[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 605: “Give Me Liberty”
Written by Barbara Stepansky, Directed by: Christiana Ebohon-Green
A moment for full transparency. I blame my parents for installing a TV and cable, complete with the Disney channel, in my room when I was eight years old. I bring this up because, in my 40 years, no one has ever described me as a “voracious reader.” Then, in 2014, my good friend, Annie, told me about this book series she loved that had been adapted for television; she thought I’d enjoy it. (An understatement.) After Outlander the show premiered, I immediately ordered my copy of the first novel. My spouse, the actual voracious reader, laughed as he handed me the 1,000-page text. By 2016, I was mid-way through book six, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. And then, as it often does, life sort of happened. All that to say, the show storyline has officially converged with my stopping place in the text. Please keep that in mind throughout this review because HOLY MOLY A CRAP TON HAPPENS in Outlander Episode 605, “Give Me Liberty.”
Before the credits, the shot opens to cloudy skies overlooking a rocky beach. A new graphics font reads “June 1746, Scotland.” Bear McCreary’s score opens with one single violin before swelling into fuller strings. The shot feels desolate and bleak. Three figures creep along the sand. The figure trailing asks the other two to, “Wait! Stop!” The voice is stinging with familiarity. It’s the Bonny Prince Charles Stuart! (Andrew Gower) YAYYYY! Mark me, I love him. As the story goes, he is, in fact, in a woman’s bonnet. He hates the bonnet. (And women everywhere roll their eyes.) He and his two servants, Flora MacDonald (Shana MacDonald) and a gentleman, hid in the isles for weeks. Now they’re making their escape. The manservant advises they halt upon viewing Redcoats up ahead on the beach, surrounding the rickety boat charged with carrying the bonny prince quite literally over the sea to Skye. George is worried their plan to get him to a boat will never work. But Flora says, “Hold ma beer and don’t say a word.” The Redcoat asks for their papers. Flora explains:
“I’m making haste to reach Armadale, over the sea to Skye.”
She claims she’s headed home per her father’s request, as her mother is on her deathbed, and introduces the prince as “Mrs. Burke,” her servant who knits. The Redcoat takes the bait and encourages them to continue with haste. They pass by when he calls out. They’re busted! Or so we think. This moment was so tense you could cut it with a butter knife. He holds up Flora’s papers. She’d forgotten to retrieve them from him. “Mrs. McDonald?” he says. “Take good care, Mistress. There are traitors about.” She bows and sees George to the departing boat.
“Mark me, dear Flora, your kindness will not go unremembered.”
AND THEN, the opening credits roll. Yet again, we have a new arrangement of the song from Mr. McCreary; instead of the cross-cultural duet, the lead vocal is male and sung in full in Gaelic. While I like Bear’s earlier theme interpretation this season, this iteration gave me goosebumps and all the feels. The opening visuals have also shifted to Scotland.
As credits close, we open back on colonial imagery: a red and white striped flag with the snake and the call to action “JOIN OR DIE.”
We pick up inside Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) office. The camera pans over his desk while he narrates a letter he’s written to the Governor. The scene cuts to the Governor, who picks up reading what we learn is Jamie’s letter of resignation as Indian agent. As he puts the letter down, we learn he was reading to. Can ya guess? Lord John Grey! (David Berry). Huzzah! A bit shocked, the Governor asks Lord John to clarify his bestie’s intentions.
“Personal convictions?! Is this a letter of resignation or revolt?”
Lord John looks pensive and assures the Governator it’s the former. Tryon is worried Jamie will turn and take his militia with him. Tryon asks John to visit Jamie and determine where his loyalties lie.
Cut to the docks in Wilmington, North Carolina, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is packing. She seems content. Jamie enters, spectacled and skeptical of a letter he’s received. Cornelius Harnett (James Weber Brown) has invited him for a drink and to “raise a glass to King and Country.” Ah, the reason for Jamie’s skepticism; this would be a public display. “The Sons of Liberty toasting the King?” We learn Team Fraser is in town for an event, one featuring Flora MacDonald, the servant who saw Prince George to safety years earlier. Jamie is excited to see her, as they knew each other as children. Claire delicately teases that he must have had a small crush. Jamie has no idea what a “crush” is, so she clarifies in French. He laughs it off before admitting he’s bummed Fergus can’t join them. Apparently, he’s always been fascinated by Flora’s “epic tale.” Claire reminds Jamie not to kill her party buzz; today is a celebration! He promises. She then tells him about Flora’s famed brand in the twentieth century.
“The image of her and Prince Charles in a boat became emblematic of a certain spirit of Scottish rebelliousness.”
