Roger. Oh, Roger. If you read these recaps last season, you’ll know that I didn’t much care for Brianna, and thought Roger seemed like a nice, decent chap, if perhaps a bit meek. I don’t know if it what happens here is done because it was somehow narratively more expedient, or if the show did a hatchet job on how the book handled this stuff, but Roger may be dead to me for a bit. I just wanted to prepare you. There is a lot of poetry coming.
Jamie’s and Claire’s story is but a way station for future events, so let’s get that out of the way first.
I. Fraser’s Ridge.
We begin with the gang packing up to leave Jocasta’s place, having spent a comfortable night in a warm home kept so by slaves, after watching one be torn apart in front of them. Seriously, Claire, you’ve made it so clear you like sleeping out under the stars. You really could have done it a couple more times. Anyway, the goodbyes are fraught: Jocasta is devastated that Jamie isn’t going to take River Run after all, but he is resolute. He even tries to return the bag of money she gave him, but… not that hard, because she insists he keep it, and although she is BLIND and would not have noticed if he’d left it on the couch anyway until it was too late, he’s all, “K WELL THX,” and pockets it. The money made off the back of slaves, that is. Which he doesn’t want to own. You know how I feel about all the little hypocrisies here. It’s a tangled web that this show is really reluctant to weave.
Jocasta also has some choice words for Claire, telling her that she’s doing Jamie a huge disservice by having all these inconvenient principles that are blocking him from fulfilling the destiny that was denied him in Scotland: being a Laird. Perhaps Claire, in her time, read a lot of bodice-rippers and knows EXACTLY what comes with being a nubile, rock-solid Laird. It usually involves a dead true love and then a nubile townsgirl who speaks sassily to him and whom he can’t quite forget, and probably keeps captive for a bit before he can no longer resist her milky skin, and SHE, of course, will fall in love with his sculpted body and throbbing manmeat. There is no room for Claire in that picture.
Next up: IAN! Jamie insists that they must escort him to Wilmington to get the ship back to Scotland, and his waiting parents. Ian has thoughts.
MY DEAR UNCLE JAMIE, I’M A MAN
A MANLY MANNISH MAN FULL OF MAN
I CAN LIVE LIKE A MAN AND CHOOSE LIKE A MAN
AND WHAT I CHOOSE IS TO PUT THE ‘MAN’ IN ‘AMERICA,’ OH WAIT, THAT DOESN’T WORK, BUT MY FUTURE DECISIONS WILL BE MUCH BETTER!!! IAN!!!
Seriously, like a scene out of Passions, Ian proceeds to list all the cracked out things that have happened to him, although he leaves out the bit about a lady named The Bakra bathing in blood and making him her toy boy. Which is a shame because that’s really the juiciest kicker. Still, it only takes about 20 seconds of Ian’s monologuing for Jamie to realize that the wee lad has now grown, in whatever amount of time has passed. Has it been four years? Two? Forty? Who can say. So Jamie decides it’s fine for Ian to blow off the boat, and his parents, which I’m sure Jenny will appreciate enormously. If only we could know. Laura Donnelly and her partner Jez Butterworth are bringing their play The Ferryman to Broadway (it was just on the West End in the spring), so she’s been unavailable to Outlander, and the show is the poorer for it. But congrats to them, and sad for those of us who will miss out on whatever Jenny’s contributions to this season were supposed to be.
We also say goodbye to the rich, buttery baritone of Ulysses, my favorite person on this show ever to get so little screen time, and to Phaedre. If we’re done with River Run, then from my Googlings they decided to slash and burn her storyline (her true paternity, for example, ahem, Dead Mr. Jocasta). If we aren’t, and I just spoiled you all… then I’m sorry.
A friend joins them on the road to a Scottish settlement somewhere in the northeastern southwesterly parts of the state (seriously, this show’s sense of geography seems very off and so I just assume they think everywhere is on the way to everywhere else). A friend who knows much about the landscape. And the natives. And the LADIES.
