Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Only Outlander can make a deathly snake bite horny

Illustration for article titled Only iOutlander/i can make a deathly snake bite horny
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

“Monsters and Heroes” is immediately a quintessential episode of Outlander. It’s the most straightforward example of what makes this show appealing that the show has done in a long time and feels a lot like early seasons of the show. The plot is simple but high stakes: a poisonous snake bite puts Jamie on his deathbed, Claire having to tend to his wounds and also make the medical decision of whether to amputate or not. The conflict taps into the characters and relationships at play and also leans into the limits of the setting. A snake bite is easily solved with anti-venom in the future, but here, it’s more complicated. Cue the drama!

Advertisement

It plays out like a (literally) heavy-handed implementation of a well-worn romance trope: the sexy healer nurses a wounded soldier back to health. I mean, Claire literally gives Jamie a handjob on the brink of death. It’s what ultimately pulls him back to life for long enough for Brianna to put her engineering degree to use by whipping up a syringe made with snake fangs. It sounds, frankly, like a parody of an Outlander scene, and yet it also somehow completely works. Outlander leans all the way into its schtick in “Monsters and Heroes.” It’s a little absurd, a little like a horny fanfiction riddled with romance tropes. But Outlander thrives in that space.

Advertisement

And it certainly helps that Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are such knockout performers, especially Balfe who is perhaps the most responsible for keeping that handjob scene from being a complete misfire. That alone should qualify her for awards. But Heughan here is strong, too, especially as he conveys some of Jamie’s more annoying qualities: his stubbornness, his vanity, his narrow-mindedness.

Because apparently Jamie would rather die than lose part of his leg—to the extent where he initially makes Claire swear that she won’t amputate even if it means saving his life. This is without a doubt the most glaring weak spot in the story. “Monsters and Heroes” utilizes a lot of different tropes, but this particular one is tired at best but also pretty explicitly ableist. Jamie positions disability as worse than death, which is a very dangerous trope that often gets reiterated in pop culture. There is pushback from the other characters at least. Young Ian is ashamed by Jamie’s behavior, especially since he has a father who lost part of his leg. In a sweet scene, Ian tries to protect Fergus—who had his hand amputated—from getting his feelings hurt by Jamie’s ableism. But even the way the show uses Fergus here doesn’t really help undo some of the damage of this storyline. It comes off as exploitive and surface-level. Jamie does eventually change his mind, but the episode spends so much time burrowing into this amputation decision, and it distracts.

Advertisement

There’s also the side-conflict of Chekhov’s Buffalo. The second that buffalo herd appears, it seems inevitable that danger will come. Indeed, in the middle of all the Jamie stuff, a buffalo wanders into the yard, getting dangerously close to Jemmy. Brianna’s solution? She coaxes the buffalo into charging at her, giving Claire enough time to grab a gun to shoot it down but not before it knocks Brianna on her ass. It’s a random interlude, especially since for all the suspense, Brianna is completely fine after getting flipped over by a huge buffalo. But it adds to the sort of Oregon Trail-esque constant conflict feel of the episode. Life in this time is tough in ways Brianna and Roger never could have prepared for.

Brianna and Roger’s frustrations with not being able to implement their calling in this time period is compelling from a character perspective. The way Claire talks to Brianna about having to adjust in order to practice medicine here as well as her candid confession that her work is almost as dear to her as Brianna and Jamie are is also striking and honest and powerful. Claire’s role as a surgeon has always been an important part of this show and a huge part of who she is, and the moments when Outlander really writes into that are always brilliant. There’s little doubt that Claire would perform the surgery on Jamie even if it means breaking her promise to him; she is above all else a healer. It does, however, seem like a stretch that Brianna’s skills have been useless up until this point. One would think engineering would actually be incredibly useful on the Ridge even given her limited access to tools and technology. But maybe if she had been building things all along, it wouldn’t have been nearly as triumphant a moment when she swoops in at the last second to save the day with her DIY syringe.

Advertisement

Earlier in the episode, the split scenes between Brianna and Claire working the dye and talking about their callings and Jamie and Roger bonding on a hunt work well, executing solid character work across the board. Brianna and Claire seem closer than ever, bound together by shared ambitions and passion for their fields. Jamie and Roger mend some of the tension between them. Jamie has a newfound interest in actually listening to Roger and being more empathetic about the ways Roger has struggled to assimilate here. Even when Jamie asks how a snake bite would be treated in Roger’s time carries some deeper significance. Jamie’s curious about Roger’s former life and realizes some of the sacrifices his entire family has made to be here. In fact, he wants Roger to convince Claire and Brianna to all go back to the future if he dies. He knows they’ve all given up things.

When things take a turn between Jamie and Roger after the snake bite and lead to Jamie talking to Roger about how he wants him to carry out his plan to kill Bonnett in the event that he dies and can’t do it himself, it’s a little less interesting though. The titular line comes in here, but this concept of blurred lines between monsters and heroes doesn’t really have much to do with the episode at hand even if it does touch on some of the larger themes explored in the show.

Advertisement

Roger and Jamie muse on the ideas of vengeance, guilt, and harm here. But it’s not nearly as emotionally resonant as many of the other scenes in the episode. It’s mostly a reminder that Jamie has undertaken this little project with no real regard for what Brianna wants. At least Roger ends up telling Brianna immediately. He has a point: The law is certainly not on her side. But still, Brianna once again seems to have little agency when it comes to this storyline. Outside of tender moments between Jamie and Claire and Jamie and Roger, Jamie really does come off as especially stubborn in this episode.

But Outlander sure does know when to employ the intense chemistry of its leads. “Monsters and Heroes” really does hinge on this absurd deathbed handjob scene, and it speaks to the successes and potency of Outlander’s relationship writing and use of romance tropes that it pulls off this literal and emotional climax. Yes, it’s incidentally comical. But it also feels very much in-voice for the show and also absolutely like something Claire and Jamie—forever horny for each other, even in death—would do. That’s called good character development, baby! Sometimes, Outlander perfectly harnesses its strengths, and one of those strengths is absolutely its ability to inject romance and sensuality even in the direst of situations.

Advertisement

Stray observations

  • Maybe watching two characters be very horny for each other even on an actual deathbed hits differently during a time of social isolation. This episode’s release is kind of ideal timing.
  • She saves! Him! With! A! Handjob! I will never be over this.
  • I will also never be over the image of Brianna getting run over by a buffalo and then essentially just dusting herself off after.
  • I’m not sure that building to a Bonnett confrontation has as much steam as the season wants it to.
Advertisement

Share This Story

Get our newsletter