Episode 501: The Fiery Cross

Oh friends, wasn’t this delightful? A sweet-as-molasses-cake season premiere, released two days early. With a tight script and lots of Easter eggs thrown in for novel readers, this was truly the most perfect Valentine’s Day present for our fandom.

Ready to discuss?

Warning- Contains spoilers from Outlander Episode 501: The Fiery Cross.

“I’ll no’ stand in the way of yer happiness.”

Although there is an abundance of joy in this first episode, a theme of things (or people) that stand in the way of our happiness provides a melancholy undercurrent to all the celebration. Traumatic flashbacks of Brianna’s rape intrude on her merriment. Jamie’s joy as father of the bride is interrupted by Tryon’s presence. Murtagh explicitly promises not to get in the way of Jocasta’s happiness (although that promise clearly breaks her heart). A metaphorical “cold light of day” shatters the spell of an “enchanted woodland palace” for all our characters. Try as they might, there is no shortage of things standing in the way of our characters’ happiness…there are figurative and literal wedding crashers throughout the episode.

We get a sense that everyone is desperately trying to hold on to their happiness as they wait for the other shoe to drop. Nearly all our characters lament their lack of time in this episode. Jamie wishes he had more time with Brianna before giving her away in marriage. Murtagh wishes he and Jocasta might have had more time as lovers if they were younger. Brianna lovingly remembers Frank, the father with whom she ran out of time. Governor Tryon tells Jamie that “the time has come,” for Jamie to quit stalling and finally bring Murtagh in. As Roger serenades, “take my heart but please don’t break it,” there is an open acknowledgement and fear by our characters that this happy interlude, this L-O-V-E, cannot last.

Roger is the one person in this episode who seems to have time on his side. At the start of the hour Roger lists what he cannot bring to the eighteenth century; he lacks most of the labor skills expected of a man of the 1700s. But the one thing he does have is time. In theory, a person who time travels has an abundance of time. And, indeed, he tells Jocasta that time and love might be the only things he has to provide.

But it’s enough, because Roger not only has time, he also has knowledge of the times to come. It’s the niche skill that comes with being a time-traveling historian, and some might argue that’s worth everything in the Outlander universe. I don’t doubt that we’ll see this skill prove more and more useful as the season progresses.

Still, he and Jamie realize Roger is at a disadvantage in this century and it is fully acknowledged by both of them at the start of the hour. I sincerely loved the dynamic of these two throughout this episode, with their relationship beginning with begrudging acceptance and ending with loyalty and love. More on that later.

(Spoiler: references to war and Roger’s neck are a bit of foreshadowing, yes?)

As he was over twenty years prior, Jamie is endearingly preoccupied with all the wedding details. From the rings, to items old/new/borrowed/blue (a tradition that won’t come about for at least another hundred years), his attention here is a nice mirror of his own wedding day to Claire. As it was then, Jamie’s actions are a neat sort of gender flip in which the man is focused on all the romantic particulars.

Claire and Brianna also get some lovely scenes together in this episode. Claire doesn’t speak of her parents often- I’m not sure she’s mentioned them since Episode 101? But I thought the reminder that she missed her mother and family on her own wedding days was very poignant.

Aww. This was gorgeous set design. I know most of us saw these wedding photos last week but seeing it on screen was still breathtaking.

How much do you wanna bet that this adorable tyke playing a restless Germain wasn’t acting at all during these scenes? This is quite literally my children any time I take more than thirty seconds at the bank…forget about doing five or six filming takes in a row. Also, baby Joan is adorable and I want to eat her cheeks.

(Edited to add: people have pointed out that this is probably Jem. In any case, this baby is a scrumptious noodle)

And so we are treated to a truly lovely wedding and gathering, complete with rowdy children, drinking games, good-natured ribbing, music and dancing…

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…but no Shakespeare. Can someone please give Lord John a hug here? I volunteer as tribute.

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In case you were worried, Marsali continues to be awesome. She and Fergus are apparently having lots of sex and making lots of adorable babies and she can rattle off a tongue twister with the best of the backcountry boys. Eighteenth century cool girl #goals.

But in keeping with the theme, the good mood is temporary. Brianna is feeling the high of the celebration but it is cut dramatically short when she overhears Lord John and Jamie discussing Stephen Bonnet’s presence and activities in the colonies. As she may have assumed he had died in the prison explosion, such knowledge immediately trespasses on her happiness– it’s essentially a re-violation of the trauma she has already endured by this man.

For his part, Jamie is a man smiling outwardly on his daughter’s wedding day but inwardly balancing a complicated set of emotions. The news of Bonnet is an unwelcome intrusion and, as we get the impression that Jamie didn’t even know Tryon was planning to attend, Tryon’s presence at the wedding is similarly unwelcome. Tryon’s order to hunt down Murtagh significantly clouds over an otherwise sunny day.

Murtagh is hiding in a “rustic” shack near the property but the lack of basic amenities clearly has no effect on his silver foxiness. He and Jocasta have magnificent chemistry together, a reminder that they might have been a pretty great team if they had found each other at different times in their lives. Jocasta’s reveal that Duncan Innes (he does exist!) has proposed marriage is yet another example of bad news infringing on an idyllic time.

