Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 407: “Down the Rabbit Hole”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Brianna follows in her mother’s footsteps and travels through the stones back in time to 18th century Scotland where she struggles to make her way to the Colonies to find her parents.
Major plot points:
- Roger follows Brianna through the stones at Craigh na Dun.
- Brianna sets off on foot across the Highlands to get to a harbor and try to find passage to the Colonies.
- She becomes injured, and is taken in and cared for by Laoghaire and her daughter Joan.
- Laoghaire is not pleased to discover that Brianna is Claire’s daughter.
- Brianna meets Ian Sr. at Lallybroch, who helps her on her journey.
- Meanwhile, Roger secures passage on board the Gloriana, captained by Stephen Bonnet, who is just as cruel as we expect.
Episode 407, “Down the Rabbit Hole”, is (as far as I recall) the only Outlander episode so far without Jamie or Claire appearing at all — and yet, it’s quite a strong episode, filled with important plot developments as well as great character moments.
Three cheers for the Outlander casting team, for giving us the treat of seeing Frank Randall and Ian Murray again, and for introducing us to two characters who’ll be a regular part of the Fraser family’s lives for years to come — Joseph and Lizzie Wemyss. And, well, I’m too much of a Laoghaire hater to say it was a treat, but yes, it was a good surprise to see her back on the show again too.
First off, Brianna’s journey. She made it through the stones safely, and is now walking across the snowy Highlands towards a harbor, where she plans to secure passage to America so she can find Claire and Jamie. Her mission, as she sees it, is to warn them about the fire that lies in their future, hoping to save their lives. I’m not sold on her plan here, though — wouldn’t it be smarter (and faster) to find transportation, rather than walking the whole way? It certainly would have been safer, since Brianna stumbles down a hillside and severely bruises her ankle, making it almost impossible to walk. Finally, she passes out from exhaustion, and wakes up in a snug bed, cared for than none other than the (evil, conniving ) Laoghaire.
At first, it’s kind of hard to hate Laoghaire. She’s sweet and kind toward Brianna, making her welcome and caring for her while her ankle heals, giving her warm clothes, a place to sleep, and good company. Little Joan is delighted to have Brianna there, and the two are quite sweet together. Brianna even sings “San Francisco (Flowers In Your Hair)” to her, which is a cute little anachronism. When Brianna overhears an argument one night between Ian Murray and Laoghaire, she learns that Laoghaire’s deadbeat former husband is short on his alimony payment yet again. Brianna hears the sad story of Laoghaire’s true love being bewitched and stolen away from her. Oh, Bree, if only you knew.
Eventually, of course, the truth comes out, and Laoghaire is horrified to learn that Brianna is the daughter of the whore/witch Claire. Bree attempts to leave, but is locked in by Laoghaire, who decides to report Brianna as a witch as well. Little Joan saves the day, rescuing Bree and taking her to Lallybroch, where she’s welcomed by her uncle Ian. The two are soon parted, as Brianna books passage to America, along with a servant girl (Lizzie*), whose father begs Brianna to take her in order to keep her safe from a man who wants to defile her.
*Side note: Anyone else startled by Lizzie’s appearance? In the books, she comes across as frail and delicate and always sickly, but here’s she’s taller than Brianna and looks pretty robust! I’m sure she’ll be fine, but it’s one of those book vs TV moments that’s kind of startling.
Throughout the episode, we see Brianna’s memories of Frank Randall, the man who raised her and loved her. Brianna feels a certain amount of guilt toward Frank, since on the night of his fatal car accident, he’d told her that he and Claire were planning to divorce, and he asked her to come to England with him. Brianna had been so upset that she left him without saying “I love you” back to him, and has been carrying that memory ever since. Over the course of the episode, she seems to have come to terms with her relationship with Frank, so that finally, she sees a vision of him (in what I thought was a pretty corny moment) smiling at her on the docks, as if giving his blessing to her journey.
And now let’s return to poor Roger.
Poor Roger! My familiar refrain. What that man suffers! He pursues Brianna through the stones, dressed in period clothing (and wearing some very silly looking trousery/gaucho/breeches type thing). And whoa, he even shaved his beard! Why, though? We’ve seen plenty of Highlanders with facial hair, right?
Roger makes it through the stones and goes straight to the harbor (as Brianna should have done), and is directed to the captain of a ship about to sail for the Colonies — and of course, it’s Stephen Bonnet, and we know he’s a bad’un even if Roger doesn’t. Bonnet tells Roger that he’s not taking any more passengers, but Roger is persistent, and finally convinces Bonnet to take him on as a crew member.
During the voyage, there’s a smallpox outbreak, and here’s where Roger first sees Bonnet’s true colors. Bonnet orders that anyone with signs of smallpox be thrown overboard, since the disease may otherwise spread throughout the ship. The first victim is a little girl, whom Roger tries desperately to save. But Bonnet does as he wishes, and has an awful Jamie Lannister moment.
On board his own ship, Stephen Bonnet is the law, and everything and everyone is under his power. Roger hides a woman with a baby — the baby has a rash and the woman is afraid that the crew will throw the baby overboard, even though she’s sure it’s just a normal baby rash. The woman’s name is Morag Mackenzie — and book readers know that her child Jemmy is in the direct line of Roger’s ancestors. By saving the baby, he’s ensuring his own existence a couple hundred years later. Bonnet discovers the child, and threatens to kill Roger as punishment, but a flip of a coin saves Roger’s life. Bonnet is the worst.
For an episode without Jamie and Claire, “Down the Rabbit Hole” really rocked. Brianna and Roger’s story is in many ways the heart of Drums of Autumn, and it’s great to see their TV journey kicking into higher gear. We know things won’t be easy for these two, but it’s good to see them on their way. Poor Roger! I can’t help it saying it over and over again, since it always ends up feeling appropriate. So far, we’ve seen him give up his 20th century life, his career, his well-being, and his beard to chase after a woman who doesn’t want him to chase her. She specifically said in her letter now to follow her, so of course that’s exactly what he decides to do. Not that they’re not meant to be, but he really does go through all sorts of torments of hell because of this decision.
Bonnet is despicable, and his easy ability to flip from smiles and friendliness to deadly, amoral murder is a big part of what makes him so scary.
I loved seeing Ian and Lallybroch once again, although I wish Jenny had been home! And I was almost charmed by Laoghaire, who comes across in her first several scenes as sweet, maternal, and caring, a woman deserving of compassion… until she launches into one of her anti-Claire crazypants tirades and loses my goodwill completely.
I suppose the show needed to keep the Brianna and Roger stories in balance throughout the episode, but I did start to feel that the “hanging out with Laoghaire” story stretched out longer than was needed. Thankfully, we’re done there, and can pick back up with Brianna in America in the next episode.
Hurray for Brianna’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder bread! In Voyager, Claire brings the same kind of sandwich through the stones with her and eats it in Edinburgh before seeing Jamie for the first time, but that was omitted from the show in season 3. It’s not particularly important, just a fun little detail to throw in for a bit of color and yet another nod to the source material.
And — hold up! — it was hard to get a good look… but was that Claire’s ring on Bonnet’s hand?
And a final word:
Is anyone else already getting sad over the fact that we’ve passed the half-way point of the season? It seems like season 4 just started, and now suddenly there are only six episodes left!