Episode 405: Savages

Well, folks. You know you have a great episode of Outlander on your hands when you’re smiling to yourself one minute and ugly crying all over your pajamas the next. Let’s break this sucker down.

Warning- Contains spoilers from Outlander Episode 405: Savages

This episode was in many ways classic Outlander. Not only in the way it pulled at emotional heartstrings, but also more literally in the many, many callbacks it gave to previous seasons and episodes. And so, in an hour where we see our characters…

walking familiar streets…

standing in familiar doorways…

giving familiar political speeches…

making familiar accusations…

touching familiar stones…

and singing familiar songs…

…it should be no surprise that a major theme of this episode is inheritance. The words “familiar” and “family” share the same etymological origin, after all, and this episode deals heavily in family and legacy. It explores things and ideas that transcend generations, from the tangible (birthmarks, bed and breakfast inns, silver candlesticks) to the abstract (hopes, dreams, prejudices). Parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren, and godparents to godchildren…what is passed from one generation to another? What gets left behind?

Moreover, what do we believe in so strongly that we are willing to risk our loved ones…

our land…

or our century?

“He does not see it that way.”

Additionally, in an episode in which a major storyline revolves around a German family, it’s fitting that so much this hour fits nicely into themes of German transcendentalism, namely the importance of individual subjectivism. As we are repeatedly reminded with Outlander, politics is subjective and personal and political differences usually (always?) come down to seeing things from different perspectives.

The Cherokee are simply watering their horses, but Gerhard Mueller does not see it that way. Mueller is defending his property, but the Cherokee do not see it that way. Jamie is offering free land, but the farmers do not see it that way. That past cannot be changed, but Brianna does not see it that way.

Our perspective affects our beliefs, our beliefs become our legacy, and our legacy is passed to the next generation. What do we cling to along that path, and what (or who) are we willing to save?

Themes of family and transcendence begin from the first scene in the episode, as we open with Claire and Adawehi exchanging medical advice (pointedly, medicinal herbs for pregnant mothers) and teaching each other their respective languages.

They learn the words for “rabbit” in English and Cherokee, and if you’ve been paying attention since last season, a rabbit in the Outlander universe always symbolizes Brianna: Brianna has a stuffed bunny as a baby, Claire reads Brianna Goodnight Moon as a child, Jamie sees the rabbit on the field of Culloden, Elias Pound (a child stand-in for Claire) carries a lucky rabbit’s foot, etc.

“She is here,” Adawehi tells Claire of Brianna, which Claire interprets metaphorically. But the presence of the actual rabbit in this scene suggests that Brianna may also be present either spiritually or, perhaps, already physically in the New World.

We learn that Jamie and Ian will be traveling to Woolam’s Creek to recruit settlers for the ridge. Claire is staying behind to tend to the farm and to Petronella Mueller, the pregnant daughter of a German immigrant family.

p.s. I think I speak on behalf of the fandom when I say THANK YOU to Ian for rescuing Jamie’s tricorn hat from the gilt. Seriously, anything but that hat.

Jamie surreptitiously grabs one of his mother’s silver candlesticks, and we later learn that he intends to have it repurposed for Claire (most likely a new wedding ring to replace the one that was stolen). An example of something handed down through the generations that Jamie is willing to give up for his belief in love. See how it’s all connected?

Jamie and Claire share a sweet scene, taken from the novel, in which they discuss a dream Jamie has of Brianna. We’re only a few minutes into the episode, but already we’ve referenced Brianna twice. In fact, she is present, directly or indirectly, in most scenes this hour.

Speaking of which…

Back in the twentieth century, Roger is roving the streets of Inverness in search of clues about Brianna. Like so much of this episode, he is asking “What did she leave behind?” What gets left behind?

He gets what essentially amounts to a Dear John letter from Brianna, left in the hands of the proprietor of Baird’s Bed and Breakfast (who we can assume is the daughter of the original Mrs. Baird).

