Can we talk about how well each episode of Outlander is titled? We’ve had “Echoes,” “Allegiance,” and now “Temperance,” the title of Outlander Season 6’s third episode. This episode builds on the previous themes of loyalty and commitment, and it examines the effects of deep-rooted fears. Which, of course, echoes this season’s sense of foreboding. Echoes…see what I did there?
Let’s jump into it!
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.
Trigger Warning: This recap will discuss attempted suicide.
Where do I begin!? The episode starts off answering my question from the end of last week about the baby in the river. Henri-Christian, Fergus and Marsali’s new baby boy, is in a basket in a river heading toward dangerous waters. Viewers are launched into the action as Roger, terrified for the baby’s safety, swims after him. After rescuing the child, he learns the residents of Fraser’s Ridge are harboring superstitions, and their children put Henri-Christian in the river to test whether he could float. So, to cure their unfounded religious misgivings about the dwarf baby being a demon, Roger baptizes the child in the river and firmly reminds them the child belongs to the Lord and they have nothing to be afraid of. Having been raised by a Presbyterian minister, he’s stepping into his new ministerial duties on the Ridge (including rescuing one woman from a very peculiar bullfrog haunting her milk pail). Jamie later teaches the kids a lesson, giving them the option to touch either a hot iron poker or the baby. Their choice is clear: the baby. This both disciplines and educates the kids that touching the baby won’t harm them, as their superstitions had them believing.
So yay, Fergus isn’t the one who put his son in danger as I was worried about in my last recap. If I could apologize to a fictional character for thinking such terrible things about them, I would. When he finds out what’s happened, though, he’s distraught and worried about the life ahead for Henri-Christian. Fergus and Claire have an emotional heart-to-heart about the matter, and she attempts to comfort him. But the mindsets of the time are cruel and unaccepting of anyone with differences, and Fergus tells Claire a story about a dwarf friend from his childhood that confirms that he’s all too familiar with this reality. Overcome by emotion, he walks off, and Claire returns to her home.
There, she finds Christie waiting for her. He’s ready for her to operate on his hand, but opts to go into the surgery without sedation. The pain is excruciating (of course it is… she’s slicing his hand open!). But he weathers it, and Jamie helps by reading Christie Biblical scriptures and keeping him steady. Basically, Jamie isn’t so salty that he won’t support Christie when necessary, and Christie–though confused–accepts his aid. I interpret it as a bit of a bonding moment between characters, with Christie developing some newfound respect for both Jamie and Claire. He even tells her in a later conversation that he doesn’t think she’s a witch, and I suppose he’d know the difference…
Because, speaking of witches, Ian catches Malva (Christie’s daughter) watching the surgery through a window and walks her home. We don’t exactly talk about the fact that she watched her father get his hand sliced open without so much as blinking. Just gonna skirt right past that… Anywho, she shares that her mother was tried and executed as a witch when Malva was very young. This explains some of her father’s behavior, though it doesn’t justify it. He’s clearly afraid she’ll repeat her mother’s choices and is scared for her spiritual well being, but his overly disciplinarian behavior is pushing her away. Regardless of her father’s attitude on the topic, Malva and Ian are getting mighty flirty, and their walk turns into more time spent together.
About halfway through the episode, Marsali finds Fergus at their kitchen table, drinking again even though he had promised her he’d stop. She shares her concerns for their relationship, and he explains his emotional turmoil over not being there to protect his family. She calls him out, telling him he can’t expect to protect them if he’s drunk. This hits home, and Fergus agrees she’s right.
Marsali then spills the tea that she murdered Lionel Brown. She said she was doing her own part to look out for their family after Lionel and his folk kidnapped and assaulted Claire after leaving Marsali knocked unconscious. Her secret wounds Fergus, who becomes angry, projecting his own guilt despite Marsali’s assurances that he isn’t at fault. They share strong words, and she pours a drink over his head and gives him an ultimatum: he either comes back home when he’s ready to step up, or he doesn’t come back at all. Marsali doesn’t mess around, but this is breaking my heart.
Back at the Fraser’s residence, Claire is haunted by visions of Lionel. Jamie notices she’s acting strange, but she won’t tell him what’s happening. Instead, she goes downstairs. She says it’s to see how Christie is doing post-operation, but it’s clear she’s thinking of escaping into the ether to avoid the flashbacks. When she finds Christie awake, she checks in and redresses the wound and teaches him some physical therapy. Their conversation takes Claire’s mind off the ether, and she returns upstairs where she and Jamie discuss life after Ardsmuir—the journey of readjusting to accepting kindness and affection after imprisonment. Jamie had Claire to help him through in his memories and dreams of her, but he explains that Christie turned inward during those times. Without that balance, Christie has become more closed off.
That’s when Jamie and Claire came to suspect that Malva and her brother aren’t Christie’s children because of how their ages coincide with the time he spent in Ardsmuir. Jamie comes across Malva in the woods foraging, and after some small talk he asks about her parentage, in the Fraser’s usual brand of not-quite-subtle interrogation. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser has never rhymed with “sneaky,” and I definitely had to Google his full name just then. Nothing is 100% confirmed, though, and they talk about how the forest scenery reminds them of Scotland. This is actually kind of clever and funny, because some of the show is filmed in Scotland, even parts of the “American” episodes.
