Television

Outlander episode 504

No cold open this time. Title card is a man’s hand with a fancy ruffled cuff, playing with a coin. Stephen Bonnet.

Roger & Co. ride into Brownsville. Roger and Fergus approach the Trading Post on foot. Fergus notices the barrel of a gun sticking out the window. They stop. Roger introduces himself. Man inside the house does not address Roger, but yells instead to Isaiah Morton (“Morton, you bastard!”) He then shoots at Morton, knocking him off his horse. Pandemonium. Gunshots from the house, militia scattering, men trying to find fighting positions.

“Do you think they’re Regulators?” John Quincy Myers asks.
“Well, not unless Morton’s secretly a corrupt tax collector in disguise,” Roger replies.

A young woman (Alicia Brown) runs out of the house, yelling for Isaiah. It seems she confessed to her father about she and Morton’s romance so he would not marry her off to someone else (Elijah Ford). She begs Morton to “do right by her,” then turns to the house and yells, “Don’t hurt him! I’d rather die than be without him!” This display prompts another woman (her aunt, Mrs. Brown) to come out of the house and slap her, then drag her inside. Gunshots resume.

Roger decides they need to turn Morton over to the Browns and asks Fergus to get out the whiskey as well. Fergus isn’t sure this is a great plan, but says, “Aye, Captain.” Roger orders the militia to stand down.

Meanwhile, back at Fraser’s Ridge . . .

Brianna, Jemmy, and Mr. and Mrs. Bug return from their trip to town with supplies (and a gift for Lizzie). Brianna finds a coin in Jemmy’s bassinet. Mrs. Bug explains that an Irish gentleman ruffled Jemmy’s hair, asked about his parents, and gave him a coin while they were in town. Brianna pretends that her visible distress at this news is due to her belief in negative Irish stereotypes and Mrs. Bug accepts this; it’s probably the least weird thing she’s been asked to accept about Brianna (or Claire) so far.

Brianna tells Lizzie she’s decided they should move into the Big House while Jamie, Claire, and Roger are away.

Back to Brownsville . . .

The Brown men are restraining Isiah Morton, Alicia Brown is pulled away sobbing, and Roger’s breaking out the whiskey for a taste test. He explains again that they are a militia and proposes a toast, “To the men of Brownsville, and to the men of the Fraser’s Company.”

Lionel Brown isn’t interested in discussing the militia, only his huge ax to grind with Isiah Morton. The problem doesn’t seem to be so much that Morton has dishonored his daughter, but that the result of that dishonor is his arranged marriage for Alicia is ruined, and with it the 10 acres of land and tobacco trade Brown hoped to acquire. A concerned father, to be sure.

Roger offers Morton as a substitute (though less lucrative) match for Alicia Brown. Mr. Brown won’t have it as he’s already pledged to kill Morton. Roger and the militia men can stay the night, but in the morning, the Browns are keeping Morton and plan to kill him.

Meanwhile . . . Jamie and Claire are on the road with Baby Beardsley and the goats. (Ooo — that sounds like a band name — “And now, Baby Beardsley and the Goats!”) They admire the “bonnie” baby and get a little nostalgic for shared baby times they never had.

In Brownsville, Fergus tells Roger that some of the militia men have deserted because they didn’t agree with Roger’s choice to hand over Morton.

Jamie and Claire ride up in a covered wagon. (Did they take that wagon from the Beardsley house? Is that how they’re transporting the goats?) They find Roger entertaining a crowd. He sings for every occasion; it may be the only tool he feels he has in this time. (When all you have is a hammer . . . )

Jamie and Claire give Josiah the news: they are all free of Mr. Beardsley. Josiah didn’t know Mrs. Beardsley was going to have a baby, but says that Keziah mentioned she “may have lain with a former slave who came by looking for work.” Josiah wants to join the militia, but Jamie tells him he is too young to fight (“I’m telling ye, ye’re 14”). He tells Josiah to go home, hunt, and provide for the Ridge.

