‘Outlander’ Recap/Review: Episode 411, “If Not for Hope”

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[This is not a spoiler-free review of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]

Episode 411:  “If Not for Hope”

Written by Brownwyn Garrity and Shaina Fewell, Directed by Mairzee Almas

Recap:

Note: The officially released episode on Starz today had a different opening from the one that was in the screener released to us earlier this week. The official episode opens with a scene of Roger back in present day, taking a shower. It is quickly revealed that he has been daydreaming, however, and has been recaptured by the Mohawk.

This episode gives us three story lines to follow: Brianna’s as she copes with her trauma and waits for news of Roger, Murtagh’s as he hunts down Stephen Bonnet as asked, and Claire’s and Jamie’s as they pursue the Mohawk north.

We open with Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in residence at Jocasta Cameron’s estate with her maid, Lizzie Weems. The dark images she is sketching on her paper disturb Lizzie, and she is overwhelmed with guilt for the part she played in all of this. Brianna, her good temper restored, reassures Lizzie that she has forgiven her for the mistake. She is not, however, ready to forgive Jamie for assaulting Roger and speaking so harshly with her.

Sometime later, Phaedra comes to Bri with the intention of fitting her for a new dress. It would seem Aunt Jocasta is throwing a party and wants her Great-Niece to look her best (and hide the increasingly obvious baby bump). Bri is resistant, but when Phaedra passes the window in just the right light, she is caught with the inspiration to draw her. Phaedra is very uncomfortable at first, but with Brianna’s persistence, she complies.

Being just as stubborn, Jocasta informs Brianna later that she is having an old dress of hers adjusted to her measurements (like great-aunt, like great-niece). Brianna insists that she is happier being on her own, drawing and reading. This reminds Jocasta of her sister, Jamie’s mother. She speaks fondly of their father and how he would not force her sister – Bri’s grandmother – into marriage, either. Hearing about the family she never knew, Brianna relents and leaves to be fitted by Phaedre.

At the party, Brianna makes her grand entrance, as enchanting in her period dress as her mother. It would appear Phaedre was successful, as the baby bump is well hidden. Jocasta introduces her to Gerald Forbes (Billy Boyd) and his sister, and his interest is immediately obvious. As Brianna is introduced to the rest of the guests – some faces more familiar to us than others – the topic of her sketches comes up and she mentions that she has been drawing Phaedre, her servant. This, as expected, is a huge scandal with some of the guests, but Jocasta is able to cover the situation with her usual grace and smooths things over.

By the time dinner is ready, Forbes and Lieutenant Wolfe are clearly fighting for her attention, and Brianna starts to realize that her aunt might be up to something. Forbes, seeking to gain the upper hand, invites Brianna – and the rest of the guests – to see some precious stones he has in a box in the other room and as they are examining the impressive stones, who else should arrive but Lord John Grey, who immediately recognizes Brianna.

At dinner, John is busy regaling the party with stories of his military and political life when the attention turns to Brianna. Despite not having any stories appropriate to share with the crowd, she seems to have a psychology trick in her pocket that she learned from one of her parents. She asks those gathered to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a forest with someone walking beside them. As they visualize their forest walk, an animal crosses their path, and then they finish their walk in a clearing.

As they guests reopen their eyes, Brianna asks the young man who came to the party with his mother about what the person he was walking with and what animal crossed his path. She interprets his responses in a very unflattering way and embarrasses him in front of the rest of the guests. He claims to need air and quickly leaves the room. The guests proceed to talk amongst themselves and Brianna asks Lord John who he was walking with. John hesitates, but after some coaxing admits he was walking with her father. He admits that he is there because Jamie wrote to him, asking for him to check in on Brianna during her stay with her Aunt Jocasta. She wonders what else Jamie told him, but John insists her father is a man of honor and would not have shared any of her secrets with him.

Angered by the turn of conversation, Brianna rises to leave but feels faint. Lord John, thankfully, is at her elbow and keeps her from falling. He helps her into the next room where she can lay down to recover. Lizzie rushes in, concerned about Brianna, and accidentally reveals her secret to Lord John. Brianna, restraining her bad temper once again – it seems she is growing in that respect – forces a smile and asks Lizzie to prepare her room for her.

Brianna fills Lord John in on the larger story and the situation of Jamie and Claire having to rescue Roger, and her aunt’s plan to try to marry her off before the baby comes. John slips Brianna a letter from Jamie that was included in the one he sent to Lord John. Aunt Jocasta joins them in the parlor and John excuses himself. Brianna expresses her displeasure to her aunt, and – to her credit – Jocasta does not deny that her intentions with the party were to find Brianna an eligible husband. They proceed to bicker back and forth about whether Brianna should marry or not, her intentions in forcing this not quite clear yet.

