Johnnycake is a gamechanger. I, for one, didn’t expect so many surprises, although I probably should have, after all, Diana Gabaldon wrote the episode.
Anyway, without delay, I’m diving into the recap.
Summary provided by Starz: A revelation about Jemmy forces Roger and Brianna to choose between staying in the eighteenth century and returning to the safety of the future. Jamie finds that unrest in the backcountry has given rise to a new power – an organization led by the unpredictable Brown brothers. Claire finds that her attempts to make this time safer for her family have dire, unintended consequences.
We begin with leaves falling from trees, and when the words Autumn 1772 appear on the screen, we aren’t surprised.
The MacKenzies and the Frasers are riding through the woods. Jamie and Claire are on horseback, Roger and Brianna in a wagon. Claire is talking about peanuts—they seem to have gathered bushels—and making peanut butter is on her mind. She admits to not having figured out how to make ice cream yet, but she will. She wants her grandchild, Jemmy, to have these essential foods from the future.
The foursome get a whiff of something burning and find a house in ruins with several dead bodies inside. Claire pulls a broken arrow tip from one of the bodies, which indicates that Indians attacked the house, but Jamie doubts it.
The group separates to search for survivors.
Of course, it is Roger who discovers the horrifically burned child, a little girl lying panting on the ground. This scene is graphic and chilling. She is small, likely five or six years old, and the makeup job is too authentic and turns the stomach. Rogers croaks out Jamie’s name to come to his aid, which he does, but neither man calls for the two women (Claire and Brianna) to join them. The disfigured child is still breathing but clearly won’t survive her injuries. Jamie prepares to do the merciful thing, but Roger stops him. Since he found her, he will end her suffering. Roger then, while weeping, suffocates the little girl as Jamie recites a prayer.
This startingly devasting scene sets the tone for the episode.
After the opening credits, the vignette is a flashback to a scene from last season. Claire returning to Scotland from the 1960s is removing Saran Wrap from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich Brianna made for her journey—thus the name of the episode, Journeycake.
At Fraser’s Ridge, Jemmy and Young Ian are playing outdoors with a large stone. It is the one that Claire usually wears around her neck, I believe, given to her by Otter Tooth. Suddenly, Jemmy complains that the stone he is holding is hot. He passes it to Ian, who tells him he’s wrong, it’s cool to the touch. Ian hands the stone back to the child, but an instant later, the stone cracks in half and Jemmy drops it to the ground. Meanwhile, Brianna hears Jemmy’s wee yelps and rushes to the child.
Then Jemmy puts his hands over his ears and says I can hear it. Roger and Brianna (and Claire) touch the stone, and it is warm (not hot, but warm). Jamie and Ian feel nothing but a stone cool to the touch.
Is it possible that Jemmy can pass through the stones? More importantly, does this prove Jemmy is Roger’s son?
Before we can fully digest this information, a group of men rides toward the house. Mr. Brown and his brother are recruiting men to form a patrol for what they assume is a potential confrontation with an Indian tribe.
Since these men responded when Jamie called them to join his militia, they expect Jamie to gather the men of Fraser’s Ridge. Jamie isn’t too keen on leaving Fraser’s Ridge. Meanwhile, Claire notices that Mr. Brown has an injury on his leg and offers, okay, demands that she take a look and fix him up because it appears infected. A reluctant Mr. Brown limps into the house for treatment.
Later, after Brown and company depart, Claire and Jamie are in their study talking about Roger and Brianna and the likelihood that they will be leaving Fraser’s Ridge soon to return to the future now that Jemmy can go through the stones. Both are heartsick at the prospect but understand the MacKenzie family will be safer in the future.
Next, enter Young Ian. He’s noticed the unusual circumstances that surround Claire, Bree, and Roger. He’s adding up the puzzle pieces—Claire returning to Jamie from who knows where 20 years later, the sudden arrival of Roger and Brianna. He also has a journal that belonged to Otter Tooth. (You should remember him from an episode last season). He is the Mohawk time traveler.
As Claire examines the journal, she says out loud that it was written with a ballpoint pen. Ian promptly asks what is a ballpoint pen? Claire decides to tell Ian the truth: that she is from another time, two hundred years in the future.
