I asked for soap opera, and soap opera I have received.
The show opens with a massive fake-out that I KNEW was going to be a lie even as I stood up and cheered: Roger, standing under a showerhead, luxuriating in good modern plumbing. But no, he’s just hallucinating — he did NOT jump back to his time and place — and is in fact standing back in North Carolina with his Mohawk captors. Who have apparently bathed him and given him fresh clothes, and rather politely tell him not to run away again. What? Where did they come from? When did they grab him?
avg fake water pressure
weird plot twists
two and a half stars
At the end of the hour, Roger arrives at the Mohawk’s camp, and they yell for everyone to come to… what, the main drag, I guess? … and they form a line of people. Roger is then shoved through this line as they knock him around from all sides, which I assume we’re going to find out is some kind of final gauntlet before he’s accepted into the tribe? If Roger comes out of this with his facial structure intact, then I cry foul.
I read a whole piece in Vanity Fair about how the show has softened Brianna’s edges to make her more likable, and certainly from what she says, Book Brianna is worse. But the idea that the show has made her likable in its episodes is funny to me, because… no. It also grapples with the notion that feeling like you have to be likable is a woman’s curse since the dawn of time, but honestly, I feel — from what’s in the article — that the evidence suggests the show isn’t trying to make her LIKABLE so much as that they can’t explain why Gabaldon wrote in certain ways, such as “reveling in being waited on hand and foot” in a house staffed with slaves, and so they’re ignoring the parts they themselves simply can’t explain or support.
Brianna is an artist suddenly, I guess, because she spends all her time at River Run crying and sketching (in fairness, she did also do a portrait of Roger for Claire to use in finding him, but before that, nada). Lizzie gets a look at one drawing of a bunch of faces howling and shrieks that she’s gone and made Brianna possessed, but Brianna very kindly says that Lizzy simply made an honest mistake out of a desire to protect. She forgives her immediately. Lizzy, bless her, wants to know if Brianna can forgive Jamie. “Even if I could forgive him for what he’s done to Roger, I can’t forget the things he said to me,” she moans. Okay, but on that former point, you just basically forgave Lizzy for STARTING THAT WHOLE THING, and even Lizzy is like, “That… was also my fault?” And on the latter point, HE WAS MISSING INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE HELPED HIM UNDERSTAND. What he said was terrible, but he thought she’d lied about being raped, and he was hurt. Brianna cannot see the complexities in people, it seems. She also has stopped modulating her voice again.
I hate that Jamie
Or, maybe I do love him.
I use the same tone.
Jocasta has apparently decided to play matchmaker: Phaedre comes in the next day, or some day — it is a day — and tells Brianna that she’s getting a new dress for a big ol’ shindig Jocasta is throwing with a bunch of local lords. Oh, sure, it’s just an introduction, but we can all see through that.
Aunt Jocasta is
Tinder for the Colonies.
Clean your muskets, gents.
Brianna ends the conversation because she’s so taken with the light on Phaedra’s face, but Sophie tells her, “You’re beautiful,” with the enthusiasm most people reserve for, “My toe hurts.” So Jocasta gives it a try herself, selling it as medicinal socializing to distract her worried mind, and then buttering up her niece with family history. She tells Bree that she’s just like her grandmother Ellen, also an artist and also ever so spirited — yawn; show, don’t tell, Outlander – and who married the man she truly loved because her father didn’t want to force her into a terrible union. Brianna decides that conversation really does make you stop wondering whether the chauvinistic prig you boinked is going to come back alive, and consents to attending the party.
Can we just stop at this point and say: It seems weird that there wasn’t ANY kind of hushed or rushed moment with her and Claire in which Claire was like, “Listen, Jocasta owns slaves, and that’s going to be SUCKY and AWFUL, but just deal with it if you can for the sake of the baby,” or something. If Brianna was both fiery and a child of the 60s and 70s, she’d theoretically be incensed by this. However, it sounds like Book Brianna was not, but couldn’t Show Brianna have differed in that way? Or no? Since it bothered Claire so much?
At the party, Jocasta turns into Chris Harrison and gives Brianna gets a big formal entrance down the stairs. All the Bachelorette: North Carolina contestants react with the extreme restraint that only a blind hostess can afford them:
And let me tell you: She clomps down those stairs like Julia Roberts in Ocean’s Eleven. Everyone is visibly so enchanted by her, and then we cut to her looking tired and stompy. Amazing.
