Caitriona Balfe

Outlander season 5, episode 3 recap: what fresh hell have Claire and Jamie landed in?

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Outlander took a strange turn in the third episode of season five, Free Will. What was the significance of the horrific story that took place in the woodlands? Hollie Richardson tries to unravel the answer. There are plenty of spoilers ahead, so read at your own peril.

Don’t worry, fellow scared sassenachs: it’s safe to come out from behind your cushions again. I’m not sure what we just witnessed on Outlander, but it had some serious “Netflix’s new horror series” vibes, right?

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s just quickly recap what happened in the second episode of season five: Claire took on Marsali on as an apprentice to help her invent penicillin. Jamie joined the English Army to hunt down his god father Murtagh (who he actually has no intention of killing). And Brianna and Roger have different views on returning back to the future.

OK, so here’s what happened in episode three…

Outlander season five, episode three recap

Jamie is back at Fraser’s Ridge, but not for long

You know that feeling when you’re trying to invent penicillin and it’s just not happening? In the words of a very frustrated Claire: “Damn.”

Thankfully, Jamie has left the English Army and returned home to alleviate this particular stress. Cue: a beautiful scene with plenty of soppy lines to really get us fans going.

“What are you praying for?” Claire asks Jamie, as he rouses her from her sleep with a blessing. “For the sight of you, sassenach,” he answers.

“You need my help,” she then explains, after saying she will join him to gather up a revolution. His reply? “Always have, and I always will.”

But little do they know what bizarre horror is in store for them as they set off together on horseback (leaving poor Marsali to look after the mould that Claire has been growing to help with the penicillin).

Into the woods with Jamie and Claire

While camping out in the woods, Jamie and Claire are woken up by a thief who has been caught stealing a loaf of bread. It turns out the thief is the deaf twin brother of Fraser Ridge resident Josiah. He has just escaped and run away from the house he’s been kept in, where he was abused by his “master”.

Because Jamie and Claire are always in the mood for getting into yet more trouble, they decide to locate where this master lives and take matters into their own hands.

At this point, Outlander momentarily becomes a horror show.

Outlander at its most weird and not wonderful

It starts with Jamie being startled by a ghostly woman’s face in the old shack’s window. She then answers the door, insisting that her husband is dead. The music in the background, which sounds like the score of a Stephen King film, does not help my anxiety. “There’s something very strange about this place, Jamie,” says Claire. But does he listen? Nope!

They enter the shack, which is full of roaming goats and, according to Claire’s repulsed face, stinks of death. Claire then notices a black slime dripping from the roof, which she goes to investigate.

“OH GOD, IS IT A ROTTING DEAD BODY?!” every fan screams at their screens at this point.

Alas, it is the rotting body of the woman’s husband – but he’s still bloody alive, rolling around in his own poo, with maggots living in his blackening bed sores! This is not for the faint-hearted.

It turns out he’s had a stroke and the woman has been keeping him alive to torture him for his abusive behaviour. Claire’s doctor instinct kicks in, and she insists on trying to bring the man back to good health (why, Claire?!). 

To complicate things even further: it also turns out that the woman is having a baby, after having an affair with a man of colour.

In the end, Jamie shoots the suffering man dead, Claire delivers the baby, the woman – Fanny – does a runner, and Claire and Jamie walk continue their travels with a new baby in tow.

Outlander season 6
Outlander season 6

Did you notice these two important conversations?

Amidst the horror, there are two conversations between Jamie and Claire that needed to happen. Firstly, Jamie tells Claire that Brianna’s rapist Stephen is still alive. And later on, Claire tells Jamie that she wants Brianna and Roger to go back to the 1960s with baby Jemmy, because it will be safer for them there.

What’s the significance of this episode?

I honestly do not know. Maybe it is just an elaborate way of introducing a new addition to the Fraser family. And perhaps the runaway mum will be back in future episodes to haunt us and get her newborn back. 

But, as actor Caitriona Balfe recently told Stylist, this season is all about family and Jamie and Claire becoming grandparents. So maybe this suggests that it will be a little bit easier for them to say goodbye to Brianna and Jemmy, as they have a new baby who is relying on them?

Hot Scots: the episode’s most heart-racing moments

• Remember in series one when Claire was disgusted by the men’s “dirty” talk around the campfire? Now, Claire very much commands the talk and laughter herself. She has everyone in stitches when, in response to Jamie telling everyone he is about to share a tent with her, she says: “Well that’s what you think!”

• That opening scene where Jamie says a prayer for his beloved sassenach. It’s gushy and it’s exactly what I’m still watching this series for.

• Oh and when Claire points out to Fanny that she’s only “sassenach” to her husband. Now that’s hot.

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Images: Starz

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…