My basic thoughts follow below, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get my complete thoughts.
Summary: Claire and Adawehi bond. A misunderstood truth is given. The white sow is challenging her worth. Jamie shares a supernatural dream. Claire midwife’s a mountain family. Jamie and Young Ian go to recruit settlers. Claire quashes a conflict. Settlers are difficult to come by. Measles claim lives. A dear friend is murdered. Someone special is found. Retribution is demanded. Family finds itself opposing one another.
It is impressive how Claire is integrating and participating in the community and blending cultures through her healing practice, her relationship with Adawehi, and in her clothing (gloves and fur undervest). She even temporarily belays bad blood between the Cherokee and Herr Mueller.
The continuing theme of Claire as a loving mother who misses Brianna. Adawehi tells her Brianna is here, but Claire misunderstands the meaning.
Who doesn’t love MURTAGH? RAWR! They’ve turned him into a serious silver fox. Move over Jamie, Murtagh is in town and seems to be single. Living well post indentured servitude has him doing well for himself.
The reunions between Jamie and Murtagh, Murtagh’s reaction to Claire returning, and Claire’s reaction to Murtagh coming up the path to the cabin are all squishy warm feeling delights.
The sheer superstitious savagery that Herr Mueller displays in believing the Cherokee cursed the water and his family leading to the measle related deaths of the baby, Petronella and Tommy are awful and painful to watch. Claire’s reaction when he hands her Adawehi scalp because the curse was broken through her death is revolting and wrenching. Herr Mueller puts the savage in savagery. The retaliation by the Cherokee for the death of Adawehi erases the Muellers from the New World. Mueller and his wife perish at their hands, and their cabin is burned to the ground. Mueller is the antithesis of the good neighbor Jamie and Claire are trying to be.
Jamie and Murtagh being on the other side of the law and Governor Tryon is setting up a storyline of challenge and decisions between them.
The way Brianna departs the 20th century is baffling and irritating. She appears to have left in a moment of rash decision when she learns on her own of the bad news about a fire at Fraser’s Ridge. She didn’t call Roger to tell him of the fire and obituary notice. When Roger goes to Inverness to track her departure and find clues, Miss Baird (presumably the daughter of Mrs. Baird the Innkeeper) gives him a letter Brianna asked her to hold for a year. She couldn’t take the heartbreak on Roger’s face.
The letter Brianna left is cold and dare I say cruel. She gives no indication she loves him or what her intentions are. She doesn’t even say what bad news she found that led her to leave. She tells him not to follow her into the past. And then, simply says goodbye.
Is she trying to push him away purposely? She seems utterly detached and uncaring. “Oh well, think of me happily in the past.” Ho hum. Nothing to see here.
Where is the deep love and wanting that is supposed to be building the foundation these two characters are bound by and drive us into the next generation willingly?
Roger’s character will have him following her without a doubt. BUT WHY would he follow her? She has left nothing for him to hold onto or to be encouraged by.
I am underwhelmed by the Brianna and Roger storytelling and find myself not caring if he follows her or not.
And don’t get me started on the Holly Hobbie dress she is wearing. It must have been a truly rash decision to head for the 18th.
Summary: Jamie becomes a landowner. Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian leave Marsali and Fergus, turning toward the mountains. The boundaries of Fraser’s Ridge are marked. The land is prepared for a cabin. They meet the locals who are unhappy at their presence. Roger makes a discovery. An awkward phone call ensues. Jamie receives council. Jamie believes the land spoke to him. Actions are taken to be peaceable neighbors. A threat bonds them and the Cherokee in friendship. Claire receives a prophecy. Fiona surprises Roger and shares a terrible discovery. Roger finally calls Brianna, but it’s too late.
What is the common ground? Merriam-Webster states the definition to be, “a basis of mutual interest or agreement.”
The Indian Tribes and the Highlanders:
Prejudice exists about the Cherokee (and other tribes) by the non-native colonialist peoples. They are called savages and compared to the Highland Scots by the Governor himself after Jamie signs the land agreement. The opening scene also provides a comparison as it shows the Cherokee Chief dressing. It harkens back to the opening scene that shows Jamie going through the same ritual of dressing in the Highland fashion. There are also similarities in the ways of life and difficulties with their way of life being compromised by encroachment, war, and politics. This, of course, is a highly simplistic comparison, and I urge you to do your research on the history of the Cherokee and other tribes.
