I was concerned about how late this article was hitting the blog. With our current international situation, I have had to try to sit and actually watch this episode several times, as I always do. However this time, I really wanted to have a think about it. We’ve come through the halfway point of season 5 of Outlander, and with the current situation in the world, there may be a delay again for filming production on this show. How timely some of the themes of episode 506, Better to Marry Than Burn, hit us now as we face isolation and survival.
We begin with the backstory to Jocasta’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) past. As you probably have guessed by now, my main character’s favorite is Murtagh. Being both a book reader and a series fan, I was so happy to see how this character was broken out into a character that has survived the dismal death at Culloden. I was not too pleased about how the whole Murcasta thing came about. I know, the series and the books are absolutely different animals and should be accepted as such. I have praised much of the decisions that had to be made. It is extremely difficult to translate what is in a book, and what grows with a series on television. Some things just don’t translate. Bring in the fact that you rescue a favorite series only character (yes, Murtagh doesn’t survive Culloden in the books), and great acting by Duncan Lacroix to create such a figure that breaks our hearts, and partner him with the formidable Jocasta Cameron. Well, that’s fire and damnation. And finally, we see why Jocasta is as Jocasta does.
It’s hard to see how Jocasta came to be as she is, a wealthy woman who has already gone through 3-4 husbands and is now going on the 5th? Despite her affliction of blindness, she still sees everything. Unfortunately, this becomes quite painful for her. On the eve before her wedding to Duncan Innes (Alastair Findlay), a book character that has been pushed aside for the Murcasta relationship, she reflects on a painful memory of the past. Her decision to wed is a compromise she must make to keep River Run from being controlled by a man who would not respect the nuances of how the plantation is run. Jocasta is experienced in how marriages go, as well as wealth and the world of things in the 18th century. A woman must find a way to be safe and in control. The only way is through marriage to someone who wants her happiness, not a cause.
We open the episode on a moor with a carriage speeding as fast at horses can carry, careening away from Culloden. A younger Jocasta and her husband, Hector Cameron (Christopher Bowen), with their youngest daughter Morna, are fleeing the ruin of Culloden. They are stopped by a couple of the King’s Dragoons. While they and the youngest daughter are asked to exit the coach and be interrogated, one of the Dragoons spots a chest with a lock hidden under the carriage. He pulls it out and breaks it open. To Jocasta and Morna’s surprise, it’s a chest of French gold. Hector had stolen it as it was destined for Bonnie Prince Charlie to help fight the Jacobite cause. As Jocasta realizes that they have been put in danger because of Hector’s political sympathies, and altercation occurs, and the two Dragoons end up dead, as well as young Morna, who is but 16, left to rot by the roadside as Hector drags Jocasta on in the coach to flee with the gold. It is this painful memory that Jocasta carries on the eve of her next wedding.
Marriage As a Convenience
We come to the present. Jocasta, feeling the blue ribbon run through her fingers that she had saved from Morna’s hair. She is thinking about her past. How she got to be mistress of River Run, and how Hector had made her leave the daughter behind. She is about to embark on her 4th or 5th marriage, for in the world of the 18th-century, women could not be in charge of their destiny. She was readying to marry a man who would allow her to run River Run, and be a shield against a male-dominated society. She hoped at least he would only want her happiness and had no political ambitions. He brings her a lavender-filled pillow to soothe her the night before. Duncan expresses the knowledge that they do not really love each other, but maybe with time, there can be affection. Jocasta is rather brusque with him. The pillow is embroidered with the MacKenzie clan motto, ” I shine, not burn”.
Ulysses enters and glares as Duncan leaves. Jocasta remarks on his being unkind when she herself has been brusque with him. He brings Jocasta to Jamie and Gerald Forbes, the spurned suitor of Brianna. Jocasta is formally placing River Run in trust for Jeremiah MacKenzie. Remember this.
Weddings Breed Troubles
Trouble seems to always brew at weddings. The Frasers are beset by another trial on their relationship on the eve of Jocasta’s Wedding. Jamie and Claire must entertain Governor Tryon and his wife. Claire and Her Excellency part from the annoying political convo of the men, and we find we really do like H.E. as she is very sympathetic and not at all like her husband. The sensible of the two. Sadly a cursed soul from Claire’s past, Mr. Wiley is spied by H.E. and she moves to intercept. Claire stalls next to some ladies discussing Dr. Rawlings suggestions that women do not let their husbands sleep in their bed chambers during certain days of the month. Claire can’t help but chirp in some reasoning, and of course is ostracized by the ladies, turns and splashes Mr. Wiley, fop extraordinaire and cad-about-town, with enough powder on to empty a flour sack. We all know he has lusted after Claire for some time. H.E returns just in time to save Claire briefly, but he will not be put aside.