And yet she’s here to speak on behalf of the Crown of England to a room full of loyal British (Highlander) subjects. Folks who not long ago were at war with the British over this very thing, land, and freedom. WHOA. THAT’S HEAVY.
“Much to lose. Very little to gain.”
Jamie continues to explain that they fought this battle once before and lost. I’m normally not one for exposition. (Don’t ask what I thought of the West Side Story remake. I have THOUGHTS.) But I appreciated this heartbreaking irony spelled out. This scene added a whole new dimension of internal struggle and conflict. Jamie finally admits — as though to himself for the first time — that were it not for Claire and Brianna’s (Sophie Skelton) knowledge of the events to come, he too would keep his oath to the Crown. He verbalizes his intent to break his oath. Having accepted his decision, Jamie’s face softens, he kisses his wife, and exits stage left. She’s worried for him. For them. For what’s coming.
Cut to the bar downstairs. Jamie arrives, scopes out the scene, and buys a drink. One of the men raises a glass and toasts his Majesty King George the Third. Other men cheer. Jamie gives him a cunning grin, enough to bother the man to ask, what’s that about? Jamie responds that he’s surrounded by men who have “about as much respect for the king as I do.” The man looks down sheepish. It’s Cornelius Harnett. It turns out the toast was a test. Harnett was confirming Jamie was Jamie. The mood lightens. Harnett asks how Jamie knew who he was. Jamie clarifies that while Harnett is convincing, his buddy, Mr. Beeston (Freddie Stevenson), looks to vomit at any mention of the King.
They find a corner and post up. They pepper one another with compliments and their mutual admiration. Harnett shares that word’s gotten around about Jamie defiantly throwing down his Redcoat at Tryon’s feet. Jamie plays it cool and downplays the event. But this is worrying. Do too many important people know? While Hartnett admires Jamie’s humility, he acknowledges that they both run a risk by being seen together. He admires Jamie’s bold spirit and unapologetic willingness to ask questions. Jamie clarifies that a man must often question his own motives.
“To do right by my conscience. And my duty to my brothers.”
He then confesses that his ideals changed at Alamance. They both agree that they stand for liberty. The bartender is supportive of the Cause. The Sons of Liberty plan to meet after closing, and Jamie will be there. They depart, and he walks past the hearth, out of frame. Then back into the frame as though he missed something. He does a double-take at a small glass jar on the mantle. We learn it’s “The Bollocks of Stephen Bonnet.” Jamie raises an eyebrow in approval and carries on his way.
Meanwhile, on the Ridge, Roger (Richard Rankin) fixes a hole in Amy McCallum’s (Joanne Thomson) chimney. Her son, Aiden (Caleb Reynolds), helps. Sort of. Out comes lady Jane. She’s thankful for the extra green pea pods Roger has brought her. He hums as he works. The song is “The Old Lights of Aberdeen.” She says it’s familiar, but Roger sort of man-splains that she’s wrong, and the lyrics likely just remind her of home. Now they reminisce about Scotland.
Over the river and through the woods, Bri and the ladies, Marsali (Lauren Lyle), Lizzie Wemyss (Caitlin O’Ryan), and Malva Christie (Jessica Reynolds), are looking for the perfect spot to build a water wheel. She’s inventing plumbing. The girls suggest the menfolk help and ask of Roger. Bri, seemingly a pinch perturbed, confirms he’s at McCallum’s place fixing her hearth. (I know that face. I invented that face.) They stumble upon a small spiral of stones and bones. A marker possibly? Marsali confirms the bones are finger bones. She tells the girls about particular charms (remember who her mum is?) that use bones and grave dust or ashes of a body. Lizzy is freaked. Marsali sifts around a bit and determines it’s a love charm called “Venom of the North Wind.” They speculate as to whom the charm belongs to, and then booooo. Marsali throws out Amy McCallum. I don’t care for this. Really?! How about Malva! Oh, speaking of Malva, she doubles down on her finger pointing at Amy. Lizzie faints. She’s fevered. Some side effects remain from malaria.
Back in Wilmington, Jamie and Claire arrive at a sprawling colonial home. It’s party time! The strings play. We see lots of party folk, and Claire dons a beautiful deep blue gown. They spot Lord John, surprised and excited to see him. He claims to have “a particular fondness for reformed Jacobites,” and we all laugh.