Another reference to generations and inheritance. This Ms. Baird is very kind and can see Roger is suffering under his many layers and so she advises him to move on with his life. It was a bit reminiscent of Reverend Wakefield giving the same advice to Frank (under very similar circumstances).

Back in Woolam’s creek, Ian sets about hunting down fellow Scots and farmers while Jamie attempts to seek out the silversmith.

What did I tell you about that tricorn hat? Said silversmith is out of town but we meet his wife, who I’ve decided is the eighteenth century Colonial version of Mia from Love, Actually.

Honestly, though, I think her response is pretty consistent with how most of us would be if Jamie Fraser randomly knocked on our door. Her character is simply credited as “Hester,” which may or may not be a reference to The Scarlet Letter. Question: will we see her again? I sort of think we will.

Yes, my wife is a great “cook,” Jamie tells Hester later in the episode, as he again dismisses her advances. I’m ALWAYS full. She likes to cook in ruined castles, and in fields, and on boats. She cooks with her hands and her…er, she’s just a very good cook, okay?

Meanwhile, we learn Claire has helped Petronella successfully deliver her baby. The image of Petronella holding her newborn and commenting on how much the baby resembles her deceased father is almost identical to Brianna’s birth:

Yet another reference to generations, parenthood, past episodes, and Brianna. It’s all familiar and it’s all family.

Jamie and Ian hold a small meeting to pitch their proposal, and to their surprise no one takes them up on their seemingly great offer of free land. They learn that discontent is growing in the colony and farmers are unwilling to accept an offer of land that comes from the governor. They feel they’ve been unfairly and egregiously taxed…their perspectives and beliefs already shaping what legacy they leave behind, as most of them have already given up their farms.

Back at the Mueller home, a standoff occurs when some Cherokee stop to water their horses at the creek that flows on the property. Claire throws herself between the men, urging each side to consider the other’s perspective. “Water belongs to no one,” Tawodi tells the settlers. In reality, water belongs to no one and everyone, a reminder that things in nature are meant to leave behind for all generations.

Crisis temporarily abated, Claire returns home exhausted. Bed flop game 10/10.

I love the scenes of Claire tending to the farm, reminding us of how extraordinarily competent she is. I also fully appreciate that she has full conversations with the animals, as it makes me feel not so crazy when I ask my cats where I left my shoes.

Jamie and Ian are readying to leave Woolam’s Creek when the horse’s bit breaks, causing Ian to seek out the local blacksmith.

Oh friends, I just knew this was going to be our Murtagh moment, didn’t you? I swear my heart was racing just as fast (if not faster) as it was during the printshop reunion.

As with most Outlander surprise reveals, we heard Murtagh’s voice before seeing him. I found myself grinning ear to ear when I heard that grumpy, grumbling Scottish gruff.

So many feels, as the kids say.

Did Murtagh suspect Ian’s uncle might be Jamie (he paused with recognition at the “guts for garters” line) and then intentionally drive up the price to bait Jamie into coming back into the shop? It’s possible. In any case, we were then treated to this…

A few minutes of the best acting you’ll ever see. Sam Heughan’s face in this moment transforms from indignation to shock, while Duncan Lacroix wavers between disbelief and exuberance. High marks to everyone.

This was such a wonderful moment, due in large part to the way we could all cherish this surprise as a fandom. None of us knew exactly how this would play out, and so for once we fans were treated to something totally new and unique.

The scene is yet another example of a call-back to a previous episode, as it mirrors the printshop reunion between Jamie and Claire. It all feels familiar in this episode, and that’s the whole point.

Later, Pastor Gottfried comes to warn Claire that Gerhard Mueller has essentially lost his mind with grief after Petronella and Baby Clara die from measles. The pastor fears that Herr Mueller may try to harm Claire, as Mueller sees her as complicit in the “curse” exacted on his family by the Cherokee.

The pastor is a messenger here, but what else is a pastor except a messenger of beliefs? Again, continuing those themes of children, family, beliefs, and legacy.

