Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 10

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 410: “The Deep Heart’s Core”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire keep secrets from one another as they try to help Brianna process her recent trauma. But the secrets they keep cause a bigger familial rift once they are revealed.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna and Jamie develop a deeper understanding of one another.
  • Claire offers Brianna a choice about whether to keep or end the pregnancy.
  • POOR ROGER is dragged around for the entire episode by a group of Mohawk.
  • The truth comes out — Brianna finds out what Jamie did to Roger, and is PISSED.
  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian set out to find Roger.
  • Brianna tells Claire that she’s keeping the baby and staying in the 18th century.
  • Murtagh takes Brianna to River Run to stay with Aunt Jocasta while the rest of the family searches for Roger.

Insta-reaction:

Kudos to Sophie Skelton, who gives a powerful performance as Brianna, really selling Bree’s emotional reactions as they run the gamut from despair to the first hint of healing, then rage and a step into the unknown.

First off, the early scene between Jamie and Bree is lovely. Jamie lets Bree know that he knows about the rape. She blames herself for not fighting harder, and despite Jamie stating over and over that it’s not her fault, she really can’t let go of her guilt — until Jamie physically restrains her to show her that she could not have prevented what happened, no matter how hard she struggled, and that she likely could have ended up dead if she’d tried to fight. Bree then surprises Jamie by asking him about the aftermath of his rape. Claire had told Brianna about all that happened at Wentworth. Bree wants to know if killing his rapist helped Jamie heal. He assures her that time, not revenge, is the key.

Life seems to be settling down to normal at the Ridge, with the family spending time together and enjoying the beauty of living there. Claire offers Brianna a choice — she can terminate the pregnancy by surgical abortion if that’s Bree’s wish. She doesn’t want Brianna to be forced into anything, but lets her know that if she wants to end the pregnancy, they need to do it soon. On the other hand, if Bree wants to go back to her own time, she can do that as well — but again, would have to leave now. Claire knows that it’s possible to travel through time while pregnant, but they don’t know if it’s possible to go with a baby. What if Brianna tried to travel but the baby got left behind, or even worse, got lost somewhere in time? If Brianna hopes to go back, it’s got to be now.

The truth about Roger finally comes out, when Lizzie tells Brianna that she knows what happened, and Brianna, horrified, realizes that Lizzie believes Roger is the man who raped her. When she learns that Jamie beat the man he believed to be her rapist, all hell breaks loose. Brianna is righteously furious. Jamie is upset by his anxious, but upset as well that Claire knew that Bonnet was the rapist and didn’t tell him. After Jamie beat Roger, Ian sold him to the Mohawk. They were just traveling through, probably headed back to their lands in upstate New York. Who knows where Roger could be by then, after a week has already gone by?

POOR ROGER. He spends most of this episode being dragged behind a horse, walking all day, every day, at first alongside another prisoner who eventually dies on the road. Roger’s face looks awful. Oh, Jamie, you are a scary man when you’re angry. Roger eventually gets a chance to escape his captors, and runs right into a buzzing circle of stones. At the episode’s end, we see him holding the gems he got from Stephen Bonnet, debating whether to go through the stones, or stay and try to find his way back to Brianna.

Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, Jamie and Ian vow to find Roger for Brianna. Brianna insists that Claire go with them, which makes sense. If he saw Jamie and Ian coming, he’d probably run and never look back! Claire is a familiar face, and what’s more, there’s a good chance he’ll need a doctor. Claire doesn’t want to leave Bree. It may be months before they return. She may not be back in time to deliver the baby. Bree is determined, so they come up with a different plan: Murtagh will take Brianna to River Run, to stay with Aunt Jocasta, who’ll care for her and keep her safe.

Jamie vows to Brianna that he won’t return without Roger. Yikes. That’s a big promise to make.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

A really powerful episode. The father-daughter scene between Jamie and Claire, in which they discuss her rape and Jamie helps her in a very Jamie way, is just full of beauty and emotion. You really feel that these two have a connection, that there’s a growing trust and love between them… which makes it all the harder later on when Bree, in her fury over Roger’s treatment, basically tells Jamie that her REAL father (Frank) was a good man, and Jamie is just a brute. Ouch.

I mean, yes, he did do something terrible to the man she loves, but in Jamie’s defense, he really had no idea. A sucky situation all around, fed by terrible communication (which is a recurring theme in this particular book in the Outlander series.)

Every one was just so good in this episode. Claire didn’t have as many flashy moments, but I did love how we got to see Claire’s determination to give Brianna a choice, and how she presented her with the option to go back to her own time, even though it would break Claire’s heart.

And furthermore…

The scene between Aunt Jocasta and Murtagh made me wonder if all the fan speculation about the two of them ending up together might really be correct! Either that, or the show is just playing with us all.

And how adorable was Ian getting down on one knee to offer to marry Brianna? Gotta love Young Ian.

Claire and Brianna reciting a list of 20th century foods and conveniences they miss was pretty great too. Peanut butter and jelly! And of course, aspirin per the doctor’s orders.

ARGH. Only three episodes left this season! Where did the time go?

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 9

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 409: “The Birds & the Bees”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

As Brianna struggles to compartmentalize the trauma she’s suffered in the wake of the tragedy that befell her in Wilmington, she refocuses on finding her parents.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna deals with the aftermath of her rape.
  • Brianna finds Jamie and Claire!
  • The family spends time together at Fraser’s Ridge. Jamie and Brianna start to bond as father and daughter.
  • Roger is forced to sail further with Stephen Bonnet’s crew before he’s able to return to Brianna.
  • Brianna is pregnant, and tell Claire about the rape.
  • Jamie beats Roger to a bloody pulp, believing he’s the rapist.

Insta-reaction:

The first meeting between Jamie and Brianna is all we could have hoped for! But first, we deal with the aftermath of the rape that occurred at the end of the previous episode.

Brianna returns to her room, stunned and bloody, but refuses Lizzie’s attempts to assist her. While she won’t tell Lizzie what happened, Lizzie sees Brianna’s bruises and her bloody petticoats, and draws her own conclusions.

Roger comes to look for Brianna, but is intercepted by Bonnet, who reminds him that he signed on to be part of Bonnet’s crew for the entire voyage, and they’re not done yet. It would cost Roger a limb or his life to try to run off, so he reluctantly leaves to sail onward with the Gloriana to Philadelphia.

Brianna hears that Roger came looking for her in the morning and left with the Gloriana’s crew, so she rushes to the waterfront, only to find that the ship has already sailed. She believes that Roger is sailing back to Scotland, to return through the stones to the 20th century. Lizzie rushes up with big news — apparently, a Scot’s wife performed surgery on a man at the theater the night before! Sure sounds like something Claire would do, right?

