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Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown
If circles were a theme in episode 1, then it can be argued that intention is the theme of episode 2. Many characters in this episode have intentions. Some are of doing good, some are of protection, some of vengeance and some of survival. But regardless of the individual, all the intentions are ultimately governed by the law and what is expected will be done.
When the episode begins, Jamie and Claire are dealing with the aftermath of Bonnet’s attack. Jamie laments Lesley’s shallow grave on the riverbank, saying that he deserved a decent burial. He is blaming himself for the events, taking no solace in Claire’s insistence that it is not his fault, as they had both trusted Bonnet, who had played on their sympathies. But Jamie is full of regret: he could not defeat Bonnet when it mattered most, he says, unable to protect Claire from the attack. Claire reminds him that he was outnumbered and that Bonnet and his men were armed to the teeth. Jamie takes no comfort in this fact, as Bonnet is now at large and free to prey on others, which is, he says, his cross to bear. But his self blame is interrupted at this point by the captain announcing the first sight of River Run.
As a palatial house appears, to an appropriately grand musical score, young Ian is marvelling at the sight before them. He asks why Jamie hadn’t informed them that his Great Aunt Jocasta lived in a home befitting a king. As Ian prepares for disembarking, Jamie and Claire stand looking at the house. Jamie laments again their present circumstances: with the coin and gemstones he was a man of means, but now they are penniless. Claire reminds him that it wouldn’t be the first time, as he had little more than a shilling to his name when they married. Besides, she continues, Jocasta is family and they are lucky to have relatives to turn to.
Leaving the captain to organise the unpacking of the boat, Jamie and Claire walk towards an older woman, who is approaching them with the assistance of a servant. Enter Jocasta Cameron. Both Jamie and his aunt are keeping their emotions in check, but it is quickly obvious that this is an important moment for each of them. “Welcome to River Run,” Jocasta says, and Jamie makes a formal bow. Jocasta holds out her hands to him and, his breath catching in his throat, Jamie walks forward into her embrace.
Jocasta is overcome too, her voice shaking a little as she declares him to have grown into a giant, courtesy of the Mackenzie blood flowing through him. Jamie looks tearfully down at his aunt, remarking that he was only a bairn when she last saw him. They reminisce about Ellen, Jamie’s mother and Jocasta’s sister, each saying how much they miss her. These are moments beautifully acted by both Sam Heughan and newcomer Maria Doyle Kennedy. We are reminded here that Jamie has been without a maternal figure for most of his life and that his relationship with Jocasta will be the closest thing he will have. In just a few lines and beautifully unguarded facial expressions, Sam Heughan shows us a Jamie who is eager for acceptance, and almost shy as he introduces Claire to his aunt.
The two women’s initial formality, with Jocasta curtseying and Claire referring to the older woman as “Mistress Cameron” are quickly abandoned. Jocasta insists that Claire call her “Aunty”, given that they are kin and they embrace.
Young Ian strides off the jetty, with a bunch of flowers and Rollo at his heels. Jamie introduces Jocasta to her great nephew and Ian steps forward smiling. He presents his flowers, which Jocasta makes no move to take. At this point, her servant clears his throat and tells Jocasta about the flowers, and we realise that Jocasta is blind. She explains that she still sees shapes and shadows, but it has been a long time since her sight left her. Ian expresses regret, but Jocasta won’t be pitied. She has, she tells him, hearing that would make any gossip envious, along with the ability to tell the truth from lies. Rollo makes his presence known with a hearty bark, and as Ian goes to fetch him, Jocasta takes hold of both Claire and Jamie’s hands, telling them that they will be treated to some River Run hospitality and asking her servant, Ulysses, to lead the way to the parlour.