This is where I tried to make a Hercules Mulligan rhyme for John Quincy Myers, and all my attempts were ridiculous failures, so just imagine BRAAAAP BRAAAAP and then something brilliant about how he’s up in it, lovin’ it.
JQM talks a lot about the Cherokees, of whom he knows much, because these mountains are a friend to him and its people too and yada yada yada. Ian just wants to talk about all the Indian women he’s banged, and JQM is like, “I didn’t say it was a lot. JUST SOME.” He’s also headed to a nearby village to trade tobacco with the Indians, and has authorized Ian to join him, for reasons of I Shudder To Think What Trouble We Need Him To Get Into Next. Before Ian can even wheedle a plea, Jamie’s like, “Sure, fine, whatevs.” Because they have an excellent track record when it comes to trusting strangers.
OH THANK YOU UNCLE THIS IS SO GREAT.
I WAS EXPECTING A NASTY DEBATE.
I’LL BE A GOOD WINGMAN AND NOD ALONG TO HIS PLANS
AND YOU CAN’T SPELL ‘AMERICA’ WITHOUT ‘IAN’ EXCEPT I THINK ACTUALLY YOU CAN BUT IT’S OKAY BECAUSE SOON I WILL BECOME MUCH CLEVERER! IAN!!!!
The gang agrees to meet up in Whereversville, N.C., once all their business is complete. It’s hinky to me that JQM would volunteer to guide them through these here treacherous parts and then abandon them halfway through to be all, “Welllll, gotta trading date actually, and hey, can I take your youth?” But whatever. Far be it from the recently betrayed Frasers to question anything.
There are a couple character beats that feel shoehorned in, almost like they answered a network script note: Claire asks Jamie if this new life will be enough for a man who has been a sexy outlaw and rebel printer for his entire life, and while he admits that sometimes he misses that life, he has more to think about now — Ian, Fergus, Marsali, baby Dawson Laoghaire — and would much rather lay his life at the feet of his lady. Then, later, they talk about Brianna a bit, with Claire noting that Bri never truly seemed to know what she wanted to do and so would dabble a lot and commit to nothing. (If this is supposed to help frame the situation with Roger that’s coming, then I OBJECT.) Claire sidesteps fully admitting that Brianna preferred Frank, and instead says they were just a tad closer, and so much of what Brianna tried studying was to please him — like history — and that she never expressed ANY interest in following in Claire’s footsteps. This all feels made-up. I never got the sense from the show itself that Brianna wasn’t that driven, or was struggling with her place; doesn’t she even tell Roger in the season three finale that she’s a bit of a science mind? Anyway: Jamie says that Claire always described Brianna as sharp-witted, and so he has faith that she’ll find her way, but Claire says she will always worry about her daughter’s future. Maybe she could have been useful on that front before she left?
The rest of the episode involves Claire chasing after their mule and getting lost in the process. When a storm thunders down on her, she takes refuge under a canopy of branches and takes off her boots to dump out the mud, and then… leaves them off, thus getting her socks dirty and damp? Friend, put your boots back on. She also finds a skull, so she’s probably sleeping on a burial ground, which is a super idea. Claire wakes in the night to see a man creeping toward her with eye-black on his pale bald head and a scalp injury that mirrors that of the noggin she found; the next morning, she can’t tell if it was real or a hallucination, but her boots are missing and she sees a trail of muddy footprints. She figures this is as good an idea as any, so she packs up the skull — now she is a GRAVE ROBBER, it seems — and she follows the prints, and WHAT HO, they lead her to a random riverbank where both her boots and Jamie are waiting. He’d been drawn there, too, and saw the shoes; Claire concludes that it must have been a ghost who was looking out for her, and Jamie accepts this, because really, once you’ve time-traveled then you have to go along with pretty much every wingnut theory. Claire then squeals: She’s noticed that the skull has silver fillings, which won’t be invented for another hundred years. She is holding the dead skull of a traveler like herself, who may have come to her in the night and performed ghostly matchmaking. Jamie is basically like, “NEAT!”