Brianna finds Jamie, and the meeting is lovely and *sniff* there may have been some off-screen tears *in my living room* to go with the tears in Jamie and Brianna’s eyes. Claire is stunned to see Brianna as well. Man, it’s beautiful seeing the three of them together!

Bree meets her cousin Ian, and they all travel back to Fraser’s Ridge together (along with a smitten Lizzie). Murtagh is staying at the Ridge for a while, laying low to avoid capture as a Regulator, so it’s a happy time for the family to be together (and for Murtagh to share embarrassing stories about Jamie’s youth.)

Jamie and Brianna get time to bond and get to know one another. He acknowledges that Frank was a good man who loved Brianna, and tells her that he doesn’t want to take Frank’s place. Brianna starts calling Jamie “Da”. *sniff* *dammit, eyes, stop that!*

Time passes. Eventually, Claire uses her mommy super power to guess that Brianna is pregnant. She’s about two months along, says Brianna, but doesn’t know who the father is. She tells Claire about the rape, but not who did it. Claire shares the news with Jamie. Later, Claire finds her missing wedding ring among Brianna’s belongings, and realizes that Stephen Bonnet is the man who raped her daughter. Brianna confirms this, but makes Claire promise not to tell Jamie — she’s afraid that Jamie would try to find Bonnet to get revenge and would end up getting killed himself.

And we end with yet another “Poor Roger!!” moment. Roger finds his way to Fraser’s Ridge. Lizzie sees him coming, and identifies him to Ian as the man she saw man-handling Brianna in the street. Ian brings her to Jamie, where she tells more of the story, including what Brianna looked like when she returned to the room in the inn after being raped. Jamie goes off in a fury and pounds Roger until he’s a bloody, unconscious mess. He then throws him over a horse and tells Ian to get rid of him.

All together now — poor Roger!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

The episode feels very true to the book, down to the details of Jamie and Brianna’s meeting, as well as the ending with Jamie and Roger. True, some elements are altered or embellished, but the overall story flows from the source material, and it’s quite effective.

I can’t say enough good things about the acting here. Caitriona Balfe has one of the most beautifully expressive faces on television, and she’s stunning here as Claire experiences both the joy of reuniting with the daughter she never expected to see again, and the horrified pain of a mother who learns about the suffering of her child.

Not to shortchange the rest of the cast — Jamie and Brianna’s initial scene together is lovely and emotional, and their subsequent conversations are just the right mix of nervousness, hesitation, love, and joy. They look wonderful together as well – such a terrific father/daughter pairing.

Oh, Roger… We never actually believed that he’d leave after storming off like that last episode, did we? Of course not! His beating is brutal and horrible to watch, as Jamie takes out his fury on the face of the man he believes hurt his beloved daughter. It’s scary seeing Jamie like that, and Roger’s life is hanging in the balance.

And furthermore…

Just a beautifully created and performed episode, capturing the small moments as well as the big ones. Kudos to the show — so well done.

I can’t wait for next week! Although I’m already getting in some pre-Droughtlander mourning, knowing there are only four episodes left in the season. How did season 4 go by so quickly?

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 8

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 408: “Wilmington”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Roger’s diligent search for Brianna pays off when he finds her in Wilmington, but their romantic reunion comes to an abrupt halt when she discovers pertinent information that he intentionally kept from her.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Everyone is in Wilmington!
  • Claire and Jamie visit Fergus, Marsali, and their new baby Germain, then go to the theater with Governor Tryon.
  • Jamie keeps Murtagh from being arrested.
  • Brianna and Roger are reunited, spend a blissful night together, fight, and part.
  • Brianna has a horrific encounter with the despicable Stephen Bonnet.

Insta-reaction:

The end of this episode is so upsetting that I don’t really feel like writing a reaction post at all… but for the sake of being complete, I’ll go ahead — but it’ll likely be a short one. I’ll talk about all the other stuff first, before getting to Brianna and Roger.

Episode 408, “Wilmington”, brings all the main characters to the same place, although they don’t all cross paths at this point. Claire and Jamie are in town to visit new parents Fergus and Marsali. Marsali is overwhelmed by her love for their baby boy, Germain, and she and Claire share a sweet moment discussing the joy and pain of motherhood.

Jamie and Claire have been invited by the governor to attend the theater and meet more of North Carolina’s bigwigs. It’s fun to see Jamie’s Paris clothing back in action, and Claire looks lovely as always in her fancy clothes from Aunt Jocasta. At the theater, Claire notices that one of Tryon’s associates seems to be in pain. Doctor Claire wants to jump in and offer treatment, but is basically told to stick to lady stuff and let menfolk deal with doctoring. Okay… but later, when Claire performs surgery on the man’s hernia in the theater lobby, with an audience looking on, she definitely gets some respect. And applause.

Meanwhile, Jamie learns from Tryon that a trap has been set for a bunch of the Regulators, and…

Oops, sorry, fell asleep for a moment there. Ugh, the Regulators. That piece of the plot is just not interesting. (My apologies, Murtagh — even you can’t make it exciting to watch a gang of people being pissed about taxes.)

So anyway — Jamie learns that this trap planned by the governor will lead to the capture of a bunch of insurgents, along with their leader, Murgh Fitzgibbons. While Claire is performing surgical heroics, Jamie slips away for a moment and sends Fergus to intercept Murtagh just in the nick of time, enabling him to avoid capture after all.

Moving on…

Who would have thought that the highest drama in an Outlander episode would have nothing to do with Claire and Jamie? Once again, we have an episode where the truly important elements belong to Roger and Brianna. After searching and searching, Roger finally finds Brianna in a tavern, where she’s inquiring about how to get to Cross Creek. She turns and sees Roger. They have a lovely moment, before she realizes that he followed her back through time — that wasn’t the plan!

They argue, both in the tavern and out on the street, and Brianna’s maid Lizzie watches through the window. From Lizzie’s perspective, it looks like Roger is some rando who dragged her mistress outside, yelled at her in the street, and then pulled her off somewhere. That’s not going to be a problem later on, is it?

Bree and Roger soon admit how happy they are to see one another, and Brianna finally tells Roger that she loves him. They find a conveniently empty barn nearby where they can smooch. One things leads to another and… no, they’re not quite tearing off each other’s clothes just yet — they’re getting married! There’s a Scottish tradition called handfasting, kind of an informal way for them to marry one another, and so they do. It’s a sweet, romantic moment as they pledge their love, declare themselves man and wife, and then proceed with having a wedding night. It’s Brianna’s first time, and she enjoys it, as does Roger.

Unfortunately for Roger, his post-coital pillow talk gives away the fact that he knew about the obituary describing the Fraser’s Ridge fire, and that he knew about it before Brianna had left to find her way to her mother. Brianna is furious that Roger withheld this information from her. He yells that he just wanted her to be happy, and what could she have done anyway? This, Brianna tells him. She would have done exactly what’s she doing — find her mother and try to warn her. Their fight escalates, Roger seems to be saying that she needs to listen to him because she’s his wife now, Brianna overreacts to his having discussed their business with Fiona, and before we can take more than a few breaths, Roger storms off. (To be fair, Bree tells him to go. But he goes! He shouldn’t have gone.)