Inside, Jamie tells Jocasta about Stephen Bonnet. Jocasta expresses outrage, saying that Bonnet should be hanged. When Jamie says that Bonnet would have done just that had it not been for him, Jocasta echoes Claire’s earlier sentiment that he is not to blame and that they should stay at River Run as long as they like. When Jamie says he doesn’t wish to be a burden, Jocasta ensures him that they would be far from that. They are kin, she tells him, and besides it would be good to have a strong man with a head for business at her disposal. Jocasta tells Jamie that she intends to hold a gathering in their honour, revealing that she has been keeping an eye on his accomplishments in both Paris and Edinburgh. She declares him capable of accomplishing anything he takes on and although he feigns discomfort at Jocasta’s flattery it is obvious that her determination to lavish her attention on Jamie pleases him.
The proceedings are interrupted by the smelly appearance of Ian and Rollo, who has just had his first encounter with a skunk. Both Jamie and Ian are unaware of the creature, but Claire and Jocasta assure them that a skunk is not venomous, only malodorous. Ian is sent in search of Jocasta’s friend John Quincy Myers, a man of the world, she says, who will be able to rid Rollo of the stench.
Meanwhile Claire and Jamie are shown to their quarters by Ulysses. Jamie remarks on the similarities between Jocasta and his mother: they have the same smile, same manner, and same voice. Indeed, adds Jamie, while he had long wanted Claire to meet his mother, having her meet his aunt is “just fine.” On entering the chamber, two maid servants are finishing cleaning and Claire invites them to call her by her first name. Ulysses baulks at this, as do they, so Claire amends her title to that of Mistress Claire. One of the women introduces herself as Phaedre and introduces her companion, Mary. It is obvious that they do not know how to react, uncomfortable by Claire’s attempts at familiarity.
Claire looks through the window at the slaves working in the fields. She has been noticeably quiet and Jamie knows why. One day, he says, it will all be different, but Claire does not look convinced.
Meanwhile, Ian is met by John Quincy Myers, out the front of the jetty. A bear of a man, Myers has a ready wit. He and Ian fall into banter quickly and easily, as they bathe Rollo in vinegar to banish the stench. This is a comic scene, well acted, and serves as a great introduction to Myers’ character. Myers is acquainted with the Indian lasses, he tells Ian, boasting that they prefer hairy men. This pleases Ian, who has been allowing his beard to grow. Ian is curious about the Indians, observing that they don’t sound much different to the Highlanders. Myers remarks that this is a fine way of looking at the world.
In the next scene, Jamie and Jocasta are discussing business, as Jamie becomes acquainted with the workings of River Run. They grow tobacco, indigo, cotton and pine, Jocasta says, yielding 20 barrels of turpentine monthly. The greatest source of revenue is the timber mill, which ships timber along the river as far along as Virginia. Jocasta mentions that she and her late husband Hector had been a team, Hector always consulting her before any decision was made. With a look at Claire, Jamie comments that this sounds very familiar. (It is perhaps a curious comment, given Clare’s penchant for often ignoring Jamie’s advice!)
Jamie then raises the topic that he knows is a sore point with Claire. How many slaves live on River Run, he asks. 152 is the answer. Jocasta proceeds to explain that she bought them in lots in order to keep them together, saying that they are more productive that way. Jamie expresses relief, adding that he has heard of those who treat their slaves as livestock. Jocasta expresses incredulity at this - in her opinion they are far more expensive that livestock. Besides, she says, her slaves have benefitted from her benevolence. They have a home and a purpose. In fact, she even considers some of them friends.
Claire can stay silent no longer, asking if the slaves would feel the same way. Jocasta insists that they are happy living with her, and declares Claire to have a “curious mind.” Jamie is quick to jump in and say that it is a quality in his wife which he greatly admires. But Claire needs to get away from this conversation. She takes her leave, saying that she is going to collect herbs with Phaedre.
