‘Outlander’ Review: Episode 511, “Journeycake”

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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 511: “Journeycake”

Written By Diana Gabaldon (AHHH!), Directed by Jamie Payne

Occasionally Outlander author Diana Gabaldon pens an episode. I’m sure we all recall the greatness from season two, episode 11, “Vengeance is Mine.” We went—in a word—bananas. Readers felt her presence in the quick staccato-like dialogue and epic pacing. Episode 511, “Journeycake,” does not disappoint.

The cold open is loaded; the scene opens on a montage of seasons; leaves change and fall, flowers bloom. Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) trot along a road on horseback while Roger (Richard Rankin) and Bree (Sophie Skelton) ride ahead in a wagon, eavesdropping. Jamie wants to know what’s in the burlap bags. Peanuts, Claire tells him. He then hypothesizes the various purposes she could have for them: slops for the pig? Medicine perhaps? The answer? Peanut butter!

“I haven’t quite mastered ice cream yet, but I’ll be damned if Jemmy doesn’t grow up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”—Claire

Something off the side of the road catches their eye, and they halt. They find the remnants of a recently torched cabin. It’s smoldering, like coals on a grill. Jamie, Roger, and Young Ian (John Bell) inspect the grounds. He calls for Claire, worried there might be survivors. They find a charred body, but everyone is dead. But Jamie notices something odd…

“They were dead before the fire started.”—Jamie

He can’t tell for sure what killed them. They find a body and remove an arrow. Indians, perhaps? But if so, why just the one arrow? Jamie instructs everyone to scout the surrounding area for survivors. Just then, Roger stumbles on a survivor, a girl. She’s alive, barely. Worse, she’s suffering. Jamie moves to end the pain, but Roger insists. He coos to her softly, “It’s gonna be all right, sweetheart.” He pulls out his handkerchief and places it over her mouth and nose.

Thou goest home this night. To the home of autumn and of spring and of summer. Thou goest home this night to thy perpetual home. To thine eternal bed. To thine eternal slumber.”–Jamie

It’s done. Jamie makes the sign of the cross, and they return to their caravan. And all this before the opening credits. They roll. Showrunner Ron D. Moore’s title card incorporates a flashback of Claire from the neck down in her blue, waterproof travel garment from season three. She sits eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and her cellophane wrap blows away.

On the Ridge, Young Ian plays with Jemmy (Andrew/Matthew Adair). He dangles Ottertooth’s amulet over him. Roger carves the head of a hobby horse and Claire and Bree shell peanuts while reliving that time Bree made her mother peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her journey back to Jamie.

“I just wanted to make sure you had one last piece of home wherever you ended up.”—Bree

Something is going on with Jemmy. He’s holding the amulet and complaining it’s hot. He doesn’t like it. The stone cracks in his hand. Ian doesn’t understand; the rock is “cold as stone.” Does this mean Jem can travel? It does. Does this mean Roger and Bree can return to their time? IT DOES.

Just then, a band of 30 or so riders approaches. Bree takes Jemmy into Claire’s surgery, classic mom redirect move. It’s Mr. Brown (Chris Larkin) and “friends.” He informs Jamie of their plans to form a “committee of safety” now that they know they can’t count on the King for protection. The new governor, Gov. Martin, is aware of this committee but can not formally sanction it. They want Jamie and his men to join. Brown mentions the recent wave of violence: houses burned, families attacked. Jamie mentions the cabin they found earlier.

Just then, Claire interjects. She notices Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) has a leg wound. He says it’s nothing, a mere flesh wound (hehe), but Mr. Brown insists he let her tend it since they’re there after all. If you recall, the last time Claire and he interacted, he pulled his toxic masculinity card and stepped on her glass syringe of penicillin. Now, their conversation in her surgery is tense. He catches her off guard with a comment about a parent’s need to avenge one’s child. It rings eerily true considering what the family just went through regarding Stephen Bonnett (Ed Speleers).

“You think a father’s got no right to seek justice for a daughter who’s been dishonored?”—Lionel Brown

Meanwhile, the men are collecting water. Some are casting blame on the “savages” for the recent rash of violent attacks. Young Ian shoots down the blanket assertions, pointing out—correctly—that plenty of white men collect scalps. They all agree that whoever is to blame, something must have scared them off. Mr. Brown asks Jamie for a second scouting party, posing a quid pro quo scenario for his having joined Jamie’s militia before.

