Let me lead with the news: Roger changes up his head-suit situation this week, and after a rough start, eventually it WORKS. This seemed relevant to tell you immediately. I would be into him if he were not still potentially a terrible slut-shamer.
In this hour, the show steps out of Jamie’s and Claire’s reality, and slides into Roger’s and Brianna’s DMs. And let me tell you, the show misses the Fraser energy. Brianna is a walking nap; even in the Previously On, when they replay her reading the letter — “I found out something terrible is going to happen to my mother,” etc. — it’s with all the verve you would use to say, “I can’t decide if I should throw out this rotisserie chicken.” Sophie Skelton has a lovely smile, and she’s grown into a couple nice on-camera moments, but it’s a bit of a slog when she’s the focus. We hear a lot about Brianna’s fire yet we see none of it: All telling, no showing. Some of that can be the actor, sure, but there are also writers and directors participating in the final product and it’s very much a chicken/egg scenario — and that doesn’t even take into account Brianna’s characterization in the book; I can’t speak to how that compares. But her parts of this episode play like a languid travelogue and it’s only the familiar supporting faces who give it spice, and that’s not great when she’s presumably coming into more of a lead role.
Do you like walking? And limping? And heavy, exhausted breathing? Then have I got the show open for you. Personally, I’d have rather seen Brianna’s trip prep. What did she bring? What research did she do? What documents is she bringing with her to guide her? Did she pack tampons? Advil? Clean underwear? We don’t know. All we know is that she approximated period wear as best she could by picking out some sort of ’70s woven dress grabbed a bag of gems and a map she drew an arrow on, and was off. And indeed, rather than show us anything about Brianna’s trip through the stones, or her reaction to realizing she has indeed been zapped back to Scotland, we open with her merrily strolling through a vast beautiful nothingscape. There are no landmarks she can really use that don’t look identical, and she didn’t bring a compass. I am mildly concerned that she’s under the impression that if she simply climbs ev’ry montain and fords every stream, and then follows every rainbow, she’ll find her dream.
A dream that won’t be
Too hygienic a spree.
There’s no fluoride for thee,
And forget toiletries!
Stagger at the mountains.
Sip every stream.
Squint at the horizon
Till. You. Find. LAOGHAIREEEEEEE!
Brianna sincerely seems to be enjoying her interminable walk until, in a fit of excitement at seeing a road of some ilk, she starts running and trips down a hill. She drops her little cloth travel bag and spills some items, though we don’t totally see what (I want to KNOW what she thought to bring! Chapstick? Breath mints? A Coke? I actually did think I saw a compass at one point but she never uses it, so…?). and badly sprains her ankle. This sets her back on her journey, to the point that not even the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she brought can salvage things. That is dire. She did at least bring matches, so she could light a fire for warmth at night, but after endless days of shivering and limping and no Jif, she passes out in the woods while trying to reach a distant house.
The episode here begins its ploy of cutting back and forth between Brianna’s present and her past with Frank. Because, yes, what this episode REALLY needed to pick up the pace was Drunk Frank slurring all up in this piece. Here, she is dreaming, but as if she’s “remembering” a moment where she fell asleep in the car and Frank scooped her up and carried her inside. This is for the specific purpose of cross-cutting to grown Brianna slumbering in a bed, but it’s weird, because obviously — even with the minor amount of stirring she did — she wouldn’t actually remember this at all. Regardless, she wakes up in a cozy room having been rescued from freezing to death by none other than Laoghaire: mother of Marsali, second wife of Jamie (because he felt bad for her, and lonely, and he liked the girls), childhood friend of Jamie’s, madly jealous shrew who nearly got Claire burnt at the stake.
I’m Laoghaire all right
And sometimes I’m nice
But I have a cold dark heart
Made of cold dark ice
I’m nice ’til I’m not
So don’t be a t**t
YES THAT’S RIGHT I USED THAT WORD
GO AWAY HOOOOR I HATE EVERYONE.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Laoghaire is very kind to Brianna, and I think it’s partly because this fills the void left by Marsali, but also just because Laoghaire is not ENTIRELY terrible and it’s just that Claire and Jamie really tweak her creek. Characters are always more interesting when they contain multitudes, much as with humans, and this episode does a nice job showing her humanity. (I kept waiting for her to go through Brianna’s stuff and steal a gem or two, but she does not.) It ALSO showcases that the bad planning gene went all the way down to Brianna, who hasn’t concocted any kind of protective cover story at all, and so when pressed she fumbles through a claim that she’s from England — even though even Laoghaire is like, “Uh, interesting accent,” and the Brits are still not exactly friends of the Scots. She also says she’d been figuring she’d, and I quote, “catch a ride with someone on the road,” as if the byways of rural Scotland are heavily trafficked. I’m beginning to think she didn’t microfiche a DAMN THING before she left.