Among the men vying for her hand: willowy, pointy Gerald Forbes, whose face was pinging me this WHOLE TIME until I realized he’s the hobbit in Lord of the Rings who isn’t Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, or Charlie from Lost. He is Gerald Fourthhobbit. He pants that he’s been greatly excited to meet her, as he and his sister Prudence make small talk about what she’s been doing. They are all horrified to learn that she’s been drawing Phaedre, with one of them dropping an N-word — not that N word; the other one — that makes Brianna do a double-take, as if she had somehow forgotten where she is. The word (or concept of) “slaves” doesn’t elicit a reaction but that adjective catches her by surprise, I guess…? A young gent called Judge Alderdice interrupts and says it’s “very courageous” of her to draw whatever inspires her and would genuinely like to see it. Jocasta jumps in before this can go any further and introduces our old pal Lt. Wolff, who I guess struck out with Jocasta herself, and who weasels over and purrs, “I have newfound empathy for your Great Aunt’s lack of sight.” Exactly no one thinks this is cute.
So basically, Wolff and Fourthhobbit are all, “Can I see your etchings,” in a symbolic way, and Judge Alderdice just really wants to see her etchings.
Wolff then invites her in an excursion to show her “magnificent sights” of some neighboring area, which his eyes seem to translate as, “The landscape of my pants.” This is the classic Bachelor(ette) strategy of, “Can I steal you for a second?” And then, also in classic Bachelor(ette) fashion, Fourthhobbit swoops in and himself steals her for a second — long enough to escort her to the parlor, where there is a gigantic box of jewels provided by Neil Lane.
I’m asking theoretically, my dear,
Is there anything you like laid out here?
If you WERE to have a ring –
Don’t assume anything! –
Is there one Precious that’s clear?
Neil Lane himself is standing in the corner smiling beneficently upon them, absolutely positive that this is true love and going to work out wonderfully, just as it has every single other time he’s fitted someone for a ring. Brianna defers, and then right at that moment, SUNSHINE bursts through the clouds to illuminate this dark day and, yes, steals EVERYONE for a second: John Grey has arrived. Jamie’s John Grey. THE ONLY JOHN GREY. Every other dude in the room looks at this adorable eligible widower and exchanges a look. It’s like when a popular contestant from a previous season arrives and everyone is like, “Ugh, but is he really here for Bree, or is he here for himself?!?”
Did I crash your bash
with my handsome countenance?
Sorry not sorry.
Lord John dazzles them all with tales of Jamaica, and then throws the conversation to Brianna. She lightly says she couldn’t possibly have any anecdote to compare, but that she does bust out a psychological party trick — “the science of the soul,” she intones. She makes them all close their eyes. “Must I close my eyes when you are before me?” drips Fourthhobbit. Brianna’s all:
She tells them to imagine walking in the woods with someone: picture the specific person, imagine you encounter an animal, and then you’re in a clearing. That’s it. This is already boring. She’s done. The clearing never comes into play, unless people were imagining doing randy things in it, like, say, a hot tub on a one-on-one date. “One at a time, you’ll tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what it represents. Symbolically speaking,” she says. Judge “Your Etchings Interest Me In A Non-Euphemistic Way” Alderdice goes first: He’s walking with Christ when they run into a squirrel he’s been squabbling with in his mother’s garden. Since squirrels are hoarders, she translates that as: YOU’VE GOT SECRETS. Judge “Oh Shit” Alderdice immediately excuses himself, probably to wander the halls of the Bachelorette mansion and wonder under his breath whether he should have quit his job to be here, while the whole table is like, “HOW THRILLING!”
When everyone’s attention scatters, Brianna asks John Grey who was with him in the forest, and he tries to stammer a lie, but he’s too slow. “Your father,” he says. “I thought of your father.”
Hot, hot, hot Jamie.
He was the animal, too.
Best vision ever.
Bree is all, “WHAA, why would you think of him??” Weirdest group date ever. John insists it’s because she’s right in front of him.
Also, I covet.
Him and me and phallic trees?
