Be ye warned: This post contains major spoilers from Outlander‘s Season 5 finale.
Outlander returned to an agonizing, if familiar, place Sunday: the rape of a lead character during the show’s season finale.
In the last episode of Season 1, Jamie was sexually violated by Black Jack Randall in exchange for Claire’s safety and release. In this week’s hour, Claire is beaten, cut, bound, gagged and eventually raped by Lionel Brown (and possibly others) as punishment for having the audacity to suggest that women needn’t submit to the sexual whims of their husbands.
Brown’s act is heinous, intentionally difficult to watch and straight out of author Diana Gabladon’s writing; though, as I mentioned last week, it’s a bit ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, the episode in which Claire’s attack is placed is a stylized — and in my opinion, well acted and executed — adaptation of the source material that begs some intriguing questions for Season 6 and beyond.
But before we get to that, let’s deal with this: Read on for the highlights of “Never My Love.”
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‘NOW YOU’RE GOING TO REPENT’ | A woman’s red-manicured hands place a record on a turntable, and The Association’s “Never My Love” begins to play. It’s Claire, looking very 1970s chic with a bob and a tailored red dress, and she sits in the living room of a sunny, modern home staring at a painting that looks vaguely like it’s of the big house at Fraser’s Ridge.
In flashes, though, we are back in the 1700s and learning what happened to Claire after Lionel Brown and his men kidnapped her at the end of the previous episode. She’s tied up and beaten, her nose bloodied. She learns that Brown’s gang blew up the whiskey still to distract the men of the Ridge. And Brown, who angrily refers to Claire as “Dr. Rawlings,” is determined to make her hurt for the indignities he suffered when his wife refused to sleep with him. “Now you’re going to repent for your sin,” he says, sounding like he’s really going to enjoy taking her to Brownsville and making her confess to the women what a charlatan she truly is.
In the book, Claire is with her kidnappers for a number of days. The episode’s storytelling is so intentionally fragmented, in order to telegraph Claire’s extreme panic and trauma, that it’s hard to get a sense of when things are happening. At one point she struggles, and the thug in the red coat slashes her across her collarbone. At another point, a different guy with wavy hair ties her up and makes casual mention of the man on the moon, which piques her interest, even in her incredibly freaked-out state. At night, she lies on the ground, weeping and trying not to choke on the dirty rag they’ve stuffed into her mouth.
WE GATHER TOGETHER | Throughout her ordeal, we see Claire escape to the warmly lit, late 1960s-era oasis in her mind. “Never My Love” plays throughout. Jamie is there, and he wraps her with a plaid and holds her near. At other times, we see moments from a family Thanksgiving dinner. Modern (and by that, I mean Partridge Family-looking) versions of Claire’s family members are in attendance, including Ian, who’s home from the military in full dress uniform, and a longer-than-usual-haired Fergus and Marsali and their kids. And wait, is that… YES IT IS MOD MURTAGH AND MOD JOCASTA AND THEY ARE CLEARLY IN LOVE and I knew there had to be a silver (fox) lining somewhere in this harrowing episode.
At one point, Mod Claire notices Bree, Roger and Jemmy aren’t there, but Jamie says they’re just stuck in holiday traffic. Later, though, two police officers — one of whom is played by Ned Dennehy, who also plays Lionel Brown — arrive to deliver some awful news: The MacKenzies were killed in a car accident. Claire has very few lines in her daydream, but here she starts to cry and moan “No” as she slides backwards through the house.
BLAST FROM THE… FUTURE? | One night while the kidnappers make camp, Brown doesn’t like the way a gagged Claire is evil-eyeing him. So he puts a rope around her neck and ties her to a tree a ways off from the fire. Between the swelling from the hits she’s taken to the face and the swelling from crying, she starts to choke on the cloth in her mouth. Only Wavy Hair’s intervention keeps her from suffocating.
“Does the name Ringo Starr mean anything to you?” he whispers, taking the gag out of her mouth as she coughs and tries to even out her breathing. She’s shocked but warily answers yes. “I knew you had to be, I knew it,” he says, introducing himself as Wendigo Donner, a fellow time-traveler from 1968 who was among Otter Tooth’s interdimensional companions. Though Donner won’t untie her at first, he eventually agrees to help her escape later that night in exchange for her leading him to a stone circle so he can go home. They make plans for him to return after the men have fallen asleep. And he’s got some advice for her in the meantime: “You have to act more afraid.” Her brazen nature, he adds, was his main indicator that she wasn’t of this time.
Unfortunately, before everyone turns in for the night, Lionel brings a teen over to Claire and invites the boy to rape her. Then Lionel stands back and watches the kid fumble his way under Claire’s skirts but ejaculate before he can violate her properly. Any bullet dodged there turns out not to have mattered much, because Lionel then kicks and punches Claire, climbing on top of her and raping her himself. “Not so high and mighty now, are we?” he sneers at her after, calling out to the rest of the men if any of them want “a go.” At least two more sleaze their way over, but thankfully, we don’t see what happens next. (Though if you really want to know what happened, here’s what the producers had to say.)
BOOMERANG EFFECT | Let’s momentarily distract ourselves from Claire’s violation and humiliation by finding out what the heck happened to Bree, Roger and Jem, aye? Turns out, they were bounced right back to where they started: The thing that they saw off screen at the end of the previous episode was Ian, who’s as baffled as they are. The MacKenzies have no idea while they didn’t go back to their own time, but the fact that both Rog and Bree were thinking about “home” may indicate that they’re going to stay in the 18th century longer than anyone planned.