In tears, Brianna makes her way back to the inn where she and Lizzie are staying, and her night goes from bad to the worst. Because of course Stephen Bonnet is there gambling, with Claire’s ring in his hand, and when Brianna asks to buy it back from him, he drags her into an adjoining room, beats her, and rapes her. It’s a terrible scene, which doesn’t get shown on screen; instead, we see the men continuing to drink and play cards even as Brianna’s screams can be heard from the other room. When he’s done, Bonnet gives Bree the ring as “payment”, and Brianna shuffles off in shock.

Like I said, just a horrifying conclusion to the episode.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

It’s hard to criticize the show for the plot in this episode, because while events are slightly altered, it’s really at heart all from the book. The reunion, the hand-fasting, the wedding night, the argument and separation, and then Bree’s rape — maybe they happen with different timing and slightly different context in the book, but it’s all there.

Does it make sense for Roger to leave Brianna like that, even while she’s telling him to? Not at all. He just traveled 200 years and crossed an ocean to find her. Is he really going to just leave the love of his life, to whom he just pledged himself til death do them part, to figure things out all alone in a time not her own? It’s a plot point that has to happen, because it drives so much of what’s still to come, but I kind of hate it. They’re both hotheads and neither backs down when they’re angry, and the show has done a good job of showing us this in earlier episodes.. but it still is hard to believe that Roger would walk out like that. And, let’s give him a little credit, that Brianna would push him to go.

The Bonnet business… well, the least said, the better. It’s ugly and awful, and again, critical to future plot developments, but still a disgusting thing to have to watch. At least here the show has an improvement over the book, in which Brianna goes to Stephen Bonnet’s ship to retrieve her mother’s ring, basically walking right into danger. Not that what happens is her fault in any way, but her innocence and lack of judgment in the situation feel out of character for a savvy 20th century city girl. Here in the episode, Brianna doesn’t seek out Stephen Bonnet, simply has the misfortune to cross paths with him.

My overwhelming feeling after watching this episode is a mix of sorrow and anger. The Brianna and Roger storylines end in such an upsetting way that it’s hard to focus on Claire and Jamie’s parts of the story or to feel at all good about what I’ve just watched.

And furthermore…

Okay, all that said, I’ll end on a more upbeat note. First off, here comes the General! (Sorry, Hamil-geeking out for a second…) No, he’s not a general yet, but it’s still quite fun to see George Washington, and to see Claire trying to keep cool around the future father of the nation.

A few episodes ago, I mentioned that Claire’s medical treatment of Rufus on Jocasta’s dining room table was probably meant to replace the hernia surgery she did there in the books. Well, here we get the hernia surgery, performed for an audience as in the book, with Claire putting all those doubting men in their place by saving a man’s life through her amazing skills (and without ruining her glorious white fancy dress). Claire rocks. If I ever go through the stones and travel back in time, remind me to take Claire along!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 7

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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.

My take:

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.

Insta-reaction:

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?

Beards are glorious, aye?

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.

Not quite the Outlander scene, but pretty darn close

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.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

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.

And furthermore…

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!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 6

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 406: “Blood of My Blood”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire are surprised when Lord John Grey drops in on Fraser’s Ridge with an unexpected traveling companion. When Grey takes ill, Claire must reconcile her personal feelings with her duties as a doctor.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Guests come calling at Fraser’s Ridge! It’s Lord John and Willie — that would be young William, Jamie’s illegitimate son.
  • Dinner conversation gets awkward. Murtagh and Lord John do not see eye to eye.
  • Lord John comes down with measles. Jamie takes William out camping while John is contagious.
  • Claire tends to John, and the two have some intense conversations.
  • Jamie and William come close to getting killed by Cherokees.
  • Everyone is okay in the end!
  • Jamie gives Claire a new silver ring to replace the one stolen by Stephen Bonnet. Claire likes it.
  • Jamie and Claire get a little quality alone time together.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 406, “Blood of My Blood” — a lot of intense relationship drama, but an odd confrontation with a group of Cherokees threw me off kilter a bit.

It was sweet seeing John and Jamie greet each other after all these years. A little bit awkward too — what, no hug? Apparently, the two old friends/former warden and prisoner have been corresponding regularly, since John knew about Jamie’s new home on Fraser’s Ridge, and apparently knew that Claire had returned from wherever she was for 20 years. (THE FUTURE, John — she was in the FUTURE.)

William introduces himself to Jamie, but later realizes that this man is actually Mac, the former groom from Helwater who taught him to ride and was so important to him. He questions Jamie about why he didn’t say so in the first place. Jamie doesn’t have a good answer for this. Question: Is this the same young actor who played season 3 William? There’s a similar look, but this one looks a lot older (as he should).

[Answer (thanks, IMDb!) – no, it’s not the same actor, but they do look alike! Season 3 Willie is played by Clark Butler, and season 4 William (he’s grown up now, thank you very much) is played by Oliver Finnegan.

Season 3

Season 4

Murtagh is still visiting at Fraser’s Ridge, although he needs to get back to town to work at his smithy and also be a rabble-rousing Regulator. He and John square off over dinner over loyalty to Governor Tryon and the British government versus exploitation of the common folk. Needless to say, they do not see eye to eye. Later, Murtagh learns that William is actually Jamie’s son.

When John becomes ill, Claire worries that William may have been infected as well. She and Jamie are both immune — Jamie since he had measles as a child, and Claire thanks to being innoculated (yay, 20th century medicine!). The contagious period lasts six days, so Claire puts John to bed where she can care for him, and Jamie sets out to ride around the wilderness with William until the six days have passed. William is not down with this plan, and kicks up a fuss until Jamie picks him up and basically throws him on a horse. Nice parenting, Jamie.

Claire and John are a little prickly with one another. Well, Claire is the most prickly. John is mostly just desperately feverish and miserable. Claire pushes John to admit why he really came to Fraser’s Ridge, since it wasn’t really on his way. Was it to rub her face in his shared past with Jamie? Was he trying to make her jealous? No, really, it turns out that John’s wife Isobel died recently, and John was saddened to realize that he felt nothing. He needed to come see Jamie to find out if he could still feel anything at all. Turns out, yes, he could.

Claire and John finally understand one another, and end up offering one another an odd sort of friendship and respect.

Meanwhile, Jamie and William have a pretty good time out in the woods, where William learns to fish the Highlander way, shoots a deer and guts it himself, and spends some manly time with his bio dad. But when William crosses the boundary line into Cherokee territory, of course a group of Cherokee come along right then and threaten to kill one or both of them. William protects Jamie after Jamie tries to protect William, and the Cherokee, respecting William’s bravery, end up leaving without any murder happening.