John confesses that Jamie had asked him to check on Bree, and she quickly ascertains that all her other secrets have been kept; John is savvy enough to know something is afoot, but reassures her Jamie is far too honorable to blab all Brianna’s business. She huffs that she doesn’t want to hear about Jamie’s honor — she calls him “my father,” though, which is weird writing; I feel like she still uses that for Frank — and then she fakes a fainting spell when Fourthhobbit tries to lure her into the gardens. John hustles her out of there, and the ever-doting Lizzy rockets in there and squeaks something about how she needs to take it easy “in her condition.” Lizzy, you are BAD AT THE WORLD.
John realizes we are dealing with the first-ever pregnant Bachelorette, and gently asks if Brianna lost her husband. Brianna gives him the anti-Jamie Cliffs Notes — “My father allowed him to be traded to the Mohawk” — and says she’s stuck there because her condition wouldn’t allow her to take the trip. John is surprised Jocasta knows about this, as he and Brianna have both noticed that she seems to be trying to marry off her pregnant great-niece. Practical as ever, John also wonders if she can take a second husband if her first is still alive, so Bree has to admit they were only hand-fast, without witnesses. She is amazing at burying the important details and twisting the others.
John slips Brianna a note from Jamie, then goes to bed, which leaves room for Bree and Chris Harrison to have a quarrel about whether she really wants to come out of this thing engaged. Chris Harrison is pretty sure she needs to, or else it will imperil the franchise — I mean, blemish her reputation and that of her bairn — and Brianna is just not really feeling anyone enough to give out a First Impression Rose. JoChrista finally says, “A marriage to one of these men will be of great benefit to you,” and Brianna sees RIGHT through that to JoChrista’s self-interest, and brings up the story JoChrista just told her about Ellen holding out and eventually marrying for love. Jo scoffs that Ellen was pregnant and eloped with Brian to escape an arrangement — meaning, of course, that CHRIS HARRISON TWISTED THE TRUTH TO ONE OF THE CONTESTANTS, LIKE, CAN WE EVER TRULY RECOVER FROM THE SHOCK — and that Ellen’s baby was still born in wedlock, which Brianna’s will not be. “His life will be RUINED,” she laments. Jo lays it out for her: Roger quit the show and is not coming back with a rose between his teeth, and it’s time to just ACCEPT IT and SETTLE FOR LESS. But… Is she just hoping dudes of this era think babies only gestate for four months? Or that they won’t notice a pregnant belly? I guess Willie’s mother pulled off a scheme with her husband, but this seems more extreme and like a rather flawed plan. Then again — say it with me — she’s a Mackenzie, and “Our Plans Are Flawed” is written on their clan flag.
Evidently, this is one of those Country House Parties where people sleep over, because the gang retires to various wings of the house. Brianna is lying awake stressing over whether to read Jamie’s letter, and then decides to snack on some cookies, so she sneaks downstairs or… wherever. Okay, I’m with you, girl. Then she hears manly noises from down the hall and decides to investigate. I am ALSO with her there. Without TV, one needs suspense where one can get it. So she creeps around the house until she stumbles upon a VERY THRILLING DISCOVERY INDEED: Lord John Grey pumping vigorously into Judge Alderdice near the clean linens. The good judge seems only mildly interested in this — has he not SEEN John Grey? That dude is A SNACK — but John is all in, on every level. He is having so much fun that he actually closes his eyes in bliss and nibbles on Alderdice’s shoulder. I don’t believe we’re MEANT to think Alderdice isn’t enjoying it, or anything; I think it’s just that the dude playing him is not great at sex scenes. Also, John and the judge are bad at finding places to tryst, because if Brianna heard them from down the hall and around the corner then surely other people thought to themselves, “Is there a man in this house who is straining to lift something heavy?”
Also, this plot would make The Bachelorette OR The Bachelor at least 100 percent better.
The next morning, Phaedre tells Brianna that Fourthhobbit is going to propose, and JoChrista has blessed their beautiful, ignorant union with a thousand roses. Brianna is not that stoked to live in the Shire for all eternity, and no one has satisfactorily addressed at what point ANY of these smarmy fools would be clued into her condition, so she buys some time: Pretending she needs a moment to collect herself due to sheer excitement, she secretly sends Lizzy to have Lord John meet her outside. “And Lizzy? Be discreet,” Brianna says, and Lizzy actually dares to give her a look that’s all, “Duh, of course!”