Ulysses appears and announces the arrival of Lieutenant Wolff, a naval officer. Wolff has come, he says, because wheat is fetching a good price and suggests that a heavy profit could be made by cultivating some in the farrow lands across the river. It is obvious that Wolff considers himself an important player, intent on influencing Jocasta. But Jamie immediately shows the business sense Jocasta has mentioned, saying that the only bushel to be found along the river would be one of regret, as the land along the river is too damp for the grain to flourish. Jamie suggests rice as an alternative, and Jocasta immediately calculates not only the profit, but the ability to keep her slaves well fed. Wolff is not impressed to have his suggestions summarily dismissed and questions Jamie’s credentials. Jamie says he was raised on the land and that he “knows a bit about dirt, Lieutenant.” It is a thinly veiled insult and Wolff reacts accordingly, telling Jocasta that he will return to discuss matters with Jocasta when she is not engaged in hosting kin. After the lieutenant has departed in a huff, Jamie apologises for offending her guest. Jocasta replies that he was right to speak his mind, adding that it is a privilege she wishes she could enjoy. There is a delicacy to be applied in such matters she says, where a woman’s unsolicited views are not always welcome and Jamie begins to see how useful his presence is.
This scene serves to highlight the societal relationships that exist within the community of Cross Creek and the politics that must be navigated in order to live harmoniously.
In the next scene, while Phaedre alters one of Jocasta’s gowns, the women discuss Claire’s appearance. Phaedre’s appraisal is complimentary. Claire is “just fine,” she says, with skin as white as milk, indigo eyes and “a bosom lassies would dream of.” She mentions Claire’s height too, and Jocasta says that this was the picture she already had in her mind. Jocasta comments that some men do not like tall women, feeling dwarfed in their presence. Phaedre agrees, teasing Jocasta that Lieutenant Wolff is one such man. It is interesting to note that Phaedre is far more confident and comfortable in Jocasta’s presence than she is with Claire, despite the fact that Claire had wanted to be on a first name basis with her. Jocasta replies that any amorous attentions by Wolff towards her are only hearsay and gossip and not worth paying attention to. She asks Claire for her opinion of River Run, presuming that Claire must be relieved to have such fine accommodation.
Claire declares it to be overwhelming and Jocasta pushes further: what does she most admire? Here Claire falters, saying that she has never stayed anywhere quite like it. This is not the response that Jocasta is expecting. She has sensed disapproval, she says, in the cadence of Claire’s voice. Claire admits she does not agree with keeping people as property and Phaedre, who is sewing Claire’s hem, immediately looks uncomfortable. Jocasta asks if Claire is a Quaker, since she shares their view. Claire replies that although she is Catholic, she once healed some Quakers who expressed their opinions on slavery and found some truth in their beliefs.
Jocasta takes this in, remarking that Jenny was right - Claire is indeed a peculiar lass. Jenny’s letters had described Claire as spirited, headstrong, and willing to share thoughts on any matter whether she was versed in it or not. Claire retorts that the same could be said of Jenny, and Jocasta laughingly agrees. (It is interesting here that when sharing Jenny’s thoughts, Maria Doyle Kennedy’s voice takes on almost the exact cadence of Laura Donnelly’s!) She deems Claire to be a lively one with the fire of a Mackenzie in her and adds that it is no wonder that Jamie is drawn to her.
The Frasers soon find themselves attending another gathering, this one being held in their honour, with the cream of Cross Creek society in attendance. Claire finds herself discussing politics with Wolff and Jocasta’s friend and advisor Farquard Campbell and it doesn’t take long before her opinion raises eyebrows. While the men complain about the regulators and the Indians, Claire says that neither group can be blamed for wanting their voices heard. Young Ian is listening in and adds his opinion: the Indians were on the land first, he says. The men are immediately patronising, branding their comments “charmingly naive” and suggesting that “the savages” should in fact be grateful. This is too much for Claire, who icily excuses herself from the conversation and makes her way over to Jamie, closely followed by Ian.
Jocasta calls for silence. Vintage wine is passed around and the comment is made that there must be great news indeed. Jocasta agrees, announcing that she has decided on the heir to River Run. Wolff holds his breath as Jocasta reveals that she will leave the property to Jamie. Furthermore, she says, she wants him to act as master of the estate immediately. This is news to both Jamie and Claire, who share a brief look. Jocasta makes a toast to polite applause, Wolff looks incensed and Jamie is trapped.
