“Free Will” is something everyone in this week’s Outlander was striving for. What will our fan roundtable make of their free will when we hear their opinions?
“Free Will” is the name of this third episode of Outlander’s fifth season. As Matt B. Roberts explains, the title comes from each of the characters exercising their free will and facing the consequences. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is trying to cook up some penicillin with Marsali’s (Lauren Lyle) help. What could go wrong? Jamie (Sam Heughan) needs to muster the militia. So he has Fergus (César Domboy) pen some instructions (WATCH THIS SPACE) and Roger (Richard Rankin) back him up as captain.
After a nice time around the fire, Josiah Beardsley (Paul Gorman) is caught stealing supplies… or not. Surprise! It’s Josiah’s twin brother Keziah. Claire and Jamie head to the Beardsley cabin to purchase the twin’s indenture and find Mrs. Beardsley, some goats, and a stroke victim Mr. Beardsley laying in his own filth. He’s not a nice guy so his wife Fanny gets some payback when he has a stroke chasing her around. She has a baby! (It’s not her gross husband’s). She gives Claire and Jamie the indenture papers AND her baby, fleeing in the night! Then Jamie puts Mr. Beardsley out of his misery and the Frasers move on.
“Free Will” was packed, guys. On with the roundtable!
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – Mother of 2 with a love of books, including the Outlander series. Anxiously Awaiting BEES. No spoilers will be shared, but remember, I know what comes next…
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Talk Outlander to me!
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – Desirre is an avid reader, lover of coffee, cats, and pop culture. She catches home birth babies and podcasts when she’s not taking care of coursework and her family.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – Writer, Reader, Incurable Daydreamer
Teddie (@teepe54) – A long time Outlander reader and show watcher who works as a Registered Nurse in Brain Injury Rehab. I blog about Outlander and Turkish television.
1. What do you think of Claire and her penicillin experiments? Do you think it’s a worthwhile endeavor for her?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – Honestly, I think they are overdoing Claire’s obsession with making penicillin. Don’t get me wrong, it is important, and it’s understandable that she would want to try to make more after being able to bring a few vials of penicillin back with her in S3, but 96 loaves of bread is overkill.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – They’re good/necessary and yes. But please, Claire, say you’re just making it up and you don’t know what you’re doing OR that you got the idea from a man – Rawlings to the rescue again.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – Oh Claire, her never ending temptation of the fates. She’s t-rexing the scenes with her fervor like a chase scene in Jurassic Park where the dinosaur expects to win at all costs. With all the emphasis on the project, I certainly hope someone gets the benefit of her bug killing liquid agent.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – Yes. Are they making it a waaaaay bigger moral quandary than it needs to be? Also yes.
Teddie (@teepe54) – Absolutely worthwhile. Claire knows her limits, but her 20th century medical knowledge always keeps her seeking something better for her patients. Frustration with watching needless suffering is a great motivator, and we know what Jamie says about his wife: once she sets her mind to something…
2. Alright we need your predictions: What was on the other side of that paper that Fergus took that MUST be important in some way?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – The introduction of this paper that Fergus took from Claire’s surgery is new and not included in the books. The danger of its secrets was completely unexpected. Given the way Bree has been trying to temper Claire’s desire to bring 20th century medicine back to the 18th century, it seems OL’s writers inserted this wrinkle to add more tension. I’m all for it! I think there’s either notes about the autopsy Claire performed or journaling about procedures she’d like to try.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Could have been the simple public health advice Claire wrote up for distribution anyway, or some specific details about penicillin, which could be bad, or a letter from Jamie to Murtagh, which would be really bad.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – “Dr. Rawlin’s Recommendations” that has some serious 20th century thinking about healthcare. Methinks she’s going to catch hell and brimstone or in the least maybe another witch burning attempt for her troubles.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – I have two predictions. A) It was nothing, it will never be mentioned again. B) It’s something damning about Claire (autopsy notes? The literal words “I’m from the future”?) which will get her into trouble (once again) and leave Fergus with a lifetime of guilt. I’m already prepared to hate this because Fergus would NEVER be that careless and doesn’t deserve that kind of story line.
