Want to relive Outlander Season 5 Episode 7? We do a minute-by-minute reaction to “The Ballad of Roger Mac.”
<Starz familiar chime plays>
Me: Ahhh… this week has been a doozy. A good soothing hour of Outlander will be like balm to the soul.
<Ratings warnings fade in>
Show: Hold my beer.
[9:01 p.m.] So many disparate pieces from the past two seasons of Outlander are dropping on us haphazardly here like an unpredicted hail shower. Today’s forecast apparently calls for the motherload of all storms as all these plot systems converge into one in a single episode.
[9:02 p.m.] It’s been a long time since I took piano lessons and read sheet music, but even I can see “The Ballad of Roger Mac” has yet to be fully written and the next two measures are up in the air…
[9:03 p.m.] “But what no one can prepare for is to face family in the time of war…” Your lips to God’s ears, Claire, but as is often said: war knows no boundaries. Even when you try your best to define the lines clearly.
[9:04 p.m.] I hate to take away from this saccharine-sweet moment, but could they have cast a baby to play Jemmy who looks any more like Ed Speleers?! I mean, seriously. Freeze frame that cherubic face (note my endearment is directed at Speleers and the baby, NOT the character of Bonnet) and you’ll see.
[9:05 p.m.] I’ve never faced sending a loved one off to war, and hope I never have to. Roger’s pondering whether he’ll return. Bree’s making him promise he’ll come back to keep singing to their baby (gulp). They’re embracing like it might be their last and all I can think is — wonder what they’d put in their 1960s lunch boxes? I hope there’s chips… and maybe a cookie. Chips and cookies make everything better. Hey, I’m an emotional stress eater. It’s been a month.
[9:06 p.m.] Sweet golden jubilee birthday, JAMIE IS 50!
[9:07 p.m.] This past Friday I took my own stock of another year of life in the books, celebrating my birthday with my family at home (to be honest, how I’d choose to spend it, health advisory in place or not). Sometimes in doing this, it’s too easy to get caught up longing for things you didn’t achieve and body parts that don’t work as they should anymore, among other wishful thoughts. Or you can go with an attitude of gratitude and reflect on the marvelous and mundane things that met you on the path of life in the past year. They’re there — just open your eyes to take them in. I went with the latter and it was a damn fine day.
[9:08 p.m.] “…the world and each day in it is a gift.” Or, per usual, what Jamie said more succinctly. I should just leave all my deep thoughts to the Frasers.
[9:09 p.m.] … and apparently all the gift giving. I was just sitting here wondering what you give the King of Men who has everything as he turns 50. Then boom — Claire for the coital win. If today does indeed go to hell for them, I’m glad they’ve started it tented off from the world intertwined in a place of familiarity, intimacy and home.
Gov. Tryon: I have all the big, fancy toys. I’m better than you, na-na, na-na, boo-boo.
Col. Fraser: Hey Billy, sledgehammer to kill a fly? Seriously?
[9:11 p.m.] Son, you must have bullocks the size of church bells to show your face again… in range of your would-be father-in-law no less. He’s either a glutton for punishment, too young and ignorant to know better or too loyal to Jamie for having helped maneuver his escape and life with Alicia. I suspect a bit of all of the above.
[9:12 p.m.] This is a well-placed reminder that incessant squabbling and fighting amongst each other is useless and dangerous during a time when solidarity and standing together are what’s needed for any chance at surviving the bigger battle. And yes, I’m looking at you too, politicians around the world.
[9:13 p.m.] I thought the Findlay brothers were young before, but now in the immediate context of what they’re about to take on, it’s hitting me harder: they are boys. Just boys. Their soft teenage faces, their naive reflections. In addition to boundaries, war also knows no age.
[9:14 p.m.] Watching everyone, Claire included, scramble to find and save Murtagh from his ultimate fate… I shall never again complain about the professional pressures of meeting a deadline or running short on time to get everything done. If you’re on the front lines of healthcare, this moment of humility does not apply to you. Carry on, clinical soldiers… you’re braver than I’ll ever be.
[9:15 p.m.] When all else fails, send in the clergyman. Nice. Also, not that I don’t trust you, Tryon (ahem, I DON’T TRUST YOU, TRYON), but how about giving us the benefit of sharing the actual words in the letter and not just your emotional paraphrasing?
