Outlander‘s historical time-travel fantasy got pretty darn real last night given that almost the entire episode was devoted to a terrifying witchcraft trial, but at least (spoiler alert) there’s some fireside canoodling after the thrilling courtroom denouement.
Claire isn’t thrilled about her companion defendant, moon worshipping murderess Gellis Duncan. She knows what Gellis did. “It wasn’t witchcraft, it was old-fashioned poison,” Claire spits while they’re imprisoned in their cold witch cavern. Gellis admits to offing her husband over a long period of time, and assures Claire that they won’t be there for long as their men will come rescue them. Sadly, Claire has to explain to Gellis that the Laird has banished both Dougal and Jamie. “No one is coming, Gellis.” Uh-oh.
With a hearty chant of “burn the wich!” the trial begins —and if you didn’t immediately start thinking about the witchcraft scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you are a far, far more serious fan of Outlander (and less devoted fan of Monty Python) than most.
Prospects of survival look as dire for Claire and Gellis as they do for a woman who neither floats like a duck nor burns like wood in that absurd universe. Gellis’s maid has built a huge case against them both, and she talks and talks. But wait, there’s hope! Lawyer Ned Gowan shows up to offer a vigorous defense, and his cross-examination pokes holes in the first few witnesses, calling the maid “a malcontented maidservant.”
The mother of the changeling who was cradled by Claire takes the stand next, insisting that she knows Claire killed her child, or left the changeling child dead and prevented her own child and Claire’s modern protestations that she was trying to help only hurt her case.
Ned Gowan is effective, but not so effective. “What made them so ready to watch us burn? Regardless of the evidence, they only wanted one outcome,” says Claire’s voiceover. Then, to prove her point, a man gets up and testifies to seeing Gellis standing at the castle ramparts practicing some really outsize witchery: “She leapt into the sky and flew like a great winged bird!”
Back at their stony, cold cavernous nest, Claire and Gellis have a heart to heart. Turns out Gellis is a flaming Jacobite, a bona fide Scottish Nationalist. “The man’s a lion!” says Gellis of her equally idealistic babydaddy, Dougal McKenzie.
“You actually love the bastard,” says Claire. “Do you love him, your ginger-haired laddie Jamie?” Gellis asks in response. Cue forlorn Scottish music and pensive looks. Maybe she does love hims. Or maybe she just loves what’s under his kilt. The next morning the two doomed witches have a nice pillow, or should we say rock, talk about birds and starlings and finding safety in numbers. Day two of the trial begins, and any hope we harbored is soon lost as Laoghaire testifies, declaring that Claire gave her a love potion, and slapped her. Unfortunately all these things are kinda true. Claire’s self-righteous rant about Laoghaire does her no favors: “You’re an embarrassment to yourself,” the judge shouts.
A priest gets up and declares that Claire is a healer, not evil. He renounces his priestly role because he initially doubted her knowledge, and his confessions backfires by solid 18th century logic: only the Devil’s work could make a priest renounce God.
The women confer with their counsel. “The only person who ever stood behind you and a pile of kindling was your husband, and he’s dead,” Ned Gowan says to Gellis. He wants Claire to sell Gellis down the river (or up the flue) by claiming to be ensnared by her, and thereby escape the pyre herself. As the women contemplate their fates, Gellis asks Claire, “Why are you here?” “No more lies, Claire. If I’m going to burn I need it to be for something,” she says. But Claire simply says she was there by accident, and wants to go home.
Their time is up. “Looks like I’m going to a fucking barbecue,” says Gellis, which is a very anachronistic thing to say, now, isn’t it? Later, while their death sentence is pronounced she offers Claire the cryptic (or not so cryptic) number: 1968.
The bloodthirsty villagers drag Claire out and she is brutally flogged as the crowd cheers until then finally… Jamie to the rescue. He pulls Claire out of the crowd at double sword point (“the first man forward will be the first man down!”) and Gellis seizes the opportunity to exonerate Claire and pronounce herself the babymana of Satan’s child, ripping her clothes of and shrieking a false confession. She points to a strange circular marking on her body and calls it the devil’s mark.
Claire and Jamie ride off, leaving Gellis to her fate, and beneath the shade of a large tree Jamie lovingly confronts her. Is she a witch too? Why has he seen the same mark on her body as Gellis had on hers? At long last, the truth comes out. Claire assures him she’s not a witch, just a time-traveling chick from the future whose scar means can never get smallpox because modern medicine. Which means, of course, that Gellis came from the future too.
Oh, so that’s cleared up then. Jamie now realizes why Claire committed her spank-worthy offense of running away, because she wanted to get back to the future. He suffers some pangs of remorse. Fortunately, Jamie isn’t so confused by Claire’s revelation that he can’t apply a little manual pressure to help her relax by the fireside later that night. Her moaning voice is as well-trained as ever, flogging and trial be damned.
The next day, Jamie takes her “home” to what she thinks is Lallybroch, but psych — turns out it’s the standing stones! Jamie wants Claire to return to Frank because he loves her so much and is letting her go. He goes back to camp to mope and hears a voice, and DOUBLE PSYCH — Claire is totes back. She chose to stay with Jamie because he’s just too good in bed, I mean because she loves him so much too. They head back to Lallybroch for realsies, happy and content even though poor Gellis appears to have been consigned to the kindling pile. Oh well, at least we’ll get to see Lallybroch next week.