I’ll be honest, I put off writing about this episode for as long as possible, because it is not an uplifting hour of television. In between scenes of sad people, we get MORE sad people. In between scenes of stoic suffering, we get MORE stoic suffering. It’s an emotional time right now in the world, and being mired in someone else’s FICTIONAL muck for a full hour is not necessarily appealing. I miss the season where we were on an island with a nutjob priest who hung out with his sentient coconut. Coco would have loved the New World, and Fraser’s Ridge. Coco would have had THOUGHTS about all these people not discussing their feelings properly.
All right, let’s dive in: Outlander starts us at Oxford, in Roger’s classroom, with a small group of students. It is 1969. They have put Richard Rankin in a wretched wig that is halfway between Roger’s current hair and the wavy, eyebrow-length flop that he had back when they originally introduced him. And it looks ghastly, so that’s working hard against him. In the midst of his class, too, Brianna just waltzes in and sits against the wall, waiting for him to finish blabbing. No one reacts. Even in her own era, no one has time for Brianna.
So, this whole scene only exists to give us a heavy-handed slap. Roger is underwhelmed by his students’ papers about Famous Last Words. He complains that he wanted them to think about WHY people choose the words they do, and what their own would be. Maybe the assignment should have been Your Last Words, then? Anyway, the scene only exists so that Rog’s students can ask what his last words would be, and he trills, “I’d say let history forget my name so long as my words and my deeds are remembered by those I love.” Wait. Is he claiming THOSE would be his last words — that he would climb on a hill at the moment of death and shout them to the sky, or etch them in a tablet? At the end of class, everyone leaves, and Brianna sidles up to him so they can go catch that silent movie marathon they’ve been eager to see. They kiss dreamily and are all gooey for each other. Problem: Per the show’s timeline, Brianna and Roger did not date or make out while he was at Oxford. Theirs was a long-distance longing, mostly on his part, but for one or two Christmases in Boston, before they went on that North Carolina road trip and then he slut-shamed her for wanting to hook up without being engaged. After that, he chased her through the stones. Right? Am I forgetting a nuance to the TV depiction? So they’re snacking on each other’s classroom, and all I can think of is, “What?!? WHEN?”
Now that we’ve invented in Roger a love of silent films, Outlander tries to get artsy on us, using that style to pick up the thread from the last episode. The entire discovery of Roger’s body is played as if it’s one of those mold movies, with dialogue cards and all; it looks great, but as I note in the slideshow, they don’t need it at the top of the show and indeed it doesn’t make sense there. The gist of the action is: Jamie realizes Roger’s hanging body is still breathing, and Claire performs an emergency tracheotomy. “You’re alive, you’re whole, you’re well,” Jamie says.
when i prayed to be well hung
this is not what i meant
Then, in the fashion of many shows that don’t want to spend much time on things like Messy Emotional Aftermath, we skip over all the potentially juicy bits and land three months later. We don’t get invested in the struggle, nor the shock, nor the grief. Much as with the vows in Princess Buttercup’s wedding to Prince Humperdinck, we just sort of skip that part. Roger is up and about, but not talking, which absolutely explains why the show suddenly made us listen to him singing for SO MANY EPISODES IN A ROW. It was supposed to be this great tragedy that he’d lost his voice, so they had to jam in a bunch of examples of it in a hurry. But he was so bad at using it for other things! Remember when he was supposed to convince people of things?
This man achieved little in toto.
He is a big waste of a throato.
My mouth isn’t real
And yet I still feel
You’d get more from me, your pal Coco.
Claire is trying to get Roger to speak, but he won’t, not even when Brianna teases that she’s going to teach Jemmy all the Americanisms in the world. He doesn’t want to look at people. He doesn’t want to go see John Grey (WHY?!? If ever there was balm for a wounded soul…). It’s here where Brianna decides that telling Roger, “We can pretend we’re in a silent film,” is a good idea. This is the very slim peg on which Outlander hangs the decision to have Roger’s traumatic memories play like silent film reel. Except… he could still HEAR. He would in fact be recalling harrowing SOUNDS. It’s just that he can’t speak HIMSELF. Further, he is “remembering” things from after the bag is over his head — shots of the barrel being kicked away, of Governor Tryon’s face, stuff he could only have heard but not seen. So the silent-film treatment lacks a bit of logic.
