Warning: This article contains spoilers for Outlander Season 5, Episode 7, “The Ballad of Roger Mac.”
Last episode, Claire fended off a creepy stalker, and learned Bonnet was near. Jamie and Claire got in a fight, had angry stable sex and made up in a pile of hay. Murtagh chose war over Jocasta and changed his relationship status to: It’s complicated. And Roger had a big win, when he exterminated bugs.
OUTLANDER. IS. BACK. This is the best episode in two years. You’re going to want to watch it over and over. But you’ll need four things: A drink, tissues, nachos and another drink.
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan became producers around this time and IT SHOWS. Having the two people who know this show better than anyone, and allowing them to have a creative stake in the show, is the best decision the show ever made.
Here are the best things about this episode, which is every single thing, so buckle in.
Goodbye a Roger Mac, Goodbye Mrs. Mac
The episode opens on Roger singing, “Oh, My Darling Clementine” to Jemmy while Bree watches. It’s super sweet and I’m not even going to complain that he’s singing. Btw, Jemmy is adorable. This is definitely my favorite baby out of the 27 that have played him already. Roger tells Bree he barely knew his father before he was killed in World War II. Bree cuts him off, and says nothing will happen to him. Then Roger and Bree share an awkward kiss. These two just don’t have chemistry — at least the chemistry that’s needed to be the second lead couple. Roger leaves. And Bree looks scared.
Happy Birthday to Jamie Fraser
Jamie and Claire wake up in their tent bed. One of them is naked. “Happy Birthday, Colonel,” Claire says to her husband. Jamie is 50. It’s his birthday and he’s wearing his birthday suit. I LOVE THIS EPISODE AND IT’S ONLY 6 MINUTES IN. Then they flirt and joke about how old Jamie is and he says luckily all his important parts are working and lifts the covers and OMG, they both take a good look at little Jamie and decide everything is still in working order. Claire confirms there’s nothing loose at all with her hand. What is happening? This is easily my favorite scene of season 5.
Are we going to get birthday tent sex? YES. WE. ARE.
Jamie says he realized that he has now lived longer than his dad. Is this foreshadowing?! Outlander, if you take away any of Jamie’s parts or him…
Jamie proudly announces he’s thankful his little Jamie stands up by itself in the morning. It’s funny and romantic, and classic Jamie and Claire. Then Claire starts singing “Happy Birthday” to Jamie whilst getting naked on top of him. And then they do it for a full verse of “Happy Birthday” which she continues to sing throughout. Way to multitask, Claire! Also, stay in 1771. In 2020, they make us sing, “Happy Birthday” while washing our hands. Sex is better. Take it from someone in the future.
What’s so amazing about this scene, is that the Jamie and Claire from Season 1, who we all fell in love with, are here. Remember when Jamie told Claire on their wedding night he thought sex was done like how horses do it? Yeah, that sweet innocent guy is in this tent. And wants Claire to know that his guy is still up for the job.
If someone had told Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in 2014, one day you two will do a really naked, singing sex scene, I wonder what they would have said?
Then our birthday love scene gets interrupted by some stupid war scene. Eye roll. Are they are going to do something awful to Jamie and Claire? This scene was too perfect.
Blah, Blah, Blah War – Tryon Loves War
As Tryon yammers on about war, Jamie reminds him that the regulators are farmers without artillery. Tryon don’t give a shit and asks if his men are ready. Jamie’s really stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Worst. Birthday. Ever. (Except for the sex). Roger arrives and Jamie greets him coldly. Jamie hands out little yellow hat flowers so they can tell who’s on their side.
Mr. Brown Snaps at Claire
Back in Jamie’s war tent, Isaiah appears, which makes Alycia’s dad, Drunky McKunky, very unhappy. Things get very intense. Claire says Alycia made her choice and Mr. Brown tells her to shut up — which IS A MISTAKE. Jamie steps to him. Sober brother Brown says the battle is more important and they will fight alongside Isiah. Drunk Daddy-o doesn’t look like he agrees. He’s going to kill Isiah, calling it right now. Also, his disrespect to Claire should be noted. This tent is far too tense. I prefer sex tents to tension tents, in case anyone wants to know.
