Starz’s Outlander returns from a painful mini-Droughtlander (a two-week break) with season five episode eight, “Famous Last Words.” Outlander left Roger hanging – literally – at the end of episode seven, and episode eight picks up with a flashback to Roger (Richard Rankin) teaching at Oxford University in 1969.
Brianna (Sophie Skelton) listens in as Roger talks to his students about the meaning of burying the hatchet while handing out their graded essays on famous last words. He’s not pleased with their papers because he expected them to truly consider the importance of someone’s last words.
He wants his students to understand the impact their words have and asks them to choose their words wisely as they move forward in life. “Live a life worthy of them, especially your last words,” says Roger. “They outlive us.”
When asked what his will be, Roger replies, “It is my dying wish, oh Lord, that my students write structured arguments supported by evidence in legible handwriting. Amen!”
He then turns serious and asks that history forget his name and instead let his loved ones remember his words and deeds.
After the gorgeous “The Skye Boat Song” plays, we’re treated to a projector screening a film titled “Famous Last Words.” The silent black & white movie that follows picks up the action from episode seven’s final scene. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Brianna embrace as Roger’s cut down into Jamie’s arms. An intertitle confirms Roger’s still breathing!
Claire works quickly to open an airway, performing surgery in the field while Brianna attempts to comfort her husband. He opens his eyes but doesn’t seem aware of what’s happening.
The silent film ends.
Three months later Claire exams her patient and assures Roger his throat’s healing nicely. He doesn’t want to speak, but Claire says he needs to try. She warns him it will sound croaky at first and he doesn’t want to risk it. Brianna tries to lighten the mood by threatening to teach Jemmy American pronunciations since he can’t speak.
She then comforts her hubby, saying they don’t need words to show their love. They can pretend to be in a silent film like those they used to enjoy in Oxford.
Claire asks Roger if he wants to come to the house to see Lord John and the trunk of books he’s brought with him. Roger shakes his head no. After everyone leaves, he strains to make a noise emerge. It’s the tiniest of croaks, just as Claire predicted.
He relives the moments leading up to his hanging. It’s revealed he was chosen as one of three prisoners to be strung up as an example.
Brianna and Claire have a heart-to-heart, and Brianna recalls a friend’s boyfriend after he returned from Vietnam. There wasn’t any life left in his eyes and he had what’s described as a thousand-yard stare. She’s worried about Roger because it’s been months and at this point it’s probably more of a psychological problem than a health issue. She’s observed that same thousand-yard stare in his eyes and thinks he’s lost.
Claire tells her she needs to have faith she’ll find him.
Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) sings a song of grief while visiting Murtagh’s grave at Fraser’s Ridge.
She and Jamie (Sam Heughan) talk about the pain they feel over Murtagh’s death. He assures her Murtagh kept his vow to his mother to the very end. They say their good-byes and, for some reason, it feels final. Have we just seen the last of Jocasta?
Later, Jamie reads a letter delivered by Lord John (David Berry) from Governor Tryon. The letter declares Roger’s been granted 5,000 acres in the backcountry as compensation. Brianna wonders what they’d do with 5,000 acres and Lord John calls it a valuable tract of land. Brianna doesn’t want land; she wants her husband back.
In a quiet moment, Lord John gifts Brianna an astrolabe. He always felt he had the wisdom of the heavens in the palm of his hand while carrying it. It’s also useful for figuring out the time of day. Brianna is touched by the gift and thanks him for his generosity.
Roger, alone, has another flashback to the hood being placed over his head and the rope going around his neck. He only survived because he was able to work his hands free and grab the rope as it tightened around his neck.
That evening, Claire and Jamie discuss the difficult months they’ve endured. He’s still mourning the loss of Murtagh and Claire strokes his face and says, “They say time heals all wounds.”
Meanwhile, life goes on at Fraser’s Ridge. Food is prepared, clothing’s washed, animals are tended to, and candles are made.
Jamie’s got a bit of a hangover as he and Claire visit Brianna and Roger’s place. Roger’s pounding away working on stairs for their loft and Jamie’s definitely not in the mood to hear hammering. Jemmy’s also up pounding on things, now tall enough to stand and pound on the kitchen table.