[9:16 p.m.] I’d like to revisit 9:13 — those boys exhibited more maturity than these men in power acting as children will ever possess.
[9:17 p.m.] Um Bree, you could stand to borrow a note from your mom’s playbook. Your ability to hide or play off your prophetic knowledge leaves a lot to be desired. I’m just glad she stopped a breath short of, “I read it in my 18th century book while in college in the year nineteen-hundred and sixty-eight!”
[9:18 p.m.] Dear God. Jamie, you might not have been summoning the Lord, but we’ve got you covered. They said a picture is worth a thousand words, right? I hope so because these words he’s muttering have meaning I’m sure, but…
[9:19 p.m.] But then again, Dougal… sigh. I love that in an episode bearing a strong resemblance to the perfection of Outlander Season 1, we’re spending time reflecting on the oft-overlooked merits of Uncle Dougal.
[9:20 p.m.] “Murtagh and I fought back to back as well; this time we’ll fight face to face. No amount of prayer will help.” This has been building, but for the record, je suis prest I am not.
[9:21 p.m] Sometimes following this story with our friends from the future feels like Groundhog Day on repeat. They ponder how to head off something bad from happening, then bemoan that they can’t (or sometimes shouldn’t) alter the course of history. They lick their wounds and keep on keeping on. Until a new perilous moment pops up and they wonder if this is the time they can change it all. Rinse and repeat.
[9:22 p.m.] Roger might be a songbird, but this week he’s a canary in a coal mine of sorts. While his intent is to warn Murtagh, Scot or not, he’s still crossing enemy lines in hopes his intentions are well received.
[9:23 p.m.] Last week, bugs helped Roger find his confidence. This week, may he never again doubt whether his father in law believes in him. It speaks volumes that Jamie agreed to let Roger be the one to go warn his godfather.
[9:24 p.m.] Claire, readying her battlefield infirmary… also me, taking daily inventory of my essential oil stash before braving the new normal of working from home while concurrently homeschooling a first grader.
[9:25 p.m.] If the premiere episode offered us Jamie’s hero shot moment, this grandstanding battle cry is Murtagh’s time to shine. After years of seeing him as the loyal, quiet understudy or wingman, he’s finally come out of the shadows to stand on his own. Dammit, I just wish it were for something that wasn’t about to get him killed.
[9:26 p.m.] “The history is written, man.” Roger is trying everything to appeal to Murtagh’s senses, stopping just short of pop culture catchphrases that go mainstream after his time. He feels more like an Uncle Ben from Spider-Man but given our household’s current Star Wars saga marathon in progress, I’ll throw in a wild card.
[9:27 p.m.] Hold up — so we got only a curt retelling of the Regulators’ appeal to Tryon, but have to listen to Tryon’s petulant written ramblings in full? UNSUBSCRIBE.
[9:28 p.m.] I for one would really like to have seen Murtagh’s turn-away campaign and the Regulators’ Tom Petty like-reply.
[9:29 p.m.] “For the love yer godson bears you…” Screw catchphrases — in a last desperate attempt, Roger is going for the jugular.
[9:30 p.m.] Morag seems skittish… A) just the general tone for any population facing impending battle? B) a tad of PTSD in seeing him and thinking back to her harrowing time on that ship? C) trying to bid him on his way before he gets his arse into trouble?
[9:31 p.m.] C. Definitely C. Stop meddling, Roger. You’ve got a tad of your MIL in you, but not the right tad. Whatever you do, don’t touch——dammit, Roger, SOCIAL DISTANCING.
[9:32 p.m.] Jamie will never look more regal and in command than when he wears his father’s leather duster. The privilege and honor of wearing it will always adorn him, no matter if the coat is on his body or not.
[9:33 p.m.] Can you imagine the million pounds of added weight he must feel walking even a step in that crimson coat of shame? Jamie’s inability to make eye contact with Quincy tells me a little part of his soul just died. Mine too.
[9:34 p.m.] Gulp. Just how far down the trail is he from Murtagh?! Roger, I don’t stand for abuse either, but for the future… if we’re going to go bold and brave, let’s make sure we have a Highlander warrior in the wings to back us up. Speaking of Highlander warriors…. BUCK FRIGGING MACKENZIE, played by none other than GRAHAM FRIGGING MCTAVISH.