Jamie and William return to the cabin to find a recovered John, and by the time John and William leave, William’s connection to Jamie has been reestablished. They share a final look as William rides away, not knowing when or if they’ll see each other again.

Later, Jamie and Claire are finally alone (since Ian is out on a hunting trip with some Cherokee friends). Jamie gives Claire a bath, then presents her with a new silver ring with a thistle-pattern design, made from his mother’s silver candlestick. Inside the ring is the inscription “da mi basia mille” — give me a thousand kisses. It’s a sweet, romantic moment, and leads to some sexy post-bath fireside love. These two… It’s nice to see that they’ve still got it!

The ring!!!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I could have done without the Cherokee scene this episode. It wasn’t at all necessary, other than to show Jamie declaring William to be his son in an effort to convince the Cherokee to kill him instead of William. Were they really going to kill William over a fish that he handed right back to them? Really? And are these different Cherokee than the ones Jamie established a friendship with and Ian is now spending time with? It was sweet that William threw himself in front of Jamie to save him, but the whole thing felt contrived to me, and I’m not particularly comfortable with scenes like this that show the Cherokee being unreasonably violent and murderous. Just seemed out of place, in my humble opinion.

Ha, this episode included the mother of awkward conversations. In his feverish delirium, John tells Claire that he could have had Jamie if he’d wanted to, when Jamie offered to repay John for adopting William by offering him his body. Claire seemed more than a little stunned by this, but where was the follow-up? John didn’t offer further explanation (although he did apologize for being offensive while sick), and we don’t see Claire asking Jamie about this. Wouldn’t you think a wife might ask her husband a few questions on the matter?

I did think it was funny when John made a point of telling Claire that he was an adequate husband to Isobel IN ALL WAYS. Um, Claire, that means that he did sleep with her. So quit acting like it was weird, even though he described his relationship with Isobel as being like brother and sister. At least William had loving parents!

And furthermore…

I liked all the little nods to favorite moments and icons from the books, including the snake in the privy in the opening shot, the resurrection of the silver ring and its inscription as described in the very first Outlander novel, and all the little bits of dialogue lifted straight from the text. It makes my bookish heart all warm and tingly to see the show honoring the source material, and makes me feel even more appreciative of the writers and showrunners for recognizing the importance of these moments.

It’s also really fun to play “spot the moment” with the images from the opening song. We’ve seen a bunch now — the arrival at River Run, the folding hands, the bath — but there are so many good ones still to come!

Can we please do something about this hair?

But a final note — can someone please give Jamie a haircut? Those fringe-y bangs are making me bonkers. Just grow them out or pull them back or something! Don’t get me wrong, Jamie can never look bad… but that hair style is doing him no favors.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 5

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 405: “Savages”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire’s medical expertise proves invaluable, but she begins to fear for her life when tragedy strikes her patients’ household. Jamie and Young Ian travel to a nearby town to recruit settlers for Fraser’s Ridge.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian have built a nice home for themselves in the mountains.
  • Jamie and Ian travel to town to try to recruit settlers for Fraser’s Ridge, while Claire attends the birth of a baby to a nearby German family.
  • Herr Mueller almost shoots a group of Cherokees, but Claire makes peace.
  • When Herr Mueller’s family dies of measles, he blames the Cherokee and takes revenge.
  • Jamie meets many Scots in town, but none are willing to settle on land and then lose it when they can’t pay their taxes.
  • MURTAGH LIVES!!!
  • Murtagh is also a Regulator, so there’s that.
  • Meanwhile, in 1971, Roger discovers that Brianna has gone to Craig na Dunh to attempt to travel through the stones and find her parents.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 405, “Savages” — wow, so much to love!

First off, nice job on the cabin, Jamie! That’s a mighty fine looking home there on Fraser’s Ridge, with lovely furniture, a comfy feel to it, and a nice batch of livestock, including the infamous white sow. I might not want to live there full-time, but that looks like an awesome vacation getaway, doesn’t it?

Claire has grown closer to the healer from the Cherokee settlement, who teaches Claire about local herbs and gives her language lessons. They’re really sweet together. Kind of gave me chills when she told Claire “She is here” about Brianna — although naturally Claire thought she meant “here” as in always in Claire’s heart. Little does Claire know…

Herr Mueller’s daughter gives birth to a healthy baby girl, and the family is extremely grateful to Claire. He loses his shit completely, though, when he sees a group of Cherokee stopping to water their horses at the stream in front of his house — stealing his water, according to him. Jerk. Claire prevents a shoot-out and convinces everyone to calm down, but when the Cherokee leader sprinkles herbs over the water as a blessing, Herr Mueller is convinced that he’s cursed the water.

Later, when the daughter and her baby die quickly from measles, he’s even more certain of the curse, and comes to Claire to show that he’s taken care of everything — by presenting her with the Cherokee healer woman’s scalp. Claire is horrified. Violence begets violence, you know, so that night the Cherokee shoot up the Mueller cabin with flaming arrows, and Herr Mueller and his wife both die. Yeesh.

Jamie has the more peaceful story this episode. He and Ian pass out flyers and try to recruit Scotsmen to come settle on Fraser’s Ridge, but the people they meet, while very polite, are having none of it. They’ve already all lost farmland to unscrupulous tax collectors, and aren’t willing to go through that again.

Jamie sends Ian off to get the horse’s bit fixed, and we hear a familiar voice coming out of the blacksmith’s mouth…

MURTAGH!!!!

IT’S MURTAGH! HE’S ALIVE! And damn, he looks good with white hair!

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Everyone’s favorite godfather is alive and well and living in North Carolina, having survived being transported to North America and spending years in indentured servitude. The reunion between Jamie and Murtagh is all we could have hoped. (I’m not crying – you’re crying!) But Murtagh surprisingly turns down Jamie’s invitation to come make a home on Fraser’s Ridge. It turns out that Murtagh is a ringleader of the Regulators, a groups who are stirring up rebellion against the tax collectors. Uh oh. I smell politics! Jamie never can stay clear of trouble for very long, can he?

The episode ends with a brilliant scene as Claire hears a stranger approach the cabin whistling… the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B! I adored her reunion with Murtagh — the absolute joy and affection on their faces!

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But wait, that’s not quite all — let’s not forget about our 20th century storyline, which is really heating up in its short scenes this week. It’s 1971, and Roger has followed Brianna to Inverness. He learns that she took a one-way taxi trip to Craigh na Dun, then asks Miss Baird at the local B&B if perhaps Brianna left anything behind when she checked out. After some hesitation, she hands over a letter addressed to Roger — her instructions were to wait a year and then mail it, but she caves to Roger’s look of woe and hands it over. Brianna’s letter to Roger is brief: She’s found out that something bad will happen to her parents, and she’s going to try to get to them to stop it. Must be the fire Roger learned about in the last episode! She closes by telling Roger that she really did care for him, and asks him not to follow her. He looks broken-hearted, poor lad.