As a side note, Jamie wanting this land for his and his family’s greater purpose and reclamation of all that was lost, believing the land spoke to him, coupled with his desire to be a good and peaceable neighbor creates conflict in me. The land is available because of deals the colonialists have made with the Cherokee. Jamie is now the Governor’s man and by extension the Crown’s man. He is the face of colonialism — the face of western Europe expansionism. Can one be a kinder gentler colonialist or rather take advantage of a colonialist offering and not be an oppressor? I know this is a modernist view and who wouldn’t jump at a chance to finally have something of value and worth? Who wouldn’t seek the avenue of legacy? Jamie Fraser is a good man who wants to do what is right and just. He strives to have a solid moral compass. Jamie Fraser is also a man who prizes his family’s safety, security, and prosperity above all else. He’s had so little ability in his life to take care of those in his charge without usurping the law or being an unstable caretaker.
Finding Common Ground
The episode did an excellent job in showing the growing pains of having settlers on the land, whether or not they are on the right side of the boundary lines. The local Cherokees do not take kindly to Jamie and Claire while they are clearing an area to build a shed and cabin. They even go so far as to threaten them with the return of several land marker poles. Jamie has no issue having his family brandish weapons when the Cherokee approach, yet in wisdom seeks council to somehow establish a harmonious and peaceful relationship between his family and the Cherokee. John Quincy Myers promises to take a gift of tobacco from Jamie as an offering. Jamie inadvertently finds the better alternative to forging a respectful and healthy friendship; he kills the bear that has been wreaking havoc in the area. It isn’t an ordinary bear; it’s a shunned Cherokee who has taken on the spirit, skin, and claws of a bear. To the Cherokee he is dead, so they have no means to kill the Tskili Yona man-bear. When the bear attacked friend John Quincy Myers and threatened in the forest, Jamie goes on the hunt. He discovers it is a bear-man when it attacks him. He ironically kills the monster with one of the land marker poles. When he returns the corpse to the Cherokee, they accept it and being to respect his place on the land.
The Cherokee offers friendship to Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian and the chief names Jamie, Bear Killer, as he will be known to the Cherokee. Jamie now has mountain cred. Through his actions, a bond of mutual respect is formed.
Claire also finds common ground with Adawehi, a great healer, who is Giduhwa’s husband’s grandmother. Adawehi dreams of Claire and gives her a prophecy that she will have great power when her hair turns all white. She also tells Claire something ominous about death coming that won’t be her fault. Claire stands to learn much from Adawehi and will undoubtedly become a stronger herbalist for it.
Common ground is also secured between Jamie and Claire as he maps out their new cabin that includes a clinic room for Claire to see patients. He considers both their needs in the design. This is the Jamie we expect and adore.
Where Common Ground Lacks
The painful awkwardness between Roger and Brianna when he calls to tell her the discovery about her mother and Jamie. She’s cool and distant to Roger while seeming to be less than enthused at the news. You’d think she’d be more excited and express deep gratitude for him continuing to research in the past. What’s a guy have to do to get a rise from her? After Roger finds out Fiona knows about Claire being a traveler and sharing devastating news from an article she found in her grandmother’s belongings, they also disagree on whether Roger should tell Brianna about the obituary with a blurred date. At some point after, Roger decides to phone Brianna but is told she left for Scotland a couple of weeks ago to visit her mother. She never told him or contacted him. The divide between them grows. Was he calling to tell her about the obituary? How much time had passed since Fiona shared it with him? Why was Brianna traveling into the past without telling Roger? From this vantage point, I think he has the right to be angry.
The other area where common grounds lacks is in Tryon’s views of the regulators and the Indians. He stands for King and Crown, where Jamie is using the land grant for his purposes knowing he’ll have to choose sides in the future when the American Revolution breaks out.
Into the Future
This episode resolves one serious issue but opens up pathways to many unanswered questions.
Will Roger discover when and why Brianna time traveled?
Will Brianna find her parents?
Why didn’t Brianna tell Roger?
Will Roger follow Brianna into the past?
Will life be calm on Fraser’s Ridge now that friendship is secured between the Cherokee and those on the Ridge?
When will we see Marsali and Fergus?
Who will Fergus recruit to live on Fraser’s Ridge?
How long before Governor Tryon calls in favors from Jamie and his men in the backcountry?
