Outlander – Season 5 Episode 4
“Company We Keep”
Outlander continues with Jamie’s mission to assemble a militia to fight on behalf of the Crown with complications arising at a trading post.
Every season of Outlander has an episode like this; one that focuses on setting things up and outlining the potential complications that surround the major events the episodes are due to explore. Such episodes are often slower paced and dripping with content which is a good way to build a nuanced picture of a given situation.
In this case, Jamie being tasked with recruiting a militia to face the Regulators will be rife with complications as there is bound to be a great deal of reluctance from the people he encounters coupled with the fact that it isn’t something he actually believes in so he’s constantly fighting against his better nature. This doesn’t really come up in this episode as there is greater focus on Roger and how poorly suited he is to living in this time period. The first thing that happens when approaching Brownsville is that Roger and his men are attacked because the people aren’t all that happy with one of their company. Isaiah Morton (Jon Tarcy) had an affair with Lionel Brown’s (Ned Denney) daughter, Alicia (Anna Burnett) which lost her the interest of a man who would financially benefit her and her family. Naturally the people want to hold Isaiah accountable for his actions and punish him.
Roger’s go to solution for the tension between the two sides is to get everyone drunk. He convinces Lionel to have a drink and discuss the situation with him which leads to a bit of a singalong while Isaiah is tied up in a shed to be dealt with later. Jamie is initially disappointed with Roger’s handling of the situation and how he has used the authority he has been given which furthers the tension that exists between them. There is a running thread of Jamie feeling that Brianna could do better than Roger and this informs their interactions here. Their conversation where Roger talks about his academic history is a great example of the animosity that exists between them as Jamie doesn’t recognise those skills as being in any way useful under the current circumstances. Jamie comes across as somewhat judgemental in this interaction which may be an overly harsh reaction but it adds further texture to his character as he has flaws he needs to overcome. It also makes perfect sense for his character as his upbringing has been more practically focused meaning that he wouldn’t recognise an academic approach as being a valid one in most cases. Formal education represents wealth and privilege which wasn’t something he was born into so there will always be that touch of resentment for it within him. Roger very much comes from that background which probably creates an irrational wariness towards him.
Jamie isn’t the only one who bears animosity towards Roger. Several men leave the militia because they’re unhappy with Roger’s leadership which reinforces the notion of Roger being out of place in this time period and being unable to function effectively. Others are latching onto his inability to function and refusing to take orders from him. It’s bizarre that Jamie would put him in a position of seniority given the circumstances which constitutes a failing on his part as he chose to appoint someone who would never be able to deal with the burden of leadership effectively.
At some point Jamie and Roger will need to have an extended conversation about the antagonistic nature of their relationship and resolve it in a way that allows them to function in some way. Roger is part of his family because of his marriage to Brianna so Jamie has something of a duty to find a way to deal with him. This isn’t the episode to do this but Jamie does come to realise that it was wrong of him to put Roger in a position of authority despite his lack of training or experience. The mishandling of the situation is partly his fault as he had no reason to expect Roger to be up to the task. He remedies this by tasking Roger with escorting Claire and the -now free- twins back to Fraser’s Ridge. Roger is offended by this order as he sees that as Jamie having no faith in him which certainly has some truth to it but it’s also worth noting that he’s trusting Roger with Claire’s safety which isn’t a decision Jamie would make lightly.
Much of the episode revolves around Isaiah and Alicia who have to deal with a lot of strong opinions surrounding them. Jamie’s first reaction is to force Isaiah to marry Alicia after what he did but the situation quickly becomes more complicated as she had a more suitable husband lined up before this encounter and Isaiah is already married. He tells Jamie that it was an arranged marriage that is both loveless and childless but Jamie’s values are very particular in such circumstances though the episode fails to cover his own situation where his wife was married to another man when they met and went back to her other husband on his instruction before eventually returning to him. It’s an entirely different situation with time travel complicating it further but it should at least be covered in more detail as it is a challenge to Jamie’s held values so should be relevant.