And then we see Brianna, dressed in a 70s version of ye olde clothing — looks like Gunne Sax to me. (Remember those? Anyone?) She approaches the standing stones on Craigh na Dun, and then… she’s gone!

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Am I starting to sound like a broken record? I can’t help it — this really is another terrific episode! Through the opening scenes of the family bustling around the cabin and Claire spending time with the Cherokee healer, we get a visual sense of how time has passed and how much Fraser’s Ridge has become their home.

Nothing about this episode can top the reappearance of Murtagh for me. We’ve been waiting for it, not all that patiently, ever since we saw him being led away from Ardsmuir last season. It was totally expected, and yet totally stunning to hear that gravelly voice being rude to Young Ian in such a perfectly Murtagh sort of way.

The Mueller storyline is awful and tragic, and drives home the ironic episode title. Just who are the savages here?

And furthermore…

I’ve liked the little scenes of Roger and Brianna so far this season, and I’m ready for their storyline to kick into high gear. The show is sowing little seeds about the upcoming developments, including this episode’s weird but touching moment of Jamie describing his dream of Brianna’s birthmark to Claire. Okay, Jamie’s clairvoyant now? Brianna is coming to him in dreams? Doesn’t matter — it’s goofy (it’s also in the book), but it’s still sweet. Bring on the big Jamie/Brianna scene already!

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 4

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 404: “Common Ground”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Having been led by providence to Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie, Claire and Young Ian begin to build a home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the 20th Century, Rober tries to reconnect with Brianna.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • The Frasers say goodbye to Fergus and Marsali and depart for the mountains.
  • They reach Fraser’s Ridge and start to build a home there.
  • Their Cherokee neighbors aren’t thrilled to have them around.
  • After killing a bear-monster (you’ll see), Jamie reaches an accord with the Cherokee and they agree to live in peace with one another.
  • Meanwhile, in 1971, Roger finds evidence that Claire found Jamie and that they settled in North Carolina. He shares the news with Brianna.
  • According to Brianna’s roommate, Brianna has gone to visit her mother. Uh oh…

Insta-reaction:

Episode 404, “Common Ground”, is yet another slow-build episode — not that that’s a bad thing; it’s just tonally different than the hectic pace of episodes from previous seasons. In this episode, the emphasis is on Claire and Jamie’s journey to establish their new home. Yes, there’s some danger and excitement along the way, but your enjoyment of this episode might be directly proportional to how much you enjoy watching people chop down trees, smoke meat, and use a whetstone. (I liked it! Call me an armchair woodswoman, I guess.)

First off, there’s a tender good-bye. Marsali is now visibly pregnant, and she tearfully confesses to Claire that she misses her mother. It’s a sweet moment, as Marsali acknowledges the bad blood between Claire and Laoghaire, and Claire actually says something nice about (the evil witch) Laoghaire by reassuring Marsali that she was a good mother, and that Marsali will be too. It’s a shame that Claire won’t be present to care for Marsali during the birth. Meanwhile, Jamie needs more settlers for Fraser’s Ridge, and Fergus’s mission is to recruit people, preferably Scots, and preferably some of Jamie’s Ardsmuir men. So can we finally get Murtagh??? Please?? After the baby is born, Fergus and Marsali will move to the Ridge as well.

Off the Frasers go, with Young Ian and Rollo, to pursue the American dream. Jamie is super excited to stake out the new homestead and plan the cabin he’ll build, but the group is unsettled by a visit from some Cherokee, who glare at them menacingly and then depart. Are they threatening the Frasers? Will there be violence? One of the horses is injured by (what they assume to be) a bear, and some nights later, Jamie encounters the bear in the woods, only to realize that it’s a man dressed up as a bear with deadly claws. The man-bear tries to kill Jamie (he’d already severely wounded John Quincy Myers), but Jamie manages to kill the man-bear instead.

 

Jamie brings the man’s body to the Cherokee camp, and it turns out that one of their men speaks English. He explains that the dead man was exiled from the tribe and went mad. Jamie and the Cherokee declare their intentions to live in peace, and later, some members of the tribe come to visit at Fraser’s Ridge. An older woman describes a vision she’s had of Claire’s future, both of Claire’s growing power as a healer and a more ominous statement about something (unnamed) that will happen that won’t be Claire’s fault. Not that that’s creepy or anything.

And wait, there’s more! In 1971, Roger is back at Oxford, missing Brianna — he hasn’t seen her since their big fight at the festival in North Carolina. As he reads a book about Scottish settlement in colonial North Carolina, he comes across a picture of a place identified as Fraser’s Ridge. He reaches out to the book’s author, and receives documents back including a copy of the document signed by James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, a plan of their land, and a letter describing Fraser’s Ridge and a woman named Claire who was a healer. At last — proof that Claire survived her trip through the stones and reunited with Jamie! Not only that, but basically an address for where Claire and Jamie settled. Roger calls Brianna with the news, in a very awkward trans-Atlantic phone call. Brianna is thrilled, but there’s clearly a lot of unspoken emotion between Roger and Brianna.

By the end of the episode, Roger makes two more unexpected discoveries. First, Fiona gives him a copy of an obituary from a newspaper in the 1770s, relating the deaths of James and Claire Fraser. The year is illegible. Roger decides not to tell Brianna — why burden her with knowing that her parents only had a few years together before dying tragically? When he tries to call Brianna again, her roommate Gail answers. Didn’t Roger know? asks Gail — Brianna left a few weeks ago to go to Scotland to visit her mother. Uh oh! It seems that a certain red-head is on her way to Craigh na Dun!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I really liked the outdoorsy feel of the episode, seeing Jamie’s joy at building a home for his family, and Claire’s delight in working with Jamie to start something new and special. Ian was adorable as always… and Rollo! Well, Rollo is always amazing. Good dog, Rollo.

I love that Claire and Jamie are never far away from expressing their love, devotion, and attraction at any given moment. These two are just perfection.

The show is being very careful to be sensitive in its portrayal of the Cherokee. So far, so good. Let’s see how this progresses.

I was waiting for Jamie to wrassle a bear like he does in the book — but I suppose it would be pretty tricky to actual film something like that, and we wouldn’t want to add any real scars to all the prosthetic scars Sam Heughan already has to deal with. So the substitution of a crazy man who thinks he’s a bear is okay by me… although I do miss the book scene of Claire slapping the bear with a fish. What a great scene! (Go look it up if you haven’t read it!)

I’m liking Roger and Brianna’s story so far this season too. They’re getting enough screen time to start building up interest, but not enough at this point to frustrate viewers by taking away from Claire and Jamie time.

