[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 505: “Perpetual Adoration”
Written by Alyson Evans and Steve Kornacki, Directed by Meera Menon
“If time is anything akin to God, then I suppose that memory must be the devil.” —Claire
Talk about timing. This week’s episode, Perpetual Adoration, is shot in multiple timelines—akin to season three—with the 1960s segments focused on a pivotal moment in Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) life as a 20th-century surgeon. This is juxtaposed against her 18th-century search for a “cure” (penicillin). I can’t help but feel a sense of deja vu, considering the current uncertainty surrounding the health crisis.
Perpetual Adoration opens in a Catholic church accompanied by Gregorian chant. Only when we see Claire in a pew with her fabulous (my favorite) Barbara Streisand hair and Elizabeth Taylor eyes, do we determine its the 1960s. We’re also back to Claire’s monologue as the driver. She speaks of God, faith, and time; this trinity will be the theme throughout.
Back on Fraser’s Ridge, her 18th century-century post-modern surgery is riddled with glass jars of aging mold. She—in a way—is playing God. Marsali (Lauren Lyle) walks in to find Claire peering through a microscope, stunned. She’s done it. She’s [pretty sure] she’s created penicillin. And break for opening credits.
The title cards wrap and settle on Claire’s hand sorting through “modern” women’s magazines, eventually deciding on a harlequin romance (or “smut novel” as my adoring sister-in-law sarcastically calls them) titled “The Impetuous Pirate.” And book readers squeal.
“Time is a lot of things they say God is.”—Claire
With that, a montage of heart-tugging flashbacks cascades Claire with Frank and happy, before the stones; Claire just back from stones, heartbroken and in agony; the Red Dress; the Fraser Clan gravestone at Culloden Moor; Jamie (Sam Heughan). And Claire. And poof, back to the 1960s. Claire is meeting Bree (Sophie Skelton) for lunch on campus at Harvard. “Everything ok?” she asks. (We all know the tone.) Claire confesses she’s lost a patient, an allergic reaction to penicillin.
“Guess you never really know when its comin’ do you.” – Bree
DING! Back to Fraser’s Ridge! Roger (Richard Rankin) and Bree lay in their tiny AF bed, after some afternoon delight. Their fingers do that playful, fondling thing lovers do after a bit of canoodling when he asks, “did you enjoy yourself?” (WHO ASKS THAT?!) They talk, as couples often do, of plans and ideas for the future; Bree could teach math at the “Mackenzie School.” Roger shoots it down for an oath he made to her father, Jamie. “I gave my word to your father… those words mean something to him. And to me(?).” He puzzles. She lovingly “boops” him on the nose (the only way to describe it).
Hard cut to Jamie, Fergus, and Crew trotting into town. They’re in the market for militia recruits. The townsfolk stand by watching; tensions are high. Jamie, in keeping with his pure hero archetype, arrives center stage on a gallant white steed.
“There’s no price that can be put upon a man’s bravery.”–Jamie
A local informs him they have no interest, as the Redcoats are, in fact, “benefiting from our hospitality” as it is. He points Jamie in the direction of the local pub where they’re known to congregate. We then see a knife fly through the air and pierce a “Wanted” sign. The shadowy figure in the caricature is rather Sean Connery-esque Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix).
Jamie meets up with and informs Lieutenant Knox (Michael D. Xavier) that they’ve raised roughly 50 new recruits. But the LT has bigger fish to fry, namely one Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser.
“In the absence of more tangible pursuits, he leaves no trace…a shadow in the dark, that one.”—Lt. Knox
Knox informs Jamie of Governor Trion’s new plan to pardon all regulators. This sounds good to Jamie but he appears skeptical. One must maintain appearances after all. He reads the governor’s plan with his spectacles—you know. In case you forgot he’s in his sixties. Knox fears the move will make them look foolish, cowardly even. He also worries his accidental murder in the jail cell a couple of episodes ago will have been for naught. Jamie advises him that perhaps the full pardon for all involved is best. Who is above second chances? He advises Knox to ask the Lord’s forgiveness. Then Fergus, like a good number two, brings him a beer.