On the way back to the Ridge, they see Jamie’s cross ablaze and meet up with Bree’s father — who’s wearing a kilt, which you know means he’s ready to eff ess up — as he’s marshaling his men near the big house. Bree gives the briefest of explanations as to why they’re back (“It didn’t work”), so Jamie asks her and Roger to stay and guard the land while he’s gone. But Roger says he’s going with his father-in-law, and Josiah says ditto. Meanwhile, Ian paints his face, shaves the sides of his head and readies himself for battle.
CAVALRY’S HERE | After the latest chapter in her terrifying ordeal, Claire wakes up to the sounds of fighting in the camp. The men of Fraser’s Ridge move with brutal efficiency as they lay waste to Brown’s group: Ian tomahawks someone between the eyes, and Roger kills a man then seems surprised that he was able to do so.
Meanwhile, Jamie finds Claire drifting in and out of reality. He cuts her free and sits her up, and if there were an Emmy for Outstanding Acting With Just the Facial Muscles, Sam Heughan would have this year’s race all sewn up. “You are alive. You are whole, mo nighean donn,” he says calmly while clearly freaking out on the inside. Eventually, John Quincy Myers approaches and hands Claire a blade, in case she wants to take vengeance on the remaining men herself. “She’s bound by an oath,” Jamie says, stopping him. “It is myself that kills for her.” Nearby, Ian quickly adds, “And I.” And then Fergus breaks my heart as he says, “And I, Milady.”
When Claire can’t give Jamie an exact ID or number of the men who hurt her, Jamie makes an executive decision: “Kill them all.” Then he wraps her in his plaid and carries her out of the camp, stopping to show her the corpses of everyone that assaulted her.
Weeeeell, everyone but Lionel Brown, whom Jamie orders restrained and brought home with them to answer questions. (If/when you are somehow able to rewatch this episode, take note of the way Heughan keeps Jamie’s focus trained on Claire even when literal bloody murder is taking place a few feet away. Gorgeous.)
HOME SAFE | Back at the Ridge, Bree runs to her mother. (Side note: Man, that bloodshot contact Caitriona Balfe is wearing in her left eye is a really nice, if gory, detail.) Then Marsali — who’s OK! and so’s her baby! — comes over and has a moment with Claire where they just clutch each other. Someone please summon Roger to say a wee prayer over my grave, because I just died of aching solidarity with these loves.
After Bree helps Claire bathe, Jamie lets his wife know that Brown is tied up in the surgery. She says she’s glad the others are dead and insists she’s “just a little shaken” but doesn’t want him to worry. Jamie starts to tell her he knows how she feels — and here, I really missed the dialogue from the book where they draw parallels between Jamie’s rape and her own — but Claire’s anger boils over. “I have lived through a fucking world war, I have lost our child,” she says, crying as she vows that she won’t be shattered by what happened to her in the woods. Great work by Balfe throughout this episode, no?
MARSALI FTW! | The next morning, Claire shows up in her surgery, briefly considers offing Brown with a scalpel but drops it, grits out “I will do you no harm” and then flees upstairs to collapse in sobs. That leaves Marsali to deal with the prisoner, who won’t stop running his mouth about how he and his brother will burn them in their homes while they sleep. “You hurt me. You hurt my family,” she says, leaning over him. “I’ll watch you burn in hell before I let you harm another soul in this house.” Then she injects him with hemlock, killing him. (This is a change from the book — Mrs. Bug offs him in A Breath of Snow and Ashes — but I’m good with it.)
Jamie finds his stepdaughter later, sitting on the ground next to the body. He reassures her that Brown won’t haunt her and she’s not going to hell. Then he wraps the corpse, slings it over Brown’s horse and delivers it to Richard Brown in Brownsville. “Lionel reaped what he sowed, and you did what you must,” Richard says, “as will I, when the time comes.”
THE NEW NORMAL | Back at home some time later, Claire is still bruised but is on the path to healing. She and Jamie stand on the porch, watch their family frolick in the front yard and enjoy “this ordinary day,” as she calls it. They talk about how the revolution is rolling in soon — much like the rainstorm that’s suddenly appeared on the horizon — and suddenly, sweetly, she says she loves him. Jamie clasps her hand and promises that “When the day shall come that we will part, if my last words are not I love you, then you’ll ken it’s because I didn’t have time.”
That night, we see them both naked in bed, Claire curled into him. They’ve clearly had sex for the first time since her rape, and it’s clearly been tough for both of them. “Christ, you’re a brave, wee thing,” he whispers. “How do you feel?” She considers the question, then quietly answers, “Safe” as the rain cascades down outside.
BEFORE YOU GO… | And now, as #Droughtlander begins, I’ve got questions. But they’re a little spoilery, so if you haven’t read the books and don’t want an inkling of what might be ahead, skip down to the polls now.
OK, Oldlanders: Will Brianna, Roger and Jem ever go back? What about wee Mandy? Now that Marsali is Claire’s medical assistant, what role will Malva play if/when she shows up? And can we maybe not be as worried about A Breath of Snow and Ashes-era Fergus as I was when I was reading the book? (Though I fear Henri-Christian’s birth is going to be the trajectory for that downward spiral…)
Anyway, now it’s your turn: Grade Outlander‘s finale and Season 5 on the whole via the polls below, then hit the comments with alllllll of your thoughts!