Outlander (S05E03) “Free Will”

This week in “Free Will,” we get something close to a “ghost story.” It’s a fabulous and unexpected episode, and results in the addition of some new members of the settlement.

Definitely do not read this recap review unless you’ve watched the episode! You’ll spoil the surprises.


It helps to remember Josiah, the young lad with the bad tonsils, for this episode.

Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is doing a thorough job of training Marsali (Lauren Lyle) in her medical practice. Marsali asks Claire how she knows what to look for in the molds. With some prodding from Claire, Marsali recaps what they should be looking for, and she is an eager and bright student. Although Claire understands that when she tried to change history in the past, it didn’t work, she vows to do her darndest to succeed in creating penicillin.

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Claire and Marsali Examine Mold
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Claire and Jamie Discuss the Future

Jamie (Sam Heughan) returns to the House. Claire hears him whisper “Thank you, God” in Latin, and she asks him what he’s thanking the Lord for. Jamie tells her he is grateful each time he sees her. They still share the same passion as they always have. He discusses how disappointed he was in Lt. Knox’s behavior. They discuss the colonists’ army. Jamie worries that the tenants won’t be happy to see him, because he must gather a militia. Jamie is walking a fine line between who he supports. Claire reminds Jamie that there is no information in history about the Regulators. Claire insists to Jamie that she’s coming with him when he returns with the militia. “You need me.” “I always have, and I always will.”

Fergus (Cesar Domboy) meets up with Jamie, who asks him to take an order to the printer. He goes into the house and grabs a paper with notes to record the advertisement.

Daily life in the settlement continues, and Marsali demonstrates her skill at butchery. Kudos to the actress because that is not something that can be simulated! Jamie gathers the settlement men who will be making the rounds to collect the militia for Lt. Knox. Fergus returns, handing Jamie a letter. Claire leaves instructions for Marsali to practice sewing up wounds using pig flesh. She tells Marsali that she has left her some drawings of the penicillium mold. Bree (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) hug before they part, as well. The group heads out.

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Jamie Tells Claire Bonnet is Alive

They stop for the evening, and Jamie pulls Claire aside. He tells Claire the unfortunate news that Stephen Bonnet is alive! Jamie explains that Lord John told him Bonnet’s body was never found in the jail’s rubble. They don’t think that Bree knows (but, of course, we know she does).

Jamie tells the leadership group that they must train the settlers to fight like highlanders because they don’t have time to train as the military would. In the early morning, one of the settlers captures Josiah (Paul Gorman), who he accuses of stealing provisions, only, it isn’t Josiah, it’s his twin brother, Keziah (Paul Gorman). It turns out that Josiah and Keziah were orphaned at an early age and indentured to a cruel owner. Keziah is hearing-impaired because the owner has boxed his ears viciously over the years. Seeing the boys’ condition, Jamie decides that he will buy out their bonds from the owner, Mr. Beardsley.

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Josiah and Keziah

Jamie decides its likely that Josiah took the blame for theft instead of Keziah, and he asks Claire to cut the “T” brand off, to keep Josiah safe and she agrees. Jamie and Claire go to the Beardsley homestead, leaving Roger to fill the muster book. Roger understands the stakes.

When they arrive at the Beardsley home, something seems off. The house looks quiet and neglected. The wind adds to the eeriness, and looking into a broken window, Jamie first sees a goat in the window and then he is surprised to see Ms. Beardsley (Bronwyn James). Jamie explains that they want to purchase the servants’ bonds. Ms. Beardsley (Fanny) starkly tells Jamie that Mr. Beardsley is dead and to keep the boys, she has no use for them. Jamie, who needs the boys’ paperwork, asks her to look for it. Claire wants to leave, because she feels there’s something strange about the place, but Jamie insists they must have the paperwork. Claire and Jamie go inside to wait. They don’t understand why the goats are inside or the source of a horrible stench.

They hear pounding in a cabinet, and slowly open it, and a Billy Goat jumps out! Fanny explains that she keeps him locked up to avoid him rutting with the other goats. Claire says that she doesn’t think the smell is only from the goats. Seeing fluid dripping from the ceiling, Claire goes upstairs and finds what she thinks is dead Mr. Beardsley (Christopher Fairbank). NOPE, Mr. Beardsley is NOT dead, after all. They move Mr. Beardsley downstairs.

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Mr Beardsley is Not Doing Well

Roger and the other leaders arrive at a farm, where an initially disapproving mother lights up when she realizes that she will get 40 shillings each for her boys to join. She is even happier when told she will be additionally rewarded if they don’t return. The boys are happy to escape the drudgery of farming.

Claire works to provide first aid to Mr. Beardsley. Jamie doesn’t understand why Fanny didn’t just let her husband die. Claire tells Jamie that it was so she could torture him. Fanny justifies it because, she said, he had tortured her. Claire sees the evil in the man. While Claire and Jamie discuss Mr. Beardsley’s fate, Fanny tries to choke Beardsley. As Jamie struggles with Fanny, her water breaks, and it becomes evident she’s pregnant AND in labor.

Fanny delivers a baby girl, who it turns out CLEARLY is not the child of Mr. Beardsley. Fanny rubs it in, crowing that the baby is not his. The director chooses an interesting style by occasionally shooting scenes from Mr. Beardsley’s impaired perspective. Fanny gives Claire more details about her abuse and tells Claire that she is Beardsley’s FIFTH wife. Beardsley killed them all, because they couldn’t get pregnant. Fanny tells Claire that the baby’s father was a good man, but not close by. She tells Claire she would gladly give the bond papers to them because the boys deserve happiness. Claire says that Fanny can’t be hurt by Beardsley anymore, and that now that she is a mother, things will be different, but Fanny disagrees.

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Fanny and her Baby

Claire is prepared to stay to take care of all of them, even though she dislikes Beardsley. She decides it is such a bad and dangerous time that she wants Bree and Roger to return to their own time, but Jamie points out they would be without their family.

Jamie and Claire wake up to find that Fanny has left the baby, the deed, and the papers for Josiah and Keziah, but, Beardsley still remains. Claire packs up the goats and the baby and is ready to go. Because Beardsley is in such bad condition, Jamie tells Claire that he is willing to help euthanize Beardsley, if Beardsley chooses it. Beardsley agrees to it, but when Jamie asks if he is sorry for his sins, he says no. Again, we see from Beardsley’s perspective. It’s not clear if Beardsley doesn’t believe he should be absolved, or if he is just a genuinely terrible person who feels no regret.  From outside, Claire hears the gunshot. A vast amount of birds fly away at the sound.

Jamie muses about his father’s death, and wonders if he suffered. Claire swears to Jamie that Ellen would have told him if he did. Jamie makes Claire swear that if he is ever in that position, that she will have mercy on him, and she agrees that she will do what she must.

Final Thoughts

The front end of the episode seemed to meander, and likely was setting up for future events, but once Claire and Jamie figure out about Josiah and Keziah, and go to the homestead, the entire tone changes. It was fascinating to watch, and, as usual brought up conundrums because of the time difference – what is acceptable or NOT acceptable in the 20th century could be entirely different in the 18th. The knowledge of the war to come is frightening to them all.

Watch Outlander weekly on Starz (available on cable and through Amazon), Sunday evenings at 9pm E/P.