**This is not a spoiler-free review of this episode. This is also a review from a non-reader and any comments revealing spoilers from the books will be deleted.**
New World, Same Frasers
Episode 401: “America the Beautiful”
Written by Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts, Directed by Julian Holmes
Stephen Bonnet is CANCELLED
Warning. I may be calling Mr. Bonnet a series of names in the following review. This has been a PSA.
Welcome back Outlander fans! Let’s delve right into this doozy of a season opener, shall we?
Does anyone else find Claire’s voiceovers soothing? Just me? The beautiful opening scene is reminiscent of the druids dance around the stones, albeit in North America, 2000 BC.
For centuries humans have had an endless fascination with circles…And I know full well just how much a circle can affect one’s life.
We pull a reverse Claire and go forward in time to North Carolina, 1767 with the utterly pleasant image of a hangman’s noose. Poor Gavin Hayes has been sentenced to death for killing the husband of a woman he slept with.
“I’d like my last few moments to be of my friend smiling at me,” CUE MY TEARS.
it was utterly painful to see Jamie trying his best to smile at Gavin to honor his friend’s last request.
Claire says they’ve been in America for four months.
Another man angrily reacts to Gavin’s death, sparking a ruckus that gives the other condemned prisoners a chance to literally run for their lives.
Of COURSE, Gavin gets hanged, and Stephen Bonnet gets away. Because life is unfair in Outlander land. The close up on Gavin’s poor dead face made me sad again.
What did everyone think of the variation of the opening theme?
Jamie says they have three weeks before a ship takes them home. Enough time to visit his auntie Jocasta at River Run! Fergus informs Jamie that the minister will not allow Gavin to be buried in his graveyard.
Marsali mentions that she’s very tired. Hmmmmmmmm.
I loved the song everyone sung in the pub, and how others joined in on the somber melody. I’m curious if that was a traditional Scottish song of mourning?
While the team heads out to bury Gavin, Claire kindly explains to the audience that the only way any of them are getting back to Scotland is by selling a gemstone they salvaged from the wreck of the Artemis (and my heart obviously).
“She made me do things, unspeakable things.”
Poor Young Ian. I think it’s great that the show has once again effectively shown the horrific lingering effects of the trauma that rape survivors experience. What I love is that we are given a conversation between two male survivors, and Jamie doesn’t once make Young Ian ashamed for his trauma. Surviving assault is terrifying no matter what the century.
“Sometimes what it comes down to is that your cock doesn’t have a conscious, but you do.”
Note: Diana Gabaldon mentioned at the NYCC panel that everyone “laughed at the right lines!” (Especially that classic Jamie quip.)
Speaking of terrifying.
“I won’t bother you again. You have my word.”
The truly scary aspect about Bonnet is his effortless charm. I will fully admit the only reason I knew he was bad before THE END OF THE EPISODE HAPPENED was that the audience at NYCC hissed at him right away. Claire’s conversation with him was downright eerie. Bonnet speaking about feeling the pull of the sea was subtle, but I feel like that was the rare moment our season baddie was actually revealing a weakness.
The only GOOD THING that he will probably EVER DO was unintentionally give Claire and Jamie a chance to camp out for the night.
Things get hot out in the woods and hot in there with the Frasers.
Is it wrong to be alive Sassenach? Don’t you see how small a thing death is between us?
All joking aside though, the camp scene is beautiful. Not the swoon-worthy things Jamie says to Claire to soothe her fears (although those were quite nice) or the sexy times themselves.
Rather, it’s the gift of a rare moment of peace for the heart of this show, our Frasers. There’s so much that goes on in this fantastic story, and it’s nice to take a step back and just let the Frasers have a normal (well normal for them) night together.
Did you notice Claire’s glorious next-morning-post-sex smile? That’s what made everyone laugh and cheer at NYCC.
The peace, of course, does not last long. Jamie and Claire discuss what the “American dream means,” and I love this conversation because it doesn’t end at Claire’s idealistic view, but rather challenges it with Jamie’s more realistic point about the Native Americans.
“A dream for some can be a nightmare for others.”
Boy, rich people in the past and present sure like to have fancy dinner parties don’t they? Claire and Jamie are dining in at the North Carolina Governor’s house, and once again Claire has to deal with sexist men.
“On the contrary, I’m sure the very thought of extra taxes brings out the savage in all of us.”
I adored Claire’s dress in the scheming-in-France-the-sequel-dinner-party scene. This is Terry Dresbach’s last season, and I’m going to miss her gorgeous and incredibly detailed costumes.