But, Laoghaire is delighted by the company. So Brianna can hang out and recover from her ankle sprain, and help out in the garden, and braid little Joanie’s hair — I have decided Joanie’s bio father’s last name was Potter — and generally make it look super easy to time-travel back 200 years to a time that completely lacks the modern conveniences on which you rely. Y’all, Brianna grew up pampered in a very nice house in Boston, with heat and toilets and whatever clothes and food she could ever want, and probably some pretty great conditioner. This child has never really been that cold, or not had a bath, or camped in anything that wasn’t a luxury pillow fort in her bedroom. (Seriously, who would have taken her? Frank? Not a chance.) Claire was in the war, and of a slightly earlier time; I can buy it a bit more that she is better able to rough it, besides which by now she’s had a lot of practice. I do NOT believe Brianna can do it, so I’m frustrated that this has been depicted as very simple but for taking one tiny spill and turning her ankle. Even William was squicked out by having to use an outhouse. Does Brianna, like Aaron Rodgers’ State Farm agent in the TV ad, simply meditate the waste away? What luxury items did she bring on Survivor: Highlands? DID she study up on what to do if she got her period? NOBODY ever gets their period on this show, by the way. In sum, as much as I do not want Outlander to become The Time-Traveler’s Menses, I find it a bit dull and unrealistic that there is no culture shock at all for this girl.
One night, Brianna overhears Laoghaire yelling at Old Ian, who has come by to give her the fraction of his alimony that Jamie was able to scrape together. She is enraged that it’s not more, spits nails about how awful Jamie is — never using his name, conveniently for the eavesdropping Brianna — and then refuses to take Ian’s own money as reparations, because hey, she’s not a total monster. And Brianna later gets a bit more of the story, again without names, when a) Joanie laments that her step-“da” didn’t love her mother as deeply as he was loved (listening to Brianna try to use the colloquial “da” was some unintentional comedy), and b) Laoghaire reveals she and her husband were childhood sweethearts until a WITCHHOOOOR tricked him with her sexual sorcery and hardened his heart to her. (She conveniently leaves out the attempted murder. It’s clear Laoghaire is a bit of a toxic influence for poor Joanie Potter, because first she lays on some guilt about how Joanie will some day MARRY and LEAVE HER ALL ALOOOOONE, and then makes no bones about how she thinks men are trash. Even Joanie says, “Ma says men are louts.” Laoghaire would have liked 2018. She would’ve owned a LOT of t-shirts and at least one novelty Instagram account.
This delicate dance continues, with no one mentioning the names of provenance of anyone they’re talking about, until we’re well past the halfway mark, at which point Laoghaire’s mention of nearby Lallybroch brightens Brianna’s countenance. And she finally starts saying, “Oh, maybe you knew my mother, her name is Claire Fraser,” and a spark of madness ignites in Laoghaire’s eyes. First, she tries to play it cool: She pretends to have gossip that, gee, she just hates to spread, which of course makes Brianna want to know more, so Laoghaire lies that the entire town was buzzing about how Jamie sent Claire away because he didn’t want their baby. This bizarrely starts to work on Brianna — she all but clutches her pearls over such perfidy — which is absurd; Brianna doesn’t know Jamie, but she DOES know Claire, and she knows why and when Claire went back through the stones. Bri does eventually brush this off and say that it doesn’t matter whether that’s true or not, because she has to find them to warn them about how they’re going to die in a fire.
Die in a fire, you say?
That’s apt in its own sordid way.
Claire once nearly burned,
Back to that, fate has turned.
Just don’t let ‘em char before THEY PAY.
It’s very telling that Laoghaire cares way less about Brianna being a soothsayer than she does the fact that Dead Jamie is not going to be sending her any more cash. And when she starts pressing and spitting bile about this, initially assuming that Brianna was sent there to spy or ridicule Laoghaire, the veneer drops and Brianna realizes that she’s dealing with the crackpot who framed her mother for witchcraft. She rustles up some mild spirit for this scene, though; although she neglects to use any particularly spicy language, she does look Laoghaire square in the face and say that all her tall witch tales must be easier to believe than the truth: “Jamie Fraser has never loved you.” This is when Laoghaire’s head starts spinning and then pops off into the sky like a cannonball and she devolves into:
witch Witch WITCH
wItCHy WitCH WIIIITCH
SPAWN OF A ~w1tch~
Did I mention you’re a witch?