“Fighting a war and maintaining order are two different things.”—Jamie

He then resorts to a light blackmail approach, holding Jamie’s bootlegging business over him. He leaves Jamie with time to think it over. Young Ian remains on the offensive, insisting they’ll protect themselves. Lionel limps away from Claire’s surgery.

That night, Jamie and Claire talk intimately about Roger and Bree leaving. Claire confirms to him that their plan was always to leave as soon as they knew Jem could. Young Ian interrupts. “Are we not going to talk about what happened?!” he asks. They’re perplexed and assume he’s referring to the Brown brothers’ visit. He is, in fact, talking about Jemmy and the amulet.

The Indians told him that Ottertooth’s ghost appears to whoever possesses the opal. Technically, that’s Claire. She acknowledges he appeared to her. He says the Mohawk believe that the person who has the stone has the power to see what will come to pass. They asked him about her after she and Jamie left. He told them what he knew: he’d never seen anyone like her, then she went away and suddenly came back into their lives. Now, he has questions.

He gives her and Jamie something that once belonged to Ottertooth, a note, and it’s in Latin. Jamie puts on his old-man specs and translates.

 “I still exist, in that place between. I do not know exactly when I am nor can I find out. These people do not measure time by any scale I know. Nor do I have the tongue to find out. But I know I am too late.”

Claire looks at the note. She’s shocked to find it’s written with a ball-point pen, something that doesn’t exist yet. “Who or what are you?” Young Ian asks his aunt. She comes clean about being from 200 years in the future. He puts two and two together that pretty much everyone is in on it but him, Roger, Bree, Murtagh. Composer Bear McCreary’s original fairy hill score sneaks in as he has his epiphany. The man creates magic, pure magic.

“I knew you were a fairy, Auntie.”—Young Ian

The scene cuts to Jamie and Claire on horseback riding through the trees. They approach their old little hut. Jamie calls out to its inhabitant, “you can come out!” Jocasta’s servant Ulysses (Colin MacFarlane) emerges, relieved to see them but angst-ridden. He’s in hiding for killing the lawyer. They’re worried about him and deliver food and some light reading, Pamela or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson (first published in 1740, in case you’re curious). Jamie hopes the book will be a welcome distraction. Ulysses admits that his own thoughts are but poor company. They tell him of their visitors, admitting they were initially worried they were there for him, but soon realized everyone remains unaware. Ulysses acknowledges the fact that he is now a murderer, and admits he would do it again.

Jamie recommends an exit strategy, encouraging him to head for Quaker country in Philadelphia, somewhere with staunch anti-slavery sentiments. Ulysses explains he is no longer a slave and produces his document of manumission. Ironically, Gerald Forbes, the dead lawyer, was a witness to it. He’s been free this whole time but chose to stay.

It’s nighttime at the Ridge. Bree has just gotten Little Man to sleep, and she and Roger are having “grown-up time.” Just then, Roger clangs the bed warmer and moms watching hold their breath and freeze in unison, hoping he didn’t just WAKE THE FRIGGIN BABY, ROGERRR.

They discuss the fact that Jemmy broke the stone. How? Is it because both his parents are travelers? Is he a tiny black hole of time traveling juju? And if so, is this proof that Roger is his biological father? (I got all the feels here.) Roger admits all he’s ever wanted is for them to be a family and safe. Bree looks at him with love and hope. She doesn’t want to leave her parents and friends, but she needs to liver her life. In her time.

 “We need to figure out what we’re going to tell people. We can’t just go poof.”—Bree

They come up with a reason for their leave; Roger received a teaching job in Boston. They determine it’s the truth, just in the wrong time. He suggests a narrow timeline, one month until they depart. It stings.

The next morning, Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan) announces a visitor, with one hell of a swing in her step. Ah, of course, it’s the steel fox himself and James Marsden’s doppelganger John Grey (David Berry). Jamie is, of course, thrilled to see him but also worried something has happened. John quiets his nerves that all is well with himself and with William, Jamie’s bastard son. Jamie is also excited that they finally have a visitor to try out their new guest quarters. They catch up in the study. John heard of Bonnet’s demise, and Jamie confesses it was not by his hand. Regardless of who done it or how Grey is relieved for Bree’s sake.