Is Ian shocked? Maybe, but mostly, he’s smiling. He knew his Auntie Claire was special and guessed she was a fairy. Claire denies that she is such a thing, but Ian now knows the Fraser family secret.
Jamie and Claire are on horseback in the woods and come upon a cabin. Surprise! Ulysses is in a cabin hiding out after murdering Mr. Forbes (who tried to smother Jocasta) last week. The plan is to help Ulysses get out of town so that he won’t be pursued for the murder of the white man. We also learned that Ulysses is a free man, not a slave. He shows Claire and Jamie his papers. It was his choice to remain with Jocasta at River Run. His devotion to her is based on his affection for her.
At the small cabin where Roger and Brianna live, they are preparing for bed and talking about returning to the future. Roger wants to leave in two weeks.
At the big house, Jamie has a visitor: Lord John Grey. We learn that William, Jamie’s son, is in school in London, and Lord John is set to return to England. William is about to become Earl of Helwater, and Lord John must prepare him for this new role in his life. Lord John has a gift for Jamie—a portrait of his son.
Later, Claire and Jamie are in their bedroom, discussing the changes that are about to take place in their family. Jamie is in bed reading, and Claire goes to put on her special fragrance. When she turns back to her hubby, he is sound asleep.
During the night, Claire wakes up next to Jamie, warm and sweaty. She leaves the bed and opens the window for fresh air, but her movements rouse Jamie. He joins her in the large windowsill and takes in her fragrance and apologizes for falling asleep because her perfume is a signal that she wants him to touch her. The couple kiss and chat their way through the aroma dictionary, tasting each other’s skin and sharing the flavors they are enjoying, ending with some tasty erotic lovemaking.
The next morning Claire startles Jamie. She shows him sperm swimming in a dish under her microscope. Maybe, next season we’ll discover why this scene was included in the episode (because otherwise it seemed random to me, and I haven’t read all the Outlander books).
Jamie tells Bree about William. Then for the next few minutes of airtime, there are a series of goodbyes because Roger and Brianna and Jemmy are preparing to leave. An especially sad moment is when Brianna runs into Lizzie, who believes she will be accompanying the MacKenzies to Boston. Lizzie is distraught, but Brianna can’t tell her the truth but makes her promise to watch over her parents.
Mr. Brown returns and wants to learn Jamie’s answer about forming a patrol. This time Mr. Brown’s wife is injured, and after learning Jamie is a big NO for joining forces with Brown and his crew, Claire sets out to help Mrs. Brown.
While Claire is helping his wife, Mr. Brown stumbles upon the medicine bag with the name Dr. Rawlings etched inside. This is the doctor who has caused him (and other men of the time) some grief, putting ideas in his wife’s head about contraception and much more. We don’t know yet if Brown has put two and two together—figuring out that Claire and Dr. Rawlings are one in the same, but maybe, we’ll find out later in the episode.
Meanwhile, Roger gives Ian his land, which Ian refuses, but Roger then tells him to do what he will with the land, and Ian accepts. Bree catches up with Lord John. She knows about her brother and tells him.
The goodbye scenes jumble together until Brianna and Claire connect for a long hug.
The last supper, so to speak, of the combined Fraser and MacKenzie family begins with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Jamie eats with a fork.
And the next instant, the carriage with the McKenzie family and Ian are on their way to the stones. Ian is going to bring back the wagon.
I know enough about the Outlander series to be surprised by the early departure of Roger and Bree. But perhaps, not as surprised as they are from the look on their faces. It’s clear that their journey through the stones didn’t put them where they thought they’d be—and the writers don’t even give us a peek. So, hopefully, next week, we’ll find out where they landed.
The episode doesn’t end here.
Back at Fraser’s Ridge, there is an explosion – it’s the whiskey still. The menfolk run off to see what has happened, leaving Claire and Marsali to help patients.
But while the men are away, here come Mr. Brown and some of his cohorts. They snatch Claire, punch Marsali in the jaw, and gut the man Claire was treating.
When Jamie, Fergus, and Ian return, Claire is gone.
The last shot is of Jamie running towards the Scottish cross made of branches. He sets it on fire, a signal to the men of Frasers Ridge—that their Laird needs them.
And that brings us to the last episode of the Outlander season five, next week’s Never My Love.
See you then!