As the adults are distracted, Jemmy reaches for the hot tea kettle. Roger yells, “Stop!” and apparently it’s the first time they’ve heard him speak. Brianna begs him to say something else but he refuses.
Later, he listens to Brianna sing “Clementine” to Jemmy as he cuts wood. She continues singing (Sophie Skelton’s got a beautiful voice) and Roger finally breaks down crying.
Claire and Jamie are playing a game of hide-and-seek when Jamie hears an animal in the nearby trees. He tells Claire to take Jemmy back to the cabin, but she doesn’t make it far before a boar emerges from the woods. Before Jamie can stab it, the boar’s felled by an arrow.
Jamie spots an Indian at the top of the hill and only as he approaches with Rollo does Jamie recognize Ian (John Bell)! He’s sporting a mohawk and looks fit. No one’s following him and he’s not expected anywhere, so he’s fine to stay for a boar dinner.
Jamie gathers Ian in for a hug, but Ian doesn’t return the embrace.
Jamie, Claire, and Ian return to Roger and Brianna’s cabin, and Roger gives Ian a head nod acknowledging his return. That’s followed by an embrace and this time Ian hugs back.
Roger’s about to attempt to speak but then decides otherwise.
Next up it’s Brianna’s turn to hug Ian. She tells him it’s really good to see him.
Ian’s impressed by the home Jamie and Claire built, astounded by its size. Jamie offers to have one of the men carve up the boar, but a very sedate Ian claims the task since he did the killing.
Although Claire invites him inside, Ian declines and wants to linger outside a bit longer.
Marsali (Lauren Lyle) sits opposite Roger at his table and reads her fortune in tarot cards. Roger actually smiles but then turns somber when she turns over the hanged man card while reading his fortune. She replaces those cards and tries again. Once more it’s the hanged man card that’s turned over. He wipes the cards off the table and has another flashback to the day of his hanging.
Brianna arrives to find Roger holding the hanged man card. Marsali brushes it aside as harmless fun and leaves.
Brianna replaces Marsali in the chair opposite Roger. She begs him, again, to please speak. She knows it’s hard and says, “Your voice is your gift but you’re still you. You’re still the man I married, and I want him back, please.”
She doesn’t care how he sounds; she’s scared because he doesn’t engage. She reminds him about the darkness she went through and that there are times she still wants to crawl into a hole and die. She doesn’t because she has a husband and a son who needs her.
She needs her husband and Jemmy needs his dad.
Roger doesn’t react and won’t even look her in the face. Brianna has finally arrived at the point where she needs assurance he’s not lost forever. “Are you coming back?” she asks. “Are you going to fight for us?”
Roger’s face betrays his emotions, but he remains silent.
That night Ian joins the family (minus Roger) at the dinner table. He’s seated between Fergus and Marsali, and when Jamie offers a prayer over dinner he doesn’t participate.
Marsali and Fergus want to hear all about Ian’s adventures. Ian’s not really forthcoming but Marsali doesn’t give up. He finally says the Mohawks were good people and they’re forced to leave it at that.
Claire asks if he’s returning to the Mohawk and he confirms he’s not. Jamie mentions the 5,000-acre land deed and says it needs to be surveyed. Brianna doesn’t believe Roger’s up to it and Jamie thinks they can send one of the men. He wonders if Ian would be willing to help out by marking out the boundaries. Ian doesn’t reply and doesn’t smile. (This is not the boyish, fun-loving Ian we know and love.)
Claire thinks they should give him some time and offers to let him stay in the bed in the kitchen.
Roger, alone as usual, plays “Clementine” and whispers the lyrics. He struggles to hold himself together as he once again has a flashback to the moment the bucket was kicked out from under his feet.
The next morning Jamie wakes to find Ian laying on blankets outside the house. He says he’s not used to beds or a grand house, and Jamie assures him they’re happy to have him back. Jamie also points out Ian isn’t himself.
Jamie wonders what happened with the Mohawks and Ian admits he doesn’t have the words to describe it right now. He then surprises Jamie by saying, “There are things you keep hidden from others – you and Claire both.”