My notes here read, “Brianna is upset that Roger sucks now.” That covers it. She and Claire and Jamie debate whether his glum attitude is due to shell shock, and… YA THINK?
i was hanged
“No matter how lost he is, you just have to have faith,” Claire concludes, unhelpfully. Given that Claire re-invented penicillin based on sketchy memories of med school, she could probably muddle through some basic psychotherapy instead of just telling Brianna to give it all up to the Lord.
Everyone is bummed, so for lightness, we cut to… Jocasta singing a sad song of mourning at a pile of rocks they’ve built to memorialize Murtagh. I wish we’d gotten to see Jocasta receive the news, clutch at her chest, cry. I hate skipping over the big moments, especially after all this time we invested, but I guess you could argue that him proposing, her saying no, and him leaving the night before her wedding was when Jocasta truly grieved him. Anyway, Jamie is sad. Jocasta is sad. Everyone is full of sads. And then Jocasta leaves, because why would we spend any more time on feelings about DEAD BELOVED PEOPLE?
i was mostly dead
if that counts
I said BELOVED, Dogface.
Governor Tryon feels just awful about hanging Roger (who was gagged, so he couldn’t yell his identity to Tryon)(although he also didn’t exactly try). So he’s offering Brianna a bunch of land, and she’s like, “UGH, I don’t need LAND, I need a less lame version of my husband,” and everyone else is like, “Weeeelllll, land is pretty good though, and more realistic.” I might be editorializing a bit.
it’s just that
i was hanged?
can i be lame
for a bit
Indeed, Roger is busy having flashbacks to his hanging, while John gives Brianna a fancy old thing that LOOKS like a cross between a pocket watch and a sundial, to help “find our place in the world.” That’s very sweet. Brianna uses it to tell time, and then in the next scene, Claire prattles on to Jamie about how “time heals all wounds.” Claire speaks only in platitudes these days. It’s dull. They decide to go visit the kiddoes, and find that Roger has decided to go all Bob Vila on us and try to build stairs for their new loft. Everyone mills around inside for a bit, including Jemmy, and here I thought to myself, “Roger is about to go full Fallon Carrington on us, isn’t he?” If you missed Dynasty, Fallon was paralyzed, but MIRACULOUSLY leapt to her feet to save her child from drowning. Seconds later, I kid you not, Roger sees Jemmy reach for a hot kettle and croaks, “STOOOP,” and runs to him. Jemmy bursts into tears, because hot kettles are exciting and Daddy is not! Brianna gazes at Roger in wonder, thrilled that his voice works, and then demands that he say something else. “She’s all, “Please try. FOR ME.” But Roger can’t, because Reader, he is no Fallon Carrington. Not really.
i was hanged?
and it sucked?
The thing is, Dogface IS being a Dogface about it, and I guess it’s been three months, but I am confident three months is not an unreasonable amount of time to struggle with REMEMBERING YOUR OWN NEAR-DEATH BY HANGING. I don’t like Roger, but the constant looks of disappointment on people’s faces when he can’t just slap a smile on his face or babble at will is irritating to ME and I don’t even LIKE HIM.
Jamie and Claire take Jemmy out to play in the woods, and are set upon by a boar.
did you say a bore
because i did not do that
No, Dogface, I said a BOAR. Right as Jamie is about to get into a wild boar knife fight, an arrow zips throught the air and makes pork chops out of it. Jamie and Claire gaze at the Mohican warrior standing above them on the cliff: IAN!!! Jamie and Claire are delighted! They love Ian! IAN!!!!! Ian will liven up the joint!