[9:35 p.m.] We have officially sailed into the graphic violence storm pattern of this episode. I’m a book reader, so here’s me bracing for impact.
[9:36 p.m.] Same, Claire. SAME. The trademark JHRC sentiment used to perfection and the canteen full of what I hope is whisky given the day ahead. Hell, I’d be good if it’s just water. I suspect there will be plenty of wounds to mend and tears to shed. Hydrate, girl. HYDRATE.
[9:37 p.m.] The writing in this episode is spectacular. It’s been on glorious display throughout, but worth noting at this very moment with Jamie and Claire. From the defining of what will do and what’s better to the promising that today will not be their last, they had me at JHRC but held onto me for good measure all the way through.
[9:38 p.m.] The lining up for battle, Jamie in a redcoat, Murtagh somewhere on the other side… it’s all too much. WE’RE ACTUALLY DOING THIS. I can’t tell if Jamie’s working to convince them, himself or us that this can be done by just phoning it in for effect.
[9:39 p.m.] Wait, that’s an option? Okay then, B. Emphatic B! Fire on you, Billy. Final answer.
[9:40 p.m.] The redcoats stick out like sore thumbs, like huge red targets bumbling through the woods. And then there’s our good salt-of-the-earth Scottish men, dancing through these trees in battle while blending into the land.
[9:41 p.m.] “I just don’t know which is worse — that he’s missing or he’s been shot.” Bree, summarizing the cruelest “would you rather” game hand she’s ever been dealt.
[9:42 p.m.] Gunpowder on Morton’s back, shot at close range — I’m with Claire, something smells off.
[9:43 p.m.] Jesus, Mary and Dr. Rawlings, NOT THE SYRINGE. Is nothing sacred? My only hope is that Claire hadn’t actually administered the penicillin yet and Brown’s hand now swells to the size of North Carolina, causing some raging gangrene or sepsis or both.
[9:44 p.m.] An updated look at me, bracing for the storm of graphic violence. The undeniable magic of a Bear McCreary score is the only thing that could make this gruesome (but spectacularly shot) battle montage palatable. The Battle of Alamance will rank high alongside Prestonpans and Culloden as one of Outlander’s finest moments of cinematography.
[9:45 p.m.] Like a game of Clue, I certainly didn’t suspect Murtagh’s death would come at the hands of the Findlay boy, just out for a hunt and following his colonel’s “no waver” order. Ultimately, it wasn’t back to back or face to face as Jamie prepped himself earlier — it was chest to chest. We knew this was coming, but none of us could ever be ready for it.
Also, I know that he was bracing his fall, but it’s poetic that Jamie hugged his godfather through his final standing moments.
[9:46 p.m.] His allegiance to and love for Ellen was on his dying breath — and I’m gone. Harry Potter fans, feel familiar?
And even in death, here’s Murtagh offering Jamie one final bit of godfatherly love and guidance. While he might think it’s his last opportunity for a teachable moment with the lad, dinna fash, Murtagh — rest easy knowing your lessons will live on for and through Jamie and others long after you are gone.
[9:47 p.m.] I thought my heart was breaking for Jamie, but the final crack just came at hearing him proclaim that Claire will know what to do, all will be well. I’m attempting to steel myself for what Claire’s about to be hit with, knowing there’s not a damn thing she can do despite all her skills and all the faith in the world he has in her.
[9:48 p.m.] Jamie’s frantic grabbing of random medical supplies, Claire’s “I’m sorry, he’s gone,” Bree pulling the curtain to leave them in peace. What this sequence might have lacked in dialogue, it certainly didn’t need thanks to the gut-punching emotion conveyed through action.
[9:49 p.m.] “Murtagh, my friend.” Your disbelief, tears and sentiment are ours too, Claire. (Blake, I’m going to need a t-shirt on this one, buddy)
[9:50 p.m.] READ THE ROOM, TRYON. This is not the time.
Side note: For my fellow This Is Us fans caught up on last week’s season finale, this struck me as eerily similar to the moment where Kevin stumbles out onto the lawn gasping for air from some news he received inside the house when Randall appears out of nowhere to sling insults at him again.
[9:51 p.m.] There really are two sides to every story, even in history books. A battle was won, but at what cost? And how will the story be retold to later generations? History is history, but that doesn’t mean it’s spared from the game of telephone mishaps that befall run-of-the-mill gossip.