Ultimately, Roger and Jamie manage to agree on something and bring Isaiah to Alicia. It’s a very small bonding moment but a very significant one with Roger realising that Jamie is as supportive of a genuine love story as he is. In many ways they’re governed by their hearts which gives them common ground to build a relationship on. I can see this being the first step to them realising other things they have in common and reaching an understanding that helps them function together. This conflict has to be building towards something and I suspect there are many points of disagreement to come but for now they can at least agree on a love story worth supporting.
Isaiah is used well within the episode with very brief screen time. His open challenge to Roger and Jamie about what they would do if they were simply told to abandon the wives that they loved. It immediately sends the message that Isaiah’s desire to do right by Alicia is genuine and that he deserves the chance to make her happy. Jamie and Roger have both figuratively moved Heaven and Earth to be with the women they love so Isaiah’s commitment deserves the same chance.
A fair amount of time is shown depicting Alicia’s situation as being far less than idea. Her affair with Isaiah has exposed her to some judgement within her community. The fact that the affair cost her and her family a wealthy husband is something that has made her very unpopular. This is handled well with the casually snide comments both aimed directly at her and said about her while she’s in the room having a visible impact on her mental health throughout the episode. Eventually it gets to the point where she sees no way out other than to kill herself as the affair has resulted in her being pregnant which will only make her more unpopular as the child would represent a lingering memory of everything that her decision cost her family. Alicia is a constantly sympathetic character in desperate need of guidance and support but has become an outcast in her community. It’s certainly understandable that she would feel there was nothing else she could do other than end her life. Her failed attempt is almost funny as it confirms how she currently feels about herself after being constantly put down by those around her.
The failed attempt to let them slip away allows for some great chaotic imagery involving horses being freed that mirrors the newfound freedom of the lovestruck couple. Claire’s voiceover on top of that image addresses her similar yet very different experience of adultery while also highlighting that choices are made and the only hope anyone can have is that they will bring more good than harm. It’s a good note to end the episode on and punctuates the decisions made nicely.
Claire’s discussions with the women make for some strong scenes. Meg Brown (Sarah Belcher) makes for a strong presence with her casually hypocritical ways. She makes a point of not punishing the newborn Claire brings with her while condemning Alicia for decisions that she has made. The dialogue feels very real and using this to add a reminder of the attitudes that are getting in the way of Claire making this time period a healthier one was a really smart way to continue that arc. The blatant ignorance of the printed advice acts as a microcosm of everything Claire is up against. Expert advice is ignored because people feel that they know better so don’t see it as credible. It looks like my theory that Claire will fail to make a significant impact through people not paying attention to her advice could be accurate.
The child that Jamie and Claire brought with them following the events of the previous episode provides the fodder for an excellent scene between them. Throughout the episode Jamie notices how natural Claire is with the child and asks her if she wants to take it for herself. He sees this as an opportunity for them to finally be parents together after being prevented from doing so because of some insurmountable external factors. Jamie tells her that he would do anything for her so would be fully on board if she wanted to raise the child as their own. Claire declines but is deeply moved by his offer and voices her regret that they were never parents together but doesn’t see that as enough of a reason to be fully responsible for a baby. She tells him that she loves their life the way it is and reminds him of the obituary featuring them that may yet come to pass so it’s possible they aren’t the safest carers for a newborn with destiny rapidly approaching. This is another great Jamie/Claire scene that offers an excellent showcase of their unbreakable bond that only grows stronger the longer they’re together. Jamie’s unflinching devotion is brilliantly portrayed and Claire’s love for him because of everything he’s willing to do to make her happy contributes to another sweet moment between them.
Back on Fraser’s Ridge the threat of Bonnet is still hanging over Brianna. She hears about a man that gave Jeremiah a coin and becomes anxious when a vague description matches Bonnet. This causes her to be completely on edge for the rest of the episode to the point that she moves to the main house so that she will be better protected. She immediately fears the worst when Jeremiah goes missing after taking her eyes off him for a few seconds only to have him found safe and sound within seconds. Marsali immediately recognises what’s going on and shares a drink with Brianna in order to help her realise how ridiculous she’s being. Her advice is that Brianna should be aware that she can’t create problems just by thinking about them. She uses the example of all the times she wished her biological father was dead before he ended up dying in prison and talks as if she was the one to kill him. Brianna tells Marsali that she had nothing to do with it because her thoughts don’t have the power to kill someone. It’s a great example of proving a point by making someone think rationally about it. To most Brianna seems like an overly cautious new parent and Marsali has helped her realise that her maternal instincts are causing her to see danger where none exists. I really like what is being done with Marsali this season; she is forging unique dynamics with many of the characters that enhance her greatly.