Laoghaire locks her in her room so that she can’t get to Jamie. Which REALLY defeats the purpose of trying to stop the fire that will incinerate Laoghaire’s income stream, but whatever. Fortunately, Joanie Potter is a nice girl, and she thinks Brianna is kind: “It’s not YOUR fault your mother’s a witch,” she says merrily. DITTO, JOANIE POTTER. Ditto. Anyway, Joanie frees Brianna, steals the family carriage and trots her straight on over to Lallybroch, and then leaves to go sing a mugger to his death.
Jenny has conveniently left the ‘broch to go deliver a grandbairn, so as we feared, only Old Ian is there to greet Brianna. I like kind Old Ian, don’t get me wrong, but I am CRAVING Jenny’s particular brand of dismissive emotion and her reaction would have been priceless and it’s a shame they didn’t just Skype her in that day. It’s a time-traveling show! We can write around anachronisms! Maybe Claire, much like how she told them to grow potatoes, left the instructions for how to build an iPad and some WiFi. We don’t know.
Old Ian is moved to be laying eyes on a child of Jamie’s, and gives Brianna money to buy passage to Wilmington and a trunk full of Claire’s old stuff. “Good news,” he will say to Jenny. “I cleared out the upstairs hall closet! Bad news: Your niece came and went and we’ll probably never see her again.” But, Ian is just a very lovely anchoring presence, and it’s made me realize how much I miss those parts of the show. Ian also tells her to ask about Jocasta at River Run, because she’ll know how to find Jamie. So maybe we haven’t seen the last of River Run, after all. Oh, PLEASE let Ulysses have more lines. He could sit down and tell Brianna EVERYTHING SHE MISSED and it could take four episodes and I’d watch.
A quick swerve and summary of the various Frank flashbacks: Brianna huddling under the covers while her parents fight (it’s audio from a scene in season three, where Claire berates a blotto Frank after his mistress turns up at her graduation party); Brianna finding Frank at his office, deep in his cups again and super depressed, and stomping off in a tizz because he refuses to tell her everything he is thinking and feeling; Brianna bringing him tea, sympathy, and apologies the next day; and Brianna bristling when Frank asks her to move to England with him for University because he and Claire are divorcing. “Don’t be silly. You’re too old to get a divorce,” she half-laughs, as if Hollywood wasn’t already a hotbed of all-ages relationship shenanigans by this point in history. Frank says this shouldn’t be a huge surprise to her, but Brianna says it is, even though I thought half the point of one of these flashbacks was that she well knew of their nasty squabbles. Frank is as diplomatic as possible, underscoring that it is mutual and that they tried. “I have no say?!?” she whines, before — in a total teenagerly way — making it about how she and Frank were supposed to do Harvard together and read history together. “Sometimes life takes unexpected turns, and when it does, you know what we do? We soldier on,” Frank says. Brianna can’t deal, so she gets out and stomps off and doesn’t tell her father she loves him one last time… so it’s a real shame that he died Brianna has always wondered if he’d still be alive had she said yes and they’d gone out to celebrate. Nope. You’d probably both be dead, because either way he’d have been sauced. At Frank’s grave, she quotes him back to him, saying she will “soldier on” as he always taught her, and that he was her hero.
HOWEVER: Frank, that night in his study, was hammered because he’d received the copy of the Fraser obituary from Reverend Wakefield. So, he was living in Boston with his wife, holding proof that at some point she was going to leave him and return to the person she loved more. He obviously wouldn’t know the when or the why, but he knew his days were numbered, and also I gather that hers were too. Are we supposed to think that THIS piece of information is WHY Frank truly became an alcoholic? I can’t imagine, but then again, many many shows LOVE to absolve their male characters of any personal responsibility in favor of layering it onto the women in their lives. At any rate, I suspect we’re meant to think something in Brianna’s head clicked after Roger found Claire, and she went digging for this file, and that’s how she realized she needed to go back and intervene.
As she’s about to buy her ticket in Wilmington, Brianna is approached by a father who has been sold into servitude along with his daughter — who is to be re-sold for a markup as a concubine unless he can get her the hell out of there on a boat. Old Ian clearly gave her a boatload of cash, so she pays for both their passage; as the girl waves a sad goodbye to her lonely dad, Brianna spies a spectral Frank standing on the pier smiling proudly at her and nodding. So they get on the boat and presumably vomit for days unless Brianna brought some Dramamine in her magic Hermione Granger bag.
Is this leading up to the two of them teaming up, and sticking together, and Young Ian finally finding a lady?