At the river, Young Ian is doing something by the water’s edge while Bree works with her mother. He asks if she’s really leaving. She confirms. She talks of the difficult times on the horizon in their current time. As cousins are want to do, he gives her a hard time, basically calling her Captain Obvious. But, he is also happy for her if its what she really wants. He asks, though, would she not want the opportunity to stay and change things? Claire recounts how she and Jamie tried that. They were able to save one or two lives at best but unable to stop major historic events. They quickly realize Ian is asking for personal reasons, something between him and his wife. Claire doubles down that it won’t work; after all, he didn’t hear the buzzing from the opal or feel its heat. He can’t travel. Resigned to this fact, he tucks his tail and returns to the river.

Back at the house, Grey informs Jamie he’s returning to Hellwater. Lord Dunsany has died, and Grey must make arrangements seeing as how William is the heir. He admits he doesn’t want to leave. The change of pace has done him good. Jamie sends his condolences. John promises they will eventually return to Virginia (we all know how that turns out) after these darker days pass and gives Jamie a gift. It’s a pocket-sized portrait of his boy.

“I hope I am wrong, but I feel a storm coming.”—Lord John Grey

Claire tells Jamie she’s tasked Bree with sketching portraits of her, Roger and Jem. While Jamie applauds her excellent idea, he reminds her he didn’t require a picture to keep her likeness in mind for 20 years. “No pictures at all, but it does help.” He kisses her hand, thinks, and looks over at the picture of his son. Claire sits at her nightstand, a very modern-looking one at that, and dots herself with French perfume.

Later that night, she thrashes and wakes, kicking the covers off. It’s a hot flash. She heads to the window (aww snap! The window! Bow-chicka-wow-wow!) Jamie wakes shortly after, sensing her absence. Concerned, he quickly realizes she was wearing her “love on me” smell in addition to a standard kitchen spice rack: onions, garlic, black pepper, dill, vinegar. She teasingly smacks him on the bum. That bit felt adlibbed to me in that it was so natural. I could see Caitriona doing that jokingly, and they kept it. Who knows, but it came across as lovely and organic. She identifies his scents back as if she’s reading a candle ad in Masculine Magazine (not an actual thing): gun powder, fresh-cut grass, bacon, gasoline. They make love with her back to the wind. It’s delightful.

Back in her surgery the following morning, Claire inspects the resolution of her new microscope lens curtesy of John Grey. Jamie takes a peep and comments on the motility of the tiny microorganisms and their “handsomely thrashing tails.” (Oh, Diana. Ew.)

Later, Jamie finds Bree eating. He shows her his picture of William tells her of her brother. Jamie explains what happened between him and William’s mother, and that Claire is aware. He continues that William is in London and will never know Jamie is his father. Bree tells him they plan to leave in a week. He’s happy for her but sad.

“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, 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.”—Jamie

They hold hands.

Meanwhile, she and Roger have started the good-bye rounds. They tell Marsali (Lauren Lyle) and Fergus (Caesar Domboy). Marsali is stunned. “What are your parents going to do?! What am I going to do?! Boston is so far!”

Back at the house, Claire enters the frame. It’s a dark shot of the doorway, on a sunny day. She spots Bree, and things get very real. It’s a stunning visual. I feel the most like a voyeur when they shoot things in this doorway. They use it for a lot of the important stuff. Lizzie approaches Bree and gives her absolute guilt. They’ve been together so long, through the best and worst times. Why isn’t Lizzie coming with? She doesn’t understand. Bree tasks her with watching after the family.

Just then, visitors approach. It’s the Browns again and Lionel’s wife Rose (Hayley Doherty). They’ve come calling on Jamie again to join their gang. He’s considered it and declines. It’s now time for him to serve his family. Lionel admits he brought his wife to see Claire. She’s in need of a healer. They head to the surgery. Claire delicately questions the couple. They’ve been married just shy of a year. Her wrist is broken. Claire observes this happens typically by a fall or twisting it. Clearly, she suspects abuse. Claire finds a reason to send Lionel in search of Jamie, allowing her and Marsali some alone time with the patient. She gently inquires. Rose seems to think Lionel’s behavior is nothing out of the ordinary. He gets mad when she doesn’t finish chores and gets mad when he drinks. But insists he’s a “good man.” Claire points out that good men don’t hurt those they love.  Rose pushes back that it’s her fault for not lying with him. She then proceeds to regurgitate “Dr. Rawlings’” (Claire’s pseudonym) advice to avoid coitus during ovulation for preventing pregnancy. Just then, Lionel returns, and a glint catches his eye. It’s the Dr. Rawling’s nameplate on Claire’s medicine box. He’s on to her. He promptly removes his wife.