“Trust me; there will be other battles to fight.”—Jamie
Knox thanks Jamie for his friendship, and shares his silver lining. He’s hopeful for a letter that will produce Murtagh’s whereabouts. He reveals his plan that he’s cleverly petitioned the magistrate for all prisoner rosters from Ardsmuire Prison. Through the list, he’ll identify ex-prisoners now living in the colonies as possible allies to Murtagh. Of course, we know, Jamie will be named among them. Jamie hurls his knife at the Wanted ad on the wall. He misses. Meanwhile, back in 1960’s Boston Catholic church…
“As a child, I used to stare at spider webs watching and waiting for an insect to become caught. While part of me was horrified by watching the death throws, I was mesmerized by the way the tiniest vibrations in the web would signal the spider that her pray was near. I wonder, is time God’s eternal web? Silk strands stretching through time? The mildest touch setting off vibrations that echo through the eons.” –Claire
Claire is conducting her rounds at the hospital. She’s talking with a Scottish patient about his smoking. He has gall stones, not cancer. The infection is in his bile ducts. She’ll need to operate and remove his gallbladder. He compliments her good, English last name: Randall. His name, coincidentally, is Menzies. (As in Tobias Menzies, currently starring as Prince Phillip in The Crown, but we love him as Frank/BlackJack Randall.) Menzies claims to know she has Scottish blood. “I consider myself American these days,” she informs him.
They discuss the impending surgery, but first, she starts him on a round of antibiotics… “Tis but one more scar. Nothing worth brooding over,” he quips casually in a rather familiar highland lilt.
WHOMP! Back to Fraser’s Ridge! She’s still in doctor-mode, giving Kezzie (Paul Gorman) an examination before she attempts to perform a tonsillectomy. She’s looking for signs of an allergic reaction to the penicillin she developed earlier. He’s in the clear. No reaction. She reviews the game plan with Marsali privately but is clearly nervous.
“Everything you do as a doctor involves risk.” –Claire
She instructs Kezzie to drop trow and gives him one of her intimidating shots to the bum. A swallow of laudanum later and cork in the mouth, and out come the tonsils. He handled it like a trooper and insisted on staying through his brother’s operation.
Meanwhile, Roger is on dad duty, trying to soothe little Jemmy. He finds a keepsake box and offers it to the babe. A jewel falls to the floor. Upon further inspection, Roger realizes through flashback that the gem once belonged to Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speelers), the current antagonist to the Fraser/Mackenzie household.
“Women are but a tax we men pay on pleasure.” –Bonnet
Bree returns home from an unsuccessful mushroom hunt. (Is it even mushroom soup if they’re not chanterelles?) Roger interrogates her about the jewel. “It’s Bonnet, isn’t,” he asks her, regarding Jemmy’s paternity. Bree turns away, clearly struggling to find words. She was afraid he wouldn’t understand how she came by it. “Try me,” he says. She comes clean about going to visit him at the jail; she told Bonnet the babe was his. He, in turn, gave her the stone to put toward the young lad. An ongoing point of worry for Roger this season is whether Jem will be able to travel through the stones, back to Roger and Bree’s time.
“Roger, that’s his ticket home. It’s our ticket home.”–Bree
This scene was a big one for me. This whole time Roger’s been concerned, Bree wishes to stay in the past. This confrontation, painful as it is, gets them on the same page. Bree confirms she also wants to return to the 1960s with Roger and their son.
And Back to 1960’s-hair Claire. She’s entering the church where the episode started. She speaks to a priest about her now-deceased Scottish patient, Mr. Mensies. She admits she’s unsure why she’s there as she did not really know him, and yet he felt so familiar; he reminded her of someone she lost.
“No one is lost who’s not forgotten.”–Priest.
Cut to life on the Ridge, and Roger is perched under a tree. He grabs his shotgun, hearing someone or something approach. It’s Claire. She couldn’t sleep, so she’s herb-hunting. He admits he’s giving Bree some space. Claire proceeds to meddle offer relationship advice. She reminds him their relationship is still very green, pointing to examples of she and Frank agreeing to make things work for the sake of Bree’s childhood. He points out their marriage was a lie. She refutes that Bree felt loved and safe. And when the time was right, coming clean about Jamie as Bree’s birth father, ultimately brought them closer together. He heeds her words and attempts to make things right with Bree. He offers her a peace offering, the chanterelles she so desperately wanted. She tries to explain her reasoning further, but Roger says it doesn’t matter. He apologizes. But there’s something else haunting her. Bonnet. She tells Roger he’s not only alive but in town, Wilmington. Worse, she’s pretty sure he approached Mrs. Bug and the baby. Roger comforts her. As soon as they confirm Jem can travel through the stones, they’ll leave.
“Don’t be careless with the time you have together.”—Claire
Lest we not forget about Jamie. He’s playing it cool with Lt. Knox. He asks what will become of the militia in the event the Regulators are pardoned. Knox informs that all will be pardoned save one, Murtagh. He’ll be expected to hand over his muster rolls and disband, returning home. Additionally, he is to deliver the pardons, impressing to the men the governer’s desire to be “merciful and just.” Jamie feigns regret at being unable to participate in Murtagh’s capture.
