Outlander review: There’s no escaping death, taxes or savagery


Murtagh returns, Jamie balks at another rebellion and Claire witnesses new levels of human cruelty in “Savages.”

I knew Murtagh wasn’t dead! From the moment that old coot was separated from Jamie last season, I knew Outlander would just be biding its time until it brought him back. Oh, Sassenachs, I do love being right.

Turns out everyone’s favorite grump (Duncan Lacroix) survived 12 years of indentured servitude before inheriting a smithy from his late master’s widow. Murtagh and Jamie’s big reunion — which, while less anticipated, was just as enjoyable as Claire and Jamie’s — came when the former overcharged Young Ian for a small job. Jamie, already annoyed by the silversmith’s come-hither wife and the lack of farmers interested in working at Fraser’s Ridge, barges into the shop to yell at the blacksmith. But before he can bluster on too much, he discovers the silver-haired smith is none other than his beloved godfather.

Really, it was just so sweet.

But it doesn’t come without conflict. After catching up with Jamie, Murtagh invites him to a meeting, which another Scottish farmer had mentioned earlier on. There, a collective of Scottish settlers strategize on how to fight back against Governor Tryon, the tax collectors and the sheriffs. Thanks to the current astronomical taxes, no farmer can afford to own or work land for long. It’s not that they’re against taxation as a concept, Murtagh emphasizes, but they will only pay what’s fair.

Despite Murtagh’s argument, Jamie declines to join the cause. He did make a deal with Tryon for his land and, let’s not forget, the last rebellion he fought cost him his freedom, his way of life, many friends and his wife. However, the whole tax situation in America will only become more fraught in the next decade, so it’s doubtful Jamie will be able to stay out of it for much longer. The revolution’s coming, and he’ll have to pick a side.

Or he could try and fail to be the peacekeeper, like Claire. While Jamie and Young Ian are away, Claire holds down the fort and goes about her healing duties, including delivering a young immigrant woman’s baby. Even before the episode’s multiple tragedies (more on them in a moment), something seems off about our heroine in “Savages.” While bonding with the Native American healer (Tantoo Cardinal) she met in “Common Ground,” Claire speaks about Brianna with pain in her eyes. Later, she’s ever so slightly distant with Jamie and Young Ian. And while her family is away, she goes through the motions of her work without any of her usual joie de vivre.

Claire is depressed. Her subtle glumness this episode reminded me very much of the beginning of season 3, when she was mourning Jamie. She’s not really present in her own life, and I think it comes down to Bree. Claire misses her daughter, and a part of her wonders if she made a mistake giving her up to be with Jamie. Last season largely ignored the ramifications of this decision — which, to reiterate, involved a mother willingly leaving her daughter forever — so I’m glad Outlander is seriously reckoning with it now. Claire loves her husband and her adventures, but that doesn’t mean she carries zero regrets.

After the events of “Savages,” it’s unlikely Claire’s funk will lift anytime soon (even with Murtagh’s return). She manages to de-escalate a confrontation between the Cherokee and the Muellers, the new mother’s family. But when the baby and its mother quickly die from measles, the family patriarch, Gerhard (Urs Rechn), becomes unhinged. He’s convinced the Cherokee cursed his daughter and new grandchild.

Later, when he pays her a visit, Claire is relieved that Gerhard doesn’t blame her for the so-called curse. But that relief quickly turns to horror when Gerhard shows her the Cherokee healer’s scalp. She was the witch who orchestrated the curse, he believes, just another “savage” who deserved to die.

Gerhard’s cruelty does not go unpunished. Before the episode ends, the Cherokee set his home on fire and kill him and his family. The message is clear: savagery has nothing to do with race or culture. It’s the unwillingness to rise above our own base cruelty, plain and simple.

Related Story. Outlander review: New terrain and old regrets plague the Frasers in “Common Ground”. light


  • Bree and Roger are only in a few scenes this episode, but Brianna does go through the stones at Craigh na Dun. She already knows her parents’ fate (sorry, guess she doesn’t need ya, Roger) and is determined to warn them.
  • Claire is so down she’s teasing the pig about being a “Christmas pork chop.”
  • This line was so clunky, even Sam Heughan couldn’t save it: “Women in the future are entitled to a great deal more than they are now.” Wow, thanks, Jamie! The more you know!
  • Despite Claire’s sadness, it was nice to see her and Jamie just being a couple in their home — him looking for his hat, her asking him to pick up some food. This is probably the most settled they’ve ever been in the series.
  • So Hester (Laura Ferries), the silversmith’s sultry wife, is definitely going to try to wreck Jamie and Claire’s marriage this season, right? I mean, the name “Hester” is basically an allusion.
  • Speaking of which, this double entendre-y exchange made me laugh: “I’d wager [your wife’s] a good cook.” “Aye. Very.”
  • Murtagh being so happy about Jamie reuniting with Claire after 20 years just makes him more lovable.
  • Look at Outlander trying to be all time-period-specific with its Ali MacGraw references!