Confession! I didn’t finish reading Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross. Part of me wanted to recap a season without advance knowledge of potential spoilers. I say potential because the Starz production team makes adjustments to Diana’s books for the visual medium and for any other number of reasons. And, during this week’s episode, Between Two Fires, I got my wish—more than once—I was surprised!
And here’s why.
Summary provided by Starz: As Jamie continues to hunt Murtagh with the aid of the zealous Lieutenant Hamilton Knox, he’s forced to consider whether or not he’s on the right side of history. Meanwhile, when a resident of Fraser’s Ridge dies from a preventable ailment – which had been exacerbated by an ill-informed, though well-intentioned, use of folk medicine – Claire considers using modern methods to keep the settlers safe.
The opening shot with credits still rolling is all about dough, flouring dough, kneading dough, and stacks of baked bread. We eventually learn why the bread is so important, but we switch quickly from bread to fire, where a bale of hay, dressed in a British soldier’s uniform, is burning in effigy. Two men, British tax collectors, are dragged from their offices and tarred and feathered. This is a common punishment back in the day, and viciously implemented by Regulators led by Murtagh Fitzgibbons—he’s a fugitive now, so, we use his entire name whenever possible.
By the way, this episode plays out with cutaways that alternate between Jamie and his journey with Lieutenant Knox, and the happenings at Fraser’s Ridge with Claire, Brianna, and Roger.
At Fraser’s Ridge, Brianna sits with her back against a tree, her sketch pad in hand, drawing Stephen Bonnet’s face, an ominous portrait of the man who defiled her. Her stokes with charcoal pencil are angry slashes, and her hatred of the man shows in the bulging veins in her throat and quivering lips.
A scream comes from an approaching wagon and interrupts her. A distraught woman is bringing her ill husband to Claire to heal. But it’s too late. The woman has waited too long and used the remedies of her time such as blood-letting and mercury to help her husband. But there is nothing Claire can do for him. From the look on Claire’s face, and her glances at Brianna, Claire could’ve healed the man if the woman had come sooner.
Meanwhile, Jamie is with Lieutenant Knox and his troops, searching for Regulators, and of course, the infamous, Murtagh Fitzgibbons. The conversation between Jamie and the “affable” Knox is a game of cat and mouse. Jamie, of course, does not want to catch Murtagh.
A messenger arrives, telling Jamie and Knox of an attack by Regulators in a nearby town. But good news, three of the Regulators have been captured. Well, this is not great news to Jamie—what if Murtagh is one of them?
Back on Fraser’s Ridge, Claire is frustrated about what she can accomplish from what she can’t when it comes to healthcare. This dismay forces her to take a risky, gruesome step. She performs an autopsy on the body of the dead man, wanting to confirm what killed him and how she might’ve saved him despite the barbaric medical remedies commonly used. She shares her efforts (the autopsied corpse) with Brianna, who is better at drawing pictures than looking at an eviscerated body. But Bree has a warning for Claire–what if Claire’s efforts to bring modern medicine to Fraser’s Ridge changes history. Is Claire willing to accept the consequences? Claire counters by pointing out Brianna came back in time to change history herself by warning her parents of their published deaths by fire.
Brianna departs, needing air as well as a break from her mother’s truth. Later, Claire wanders outdoors, contemplating her options, and comes across Marsali (Fergus’s wife), who is butchering a deer. Marsali shows talent with the butcher’s knife and a keen understanding of a deer’s anatomy as she cuts, slices, and dices.
As they arrive in town, Jamie, Lieutenant Knox, and the British troops run into Edmund Fanning, the man Claire operated on and saved from certain death and a strangulated hernia in season four. Fanning takes Jamie and Knox to meet one of the two men tarred and feathered. Looking at the man’s burnt and feather-embedded chest, Jamie is appalled. Jamie can’t imagine Murtagh was directly involved in such a hideous act.
Next, Jamie and Lieutenant Hamilton Knox head over to the jail to interrogate the captured Regulators. Jamie’s concern that one of the men is Murtagh is unfounded. But another problem comes to light – Murtagh led the men in their attack upon the tax collectors and their tar and feathering.
When the Lieutenant asks about the whereabouts of Murtagh, one prisoner says, “I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons” and then spits in Knox’s face. The Lieutenant loses control and stabs the man in the gut, killing him. It happens so quickly Jamie doesn’t have time to act, but he is stunned by Knox’s decision—execution without trial is nothing less than murder.