Claire understandably panics a bit and takes measures to protect herself against a madman coming to her home. I personally think she should have taken a page from Kevin McCallister’s playbook, but that was about twenty-five years after her time.

More seriously, though, any time I see Claire effectively handling a weapon I think it references her military past.

Jamie and Murtagh catch up over a few pints and Murtagh is overjoyed at the news that Claire has returned and Jamie has a super smart daughter living in the future…yet another reference to Brianna. She is here, Adawehi said. She is everywhere in this episode.

Murtagh is a bit less pleased at the idea that Jamie has accepted a land deal from Governor Tryon. It’s the only thing that somewhat sours their reunion, and it amplifies a bit later when Jamie discovers Murtagh has positioned himself as a leader of the Regulators.

Jamie finds himself in a familiar (there’s that word again) spot with a familiar decision to make: how much to position himself (if at all) in a political movement at the potential cost of his freedom, his family…and his legacy? The legacy which he is hoping to leave for Brianna and was a determining factor in his decision to accept the land grant.

Turns out it’s simply not worth it this go around…at least not yet. Jamie won’t join Murtagh, but he won’t attempt to stop him either. Murtagh declines returning to Fraser’s Ridge with Jamie…choosing for now to follow his beliefs rather than family. See how it’s all intertwined?

Note: compare how Murtagh is dressed in these scenes compared to his last scene with Claire. Here he is dressed in a bit of a military style, his black beret reminiscent of Dougal’s and other armored forces. Later, he trades in this hat for a broad-brimmed one; he literally and figuratively wears a different hat for the different person he chooses to be.

Gerhard Mueller finally shows up at the cabin, not enraged at Claire but rather coming to share his grief…and share the horrible news that he murdered Adawehi as revenge to the Cherokee. He offers Claire Adawehi’s scalp as a gift. Needless to say, Claire does not see it that way.

Caitriona Balfe is exquisite here and these must have been some emotionally tough scenes to pull off. In case you were wondering, this is the part where I was ugly crying all over my sofa. Where did I leave the Kleenex, I asked my cats.

This, however, was a moment of happy:

Where do we go with Murtagh from here? It will be fun to find out. I’m just sincerely happy this character is back, whistling a familiar tune.

But while one family is joyous in their reunion, another suffers in their grief…and from their actions. The Cherokee burn down the Mueller home and kill Gerhard and Rosewitha. An entire family gone due to consequences of one man’s beliefs.

“Death is sent from the gods, it will not be your fault,” Adawehi told Claire. The future is written and the past cannot be changed. Brianna has a different perspective.

Murtagh tells Jamie, “We risk what we must for our beliefs.” Sometimes we pay the ultimate price for those beliefs. This episode most asks us most obviously to question who we consider a savage. But more broadly, it’s an episode that asks its characters to question how they view the world and what they are willing to lose for that perspective. In the end, Murtagh is perhaps unwilling to give up a second chance at family, Jamie is unwilling to go down a familiar (and risky) political path…at least not yet. Brianna is unwilling to ignore a chance to save her parents. And Roger? We leave him questioning what he is willing to lose…or go save.


photos: STARZ

28 thoughts on “Episode 405: Savages”

  1. Well, I’m not sure what to say about Murtagh. I was very happy to see his return and hear his lovely voice again. His reunion with Jamie was beautiful to see. I just don’t see him as a regulator though… it doesn’t seem to fit his character for me. I loved the conversation between Adawehi and Claire… I took Adawehi to mean that Brianna was physically near. Claire’s reaction to Adawehi’s death was heartbreaking. So many tears in this episode but at least some of them were happy ones. I liked your comment about Jamie needing to decide which way to go… he has to decide the right way for him and his family, knowing what everyone else does not – what the future holds. I’m always impressed with the way you are able to tie events and thoughts together and really appreciate reading them. Thanks once again Tracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Pam, as always! I interpreted that like from Adawehi the same way. It will be interesting to see how the writers begin to condense a lot of story from books 5-8 into future episodes…I have a feeling we will see some elements of the war introduced fairly early