 

And furthermore…

Claire finally broke out her britches! I was thinking early in the episode how annoying it must be to chop and build and haul things in the middle of the woods while wearing full skirts and petticoats… and by the end of the episodes, Claire’s in pants and looking SO much more comfortable.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 3

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 403: “The False Bride”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire search for a place to call home. Meanwhile, in the 20th century, Brianna and Roger’s romance heats up and then fizzles during a road trip that winds up highlighting their differences.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie and Claire leave River Run to set out for the mountains, planning to settle in a town there and start a new life.
  • A thunderstorm strands them in the woods, where Claire discovers a strange skull.
  • They find a beautiful location and decide to settle there.
  • In 1970, Roger and Brianna go to a Scottish festival in North Carolina.
  • Roger proposes to Brianna, but she’s not ready for marriage.
  • This seems to be the end of their relationship. *sniff*

Insta-reaction:

Episode 403, “The False Bride”, is not particularly action-packed, but it does present some iconic moments and emblems near and dear to book-readers’ hearts, and sets the tone for both Claire and Jamie’s new life as well as the 20th century story involving Brianna and Roger.

Jocasta blames Claire for denying Jamie a good life as a landowner, a chance to become the laird he was meant to be, but Claire holds her own. Jocasta is one tough cookie, but Claire’s spine is just as strong. Meanwhile, Ian asserts himself to Jamie and makes Jamie see that Ian isn’t a “lad” to have all his decisions made for him anymore. Jamie graciously concedes that Ian is man enough to make up his own mind now, and Ian chooses to stay in America with Jamie and Auntie Claire. Luckily for all concerned, there aren’t any telephones, so they won’t be on the receiving end of some choice words from Jenny when she finally finds out that her boy isn’t coming home to her after all.

And we meet yet another important four-legged Outlander character: Clarence the mule! I admit it — I giggled when he was introduced. Clarence, like Rollo, is a part of the story and a member of the Fraser family.

Claire and Jamie get some quality time together in the woods, riding, talking, and camping under the stars. Jamie worries that he has nothing to offer Claire, but as she makes clear, all she really wants and has dreamed of is the chance to finally create a home with him. Just think of it — all these years, all these adventures, and yet Claire and Jamie have never truly had a home together. They also discuss Brianna’s future and her lack of career plans. For Jamie, it’s unheard of for a young adult to be trying to find their direction in life — either they have a calling, such as Claire being born to be a healer, or they go into their family’s trade. No such thing as being “undeclared” in the 18th century!

The discovery of the skull and Claire’s vision of the Native American ghost is pretty much straight from the book. Hate to say it, but the bit with her shoes comes off a bit silly on the screen, but that’s okay — I don’t suppose it’s any sillier than touching a big stone and traveling 200 years, is it?

There are key discoveries on the trip — a patch of strawberries, the opal, the silver fillings on the skull. I love how the show keeps to the important visuals that really call back to the source material, yet feel organic as presented. The view of Fraser’s Ridge is just absolutely lovely. It’s easy to see how Jamie and Claire could be swept away by the sight, and feel so strong a connection to this place, enough to want to make it their own.

Meanwhile, I was really charmed by the 20th century storyline. As always, the show does a great job of setting the tone through the clothing, music, cars, and even fast-food choices that surround the characters. It was so nice to see Brianna and Roger again, and the juxtaposition of a Highland fair in the North Carolina hills with Jamie and Claire’s travels through the same land worked really well. The festival was perfect, and I loved seeing Brianna and Roger enjoying themselves together, especially in a setting where Brianna could feel connected to her Scottish roots.

Ah, and let’s not forget the silver bracelet! Another book element, nicely done.

It all falls apart, of course. Roger is in love with Brianna, and while she’s ready to sleep with him, he only wants her sexually in the context of committing to a life together. He is a bit much in this scene, although with the best of intentions and the biggest heart. Still, he’s not doing a great job of reading Brianna — the more he gushes on about getting married, having a home, having a bunch of kids, the more freaked out Brianna gets. It’s not just that she’s young, still in college, still trying to figure out what she wants in life. She’s also haunted by not knowing what’s become of her mother. Did she make it back to Jamie? Are they together? Are they safe? What’s more, Brianna is well aware of her mother’s own history, having fallen in love at a young age and gotten married, then finding that her heart belonged elsewhere. Brianna is worried that it’s too soon for her to make a big decision like marriage, but Roger takes this as rejection.

I can relate to Brianna’s reaction, absolutely — it does feel quick, and so much in her life is up in the air. She has feelings for Roger, but she’s not ready to decide her whole life at the moment. Sigh. An ongoing refrain for so many fans while reading the books is “Poor Roger!” — Diana Gabaldon just isn’t kind to his character. Sadly, the end of this episode is the first “Poor Roger” moment, but it won’t be the last.

(Poor Roger!)

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This was a slower episode, in many ways, yet I loved it. The focus here is on the characters and their relationships, and I felt like this episode gave the two couples room to talk, to relate, and to plan. Sadly for Roger and Brianna, things are bumpy, but of course this is just the beginning of their story. Meanwhile, Jamie and Claire have a mostly peaceful ride together, and it’s just right and sweet and deserved for these two to have time to be happy and safe in one another’s company.

And furthermore…

I know this season was filmed in Scotland, but damn! They’re making fake North Carolina look so, so beautiful!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 2

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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 402: “Do No Harm”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie visit his Aunt Jocasta at her plantation, River Run. When tragedy strikes at the plantation, Jamie and Claire find themselves caught between what’s right and the law of the land.

My take:

Major plot points:

Picking up on the river:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian arrive at River Run, Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s prosperous plantation.
  • Claire makes her feelings about slavery very clear.
  • Jocasta announces that she’s named Jamie her heir and manager of her business — meaning he (and Claire) will be de facto slave owners.
  • A slave named Rufus injures an overseer. Claire saves him from a gruesome death, only to discover that the law is not on her side.
  • The neighboring plantation owners and overseers demand that Jamie hand over Rufus, or they’ll attack River Run.
  • Claire and Jamie face an impossible choice — turn Rufus over, where he’ll be tortured and killed, or give him a painless death themselves.

Oh, and Ian learns about that fearsome North American mammal, the skunk.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 402, “Do No Harm” does not mince words when it comes to making clear what an awful chapter of American history Jamie and Claire find themselves in. The show tackles slavery head-on, and despite wanting to do good, Jamie and Claire are pretty much slapped in the face by how powerless they are to make any difference.

First, though, we have the aftermath of the attack on the river. Jamie blames himself, of course, both for trusting Stephen Bonnet in the first place, and then for failing to protect the people under his protection. Poor Lesley has been buried on the riverbank. Now that Bonnet has stolen all their money and gemstones, Jamie and Claire arrive at Jocasta’s as poor relations, with basically nothing to their names but the clothes on their backs.