Brianna’s plan is to propose to Lord John. “OH DEAR GOD NO,” is his answer, which is the best thing I’ve ever heard. Brianna insists they don’t have to live together after the baby is born and that she’ll sign away claims to his fortune, but he refuses.
Pardon my language:
This would be some f*cked up shit.
Feeling backed into a corner, Bree then tries to blackmail him with what she saw in the hallway. Sophie Skelton is… not good in this scene, y’all. Her performance hits the same note over and over again, and the actors around her — Jocasta, John, the woman playing Phaedre — are so good that it makes it all the more obvious. (That time I said Outlander has casting issues sometimes? I’m crazy. I was clearly just extra crabby about the Willies and Brianna and Roger.) She announces she’ll write letters to the world — to the production company, to ABC, to TMZ — about his particular flavor of pork. John doesn’t believe her; the punishment would be death. “Then I’ll tell Jamie,” she says. John almost laughs in her face. “That’s assuming he doesn’t already know,” he says. Brianna here (again, oh, bless her, it’s very badly performed) realizes that John pictured Jamie because he’s in love with him. I cannot believe she didn’t put those pieces together sooner. She HAS presumably seen soap operas. She KNOWS how this works. John is enraged with her impudence, especially when she offhandedly mentions his late wife. “I am almost tempted to submit to your outrageous proposal. It would certainly teach you to play with fire,” he hisses. Brianna takes this to mean that he is prepared to consummate (he sounds more threatening than that, and I don’t know why because COME ON, that’s not who he is), and she is astonished that he had actual ladysex with his late wife. “I AM PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF CARRYING OUT MY HUSBANDLY DUTIES, I ASSURE YOU,” he squawks.
Bree retreats. John kindly offers to sit with her, even though she has just acted terribly, and he apologizes for his refusal. She apologizes for sounding insane. “I really wouldn’t have said a word to anybody,” she says feebly. John admits to her that he does see Jamie, but he also sees Claire, and their love. He agrees with JoChrista that she should marry, but “you understand now why I cannot be your husband.”
Oh and by the by
I’m raising your half-brother
Family tree? BENT.
He of course keeps that secret, for now. John then perceptively senses that there is something else bugging her. Brianna confesses about the rape and tells John the name of her tormentor, and that Fourthhobbit is about to propose. “If I marry him, I’ll be exchanging hope for a broken heart,” she says. Brianna, dearest, you had a halfway frank conversation with John the other night, you know he’s a friend, you know he’s discreet. Why didn’t you LEAD WITH THIS INFORMATION and THEN hit him with the blackmail if he’s a jerk? Catch this fly with some honey, sweetpea, and also with KNOWLEDGE. Anyhoo, Sophie is okay in those bits because she can speak haltingly and with emotion; as soon as she must speak plainly, and affect the formal speech of the era, it all falls apart. “I will do what I must, for the sake of my child,” she says, stiffly, as if she can’t quite fit her mouth around the words.
Inside, it’s the Most! Dramatic! Rose! Ceremony! Ever! Fourthhobbit has his Neil Lane ring in his hand and thanks Chris Harrison for everything he did to unite their families. But he does not get to propose, because of course John Grey sweeps in behind her and claims that she’s accepted his proposal. “A joyous occasion,” chokes JoChrista. “Had you not encouraged me to find a husband, I would never have opened my heart to Lord John,” she says, and JoChrista, who is facing away from everyone, lets a small smile creep across her face. Almost as if she sees straight through this and has mad respect for Brianna working the system. She even hugs Bree and says, “I dinna ken how you managed it, but a Mackenzie you truly are.” Poor Fourthhobbit skulks off to get drunk in the limo and cry.