Claire asks after William, who is apparently turning into his father: tall, bright, and beats John at chess. Often. They ask after the Governor, who is not in attendance. John speaks about the Governor’s wish that Flora speaking will change the hearts and minds of those not loyal to the King. He looks at Jamie as he says this as if giving him a secret message. Jamie, a bit put off, and having seen his Aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy), excuses them. They head to Jocasta and Duncan Innes (Alistair Findlay). Thrilled to run into them, Jocasta asks why they never visit. Jamie, a little sore, says the last time he sent family, she bought a print shop, and Jamie lost a son. She pushes back, stating that Fergus’ print shop was the right decision for the whole family; once Marsali joins him in New Bern, it will be safer for Henri-Christian. Claire spots Jocasta’s handmaid, Mary (Mercy Ojelade), and is thrilled. Mary is happy also but informs Claire of her mother’s passing. Jocasta asks Ennis to take her for refreshment. They leave Claire and Jamie exchange a face.
Wide shot of the mountains and cut to the Ridge. The Beardsley Twins (Paul Gorman and Paul Gorman) are worried about their girl Lizzie. Bree tells them it’s fever and the shakes. She gives them some ointment and instructions to collect the berries needed to produce more.
Back at the party, the Frasers find Maj. MacDonald (Robin Laing) who was surprised to hear of his resignation. The famed Flora MacDonald enters. People ooh and ahh. Lord John introduces the Frasers. Flora and Jamie tease and poke about their childhood shenanigans. Flora is thrilled to meet Claire. They’re both star-struck. We learn someone was rummaging through Flora’s belongings and attempted to steal a necklace prior to the party. They’re late because, while the thief was apprehended, they had to wait for the sheriff to arrest said thief. She’s wearing the necklace, but Jamie notices an emerald is missing. Jocasta gets lightheaded. Claire and Flora escort her outside. Claire assumes it’s Jocasta’s eyes and is correct. Flora is bewildered that Claire just KNOWS what’s up with people and asks after herself. Claire guesses she has some natural anxiety about speaking later and says she has something for that too… They head out.
At the Ridge, Bri and Roger are working outside, and Roger is still humming his tune. Bri is unfamiliar and asks.
“Funny you should mention! My side piece was convinced she HAD heard it!” That’s what Bree basically hears. He actually says Amy McCallum thought it was familiar. He goes on about how that’s impossible because it was composed in the 1950s. Super SUS. Bri, by the skin of her teeth, remains composed. She bridges the conversation to the discovery she and the ladies made earlier by the river, the creepy love charm. She tests Lizzie’s theory on Roger that it belonged to the Fisher Folk. But Roger, digging his own grave, rules them out. At this point, the passive-aggressive boxing gloves come out. “You’ve been over there a lot lately,” she says. Roger explains he’s been fixing her home. “And serenading her.” (Ouch, baby.) Roger laughs it off. But Bree makes it clear the optics are tacky. (We’re not even halfway through the episode!)
It finally dawns on Roger what she’s implying. He’s quick to point out that he’s not “spending time” with her but instead keeping a promise. Then, like a ton of bricks, “Wait, wha??? You think SHE made the love charm?!” The truth comes out. He admits it’s nice to feel useful. That at the Ridge, Bri is beyond self-sufficient. Roger isn’t feeling valued. (I wonder what his love language is?) Throughout the novels, this theme always bothered me about Roger’s personality. But my recollection points to the insecurity toward Jamie and less Bri. He loves her and is proud of her, but Roger is also looking for ways to contribute. He attempts to allay her concerns that Amy means no harm “she sees me as her minister.”
“BUT YOU’RE NOT HER MINISTER!” (Harsh barley, Bri. But point taken.)
“Amy needs to find a husband of her own. And she won’t if you’re already the man of the house.”
Back at the party, I KNEW IT! The ladies are lighting up 4/20 style. Jocasta, Flora, and Claire share a pipe, hemp flower. Flora is delighted. “I think we are a veritable gentlemen’s club!” Flora suggests drinking to Prince Charles, but Claire says, “We drink to you, girlfriend.” Flora confesses folks thought they were lovers, then admits she disagreed with his politics.
“Charles Stuart was no leader of men.” Claire agrees, sharing last she’d heard, he was drinking himself to death in Italy. Jocasta points out that he’s not the only Royal Claire has met personally. She recalls Culloden first, followed by Versailles. We see a flashback of King Louis thrusting himself on top of her. Again, forgotten. Yet another time, she was raped. She changes topics and claims it’s almost time for Flora to give her speech. Claire and Jocasta share a moment. Jocasta misses Murtagh to the point of heartbreak. Claire parts with her claiming to collect more hemp flowers. But really, she’s looking to self-medicate with ether.
Cut to Flora addressing the crowd with poise and strength. Jamie notices Claire’s late arrival and inquires. She lies. So this is big: lies and secret behavior. Flora’s speech cuts into the moment. She’s quoting her new friend, Claire.