Roger and the Squirrel
At Fraser’s Ridge, Rodger is looking handsome, hunting rodents with fluffy tails (some call them squirrels). He can’t hit the side of a barn, as the saying goes, but Brianna is a crack shot. Roger also goes on and on about a Tufty Fluffytail, a red squirrel, instrumental in helping millions of children learn about road safety from the 1950s-1990s (I mean, seriously, I had to look it up:)!
Roger’s reminiscing leads Brianna to ask if he wants to go back to the future. Brianna doesn’t, and Roger does, but he’ll stay because she wants to stay, and she and Jemmy are his family. This will be an ongoing problem—the bridge between them, but more on that later.
Roger may not be able to shoot, but he can sing (and thank you, Richard Rankin, for having such a beautiful voice). He sings a few times in the episode. First, at the funeral for what turns out to be a box of rocks. Claire is still studying the remains of the dead man she could’ve saved.
But she’ll need help and brings Marsali in on her secret. It’s a dangerous decision by Claire, but she needs someone she can trust to assist her. Marsali’s reaction is precious. After a startled scream, that Claire stifles with a hand over her mouth, Marsali asks, “Was my mother right? Are you a witch?” But Marsali is a quick study and not squeamish. She’ll stitch up the body
like a seamstress, too.
Back in town, Jamie slips into the prison, where he releases the remaining Regulators. But he gets an earful questioning his loyalties. Is he for or against them?
On Fraser’s Ridge, it’s candle making day, and the women of the community are dipping rings of candles into huge containers. Claire is eavesdropping as one woman discusses a child with a burn on his hand. The woman is using St. James Powder on the injury, also reportedly used by King George himself she points out proudly. Claire tells her that St. James Powder is a poison. The woman says, the king’s doctors wouldn’t poison the king. (And of course, King George III was poisoned by his doctors—love the historical tidbits).
The woman’s blind trust of male doctors gives Claire an idea. She writes up recommendations by a Dr. Rawlings (the former owner of the medical bag Jamie got for her). Her goal is to stop the primitive use of herbs, blood-letting, and other powders and remedies that do more harm than good.
Roger Gets an Eye Exam
Roger’s inability to shoot has nothing to do with his eyesight, Claire confirms. Something else may be interfering with Roger’s inability to hit where he aims. Claire pushes, and Roger admits Brianna is happy at Fraser’s Ridge. Claire also claims to know that Roger isn’t and would return to the future. Roger says they can’t leave until they confirm that their son can hear the stones—which may happen next week, next year, or never.
The escaped Regulators run into Murtagh. The camp is bustling, full of fighting men, all armed. They are ready for battle. Murtagh says Jamie is walking between two fires—but when the fighting begins, Murtagh will fight, regardless of what side his adopted nephew is on.
The opening shot of loaves of bread is explained in the next scene when we find Claire ripping apart of bread and placing the pieces in a dish under a glass. What is she doing? She plans to make penicillin. Brianna says she’s playing God—possibly upsetting a cosmic balance. Claire keeps tearing loaves of bread apart.
Later, Roger is singing to his son—Jeremiah was a bullfrog…Joy to the World. Brianna arrives, and Roger departs to grab some things from inside the cabin. Here, he knocks over some papers and discovers Brianna’s drawings of Stephen Bonnet. Brianna’s voice interrupts him. She’s yelling for him to come now. With worry in his eyes, Roger puts the drawings down and goes to the porch of his home. There, Brianna is thrilled with excitement, “Look at our son! He is walking.” Timing is everything, and also in the eyes of the beholder.
The closing images of this episode is brilliantly linked, beginning with the eye exam, but the next scene is the mother of all surprises.
An Eye for an Eye
Bonnet is alive and sickeningly well. He is at a boxing slash wrestling slash brawl between two women opponents. This is recreation, and he’s a betting man (also a scoundrel and a liar and a thief).
A man from the crowd calls him out for cheating. A gentleman’s swordfight ensues. Bonnet slices the man behind the knees, and the man yields, hands raised conceding the victory to Bonnet. But dear Stephen isn’t appeased. He silences the roaring crowd when he takes a knife from his boot and slices the man across the eyes. When asked why he didn’t kill him outright, he says he wants to set a better example—now that he’s a father.
The episode ends with a closeup of Bonnet’s face—his eyes reveal his plan, and you’d better believe he’s going to find a way to Fraser’s Ridge.
Until next week, and my recap of episode 503, Free Will.