Wiley Catches Claire back up and she then starts a fiendish plan of subterfuge when Wiley spins tales of being able to procure anything she desires with the help of a certain Irish captain smuggler type. Yep, it’s him (Bonnet). Claire uses her guile to talk Wiley into tasting some of Jamie’s Fraser’s Ridge less than 3-year-old whiskey and suggests that maybe this Irish captain can broker business for them. After sinking her hook in a bit, she foolishly follows him out to the stables to meet his prized possession, Lukas, a stunning Fresian horse. Of course, Wiley makes a play for Claire and she knocks him soundly into the horse dung on his oh so pretty frock coat. (You think she would have learned with the Minister of Finance and the red shoes back in season two) Jamie arrives finally, pulling a knife. Claire reminds him it would be very bad to kill a man on the eve of Jocasta’s wedding. After Wiley is gone, she fills him in on her plot to deliver Stephan Bonnet in a way that justice can be served.
Jamie leaves to challenge Wiley to a high stakes game of Whist. However, to enter the game he must use Claire’s two wedding rings as collateral for his stake. Of course, Claire gets very upset that he would gamble with her gold ring, which she knows Wiley is causing her pain over. She is upset at Jamie’s willingness to gamble with Frank’s ring, so she gives him both rings.
Murtagh is Burning
Jocasta is still composing herself after dealing with guests and in her chambers, Ulysses announces another guest has come to give her a present. She dismisses it until she hears Murtagh’s voice. She chastises him on many fronts. Why has he come when the Governor was downstairs? He gives her a Luckenbooth brooch with a ribbon as a gift and demands of her why is she marrying a man she doesna care for. The two barb at each other, as always.
However, when she finally makes her statements of why, other than the obvious that Murtagh is a wanted criminal, she can’t risk the loss of River Run, the real reason behind it all is her painful experiences at the loss of her daughters after Culloden, and because a husband who believed in the Jacobite cause was willing to risk all their lives. Murtagh states that there will be a way for them. She tells him the tales of her losses, the death of her children. That she just wants to have a life of happiness. She takes her blindness as punishment for the fact that stolen gold built River Run after the deaths of her daughters. She spurns Murtagh, she cannot love a man who would believe in political causes that endanger her again and tells him to leave.
It is at this point that the two star-crossed lovers break apart and Murtagh finally declares that he loves her, something he should have said long before. Duncan Lacroix and Maria Doyle Kennedy give us another tumultuous dance of passion and loss. Murtagh leaves struggling to keep all emotions from bursting out. He carefully leaves the brooch she has thrust back to him. We see Jocasta break down in her true pain. Murtagh is crushed and now has nothing but his fight to live for.
“I love you, Jocasta MacKenzie. This world may change, but that will never change,”
Meanwhile, Jamie arrives back at the stables where Claire is asking the horse if he is worth it. He is drunk. He has won the bet and traded the horse back to Wiley for brokering a whiskey deal with Bonnet. Claire is still bristling and declares that Bonnet has cost them again, he has torn at their trust of each other. Of course, this ends up with Claire wanting to play a rough game with Jamie which always seems to lead into a roll into the hay with these two.
Later Jamie strolls into Governor Tryon’s Pavillion while he is being fitted for a new red tunic. He declares that it looks like they will get their war after all. He had hoped to avoid it while he hopes to take the Governorship of the colony of New York. Jamie knowingly takes the news of the Regulator leaders not taking Tryon up on the pardons. He gives that look that he’s thinking how he is going to warn Murtagh and his compatriots before Tryon is upon them.
The Wee Cheetie Pest Finds a Plague
Well, really, he is just the cutest little harbinger of doom, isn’t he? Back on the Ridge, wee Adso finds a large bug that turns out to be a locust and drops is at Roger and Brianna’s feet. The pair soon discover that all the settlers will be engulfed in a Biblical plague. Roger, sarcastically declares he thought it would just be a few cows going astray. But don’t kick a mushy icky bug gift.
Rogers remembers stories of locust plagues and how smoke was used to drive and divert the swarms from crops. He sets about getting all of Fraser’s Ridge farmers together and at first, they doubt him, being stubborn Scots that they are. He has had trouble getting anyone to trust his judgment, first Jamie and now the farmers. Luckily his ingenuity with creating smudge pots and burning very greenwood at the edges of the fields help to deter the swarm down to a few manageable leftover locust critters to swat at. Roger proves himself to the Ridge.
In closing the episode, we see that slime lawyer Forbes at a coffee house. Unnervingly he is meeting with none other than Stephan Bonnet (Ed Speelers), who is always prickly and quick to slash out at anyone. He informs Bonnet that his son is now master of River Run. Revenge.
Where the heck is Phaedra? Why would she not be present at Jocasta’s wedding? Could it be that like the character of Jenny, played by Laura Donnelly, other commitments came up in filming? I couldn’t find anything published as to the actor’s whereabouts.
Oh, and yes there were a few real locusts used for filming. However, the ones used for close up were bred to be sterile and wrangled safely.
Next week, after working so hard on the Ridge, we have episode 507, The Ballad of Roger Mac.
Catch it Saturday, March 28 at Midnight on the Starz® APP, Sunday at 8:05 pm EST and 5:05pm PST on Starz®, and Monday 30th of March on Amazon Prime in the UK and Ireland.