NO AUNTIE I NO LONGER SMILE
I JUST GLARE AND I FROWN FOR A WHILE
I AM RAW CLAY NO MORE
I AM STERN TO MY CORE
BUT I STILL DON’T KNOW HOW TO FINISH A POEM BUT IT’S BECAUSE I CHOOSE NOT TO, BECAUSE I AM SOLEMN NOW. IAN.
The Frasers drag their strong, silent nephew to Brianna’s and Roger’s house, where he stands there staring at them in his Mohawk and his gear and his new face tattoos. Roger staggers over to him and embraces him, fumbling for the words he won’t be able to say, hoping maybe they’ll come out. They don’t. (Credit: Richard Rankin is very good in this scene.) Ian just sort of stands there as Roger staggers away. He needs a sign on a pole that reads, “Sorry for the inconvenience but I’ve recently been hanged.” Brianna watches him go, then beams at Ian, who does not respond.
Poor Marsali then tries to cheer Roger up with a Tarot reading, and what card does he get twice but The Hangman. Angrily, he smacks the cards onto the floor, then watches as a very pregnant Marsali bends down with particular effort to clean them up. Roger, shove your tantrums up your snoothole.
did you hear
i have a hangover
Brianna comes in and lets Roger have it, but unfortunately, not for being a dink to Marsali. She points out that she has ALSO been through trauma, but she didn’t quit on the world, and neither should he — and that her patience is wearing thin. “I fought for us,” she says, telling him she needs to know now whether he plans to do the same.
your dad beat me
and sold me to a tribe
that named me dogface
and then there was thing where i was hanged?
As a change of pace, we get a family dinner scene, where everyone sits down to Jamie’s and Claire’s grand table and Ian delights them of diverting stories from his… wait, no, everyone sits in stony silence as Ian refuses to pick up any conversational threads and seems uncomfortable to be surrounded by creature comforts. He won’t even sleep in his bed, preferring to lie on a towel outside the door on the hard wooden patio. Whenever Stephen Bonnet finishes concocting the LONGEST PLAN EVER to steal his baby, Ian will make for a convenient alarm system. Jamie tries to get him to talk, but Ian says he doesn’t have the words, so Jamie just sits with him quietly. Structurally, too, this episode is a lot of VERY short bites of scenes stitched together.
Later, Ian whittles morosely. EVERYTHING anyone does in this hour is morose. Germain — Marsali’s oldest; she’s pregs with her third — asks a couple harmless curious questions, and she shoos him away and sits next to Ian, and amiably notes that keeping up with two kids and assisting Claire and making food and gardening and being awesome is EXHAUSTING. She jokes that she can’t fathom why they’re having a third. “Bairns are only lent to us for a short time by the creator, if we’re lucky,” Ian says dolefully. Ian is completely different and yet people have made an absolute minimal if not totally absent effort to reach out to him and help. Marsali sort of does here? She remembers Ian’s siblings, and talks about feeling guilty because, while she misses her sister, she feels now like she belongs in Fraser’s Ridge. If anyone thinks Ian is depressed because he misses his Scottish family, they are bonkers. I honestly forgot Jenny and Old Ian even existed. Anyway, she gets up, leaving him sitting there. Just sitting. Sadly sitting.
EVEN MY FEELINGS HAVE FEELINGS.
EXPRESSING THEM IS UNAPPEALING.
I’M NOT DOING WELL
BUT DON’T ASK; I WON’T TELL,
BECAUSE IT IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME IN THE NARRATIVE ARC FOR PEOPLE TO BE OVERLY CURIOUS ABOUT MY INNER WORKINGS AND SO WE’LL JUST LET THIS FESTER SHALL WE? IAN.
It’s been decided that Roger and Ian will go together to explore the land Tryon offered to Brianna, which is very sensible, because neither of them speaks and so theoretically they can’t irritate each other (although Dogface will certainly do his best). I’m surprised Claire hasn’t invented a chalkboard for Roger, or perhaps an iPad. Brianna breaks out her extensive folding skills and fashions Roger a large paper airplane, spinning a yarn about they show you that you can bend expectations and become something else, yada yada yada metaphorical blah. She tosses it at him and says she loves him.