I’m still far from on-board with the Bonnet threat. It has been made clear that the threat is real with mentions of him being back in the area and an appearance from him two episodes ago so despite Marsali’s excellent advice we know that Brianna’s concerns are justified and that he will appear to plague her sooner or later. If he did actually appear to Jeremiah to give him a coin then this behaviour makes no sense as he could so easily have taken Jeremiah at that point with little to no resistance. Based on what has been seen of him up until this point it’s not his style to stalk someone and take his time before making his presence felt. From a drama point of view it’s effective to have a threat that may or may not be present to build tension but it doesn’t fit the person that the threat is attached to. As I’ve mentioned before there’s too much going on for this to feel necessary and the handling of it has been less than stellar.
Another strong episode that reinforces some of the character conflicts while further enhancing the wonderful Jamie/Claire relationship. Roger’s usefulness in this time period is a running plot thread that is being explored in a variety of ways. Combining this with the animosity that exists between him and Jamie makes for a natural narrative pairing. Jamie regrets his decision to put Roger in charge of gathering the militia because his methods cause a number of men to leave. This highlights a major flaw in Jamie as he expected too much from Roger despite him having no training or experience to help him deal with this task. He remedies this to some degree by tasking him with accompanying Claire back to Fraser’s Ridge which he takes to be confirmation of Jamie’s lack of faith him him but Claire points out that he has been tasked with looking after what Jamie holds most dear which isn’t a decision that he makes lightly. They also find some common ground when dealing with Isaiah as they both recognise that despite the less than ideal circumstances he genuinely loves Alicia and wants to do right by her so they both facilitate the two of them running away to be together. Isaiah makes for a strong presence in the episode with his challenge to Jamie and Roger over what they would do if instructed to leave their wives acting as an excellent opportunity for them to check their own opinions. Alicia is a sympathetic character with her decisions resulting in a situation that is impossible for her to live in. The casual intolerance for her because of what her decision cost her family is played well and it’s easy to see why she might be driven to take her own life.
Claire’s interactions with the women of the town work really well as a microcosm of everything she is up against in creating a healthier time period. The casual ignorance of her printed advice because they believe they know better is a great showing of the attitudes that she has to find a way to overcome is really well used. Jamie and Claire’s conversation about whether to raise the wayward child as their own makes for another excellent Jamie/Claire moment. The unflinching devotion from Jamie as he tells Claire he will do whatever she wants as long as she’s happy and the shared regret over never having the opportunity to be parents together makes for another touching bonding moments. Claire’s practical viewpoint on what is best for them and how the regret isn’t enough for her to take on something like that is also excellently handled. Brianna’s anxiety after hearing that a man vaguely matching Bonnet’s description gifted Jeremiah with a coin leads to a strong scene between her and Marsali where Marsali is able to help her see how ridiculous she is being by encouraging her to arrive at the conclusion herself. Of course the threat is real but using Marsali’s perspective of seeing an overly cautious mother was a strong choice. The Bonnet plot is still weak as his apparent behaviour doesn’t fit what is known about his character up until this point.
- continuation of the ongoing plot around Roger’s ability to function in this time period
- outlining a flaw in Jamie around not considering Roger’s ability to take command
- Roger and Jamie finding common ground around their approach to enabling a romance
- Isaiah and Alicia’s relationship being strongly portrayed
- Isaiah challenging Roger and Jamie over their devotion to their wives
- Alicia being a strongly sympathetic character
- the women of the town acting as a microcosm of everything Claire is up against
- the casual ignorance and hypocrisy from the women
- a great Jamie and Claire scene around their desire to be parents
- an excellent Marsali and Brianna scene around Brianna’s supposedly misplaced anxiety
- not properly addressing how similar Isaiah’s situation is to Claire and Jamie’s
- the Bonnet plot still not working
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