Jamie chats with some boys who think war is going to be fun, like hunting. He says, “Kiddos, possums aren’t trying to kill you. War is killing.” James is NOT A FAN of war. And neither am I. I really blame Murtagh for this. I know it’s not rational, but I do!
Give Peace a Chance, Tryon
Reverend Caldwell pops up with a note from the Regulators hoping to settle this peacefully. Tryon reads his peace note and says, “Nope, disagree I’m gonna be a war douche, because I’m evil under this layer of red coat.” He tells the Reverend he’ll consider it. Except he has lie face on. Tryon will not hear Jamie’s logic. Jamie looks concerned, but also very attractive. Which unfortunately does not help in war situations.
Bree Races to Warn Her Parents
Bree sees a map where they say the battle will be. Suddenly, she remembers something about that place. Who actually remembers 9th grade history? Not me, people! I can understand Claire remembering Culloden because she was married to boring ol’ Frank, who talked about history all the time on their honeymoon! Now, granted it was helpful and thankfully Claire, unlike me, was paying attention and it came in very handy. Plus, Frank gave Claire an oral history, if you recall. Bree grabs that map, and all of a sudden she’s on a horse galloping away, racing to her parents. Finally. Sophie Skelton gets some action as her own character, Brianna Fraser. You know, the one who is the only child of Jamie and Claire, the anchor couple.
Jamie Summons Dougal by Bathing in a River, Claire Watches
Wow. Jamie is taking a bath with his pants on, in a river. GUYS, what did we do to deserve this episode?! Claire comes by and sees her topless husband in the river. Then Jamie takes out a knife and slices his hand! Weirdest bath ever. Oh, he’s doing some religious ceremony! (Last time we saw that was at Claire and Jamie’s wedding where they both got sliced. Run Claire, run).
Claire does not run and watches her husband instead, as his aggressive bath practice continues. Claire asks, “Does God have an answer?” Jamie says he was calling on Dougal not God. Remember Uncle Dougal? The one whose idea it was for Jamie and Claire to marry (thanks, Uncle D), and also the one who Jamie and Claire killed together. Claire is perplexed considering how everything ended with them, but Jamie says he taught me how to be a war chief.
Okay, let’s pause again, I love this scene too. I will attribute every good thing to Balfe and Heughan being producers. Remember Season 4, where they had episodes without them? Yeah, me neither, because I block out bad things.
Claire reminds Jamie he’s fighting his blood this time. (Damn it, Murtagh). Jamie says no amount of prayer will help. Well, that is bleak. Jamie’s hand healed far too quickly in this scene, and he cut it very deeply. Claire should be stitchin’ that shit, that’s how deep it was.
Brianna Joins the Action
Bree arrives at the war camp and her parents run to her. This. Episode. Delivers. Everything, I have been asking for is happening. And the reason this three-second scene of Jamie and Claire running together to their daughter is so good is because the audience has been craving this interaction.
Bree tells her parents that Tryon’s militia will win the fight that’s about to happen. This is the spark of the American Revolution! Cue dramatic music. Who gets an A+ in American History? Brianna Fraser.
Jamie says they must get a message to Murtagh so he can save his men. But Bree’s like, “Whoa, Da…. if we stop this fight that means the Revolutionary War won’t happen!” Bree! Your parents have been trying to change history (unsuccessfully) since season 2 for Fraser’s sake. That’s kind of exactly what they want. She says but America will never become America if they do that. (Don’t worry Bree bird, your mom and dad are good at lots of stuff, except history changing).
Roger offers to deliver the message to Murtagh. Jamie, Claire and Bree are all like no way. Too dangerous. It’s really funny how the entire family has no faith in Roger. If that’s what it takes to be a Fraser, consider me one. But Roger says, “I’m the only one that can do it, he knows I’m from the future.” Jamie says, “Okay, you’ll leave at night.” He changed his mind real fast. He gives Roger a yellow flower, white handkerchief, and says if you’re caught, surrender and tell them to get me. Roger heads out. On foot.
Claire and Brianna Get Ready for War
We finally get a scene with Claire and Brianna. Caitriona Balfe and Sophie Skelton haven’t had nearly enough mother-daughter scenes, and something tells me Jamie, Claire and Brianna will be separated, so they need to give us our fill of them together as a fam before Brianna flees to the future.
