- Outlander -The “Frenchman’s Gold” In 'Outlander' Could Become A Big Part Of Season 6
Even without going through the stones, Outlander Season 5, Episode 6 transported viewers back in time at the beginning of “Better To Marry Than Burn.”
A lot happens in the episode — Jamie and Claire scam Phillip Wylie, Roger and Brianna battle locusts, and Stephen Bonnet learns Jemmy will inherit River Run — but it’s the flashback to Scotland in 1746 that could really matter in future seasons.
Jocasta, who’s preparing for her wedding day in 1771, relives the horrible carriage attack that killed her daughter 25 years ago while her husband Hector Cameron was stealing French gold intended to help the Jacobite cause.
This “Frenchman’s gold,” as it’s referred to in Diana Gabaldon’s books, plays a bigger part in the novels than it does in the Starz series. Way bigger. The Jacobite treasure eventually comes to cause quite a bit of trouble for Jamie and Claire, Young Ian, and Brianna’s family, but the show has barely scratched the surface of this key plot.
Not only that, but the series diverges from the source material in The Fiery Cross when Jocasta uses the gold as a reason to break up with Murtagh. After all, the series’ writers had to find some way to end this made-for-TV romance. (Because, ya know, Murtagh didn’t have time to be wooing Jocasta since he was long dead in the books.)
Considering the way the showrunners have diverged from the novels when it comes to the precious metal, it’s unclear if Outlander Season 6 and beyond will keep mining all that gold drama that Gabaldon provided.
But… since those gold bars were so prominently featured in the Jocasta wedding episode (there must be a reason the writers chose to start the episode with the gold-stealing-scene back in 1746) and because some new characters introduced in Season 5 get into gold mischief in the books… there’s certainly reason to speculate that the Starz series could pick up more steam along that glittering path.
Here’s everything TV viewers (and book readers) should know about the importance of the Frenchman’s gold and how this treasure could make for thrilling TV in future Outlander seasons.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Outlander Books 1-6.
The Real-Life Legend Behind The Gold
Gabaldon was inspired by real-life historical legend when it comes to the Frenchman’s gold. As The Scotsman reported, folklore has it that the French sent gold in support of Charles Stuart in 1746. But the Jacobite rebellion was lost that same year at the Battle of Culloden and the French gold is said to have been secretly buried in the Scottish Highlands around Loch Arkaig.
This supposed treasure has yet to be found — but not for want of trying. Amateur explorer Garnet Frost’s search for the legendary Frenchman’s gold was featured in the 2014 documentary Garnet’s Gold … which, if you’re looking for something Outlander adjacent to watch during Droughtlander, is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
The Gold Storyline In The Series, So Far
The legend of the Frenchman’s gold has been covered on Outlander before. Back in Season 2, Claire and Jamie had been trying to stop France’s King Louis XV from financially supporting his cousin Charles Stuart in an effort to thwart the doomed Jacobite uprising. Jamie even claims to Lord John Grey in Season 3’s “All Debts Paid” that the French king never sent any gold to the Stuarts. But Lord John Grey was more right than Jamie realized when it came to the fabled gold.
It’s not until two seasons later, in Season 5 Episode 6, that the gold comes up again. Yet, the show didn’t make the connection between Jocasta’s gold and the gold that Jamie heard rumors about in Season 3 Episode 3. Could that mean the show won’t be bringing this story full circle? The gold causes a lot of trouble in the books; it would be a choice if the TV series left it out.
Why The Gold Matters
In The Fiery Cross, Jocasta explains to Claire, Jamie, and Brianna that this gold from King Louis XV was split between three representatives of trusted Jacobite clans — Jocasta’s husband Hector, Jocasta’s brother (and Jamie’s uncle) Dougal MacKenzie, and an unknown masked Highland gentleman.
They were meant to use this gold to aid Bonnie Prince Charlie in his war against the British. However, the gold arrived too late to be of any use to the Jacobite army and, knowing the cause was lost, Hector, Jocasta, and their daughter Morna fled with it. As Season 5 showed though, British dragoons caught them with the treasonist treasure and Morna was accidentally killed by Hector as they tried to escape.
The origin of the gold is important for a number of reasons. First off, rumors of the gold exist and in the books, anybody who knows about it wants a piece of it. (Like LJG back in Ardsmuir.) So although having a bunch of secret gold may seem like a good thing, Jocasta has a target on her back as some people suspect her of still having this legendary fortune. (In fact, she only divulged the history of the gold in The Fiery Cross because Stephen Bonnet had crashed her wedding in hopes of stealing the treasure.)
Another major factor is that Hector and Jocasta notably did not use the gold to aid any Jacobites, instead selfishly amassing their own wealth by using the gold to build River Run. (As writer and Blacklanderz contributor Amanda-Rae Prescott wrote for Den of Geek, Outlander the series didn’t acknowledge that Jocasta further benefited from the gold and got richer through her exploitation of Black slaves.) Anyone who is still loyal to the Jacobite cause after all these years could certainly be annoyed by how the gold was used.
Although Hector is dead, Jocasta and River Run are prime prey for gold and revenge seekers; seems like leaving that gun (or gold, as it were) on the mantle would be to leave a lot of dramatic potential unexplored, and unexploded.
The Mysterious Highland Gentleman
The third reason the gold origin story matters is this masked Highlander guy. Just who was this man who had been the third designated party to receive the gold? Gabaldon uses that intriguing tidbit to fuel a mystery that runs throughout A Breath of Snow and Ashes, of course.
Now, here’s where the gold storyline in the books gets really juicy. While Jocasta swears up and down to Claire and Jamie that she used all the gold to build River Run, turns out, Jocasta is a damn good liar. Jamie and Claire discover she has stores of the secret gold hidden in the mausoleum on her property and in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, someone steals all the gold.
