idea to tell Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) of his son being the rightful owner of River Run.  This whole predicament continues to build steam, and I hope the show can pay it off massively at some point this season, or there will be disappointed fans.

There is a hesitancy in Jocasta to marry Duncan, and we all know why that is: Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix).  They love each other, but with him being a Regulator, it makes zero sense for Jocasta to marry him or keep up an affair with him.  When Murtagh stupidly arrives at River Run to ask her to marry him, it is her life experience that says no to him, not her heart.  I find it careless that Murtagh would even ask her.  If he was not in a predicament he put himself in, things may be different, but he only has himself to blame for it.  I don’t think this will be the last time we see them together.

Over at Fraser’s Ridge, the locusts are coming, or at least some are already there.  Roger (Richard Rankin) stayed back from Jocasta’s wedding to help Brianna (Sophie Skelton) tend to an ill Jeremiah.  While Roger claims he is staying back to help, Brianna knows that he really doesn’t care for Jocasta after their talk at Brianna and Roger’s wedding.  With the impending locust swarm, Roger is once again put into a place of power and respect without the knowledge to back it up.  Roger once again has to put his dunce cap on and sit in the corner.

This episode’s title may also be “The Redemption of Roger” as he thinks back to something he remembers from the future.  The community is saved from the real locust damage by using Roger’s idea, smoke from smudge pots on the fields.  With this action, he has gained respect from his fellow settlers.  Things are finally looking up for Roger.

Other than Jocasta and the MacKenzies, the episode also involves Jamie and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) at the wedding.  Lord John Grey (David Berry) is also present but doesn’t serve the story that much and is only in it for a few minutes.  This episode also furthers the actions of Governor Tryon (Tim Downie), a guest at the wedding with his wife, as he continues to crack down on the Regulators and also to give notice that he may be moving on to greener pastures in New York.  Claire learns that her advice as Dr. Rawlings has spread to the upper crust of North Carolina society, but we are still waiting to see what the payoff is for this being brought up again.

The bulk of Jamie and Claire’s story in this episode revolves around that dandy Phillip Wylie (Chris Donald).  We first met this character at the beginning of season four, and he is here again, but with heavy makeup on and a fake mole to boot.  Wylie is the epitome of ridiculous, yet continues to pursue Claire in rather shocking ways until Claire learns he knows Stephen Bonnet and the tables turn. Unfortunately, Wylie’s moves are not that smooth, and Jamie walks in on him, trying to get fresh with Claire. I question why there is horse poop in that location for Wylie to fall on since that barn is SPOTLESS, probably should have had a wheelbarrow there instead.  Everyone’s pride is wounded, and we are all angry, but Jamie learns from Claire that Wylie knows Bonnet.  Nothing like a game of whist to soothe the bloodlust.

While Jamie thinks he is sly and putting Wylie’s pride on the table, he has overestimated what kind of man Wylie is.  Money only really speaks to this guy, and Jamie doesn’t have enough to meet what Wylie thinks is acceptable for his precious horse.  This part is where we see Jamie and Claire fight for the first time this season.  Jamie needs Claire’s gold ring to meet Wylie’s wager, and she is pissed, rightly so.  He might be the “King of Men,” but he really messed this request up big time.  He becomes “King of the Dog House.”

Luckily for Jamie (and this show), he won.  They now own a beautiful horse, the rings are back on the fingers they originated from (and never to leave them again as Jamie promises), and Alexander Malcolm is back on the scene and ready to do a dirty deed to Bonnet in due course.  Oh, and there is some much-needed angry makeup sex in a horse’s stall in the stable.  Jamie did deserve that slap because Claire is not just a woman; she is a rare woman.

This episode is another highlight of the season, which has only hit a low point for me once with episode 502, “Between Two Fires.”  Bringing back Philip Wylie served multiple purposes in the story, and he was also the comedic relief.  The actor Chris Donald hid himself well beneath the wig and makeup, and his performance was every bit what was needed for this character.  There was a glaring absence in this episode.  Where is Phaedre (Natalie Simpson)?  I am going to assume that there were some work conflicts because there is no reason why she would not be in this episode.  While I will revel in Jamie and Claire’s bits, the episode belongs to Maria Doyle Kennedy as the writer expanded both Jocasta’s past and present for such a wonderous actress to do what she does best.  There cannot be an Outlander fan out there that is also not a fan of Maria’s after this episode.

NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, MARCH 29TH AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 507: “THE BALLAD OF ROGER MAC”

“The Regulator Rebellion reaches a boiling point, forcing Jamie to face his fear and confront the consequence of his divided loyalties.”

Photos and clips are courtesy of Starz.