  2. Terrific analysis. I loved this episode. During my first watch I noticed most, but not all of the callbacks to past episodes. My strongest reaction was that 405 FELT like all those past episodes. You’re right. It was all very familiar, and I could feel myself (quite literally) settle in and really enjoy the story for the first time in a very long time. Even with all the changes from DG’s storyline, the episode felt full of old friends and actions and reactions true to the characters. Claire throwing herself right into the middle of a dangerous standoff. Jamie’s hotheaded self-righteousness in storming into the blacksmith’s forge. (BTW, it was heartening to see that Jamie does learn. Notice the difference between his reaction to Hester and his reaction to Leogharie in 109.) I suppose it could be argued that the whole thing was rather manipulative, but I don’t see it that way. Two more quick thoughts. First, did you notice the piece of tartan pinned to Murtagh’s vest during the meeting scene. Saved since Ardsmuir, no doubt. Second, in an hour filled with moments, that whistling and what followed was THE MOMENT. Have we ever seen Murtagh smile so much? Pure joy from and for the both of them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Terry is a genius. Except, gotta say, I do not like what she has done with 20th century Roger. Hoping those layers get peeled away as a more complete picture of him is developed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think (hope) that he is being deliberately dressed this way in order to make his transformation by the end of the season that much more pronounced and dramatic. Rankin talked a lot about Roger’s change during all their promotional work, so I’m hoping that by the end of the Season we will see a Roger that aligns more with how many of us picture him. That said, I’ve enjoyed everything Rankin has brought to the character thus far.


  3. I love all your analyses, but you’ve really done a wonderful job here, breaking down the episodes to follow all the many threads and show how interrelated they are. When you were done pointing out all the “family” details in this one, I thought, “Of course!” even though I had never been conscious of them when I was letting the episode’s events flow over and through me.

    The producers made a brilliant choice in how they brought back our crusty, lovable Murtagh. He IS a tough old coot who would survive indenture in the New World and land on his feet. There are so many historical characters in the Regulator story thread which are interesting to read about, but, frankly, would be very difficult to keep straight in a condensed version of “The Drums of Autumn” and, one would hope, “The Fiery Cross.” Just as it was by having Murtagh at Ardsmuir with Jamie, having our Murtagh here now saved so much time with exposition because they didn’t have to establish a new character. We already knew him, so they only had to show a brief conversation in a tavern to catch up with him before moving on with the plot. Considering how huge and complex the plots are in Diana Gabaldon’s books, they really have to do things like that to make a truly satisfying adaptation for the screen.

    I knew what had to happen with the Muellers and with Adewehi. Although I was prepared, it was still so devastating and sad. I loved the scene with Claire laying her friend to rest in the wooden box and cremating it with the dried herbs in the fire — cut to the firing of the Muellers’ cabin. I’m so glad they ended with our Bugle Boy reference and then the scene at the stones, with Brianna’s voice over from the letter.

    They really know what they’re doing. So do you! Thanks for your recap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, as always! You are so right about Murtagh being an established character and therefore saving valuable screen time via exposition. I am very excited to see his interaction with LJG…


  4. Your excellent analysis made me love an already beloved episode even more, because of the details you pointed out and the connections you made. The meaning behind the rabbit and the bridge you provided to get from one side of that river of a story to the other was much appreciated. This one was the best-written episode yet and did a very fine job of integrating the old/new character of Murtaugh [back] into the story. It was beyond terrific to see Duncan Lacroix again – he looks fabulous and Outlander Costume saved the very best wig for him. How can we not hope for/look forward to Murtaugh replacing the missing Duncan Innes from the book? I can already see him standing beside Jocasta. Well done, lass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂. I loved Murtagh’s return and his look. Honestly, I found myself smiling the whole time he was onscreen.

      It’s such a major deviation from the novels- one I’m not complaining about- but I wonder if going forward a lot of major plot points will be altered by his return? It will be interesting to see.

      Thanks as always for reading.


