‘Outlander’ Review: Minor Characters Take Center Stage in an Episode of Morals

Whenever an episode begins with a shootout, there’s an expectation that the remainder of the scenes will be equally — if not more — compelling. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in “Outlander’s” first real stumble of the season, “Company We Keep,” which spent too much time focusing on minor characters only to end up reverting the leads back to their plotlines from two episodes ago by the time the closing credits rolled

The installment kicked off with Roger (Richard Rankin) facing his first real challenge as a captain, as his convoy came under attack by the Browns. One of his men, Isaiah Morton (Jon Tarcy), ruined a lucrative marriage for Alicia Brown (Anna Burnett), sending the family was out for revenge. Although Roger had the men outnumbered, he called for a ceasefire and opened a barrel of whiskey to quell the situation, but when he realized the Browns weren’t interested, he locked Morton up until Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) could get there.

The couple arrived shortly after only to find Roger singing to the crew (is it in Rankin’s contract to sing each episode or something?) and some of the men gone, disgusted with how Roger handled Morton. Jamie was equally upset when he learned about the situation, and Roger’s scholarly explanation only came across as annoying and out of place. It’s clear the guy wants to impress his father-in-law and earn his respect, but he still hasn’t wrapped his head around how to acclimatize to the past, and no one knows how to take him. It’s a no-win situation made worse by the title Jamie gave him; Roger hasn’t bonded with or befriended any other male characters on this entire series, so of course he doesn’t know how to lead them. Expecting him to is unfair.

There was room to dig more into the situation (and potentially mine some much-needed comedy), but the episode took a more serious turn by expounding on Alicia’s story through Claire’s perspective instead. When Claire searched for someone to care for the baby that Fanny (Bronwyn James) had left behind, she came across Alicia, who expressed interest in the contraceptive advice from “Dr. Rawlings” that had accidentally been published after Roger’s carelessness last episode. Rawlings — aka Claire — quickly discovered Alicia was pregnant, but despite the girl’s plight, Claire surprisingly didn’t bring up the possibility of terminating the pregnancy. This was a missed opportunity to connect to themes facing society today, especially given Claire’s penchant for pushing modern medicine into the past. Morton was married, so Alicia’s options truly were limited, which led to her botched suicide attempt toward the end of the episode. It felt odd that the doctor in Claire wouldn’t want to help, especially given Alicia’s mindset.

Regardless, all worked out for the couple when Morton circled back for his true love, admitting that his marriage was childless and loveless on both sides and that he would do anything for Alicia. And so the Frasers pitched in to make yet another situation right by helping the couple escape, potentially making future enemies out of the Browns in the process.

The Frasers also came to the important decision to leave Fanny’s baby (and her birthright trading post) behind for a couple that recently lost a child. Meanwhile, after Claire learned that Keziah (Paul Gorman) was even sicker than his twin, she decided to return to Fraser’s Ridge so that she could fast-track her attempts at “inventing” penicillin and perform a tonsillectomy. (What could possibly go wrong?) Naturally, Jamie tasked Roger with bringing them all back, essentially eliminating him as a problem for the other men on the road.

Speaking of Fraser’s Ridge, Bree (Sophie Skelton) held down the fort, but with Bonnet (Ed Speleers) lurking around, her mental state was slowly declining. Between the coin he (supposedly) placed in Jemmy’s bassinet and the baby’s potential disappearance while she went to grab more logs for the fire, it’s obvious Bree needs someone to open up to about her fears — if not for her own sanity, then to have more eyes on the child and help protect him. There was a nice bonding moment with Marsali (Lauren Lyle) where the opportunity to open up was there, but that potential female friendship will just have to wait. Hopefully when Claire and Roger return, Bree will be able to open up to someone, because at this point her secret-keeping is only isolating her from the audience and building up resentment. After traveling through all the odds and going to actual hell and back, the character definitely deserves better than that.

Grade: C

“Outlander” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.

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