That’s where Mr. and Mrs. Bug get involved. Arch Bug and his wife Murdina were new characters at Fraser’s Ridge in Season 5 (played by Hugh Ross and Sarah Collier), but they weren’t really given much to do, despite being significant characters in The Fiery Cross. In fact, it would be understandable if TV viewers unfamiliar with the books totally missed the couple. (Mr. Bug was the man who assisted in the Beardsley twins’ tonsil removal, and Mrs. Bug was the woman who told Bree of the Irishman who gave Jemmy a coin in town.)
But in Gabaldon’s novels, they are more prominent and act as trusted overseers of Fraser’s Ridge, until the gold comes up. I’ll just leave it at that, since most of this story arc goes down in Book 6.
Anyway, since the show brought up the gold and introduced Arch and Murdina in Season 5, we can possibly assume that the inclusion of the Bug family, while it was very, very subtle, could mean that the writers are leaving themselves the opportunity to go into this gold and Bug story in future seasons.
Why The Gold Could Be Gone For Good On Outlander
Now, that said, were the Bugs and gold too subtle in Season 5?
Though the battle for the Frenchman’s gold has repercussions in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, and potentially (probably?) the next Outlander book Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, the reference to it in Season 5’s “Better To Marry Than Burn” has some expert fans thinking this plot is dead and gone.
Tracey Randinelli and Carol Stark from My Outlander Purgatory point to Jocasta ruefully telling Murtagh that River Run is a “palace made from the gold that took [Morna] from me.”
After “Better To Marry Than Burn” aired, they tweeted that they thought this line wrapped up the gold storyline. In an email to The Dipp, they further clarify their stance.
“Jocasta tells Murtaugh that Hector used the gold to build River Run, and she was pretty emphatic about that,” Randinelli and Stark tell me. “Maybe there’s some left over that she’s using for nefarious or mysterious purposes, but so far there’s been no indication of that. So in our minds, that more or less shut the door on the storyline.”
Their theory could be debunked since Jocasta in the books was also emphatic that she didn’t have any gold left, which turned out to be wildly untrue. But another reason Randinelli and Stark think the series could skip the gold storyline is because it’s too complicated to tie-in at this late stage of the series.
“It honestly makes sense [to leave it out] because it’s a pretty complex story, and there’s just too much content to cover in Season 6,” they add. “Especially if the show is perhaps winding down to its last season or so.” (Outlander is renewed up until Season 6, which executive producer Matthew B. Roberts has said will primarily cover A Breath of Snow and Ashes.)
“The Bugs have been almost nonexistent so far, and we have no word [regarding] Season 7,” Randinelli and Stark explain. “So guess we will have to, as Diana says, Fuirich agus chi thu — Gaelic for ‘Wait and see.'”
The Bugs’ “almost nonexistent” status sure isn’t a good sign for the continuation of the gold … and Marsali killing Lionel Brown instead of Mrs. Bug could be evidence that this storyline is finished, as well. Still, there are some fans (myself included) who believe Outlander Season 5 may have been setting up for the gold storyline.
How The Show Could Still Go For The Gold
Jennifer Townsend, who runs Outlander Fan, tells me that what Arch does with the gold in the books, and how it affects Jamie and Claire, “would make for great TV.” (If you know, you know.) Mystery, gold, and betrayal? Yeah, this plot seems tailor-made for TV.
The series hasn’t been laying that groundwork for Mr. and Mrs. Bug just yet, but “It doesn’t make sense that they would not be [more prominent in Season 6].”
“Of course,” Townsend adds, “the producers have taken certain liberties with timelines, combining some and introducing others early or not at all. So hopefully the Bugs will make an appearance early next season.”
The Bugs’ and gold storyline would contribute to a truly epic Season 6 finale (in fairness, the finale is already pretty much guaranteed to be epic since a certain burning will probably take place during it).
And, if the show continues with Season 7, Arch’s character arc would only increase. Without giving too much away from Book 7, let’s just say that the gold, with or without the Bugs, impacts characters up until the 20th century, leading to more high-stakes time travel. These plot developments seem too action-packed and dramatic to simply leave on the page and not bring them to life on the screen.
Also on Team Show The Gold Stuff On TV? Nancy McGehee Fontenot of Outlander Homepage. When I spoke to her about book storylines that the show might change, she had some insight regarding Arch Bug’s future screentime.
“I interviewed Hugh Ross, who plays Arch Bug, and I got the impression that there is more in store for his character,” McGehee Fontenot told me.
Beyond that, she brought up the fact that Outlander cast the Bugs in the first place. “Why even fill those roles if those characters aren’t going to remain a part of the storyline?” she said, noting the show could have replaced them with other residents of Fraser’s Ridge.
Sam Heughan confirmed that production on Season 6 was delayed due to COVID-19 and there’s no word if Arch and Murdina Bug will appear again. But Ross and Collier’s IMDb pages don’t show the actors in any other projects that could take them away from Outlander.
Since they were included in Season 5, “The Bugs are already there, in place, and trusted by the Frasers,” McGehee Fontenot says. She agrees that this storyline is “just too integral, not to mention too emotional, dramatic, and quite unexpected for the fans who haven’t read the books, to leave out.”
When I previously spoke to Gabaldon, she compared her writing to a boulder dropping into a pond, meaning her storylines have a ripple effect. The gold is most definitely one of those storylines with even young Jemmy feeling its impact in An Echo in the Bone.
With Outlander reintroducing the Frenchman’s gold in Season 5 and casting the Bugs, it would feel like a waste not to see it through in Season 6. But if Outlander doesn’t have time, then consider Jocasta’s story in “Better To Marry Than Burn” a shiny golden Easter egg for book fans.