  5. I loved this episode, tears and all. The interweaving of the various elements was exquisite. I also love your reviews, they are so insightful and always give me a greater appreciation for this adaptation. I totally love the series, departures from the text and all, it is a new experience. I feel the writers are masterful in taking this beautiful story and bringing it to us in this form. Thanks for writing every week, I always go back and watch for a third time after I read your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much- I so appreciate you reading and passing on the compliments. I love the books and the series equally- both are masterful. The Murtagh change was both welcome and heartwarming


  6. I really enjoyed your analysis, Tracy! So much going on in this episode. I had to cogitate about it a little bit and your words helped me frame it nicely. The dynamics of family, belief and legacy are now so very clear. I think the writers did a fabulous job with the compressing what always felt to me in the book as being a particularly ungainly section of reading! I only wanted to bring up 2 points. First, I loved seeing Murtagh again! So glad he is coming back in this iteration rather than as a Duncan Innes substitute. I wondered at first whether this Murtagh was acting out of character by being the leader of the Regulators, but the more I thought about it, the more I think he’s spot on. This Murtagh was a man honed by experience and examples. He’s endured a long life full of the indignities of unjustice and is stepping up based on the examples he was surrounded by from his previous experience! The call backs are striking! And he really did get the best wig!! Secondly, Brianna is here! One of my few disappointments from last season was that in Jamie’s reunion with Claire it felt like Jamie’s joy at learning of Brianna was at best tempered, at worst upstaged by the Willie reveal. I could understand the rationale behind why the writers did it and even get on board to a certain extent, but I always felt like Bree got short-shrift. This season has done SO MUCH to rectify that! Each episode has made it clear how close Brianna is to Jamie’s heart and mind. Family, belief and legacy. That’s Jamie and Brianna in a nutshell. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and your input! It’s so appreciated. I agree completely that the writers are making an effort to incorporate Brianna, and her importance, into this season. I will be very interested to see the Willie dynamic in next week’s episode.

      And hooray for Murtagh always! Such a wonderful change from the novels and addition to the series. I’m so intrigued about where they go with his storyline from here.

      Thanks again 🙂


  7. Thank you so much for writing such a logical and well sequenced recap. You really know your Outlander lore and you have brought in so many references from the past. I hope others who are new to this world read your recaps and find the joy of seeing these little memory nuggets strewn along our path. I too believe this gets the show back to the basics we know work- family love and honor. that’s why keeping Murtagh alive and well is so important moving forward. new characters just cant become family so easily. we will have lots of kids coming thru of course- but having the foundation characters really helps keep it knitted tightly together (or should I say clicket together). To me- its like we have started over again and instead of the Battle of Culloden rising up down the road, we will have the War of Independence. I love that we will have many perspectives along the way that test everyone and make people choose their course. But at least there will be family. I am sure DG would not have wiped out everyone in retrospect if she was writing the novels today. By wiping out all those MacKenzies we lost some anchoring points. I think Auntie Jo can be something- not sure what yet. But Murtagh coming back and Fergus will be those anchors that know the past. Thanks again for your recaps. they are so well written with lots of humor and insight. And of course the cats know where your shoes are! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading- your kind words made my day. I agree about Murtagh being a welcome anchor of family this season. Having him back brings back so many of the good vibes from seasons one and two.

      Haha- my cats know all my secrets 😉


  8. You hit on every sensation that I felt in every second of this episode. This episode flew by for me and I just hated for it to end (which is how I feel each week); it is like saying goodbye to a dear family member that you just don’t want to let go of.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love, love, LOVE your recap. You put in words what I was feeling. Such a tremendous episode with so many layers. Funny, as long as I have been familiar with Outlander, I never caught the signficance and the mention of rabbits as pertaining to Brianna. That was a wonderful revelation to me. This episode is all about family and the build up to Brianna entering the picture at Fraser’s Ridge is exciting. I do hope that there is a scene of her also meeting Murtagh. Sad about Adawehi, sad about the Mueller family. So true that one man’s judgement and idea can so seriously affect so many.

    Liked by 1 person

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