[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 606: “The World Turned Upside Down”
Written by Toni Graphia, Directed by: Justin Molotnikov
A new week, a new episode of ‘Outlander.’ My usual style of episodic recaps/ reviews is I wait until the family has gone to bed so that I can give my full attention to the Ridge. I then immediately start to write while watching the episode a second time. I like to roll with my gut reactions. Are there moments that later I think differently after letting them sit for a bit? Yes, but overall, I am usually consistent in what I think about each show.
This week my routine was overthrown by this particular episode. I watched just as I normally do, and then I sat… I thought… I realized; I could not immediately start writing. This episode left me with a sense of sadness and uncomfortably that carried over into the following day. I still could not bring myself to watch again or start writing. I have left this recap until I cannot wait any longer. I am pretty good at keeping my visual television entertainment separate from my emotions. Books, they sit with me, television, I watch and go about my business. Even in earlier seasons, heavy hitters such as “Faith” and “Wentworth Prison” didn’t get me like this week. I believe the difference all comes down to Malva Christie (Jessica Reynolds).
When Jamie and Claire are in Wentworth Prison with Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), his character is so over the top that it isn’t someone we would normally encounter in our regular modern-day lives. But Malva, I think all of us have met someone, in some form, that has done or said things to try and hurt us or our relationships with family and friends. She is just so…” normal,” not just an over-the-top character in a show. Bravo to Jessica Reynolds for playing Malva so sweetly, cunningly, and slyly. I think she may be the best actor on the show to date. When you can no longer see someone as a television character, the actor has done an amazing job, and she has done just that. Let’s get into this week’s hour and ten-minute episode.
The ‘World Turned Upside Down’ starts literally upside down, disorienting coming through the church window onto Roger (Richard Rankin) leading a church service. He has embraced his role, and the Reverend would be proud, even though I still feel that Bree (Sophie Skelton) is not. The show hasn’t addressed why she doesn’t want Roger to lead services, but…okay? This scene immediately sets up the episode by showing Malva watching Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe), in love, bonded. Roger asks if anyone has seen Mr. and Mrs. MacNeill (Ryan Hunter and Sinead MacInnes), leading the ladies to check on them at their cabin. I wish we could have seen Marsali (Lauren Lyle) and Fergus (Cesar Domboy) off to New Bern, but they were expedient in reminding us where they have gone and why.
Claire, Bree, Malva, and Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan) check in on the MacNeill’s and find the family struck down will an illness, dysentery. They try to help, but the baby and Mrs. MacNeill immediately succumb to the illness.
Claire goes back to her surgery and shows Malva the amoeba that is causing the illness, and she explains to Jamie and Malva that dysentery is caused by tainted food or water. With more settlers coming down with the sickness, Jamie searches for the source, and Claire and Malva go to assist the others stricken down.
We see by the freshly dug graves in the new Fraser’s Ridge cemetery that many have died in a short period. The Frasers and family are watching the burials, and suddenly Claire gets the disorientation that happens right before you pass out. Bree acknowledges that she doesn’t look well as Claire faints in Jamie’s arms. Claire is struck with severe fever and is bedridden while the family cares for her.
Jamie is worried about his Sassenach, and Malva doesn’t want to leave Claire (and Jamie’s side). Days pass while Claire has fever dreams of snakes, thunderstorms, and her heart. While everyone is caring for Claire, Malva shows more interest in caring for Jamie. When she provided him the willow bark tea, I wondered if she maybe added a little something to it. This. These actions have unnerved me with Malva, is it regular tea, or is she attempting to drug Jamie? I know he took a few sips, but he didn’t drink it all, did he? He just picked the mug up numerous times. The conversation about the serpent and old sly Lord Lovat were topics that very much went with the theme of Claire’s fever dreams and much foreshadowing. Claire “sees” Malva and Jamie at the window through a haze. While she will think this is just a dream, it will come into play later.
Claire finally comes to while Roger is with her Malva and Mrs. Bug (Sarah Collier) have shorn Claire’s hair in a very unbecoming fashion. Malva has obviously done this to make Claire less beautiful to Jamie Roger attempts to console Claire and tells her that Jamie has already seen her with her hair cut off. He cried when he did (I would have liked to have seen that moment, Jamie Fraser’s emotion is always good). Roger also tells Claire she has been out almost a week, and nobody else is ill with dysentery.
Bree enters to find Claire awake and lets Claire know that she is pregnant. While I initially thought this was poor timing, it was actually probably good; it gives Claire some strength. Bree “fixes” Claire’s hair the best she can under the watchful eye of Jamie Jamie asks if Claire would be interested in “wearing a cap” to lighten the mood. I love this moment with Jamie and Claire; it shows the comfortable love that comes with time and being with someone through many of life’s events. Jamie has found the cause of dysentery, there was a dead elk in the river, but Claire and Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones) have been sick with something different than the rest of the settlers. Claire’s mind has recovered much faster than her body. Her wheels start turning immediately, going through her symptoms. She lets Jamie know about the difference between her fever dreams from when she lost Faith compared to this time. Jamie lets her know that any snake in the house will “lose its head before it reaches the staircase” This statement will come to fruition later.