Claire, Jamie, Young Ian, and Rollo arrive at Aunt Jocasta’s plantation, River Run. Aunt Jocasta extends every hospitality learning they were robbed. Young Ian and Rollo meet a wicked predator. We meet a mountain man. Claire’s sensibilities and beliefs are on edge. Auntie Jocasta hatches a MacKenzie style plan. There’s a party with the who’s who of the area in honor of their arrival. An incident puts Jamie and Claire between what’s right and what’s the law.
Jamie is again in a down and out position and feeling responsible for it all.
Family matters and Jocasta needs an heir.
The timeline isn’t discernible for how long Jamie and Claire’s stay is at River Run before the dinner party or the incident with Rufus and Overseer Byrnes. This is important to why Jocasta named him heir so swiftly without seeing him really acting administratively or performing the business management duties she needs help with. Jamie appears not to have looked at Jocasta’s business dealings until after the public announcement. Really? One discussion with Wolff and Jocasta following his business acumen from afar. He was laird of Lallybroch for a short time with Jenny and Ian doing most of the work, he worked for Jared in Paris for a short time, yet successfully, he was in hiding, in prison, working his sentence off, and then became a seditious printer and smuggler. His bonafides don’t add up without Jocasta seeing him in action.
The plot device of Jamie only learning about the difficult slavery laws of the colony AFTER the announcement to make him an heir and the incident between Rufus and Byrnes. Jamie knew about other laws and even the Regulators. Surely, he would’ve asked about slavery and all it entailed. He was so pie-eyed and Pollyanna about working to release them if he took on the running of River Run. It is a kind and right notion, but as we find out, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Squares and Round Holes:
John Quincy Myers the wild mountain man just happens to be on the property and is the one person who knows how to help Young Ian with the skunk perfumed Rollo. Then he goes poof, and we don’t see him again during the episode. This screams, “Hey viewers, he might be important later, and we wanted you to meet him now.” Secondly, he’s either ill-mannered or completely oblivious in speaking to Young Ian, a lad of 16, in such a way. Book readers, I think you get my vibe on this scene.
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Aunt Jocasta Cameron. She convinces me she IS a MacKenzie through and through. The other new faces Ulysses, Phaedre, Lieutenant Wolff, John Quincy Myers, and Farquard Campbell are also well cast and believable. I am always struck wondering what the experience is playing the part of a slave or a slave owner. Both cause my heart to ache.
Claire and Jamie being in partnership they can’t own slaves, how they proceeded together in trying for true justice, treating Rufus, and subsequently understanding his soul is what matters. They stand unified.
Young Ian’s sweet heart when learning about Jocasta’s blindness and his compassion for the American Indians as people and not savages. He also shows great steel as Claire’s surgical assistant.
Jocasta’s butler Ulysses speaking plainly to Claire about what is to come for Rufus if he lives and how saving his soul is better than what’s to come. He’ll be used as an example for the other slaves to obey. Jamie says the same thing to Claire when he realizes Rufus will not be allowed to live no matter what. I like how these conversations mirrored each other, one from each, a free man and a slave.
Claire’s loving and kind bedside manner connecting with Rufus as he was dying. We have seen her do this before to send a soul off peacefully and with comfort.
Finally, Jamie’s prayer as the clock strikes midnight, Rufus dies from the poison, and Jamie delivers the limp body to the waiting men. Jamie crosses himself and prays, “I’m bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me. Pour down from heaven the rich blessing if thy forgiveness. Be thou patient wi’ us. Grant to us savior of glory, the love of God…And the will to do on earth at all times as angels and saints do in heaven. Give us the peace.”
Claire’s unwavering belief that people should not be owned. Seeing her fight the need to save the young man and not to cause unintended harm, was a beautiful struggle to behold. Sometimes the right answer requires courage in action we can never see coming. The downside to this staunch and brooding belief is that she isn’t culturally aware or sensitive. Did she have to bludgeon the idea home over and over. It is revolting, but she could have found a way to not sulk around and find a way through the situation without inadvertently putting the slaves in harm’s way, and without threatening Jocasta’s home and land, which she did. SLAVERY IS UNCONSCIONABLE. History, when allowed, will speak it loud and clear without Claire being more entrenched and rasher in action because of her 20th-century beliefs.