Later than night, Jamie and Claire discuss the calculated nature of Jocasta’s announcement, made without talking to him about it first. Jamie declares it a true Mackenzie move, worthy of any scheme of Colum or Dougal’s. Claire meanwhile is distressed. She can’t own slaves, she tells him. Jamie agrees, although he wonders if he could help the slaves from his position of authority. Maybe, he says, they can make a small difference in their part of the world, and work to set the slaves free. They can light a spark that might light a fuse. But Claire stays silent. Jamie says that he can’t change River Run without her. He wants her support, but Claire can’t give it. Fuses often lead to explosions she cautions. But, says Jamie, when the dust settles, the devil being fought has gone. This is an interesting scene, in that Jamie and Claire seem to reverse roles, with Claire the one exercising caution and restraint.
In the next scene, Jamie is talking with Jocasta and Farquard Campbell, whilst also looking at the list of slaves employed at River Run. Jamie states that he wished his aunt had told him about her decision first. Jocasta apologies, but says that her children have passed and she cares for Jamie as if he is her own. Besides, she adds, he is deserving of the honour. Campbell tells Jamie that Jocasta’s will and testament is being drawn up and drops a heavy bag of coin onto the table. Jamie comments on its weight, to which Campbell replies that Jamie will need ready money to conduct affairs as master of the estate.
But Jamie has one request. Campbell says that he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but Jocasta says it is only natural Jamie should have questions. She is not expecting what follows however: Jamie states that he wants to free the estate’s slaves. Jocasta sits silently initially, as Farquard expresses an incredulity which reaches its peak when Jamie says that he wants the slaves to earn a fair wage. Jocasta’s response is far more measured, saying that she will discuss it, but asks Campbell for his expertise on the matter. Campbell then outlays the procedure: freedom is only granted by the court and Jamie would need to prove that each slave had done a meritorious service, such as saving a life. If this can be done, Jamie would still need to post a bond and offer financial sureties for each freed slave. When Jamie counters that they can’t put a price on freedom, Campbell says that the assembly can and does: £100 sterling per slave, which amounts to over £15000. But Jamie is still determined, saying that he will find a way of increasing revenue.
Campbell changes tack, warning that Jamie will also be threatening the livelihoods of other land owners. This is North Carolina, Campbell reminds him, and if he entertains such outlandish notions, there will be serious consequences. Lives will be at risk, including Jamie’s himself. There is one final warning: anyone who had expressed similar views as Jamie in the past had simply disappeared, never to be heard of again. But Jamie doesn’t react well to this indirect threat, saying that the threat of harm will not sway his mind. He stalks out of the room, leaving a frustrated Jocasta behind.
Claire is outside, her medical box open before her. How can it be possible, she asks, to prove that every slave has saved a life? They realise that with the laws as they are, nothing can change. Jamie reminds her that there is another way to become a land owner. He can accept the offer made to him by Governor Tryon and then they wouldn’t have to own slaves, instead recruiting settlers and living on their own terms. But any peace will be temporary, Claire warns, as another war is inevitable.
Their conversation is interrupted by Ulysses and Jocasta. There has been a matter of bloodshed, Jocasta explains, and she needs Jamie to go along and act as her representative. It appears that her overseer, Byrnes and his assistant have been attacked by one of the negros, with Byrnes’ ear being cut off. Claire insists on going too, If they hurry, she says, she might be able to reattach it. Campbell asks if Jamie has a pistol and Jocasta immediately insists he take one.
On arrival, the introductions are brisk and Claire and Jamie are led to the injured man. Campbell asks what has happened and the other man, MacNeill, explains that a slave called Rufus struck Byrnes with an axe after Byrnes had struck him with a lash. As they walk, Campbell explains to McNeill that as Jocasta’s official representative, Jamie will be aiding him with Rufus’ execution. This is news to Claire and Jamie. Campbell explains that it is the law of bloodshed. If a negro spills the blood of any white man, woman or child, then he is put to death in the presence of the judge and a legal representative. The sound of a man in pain breaks the conversation and Claire is horrified to see a man impaled on a hook, being hauled up into the trees, as his companions watch tearfully below him.