Jamie gets an offer from Governor Tryon for a land grant. The irony of a pardoned Jacobite getting an offer of land from the British did not escape this reviewer.
100 pounds sterling for the gemstone. The creepy man asking to appraise the jewel right from Claire’s chest isn’t playing around. When he said sehr schon, I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the gemstone or Claire!
Jamie also tells Claire about the land grant, and she’s just like:
Spoiler alert? The colonists rebel years from now and America wins. She is understandably worried that the governor is buying Jamie’s loyalty and that certainly won’t pay off when America WINS, and they take Jamie’s land for being a Loyalist.
“If there’s a bit I can do to make this a good land for Brianna….Then that would be something.”
The tense moment is broken wonderfully by the amazing addition to the Outlander family.
YOUNG IAN AND ROLLO DESERVE EACH OTHER.
Jamie and Claire are so adorably parent-like to Young Ian. It makes me sad that they never had a chance to be parents to Brianna together.
“Staying? In America?”
Young Ian is, of course, all like, “I WANNA STAY TOO, OTHER DAD.”
Claire and Jamie are of course super prepared and have no idea where exactly they’re going to stay in America. Yet.
Fergus gives them a far stronger answer as to why he and Marsali should stay in America as well.
THAT’S RIGHT; SHE’S PREGNANT.
GET READY FOR ME TO CALL FERGUS “PAPPA FERGUS” FROM THIS POINT ON.
Major kudos to Modern!Marsali for already having a career plan sorted out and also being pregnant with what is likely to be an adorable child. After the discussion Marsali had with Claire last season, it is difficult to see if Marsali is genuinely happy about being pregnant.
Oh, look! Now everyone is on a boat, and everything’s so pretty!
Nothing could possibly go wrong!
“You must be grateful every day for what he’s done for you.”
I had wondered how this season would deal with the rampant slavery in North America. I hope they continue to treat the subject by making it a very real part of the world they live in, and addressing it. Call out all the racists Claire!
Can we appreciate the gift Jamie got Claire? The fact that he got her a medical kit that he knows she’d actually enjoy and be able to use? Plus a MICROSCOPE?
“24 years ago I married ye Sassenach; I hope I’ve never given you cause to regret it.”
Now if only he could get her more antibiotics.
The peaceful sight of Jamie and Claire sleep-cuddling and the sound of a peaceful piano is ominously interrupted by the sound of Rollo’s growls.
FUCKING STEPHEN BONNET. The hopeful and dreamy version of “America the Beautiful” underscoring this terrible scene is horrible to the senses and soul.
Poor Lesley meets his doom, having his throat slit by Douchebag McDouche pants.
What scared me the most in this scene was seeing how genuinely terrified Claire was. We’re so used to seeing her handle dangerous situations with fire and fury, and to see her shaking with terror in this scene made me far more frightened than anything else.
When she tried to swallow her wedding rings the audience at NYCC lost it. The amount of applause was deafening, and I joined in with the utmost enthusiasm.
I’m going to defend the music choice in this scene. I completely understand if anyone found it jarring or that it took them out of the story. But it plays perfectly into the dichotomy of America set up earlier during the convo Jamie and Claire have post-sex. (Just in case you need a reminder that Jamie and Claire do in fact, have hot sex in this episode. Friendly reminder.)
A new world can mean a fresh start, new opportunities, and unique challenges. What America is and what America is supposed to be is different for so many people, past and present.
That thought itself is perfectly encapsulated in the character of Stephen Bonnet. He’s charming and self-deprecating, but only to a means that suit his own ends. Ed Speelers does a fantastic job of bringing a truly despicable man to life without making him act like Black Jack Randall Lite.
I thought overall that this was a superb opening episode that left me with my mouth and soul agape.
Will Jamie and Claire make it to River Run? Will Stephen Bonnet be even more of an asshole? (Don’t answer that.) I’m really curious to see what kind of lady the famous Jocasta can be. I loved Maria Doyle Kennedy in The Tudors, and I guarantee all of you that she’ll do Jocasta justice.
I had advised having emergency whisky on hand for this episode, but perhaps we might need an entire distillery for this season!
Until next week Outlander family! Droughtlander is officially DONE!
NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11TH AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 402: “DO NO HARM”
“Claire and Jamie visit his Aunt Jocasta at her plantation, River Run. When tragedy strikes at the plantation, Jamie and Claire find themselves caught between what’s right and the law of the land, ultimately facing an impossible decision.”
Photos and clips are courtesy of Starz.