We jump yet again to the 1960s. Claire is conducting pre-op with her Scottish patient, Mr. Mensies. He’s worried about his recovery time interfering with his Perpetual Admiration shift at church, so the Blessed Sacrament is never left alone. You see, it’s his way of keeping his deceased wife close. He’s so much like Jamie. He shares though he misses Scotland, he’ll never return as his wife is buried here. She relates. And then confirms the start of his penicillin regimen. “It’s a date,” he says.
Jamie’s had a long day. He visits the Lieutenant to deliver the muster rolls, as they discussed. Knox offers a game of chess. How can Jamie refuse? He acknowledges he’s envious of Jamie getting to return to a citizen’s life. Jamie agrees it’s a relief to return to farming.
Then in the 1960s, Claire learns of her patient’s passing. Anaphylaxis, an adverse reaction to the penicillin. She proceeds to lose her cool. Joe Abernathy, her long-time medical school friend, finds her at a bar. He spots her copy of the Impetuous Pirate and confesses it’s his; sometimes, we all need a break. She feels terrible for letting herself get attached to the patient. He reminds her they’re humans first. In his opinion, the problem is in the heart, not the brain.
“Do you ever feel as if everything is pointing you towards something, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is?” –Claire
Jamie and Knox are entirely into their chess game. Knox admits he would have been happy in battle with Jamie by his side. Then a knock at the door. It’s the transcript of pardoned Ardsmuire prisoners. Jamie is forthright and tells Knox to expect to find his name listed. Knox laughs in agreement; he’s sure there is more than one James Fraser in the world. Jamie clarifies, not more than one from Broch Turach. AND, that Murtagh is his godfather. (Surprise!) Knox is stunned. Heartbroken. They struggle. Jamie suffocates him. He moves him into bed, removes his boots (as I was telling him to out loud from my living room couch), burns the prison transcript in the fireplace, closes the flue vent, and climbs out the window and onto the roof, where he meets a scrappy, grey kitten. Fergus is waiting for him. They head for home.
“Forgive me for not affording you a soldier’s death.” –Jamie
The air is clear as Jamie approaches his house. He’s happy and at peace, in his happy place. Claire is gardening. Claire greets him warmly as always. He presents her with the little furball he met in the roof, and he’s named him Adso, after his mother’s cat from his childhood.
We pick back up with Bree and Claire walking on campus, where the episode opened. This is the same day Claire loses her patient. She needs a break, to get away, and she asks Bree to take a trip to London with her as she’s taken a leave of absence. This moment is the spark of a chain reaction of events.
Our final episodic jump to the Ridge picks up with Claire feeding Adsoe a saucer of milk on the porch. She embraces Jamie, relieved he’s home. He’s excited to tell her of the events in town, but first, she speaks to him of her 1960’s Scottish patient. At that moment, she realizes, “…just how much I owe him. His death had a profound effect on me. So much that I took a leave of absence and took Bree to London.” That’s when they learned of Rev. Wakefield’s passing, found Roger, and ultimately found Jamie.
“Someday, I will stand before God, and I will receive answers to all my questions about everything in his universe … but I won’t ask about the nature of time. I’ve lived it.”—Claire
My review is brief: This season has been a struggle for me. But so was book five, The Fiery Cross. Diana Gabaldon herself has often referred to this installment as “a trudge.” But this episode kept me and even surprised me. FINALLY! Things happened! The story progressed! I was happy to see the return of Joe Abernathy and the 1960’s segments in general. And Roger and Sophie seem to have found their groove. Knowing what’s coming, I’m looking forward to the remainder of the season.
MANDY’S MUSINGS: For when I can’t suppress my inner fangirl.
- These tiny beds bugging anyone else?
- Claire’s bedroom is supposed to be upstairs, I thought?
- The kitchen window curtains always stay open. People could see them canoodle.
- I don’t LOVE Roger and Bree in the books (don’t kill me). But I’m really enjoying their chemistry onscreen. Tip o’ the hat to Richard and Sophie. Excellent job, gang.
- There’s just something about the way Sam gets off a horse. Check 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
- Where in the devil is the pig?!
NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, MARCH 15TH AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 505: “BETTER TO MARRY THAN BURN”
“At Jocasta’s wedding, Jamie learns Tryon’s true motivation for ending the Regulator threat. Claire discovers a lead on the whereabouts of a former enemy from an unexpected source, but the price for the information is far higher than she anticipates. In Jamie and Claire’s absence, Roger and Brianna must save the Ridge from an imminent threat.”
Photos and clips are courtesy of Starz.