Things are not good on the Ridge, people. Pretty much all hell is breaking loose, and the war hasn’t even arrived yet. Death is everywhere, and all fingers point to Claire (Caitriona Balfe) by the episode’s end.
It all starts with the McNeills missing the Sunday church service. When Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan), Brianna (Sophie Skelton), and Claire check in on the family, they find half of them dead from dysentery, which I didn’t even know happened unless you were playing Oregon Trail in the ’90s on a Macintosh in computer class. Within minutes, the entire family has perished.
Claire figures out that the water is contaminated. She’s on a mission to help everyone, since there is no cure for this particular ailment. Unfortunately, Claire falls ill herself, and fights the disease for about a week. Malva (Jessica Reynolds) watches over her, casually flirting with Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the process. It’s innocent enough that Jamie has no clue she’s attempting charm, but I don’t like it.
After some hazy, confusing dreams about snakes and hearts, Claire wakes up with a pounding headache and a new haircut that rivals Jimmy Fallon’s. Mrs. Bug and Lizzie have cut off Claire’s bountiful curly locks to ward off the fever. They genuinely thought they were saving Claire’s life. Here’s hoping Mr. Bug made some good money selling that on his next trip into town. Perhaps he traded for some flour or sugar? Jamie is relieved Claire is still alive and requests that she cover her masculine hair by wearing a bonnet in public. #Harsh.
Jamie listens dutifully as she wonders out loud why she would be dreaming of snakes in the house and storm clouds. (Hint: It’s Malva. She’s the snake in the house! Cut off her head, Jamie!) After reprimanding Claire for almost dying, Jamie shares news from the Ridge. A dead elk in the river caused the water to be tainted. Although the sickness has run its course, many died. Several were very ill but much better now, including Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones).
Starz Roger WakefieldRichard Rankin
A weak body and raggedy hair doesn’t give Claire pause as she makes her way down to the fisher-folk campsite. Tom invites Claire to come inside his home, and it is revealed that he didn’t have the same items as the other people in town. He had headaches, fever, and unpleasant dreams. The exact same symptoms as Claire! This means they must have suffered from the same sickness.
This is weird because typically, these things pass from person to person, and Claire hasn’t seen Tom in a while. So she asks what any good doctor would in this scenario. Please, sir, may I have a sample of your fecal matter in this handy jar I brought from the big house?
Hard pass. Tom escorts her home, where Jamie puts her straight into bed. Then they share compliments. Claire thinks Jamie’s calloused hands are erotic. He thinks her hair is horrific, but more than anything else, Claire is fiercely faithful, which comes in handy when Tom shows up with his two children several weeks later, requesting a private audience with the Frasers.
Malva has found herself with child. And Jamie is the father.
We see flashbacks of Claire in her feverish state, watching a blurry Malva reach to a drunken Jamie and comfort him as he is sick with worry over Claire. According to Malva, he took her right there with Claire in the bed, fighting against death.
This is when Claire slaps Malva across the face, and I fist pump the air.
Robert Wilson/Starz Jessica Reynolds as Malva in ‘Outlander’
While Claire escapes the room for some air, Malva provides intimate details regarding scars on Jamie’s back and a crescent-shaped moon on his inner thigh. How else could she know the specific shapes of markings that should never see the light of day?
Remember when Malva peeked in on Claire and Jamie making out in the barn? It all makes sense. The question remains, is this premeditated? Has she been planning to trap Jamie all along? And who is the real father? Is it that guy Roger found her with in the church? Because it’s not Jamie.
Claire agrees with me, but must sift through her emotions to land in a logical spot. Jamie refuses to apologize for something he didn’t do. But the fact remains that Claire saw what she saw. Malva did come on to Jamie. Jamie did not partake in the invitation.
The bottom line is simple. Claire can’t admit that everything she’s done, and everything she’s sacrificed, is a lie. She doesn’t belong in this timeline. Neither do Brianna, Roger, and Jimmy. Because she loved Jamie more than everything else, she’s here. And she believes he loves her with the same amount of conviction. True or false?
Of course, it’s true.
Oddly enough, Jamie confesses to sleeping with Mary MacNab when Claire was back in her own timeline. It was the night he gave himself up to the redcoats. Random, but I’ll allow it.
Claire knows that Jamie would not have slept with Malva. Moreover, if he did, and Malva was pregnant, he would never turn his back on a child of his blood. No matter how that child came into the world. That sad part of this entire ordeal is the aftermath Claire must face. Which side will the townsfolk take? The young girl? Or the likely witch with terrible hair?
Malva is a question mark, for sure. We don’t know her end game. Claire tries to reason with her, but it’s no use. For a moment, I thought Malva would break under Claire’s generosity, especially when she claims Malva is full of curiosity and enthusiasm. But her brother Allan (Alexander Vlahos) interrupts the moment, and Claire leaves when Malva claims she’s a witch who can bring people back from the dead.
Claire hoists to the Christie siblings, warning them to stay away from her family. That includes Young Ian (John Bell), who we later find out slept with Malva. So we officially have another name on the list of potential baby daddies. Before you wonder if Ian is doing this to protect Jamie, the answer is no. He slept with Malva once and felt guilty afterward. But if she’s carrying his child, he will do the right thing and marry her.
Claire’s voiceover informs the audience that the Frasers soon lived under a cloud of darkness. As the months passed along, and Jamie was away in New Bern at the Continental Congress with Roger, the settlers wouldn’t even look at her. The Ridge was mounting a rebellion of its own.
One day, Claire hallucinates Lionel in her surgical room. She peers out the window and spies Malva heading up to the house. In a moment of panic, she takes out her trusty ether to escape the drama of her current life.
She wakes up to Malva staring down at her sleeping body. Malva claims Claire is the devil, and then she chastises her for being beautiful once. Now she’s old, veiny, and dried up inside. No wonder Jamie would turn to her in his time of need. Ouch!
Malva promises that she will have Jamie’s child and his house in due time. Claire grabs a scalpel and swears she will kill Malva if she comes near again.
Do not worry. It’s all a dream. Claire isn’t threatening to murder people — yet. She hoists herself from the bed, walks outside to pick through her herb garden, and slowly turns her head back toward the house. The camera pans to Malva, lying on the ground, with her throat cut. Dead.
The redcoats will soon be arriving. But not before the pitchforks and fiery torches.
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