Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 503: “Free Will”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
The growing Regulator threat forces Jamie, Claire and Roger to embark on a mission to raise a militia.
Major plot points:
- Claire continues teaching Marsali about medicine and experimenting with mold.
- Jamie and Claire set off with Roger and other men of the Ridge to put together a militia.
- Josiah Beardsley’s twin Kezzy shows up, and Jamie and Claire learn about their history.
- An awful scene at the Beardsley property ensues. Yuck.
I’m going to keep this brief, because it’s late and I’m tired…
One of the most disturbing scenes in The Fiery Cross takes place in this episode. It turns out that Josiah Beardsley, whom Jamie had already invited to settle at the Ridge (since he’s a skilled hunter), has a twin brother, Kezzy. The boys’ parents and siblings all died on the Atlantic crossing when they were only two years old, and the boys were indentured to Mr. Beardsley, a cruel master who worked them hard, beat them, and kept them starving. Kezzy was boxed so hard on the ears by his master, repeatedly, that his ruptured eardrums have never healed. leaving the boy deaf.
Jamie decides to buy the boys’ indenture, so he and Claire leave the militia in Roger’s hands and head to the Beardsley farm, which appears to be deserted. A suspicious Mrs. Beardsley opens her door, informs Jamie that her husband is dead, and shuts the door in his face. But Jamie needs the indenture paperwork to prove that the boys aren’t runaways, so he persists. When he and Claire go inside the house, there’s a horrible smell. Eventually, Claire finds the emaciated — but living — body of Mr. Beardsley upstairs in the loft. He apparently had a stroke a month prior, and his wife has left him lying in his own filth, feeding him enough to keep him alive, and torturing him. It’s so awful.
Claire, being Claire, insists that they take care of the man and tend to his (disgusting) wounds. His wife, Fanny, goes into labor suddenly, and with Claire’s care, gives birth to a healthy baby girl, who clearly is not her husband’s, as she’s biracial. Fanny describes the horror of being married to this abusive man, who killed each of his four previous wives and who would likely have done the same to Fanny if he’d been able.
In the morning, Fanny is gone, leaving the baby, the deed to the Beardsley property, and the indenture paperwork for Claire and Jamie. There’s nothing to be done for Mr. Beardsley. Jamie finally gives him a choice, and asks him if he wants Jamie to end his life. He blinks once, for yes. Claire, waiting outside with the baby, hears the gunshot.
That’s the main part of the episode, and it’s disturbing and creepy, as it’s meant to be.
Elsewhere, Claire continues to try to grow her own penicillin, teaching Marsali basic principles of medicine and how to conduct a scientific inquiry. Roger — Captain Mackenzie — leads Jamie’s men in his absence, adding more men to the roster of the militia.
Claire confides to Jamie that she wants Brianna and Roger to go back to their own time, where they’ll be safer. It’s obvious that Jamie finds this idea upsetting, although he concedes that they would in fact be safer there. Add to this the knowledge (which Jamie shares with Claire) that Stephen Bonnet is alive and in the area, and it’s for sure that Bree isn’t safe, and most likely, neither is her family.
Kudos to Outlander for casting Bronwyn James in the role of Fanny Beardsley. She’s fabulous in Harlots, playing a very different character who’s also named Fanny. I’m just sorry that we won’t see more of her.
This was a well-done episode, even though the focus on the Beardsleys meant we were in that disturbing place for most of the episode. As always, Claire and Jamie are a dynamic duo, rising to the challenge, and always so clearly in love.