Teddie (@teepe54) – Neither Claire nor Jamie would be so careless as to leave anything incriminating or sensitive in plain view. But if the other side of that paper includes autopsy notes or words of traitorous leanings, someone’s gonna have some ‘splaining to do!
3. Is anyone else confused why Claire and Jamie aren’t looping Roger- A HISTORIAN- into the history stuff? Happy to see that Jamie left him in charge of mustering the rest of the men though. What were your thoughts?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – I have been disappointed in the way the character of Roger has been written for the show. He seems more jaded and sour on the show and I’m not a fan. I am surprised that Roger has not been shown employing his skills as a historian, although from Jamie’s exposition, it seems he may be filling them in off camera. The thing is that Roger’s area of historical expertise was not American Revolutionary history, so he really can’t supply any specific details about what is happening around them at this time.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – I think it’s clear that, aside from broad strokes, the benefit of Roger’s knowledge, or any of theirs for that matter, doesn’t much help with the immediate problems facing the Fraser clan.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – Roger is not an ace historian of The Colonies or America. Brianna would likely know more than either he or Claire. I think finding him a suitable occupation or duty of value that’s safe in the 18th is more important for Roger at the moment. I mean, the writers’ room is YELLING AT US ABOUT HOW UNSAFE he is there.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – Oh, was Roger in this episode? I tuned out the militia stuff. I’m not a Roger hater but neither do I find his story arc overly compelling at the moment.
Teddie (@teepe54) – Poor Roger is so far out of the water in the 18th century, that just breathing and staying alive, and not rushing headlong through the nearest stone circle seems to be the most he can manage. Jamie, born leader that he is, works to develop Roger’s skills as a son of the house; considering what Roger has been through, neither Claire nor Jamie are looking for much more than that from Roger right now; that and being there for Bree and Jemmy. PS was the War of the Regulation required reading at Oxford? PPS How about Brianna? She was schooled in American history…
4. Well that’s quite the bombshell you dropped, Jamie. Why do you think Jamie waited so long to tell Claire and Bonnet? And do you think they’re right to keep it from Roger and Bree?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – Jamie received a letter that gave him an update of Bonnet’s activities. I think he was waiting for that more specific information before upsetting Claire. I think he does not think Roger can take on Bonnet. He is trying to protect his family, protect Bree in a way he has not been able to (since he didn’t raise her). I think Jamie is making a mistake keeping Roger and Bree in the dark and that we’ll see the consequences of that later.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Might as well tell Roger and Bree about Bonnet only after they’ve confirmed the sightings. Lord John Grey always coming through for us.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – He wanted proof before distressing Claire. He can be a wickedly private man to be sure. Nope, nopity, no, NO is it right to keep it from Roger and Bree! It’s out of a controlling sense that he’s in charge of non-medical safety. And the youngin’s are stupidly not in the need to know circle. Come to think of it, why in the hell hasn’t Brianna said anything to her mother or Roger? Really, when will they all figure out what harm being secretive causes. Oh well, wait a minute, when it no longer is a useful plot device.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – Bree is a grown ass woman who deserves the truth, and to be treated like she’s strong enough to hear the truth. She and Roger both need to know so they’re aware of the possible danger. No good has come out of these people keeping secrets from each other re: Bonnet.
Teddie (@teepe54) – Jamie does say he didna have the time, and I suspect some therapeutic procrastination was in operation for all parties. Bad news travels faster than he knows.
