Just when “Outlander” fans thought the Frasers could enjoy some quality family time on the homestead, tragedy struck again on Sunday night’s “Monsters and Heroes” when Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Roger (Richard Rankin) went out hunting for buffalo to prepare for the winter. It was immediately clear the excursion would be an opportunity for son- and father-in-law to further bond despite their differences, but what neither of them bargained for was Jamie being bit by a venomous snake that did worse than leave him feeling like “a mouldy pile of tripe.”
From that moment on the episode focused on Jamie’s battle to survive, first in the forest where he and Roger were forced to camp, and then later on at Fraser’s Ridge as Claire (Caitriona Balfe) tended to his worsening injuries. Despite Roger’s quick thinking he wasn’t able to cut and suck all of the venom out of the bite, and before long Jamie battled a severe infection. Without a needle to inject penicillin into his bloodstream, Claire was left with one option: cut off Jamie’s maggoty leg or let him die.
Speaking directly to the mindset of the time, Jamie refused the saw and made Claire go against everything in her nature by promising not to amputate, a scene that was foreshadowed earlier this season when Claire wanted to amputate Aaron Beardsley’s (Christopher Fairbank) leg. Jamie’s ability to lead and farm on two feet is very much a defining characteristic for him, and to live with just one was as good as death. It’s not the first time viewers have seen Jamie’s stubbornness come between him and Claire or endanger their lives, and it probably won’t be the last. But it also led to a moment of clarity between the two, when they were once again faced with the possibility of one living without the other. This is a love story at its core, after all.
It’s certainly a theme the show has played on before at any rate (the entire story continuously depends on the Frasers being in danger), but this time it was Young Ian (John Bell) who played an important role in Jamie coming to his senses. Ian hit his uncle with a passionate speech that reminded viewers of how modern mindsets have always played into the past on this series. As part of the argument why losing a leg to save a life isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person (no matter what era they’re living in), Ian brought up his own father and Fergus (César Domboy) as examples of men without body parts who are doing just fine, thank you very much. That, coupled with Claire’s despair, were enough to allow Jamie to finally brave life on one leg and agree to the “surgery.”
Fortunately for him, Claire never had to make a cut. In a dramatic twist that was foretold at the beginning of the episode during Claire and Bree’s (Sophie Skelton) mother-daughter chat, Bree fashioned a needle out of the snake fangs Roger had saved after it bit Jamie. In a very visual scene at the last possible moment, Claire was able to inject the penicillin and save Jamie, leg and all. Not only was it a major “Outlander” crisis averted, but it also played against the “birth and death” trope that the episode could have easily played into when Jamie’s illness hit a crescendo at the exact moment Marsali (Lauren Lyle) gave birth in the woods.
In the end the episode was more than a chance for Roger and Jamie to bond, Jamie and Claire to reconnect, or Bree to carve a spot for herself on the ridge: it was also a moment for the characters to come clean about their knowledge of Stephen Bonnet’s (Ed Speleers) current status, and to share the plan to take him down. Now that everyone is back to a somewhat healthy status and eager to hunker down for the winter together, it seems like taking down the pirate is one of the few remaining items on the Frasers’ agenda. Or at least it is until whatever dire roadblock comes at them next.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.