Jamie admits that’s true. He also confesses it makes him heartsick to see Ian in such a state. Jamie asks if it’s okay if he sits with him for a while and Ian doesn’t mind.
A short while later it’s Marsali who sits for a chat with Ian. She seems to be the only one who can truly reach him at this point. She admits to being happy and accepted as a member of the Fraser family and wonders if it’s bad that she feels at home here. Ian suggests it’s a good thing.
As they talk, her baby’s kicking. She’s glad Ian will be around to welcome her third child into this world.
Roger prepares to head out to their new land and Ian’s agreed to go with him. Brianna folds a paper airplane as they talk and says she’s learned to bend and readjust her expectations. She reminds him the first anniversary of marriage is celebrated with paper; the 60th is diamond. She wants their marriage to become that strong. She tells Roger she loves him and leaves without expecting him to say anything in return.
He picks up the airplane after she’s gone and packs it in his bag.
Later, Roger and Ian get busy doing the surveying. Roger writes down the numbers as Ian calls them out. Rollo joins in the work by exploring the land.
That night by the fire Roger hands Ian the astrolabe. Roger notices bracelets around Ian’s wrist but Ian quickly covers them with a sleeve.
Back at Fraser’s Ridge, Claire asks Marsali if she prescribed someone hemlock. There’s only one root left and there should be more. Neither woman can understand what happened, and Marsali wouldn’t have touched it given that she’s pregnant.
Out in the field, the men relax under a tree and Ian wants to know about the paper airplane. He guesses it’s a bird and Roger doesn’t correct him. Roger lets it sail and Ian notes it flies but doesn’t sing. Ian reveals when he didn’t understand the Mohawk, he talked to the birds to keep from feeling alone.
That night Roger wakes with a start after having the hanging nightmare again.
Cut to Claire and Jamie in bed. She wonders if Roger might not want to come home and believes it might be Roger who took the hemlock. She thinks he might kill himself.
The following day Roger stands at the edge of a cliff and stares down. He has a flash of the hanging again and this time we see he nearly gave up while strung up. Only the memory of Brianna made him fight on.
Roger takes the airplane and sails it off the cliff. He pictures Brianna’s smiling face as it flies away.
Another night in the woods and this time Roger wakes to find a whimpering Rollo tethered nearby.
Ian is seen burying his hatchet and then saying a Mohawk prayer over it. He lifts the hemlock roots from his coat and adds them to water boiling over a fire. As he’s kneeling down next to it, Roger surprises him by kicking over the bucket.
Ian’s enraged and attacks Roger, demanding to know why he of all people would stop him. Ian acknowledges he knew Roger was thinking of jumping off the cliff. “You have everything…a wife that loves you…a bairn…and still you don’t want to be with them!” says Ian.
Ian asks Roger what he saw when that rope was around his neck. Roger doesn’t answer and Ian becomes more frantic with his questioning. He demands to know what Roger saw and Roger shoves him away. He struggles and finally croaks out, “I saw my wife’s face.”
Ian realizes there’s no escape – even in death. Roger understands Ian’s talking about a woman he loved and lost and asks her name. Ian won’t say, believing it doesn’t matter now. She’s not dead but she is lost to him. Ian just wanted the pain to go away so he could be at peace.
Roger tells Ian if he kills himself, he will forever be separated from those he loved. Ian can’t believe Roger has unburied his weapon – his voice – and is using it against him. Roger agrees that’s what’s happening and says he’ll have to pick up his weapon again and fight. He asks if Ian can do the same. Ian’s not sure it’s possible.
They return to Fraser’s Ridge and Roger heads straight home to Brianna. She smiles and he says her name. She’s obviously shocked to hear him speak after all these months and he jokes, “Brianna, don’t tell me you’re at a loss for words now.”
They both admit they’ve been so scared, with Roger confessing part of him died while he was hanging from that tree. Brianna understands exactly how he feels.
Roger explains he’ll never be the old Roger and after seeing the tarot card he realized this is who he is now. He is the hanged man. He thinks this is his fate – that his own ancestor tried to kill him. He questions whether he was meant to exist.
Roger admits he thought his last words would matter but actually what mattered was the last face he saw – Brianna’s. They share a lengthy kiss and he promises he will always sing for her, no matter what.
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