5. The Beardsley twins! What are your first impressions of these characters who are sure to add to the fabric of Fraser’s Ridge?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – As I know the story of the Beardsley twins from the books, this is not my first impression. I applaud the cast and crew for getting them right. Everyone involved did a great job of being these boys to life.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – They seem resourceful and clever and I hope we see them have a happy home on the Ridge after their awful indentured service experience.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – I am FANGIRL excited for what the future hole with these twin boys. I mean double trouble in the back woods of The Ridge.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – First impression was a giggle. I forgot everything from the book EXCEPT the sordid details of their future love lives.
Teddie (@teepe54) – These poor boys are almost tragically quirky, valuable for their skills, yet vulnerable. Feral comes to mind; and what shines through is a sense of hope.
6. On a scale from, “I was fine,” to “Holy cow, I need to bleach my eyes,” What were your thoughts on the Beardsleys?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – The Beardsleys’ trading post was a “YESSSSSSS!!!!!!” moment for me. From the animals to the upstairs loft to the toxic relationship between Mr. Beardsley and his wife, Fanny, to the birth of her child – Every beat was amazing and it adhered very closely to the books. Outlander always comes across better when the production remains inline with the source material. My reaction: Well done, Outlander production.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – The Beardsley cabin was a very odd and ominous part of the novel which I think was captured very well on screen. The Beardsleys are both sympathetic, they are both monstrous. They are maybe a microcosm of how two parties can be cruel to each other without hope or need for reconciliation.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – The future wasn’t so bright that I had to wear shades. I was fine like wine. I thought it was handled without causing the faint of heart to hurl or cover their eyes.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – I felt like the close-up shots of the maggot-filled wound were a BIT MUCH, THANKS. Too many close-ups of Old Man Beardsley’s face in general. And if it were me, I would have slept in the barn with the cats instead of curling up on that floor. Loved seeing Bronwyn James as Fanny though. She killed it.
Teddie (@teepe54) – First off, I wanted to bleach my nose against the imaginary stench, until I was distracted by that terrifying specter of Aaron Beardsley, who looked to me like he was gearing up for a Zombie Apocalypse. Fanny was fascinatingly fixated on killing him, but allowing him to live long enough to know about the infant’s paternity made me glad that she held off. Verra satisfying, no?
7. Claire was awfully sympathetic to Fanny even before she heard her story. Were you surprised by any of Fanny’s revelations or the Fraser reactions to them?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – As a book reader, I was not surprised – However, I do wish there was a little more evidence of what Mr. Beardsley did to his four former wives. As for the Fraser’s reactions – They’re Jamie and Claire – They are world-weary and have seen and experienced more than most people would dream of. I think there’s very little that surprises them.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – No and no. The Frasers don’t judge people for surviving.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – I loved how Fanny was full of fire, might, and then tenderness and openness that lead to her resolve. He story needed to be told and heard. Though, I was exceedingly impressed with the longevity of the candles in the initial candelabra. Those beauties burned through the entire visit that included an investigation, a labor, a birth, and a death. If Fanny hand dipped those, she needs to go into business.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – I was surprised how quickly Claire got over the fact that Franny sadistically and methodically tortured a defenseless man, despite how horrible he was. And then was totally confident in this woman’s ability to be a single mother.
Teddie (@teepe54) – That spooky run down dump of a house was screaming for the discovery of what was lurking inside–and it turned out to be worse than I could have imagined. If the comfort of goats trumps the comfort of two boys, something is also really really wrong. Claire rarely surprises me. As an intuitive and honorable physician, her oath is, “First do no harm.” In full doctor mode, she tends to the injured despite the circumstances, and cares for the victim with empathy. Even a victim hellbent on murdering her husband.
