If “journey cake” is that easily carried, hardy foodstuff that carries you through a long trip, both with sustenance and satisfaction, then Outlander episode 511 is aptly named.
Season five has been a journey, and not always a pleasant one. The crevasse between the Bonnet storyline and the summation of some of the other plot lines was always going to be one of the rockiest roads to hoe. It needed character to bridge it. Outlander Episode 511 is the only episode of the season written by author Diana Gabaldon, and it’s the first one that transitions us seamlessly from one major storyline to another anchor point by way of … actual character moments. And if anyone knows these characters, it’s their creator. Thanks for the PB&J, Diana.
Top Moments from Outlander Episode 511, “Journeycake”
He Calls for Her
I have read a lot of romance. A lot. Heroes and heroines falling in love with one another despite obstacles from without and within. Sweet dialogue. Angsty scenes. Break ups and makeups. One of the things that makes Outlander stand out from many of them is the ease with which Jamie and Claire become the center of one another’s worlds, and remain that way. Book after book, they are no longer falling in love. They are love. Despite the hop, skip and jump from adventure to adventure, they are inimitably tied to one another, and it presses against that gooey spot in your chest with every evidence of it.
This episode opens with Jamie asking Claire what she needs peanuts for. It’s simple and sweet. When they come upon the charred remains of the Dutch family’s cabin, it’s another moment in a long list of them where They Have Drama With Which to Contend. It could be simply reminder of the fraught time in which they live, and for Roger maybe it is (a thought which should have come back up when they decide to leave for good later in the ep).
But as soon as Jamie enters the cabin and sees the human remains, he calls for Claire. A burnt cabin, family dead inside, should be a stark reminder of the portent of their own imminent demise. After all, Bree came to them to warn them of their upcoming obituary that they die in a fire on the Ridge. A lesser hero might fret, push the heroine away from the emotional tangle. But he calls for her. It hit me in that gooey spot, the one that revels in their connection. That he needs her to process this with him, that he wants her help, that he trusts her to handle it. It was a little thing, but it said a lot, to me.
Back on the Ridge, Jemmy and Ian are playing with Otter Tooth’s opal. Inexplicably, I might add, as Ian is fairly evidently attached to the bits of woo he picked up from the Mohawk, and this particular opal is meant to have significant Mystical Powers. But whatever. Jemmy’s assertion that the rock is hot and its subsequent buzzing and cracking set in motion the events that lead Bree and Roger to decide to go home. Sweet Jemmy is precious and puzzled and perfect in this scene and in the one at the stones. If only we’d seen more of him on that horse with his Grandda. #ForeverBitter
The decisions facing the Mackenzies are put aside as a contingent of men on horseback come riding up. The Browns are the dirt daubers of Outlander season 5, always there, super annoying, sometimes scary, but not really dangerous. Until they are.
While Big Bro Richie tries to shame Jamie into helping them with their Committee for Safety, Little Lionel is sneering at Claire with a chip on his shoulder, and reminding her that her fatal flaw is often self-righteousness. “And you think a father’s got no right to seek justice for his daughter who’s been dishonored?” is no abstruse rhetorical question. Claire’s face (look, they filmed a thought!) shows her chagrin; Jamie has been plotting the same justice for Bree all season long.
Of course, Little Lionel and the Brown posse are not Good Guys, as the showdown in the front lawn (lawn … they have so much mowed grass) reminds us. We are introduced to a couple of new and important players, Hodgepile and Donner. Their tone is belligerent and menacing, and at the end of this episode we’re only given a hint of what they’re capable of. The show usually treats day players like props: they set up action that the main characters revolve around, and are cast aside when their use is over. It’s very frustrating. Donner and Hodgepile were only given one line each this episode but it made them memorable. It’s simple … pay actors to act, even small parts. And Lionel is probably the best used guest actor of the show this season. He’s never wasted.
Revelations and Resolutions
The episode then goes into wrap it up mode: it’s time to finalize some storylines, say goodbye to some characters and move this puppy forward. It’s obvious that is what is going on, and yet, in a show plagued with pacing issues, this episode didn’t lag. Again, it comes down to Diana doing the writing and knowing these characters well enough to know what needs to be said. There are so many wrap-ups that I’m just going to put them into two categories: Nailed It and Failed It: which ones worked and made me tear up, and which ones failed the characters they served.
Ian confronts Jamie and Claire about the opal and Otter Tooth’s diary. They finally reveal to him the truth about the time travel, and there is some resolution to his hostility about their secret-keeping. John Bell is great throughout this episode, and Ian’s longing for a re-do is just as palpable as all the other emotional checkpoints. Jamie closing the door to the parlor to tell him everything told us everything. Ian is fully back in the Fraser fold. Nailed It.
Ulysses’ resolution feels a bit different. Why is he hiding on The Ridge, where surely any member of the law who might suspect him would look? And hasn’t it been SEVERAL months? He still looks pristine (but those rabbits do not). I think Colin McFarlane’s performance is great in this scene, and his voice is soporific (in a good way). I also like that Jamie’s plan for him to go with Lord John to England is a be-fitting end. Nailed It.