Roger and Ian leave, and it will not surprise you that it’s the world’s most boring trip. Roger glowers! Ian glowers! Roger sees Ian’s bracelet! Ian yanks his sleeve over it! Roger has nightmares! Ian looks at him! Roger looks at Ian! HOT. BUDDY COMEDY. ACTION. But lo: Back at the ranch, Claire has discovered that some hemlock has been stolen, and she’s concerned Roger is going to kill himself. No one is remotely concerned about Ian, or questioning of his mental state. Only Roger. Are they only able to concentrate on one person at time?
Meanwhile, Roger IS considering suicide… but by jumping off a cliff. He stands on the precipice as Ian watches curiously from a distance, and flashes back to having his head stuffed in a bag, and the reflex that had his hand fly up to his neck when they kicked the barrel away (I believe his fingers got between the noose and his skin?). It’s gnarly — we see his blood vessels bursting in his eyes as he fights for breath, and then the last vision that floats before his fading mind is of Brianna. But, in her new wig, not her old one. Roger didn’t KNOW about New Wig. Roger hadn’t SEEN New Wig. Is Dogface psychic in death?
The mere sight of it, though, makes him throw away the paper airplane and decide to live, primarily because he needs to get home to Brianna and communicate to her that her other hair color was better. Later, he wakes from a nap and notices Ian has tied up Rollo and is burying his tiny axe. Then he goes to drink a potion, and Roger kicks it away. Ian pounces upon him and screams in his face about how he knows Roger thought about dying, too, and why would HE of all people try and stop Ian? Roger doesn’t answer, because the script says not to yet, so Ian keeps yelling about what Roger saw when the hangman’s noose closed around him. “WHAT DID YOU SEE IN THE DARKNESS? WHAT DID YOU SEEEEEE?” he pants. Roger clears his throat, and manages to eke out five little words: “I saw my wife’s face.” Ian collapses on the ground. He is upset that even in death, he can’t escape the memories, although Roger was… not dead? … so maybe Ian just isn’t clear yet on how death works. Roger, sounding croaky but clear, asks Ian what his lady’s name was, and if she too is dead, because SUDDENLY his voice works JUST FINE.
the thing is
Ian says his ladyfriend — wife, girlfriend, we’ll know soon — is alive, but lost to him forever, so he sought to end the pain. Roger, FULL OF WORDS NOW, natters on about how, well, who KNOWS where his soul will go on the other side, and maybe the bonds of WHERE WAS ALL THIS TALKING WHEN PEOPLE NEEDED IT, ROGER? Seriously, it’s like someone standing up for the first time in three months and immediately doing Irish dancing.
I cannot with this. It’s loco.
Who IS this furry-faced shmoe?
Give ME his words;
This dude’s for the birds.
Season Six: The Return of Coco.
I’m sure the argument is that Ian never pressured him to try, so Roger maybe could relax, but it’s still bonkers. We barely had time to invest in the trauma of Roger losing his voice. We had no time to even TRY to feel for him, and poof, it’s over and he can talk again? What a waste. Roger now wants them to go home, and I agree, let’s please get the hell out of his episode. Ian doesn’t like Roger lecturing him: “You buried your weapon, your voice, and now you dare use it against me.” Roger leans in and says, yes, he did, but “now I have to pick it up again and fight. Can you?”
Cut to: Roger arrives home and gallantly says Brianna’s name. She is taken aback, and he makes a wan joke, then delivers a whole monologue about how “The Hanged Man” is who he is now; he’s changed, by dint of his own ancestor trying to murder him. That IS way harsh. Dogface can’t even make his own kin fond of him. Then he says something really jumbled about how he thought he knew what his last words would be, but they don’t matter now, because of the last face he saw: hers. What? Dogface, you’re speech-drunk. He concludes by saying that, no matter what, he will always sing for Brianna. We fade to black on this ominous promis, which brings Brianna joy, but to me sounds vaguely like a punishment.