8. Wow that was a lot of birds. Could you have done what Jamie did, and were you surprised Claire let him?
La’Shay (@Endurance97) – Not surprised at all. Jamie and Claire have established in their relationship that Claire is a healer and will always try to help others when she can. Jamie handles the instances in which Claire’s talents aren’t needed or sufficient. They are like Jack Spratt and his wife. Between the two of them, they can handle all circumstances, expected and unexpected.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Maybe if Claire were younger or if the circumstances were slightly different she would have insisted on saving Mr. Beardsley despite the difficulty of moving, treating, and rehabilitating him. On the other hand, she has also offered death when she thought it was the right thing to do – To Colum MacKenzie, to one patient in particular in Boston, for those who read and remember that part in Voyager. And there will probably come a day when it will be valuable for Jamie and Claire to have established a shared opinion on what is merciful.
Desirre (@DesirreAndrews) – The birds were freaky weird. I hope I could perform an act of kindness like Jamie did. Claire understands these types of mercies. Remember her patient in Boston and the “medicine” she gave to Colum MacKenzie to ease his passing? She and Jamie are kindred.
Janna (@janna_rpw) – Those damn passenger pigeons. So THAT’S what Matt B Roberts was researching when he should have been looking up the availability and affordability of glass in the 18th century. And yes, I could have done what Jamie did, but I would have suggested it a lot sooner. It’s probably for the best that I’m not a doctor.
Teddie (@teepe54) – Claire as both a combat nurse and a surgeon has always done things her way. In Season 1 at the tynchal, Dougal gives her permission to follow her instincts and facilitate a peaceful death for Geordie. From that moment, I knew that it would not be the last time that Claire would be moved to provide such a service. Claire and Jamie are a bonded couple, sharing many of the same elements of morality, empathy, and compassion, so I was not surprised at the turn of events. As for me as a nurse, if it were legal and if sought by a suffering patient; yes. I would do it.
Final Verdict: Our roundtable exercised their “Free Will” and the jury is in.
Outlander does a lot better when it either sticks as closely as possible to the source material, or veers terribly far but keeps the character’s personalities at the core of those changes. This episode was the former. It was refreshing! The episode preserved some of the best lines from this section of the book and let Claire and Jamie’s relationship take center stage. Major win.
Sam Heughan is soaring this season as Jamie. That’s partly due to the significant rise in quality of his writing. Jamie feels like Jamie. He’s a leader of men. He doesn’t seem to have his head up his behind making foolish and rash decisions. He’s a leader of men, yes, but balancing that with his strong connection to his family. Sam is really pitching it to perfection. We see it all, the strength, the warmth, the humor, the leader, and most importantly, the love. From his time around the fire to wondering whether his father suffered the same way Beardsley did, we felt all the emotions. This is the Jamie we deserve!
Other standout performances include Lauren Lyle, as usual. Also Bronwyn James as Fanny. Even with a small arc in one episode, Fanny managed to make us feel an entire spectrum of emotions. Our entire roundtable agreed- We really did feel for her at the end of the episode, and she did some horrendous things.
Bravo to production for the Beardsley cabin. Because we could smell that through the screen! It might have been too much for one or two fans on our roundtable, but overall the moody lighting and evocative imagery went a long way to helping us smell exactly what the Frasers were smelling. Really. It was gross. You can put this author personally in the, “Please bleach my eyes!” camp.
Some production decisions mystify. The perfectly clear glass cloches under which Claire is growing penicillin while it appears dozens of workman go in and out of the Big House? Which is incredibly big that Jamie and Claire appear only slightly less well off than Jocasta? Where’d the glass come from, Claire? And for the love of Pete, the birds. The birds were so numerous and so far away they looked ludicrous. Without the explanation afterwards from Matt B. Roberts, we never would have gotten it. Hint: If you’ve got to explain it, it didn’t work. At all.
Kudos to the roundtable for pointing out that the assisted suicide of Aaron Beardsley would have been no big deal to Claire (someone didn’t remember- spoiler, it was me). She had done it in the 18th century. She did it again in the 20th century. Previous character inconsistencies with Claire (*cough* Do No Harm *cough*) tend to make one forget when things go 100% right. It was a double schooling from the roundtable for me with this one! I think Roger has more historical knowledge than anyone is giving him credit for!