Jamie and Claire rush forward to help. Jamie orders that the man be taken down, but Byrnes, bandaged and holding the side of his face, orders that they continue to raise the man up. It is a standoff that ends with Jamie brandishing pistols until Rufus is lowered to the ground. Claire rushes over to him, while Byrnes hisses that they have no right to interfere in his business. But Campbell initially agrees with Jamie. Byrnes has done wrong in taking matters into his own hands. While they argue the finer points of right and wrong, Claire and Jamie talk about Rufus. Claire is insistent that they take him to the house, where she can remove the hook safely. She asks Jamie if the men will allow this. Jamie responds that he won’t give them any choice in the matter.
Back at the house, the shocked servants clear the dining table as Rufus is loaded onto it. Claire switches into surgeon mode and shouts orders. Mary is sent to find Ian to bring her medical kit, Phaedre is sent in search of clean linen, hot water, whisky and two bowls. Once this is done, everyone is given a job to do, but there is an air of unreality over what is happening that Claire doesn’t seem to notice. She is focused solely on removing the hook and saving Rufus’ life. Young Ian has somehow acquired the skills to be a first rate assistant, handing laudanum, scissors,scalpel and swabs on command.
The operation is bloody, but progressing successfully, when Jocasta and Ulysses appear. Ulysses tells Jocasta that Claire is attempting to heal Rufus and Jocasta is shocked. “Why would she do such a thing?” she asks. Jamie explains to his aunt that Byrnes and the others had acted wrongly, and while Jocasta admits that the treatment was regrettable and adding that they will have to answer for it, she firmly states that Rufus must still be hanged. Phaedre returns announcing more trouble: Wolff and Campbell have arrived and wish to speak with both Jocasta and Jamie. Taking a breath, Jocasta says that they will receive the men in the parlour. She is obviously worried. Jamie and Jocasta leave, and Ulysses closes the door on the operation still being performed. The shock and disapproval of everyone has been totally lost on Claire, who only has eyes for her patient.
In the parlour, a haughty Lieutenant Wolff is taking Jocasta to task as to the way Jamie has conducted himself. With Jamie standing frostily behind her, Jocasta describes it as an error of judgement that has been brought to her attention. Campbell takes over, saying that Jamie is meant to maintain order, but the opposite has happened. MacNeill and the other men are spreading tales about Jamie and Claire’s exploits. When Jamie responds that Rufus is under his protection, Wolff is scathing. Has Jamie no respect, he asks, for his aunt, her property or her neighbours? It is a grave error, he warns. If order is not maintained, who knows what riotous behaviour could ensue?
Jamie asks about the men who mutilated Rufus and what their punishment will be. Campbell replies that they have been jailed for taking the law into their own hands. It is a punishment, Wolff says, that could be shared by Jamie and Claire, should their intransigence persist. At this point, Jocasta intervenes. She states that Jamie is not yet familiar with the ways of Cross Creek and asks for an opportunity to put the matter right. There is a moment’s silence, before Wolff answers. What would Jocasta propose? The scene ends before we hear her response.
The operation over, a newly bandaged Rufus begins to stir. Claire urges him to take it slowly and gives him water. Rufus asks where he is and Ian tells him he is in the main house. Rufus says that he shouldn’t be there, but Claire reassures him. She and Jamie have brought him from the timber camp, she says, and she has tended to his injuries. Rufus wants to know why he has been healed.He knows he has broken the law. But Claire tells him that from what she could see, Byrnes was a son of a bitch and Rufus was justified in doing what he did. Rufus is shocked: he has never heard a lady speak like that. Ian smiles, saying that he has never met anyone like his Aunty Claire and that he has heard her say words that would make a sailor blush.