The two of them then promptly fall in love with their surroundings and decide THIS will be their land, even if they have to dance with the devil — the Governor — to get it. Never mind that they still have to FIND this plot of land again, once they go hook up with Young Ian and JQM in Whereversville. “Do you trust me?” Jamie asks Claire. No, Claire! We’ve discussed this! Jamie is TERRIBLE AT PLANS! But, she does, and so they turn around and he breathlessly proclaims this land Fraser’s Ridge. What could possibly go wrong.
II. Roger Is Awful
Meanwhile, in 1970, Roger is selling his grandfather’s place — or at least moving out and letting a friend take over — so that he can… wait for it… go play music at some kind of weekend Scottish festival in North Carolina. Roger is a Mackenzie, and Jamie is also part Mackenzie… is it possible that making stupid plans is a Mackenzie trait? Rog is as quietly bummed out as ever; his friend gives us the helpful backstory that Roger has the hots for an American girl for whom he has not declared any formal feelings, and that his balls are bluer than the sea: He and Brianna spent another Christmas together, have seen each other a small handful of times, and have talked a bit on the phone, and that’s it. I am not entirely clear how we got from Cozy Fireside Snuggles to this weird place, and neither is Roger.
my grandfather was an elderly scottish preacher
but there are things about the ladies that preachers can’t teach ya
like what to do when they are comely
and their mother left and traveled back in time
they can bonk all through history
but brianna, she’s mine.
lust doesn’t pay big returns
for the patient or the spurned
it just burns
and it churns
and it yearns
and she doesn’t seem that concerned
but the world, it turns and it turns and it tuuuuurns
still, if there’s a reason
she might decide
it’s time to show me all of her thighs
im willing to wait for it
Roger’s friend he tells Roger to lay it all on the line for Brianna. He gives a shy, lonely shrug, and picks up his guitar and his suitcase, ready for adventure.
let her bring on her indifference
i’ll just pine for her and moan
i have confidence in pleasuring myself alone
beeeeeesides which you see i have confidence in
i can’t even finish
Brianna greets him in Boston and they hug awkwardly, before it’s revealed that they are road-tripping together to this random festival, which appears to be a gathering of clans who settled in, yes, North Carolina. Roger is repping the Mackenzies, I guess because of his extreme musical prowess, and Brianna is joining him because why not. They obviously don’t know quite how to deal with each other, or what any of this means, but off they go in her car.
The road trip begins at a Dairy Queen and carries on through a truly insufferable car game in which Brianna and Roger fill in a sentence about a cat with the most florid adjective they know, beginning with A and going theoretically all the way to Z. One of Roger’s big offerings is a word that I didn’t catch, but means “woebegone,” which OF COURSE. Then Brianna calls him “pretty,” a compliment that is so absurd that even love-starved Roger can’t digest it without a protest, and she handles this by climbing into his lap AS HE IS STILL DRIVING and kisses him.
i have confidence in
The whole Scottish festival is like a courting dance, in some cases literally, as Roger and Brianna indeed do some kind of romantic courting dance at the ceilidh — in addition to getting their portraits sketched, at which point Brianna calls Roger her boyfriend, to his surprise and delight.
Perhaps because the episode knows it’s about to rip Roger open and reveal that his guts are sexist garbage, we are treated to a prolonged sequence in which he sings a very slow song about love and angst while wearing a turtleneck. Brianna gazes at him as if she’s only just seeing him for the first time.
Roger has depths I did not suspect.
Look at him strum on his fancy guitar,
Singing along in that — what’s that term again? Oh! ‘Breathy tenor.’
I wanna rip off his turtleneck.
Man pain is hot and less boring by far,
But the only rhyme I can find for “tenor” is… “Jenner.”
Up on that stage
He sounds so sage
My flaming libido I want to assuage!