Outside, Roger approaches Young Ian for a favor. He wants him to join them on the journey to the nearest stone circle. Roger needs him to take the horses and wagon back after they leave. He doesn’t want Jamie or Claire there for fear the guilt will stop them altogether. Ian agrees. These two developed a wonderful friendship. Roger then hands him an envelope, a gift. It’s their land. Young Ian refuses. Roger says fine then, “look after it for me. Do with it what you will. I hope you find happiness.”

Bree looks free of worry for the first time in a long time. She sees Grey on the porch and smiles. He asks her about the Boston plan, and Brianna confirms. She mentions William. He’s relieved she knows but explains he can never tell William of her existence. She understands. Grey leaves in two days and will take Ulysses with him; once he sets foot on a British ship, he’ll be a free man. Plus, Grey needs a respectable chess buddy.

Later, Bree and Roger watch out the window as Jamie plays with Jemmy on a horse. They share the fact that neither ever had the grandparent experience.

Claire finally has a moment alone with Bree, who whimpers, “Mamma!” and they embrace. Stupid good-byes. (I’m not crying YOU’RE crying!) That night, Claire serves up something special at dinner.

The future’s answer to journeycake: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!—Claire

Jamie attempts to eat it with a knife and fork. Young Ian eats it properly, with both hands. Jamie jokes, “Are you sure it’s meant to be eaten? you could seal letters and mend boots with it as well.” With that, he toasts his family, and they cheer. This feels like good-bye.

Cut to a wagon rolling along in the woods, and in comes that fairy melody theme again that defined season one. McCreary features the melody with a fiddle this time, compared to the original haunting choral arrangement. It’s set to b-roll of waterfalls, mountains, trees, and sunrise. Ugh, heartstrings. Next thing, Jem is shouting, “I hear them! I hear them!” And up the hill, they go. Roger holds a rope. The buzzing starts. They’re at the standing stones. Speaking from experience, it sounds like a hurricane.

Back on the Ridge, Claire looks at the sketches of the baby. Jamie stands in the doorway. They’re in Roger and Bree’s house, Jamie and Claire’s “starter home.” He comments that if Roger’s timing was right, they should be at the stones by now.

“We started our life on the ridge in this cabin. And now it’s just you and me again.”—Claire

Jamie comforts her. They hug and rub foreheads. I love them. He comments that perhaps in the future, she can actually become an engineer.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzies are all roped together, mom, dad, and Jem in the middle. They’re ready. They thank Young Ian for everything and ask him to take care of mom and da. They put a gemstone in Jem’s hand and intertwine their fingers. They touch the stone. My heart sinks.

Dead leaves blow and rustle. Roger, Bree, and the boy get up from the ground. Jem is fine. They made it. But when are they?

At home with Jamie and Claire, life carries on. The twins, Jamie, Fergus, and Young Ian, are digging a privy and having each other on. There’s a blast. It’s the whisky still, and they take off.

Claire and Marsali are treating a patient with a dislocated arm (think Jamie and Claire’s first encounter), and hilarious banter ensues. This moment cracked me up. Lauren Lyle and Caitriona’s chemistry is great. They’re interrupted as the “Safety Committee” members barge in. They knock Marsali unconscious but not before she hides Germaine under the bed. They kidnap Claire.

When Jamie and the boys return home, they find Jermaine standing on the porch alone. He tells Fergus, “Mama won’t wake up.” They storm the house to find Marsali out cold but breathing, and no Claire. Cut to Jamie running up the side of a cliff at dusk. He lights the fiery cross.

If Claire is in the healing business, Jamie is in the killing business.

And business is about to be booming.

MANDY’S MUSINGS: For when I can’t suppress my inner fan-girl.

  • What is it about the “Diana” episodes?! They’re paced so damned well!
  • They smothered the Dutch girl?! If my skin is burned off, a bullet to the head, please.
  • I got all mushy during the Jamie/Jem horse scene. My parents immigrated, and I didn’t have grandparents. I love watching my kid enjoy the “grandparent experience.”
  • That window scene, though…

That last shot of Jamie running up the cliff was very a la Poldark.

NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, MAY 10TH AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 510: “NEVER MY LOVE”

Unofficial Synopsis:  “Claire struggles to survive brutal treatment from her captors.”

Photos courtesy of Starz.