Auntie Jocasta, played by the amazing Maria Kennedy Doyle, is glorious. She’s self-assured and regal, and it’s not until Ian tries to present her with flowers that the Frasers realize that she’s blind. Aided by her right-hand man, the house slave Ulysses, Jocasta is always in control. Jamie is fond of her, especially as she reminds him so much of his mother (her sister), but Jocasta and Claire butt heads pretty quickly, as Claire expresses just how wrong she thinks slavery is.

Jocasta invites all her neighbors to a party welcoming Jamie and Claire, and makes the surprise announcement that Jamie will be both her heir and her business representative, effective immediately. As Jamie points out, it’s quite the Mackenzie move — by announcing it publicly, she basically backs Jamie into a corner and doesn’t leave him any room to decline.

Jamie immediately jumps in with his intent to free all the slaves once he’s in control and pay the men and women a wage for their work. His idealistic views are quickly shut down by Jocasta and her trusted friend Farquard Campbell. The law of North Carolina places so many obstacles in the way that even with the best of intentions, Jamie could not possibly hope to afford the amount that would be necessary to pay as bond for all of Jocasta’s slaves, not to mention being able to prove that each freed slave had earned their freedom through meritorious service — saving a life.

Jamie and Claire are never not in trouble for very long. When word comes that an overseer has been attacked by a slave, Jamie and Claire rush to the scene. The slave, Rufus, is being strung up on a tree by a hook through his belly. Claire has him cut down and brought back to the main house, where she proceeds to perform surgery on him right on Jocasta’s dining room table. Claire’s amazing, so of course she’s successful, and Rufus stands a good chance at recovering…

… but that sucks too, because the overseers are demanding blood. They want Rufus, or they’ll attack River Run and take him. A deal is struck — Jamie will hand him over at midnight. Ulysses points out to Claire that it would have been better for her to let the boy die. At least, it would have been relatively quick. Now with the furious overseers demanding “justice”, he’ll be ripped apart.

Jamie points out to Claire that perhaps her oath to “do no harm” might mean in this case that she give poor Rufus an easier death than the one that awaits him at the hands of the mob. In tears, Claire agrees, giving Rufus a tea laced with aconite, then talking quietly with him and holding his hands as he dies. As the clock strikes midnight, Jamie carries Rufus’s body outside, where the angry mob drags him through the dirt and strings him up from a tree.

Welcome to the South, Claire. Maybe North Carolina isn’t the best place for the Frasers to settle down after all.

Further musings:

We meet a favorite book character in this episode, John Quincy Myers, a mountain man who will interact with the Frasers in their future adventures. He and Ian share a very cute scene in which they treat Rollo after his encounter with a skunk and talk about Myers’s experiences with Indian women. Ian seems to be finding a lot to admire about Myers. It’s pretty much the only light scene in the episode, which may be why I enjoyed it so much.

I assume since we just saw Claire doing surgery on the dining room table, we won’t get the book scene of Claire doing surgery in the same location on John Quincy Myers’s… um… private parts… during a dinner party, with a crowd of onlookers. But damn, that would have been funny.

Other key book characters introduced include Phaedre, Farquard Campbell, and Lieutenant Wolff. These are all characters we see a lot of in the books, but I suppose it’ll depend on how much emphasis and screen time River Run gets in the TV version whether we see much more of them.

And one more thing:

Claire is gorgeous in red — reminded me of those bad old days at Versailles! She looks lovely in Jocasta’s white dress too. I really liked the scene of Jocasta deciding how Claire should look, even though she can’t actually see her. Jocasta is no one to be trifled with.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another strong episode, although the romantic in me missed having any Jamie/Claire intimacy this episode. Oh, get your minds out of the gutters! It’s not about the sex, but I missed seeing them having any deeply connected moments. (I know, it wouldn’t have fit at all in the mood of the episode… but I just love them together, always.)

And furthermore…

It was good to see that Jamie and Claire are on the same page when it comes to this chapter of history. In their earlier days together, Claire was often at odds with Jamie, who struggled to understand her point of view and often ended up explaining traditions and customs of the times to Claire. Here, they’re both strangers in a strange land, figuring it out together, and they’re a united team. Despite the painful subject matter and the no-win situation they’re in in regard to Jamie being Jocasta’s heir, it’s clear that Jamie is on the same side as Claire when it comes to slavery and the impossibility of them accepting the status quo or being a part of it in any way.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 1

Season 4 has begun! 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.

Warning:

Spoilers

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 401: “America the Beautiful”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie cross paths with Stephen Bonnet, a pirate and smuggler who enlists their help. Claire illuminates Jamie on some of America’s history, leading him to wonder if it’s possible for them to lay down some roots.

My take:

Major plot points:

Aaaaaand we’re back! It’s 1767, in North Carolina:

  • Jamie’s friend Gavin Hayes, who was imprisoned with him at Ardsmuir and came on the journey last season to find Ian, has been sentenced to death for killing a man. While Jamie had an escape attempt planned, Gavin feels he deserves to pay for his crime and asks for the rescue attempt to be cancelled.
  • Gavin is hanged, but other prisoners escape.
  • Jamie and Claire plan to sail back to Scotland as soon as they can sell some gemstones in order to afford the voyage. First, they need to bury Gavin, and take his body to a cemetery.
  • They find one of the escaped prisoners hiding in their wagon, a man named Stephen Bonnet, who describes himself as a smuggler and a pirate, and asks for help in escaping. Because he claims to have been a friend of Gavin’s, Jamie agrees to help.
  • Jamie and Claire, along with Ian and Lindsay, sail upriver. They’re heading toward River Run, the plantation owned by Jamie’s aunt Jocasta.
  • On the river, they’re attacked by a band led by Stephen Bonnet. He kills Lesley, beats Jamie, and steals their gemstones and one of Claire’s wedding rings.

Insta-reaction:

Season 4 opens rather quietly, all things considered. It feels like the start of a new chapter — which it really is. Jamie and Claire are together, Culloden and the Rising are long in the past, and they have an opportunity to start a new life in a new country.

Of course, if life went smoothly, it wouldn’t be Outlander. What would Jamie and Claire do with peace and quiet?

The episode begins with a scene from 2000 BC, somewhere in North America, as a primitive tribe constructs and dances around and through a circle of stones**. Claire’s voice-over muses on the meaning of circles and the importance people attach to them as symbols… and we cut to the hangman’s noose, shortly before the execution in 1767. Jamie, being Jamie, can’t stand the idea of letting one of his men die (although he did actually kill a man, in self-defense) — but Gavin doesn’t want any thrilling heroics. He just wants to meet his end while seeing the face of a friend, and Jamie agrees.