Out of our pants.
A sex renaissance.
I’ll rock his world.
Roger, instead, kisses her goodnight and makes for his own cabin, so she calls him back and says she has a present for him: a book about Scottish settlers in the U.S. — which I assume is the device by which he’ll discover Fraser’s Ridge, and where it is, so that Brianna can eventually get herself there — and a bottle of his favorite whiskey. This works; he suggests they sneak off for a dram.
And so it is that they’re buzzed in Brianna’s cabin and staring at a deer head on the wall. Yes, these two horny cats are not only confronted by actual horns, but Roger is in the process of staring at them closely when Brianna rips off her shirt and chucks it at them, and there it dangles.
beeeeeeesides which you see
i have confidence in MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Roger and Brianna go at it like teenagers — hey, she isn’t that far removed from being one — and he is feeling himself SO MUCH that he actually immediately reaches around and grabs her butt REAL DEEPLY. But because he’s Roger, they then fall over, but they’re still laughing and making out.
Oh Roger, you are a rotter.
At one time your praises I sang.
But you’re a persnickety git with a chastity snit.
Just punch yourself now in the wang.
This fool is getting frisky with his paramour, and he actually stops in his tracks and covers her up because he’s decided this moment is perfect and the only way it could be better is IF HE PROPOSED. (Which I guess he can’t do while looking at her bra?) Yes. This is going to go exactly as well as you imagine. Also, let us back up this truck: Roger is proposing on the spur of the moment — he says in the scene that he didn’t plan to do this — and indeed appeared not to realize she felt this way about him until her shirt was off, and yet he… also sold all his stuff in Scotland and came to the States to spend a weekend in North Carolina? What WAS his larger scheme? PLANS, ROGER. LEARN TO MAKE THEM. That Mackenzie blood is REAL suspect.
Ahem. Back to it. Roger, it seems, has brought a bracelet with him that was a gift for Brianna, engraved with a French poem about love. And he’s so het up about the purity of his proposal of a long life together singing angsty Scottish beat poetry that, and this bears repeating, he covers up Brianna’s torso with her shirt so that she’s suitably pristine. Then he gives her the bracelet, explains it was originally “just a gift,” and then offers her the lifelong gift of his beard hairs falling softly all over the house. Incredibly, Brianna does not leap upon this offer. I checked Wikipedia; she’s supposedly 22 and he’s 29 at this point, which you’d think might have crossed his mind in terms of an experience gap. Maybe in the 1970s people didn’t think about that stuff yet. But here’s where I get ragey. Brianna gently and very kindly says that she’s not ready to move that fast, and Roger IMMEDIATELY tenses up and turns into a complete shithead: “You don’t want to marry me, but you’ll f*ck me,” he spits, and then later: “If you don’t care enough to marry me then I don’t care enough to have you in my bed,” before finally slut-shaming her for being willing to have extramarital sex THAT HE WAS ALSO NOT TOTALLY UNWILLING TO HAVE. Oh, AND FURTHER, Big Rog, you turd, how do you know she would’ve had sex with you? She had her shirt off and she could’ve stopped you herself at any given point. You are not psychic. You don’t know what she was willing to let happen. Instead, you just ASSUME you were going to plow her, and then you tell her she’s a terrible person for being willing to let him plow her AND THEN AND THEN he implies that said willingness means she might not even be the virgin he thought she was.
UM. BACK THE DUMPTRUCK UP, ROGER. HOLD THE PHONE THAT YOU WERE APPARENTLY NEVER USING TO TALK DIRTY LONG-DISTANCE. When Brianna slaps him, Brianna is all of us.