Jocasta admits that her sister was also pregnant before she was married, but that she married for love and that it was before the child was born. She is afraid for Brianna and the child, who will be labeled a bastard all of its life if born outside of marriage. She understands the hope Brianna has for Roger’s return, but she insists that he will not return and that she needs to think about the future of herself and her child now.

Unable to sleep that night, and with Jamie’s letter still unopened, she slips downstairs to the kitchen for something to eat. While there, she hears something odd in the pantry and, to her surprise, finds Lord John and the young man who had left quickly earlier engaged in certain intimate activities there. Neither of them sees her, so she slips off with this new information tucked away for later.

We soon find out what her intentions are, as early the next morning she intends to use the information to force Lord John to marry her. She knows from speaking with Phaedra earlier that Forbes is ready with a proposal for her, and she sees John as her way out. He is not one to be extorted, however, and pushes back, calling her bluff, knowing full well that she would not expose him and his crimes. He also makes it very clear to her that he is fully able to fulfill his part of the marriage bed if she forced his hand. She is
surprised by this, having assumed that he would only have sex with men, and quickly deflates.

She apologizes to him for her behavior and explains to him the fear that drove her to her poor behavior. John admits to Brianna that the reason he cannot marry her is that of the love he has for her father and the envy he feels over the love Jamie and Claire share. He is confident that they will find Roger and bring him back to her. This only further upsets her, as she is unsure if Roger will even want her now, knowing that the child might not be his. She vows to do what she must to protect her child, even if that means sacrificing her own happiness.

Resigned to her fate, Brianna heads back inside to where Forbes and Jocasta are speaking about the forthcoming proposal. Brianna is about to give her aunt an answer to the proposal when Lord John sweeps in with news of their own intention to marry. Forbes is obviously upset, and Aunt Jocasta is surprised but seems to recognize that Mackenzie cleverness that they share and knows Brianna has schemed to make this happen.

Despite having a reprieve regarding her unwed and pregnant status, she is still struggling to forgive Jamie for his actions towards Roger and the harsh words he spoke to her in anger. Weighing heavily on her, as well, is the fear that Roger will not want her and the child, even if they can save him from the Mohawk. Lord John, seeking to reassure her about the good nature of men – or at least some men, admits to her that Willie is not his biological son, either, though he is careful not to disclose too much information about the boy’s true parentage. He encourages her with the message that hope is at the heart of love. As he leaves, she, at last, pulls Jamie’s letter – still unopened – from her pocket and prepares to read his words to her.

So! That long and twisting story having been told, let us look at what is going on with Murtagh as he searches for Stephen Bonnet. Having returned to Wilmington, he enlists the assistance of Fergus on this quest, and they learn that Bonnet should be back in Wilmington in about a week. Murtagh wastes no time as they wait for Bonnet, instead of meeting with other important area men to further the work of the Regulators. Fergus, however, is dealing with some frustrations over his inability to support his new wife and child, as no one wants to hire him.

That evening, Marsali “accidentally” wakes up Murtagh, who is staying with them. She uses the opportunity to speak with him regarding Fergus and asks him to invite her husband to join his band of Regulators. Murtagh is shocked by this request since a man with one hand would almost certainly be killed. Her motivations are not clear yet, but she assures him that she does not want Fergus dead (because if she did, she would do it herself). His current state of mind bothers her, though, and she insists she cannot continue to live with a half a man if the current state of things continues.

Murtagh watches later on as Fergus is addressing his son, and it seems that he sees the sadness and burden Fergus carries on his shoulders. As requested, he makes an offer to Fergus to join the Regulators in their work. Surprisingly, he turns it down but seems to stand a little straighter at having been offered the opportunity. Marsali seems pleased with his improved demeanor – she has been listening at the door – and rushes in to inform the men that Bonnet’s ship has finally arrived.

Fergus and Murtagh slip off to a local watering hole where they have paid a man to identify Bonnet for them. It is not long before he points him out, making overtures towards one of the serving girls there. He is charming, and she seems to enjoy his advances, but thankfully heads off in a different direction, leaving Bonnet to retire to his room on his own. Murtagh ambushes him in the room and knocks him out so they can get him out of the inn. Unfortunately, they do not get far before they are caught by a couple of armed men. In an attempt to save Fergus, Murtagh punches him in the gut and then sends him off, the men fooled by this display. They have eyes only for Murtagh who they recognize from the wanted posters around town. We leave Murtagh and Bonnet in the custody of these armed men, who are most likely going to turn them both into the authorities for the hefty reward money being offered for them both.