[9:52 p.m.] I’ve never wished for Jamie to start disrobing more than I did just now. That was the most painful 20-minute wardrobe malfunction ever.
[9:53 p.m.] Jamie, the death of Murtagh has brought us all to our knees. Also, given the seemingly nine lives of Murtagh, I feel like Claire (and the show) knows we need closure and won’t be able to process the final-final of this beloved character without a sheet being pulled over his deceased body. YOU’VE MADE YOUR POINT.
[9:54 p.m.] Annnd, we’re still down a Roger. JHRC, this man’s day just won’t quit. Much like the latter half of Season 4 (though hopefully shorter), we’re now back on the trail of Roger. For what it’s worth, I didn’t have near as much anxiety when he was with the Mohawk as I do right now. But I also hadn’t just had my heart cut up into a million and two pieces saying goodbye to Murtagh all of 37 seconds ago, soooo…
[9:55 p.m.] He calmly says he executed these men as he was ordered to do, as if, you know “just a Tuesday, how ‘bout tacos for dinner?” War: no boundaries, no age and now no mercy either.
[9:56 p.m.] Holy. Christ. Our songbird is hanging from a tree. I’m waving the white handkerchief of truce on this episode. I AM DONE.
I’m not sure I have the ability to offer any coherent thought right now after the emotional storm we just collectively weathered. My pal and editing partner, Janet, suggested I just paste a whole bunch of crying emojis here and call it a day. I reserve the right to go that route anytime in the next two minutes…
Well friends, the Outlander lords giveth and they taketh. We’ve dreaded the day we’d have to bid Murtagh (and beloved actor Duncan LaCroix) a final farewell ever since the glorious reveal last season where we learned he survived his book fate and gained more time with us on screen. I know there was plenty of banter about how they’d jive the deviated adaptation of the TV storyline with the original source material of the books. Would Murtagh survive more than an episode or two with us? Would he step in to play Duncan Innes? Would Jamie be the one to kill him? I have always appreciated the book and the TV show for the two separate mediums they are, and for the unique qualities they independently bring. Sometimes aligned, sometimes not, and that’s perfectly okay by me. After all, you can’t bake the same cake with a different recipe… but this Outlander fan [points both thumbs to chest] has appetite enough for both cakes. I never doubted that when it was time — while I’d never be ready — the show would not disappoint in honoring the integral character of Murtagh with a logical and fitting end to his TV arc. And that they did.
This episode drew out cathartic tears that have been lodged inside me painfully for a couple weeks given everything swirling around in the world. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Save for Jamie, the last of the original Highlander Wolf Pack has fallen. And save for Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, the last of our original cast members is now also gone. How apropos, then, to send him off in a style as beautifully powerful as an Outlander Season 1 episode. Because that’s what this was — from start to finish, the powerhouse Outlander we all fell in love with was back. For so many reasons. The writing, the camerawork, the dialogue, the FINALLY MOVING THIS DAMN SEASON ALONG (sorry not sorry for yelling — so worth it at this point). And saving the best for last, the acting. Stellar performances all around, but I’m not sure I can heap enough praise onto Sam Heughan for his outstanding talent this episode. You, sir, are more than just a pretty face with pecs for Jesus and it’s about time people stood up to take notice of that.
Mr. Duncan LaCroix, <sigh>. You are a treasure with an enormous gift and I’m grateful to have had these past few years to fall head-over-heels smitten with both Murtagh and the man playing him. I’ll spare any more words here, saving them for the poetic moments my fellow writers will bring you in send-off blog posts coming out later this week.
Oh, and before we go, I’d be remiss not to mention how we left Roger hanging from a tree. So there’s that. Both his cliffhanger fate and Bree’s horrified facial reaction threatened to undo me again emotionally and compromise the rationed stash of paper products in this house. As such, I’m exercising my Janet option to sign off this post:
Until two weeks from now, friends…
If you’ve missed any of our Season 5 episode recaps, you can catch up with them here:
Episode 5.01: “The Fiery Cross”
Episode 5.02: “Between Two Fires”
Episode 5.03: “Free Will”
Episode 5.04: “The Company We Keep”
Episode 5.05: “Perpetual Adoration”
Episode 5.06: “Better to Marry than Burn”
A complete library of recaps from Seasons 2-4 is also available here.