Roger and Bree’s final two discussions to decide to leave don’t sit well with me. Now that Bonnet is dead, there doesn’t seem to be enough reason for them to go. They talk about not having parents, and yet they are leaving the only family they have? Where is the true danger for them? I think if the burned out house had been brought back up, or the danger that the Browns were talking about seemed more imminent, I would believe this choice. As it stands, it looks rushed. “We leave in a week.” WHUT. Failed It.
Bree and Jamie FINALLY get a scene together that doesn’t seem like something out of an after-school special (the wedding episode), and it is simply not enough. Yes, Jamie reveals her brother. Yes, he thanks her for making his life whole, for Jem. Yes, he is open with her. But there is no real emotion to it, no embrace, no holding. It’s flat and unsatisfying, like their interactions all season long. Failed It.
Roger and Ian have a wonderful goodbye, just enough to plant seeds and enough emotion to recall their earlier connection. Nailed It.
Lord John and Jamie’s scene feels like an easy way to get Lord John out of season six. I don’t like it. Don’t like it one bit. I also don’t particularly love Willie talk. AND that house is TOO OPULENT, which this scene highlights in extremity. This one is purely subjective, but Failed It.
Bree and Lord John’s scene was simply another reminder that they have great chemistry, and that’s not quite right. More Willie talk brings it down for me, but going to give it a Nailed It.
Marsali and Fergus, again, shamefully wasted, have a perfect scene with Roger and Bree that also reminds us that they go to bone town more often than Lord John somehow finds his way to North Carolina from Virginia. A lot. Nailed It.
Bree and Lizzie. Well, if Marsali and Fergus were underused, this scene was evidence that we didn’t even know we needed that they have been using Lizzie as set-dressing and we should have been up in arms about it. Full on tears for Lizzie and Bree in this scene. I’d like to take points away for Bree seeming more cut up about leaving Lizzie than her father or even her mother, but I can’t because Caitlin O’Ryan was so good. Nailed It.
Jamie and Jemmy. FAILED IT.
CLAIRE AND JEMMY. Most noticeably absent. GIANT FAILED IT.
Bree and Claire. It was simply not enough. Yes, Claire would avoid the emotional moment. Yes, having a family scene and a toast was nice. But one fierce hug was not enough between these two women who have grown so much together this season. Failed It.
Toadstools and Vinegar and Dill
Gross. But of course. Outlander smells are legendary. You can’t have a window scene about two hot quinquagenarians licking each other without finding out what each crevice tastes like. It just doesn’t work, people. They have to get turned on somehow.
Your Proper Habitat is Smug, Claire
We all love the microscope scene in The Fiery Cross because it combines Jamie’s scandalized ignorance (always a treat) with Claire’s smug indulgence. Sip that tea. Also, he’s so proud of his wee strivers, both gross and adorable. I only wish they hadn’t cut it before he could ask for their proper burial. This scene also offers a calm before the emotional storm that is Bree and Roger’s leaving and Claire’s abduction, so it’s doubly welcome in this episode.
And Now For My Next Trick
After this, the episode gets to the good stuff, ie the cliffhangers that had this been a season finale would have had us burning a certain Glaswegian production studio to the ground.
Book readers didn’t necessarily expect Roger and Brianna’s return to the stones so soon, especially since Claire’s abduction seemed like the big fulcrum that the penultimate episode and the finale hinged on. So it was especially bonkers to see the moment they disappear (because they definitely aren’t where Ian is), but reappear so confounded. I like a good reason to speculate and bring viewers back next week. This does that. If I was still doing Nailed It, Failed It, this would nail it.
Lionel Brown returning to ask Jamie about the safety committee and to get his wife’s arm mended reminds us of two things: the men of the Ridge aren’t the only show in town, and Claire’s OTHER fatal flaw is nosy helpfulness. I’d been wondering how they were going to incorporate “Dr. Rawlings” into Lionel’s disgust for Claire and coup against her, and it worked super well. He couldn’t do anything in the moment other than get the hell out of there and grab a posse, and that’s exactly what he did.
The attack is well-coordinated and brutal, and the preview for next week’s looks even more so. I would have given anything for that tight shot on Jamie’s face to have lingered when he realized Claire was gone, instead of when he lit the cross. There was a missed moment between his running into the house and his running up the hill that didn’t take advantage of how well Sam Heughan does Jamie’s devastation. On to next week.
A great episode of Outlander thanks to Diana G herself deserves a very special episode of Hangoutlander! Join us Monday night at 8pm EST for our LIVE discussion of all things episode 511! In the meantime, tell us what you thought of 511 in the comments.
Beth is the proud sponsor of two little women and a huge fan of fandom. She took 3 years of Latin in high school and now speaks fluent pretension, which fully explains her current preference for gay wizard regency novels. She will roll over for a giant book with a map in the front. She takes comic book recommendations every day but Wednesday and TV recommendations never (she knows what's good).