Now for Jamie, Claire, and Ian. Per their plan, Ian uses the necklace given to him by the Mohawk to locate their tribe’s home. The Cherokee will not accompany them, but point them in the right direction. The bad news: the home of these particular Mohawk is two months’ journey north of where they currently are. Ian feels confident in his understanding of the language to serve as an interpreter when they get there, so they have no choice but to continue. Neither Claire nor Jamie are their usual selves as they battle with their feelings surrounding the events of the last few months. Jamie, in particular, feels terrible about what he knows Brianna must be suffering, not knowing whether Roger is still alive or not, and is carrying the guilt for that on his own shoulders. Ian speaks with Claire, hoping to ease the coolness that has settled between his aunt and uncle. Claire insists she is not upset with Jamie, but that, as a mother, she cannot help but worry about both Bri and Roger, their feelings and what they are going through at that moment.

The three really do feel disconnected as they journey north, but their thoughts are interrupted by Rollo, Ian’s half-wolf, discovering a human leg, mostly decomposed! They chase after him as he leads them to where the rest of the body is. Claire estimates that the man has been dead for at least a month, and Ian recognizes him as one who had been with the Mohawk when he sold off Roger to them. They spread out to search the rest of the nearby woods, but find no sign of Roger there. This brings them hope, however small, that he is still alive, and so they press on.

Having buried the man, Jamie is still sullen and brooding. Claire, at last, breaks the tension between them and goes to him in the tent that evening. She apologizes for how she has been acting and explains the thoughts and feelings she has been troubled with since they left. She apologizes, as well, for not telling him about Bonnet sooner. She admits to him that there will be secrets now that Bri is in the picture again. Jamie is jealous of Frank and does not feel that he can be a father to Brianna since Frank seems to have been a better one to her, and Brianna is too old to need him anymore. Claire disagrees, reminding him of how similar the two are and how they both said things they did not mean in their anger. Tension eased, the two “kiss” and makeup and all is well with the world again. Well, except for the fact that Bri is still pregnant – possibly with the son of a murdering and raping pirate – and Roger’s fate is as yet unknown to us viewers. But hey, at least Jamie and Claire are reconnecting once more.

Speaking of Roger, the show does not leave us hanging for the entire episode and shows us that Roger did not leave through the stones when he could have. Instead, the Mohawk appear to have recaptured him and drag him into their camp. It is loud and unfamiliar to him, as they untie his hands at last. He tries to ask what is happening, but no one will answer, instead of pushing him towards a pathway between two lines of Mohawk. It is a gauntlet, and the Mohawk beat him as he fights his way down the line past them. He is knocked to the ground, but finding that inner steel regains his feet just in time to be knocked out cold by a well-timed fist.

Review:

I do not have much to say regarding this episode. There was not a great deal of action here, but I think that is okay since they are setting things up for the last two episodes of the season where matters have to come to a pretty exciting head and leave us tearing our hair out for who knows how long before we will see season five. Any storyteller knows that you need the highs and lows in a story for balance, so I see this episode as a calm before a hopefully exciting final storm for season four. The interactions between Lord John and Brianna were great, and I had honestly forgotten how truly intertwined he becomes with the Fraser clan through these stories. I think David Berry who plays him brings a warm and bright quality to him that I did not feel when reading the novels, and for me it makes him a much more loveable addition to the story. Although with all the drama that these Frasers cause, he might one day wish he had never befriended our handsome Scottish protagonist. I enjoyed seeing the growth in Brianna’s character as she shifts from child to mother-to-be. I also was surprised at how convincingly they have aged Jamie and Claire in both their appearances and their characters. While the actors are much younger than the characters they play, and Sophie Skelton is much younger than Caitriona and Sam, it is still easy to get caught up in the show and believe they are her parents.

So overall, some great character development and story telling, but mostly exposition to move us forward towards what will hopefully be an exciting season four finale!

NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, JANUARY 20th 8 PM EST: EPISODE 412: “PROVIDENCE”

“Brianna confronts a violent figure from her past in an attempt to cope with her trauma. Roger befriends a fellow captive and endeavors to escape the Mohawk Village, while Fergus and Marsali plan a dangerous mission to save an old friend from the noose.”

Photos and clips courtesy of Starz.