“What a world to bring a child into,” Bree muses to John later. She stares at him totally dead-eyed and it’s UNREAL and INTERMINABLE and then I realized it’s because my WiFi froze the episode for a while. What she means is, she feels like she’s been cornered by societal rules into behaving in ways she never would have imagined. “Sometimes people do the wrong thing for the right reasons,” John says. “I’m sure your father would know something about that.” Bree doesn’t want to hear it, because of course not. John starts talking lovingly about Willie. “If he is anything like his father, he must be a perfect gentleman,” she says. “He is. Very much like his father,” John whispers, before admitting he and Willie do not share blood, and OH MY GOD for a hot second I thought he was going to say it. Instead, he keeps the secret, and Brianna praises his goodness. John says goodness doesn’t even factor into it; he just flat-out loves the kid, and he’s sure Roger will love hers. He says this so-called New World is only new because there is hope, “and hope is the very heart of love.” John is such a nice man. Why did you try and blackmail that NICE NICE MAN, BRIANNA?
She opens Jamie’s letter, and we leave her to read it in peace.
Claire and Jamie
Claire is being short and distant with Jamie, who clearly feels like total crap and might have trimmed his bangs in anger. Ian gets all the skinny from the Cherokee about where the Mohawk are, but it’s two months’ ride north, which for Roger is a very long walk. He’s gonna wish he’d palmed that damn rock when he had the chance. Jamie waxes ominous about how hard it is to live not knowing if your love is alive or dead. Fortunately Brianna has only been in love with Roger for about ten minutes.
TSK TSK DEAR AUNTIE YOU ARE MEAN
UNCLE JAMIE’S NOT FEELING SO KEEN
WE’RE NOT ALWAYS UNCOUTH
WE THOUGHT WE KNEW THE TRUTH
BUT YOU HADN’T TOLD US AND SO MAYBE YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT YOUR PART IN ALL THIS AND THE FACT THAT I THINK HE IS TOO SAD TO DO SQUATS SO HIS MUSCLE TONE IS GOING TO GO TO HELL SO JUST THINK ABOUT THAT! LOVE, IAN!!!!
Claire insists she’s not angry, and that she says she knows they meant well, but that she’s having a hard time not putting herself in Brianna’s and Roger’s shoes because yada yada motherhood stress empathy. However, they are playing every scene as if she is quietly resentful of both Jamie and Ian, so words and deeds don’t match there, Claire Bear. Your Claire Bear Stare is withering.
Rollo finds a burial ground, and Ian recognizes clothes on the desiccated skeleton as being from the body of the man who was with the Mohawk when he sold Roger. “He’s been dead for at least a month,” Claire says. So they’re all good and wigged, and they do a search a mile in each direction to see if they can find another body. No sign of any other bodies. They bury the poor dead dude whose flesh is all gone, and Jamie prays because “he was somebody’s child.” Then he walks away alone, and it finally seems to occur to Claire that they should maybe have a conversation. So, in their tent, which manages to look COMPLETELY PALATIAL and which I hope does not have Ian in it anywhere, she creeps over and apologizes. “I was upset, but not with you,” she says to Jamie. “WHO ELSE?” he asks. “Everybody. The world. Stephen Bonnet,” she says. Claire, if you weren’t upset with Jamie, you could’ve bloody well stuck up for him. Claire tells Jamie that when Frank died, it was just her and Brianna alone, and so any secrets were theirs and theirs alone to keep. This show has NEVER depicted them having any kind of relationship like this, certainly not after Frank died, which is a major flaw in the way the producers have developed the narrative. (I can’t speak to the books, because — as someone in the comments points out angrily every week — I have not read them.) Claire acknowledges that if she’d spoken up sooner, maybe it would’ve saved Roger, and that she was shocked to find herself keeping secrets from Jamie, but that having Brianna means there IS maybe one other person in her life who can come before Jamie. He gets it; he’s just super bummed that he won’t get to be a father to her. “Of course you can. And you will. She’s just hurt right now,” Claire says. Jamie can’t believe he’s jealous of a dead man, but Frank was clearly perfect, and he’s terrible. Claire promises that Frank messed up plenty, but Jamie knows Bree believes Frank to be the better man and that he’s afraid Claire feels the same. “YOU FOOL,” Claire says. “She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t want you to go to hell. She’s just like you. She says things in anger that she doesn’t mean!” This might have been useful for her to say weeks ago, but also, it’s not true. Brianna is HOLDING the HELL out of that grudge. And it’s not fair to equate what Bree said in anger to what Jamie said; he had no idea what he was talking about. It’s not like Roger banging on about Bree being a HOOR, which, by the way, are NOT words she held against HIM, so WHAT THE HELL YOU GUYS.