As for Roger and Bree, their chemistry is also top-notch and they really shine together in this episode. They noticeably let down their guard when alone and slip into their twentieth century selves. Still, there is potential for cracks. Roger mentions returning to the future while Brianna quite notably does not. Again, it’s another moment of a happy day marred by an unhappy intrusion– we see the brief flicker of anxiety cross Brianna’s face when Roger mentions going back.

The next day is back to business as usual, as Claire treats a queue of sick tenants, Jamie teases her about germ theory, and Lizzie flirts with a newly-introduced Josiah Beardsley. This scene was adorable…We were just talking about skins! I mean, my skins! My foreskin! I mean, my four skins!

Note: I’m no infectious disease specialist, but if I were Claire I might insist that all my coughing patients not be crammed together near the doorway of my house.

Meanwhile, Jocasta summons Roger to her tent, informs him that she will leave her fortune to wee Jem, and insinuates that she is essentially buying Roger’s loyalty to his family as the reason. The conversation successfully and thoroughly enrages Roger; Jocasta is nothing if not Dougal and Colum’s sister…a MacKenzie through and through.

Here, however, Jocasta’s unwelcome intrusion (there’s that theme again) has a positive net effect (which we learn was her intent all along). As Jamie observed earlier in the episode, love can make a man behave impulsively. That impulse is of benefit as Roger is moved to action, motivated by his love for his family and his annoyance at Jocasta’s manipulation. He claims Jemmy as his own in a blood oath, a scene from Drums of Autumn that I’m glad made it into the series.

Likewise motivated by love and a desire to protect his family, Jamie dusts off the kilt and plaid, lights the cross, and calls his “clan.” The tenants pledging loyalty to Jamie is an echo of Roger pledging loyalty to Jem and Brianna on a larger, more public scale.

There are two bookends of this episode– it begins and ends with scenes of Jamie and Murtagh and then Jamie and Roger. And in these final minutes we really see how this episode was really about fathers and sons this whole time: Murtagh and Jamie, Jamie and Roger (and Fergus), and Roger and Jem.

Be hard to find, Jamie tells his godfather, giving him a head start…giving him the extra time no one seems to have in this episode. There is always a war coming, Murtagh laments…there is always an unwelcome intrusion coming to disrupt one’s happiness.

Still, the song tells us that two in love can make it. Take my heart, Outlander, I’m sure you’ll break it. Love was made for the brave and true.

Slàinte.

photo credit: STARZ

 

23 thoughts on “Episode 501: The Fiery Cross”

  1. Always love your analysis of the episodes. I had noticed the bookends with Jamie and Murtagh. but not also with Jamie and Roger nor the theme of fathers and sons. I believe the last time Claire mentioned her parents (specifically her mother) was in Ep404, Common Ground, when, after talking with Marsali and her missing her mother, Claire laments to Jamie how she missed her mother when Bree was born and she won’t be able to be with Bree when Bree has a child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right about Claire mentioning her mother in that scene. Btw, I’m super curious to know if we will ever get a backstory with Claire’s parents.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. Brilliant analysis, truly. By the way, wouldn’t you love to hear how the song L.O.V.E. was chosen. With so many 60s-ish songs to choose from, how did this become the one? I hope Maril and Matt will tell us eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I’m super curious! I’m waiting for the podcast and hopefully they’ll explain it. I know the song was released not too long before Bree and Roger came through. And I suspect the Beatles songs are too tricky to use with their licensing.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  3. Love the episode, love your recap. They did a wonderful job “The Fiery Cross,” mixing in the joy with all the intrusions (Governor Tryon and the news about Bonnet, especially) that make it true to Outlander.

    By the way, you didn’t have to edit your comment about which baby Marsali was holding. Lizzie was holding Jem during the wedding ceremony, so Marsali must have been holding little Joanie.

    Looking forward to a wonderful season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See…that’s what I thought too about the babies! I was certain it was Joan and Lizzie was holding Jem. Oh well either way…both babies are so adorable. Thanks as always for reading 🙂

      Like

  4. Terrific review as always. I sat up last night going through Outlandish II to remind myself what is in the first half of Fiery Cross. I re-read it last year and figure they got the first 400 pages into Episode 1. Beautifully. It brought tears to my eyes each time I watched it (6 times so far). And almost nothing brings me to tears. I particularly loved Jamie and Claire’s emotions as they prepared Bree for her wedding, which they never believed they would witness. And then Jamie and the fiery cross calling Roger and Fergus. Fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that the baby Marsali’s holding is wee Joanie. Jermaine is bigger and wore a bonnet trimmed with lace all day, even when he was being held by Lizzie.

    Nicely written, btw!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree that Marsali was holding wee Joanie, not Jemmie. Jem wore the same linen bonnet trimmed with lace all day *and* he’s bigger than Joanie.

    This is the first time I’ve read one of your posts. I truly enjoyed it and will be coming back for more!

    Liked by 1 person

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