Last week’s Outlander episode gave us the reunion we’ve all been waiting for when Murtagh reunited with both Jamie and Claire. This week, the Frasers found themselves surprised by yet another familiar face in that of Lord John Grey.
The last time we saw Grey, was back when he helped Jamie out of quite a sticky situation in Jamaica, but it’s clear he and Jamie have been in correspondence.
Grey isn’t alone when he reaches Fraser’s Ridge on his way out to take care of business in Virginia — he’s also brought Willie with him, although he’s much older than the last time Jamie saw him.
It’s not until later that night while Willie witnesses Jamie interacting with the horses on their way to the outhouse that he realizes Jamie is Mac. Unfortunately, the recollection doesn’t bring with it any desire on Willie’s part to form any sort of friendship with Jamie in the present.
Later when they’re discussing it by the fire, Claire isn’t surprised to hear that Willie does in fact remember Jamie. For Jamie, however, it’s clear the moment is quite bitter sweet. He still sees flashes of the boy he knew, but it’s clear Willie — who prefers to go by William now that he’s older, has grown up quite a bit. While he’s still kept some of his boyish traits, he might as well be a different person altogether.
The good news is Jamie does get some ample bonding time in with Willie as the episode moves forward although it comes at a pretty high price.
Lord John falls ill the next morning and Claire quickly deduces that he’s likely caught the measles while traveling through Cross Creek. Claire sends Jamie away along with Willie in an effort to make sure the young boy doesn’t contact the highly contagious disease and promises to tend to Lord John while they’re gone.
There’s a lot at stake here — especially wherein Willie is concerned.
Earlier in the episode Lord John reveals that Isobel fell ill and passed away. Given that his father is all he has left, Willie understandably puts up quite a bit of a fight when Jamie tries to take him away at Claire’s request.
Eventually, the pair set off on a tour of Fraser’s Ridge on horseback together.
The time away allows Jamie to get a better feel for who Willie is now. It also allows him the opportunity to show Willie the ropes when it comes to fishing, hunting, gutting, and fending for yourself in the new world.
In a lot of ways, it’s probably the closest Jamie will ever get to passing down any semblance of fatherly wisdom unto Willie so it makes for a nice moment in the episode despite the fact that Willie is trying his hardest to be a royal pain.
His misery on the tour of Fraser’s Ridge is understandable though, and his true feelings of worry over his father manifest themselves over a camp fire after both he and Jamie have tucked in to their dinner.
The boy is worried his father will die and he’ll be all alone in the world. So much so that he even goes as far as to blame Jamie for Lord John’s case of the measles saying he never would have contacted the disease if he hadn’t insisted on visiting Jamie in the first place.
There’s truth to the outburst, albeit one that’s a huge slap in the face for Jamie in particular.
By this point it seems as though we’ll never get a nice moment between Jamie and Willie, but a dangerous run-in with the Cherokee serves as a very interesting tipping point for their relationship. nothing brings people together on Outlander quite like a near-death experience after all.
Back at the cabin, Claire and Lord John have been sorting through their own issues while Claire’s been attempting to nurse him back to health.
Claire’s been weary of John’s true intentions for coming to visit since the beginning of the episode. Though Lord John had danced around the issue before, the truth eventually comes out after his fever rises.
Fearing he might die, Lord John finally confesses to Claire that the real reason he felt compelled to come was because he felt nothing when Isobel died. Hinting at his true feelings, he then confesses he came hoping that seeing Jamie would allow him to figure out if he was still capable of feeling in general.
When John takes things one step further and reveals that it’s hard for him to see Jamie and Claire together, Claire wonders why he’d come all this way simply to torture himself . It’s then that John reveals Jamie offered himself to him in exchange for promising to take Willie under his wing. As tempting as the offer might have been, John says he could never be with Jamie under those conditions.
It’s a lot to process— especially for Claire — so it’s probably a blessing in disguise that John’s high fever means he’s too weak to carry the conversation on any further.
They do, however, pick things back up the next morning when John’s feeling much better.
After apologizing, John explains that seeing Claire and Jamie together pains him because it serves as a constant reminder that as much as he loved Isobel in his own way, it would never be enough to truly satisfy either of them.
Claire, of course can relate in a way — especially given her past relationship with Frank. She also reminds him that while he may never have Jamie in the way he’d like, he’ll always have a part of him in Willie.
To see Claire and John finally come to an understanding of each other is a really lovely moment which makes for one of the strongest scenes in the entire episode.
One thing I really enjoyed about this week’s Outlander overall is the way it offered up closure for certain characters.
It was nice, for example, to see that Jamie seemed at peace as he watched Willie ride away with Lord John knowing that he’d grown into a fine young man. And it was nice to see Claire and Lord John come to an understanding of each other as individuals and not just as two people who happen to love the same man.
That being said, in a lot of ways the sixth episode of Outlander season 4 felt like a bit too much of a break from everything that’s been building in previous episodes.
Between Murtagh’s return and Brianna’s journey through the stones, last week’s episode did a lot to set up some pretty significant storylines that were put on pause when it came to episode six.
Though there was that interesting tense moment between Murtagh and Lord John at the dinner table when the subject of Regulators came up, it would have been nice to see the episode expand a bit more on that. Especially given that it seems like it’ll end up being a pretty significant piece of the puzzle going forward — if only because it’ll continue to cause strain on Murtagh’s relationship with Jamie and Claire.