YES THAT’S RIGHT DEAR RECAPPER
I’M MANLY AND I’M WILLING TO TAP ‘ER
GENTLY, WITH CONSENT;
I’VE NO OAFISH BENT.
BUT I’M A LIVING MANPERSON AND I HAVE A MAGIC WAND IN MY PANTS!!!!! IAN!!!
Obviously, despite this being a pretty cockamamie idea, Roger has decided to follow Brianna through the stones. He has no idea how big her head start was, but whatever, ALL OF SCOTLAND and ALL OF NORTH CAROLINA are pretty small, right? He’ll find her. For some reason, Roger has decided he needed to shave his beard. It occurs to me that we DON’T have a lot of very hairy dudes on this show, but Murtagh has a beard, as did a couple of Jamie’s dead friends. It’s not like people are ALLERGIC to beards. Keep your beard, Roger, if it’ll make your face warm.
He at least runs through his stuff: money, map, compass, gemstone. And hopefully ALSO tampons because seriously he could sell those and make a fortune. Where does he pop out? I don’t know, but after seeing Brianna’s languid trek through the grass, I’m not all that sorry we don’t see Roger’s. He apparently takes the correct turns right off the bat — COMPASS, Brianna; I was clearly correct that she was never in Girl Scouts — because he ends up at the port, trying to sweet-talk his way aboard a boat headed for the Carolinas. And it’s captained by an old friend.
There once was a venomous prat
who didn’t care a whit about that.
His dimples can kill
As well as his knife will:
STEPHEN BONNET, aka Satan’s Hat.
Roger asks to come aboard, and Bonnet takes the measure of him and decides he’s the limpest biscuit since Fred Durst turned off his auto-correct. So then, Roger asks for a job, and Bonnet again is like, “No, thanks, do you not understand rejection?”
but i am a walking cat poster
hang in there
So then, Roger decides to perform the world’s mildest feat of strength to prove his worth: He walks by a barrel… and picks it up… and takes two steps before shouting, “Captain, where should I put this?” Bonnet, at this point, is amused at his persistence, and flips a coin; Roger wins and is welcomed aboard on the crew.
i knew it
i am like samson
but the opposite
take my hair and i become strong
i could lift a whole barrel
maybe even one more
but much later
after i have rested
also i like that he committed to me
without requiring marriage
Lest you think I am being unfair to Brianna, it seems clear to me that Roger ALSO has never been outdoorsy a day in his life, so it’s equally inexplicable that he has such a jolly time adapting. I would also like to note that Roger’s beard starts to grow back almost immediately, and Stubbled Roger is definitely the way to go for the future. Bonnet proves to be exactly as we remember: slithery, rogueish, mercurial. Once night, when a woman named Morag Mackenzie has a baby that won’t calm down, Bonnet marches up and takes the child menacingly as everyone looks on in fear… and then rubs some whiskey on its gums before clucking at it and handing it back. But then later, he hurls a small girl overboard to her death because she might have smallpox, and orders a thorough search-and-murder of the entire ship so that the rest of them don’t get sick. Roger yells at Bonnet that he’s a madman, which is not the most low-profile thing to do when your nasty captain is basically making up reasons to kick people into the sea, and I can’t quite figure out why Bonnet doesn’t just go, “YUP I SEE A RASH, BYE FELICIA,” and punt Roger over the deck.
When the baby later has a bit of a teething rash, Roger — who also makes the clan connection with Morag — offers to hide them both and smuggle them food. And where does he hide them? In a place where apparently the crew members GO LOOKING FOR THINGS. So GUESS HOW LONG THAT LASTS.
im a mackenzie
we dont plan
you know this
dont act surprised morag
Bonnet is displeased with Roger’s deception, mostly because he’s stealing rations. So he drawls his way through a creepy story about how he was once bullied and left for dead, saved only by the mercy of a coin flip. Ed Speelers is clearly having an absolute blast playing this cad, and he’s chewing the scenery the way Brianna went at that PB&J earlier. I guess these dudes were trying to decide between his life and that of Daft Joey, and suffice to say that I think Daft Joey should get his own tale to tell.
I am DAFT
I’m from Saturn
I was sent here
On a sojourn
To explore all of your meats
I don’t understand beets
I’ll chew seashells
if you please
But I can’t EVEN with cheese
So please don’t kill me ’cause
You’ll anger all my *thud*
The Doom Hat ends by saying that he’ll spare Morag and the baby, but Roger’s life is at the mercy of the flip: heads he lives, tails he dies. An honest crook to the last, Headpiece McGee shows heads and congratulates a quaking Roger on his luck.
that man is mean
i need a cuddle