But, Jamie and Claire have sex, so I guess all is cool.
Murtagh and Fergus
These two are chillin’ in Wilmington, lying in wait for Stephen Bonnet and not TERRIBLY subtly asking around about him — which you’d think would’ve eventually gotten back to Bonnet, but whatever, he’s a sentient hat so maybe his hearing stinks. Also, I have to apologize; I forgot that last week, Jamie did not ask Murtagh to kill Bonnet. He merely asked for Murtagh to deliver Bonnet to him. How he expected that to happen is a mystery to me, given that Murtagh currently has no idea where Jamie is, but you know Jamie. Why make a good plan when you can make an insane one?
While they wait, he’s bunking with Marsali and Fergus, who is having trouble securing work: Nobody wants him to lend them a hand, because he’s only got one to give. “In milord’s eyes, I am whole. To them, I am less than a man,” he mopes. As Marsali complains to him about harboring a wanted man under their roof, she also somehow makes clear that she would ALSO like to harbor one particular wanted man under her pelvic roof. Being ticked off and still giving twinkly sex eyes is a very endearing feat.
Murtagh, whose face is on WANTED posters all over town, is planning one big Regulator Jamboree that will probably get everyone killed and then make me cranky all over again. Marsali, later, pretends to wake up Murtagh by accident and then sits down to talk to him about this impending death trap. She wants him to invite Fergus to join the doomed mob. “Marriage not all you’d hoped it would be, lass?” jokes Murtagh. “If I wanted him shot, I’d do it myself. And it wouldn’t be fair to take him out first, because he doesn’t put his boots on my blankets,” she sasses, as a sheepish Murtagh lowers his feet from the bed. O DAMN. Marsali’s name anagrams to “AIR SLAM,” and I think that was an example of one. Shit, you guys, I want a spinoff about Marsali and Murtagh and Fergus. Can we just redo these books and write out Brianna and Roger entirely?
Anyway, Marsali repeats that she’d like Murtagh to try and enlist Fergus, and Murtagh lets out a rueful sigh and holds up his hand regretfully. “Then you ken why I’m asking you,” she says. “I’ll have a whole man, or none at all.” Wait… what? That makes it sound like she does want to be rid of him, when what I think she actually means is that she needs him to get a confidence boost so that he stops glumping around town. At least, that had better be what she means. So, later, Murtagh invites Fergus into the militia. “You want… me?” he says. Murtagh says, “You have courage, and I trust you. If I’m to fight Tryon’s army, I can think of no man I’d rather have by my side.” Fergus says he’s honored to be asked, but that he cannot stray from Marsali and Baby Dawson, and Marsali glows so hard that I have to think that this is all she wanted: A shot of self-belief for Fergus.
Oh, but AHOY MATEY, Stephen Bonnet has come into port. Murtagh busts into his room with a gun, and… wow, once again, I thought the show went with a really long dramatic pause where Bonnet froze with a bottle near his lips, but it was just my Internet acting up. Once my WiFi stops burping, Stephen Bonnet gets cracked over the head by Murtagh, with the revolver, in the attic room.
Murtagh and Fergus then pull a total daft Mackenzie movie and don’t tie Stephen Bonnet up before they drag him downstairs. No, they wait until AFTERWARD, and until it’s no longer dark out, so that Murtagh can be spied in broad daylight doing something suspicious. (Seriously, I thought maybe he was going to UNTIE him and leave him outside to be arrested, but he’s clearly seen winding rope around Bonnet’s wrists.) Naturally two armed dudes recognize Murtagh, so he slugs Fergus in the gut — to absolve him of being seen with a criminal — and attempts to barter with them with Stephen Bonnet’s life. They’re all, “Oh, right, the murderer who escaped the gallows.” WAIT. Did all that happen in Wilmington? If it did, why is Stephen Bonnet able to walk freely around the town, dining out in the open and renting rooms and stuff, nary a care in the world? Why isn’t HIS face on a poster? And if it didn’t, but he’s notorious enough that people in Wilmington have heard of him… his ease of movement through town is screwy math, Outlander. Does Stephen Bonnet own the town? Murtagh is more exciting to these lawmen, so they leave Bonnet and cart him away instead. Oh, MURTAGH. I have said this before, but if you die, I will be SO IRRITATED WITH YOU.