Fergus directs Claire towards milk for the baby and tells Jamie there’s been “a small difficulty” that caused them to break out the whiskey. Claire meets a nursing mother (Lucinda) for the baby and a lurking Alicia Brown.

Jamie asks Roger about the “difficulty” and Roger responds by babbling part of an old lecture he once gave at Oxford on the phrase “Dutch courage.” While babblecturing he actually says, “Take the First World War, for example . . .” and Jamie has no patience for this time-bending nonsense. He asks why they are missing militiamen. Roger says five of the men left, and takes Jamie to where Morton is held captive. Jamie doesn’t understand why Roger would allow Lionel Brown to capture Morton. Roger describes it as “temporary confinement” and admits his plan was to wait for Jamie to show up. Ouch.

They step away from Morton and Jamie rips into Roger. He has betrayed the men’s trust and they won’t follow him now. Roger says he did what he had to do to keep the men safe. Jamie is disgusted and returns to Morton. Jamie tells Morton he has to marry Alicia Brown to make things right. Morton would love to, but he’s already married to someone else. Jamie cuts the ropes holding him. As Morton explains his tale of love and infidelity, Roger interjects that Morton deserves clemency, because “love makes fools of us all.” Jamie tries hard not to look at Roger and tells Morton to get out. Morton says, “I meant no trouble for ye,” and Jamie responds, “as your Colonel, I’ll take care of your trouble.” (That’s Jamie Fraser 101, Professor MacKenzie.)

Claire is with the Brown women, finishing a sanitized version of their encounter at the Beardsley cabin. (“When we went outside, we found Mr. Beardsley’s grave.”) Mrs. Brown observes that Fanny Beardsley wasn’t the first woman to find herself “in an unsuitable situation,” with a pointed look at Alicia, who pouts. Claire accidentally spills cider on a broadsheet, and lo and behold, here is the result of Fergus’ hasty paper grabbing last episode! They’ve printed “Dr. Rawlings’” advice. The women discuss how ridiculous and offensive it is, and Claire asks if she can take the paper “to light a fire.”

Roger is still singing. Jamie complains to Claire about what a poor decision-maker Roger is. Claire shows him the broadsheet and asks who could have submitted her medical advice without her knowledge? Jamie has a guess. Fergus confirms that yes, there was writing on the other side of that paper. They decide it is unlikely to cause trouble for them, “unless someone tries to find the author.” Well, of course that won’t happen.

Uh-oh, the Browns have discovered Morton’s missing. Guns are drawn. Jamie says Morton is under his protection. Lionel Brown doesn’t care; his rage at missing out on 10 acres and a brisk tobacco trade is under his protection. Just then, Lionel’s brother Richard Brown rides up and calls a halt to the gunfire. Jamie lays it out: any harm done to Morton will be considered aggression against the militia, making them all traitors to the crown. Richard decides that, as the sober Brown brother, he should be the one to negotiate with Colonel Fraser.

Inside the Trading Post, Richard Brown and Jamie come to an agreement: the Brown men will join the militia under Richard Brown’s leadership, and Richard will answer to Jamie. Brown menacingly invites Jamie and Claire to stay the night.

At the Big House, Bree hears a panther scream outside and it adds to her nerves. She’s already understandably skittish because Bonnet gave her baby a coin (choking hazard at the least, ominous death threat at the most). She realizes Jemmy is no longer playing by Germain on the rug and fears Bonnet has kidnapped him. Turns out Jemmy has only gone after his ball, but Bree’s calls disturbed many in the house, including Marsali, who invites Bree into the kitchen for “an honest cure for waking nightmares.” (Whiskey. It’s always whiskey.)

In Brownsville, the Brown men sign up for the militia. Mrs. Brown shows Claire her room for the night and offers to care for the Beardsley baby, if they are looking for a home for her. She explains that Lucinda’s baby was born prematurely and died. Alicia stays to help make up the bed. She tells Claire that she loves Isaiah. Claire tells Alicia that Isaiah is already married to someone else. Alicia fears that she is pregnant, cries in Claire’s arms, and says she wishes she were dead.

