Just when the Frasers thought they could find some peace within their own ridge, the realities of living in the Carolina wilds among warring men came back at haunt them on Sunday night’s “Journeycake” episode with the return of the Brown brothers. Add in murdered families, burnt down homes, and a bit of the show’s signature time travel, and the episode was another packed installment that ended with one (or potentially more) of the Fraser crew in jeopardy.
There’s been beef between the Frasers and the Browns ever since Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) helped Isaiah Morton (Jon Tarcy) and Alicia Brown (Anna Burnett) escape with their unborn baby, and even more so after the Browns shot Morton in the back during the Battle of Alamance (and broke Claire’s syringe). So when the brothers descended on the ridge with a small group of men at the top of the episode to announce they had started a committee of safety and that they needed Jamie’s help, the type of justice they were planning to dole out seemed pretty obvious. Jamie wanted nothing to do with it, which he politely stated when they came back a second time. That may have been the end of it, but what Jamie wasn’t banking on was Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) uncovering Claire’s secret.
Using Dr. Rawlings as a pseudonym in those newsletters may have seemed clever to the surgeon at the time, but the fact that his name is proudly displayed on her medical kit has been dangerous since the beginning. She’s become comfortable in her status and in doing so is perhaps taking the situation of where she’s living for granted. Men of that time — especially men like Lionel Brown who don’t want their wives’ and daughters’ heads being filled with what they see as nonsense medical advice — were never going to take kindly to instructions on avoiding pregnancy to begin with. When Lionel learned Claire was the one dispensing it and not an actual doctor, that gave him and his brother enough cause to react and take her at the end of the episode. Or at least so it would seem.
Viewers who have been waiting for the promised Fiery Cross since the beginning of the season got their wish when Jamie ran to the structure in the show’s final moments, desperate to find his wife before something worse happens to her. There had to be plenty of images going through his mind following the burnings he’d seen earlier on in the episode, when Roger (Richard Rankin) put that little girl out of her misery and earned that final bit of respect from his father-in-law. So by lighting the cross Jamie is calling for his men to come and join him, not in the battle they originally thought they were fighting but in a much more personal one that has nothing to do with land ownership or the crown.
One person who obviously won’t partake in that search is Roger; the action this week was back-loaded as he and Bree (Sophie Skelton) spent most of the episode preparing to travel through the stones and saying goodbye to those on the ridge who believed they were moving to Boston. From a story point of view their departure was inevitable, especially with the Stephen Bonnet threat wrapping last week with the character’s death. This week, when Jemmy proved he has the same time-traveling abilities as his parents, there was nothing holding them back from moving to a safer timeline — even if that meant leaving Claire and Jamie behind for good.
With that decision made early on in the episode, the rest of the installment was punctuated with farewells and declarations. Scenes like Jamie revealing the truth about his son to Bree and the sentimental peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich farewell dinner added weight and melancholy, which the writers tried to balance out with comedic bits like Claire showing Jamie his own sperm under a microscope. As a result the episode was heavy but not devastating, with the only true moment of sorrow coming when Bree collapsed into Claire’s arms.
Those character development moments also allowed a “young” Ian (John Bell) to be fully brought into the family fold when Claire and Jamie confessed their real situation to their nephew. Considering the kid’s loyalty over the years it was only a matter of time before he became the new Murtagh in that sense, but his knowing the truth also proved useful to the family when the MacKenzies needed someone to help them on their trek home. Once through those rocks though, what no one bargained for was the Macs landing somewhere unexpected. When and where they popped up remains to be seen, but from Roger and Bree’s expressions it was clear there’s going to be some new challenges going forward as the storyline once again splits into two timelines next week, and stays that way for the foreseeable future.