Claire asks Rufus if he would like to see anyone. But Rufus’ family is in Africa. He tells Claire and Ian how he and his sister were taken from the trees where they were playing and forced them onto ships. Claire shushes him, insisting he rests and Rufus soon passes out again. Claire sends Ian to bed too, but asks him to organise Rufus’ removal to her room so that he can be more comfortable. Claire is packing up, when she sees Ulysses standing outside the room. She comments on the lateness of the hour, but Ulysses explains that Jocasta has asked him to keep an eye on things. Ulysses asks how the patient is faring. When Claire says she intends to help him recover, Ulysses looks concerned. Claire notices and asks what is bothering him.
Ulysses apologises for his forthrightness, but tells Claire that if she persists on her path, Rufus’ fate will be far worse. Saving his soul is all that can be done, Ulysses warns. Once the overseers come, Rufus’ limbs will be torn from his body, with what remains being left as a warning for the other slaves if they disobey the law. With a look at the bloodied bandages in the bowl, Ulysses says it would have been better if Rufus had died on the hook. He bids a rattled Claire a good night.
Meanwhile, Jamie is expressing anger over Wolff and Campbell’s continued presence outside. Jocasta tells him not to be angry: his own actions have scarcely inspired trust. In fact, she says, they have shown charity to grant them an opportunity to rectify matters. Jamie asks if there is another way, but Jocasta is adamant. If they don’t do what has been agreed upon, then Wolff and Campbell will be the least of their concerns.
The time ticks closer to midnight. Claire is holding Rufus’ hand when Jamie joins her. He tells her that the midnight deadline is approaching and they must turn Rufus over to be executed. Claire refuses, but Jamie stops her protest. He wishes there was another way, and asks if Claire can heal him. Claire says that he has survived the worst, but there is still a risk of infection. Jamie asks her to consider what will happen if he does survive. Claire starts grasping at straws: perhaps they can say he escaped. But Jamie says that will then condemn the slaves alongside him. It is the law, he says. If a guilty man doesn’t take his share of the blame, then fellow slaves are punished.
Nosies are heard outside. An angry mob, brandishing weapons and lit torches, are approaching the house. Claire and Jamie realise it is hopeless. There is a knock on the door. Jocasta and Ulysses are outside and Jocasta tells Jamie that it is nearly midnight. Jamie counters that it is not the law that is being served, only a mob. But Jocasta tells him that the mob will burn River Run to the ground if he does not do what has been agreed upon.
Outside, the mob is getting angrier. MacNeill, brandishing a rope, pounds on the door, demanding that the lawless negro be turned over to them. Inside, Phaedre and Mary cower in fear. A rock is thrown through the window and Jocasta gasps at the breaking glass. “Blessed Bride,” she says, “your wife’s foolishness will get us all killed.” She is scared, but determined to address her neighbours.
Worried, Jamie returns to Claire. He knows that she has sworn an oath to do no harm, he says, but perhaps all she can do is to save Rufus’ soul by aiding him to a peaceful death the same way she had aided Colum.
Jocasta stands before the mob, assuring them that Jamie is preparing to deliver Rufus to them. She promises that he will pay for his crimes and that lawlessness will not be tolerated.
Rufus regains consciousness and Claire moves to his side. Amidst increasing tension outside, Claire says she will make him a tea to help him sleep. Jamie bows his head. The decision has been made.
Jocasta is fighting a losing battle with the mob, begging to be allowed to speak. Her nephew is a man of his word, she tells them. The prisoner will be delivered to them at midnight, in terms agreed upon by Wolff and Campbell. Jocasta will, she says, deliver justice as the law demands.
Heartbroken, Claire mixes the tea and gives it to Rufus as a tearful Jamie looks on. In a conversation reminiscent of season 1, when Claire talked to a dying Geordie about his home, Claire asks Rufus to tell her about his sister and their childhood. Smiling, Rufus talks about fishing in the river. His breathing is getting laboured. He watches the moonlight, he tells Claire and thinks that his sister might be somewhere under the same moon. He dreams he might see his sister again one day. Tears fall down Claire’s cheeks as she tells him he will. With one final breath, Rufus is gone.