In the Big House kitchen, Marsali asks Bree what kind of devil she conjured, but Bree doesn’t want to share. So Marsali, who I love more every episode, says, “Then we shall sit here, and drink, in sacred silence.” But the silence isn’t long, as Marsali tells Bree that her father beat her and she often “prayed for God to take him,” but when he was arrested as a Jacobite, she was consumed with guilt. He died in prison. Marsali says, “I killed him.” When Bree insists that she didn’t kill him, Marsali agrees. Because “thinkin’, no matter how hard or long, doesna make somethin’ come true.” Bree gets the point and thanks her. Marsali may be the best human on this show right now.

In Brownsville, Josiah tells Claire the men are putting up their tents for the night down the road. Claire busts out the “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” as she realizes Keziah also needs his tonsils out. She doesn’t think Keziah can wait for surgery and she needs the (possibly) penicillin she’s been brewing in her surgery back home. Jamie tells her she needs to take Josiah and Keziah home, heal them, and return to him. He assigns Roger to accompany Claire and the boys home at dawn. When Roger protests, Jamie tells him that he made him a Captain before he was ready and orders him to take Claire home.

Brianna throws her sketches of Stephen Bonnet in the fire.

Revelry in Brownsville. Lucinda and her husband tell Claire that they would love to take the Beardsley baby. Someone lays out swords and Jamie dances. (Where’s Murtagh when we need him? Alas, he’s a Regulator now.) Jamie and Claire steal away for a private drunken moment. In a sweet scene that makes me tear up, Jamie asks Claire if she wants to keep “wee Bonnie,” because she may be the last chance for the two of them to raise a child together. Claire thanks him, but says she thinks Lucinda needs Bonnie more than anyone, and reminds Jamie that they might soon die in a fire. (Ah, romance.) They hear a gunshot. Alicia is nearby in the woods trying to kill herself and has wounded her shoulder. Claire takes her back to the room upstairs to tend her wound. Claire mentions Alicia’s “baby” in front of Jamie, then asks him to get some whiskey.

Outside, Jamie runs into Isaiah Morton, who has come back because he wants to see Alicia. While chastising Morton, Jamie mentions that Alicia is with child. Morton pulls a gun on him and demands Jamie take him to Alicia. Jamie and Morton join Alicia and Claire upstairs. The lovers reconcile. Roger comes in the room, sees Morton, and asks, “What are you thinking, coming back?” Isaiah responds, “I’m a fool, as ye said, as are ye, and as is the Colonel.” Isaiah challenges them to say they could leave the women they love if so ordered. They do not, and he and Alicia profess their love for one another again.

Early morning. Jamie leads Alicia and Isaiah on a horse out of Brownsville, but the horse accidentally knocks barrels down, causing a ruckus — I mean, a stramash. Jamie lets all the horses out of their pen as a distraction. The men come out and run after the horses. Jamie comes back with the billy goat and blames him for startling the horses. Jamie, Richard, and Lionel stare at each other meaningfully, but the Browns don’t call his bluff. Why would he lie about a billy goat?

Claire’s voiceover happens over a shot of her standing in the window that’s from the credit sequence. Her back is to us. As Alicia and Isaiah ride away, she muses that we all make choices, and all we can hope for “is that the good will outweigh the harm that may come of it.”

Let’s talk about choices. In the book, Roger doesn’t hand over Isaiah to the Browns. While he does distract everyone with whiskey and song, he handles the situation better overall and when Jamie arrives in Brownsville, he tells Roger that he did a good job. It’s a scene that helps Roger appear more competent and brings he and Jamie closer together. In the show, they chose to take the opposite route. This version makes Roger seem less competent in the eyes of the viewer, the men of the militia, and Jamie. It also drives he and Jamie farther apart.

I’m guessing they did this to accelerate the conflict between Roger and Jamie before a key plot point that will probably come sooner on the show than in the book, since we only have 12 episodes to get through a giant book. I guess we’ll see. I’m not a huge fan of Roger, but I’m sad that they’ve taken away an opportunity for him to show competence in the past. He doesn’t have too many chances to shine in the 1770s, poor guy. This one is lost.

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