I was struck hard at the closing sequence. I applaud the realistic and brutal portrayal of slavery as it was in the American Colonies. I believe we must confront the good and bad in our collective history through any and every medium. The entertainment industry is an important vehicle, especially when the simple and often harsh truths are allowed to be represented, and no agenda or politics get in the way. Time might heal some wounds, but others need intervention and social change to be righted even a little bit. That said, I do think like the theme of circles in episode 401, it was heavy-handed without allowing the viewer to make the emotional, ethical, and moral leaps on his or her own. Outlander viewers are by and large people who can critically think and get what the writers are trying to say.
The idea Jocasta would assume Claire to be a Quaker because of her abolitionist beliefs is simply odd. The Southern Colonies had slaves, the northern Colonies did not. For some reason, viewers REALLY, REALLY need to know that Quakers may be of importance to future storylines.
CORRECTION: There was slavery across the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. And the first organized group of white people to speak out against slavery was indeed the Quakers (The Society of Friends) who stood alone as a group for quite some time. I misspoke in my critique. With the exception of Claire’s speech, Jocasta may have been correct in this assumption.
Things to Ponder:
The color blue is seen throughout the décor and in clothing during the episode. Is it a nod to the indigo trade or something else?
Will we be meeting Quaker’s in the future?
Will we see more of John Quincy Myers?
Will Jamie take Governor Tryon’s offer?
Will we see Jamie in a kilt this season? He is free to wear one.
Have we seen the last of Stephen Bonnet?
There are numerous warm fuzzies from the book regardless of who the lines were given. These stand out in particular for me.
We learn Jocasta has lost most her vision but has “now been gifted with hearing that would be the envy of many gossip, and the ability to scent truth from lies, if ye catch my meanin’.”
There’s been a run in with the scary and horrible skunk. Young Ian says, “It lifted its tail and sprayed a foul liquid from its arse.”
Jocasta says to Claire, “Jenny was right about you. You are a peculiar lass.”
When Jocasta adds definition to how Claire speaks her mind on all manner of topics whether she knows about them or not, Claire responds, “the same could be said for Jenny.” There’s the humor! Jocasta likes her fiery spirit.
Claire to Jamie after he tries to be positive about benevolent slave ownership and forging change, “Fuses often lead to explosions.”
Jamie’s response to Claire, “Aye, but when the dust settles, oftentimes the devil yer fightin’ is gone.” Mayhaps, he’s talking about Black Jack Randall?
It took me two viewings before I could get a handle on this episode. I think us devoted book readers need to watch more than once to firmly separate one from the other. We have the blessing and curse of knowing the material being adapted. I like this episode for the most part. I’ve a few gripes so far this season: the choppiness in the flow scene to scene and episode to episode (why didn’t they discuss the ring being taken too), the sense of feeling rushed from one place to the next without taking time to savor or deepen important moments or characters, then slowing way down for one event, and being spoon-fed what the writers deem important. If the writing is solid, there’s no need to put the point on repeat.
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Jamie, Claire, Marsali, Fergus, Young Ian, Lesley, and Hayes are in Wilmington, NC. There’s a hanging. Young Ian gets a dog. The Frasers are going to a party. They are broke and need to sell a gemstone for passage back to Scotland. A greedy pastor, flashbacks, and a stowaway complicate the burial. Assistance is given to an escaped convict. Jamie and Claire sleep rough. The Governor makes Jamie an offer. They decide to stay in America. On the way to River Run, there’s trouble.
With good there is bad. There are opportunities in the new world, but there is also cruelty and opportunistic savagery that takes place against others in the process.
Circles have significance from the broader to the personal, impact lives, and are here to make a point this season.
There is so much excellent dialogue to provide warmth to devoted Outlander readers.
Jamie stands out as a good friend and leader.
Claire’s humor and emotional range are coming into view. She’s less a constipated shrew and more emotionally rounded.
The choice to highlight Young Ian’s trauma after being scared and sexually assaulted by Geillis “The Bakra” Abernathy.
Rollo is joining the crew.
Marsali and Fergus are expecting a child. SURPRISE. Apparently, she likes sex quite fine and having a child won’t stop that.
Jamie’s gift of the medicine box for their 24th anniversary is a deep home run. He’s sentimental and knows Claire is not the type to want baubles and fancy things.