Claire and Bree organize Claire’s medicines, including her handy dandy penicillin syringe. Sidebar: Where did that syringe come from? Last we saw Claire with it, was 2 years ago. She was on a boat, got drunk on turtle soup and gave herself an injection. Then she and Jamie had drunk penicillin-induced boat sex, and she got thrown overboard (not during the sex), and almost died. Then she and Jamie floated to America. So, I’m pretty sure SHE DID NOT HANG ON TO THAT SYRINGE. But show, I will forgive you for this stretch.
Claire laments she wishes she had it at Prestonpans, the battle that killed a lot of their friends. Don’t waste time looking back Claire, you can’t turn back time. You’re not Cher. Oh wait.
Roger Tries to Reason with Murtagh
Roger sees Murtagh, who’s giving a shouty war speech. Murtagh, you could be getting your Jocasta on but instead you’re doing this! He screams that Tryon’s blood will soak the ground! Ugh. All the men cheer and Roger’s like well this is ill-timed. Something tells me Murtagh will not care about Roger’s future facts. Why do dudes like war so much? Like, if you had a choice of tent sex or war? Wouldn’t you pick tent sex?!? Jamie Fraser would and did. What is wrong with the rest of you?
Roger: We have gots to talk, you’re going to lose this battle. Jamie wants you to leave and convince your men to not be slaughtered.
Murtagh: No way. We have many more men than Tryon.
Roger: Dude! You have farmers with hoes.
I agree with Roger. (Yes, I said that, and not under duress). He says, “You can’t win. The history has been written.” And shockerspaniel, Murtagh refuses. He reads Tryon’s message demanding surrender. Tryon gives them one hour. Murtagh tells Roger the men won’t listen. Roger says, “Please for the love of your godson, save yourself.”
Roger leaves and runs into Morag, whom he met on the ship last season and helped save her and her baby from Bonnet. They chat, and then bump heads. Gonna be honest, Roger seems mildly flirty with her. And these two have more chemistry in one minute than Bree and Roger have had maybe ever. He says, “I’ve come to warn you all, you must leave, but I have to go, but if anything happens look me up at Fraser’s Ridge.” Weird time to give out your digits, Roger. Then he hugs her, and all of a sudden we hear a man’s voice saying, “Get away from my wife.”
Jamie’s New Red Coat
Jamie furiously calls out for Roger, but no one’s seen him. Tryon says, “Colonel Fraser, look what I got ya, you’ll look so good in it!” It’s a Red Coat! Does Tryon think this is “Queer Eye for the Scot Guy”? Jamie declines but Tryon puts it on a reluctant Jamie, and says, “I was right! You look striking!” Is Triflin’ Tryon hitting on Jamie? He’s not wrong. Jamie looks good.
Roger Mac’s Not Coming Back
Morag tries to keep her angry husband, Mr. McKenzie, away from Roger. Roger shouldn’t have gone in for that hug. Social distance, Roger! Morag explains Roger helped her. Her husband tells her to let him handle it and then he winds up to slap her, but Roger punches him! Omg, Roger! That was highly impressive! Your hand is going to hurt a lot! And they are going to kill you. But know that right before you died, you impressed me. Deeply.
Roger tries to run, but gets tackled. Not good. Things have really gone off the rails. Roger’s yellow flower falls out of his pocket. Mr. Mackenzie says, “What is this?!” Roger, just lie and say it’s a corsage and you were headed to prom. He exclaims, “You’re with the militia!” Roger says, “I came to warn you about Tryon!” Angry hubs says, “You’re a wife stealer and a traitor.”
Wait. STOP. The actor playing this angry husband looks a lot like DOUGAL?! Is this the same actor? In a wig? Outlander! Do not try this trickery with me. It took me a whole 6 minutes to realize this. It is indeed the SAME ACTOR, Graham McTavish! He knocks Roger out with a pistol.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”
Claire sees Jamie in the Red Coat and utters her infamous line from season 1, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.” Same girl, same. She hates it. So does he. Jamie tells her there’s no sign of Roger. And then they have their signature Jamie-Claire-goodbye war moment. He asks her to wish him luck. “Good luck, I love you soldier.” Jamie says, “Good luck is nice, but I love you is so much better.” And then they kiss goodbye. He says, “There might be a day we part, but it won’t be today.” Ugh, remember when they were in the tent! Let’s go back there. M U R T A G H this is your fault.