Brianna correctly calls bullshit on that attitude, and angrily points out the hypocrisy here: While she is indeed a virgin, she knows he is not. (I had to pause the TV to allow my disbelief on that one to settle, because Roger looks at Brianna like she is the first and only woman who has ever spoken to him or even let him touch her face.) Roger the Dillhole essentially then says that it’s fine for those other useless slatterns to give it up to him, because he doesn’t want to marry them. He wants something pure and old-fashioned! And so I guess that means those other hobags’ tainted goods are someone else’s problem!!!!! You’re such a great guy, Roger! Thanks so much for devolving into one of those toxic “nice guys” who believes he is owed everything he wants, exactly the way he wants it, simply because he was polite when he asked! That man is friendly and supportive for as long as he feels needed, but he’s keeping a ledger, and he’s bitter and angry and cruel when the bill is not paid to his satisfaction!! It’s super! Hey Roger, do you also happen to believe it’s the woman’s fault and hers alone if she gets pregnant out of wedlock? I bet you do!
I used to like you.
Now I want your private parts
To die from gangrene.
Full marks to Brianna for being like, “Uh, it’s the 70s? NOBODY is saving themselves for marriage anymore,” while also noting that a willingness to sleep with him is in fact a sign that she cares deeply about him. But without Roger being able to own her for all eternity, it’s just not good enough, so Captain Crapstorm storms out of the cabin unfulfilled.
dear mr roger:
i am slow to anger
but i’ve hell to raise
i have lived far too long
with your tragic malaise.
your judgment is absent,
and your failures, so sublime
and i shrivel in my place every single time.
you mope and you whimper,
a tragic sadsack.
you don’t deserve my talents,
there’s no going back, now i’m doomed to slack.
i really hate that i am
you obedient servant,
Also, Brianna is a spirited person who believes in the sexual revolution, and so I am not ENTIRELY sure I buy that she’s been in Boston for two years doing nothing but…okay. Later, at some insane bonfire where everyone burns a straw cow in the name of their clans, Brianna sits down next to Roger and says that she hates where they left things. I mean, HE left them there, and by “there,” I mean in a pit of insanity. But okay. Roger asks if she’s changed her mind, and she has not, so he yanks his hand away. She offers to return the bracelet but he bitterly tells her to keep it, which… I mean, I hope she sells it, because that thing is bringing nobody any joy. Brianna tries to explain that she isn’t sure marriage is for her at all, because look what happened to Claire: She married Frank, and THEN met her soulmate, and unfortunately not everyone gets the convenience of time-travel to solve that love triangle (my words, not hers). Roger is grossed out that she would give him her precious precious virtue if she still wanted to hold out for something else, because while he believes himself to be a dreamy desirable romantic, he is actually being horribly judgmental and demanding. I would like to say that he comes off as a relic, but sadly, the virgin/whore dichotomy is still very much at play in the world. And indeed, we should have seen this coming. He looked at Claire and Brianna like he was desperate for them to adopt him, and now he’s gotten one hand on Bri’s butt and it’s MARRIAGE OR NOTHING. This is total psychopathic stalker behavior. GET OUT, BRIANNA.
And God bless, she does. After Roger tells her, “I want all of you or nothing at all,” the future members of O-Town get a shiver down their collective spines, and he toddles off to light the bonfire. When he turns back around, Brianna is gone.
i would have rather been
in the womb where it happens
but im willing to wait for it
Here’s hoping he has to wait a long time.
[EDITED: A MODERATORIAL NOTE FROM JESSICA: We are getting a lot of new readers here! Welcome! I’ve had to repeat this several times over the last two or three weeks, so I’m just going to plonk it up here so we’re all on the same page and I don’t have to tell multiple people the same thing and clog up the comments: We are very happy to have you here, and y’all are very welcome to disagree with us, and to correct us when we get it wrong, but I’m going to ask that you please do so in a way that adds to the conversation. Just as I’d ask you not to tell your fellow commenters that they suck, or that they’re stupid, I’m going to ask you to extend that courtesy to us as your hosts, as well. I go into further detail about why covering this show is editorially satisfying for us in the comments, and welcome you to read that if you have further questions about why we are recapping it. This keeps the conversation substantive and lively and that’s more fun for all of us. Thank you!]