Remember last week on Outlander when Jamie (Sam Heughan) tasked Fergus (César Domboy) with recruiting settlers for Fraser’s Ridge– especially ex-convicts from Ardsmuir Prison? Awesome news!! Jamie’s recruitment efforts lead to a welcome reunion on tonight’s episode, “Savages”– a reunion you might have forgotten was even possible!
The episode opens with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) peacefully washing and bundling herbs on the creek’s bank with her Cherokee counterpart, Adawehi (Tantoo Cardinal). They pass the time teaching each other words in their respective languages and getting to know each other. Long enough has passed since last week’s episode that they’ve both picked up enough to converse effectively, and for Claire and Jamie’s cabin to be complete.
After the interlude by the creek, Claire gathers supplies to attend to a birth on a nearby homestead. Jamie and Young Ian (John Bell) are leaving, too, to go into town in search of settlers. They expect to be gone a few days longer than Claire, and although Jamie is nervous about that, Claire thinks it will be fine.
The birth is smooth, and Claire helps neighbor Gerhard Muller (Urs Rechn) welcome a granddaughter into the world. His wife, Rosewitha (Nicola Ransom) and their daughter, Petronella (Marie Hacke), and son, Tommy (David Christopher Roth), are so grateful for Claire’s skill as a midwife that they agree as a family to name the infant in her honor. The proud grandfather presents the baby with a doll he purchased in Cross Creek, and their cabin is warm with joy.
Suddenly, the mood breaks. A group of Cherokee men has stopped to water their horses on the creek bank opposite the Muller house. An irate Gerhard grabs his musket and orders Tommy to follow with a pistol so they can make the “savages” leave. The Cherokee raise their weapons when confronted, and Claire steps into the midst of the men to broker peace. Tension is high as she convinces Herr Muller to stand down and the Cherokee to water their horses elsewhere. As the Cherokee leave, Tawodi (Will Strongheart) stops to sprinkle something on the ground and Claire is hard-pressed to convince Muller that it is a harmless blessing.
She returns home, where she is alone for several days. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see her going about her daily duties of feeding animals and doing simple household tasks. The short montage that shows us what she does when she isn’t in a moment of high drama is a rare peek into either Fraser’s life where they aren’t in danger. Of course, that sort of thing never lasts for these people.
She’s surprised one day by Pastor Gottfried (Albert Welling) urgently pounding on her door. He informs her that Tommy, Petronella and the baby have all died and that he’s searching for Herr Muller. He believes the grieving father has gone insane, and he’s afraid that he’ll blame Claire for what has happened to his family.
Claire spends the next several days and nights on alert, a loaded rifle by her side and Rollo standing guard. At last, the shoe drops and Muller knocks on her door. She aims her rifle at him, ready to defend herself, but he comes across as so pitiful and sad that she drops her guard and joins him when he sits down at her table. He explains that he doesn’t blame her– he blames the curse the Cherokee put on his water.
Claire tries to convince him that there was no curse. Muller’s family died of measles, which he and his wife had survived years before (and were therefore inoculated against). Muller is certain that his children and grandchild died too quickly for it to have been natural. Claire assures him that Petronella and the baby would have been weak enough post-birth to explain that, but he rejects what she says. She tells him he must inadvertently have brought the disease back from town. He tells her that she is wrong, that it was a curse, and that he has taken care of it. He then offers her a package, wrapped in the cloth she recognizes from the doll he bought in town.
She accepts the gift, believing he’s brought her the baby’s doll as a peace offering. Inside, though, she discovers Adawehi’s scalp and necklace. Claire is horrified. Muller explains that he killed the witch to kill the curse, and he cannot hear reason when she tries to tell him how desperately wrong he was. Claire bids him goodbye, bristling with shock and hatred, and he goes.
When he is gone, she lovingly sets her friend’s scalp in a cedar box and puts it in her fire. She doesn’t know that at the same time, the Cherokee are shooting flaming arrows into Muller’s house. They kill his wife with a direct hit, and he arrives home in time to see her stagger out of the cabin with an arrow in her back, being engulfed in flames. The next arrows hit him, and the Mullers are no more.
During all of Claire’s trials, Jamie has been experiencing some big surprises in town. First, all of the farmers he meets refuse to take free land. He learns that the Governor’s tax collectors are so corrupt that they’ve overtaxed the Scots to the point where the men don’t even want land anymore.
The next surprise is better. As Jamie and Young Ian are preparing to go home empty handed, Young Ian realizes that the bit on their horse’s bridle is broken. Jamie sends him to the blacksmith to have it repaired, and the smith is reluctant to help because he’s closed for the day. Young Ian offers all the money he has, and the man turns to accept and agree, and it’s Murtagh! (Duncan Lacroix)
The last time we saw Murtagh was in the Season 3 episode “All Debts Paid,” when Ardsmuir Prison was shut down and all the convicts (except Jamie) were shipped to the colonies to finish their sentences as indentured servants. He and Young Ian don’t know each other, and Murtagh’s snow white hair would confound Ian recognizing him from any description he might ever have heard. It seems for a moment that their meeting won’t result in Jamie and his godfather finding each other. Fortunately, Jamie is so incensed at what the smith charged Young Ian for the repair that he makes a detour to curse the man out before they leave town.
As soon as Murtagh hears the angry voice at his back, he knows who it is. He turns slowly, and the men’s eyes fill with tears as they meet.
The three go for a drink, where Jamie enlists Murtagh to melt down one of the silver candlesticks Aunt Jocasta gave him to make a surprise for his wife. Murtagh looks a little crestfallen as he asks if Jamie remarried, and Jamie sends Young Ian back to the bar so he can tell Murtagh that Claire came back to him after 20 years and that their daughter is alive and at university in Boston in the year 1971.
Jamie begs Murtagh to come back to Fraser’s ridge with them, but Murtagh tells him he has important work to do in town. Then he invites him to a meeting.
The three go into the back room of a pub, where Murtagh moves to the front and rallies the room full of Scots against the tax collectors. He’s a leader in the Regulators, and he’s gathering troops for what we know will become the American Revolution.
When the meeting disperses, Murtagh asks Jamie to join them. Jamie explains that he’s given his word to the Governor not to do this sort of thing, and he promises his friend that he will not do anything to stop them. He departs with a sincere invitation to come find them someday.
Jamie and Young Ian go home, and when they arrive, Claire runs into Jamie’s arms and asks him to hold her.
Some time later, she is out doing chores when someone approaches her through the woods whistling “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” a rare tune for Colonial America, but one Murtagh knows from their stint trying to draw Jamie out of hiding back in Scotland. She runs to greet him with a teary hug and invites him into her home.
Meanwhile in the future, Roger (Richard Rankin) tracks Brianna (Sophie Skelton) to Inverness, where he confirms that 10 days before his arrival she took a one-way car ride to Craigh na Dun. He’s so visibly heartbroken when he speaks to the owner of the B&B she stayed in before disappearing, that the woman breaks a promise she made Brianna. She’d agreed to send a letter to Roger after a year, but she takes pity on him and hands it over right then.
The letter confirms Roger’s belief that Brianna has gone to the stones. She explains in it that she found out something terrible would happen to her parents in the past and she needed to go warn them– with the intention of returning within a year. The letter was only meant to reach him if she failed to return.
We see Brianna reach the center of the stones, wearing the 1970s’ best approximation of 1700s clothing, and she reaches out to the monolith in their midst…