Balfe and Heughan’s ability to play this goodbye differently from all the others is amazing. They play a subtle softness and anxiety, knowing that, again this could be the last time they see each other, while both of them are holding back tears. Honestly, show, stop trying to separate them by sending Jamie to war. We have seen how they do without each other and IT IS NOT GOOD. And it makes us nervous, because this show did separate them for 20 years. Will never be over that. Ever.
Claire tears up as Jamie leaves. She’s also rocking one of her classic Claire headbands. How does she make a cloth bonnet look good?! Okay, now I sound like “Claire Eye for the Straight Guy.”
I need nachos. This episode is getting stressful. I am taking a nacho break.
Remember Jamie’s iconic, “Je suis prest” line in Season 1 right before a battle, which means, “I am ready.” Well this is more like, “Je suis no prest.” Or I guess, “Je ne suis pas prest.” (I took French for 7 years, you’re welcome). Jamie tells his men, “We’re not here to kill but to scare them and hope they retreat.” But Tryon fires his canon and shoots a man in the head, then demands they attack. Jamie does the only thing he can sadly. He fires on them. The Regulators retreat. The Red Coats chase them, but — plot twist — the Regulators ambush them in the woods. If Jamie gets hurt so help me. (Remember in the beginning of the episode he was thankful for all his parts?! Sinking feeling happening right now). Jamie and John Quincy (Kyle Rees) fight together. I really want John Quincy to be Jamie’s best friend, they better not kill him. Isiah is shot in the back. But we don’t see by who. (I know who).
Claire’s ER Tent
Bree worries about Roger, and Claire assures her he’s probably fine. (Nope. Claire this doesn’t happen a lot, but you’re wrong). Isaiah’s brought in and Claire says he’s been shot through the lung. He says, “Tell Aly I love her.” Claire tells him he will not die. Claire tends to Drunk McBrown, who sees Isaiah and says don’t waste medicine on him. Claire figures out that Drunk dad shot Isaiah and tells him so. Called it. Brown grabs her hand, makes her drop the syringe and then smashes it with his foot! F*ck. Who is going to need that penicillin that won’t have it now? I am worried Jamie might. Claire yells, “What have you done?” This guy sucks, JAMMF should have murdered him.
Jamie’s Broken Heart
A super sad, slow mo, murder montage plays as we see the Red Coats slaughter the Regulators. Jamie runs into a Regulator and says, “I don’t want to shoot you!” The Regulator whips out a gun to shoot Jamie, but Murtagh knocks him out. Murtagh and Jamie smile at each other and look like they’re about to hug, when Murtagh is shot.
Murtagh falls into Jamie’s arms. This is deeply sad. Jamie desperately tries to stop the bleeding with his hands. He says, “I released you from your oath to save me.” And Murtagh replies, “I would never betray your mother.” Crying. Hard to type.
Murtagh says, “Dying doesn’t hurt a bit,” looks at peace, and then dies. Jamie whispers, “Help me.” Which escalates to a desperate scream, “Help me!” And it’s the saddest thing you’ll see. And quite possibly, Sam Heughan’s best moment in this entire show. He lifts Murtagh’s limp body and runs him back to Claire.
Jamie screams to Claire to save him, but Murtagh is dead. Claire knows, Brianna knows. Jamie doesn’t know. Claire says, “He’s gone.” Jamie begs her to save him and then begs Murtagh not to leave him. Ok, great, I’m crying. In my nachos.
Jamie finally processes that Murtagh is dead and steps out of the tent. Claire breaks down and cries over Murtagh’s body. Their goodbye is especially meaningful, because let’s not forget, Murtagh is the one who, in the first episode of Outlander, brought Claire and Jamie together.