Ed Speleers gives an excellent performance as Stephen Bonnet, at once likable, over the top schmoozer, maybe kind, and then morphing into a malevolent mercenary he returns to steal Claire’s rings and the gems he overheard them talking about when he was a stowaway. He even murders Lesley when he fights back.
Caitriona’s performance during the robbery is stunning. With minimal sound, her emotions, facial expressions, and body movements scream volumes.
Jamie’s wig with bangs is hands down is THE worst thing in this episode. Claire’s wig and the funky North Carolina CGI are next in line. Everyone else’s wigs are fantastic. I just don’t get it. It seems the hair team is trying to mimic Sam’s hair before he donned a wig. Someone, PLEASE give Jamie an all over shoulder length wig that can be properly plaited. The utter distraction makes for difficult viewing.
Who the hell is Lillington and how did they get an invite to a party? It was an abrupt non-sequitur without context while they’re riding to the kirkyard to bury Gavin. Unless you’re a book reader, this came out of left field.
The hanging of Gavin barely ticked the emotional box because there was so little character development of him and Lesley even though they were at Ardsmuir and worked for Jamie in Edinburgh. Except for Lesley’s heartfelt tavern singing, and the shocking nature of his death, they felt superfluous to a storytelling end
Why was Jamie so determined for them all to go back to Scotland? Claire mildly talking him into staying is a bit off-putting.
Fergus being so mild and mousy and seemingly lacking the wit and fire his younger counterpart displayed is a slight turn off as a viewer.
The snarky dinner party guest Judith Wylie being jealous of Claire and trash talking her to Claire’s “whatever” face.
Jamie’s “more trees” response to Claire.
Jamie’s response to sweet devastated Young Ian, “What it comes down to is your cock doesn’t have a conscience, but you have.”
Young Ian to Uncle Jamie, “I didna ken. She’ll be saying it in Scotland won’t she.”
Claire’s voiceover in the opening scene of native peoples building a cairn circle around a standing stone, Hey there! Circles of ALL kinds (nooses, wedding rings, the movement of clock hands, and planetary orbits) are super-duper important. Especially stone circles in America.” (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink). Then Stephen Bonnet focusing on the rings and the importance of an eternal circle. Then Stephen attempting to take Claire’s wedding rings.
Overall, I liked this episode and look forward to what’s coming. A lot of ground was covered to move the story along nicely. I don’t envy the task of adapting such detailed and lengthy work. Outlander viewers are pretty darned smart and don’t need to be spoon-fed foreshadowing, hit in the face with themes or points the producers and writers want to be certain we don’t miss. I promise, if the writing is good, viewers with getting it.
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News: The official Season 4 opening credits and the music was released on October 6th during an Outlander panel at the NYCC. Bear McCreary masterfully creates the connection to the colonial south of America by once again altering The Skye Boat song to reflect where the story is going while maintaining its Scottish roots. The credits also combine the familiar beginning with snippets from the season that include the sweeping expanse of River Run, the backcountry cabin on Fraser’s Ridge, Brianna touching the stone at Craigh na Dun, traditional dancing, a handfasting, and more.
Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Richard Rankin, and Sophie Skelton, producers, Maril Davis, and Ron D. Moore, and writer Diana Gabaldon were at the NYCC doing autographs and participating in panels. The official Outlander panel audience members were even surprised with a showing of S4 E1.
Onto the prep for S4…Rewatch Season 3 episodes 1-3 then listen to the podcast for my thoughts.
Here are the episode synopses from Outlander Starz to refresh your memories:
Ep 301 The Battle Joined – After living through the Battle of Culloden, Jamie is at the mercy of British victors, until his past provides his only hope of survival. Meanwhile, a pregnant Clarie attempts to adjust to life in 1940’s Boston.
Ep 302 Surrender – Hiding in a cave, Jamie leads a lonely life until Lallybroch is threatened by redcoats pursuing the elusive Jacobite traitor. In Boston, Claire and Frank struggle to coexist in a marriage haunted by the ghost of Jamie.
Ep 303 All Debts Paid – In prison, Jamie discovers that an old foe has become the warden – and has the power to make his life hell. Claire and Frank both put their best foot forward in marriage, but an uninvited guest shatters the illusion.
Next podcast I’ll be rewatching and talking about S3 episodes 4-7 and chatting up whatever news comes up this week.
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What coming up? More Countdown to S4 and rewatching of Season 3 episodes 4-7