Outlander season six, episode two–aptly titled "Allegiance"–had more than a few uncomfortable moments. If you've been keeping up with my Outlander article series here on Couch Soup, you know what happened in the previous episode. We were introduced to Tom Christie and learned that he and Jamie don't exactly get along. The two have very different worldviews, and now that Christie is living on the Ridge, things are getting tense. Jamie has also agreed to become an Indian agent for the King so that Major MacDonald doesn't select Richard Brown (their troublesome neighbor) to do it, instead. Because let's face it, if Brown did it, it would have been horrible. Meanwhile, Marsali and Fergus are having relationship issues, and the trouble pot is starting to bubble. This week's episode jumped right in with even more information on the Christie family and what's been going on with Marsali and Fergus.
Spoiler Alert: We are recapping the episode, so there will be spoilers past this point. You've been warned! Turn back now if you wish to stay unspoiled.
First things first: Jamie goes to meet with their Cherokee neighbors. The chief asks Jamie to speak with the Crown on their behalf and request guns. They want to defend their land and livelihood against the colonists who are steadily encroaching on their territory–a completely rightful and understandable request. However, Jamie is hesitant because he could either be arming a potential ally or a potential enemy. Claire regrets she can't advise Jamie, unable to remember if the Cherokee side with the Crown or if they side with those who rebel during the American Revolution. Ian asks Brianna about what happens after the war, and she briefly explains how the United States of America came to be, but they don’t answer which side their neighbors fight on. According to history, at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee actually announced their choice to support the crown (a choice that was not rewarded for them long term). Claire and Jamie talk about it for a while, but at that point in the episode, he remains undecided.
Meanwhile, the Christies are building a church. They want to hold a funeral in the unfinished building, but they don't have a minister at the moment. So Roger, who has some experience having been raised by a Presbyterian minister, is called to stand in and conduct the service for a woman named Granny Wilson. But not so fast! Granny Wilson wakes up in the middle of her funeral! Claire rushes to her aid and diagnoses that she's had an aortic aneurysm. There's too much damage to the tissue and not enough time to do anything, so Granny Wilson will be dying soon, anyway. She has a moment to speak with her family, and she's able to get herself and her affairs in order before she passes on moments later.
This is an opportunity for the show to explore more of the customs of the time, and also demonstrate that Tom Christie is experiencing mixed emotions. He liked Roger's preaching and how he handled the unique situation enough to invite him back to lead more services. However, because Claire happened to be in the room at the time this woman woke up… and Claire had the medical knowledge to diagnose her condition… Christie thinks she's–you guessed it–a witch. This is nothing new, of course; people have thought Claire's a witch a bazillion times since she went back in time, so Claire is unaffected.
About mid-episode, Brianna makes an important announcement during a family dinner. She's figured out how to make matches! Historically, the invention of the first friction matches is credited to John Walker, who was an English chemist. His ledger records his first sale of the new matches in 1827, and this season of Outlander is set half a century earlier, so Brianna is quite before her current time. Before she could complete her announcement, though, everyone thought she was going to say she was pregnant, and so you know, they were a little let down. Personally, I think matches at that time would be absolutely lit (pun intended). All jokes aside, that leads to a brief discussion of women's roles at the time. Claire is supportive of Brianna's invention and happy that she's working on her goals of becoming an engineer. I’m actually worried that this invention might be a use of the writing tool and dramatic principle Chekhov’s Gun, and am worried of a potential fire or other calamity heralded by the dangerous material used to make the matches.
Marsali goes into labor and Claire invites Malva, Christie's daughter, to help out. It appears I judged Malva too harshly too early. This episode gives us more insight into her family life, and she is living in an environment that is definitely not supportive of her interest in learning medicine. She has an absolutely badass moment with her father while they're at home; he’s about to punish her for something she didn’t do, but he has difficulty doing so due to less mobility in one of his hands. She just stares him down, clearly twisting the knife that he can’t be an ass, ironically, because of his own choice not to let Claire operate and fix his mobility. It was such a quiet display of fearlessness that I couldn’t help but give her some props. Clearly Malva is tougher than she lets on.
Marsali goes into labor. Fergus is not there, so Roger rides off to get him. After finding Fergus, who was drunk yet again, Roger gives him a "get your act together" speech. After Fergus joins Marsali at the Fraser's house on the Ridge, the couple engage in some unexpected physical intimacy as Fergus recalls childbirth aiding techniques used in the brothel where he lived as a child. The audience is just as uncomfortable as Jamie and Brianna are as they slip away to give the two some privacy. I wish I could've done like Brianna and excused myself to go for a walk, but I had to watch the rest of the episode. Though this certainly aids in the childbirth, the state of Marsali and Fergus' relationship makes their intimate scene somewhat discomforting.