Tryon marches towards Jamie gloating, “We must celebrate!” Jamie says, “The slaughter of innocent men is no cause to celebrate.” Jamie then tells him he’s a piece of evil shit (but more eloquently). Sam Heughan’s speech here is must watch. Tryon tells Jamie he’ll overlook his insolence. Jamie says, “I am finished with my obligation to you and the crown,” and then rips off the Red Coat and throws it at Tryon’s feet.
Then Jamie walks away and falls to his knees in tears, alone. Sam Heughan is phenomenal in this scene, reminding us that he often gets overlooked for being a strong actor, because he happens to stay in shape.
Goodbye, Roger Mac
Jamie sees Brianna crying, and says, “Roger?” Claire, Jamie, and Brianna go looking for him, and this is the one family activity the three of them have done together since Brianna’s wedding, which disappoints me, because this is not a happy family trip.
They come upon a tree with hanging men. A Red Coat tells Jamie they are Regulator prisoners, who Tryon ordered him to kill. Oh god. One of the men hanging has a white handkerchief in his pocket. Jamie sees him, and says, “Roger?” Claire consoles Bree as they lower Roger’s dead body.
Cut to black. The credits play with no music. At all. Silence. Like Roger. Did Outlander just kill off two major characters in 60 minutes?
Wow, Outlander. Excellent episode. This had all the magic of a season 1 episode. Love, romance and pure heartbreak.
Fun fact of the episode: Morag’s husband, Buck McKenzie is the son of Dougal and Gaelis. And I just realized, Claire killed both of his parents! WOW. Hope Buck and Claire do not run into each other. She will most definitely kill him.
If last week’s episode love scene left fans wanting more, then this week’s entire episode makes up for it. Actually, even the first minute of the tent scene makes up for it.
If someone had said to me the episode that you will like the most of Outlander is going to be called, “The Ballad of Roger Mac,” I would’ve wondered what happened to me, am I hurt?! Is someone threatening me, but no, that person would have been correct.
Fans loved it, too, if Twitter is any indication. My favorite fan reactions: @sassynachnicole, who wrote, “Jamie stop looking at your peen.” And @TheRonTerryShow who wrote, “Have we seen a ghost?” (Also known as my reaction when I realized it was Graham McTavish.) @vahnloves reaction to Jamie and Claire at the river. And @briannafgrey, whose entire thread on Brianna is worth a read. “Portraying Roger as a hero, while ignoring Brianna’s personality…” Remember when I complained about Brianna being defined by placating Roger? Yeah well, this person wrote a Twitter thesis on it and it’s brilliant.
Frankly, this entire episode deserves an Emmy — specifically ones for Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. Starting from when Heughan first uttered, “Help me,” his performance was gutting, heartbreaking, devastating, haunting and beautiful. The way he looked at Claire — the one person who makes everything better — with such desperation and then realizing that even she couldn’t save Murtagh. And when he knelt by the fire alone and broke down. It broke me.
And It’s hard to pick one stand out scene for Balfe because all of them are. But when she had to play Claire seeing Jamie think that she could save Murtagh — the pain in her eyes. And the way she said, “Jamie,” while holding back her own tears. There’s a reason Balfe is the foundation of this show. She is able to lead and support in the blink of an eye. And once again, her ability to wear a headband thingy. What? I know! That’s not her acting, but it is a talent! May seem vapid. But go ahead, try putting on a headband bonnet and see how good you look. (I’m assuming you’re going to do just that). See? I rest my case. Balfe for the win. Acting + “fashon.” She’s Ashon Kutcher. (I’ll stop).
Did I say this entire episode deserves an Emmy? That is how it’s done. I cannot say one bad thing about this episode. Not one. Outlander, thank you for giving us the best pandemic present ever. Cannot wait ‘til next week’s episode.
NEXT EPISODE: *Spoilers: Tryon gifts Bree land, which Claire believes is to make up for Roger. Bree angrily shouts she just wants Roger back. Then it looks like Roger is right behind her. Claire and Marsali discover a poisonous herb, water hemlock, is missing. (I’m not a botanist, but I did google water hemlock). And finally, Bonnet is most definitely back. Jamie screams to Claire to get back to the cabin. And the look of fear on Claire’s face as she clings to Jemmy tells us it could only be Evil Bon Bon.
Oh, and if you still need more sexy TV, check out the 19 shows that have given us some of the best sex scenes ever, below.