“We must seek to find what ales us not outwardly but within.”
Cut to me yelling at my tv: YEAH CLAIRE! TAKE YOUR OWN DAMNED ADVICE!
Flora finishes her address. The audience claps. Bagpipes bellow. Later, Jamie and Lord John walk and chat. We see some interesting b-roll of just their legs: John in high knee socks and Jamie in boots. B-roll is so often considered filler. When done right, it should add a subliminal layer of context to the story. I inferred from this a further statement of two men who are friends, despite coming from and living in two different worlds. (Hops off B-roll soapbox.)
Time for a crucial conversation. Lord John gives Jamie the heads up about the Governor’s concerns regarding his loyalty. John asks him about the resignation directly. He tells Jamie that his name appears on a growing list of men who support the Sons of Liberty movement. Jamie shares that he’s been in contact with the Committee of Correspondence. John cuts him off that he trusts Jamie will end the correspondence post haste. Jamie answers. By not answering. John implores him to leave it alone and then asks if Jamir knows the location of the super-secret Committee of Correspondence. Jamie claims he doesn’t. We get the sense that John knows better but leaves it there. He asks that Jamie be careful, as the Crown has little birds everywhere. On the verge of confessing something, likely the future, Jamie is interrupted by a servant. Something bad is going on in town.
A mob swarms the print shop. Jamie and John break through and ask what’s going on. The printer shares that Jocasta paid him to print flyers commemorating the day of Flora’s speech. The flyer depicts an illustration of Flora on the boat sailing to Skye. A flag waves above her that reads “God Save the King.” This has outraged the community. Mr. Beeston eyes Jamie defending the printer, and scatters. The mob threatens to tar and feather James along with the printer if he moves and lets them in. And then, my second favorite line in the episode happens:
“Better a printer up my arse than a fool with a torch!” (Love it)
Chaos ensues. The printer opens the doors. Someone flings tar at Jamie, hitting him behind the ear. Another man shoots the printer. As Jamie and co are overwhelmed by the mob, the Redcoats arrive and break up the hysteria. Major MacDonald saved their bacon. John gives a nod of appreciation.
That night, Claire gently cleans the tar off from behind his ear and comments on not being shot or stabbed. The whole scene screams season one. It made me smile. Jamie counters with the details she’s told him about what will happen on July 4, 1776. As in, I’m not shot or stabbed yet, Lady. She clarifies that’s when the Declaration is signed, but that war breaks out before. Jamie worries about his people on the Ridge once they learn he has broken his oath to the King. He worries about lying to his friend, Lord John, and he confides to his soul mate that he’s never lived without allegiance.
“Our allegiance now is to this new nation.”
Meanwhile, Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones) is busy quoting famed Scottish poet John Dunn as he, Roger, and Allan Christie (Alexander Vlahos) push a large—and very heavy—bell up a hill toward the belfry. Roger goes inside to acquire some rope for the said bell. And whom does he stumble upon? Obadiah Henderson (Euan Bennett). And who is Mr. Henderson upon? Malva! And her thoughts on the matter? Malva threatens Roger that should he utter a word to her father, she’ll tell the town she witnessed Roger kissing Amy McCallum.
“Everyone knows you spend more time with the widow than you do your own wife.”
Roger, shocked, exits the schoolhouse/church/town hall, and Henderson follows behind, happy to help the men raise the bell. Malva pops out of the back. A wide shot of the hills cut to Amy’s house. Aiden runs up to Roger, thrilled to see him, and tells him about his day, how a young child does with their father. Amy appears and invites Roger in for lunch. He politely declines; he’ll finish the hearth and then go. She insists. And then SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
OK, remember the bit about how I haven’t read this far? What happened next had me floored. I’m curious as to how close this next scene follows the books.
He goes in. What in fresh Hell, Roger?!?!?! OMG, the table is set for three. They were waiting for him! So creepy! And now he sits at the head of the table. I was DONE.
Back in town, Jamie confronts Jocasta, asking if she footed the bill for Flora’s speaking engagement. She confirms, after all, why have idle hands when they can reach into one’s purse and get things done? Then he calls out her bigger plan with Fergus and the print shop; he’ll print her views. Jamie worries it will get him hanged or tarred and feathered. He threatens her to cease and desist: If anything should happen to my son… Jocasta turns in for the night. Mary, the slave, confides to Jamie that Jocasta hasn’t been herself since Murtagh died. That she sits in a chair alone by the fire and talks in her sleep of money, blood, her daughter, and French Gold. (Hmmm.) Mary worries that Jocasta may be losing her mind.