Claire makes the trek to visit Tom Christie. I love how Claire and Tom have this interesting relationship. He obviously disagrees with her, but you can tell he cares and admires her at the same time. Claire asks him about his symptoms, and when she finds they are the same as hers, she asks for a fecal sample since they haven’t been together to get the illness from each other This request pushes Tom over the edge, and he sends her away, yet he still sees her home.
Claire lets Jamie know she and Tom had the same thing, but it wasn’t dysentery. They have another loving moment with Jamie saying Jamie Fraser things. I really like this intimacy, this care. This is the Jamie and Claire I love. Later that evening, it is followed by Jamie sleeping on the floor, making them reminisce about Jamie sleeping on the floor when they collected rents many years ago. I am so glad that this moment led to them just talking sweet nothings, pillow talk to each other.
With Claire recovered, we are reminded that the Revolution is coming. Jamie and Roger are packing to head off to the meeting, but the Christies show up to speak with Jamie. Young Ian (John Bell) is there, and Malva won’t meet his eye while going into the house. Tom says that “his daughter finds herself with child” and will not say who the father is except in Jamie’s presence. She finally steps forward, looking into Jamie Fraser’s eyes, and says, “it was him”. Emotions are all around, Jamie and Claire are angry and confused, the Christies are angry, and Malva is holding fast to her story. Of course, Mrs. Bug overhears and gets the story circulating on the Ridge. Gossip on the Ridge moves quickly.
Malva has her story all lined up and is dedicated to it. Jamie denies it, but with Claire slapping Malva and Malva saying she knows of marks on Jamie’s body (remember she was spying on Jamie and Claire in the barn the other week), the Christies take this as admission when Jamie cannot deny he has those marks and can not come up with a reason of why and how Malva knows he has them, Tom demands a contract be written up for Jamie to care for the baby.
Jamie goes to the barn to find Claire. She is fuming angry Claire has her first-ever fit of being back in Jamie’s time. They are all there because she “loved Jamie more than the life she had” Even though he has to be angry beyond reason, Jamie stays calm and tells Claire of his night with Mary MacNab, of his night with another woman besides Claire (and Geneva, which I was surprised didn’t come up here) Claire understands why Jamie was with Mary and says she realizes Jamie would never not care for one of his children of his blood, no matter how it came into the world. Even though he says everyone will believe the story, and that they need to find out the truth, he and Roger still leave, and for months Leaving Claire to feel the repercussions of Malva’s declaration on her own.
Claire attempts to reach out to Malva, to help her, be a listening ear. Just as Malva is opening up to Claire (she is still a girl and desires to have that motherly figure Claire has provided), or is this still part of her cunning, Allan (Alexander Vlahos) comes out. It switches Malva immediately back to her “self,” and she aligns with Allan that Claire is a witch, and they know what happens to witches. That was it; that was Claire’s last straw. She tells Malva to stay away from her family.
After Young Ian goes toe to toe with Henderson and men on the Ridge when they are speaking ill of Jamie, he goes to Claire and lets her know that he has lain with Malva and the child could be his He wants to care for her and ease the blame on Jamie Claire lets Ian know that it could be his. Still, it also could be others, as Roger has let them know that he caught Malva with Henderson in the church.
The men are back, and Jamie was not elected to go to the Continental Congress because the gossip from the Ridge had beaten them there. Bree and Claire inform the men that it has been really hard on Claire; everyone is treating her as a pariah. As much as Claire thinks this will pass, it has been quite a long time already. Nobody is coming to Claire for healing purposes; they are all ignoring her. Feeling desolate and alone without being able to do what she feels is her purpose (and seeing Malva on her way to the office from the barn), Claire locks the doors and reaches for the ether. While she is out, Claire dreams of Malva, Malva saying using the ether is “of the devil,” that Claire must have been beautiful once, but that she isn’t any longer, and that is why Jamie has turned to her That everything that is Claire’s will be hers Claire threatens her with a scalpel, and then Claire wakes on the bed.
Ether is no longer her escape; that dream was worse than reality. Claire goes outside to her garden. When bending down, she turns and sees Malva with her throat cut (head cut off the snake, anyone?) lying in the reeds. Claire immediately attempts to save the baby by cutting it out of Malva, But she is too late. We are left with a distraught Claire by herself, crying over a bloody, now butchered Malva and her baby. Claire’s world did indeed just get severely turned upside down. If she thought the settlers were uncomfortable with her before, wait until they find this information out.
As much as I am happy they are moving the story along and not dragging things out, I am so sorry to see Jessica Reynolds gone, even though I am not sorry to see Malva dead. What is going to happen to Claire? Is this the wake-up call for her to stop using ether? Is she going to tell everyone that she was out from the ether when this happened? We will have to wait more than a week to find out as ‘Outlander’ is taking off next week of April 17th.
What did you think of this episode? Did you love or dislike Malva? Who has been the “villain” that has bothered you the most so far in the show, and why? Let us know.
IN TWO WEEKS, SUNDAY, APRIL 24TH: EPISODE 607: “STICKS AND STONES”
Synopsis: Claire tries to overcome her demons as a nefarious rumor begins to spread on the Ridge.
Photos courtesy of STARZ.