Anywho, the couple sort of reconciles for a moment, and you can see that their relationship is still very important to them. The love is still there, they still have that romantic chemistry, and they genuinely care for each other. Obviously, we want them to be happy together.
…But then Marsali delivers her baby. Fergus is holding the baby, and he looks confused. Claire diagnoses the baby with dwarfism, and Fergus reacts poorly. He feels conflicted and leaves the room quickly. We don't see much of him for the rest of the episode.
Ian goes to visit Marsali and drops an absolute bomb. During his visit, he reveals to Marsali that he's had a child with a woman from the Mohawk tribe, who I believe is his wife. Presumably, this happened during the time he was with the Mohawk during seasons 4 and 5. Jamie overhears this from outside the cabin; he came by to visit but hadn't entered yet, so he kept his presence a secret. This information informs Jamie's decision to arm the Cherokee. He realizes that the indigenous people are Ian's family, now. As the episode briefly discusses the many cruelties and injustices the Cherokee and others will face from white people, Ian wants to take a stand. With this revelation in mind, Jamie does request the weapons for his Cherokee neighbors. However, he is already on uncertain ground with the chief. Hopefully, he'll be able to make amends for his mistake and move forward with a positive relationship.
I don't expect a resolution for Marsali and Fergus's relationship struggles early in the season. However, I think their pre-birth intimacy was surprising on purpose. The writing, the pacing, the filmography, and the entire situation leads me to believe that the showrunners wanted viewers to feel slightly uncomfortable.
For starters, her labor is painful and difficult, and viewers (like myself) are genuinely worried this might be the last we see of Marsali. Claire is worried throughout the birth because the baby isn’t moving as much as it should be, and Marsali expresses her fear of dying multiple times. Fergus does get there in time to be with her, but it’s not all we’ve been hoping for for these two. We learn earlier that Marsali has a bit of a temper, and her bruises are not from abuse, but from Fergus defending himself. However, his drinking problem continues, and isn’t resolved during this scene. As a Game of Thrones fan, I've become accustomed to "Oh, you thought everything was fine, but it most definitely is not fine" moments. So when Fergus was holding the baby and looking increasingly concerned, I thought for certain their new son may have died somehow. Thankfully this was not the case; their new baby is happy and healthy, and though Fergus storms out after Claire shares her diagnosis, Marsali adores her new child and thinks he’s absolutely perfect. Crisis averted… for now.
On the one hand, viewers are rooting for Fergus and Marsali’s relationship because these two deserve to be happy. They've been through a lot, they have a family, and they're characters that we have followed for a long time. On the other hand, they are going through emotional turmoil right now. Right after the birth, Fergus is unable to process his child's diagnosis due to the ableist mindsets of the time and his own guilt. I'm keeping my hopes up for a lasting reconciliation between the two of them when neither are in pain or afraid for their life, and when both are at a point where they're able to move forward and forgive themselves and each other.
A primary theme in this episode is the importance of being there for your loved ones. Roger's speech to Fergus highlights this: he basically tells Fergus if Fergus doesn't get his act together and be there for his wife and child he'll regret it in the future. Digging a little deeper, this episode's focus on familial ties and duty underlines the coming conflict. With the revolution on the horizon, these characters are all vitally important to each other. The Cherokee's desire to protect their land, Marsali's painful labor, and Ian's secret past all ask the same question: "How much can and will one do to protect their home?"
How will the Frasers defend the Ridge when the homefront is in shambles?
All this ties in to Claire's speech in the Season 6 trailer, where she promises that nothing will come between Jamie and herself. The many things they have experienced have occured, in part, because of her decision to come back in time and be with her husband. Claire, Brianna, Roger, and her grandchild don't belong there in that time. And yet they find themselves on the cusp of revolution, the birth of a new country, and everything is trying to tear them apart.
The only thing that I remember from the next episode preview is Fergus and Marsali’s newborn son Henri-Christian in a basket in a river. We see a few glimpses of a very upset Fergus. The others are chasing after the basket, obviously panicked. If he put his baby in that river…
I'm also looking forward to seeing if Malva will be more of a focus character. I'm still waiting to see which side she's actually on. She may end up being a cool character.
Have you watched "Allegiance"? What are your predictions for Episode 3?