“No. Just her heart.”
Bri sits on the stoop and tussles Jem’s (Robin Scott) hair before he runs off to play. Roger arrives home with his toolkit and takes a seat to watch Jem. He asks Bri if she knows Obadiah Henderson. Good plan, Roger. Get ahead of it. Tell Bri what happened. NOPE. He tells her that he asked Obadiah to keep an eye on Amy McCallum from now on. They talk about how his mum was a young mother on her own, so he empathizes, and perhaps a bit too much. He apologizes, saying he wants to spend time with his family—the three of them.
“You mean the four of us.”
Bri is once again with child. He’s thrilled, “Really?” “Really.” They kiss. So in a matter of minutes, I have become a crying pendulum of manic emotion. Now I’m Awwwwwww!!!
Meanwhile, Malva heads into a tent. Did we see this tent in earlier episodes?! I’m sure I would have remembered it. You know, the one WITH A DECAYING BODY. Did I miss this? The cadaver is missing some digits. Malva pulls out a pocket knife (I need to ask Alexa or Siri when those were invented.) and proceeds to cut off another digit. At first, she seems disgusted, but then you realize, ohhh, she is here for it.
Jamie meets John in town, determined to speak—and likely share something — with him. John is proud he’s discovered the secret location for the Sons of Liberty meeting that evening. Jamie says he will attend. At first, John hears, “Oooh delightful! As a spy!” but quickly realizes, “Aww crap.” “You’re one of them,” he says. Jamie nods. John feels a fool for his optimistic musings. John is upset that Jamie may lose his life, and Jamie says he’ll lose his freedom. This upsets and hurts John.
“Is that how I appear to you, Jamie? As tyranny?”
“You surprise me at every turn. But then you always have,” says John before committing to delay the Redcoats from busting up the rebel meet and greet for as long as possible. He loves him, Jamie, and tells him to be careful, and Jamie nods in earnest.
At the super-secret shindig, Harnett tells Jamie he’s no longer welcome, that Mr. Beeston saw him “defend that Tory printer.” Jamie challenges the group’s logic that he’d not sit by and see an innocent man harmed.
“I came here tonight because I believed I’d be among men who understood that even if they disagreed. Men who are not afraid to hear another man’s opinion spoken. Because they prize that freedom and have faith, it will serve the greater good in time.” (my favorite quote)
He challenges their capacity for common decency. If it is ever to be expected with all men, it must begin with them. Harnett asks how they can trust Jamie, so Jamie informs them of the impending British arrest. Harnett asks how he knows, and at that moment, the shadowy red figures move in the windows. Jamie and Harnett send the men out immediately, unlock the doors, and start a game of late-night billiards. The Redcoats barge in, and Jamie asks the Redcoats to join. The arrest is thwarted.
At the Ridge, Bri checks on baby Henri-Christian. Marsali putters about. She calls out Bri’s pregnancy, “I see youuuuu!” Bri is excited but wants to wait to tell Claire in her own time. She’s sad her “sister” is leaving. But Marsali knows Henri and the new baby will be thick as thieves in time.
In town, Jamie packs a wagon for home. Claire sits up front, internalizing things. In the air, she hears someone whistle the Colonel Bogey March (released in 1914, FYI). But she shakes it off. They head for home. SCENE.
Cut to a jail cell. A dark figure is DEFINITELY whistling the Colonel Bogey March. But who?! The camera pans forward slowly. The shadowy figure holds the missing emerald in his hand. He turns to the camera, and we learn it’s none other than … NOOOOO!!! Scene! Damn you, Matt B. Roberts!
Wow. “Give Me Liberty” was jam-packed from beginning to end. There’s so much to unpack. For me, the writing of this episode was STELLAR. I know a lot of dialogue in season six has come directly from the books, so that’s clearly part of it. But so many characters are on their own separate journeys for personal liberation. And this is the first time in a long time that Jamie and Claire’s paths have not exactly paralleled one another. He’s lived through tyranny, and knowing what could come to the colonists if they continue under British rule, moreover, what would happen to the Native Americans, he can’t back down. Claire is fighting the wrong fight in an attempt to liberate herself from her trauma. And Jamie is completely in the dark here. If we recall, after Jamie’s assault in Wentworth, he worked through his trauma and grief with her by his side. But he was also broken on the surface. Claire is at war with herself. And won’t let anyone know. I know bad things are afoot with Malva, and I am absolutely petrified and excited to see what happens next.
Until next week, y’all. I need a drink.
NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, APRIL 10, AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 606: “THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN”
Synopsis: “A dysentery epidemic strikes the Ridge.”
Photos courtesy of Starz.