The clock strikes midnight and the clamouring begins again. Jamie crosses himself and kneels by Rufus and prays. “I am bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me,” he begins. As his voiceover continues, we watch as Jamie carries Rufus’ body outside. The mob take it from the steps and tighten the noose around Rufus’ neck. He is then dragged along the ground to the nearest tree, from which he is hung as the others watch, in both horror and sorrow. It is a grim ending to the episode.
Since its airing, there has been much commentary about this episode. It certainly provokes strong feeling and it can be argued that for some viewers, it is an hour that brings with it traumatising feelings about the abhorrent treatment of their race. Others have said that Claire’s character is too reckless throughout. In the book, Claire shows more awareness and perspective. Whilst still in the field, she asks Jamie if Rufus can be saved if she heals him, rather than insisting he be returned to the house, blatantly risking the lives of Jocasta and her entire household by performing a dramatic surgery and stubbornly refusing to comply with the law. Both “Book Claire” and “TV Claire” aid Rufus to a peaceful death, but on screen it is far more combative. It can of course be argued that this is a decision made purely with dramatic television in mind - and in this, it succeeds. It is an unsettling, tense episode. We also see yet again what happens when 20th century attitudes cross with the 18th century way of life and wonder how many more dramas lie ahead. Good intentions don’t always match up with reality, and indeed, sometimes in wishing to do no harm, it is possible to do precisely the opposite. Thought provoking stuff.
This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She needed to sit quietly and reflect for a while after this episode was over, but thinks all the new characters have been perfectly cast.
Thank you to FarFarAway.com for the photos
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
For a complete look go to the Community page at
Our favorite hightlights of the episode, Do No Harm.
Maria Kennedy Doyle
Sets by John Gary Steele
Costumes by Terry Dresbach
Set decorator, Stuart Bryce
Sunday, November 11, 2018
“Lesley’s Lament” - Bidding farewell to Outlander An interview with Keith Kikki Fleming by your Aussie Blogging Lass
Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown
While an actor’s life is never dull, you could be forgiven for thinking that the life of an Outlander actor is another level altogether! Imagine, for example, that you were portraying a character who, in the space of one televised hour, watched their best friend die, helped to bury him, sang a lament for his life, pledged loyalty to Jamie Fraser, was set upon by pirates, tried desperately to protect their friends and then ultimately lost their life by having their throat slit courtesy of the new resident villain! That was precisely the brief for actor Keith Kikki Fleming, who portrayed Jamie Fraser’s kinsman, Lesley, during season 3 and the first episode of season 4. Luckily for us here at Outlander Homepage, Keith agreed to talk to us about his final scenes.
Following the hanging of his offsider Hayes, Lesley leads an impromptu lament for his friend’s life. The song, sung entirely in Gaelic, gave viewers the chance to hear Keith’s impressive voice and we wondered how long he had been singing.
“I actually joined the choir at school when I was 16 or 17,” Keith told us. “The choir was regarded as being full of ‘squares’ so I was viewed with suspicion when I turned up with my late friend Mark. We were two of the ‘cool guys’ - so choir wasn't meant to be for us! But I had an eye on the planned choir trip to Munich and Italy - girls, you see! However, I soon found that I loved singing the pieces too. Performing Vivaldi's Gloria, and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was an extraordinary experience.
Like most people, I think being a rock star is the ultimate fantasy job, so I've certainly rocked out in the shower! But yes, I’ve also sung professionally. I have been Cliff in Cabaret, and have appeared in two irreverent and riotous musicals by Forbes Masson, called Mince! & Pants. I also played the lead character of Davy, in the musical Sunshine on Leith, which was based on the music of The Proclaimers. We actually went into the studio to record an original soundtrack which is available on CD, so my voice exists forever for people to hear and judge!
