Spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of Outlander Season 5 on Starz, called "Free Will."
The first couple episodes of Outlander Season 5 on Starz were packed with proof that the fifth season is definitely not beholden to the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novel saga, called The Fiery Cross. "Free Will" continued diverging, with Claire leaving Marsali as a physician-in-training to watch over the invention of penicillin a century and a half too early, but one horrifying scene was almost ripped straight from the pages of The Fiery Cross: the Beardsley's cabin. The differences, however few, could have lasting consequences.
In both Outlander and The Fiery Cross, Jamie and Claire have to make a detour on their journey to raise a militia to visit the home of Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley concerning a pair of indentured boys, and both versions of the what happened at the Beardsley cabin are pretty disturbing. Both start with Jamie and Claire going to the cabin to try and gain the freedom of a pair of mistreated indentured boys.
In the show and the book, they discover only Mrs. Beardsley at home at first, living in a house that smelled awful and behaving more than a little... off. They eventually found none other than Mr. Beardsley being hidden on an upper level, having suffered a stroke. He had been tortured by his wife, fed the bare minimum, and neglected so badly that his foot became gangrenous. He couldn't move or communicate beyond blinking, and had been more or less stewing in his own filth.
It's at this point that the book and the show really start to diverge in more than the minor details, so let's jump into the differences and what they could mean for the rest of the season.
How The Book Handled The Beardsley's Cabin
Mrs. Beardsley, who showed obvious signs of abuse right off the bat in The Fiery Cross with two broken front teeth, a dragging leg, and scars, tried to kill her husband when she thought Claire (who had the reputation for mystical healing) might actually be able to restore him. After a scuffle with Jamie that ended with his nose broken but Mrs. Beardsley defeated, Claire and Jamie got Mr. Beardsley downstairs.
Claire realized that his foot would have to be amputated, prompting Mrs. Beardsley to start trying to get them to "let him rot." Jamie tried to send both women out of the house, and Claire realized that he intended to kill Mr. Beardsley. She refused to leave so that Jamie would have a witness when he asked Beardsley whether he wanted to die (and presumably so readers could experience it without The Fiery Cross switching narrators).
Jamie explained the situation to Beardsley, received Beardsley's permission, sent Claire and Mrs. Beardsley outside, and then shot Beardsley through the eye to kill him. Despite being ill, an emotional Jamie exerted himself to dig a grave and bury Beardsley properly, confusing Claire. She eventually realized that Jamie's emotion came from wondering if his own father's "apoplexy" had left him in the same state, and he asked her to promise that she'd grant him the same mercy he'd granted Beardsley if he ever came to the same condition.
Less than a day had passed. When the time came to leave, Mrs. Beardsley came with them (along with her goats) , and it wasn't until many pages later than her real backstory came out to Claire.
How Outlander Season 5 Handled The Beardsley's Cabin
Just like in The Fiery Cross, Mrs. Beardsley and Jamie scuffled after she tried to kill her husband, but that's where something very different happened. She fell back against the wall, where her water broke! Yes, Mrs. Beardsley was pregnant, and Claire delivered a baby girl whose father was black and definitely not Mr. Beardsley.
Jamie and Claire stayed the night, and Claire learned Mrs. Beardsley had been taken by Mr. Beardsley from her father and made the fifth Mrs. Beardsley, as Mr. Beardsley had been killing his wives when they didn't bear him children. She revealed that her husband had beat her severely, which fit with Claire wondering what could have driven a person to do what Mrs. Beardsley did to her husband.
Claire gave her an encouraging talk before telling Jamie she wants Brianna and Roger to take Jemmy back to their own time because the 18th century isn't safe for them, and then they went to sleep. Mrs. Beardsley left in the middle of the night, leaving the baby girl, the indentured papers, and the deed to the house behind.
Faced with the prospect of trying to help Mr. Beardsley despite his pretty hopeless future, Jamie sent Claire and Mrs. Beardsley out of the house and then gave him the option of dying. When Beardsley blinked his decision to die, Jamie shot him. As they left the cabin for the last time with the baby girl in tow, Jamie reminded Claire that his own father had died from an apoplexy, and extracted from her the promise to let Jamie die if the same happened to him.
What The Biggest Differences Mean For Outlander Season 5
The biggest plot differences between The Fiery Cross' version of the Beardsley's cabin and the Outlander Season 5 version are undoubtedly the early birth of Mrs. Beardsley's baby and her subsequent departure, although I for one wish that there had been a way to squeeze in Jamie digging the grave and Claire cleaning the body for the sake of the character development that might have come in earlier seasons.
The changes to the plot with Mrs. Beardsley gone and the baby already born cuts out a not insignificant chunk of The Fiery Cross. Fortunately, most of the relevant parts of Mrs. Beardsley's backstory were squeezed in between the birth and her stealing out in the night. Considering how little she spoke about the father of her child in the show's version of the scene, I have my doubts about whether or not Outlander will bring her back, especially when all bets are off thanks to Murtagh's survival so long after his book death.
Now Jamie and Claire are saddled with a baby, and they lost considerable time by staying overnight at the Beardsley's cabin. Considering Roger is off making promises he probably can't keep on Jamie's behalf, they really should catch up with the men sooner rather than later. Even if Outlander doesn't give Jamie and Claire the same issues they had with the goats during their travel time with Mrs. Beardsley as on the page, they'll be playing catch-up.
And what if Claire can't find a nursing mother to take care of the baby? Would Claire have to leave Jamie's side and take the baby back to Fraser's Ridge? I wish I could be confident one way or the other, but book knowledge can only take fans so far nowadays thanks to Murtagh's survival changing everything.