**Sorry, I thought the dancing at the stones scene was a little silly. I suppose the show needed to demonstrate that there are stone circles everywhere, so when they stumble across one later on, it won’t be completely out of the blue… but really, 2000 BC? It came off a bit silly. (It also reminded me of the First Slayer from Buffy, but I digress.)

Anyhoo…

There’s a lovely moment later in a tavern, after Gavin is already dead, when first Lesley and then the entire group begin singing a Gailigh song in Gavin’s honor. Quite beautiful. (Of course, book people will be shaking their heads a bit, since book-Jamie is utterly tone deaf, can’t recognize songs, and certainly never sings.)

The priest has denied burial to the hanged man, so Jamie determines that he and the gang will take Gavin’s body to consecrated ground under cover of night and give him a decent burial. While driving the cart, Jamie and Claire discuss their gemstones and the plan to sell the stones so they’ll have enough money for all of them to book passage back to Scotland. Little did they know that a living man was snuggled up with the corpse in the back of the wagon… listening to every word.

At the cemetery, Jamie and Ian dig a grave. Ian has a flashback to Geillis (season 3) and freaks out, and Jamie has to talk him down. Ian describes being forced to have sex with Geillis, even though he didn’t want to, and asks Jamie if he’s ever lain with someone against his will. Yes, he has, Uncle Jamie tells Ian, and he offers him words of wisdom for getting past it. It’s a touching scene, showing Jamie at his paternal best, being strong for someone who needs him.

Stephen Bonnet turns up in the back of the wagon, and turns on his charm. He speaks fondly of Gavin, and asks Jamie to give him the chance to escape. He doesn’t seem particularly dangerous. Jamie and Claire agree to drive him in the cart into the woods and to a meeting point near the river, where he’ll find a way back to his friends. Despite a close encounter with a redcoat roadblock, they make it and say good-bye to Bonnet. Jamie and Claire settle in for some sexy cuddles and a night of camping in the woods, then wake to appreciate the beauty of the land all around them.

Back in town, Jamie and Claire prepare for a fancy dinner where they expect to meet a man who’s known for collecting expensive things, including gems. The governor of North Carolina will also be there. At the dinner, Claire wears a beautiful ruby around her neck, which definitely catches eyes as intended. Meanwhile, Jamie has caught the governor’s eye. He offers Jamie the chance to settle on his own piece of land and start a community of his own in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s a tempting offer. Claire reminds Jamie that the American Revolution is only a few years away, and they don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of history. Jamie thinks about Brianna growing up in the United States, and sees this as an opportunity to help create a country that will be a home for his daughter in the future.

Ian wants to stay with Jamie and Claire, but Jamie wants to send him home to his mother. Fergus and Marsali will stay in town, since she’s pregnant and not up to traveling. Yet another lovely bit, when everyone celebrates Marsali’s pregnancy. I love the look on Claire’s face — last season, Marsali and Claire first broke the hostility between them when Marsali asked Claire for advice on birth control. Guess she didn’t stick with the plan for very long! In any case, all are happy, and since this is Outlander, it’s actually a rare treat to see a group of happy people all at once.

And one of the most eagerly awaited moments happens this episode:

ROLLO!! Ian won a beautiful dog named Rollo in a dicing game. Awwwwww, Rollo! This is the start of a beautiful relationship. Rollo is the best.

So, things go south, as they tend to do for the Frasers. After a lovely day on a river barge on the way to visit Aunt Jocasta at River Run, near Cape Fear, the boat is tied up for the night. Stephen Bonnet turns up — because no good deed goes unpunished — and he and his men attack the Frasers’ company, beating Jamie fiercely, stealing the gemstones, slitting Lesley’s throat, and being super mean to Claire! Bonnet tries to take Claire’s rings from her. Thinking fast, she tries to swallow them, but he forces a finger into her mouth (gross, and also super intimidating) and gets the silver ring — Jamie’s ring!! — away from her.

And the episode ends, with America the Beautiful playing over the horrible scene.

Further musings:

Claire’s knowledge of the future is coming in handy once again. With the Revolutionary War on the way, America might not be the safest choice for a new home, and Jamie doesn’t want to fight any more wars — so it’s touching that he wants to help make a home for Brianna. At the same time, with the current state of affairs in 1767, sides aren’t neatly drawn, and Jamie has sworn an oath of loyalty to the King. But as Claire points out, they know the outcome of the coming war already. This time, they need to be on the right side of history.

We’ve had two scenes this episode of Claire asserting her 20th century view of the 18th century. First, when Claire describes a future US that will stretch all the way to the Pacific, Jamie asks about the people who already live there. Bad things, Claire explains. We’ll see how the show handles the upcoming encounters with native tribes. Later, Claire tries to criticize the boat captain’s treatment of his slave, only to find out that the man is free, working for a wage. Slavery will be an ongoing issue — Claire and Jamie’s next stop is Jocasta’s plantation. And yes, as you’d expect on a tobacco-growing plantation in the south, Jocasta is a slave owner.

And one more thing:

Spoilery bit ahoy: In the book, Stephen Bonnet takes Claire’s gold ring (she manages to swallow the silver ring.) Later, it’s that gold ring that catches a certain someone’s eye and leads to all sorts of trouble –and that always bothered me, because really, it’s just a plain gold band. How could someone recognize it as Claire’s while seeing it in passing in a crowded tavern, completely out of context, and with no idea that Claire’s ring had actually been stolen? So yeah, this way is much better. I’d wager all my gemstones that Claire is the only person in North American (or possibly the world at that time) with a silver ring made from a key — definitely recognizable as something quite distinct and unusual. So in my mind, the changing of the rings is big improvement. Yay, show.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Such a great new beginning, promising new adventures in a new land. I love the changes to the theme song, as it now sounds more like an American folk song. Lovely, lovely version.

As I said earlier, this episode mostly feels a bit quiet, but that’s okay. It has to reintroduce us into the lives of the characters, establish their new circumstances, and set out their goals and challenges. The Frasers are at a crossroads, living in the colonies but aiming to return to Scotland. Their lives are in a lull as they prepare, but they seem to mostly be enjoying their rather peaceful times together as a family. The peace and quiet don’t last, of course — the last few minutes of the episode make clear that the new land has its own dangers in store for the Frasers. Still, Jamie and Claire are obviously still very much in love, Fergus and Marsali are happy and beginning a new chapter in their own lives, and Ian is… well, Ian is precious and wonderful, as always. So this episode can be excused for feeling like a family reunion at times — it’s nice for us to get a chance to appreciate some smiles and happiness before diving back into the drama and life-threatening peril around every turn.

And furthermore…

Once again, the start of a new season makes me happy all over again that so much care has been devoted to turning our beloved books into a beautiful TV series. Kudos to the cast and crew for making it lovely and special. It’s obvious how much love goes into each and every episode.

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