Closer to the end of the episode, there’s a gathering at the Fraser’s house where the residents pay their rents and enjoy some food and fun. Fergus is intoxicated (again), and people are staring at him. Unsettled, he calls out an older woman who’s been giving him some severe side-eye. When he does, the woman makes a vicious remark about his child, and Fergus throws his drink in her face. (I, for one, hope some of it went up straight up her nose.) When her husband defends her, Fergus hits him. But the woman clearly started it, as everyone watching can see, and Christie (surprise!) comes to Fergus’ defense. This is a big step for Christie, considering he’s been pretty antagonistic toward the Frasers since the start of the season. It looks like it’s becoming a more united homefront… at least for now. I’m certainly not holding my breath about it, though.
Later, Roger delivers a sermon at the church about loving thy neighbor as thyself. He then cleverly discusses the recent events with Henri-Christian by recalling the Biblical story of Moses, who was floated down a river for different reasons. The scene changes to Fergus walking into the woods and Jamie, noticing his unusual behavior, follows him. He sees Fergus begin to put a deep gash into his arm as he’s sitting beneath a tree by the river. Jamie then rushes to stop him and, to the audience’s overwhelming relief, Jamie convinces Fergus to let him help and makes an emergency tourniquet. They have a heart-wrenching conversation about the pressure and anguish Fergus is experiencing. Jamie vehemently reminds Fergus that he is important and vital, not because of his physical abilities, but because of what he can offer as a human being. For a moment, I was terrified that Fergus was going to die in Jamie’s arms. Instead, they embraced, and Jamie told Fergus that he can show his son the strength of resilience. Thankfully, Jamie gets Fergus to Claire to patch up the wound, and Jamie and Claire escort Fergus home to Marsali. This time, they truly reconcile. He’s able to come home to his family, and truly be home.
There’s a teeny, tiny shred of my brain that’s scared the writers are gonna get their GRRM on and take Fergus from us even after all he’s been through, in some completely unrelated way because writers are cruel, heartless people who like torturing all our favorite characters… It’s quite possible I haven’t recovered from how they took Murtagh from us last season, and I may or may not watch way too much gritty television. Needless to say if Fergus doesn’t make it through Season 6 after he finally made it home for real, someone will be getting a very strongly worded letter from me with a bunch of words that autocorrect will promptly change to “duck.”
The episode ends with Major MacDonald arriving with guns for the Cherokee. He also brings news that the Boston Tea Party just happened, the first sparks of a soon-to-be-roaring fire. Claire knows what’s up and tells Jamie the war is almost upon them. Dun, dun, dunnn….
This episode was an emotional roller coaster! When the content warnings appeared on the screen, I was certain we were losing Fergus. But Jamie made it to Fergus in time. Plus, as the past episode with Brianna touched on the expectations 18th century society put on women, we get a similar–though much more high stakes–conversation regarding the societal pressures for men.
Fergus is genuinely in anguish over his belief that he can’t be the man Marsali deserves. Because of his inner turmoil, he’s blind to the fact that he’s been a valuable member of their family the entire time. Jamie promptly reminds Fergus that other people’s opinions do not determine his worth; who he is is measured by being there for his loved ones. A house can be built, but it’s the people that make it a home. “Conversation” is far too light a word for what these two share in the emotional scene where Fergus attempts to take his own life. But Jamie’s fatherly support bolsters Fergus. After all, Fergus is the son of Claire and Jamie’s heart–almost like their firstborn. Jamie’s encouragement helps Fergus rekindle his purpose, and he finally makes it home to be with his family.
Talk about a sigh of relief! I swear, this show just rips your heart out then puts a bandage on it as if to say, “Don’t worry, you’re fine! It’s Sunday night? Tomorrow’s a work day! You can conceivably function and not think about this all day, right?”
This episode reminded me of why I enjoy Outlander so much. Stereotypical emotional expectations are thrown out the window with this show, and I love it. The female characters express wrath and take vengeance, the male characters express grief, sorrow, and affection in realistic ways, and there’s everything in between. All members of society have their own pressures and responsibilities that weigh on them regardless of their place in history, gender identity, age, or other factors. But Outlander episodes like this one shed light on the human experience. Even if we don’t share a specific experience with these characters, the emotions portrayed are very real, very universal, and very moving. Good fiction gives us all a chance to see life through another’s point of view and feel some of the love, joy, and pain that comes with that.
“Temperance” focuses on how harbored fears can affect us and how support from loved ones can bolster us in times of need. There is fear, yes. But by fighting through their inner demons and choosing to stand with their family, the Frasers might stand a chance in the war to come.
The next episode preview leads me to believe we’ll see a stronger focus on the Cherokee. Brianna and Jamie briefly discuss the Trail of Tears, and while Jamie plans to be on the rebel side of the Revolutionary War, we know from last week’s recap the Cherokee ally themselves with the Crown. If Ian fights with the Cherokee, Ian and Jamie could be on opposing sides. And if last season is any indication, that won’t be good. Ian has also been getting kinda cozy with Malva, lately, so it’s yet to be seen how this will affect his allegiances.
Have you seen “Temperance”? Do you think Ian will fight with the Cherokee against Jamie and the revolutionaries, or will they find another way?