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‘Outlander’ Review: Wedding Preparations and an Old Foe Lay the Groundwork for a Major Confrontation

In “Better to Marry Than to Burn” Jamie and Claire make a plan to lure Stephen Bonnet out of hiding as Roger finally gets a win.

Outlander Season 5 Key Art and Marketing Shoot - Sep 17-21 2019


Jason Bell

Who knew that the fifth season of “Outlander” would feature so many weddings? While Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Duncan Innes (Alastair Findlay) didn’t actually tie the knot in “Better to Marry Than to Burn,” their wedding preparations anchored an action-packed episode full of reunions, plans, and well-earned second chances. 

The installment kicked off with a flashback to Jocasta tragically losing her daughter, a scene that gave viewers new insight into her current disposition and further explains her choice to settle for Duncan despite her feelings for Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). When the Regulator leader showed up at the end of the episode to declare his love and ask her to wait, it was a tense scene packed with emotional showcases for two characters that didn’t necessarily get to dig into those moments in the Diana Gabaldon novels. In the end Jocasta’s decision to go ahead and marry was understandable (if not tragic), but it also sets Murtagh off on another course—if there’s no one waiting for him, what is there left to stay alive for? If anything Jocasta’s new marital status will push him closer to the brink in terms of his protests and antics than ever before. 

As those two figured out their feelings, someone who invokes emotions of a whole other kind resurfaced. Philip Wylie (Chris Donald), the tone deaf gambler who is now adorned with a little extra powder following his time in Paris, reunited with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) at River Run as a wedding guest. And, as always, his lingering kisses and slurping advances were enough to send shudders through anyone watching at home. For Claire’s part she played into them when she realized the man is in partnership with Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), and so she put herself in that situation in the stables where Jamie (Sam Heughan) was forced to come to her rescue. 

Although that’s certainly a setting the couple has faced many, many times before, that (coupled with Jamie betting Claire’s wedding rings to defend her honor to Wylie) wound up being the catalyst for a welcomed sex scene. Considering those romantic trysts have always been a draw to the series and the novels, it’s odd that this season has been mostly void of them. Seeing Claire and Jamie cop a feel in the stables was as much a stress relief for them as it was for fans. More importantly it led to a meet-and-greet with Bonnet under the guise of the couple needing a partner in their whiskey business, which should finally bring the Frasers face-to-face with their tormentor in the coming weeks. Although, judging by Bonnet’s insider information, he may not be as blindsided as the Frasers hope. 

While Claire and Jamie focused on smoking out their daughter’s rapist, Roger (Richard Rankin) and Bree (Sophie Skelton) turned to actual smoke to deal with an incredibly graphic locust problem that was plaguing the crops at Fraser’s Ridge. With Jamie 10 days away and the other men losing faith in Roger by the minute, he realized he needed to come up with a plan to save the crops and stop the settlers from burning everything to the ground. Enter an old song his father used to sing to him, along with dozens of cans of oil and “shit.”

Thankfully for Roger the plan worked and the locusts were driven away, effectively saving everyone’s food source at Fraser’s Ridge but also finally earning him the respect he’s been so desperately craving. When Jamie made his son-in-law captain without any experience leading — or even living — in those times, it put him in a no-win situation. So the fact that he was able to gain confidence from his fellow men is a huge step heading into what will inevitably be another high-stakes war. 

Yes that’s right, the war. Despite last week’s good news that the Regulators would be pardoned if they stepped forward and helped the Red Coats find Murtagh, no one did. That, coupled with the death of Hamilton Knox (Michael D. Xavier) last week was enough for Tryon (Tim Downie) to put a ban on all gatherings and begin the official war. After all he has bigger fish to fry now that he’s bound for that promotion in New York, and he no longer has time to deal with insubordinates. That’s bad news for everyone who thought the Regulator war would be swift and without casualties—thanks to the Frasers’ continued dabbling into the historical timeline, how things will play out now is anyone’s guess. 

Grade: B

“Outlander” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.

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