As for the singing in that episode, I'm not a native Gaelic speaker, but I had the lament’s composer, Robert Robertson, a Gold medal Mod winner, helping out. He was fantastic. He basically spent an hour with me working on the pronunciation and the tune. Then he gave me the sound files and it was down to me, but he was on hand to help with anything that wasn't sounding quite right. So, I basically spent my spare time singing the lament. I knew what the song said in English first, so that I could then convey the emotional context in Gaelic.”
And what was the reaction to the performance?
“I sang it at the read-through and received a great and surprised response from the room,” Keith said. “Matt Roberts actually said that he'd have made it a feature of Lesley if he'd known about my voice. You know, thinking back, that was my cue to suggest a quick rewrite where Lesley only suffers a flesh wound!
On the day I made sure that I was prepared, as I was going to have to sing in situ with all those people in the tavern and with the camera focused on me. Sam Heughan slyly remembered that Jamie was tone deaf and a terrible singer, so I was left, quite correctly, to lament my dear friend solo. There were 3 verses and 3 repeats of the chorus, where the others start to join in. There were further verses too, but they didn’t make the edit. I think, by the end of the day, I'd sung the lament about 20 times. Certainly everyone in the crew seemed to know it!”
Next, we asked Keith if he could walk us through the final brutal scene that resulted in his character’s death. We started by asking about the choreography.
“The final scene was choreographed with our fight director on hand,” Keith explained. “He and our director, Julian, worked out what they wanted and we set to it. We rehearsed the stunt/fight parts in an empty warehouse on mats, then we went to the studio. The boat itself was in a warehouse studio in Hamilton - a far cry from Cape Town! It was complicated because the action is fast and furious, and a cabin is a really confined area - especially when you have cameras, crew and cast all vying for space. Then there is health and safety, with stunt guys helping ensure that you feel safe in the fights.”
But how was the atmosphere created?
“Well,” Keith began, “atmosphere is really created from an actor's point of view by playing the stakes. You have to be aware of the situation, the danger, the obstacles and whatever action is needed. In film/TV that can be enhanced with music, lighting and editing. The creative team really get to work.”
Lesley’s death is a brutal one, when Stephen Bonnet grabs him from behind and cooly slits his throat. We wondered if Keith had to wear prosthetic make up to achieve this shocking effect.
“No prosthetic,” Keith said, “but I did have a blood pump which ran up my arm and finished under my collar. And Ed (Speleers, who plays Bonnet) had a knife which also had a blood pump. It was a real knife I might add. Solid steel on my neck - that is why we rehearse! It was blunted, but it still left marks. So I trusted Ed's professionalism and awareness. We had to have a dialogue between each other to ensure that we were both cool with it.”
When we commented that we hoped Ed was lovely in real life, Keith was quick to reassure us.
“He's a great lad,” Keith said. “He’s got a real twinkle in his eye and is cocky, fun, confident, mischievous. He’s a bit of a lad - intelligent, sharp, just perfect for Bonnet! Oh aye, and he’s not bad looking either. On his first day at the read-through, I spotted him and guessed he fitted the description of good-looking pirate. It must be hard being bonnie eh?” Keith joked. “I dunno if I loved or hated him!”
All jokes aside, the final scene must have been tough to film.
“It was a tough scene,” Keith agreed, “for many reasons. It was emotionally tough for Cait and Sam, given where their characters were in the situation - both helpless and not knowing if their loved one was safe. That's where Lesley stepped in, to protect the most precious cargo - Claire - because that's what Jamie expected of him. There was much discussion of what was the focus of the trauma at end. The ring was important of course, but Cait pointed out that their good friend has just been killed brutally in front of her and she must react to that. Caitriona is an incredible actress and so aware of the ‘whole’. Claire would not be willing to just accept that Lesley is dead and move on.The whole thing has been horrific for her and as an actor you need to map out the emotional content and respond to everything accordingly.”
Amidst all the sadness, Keith shared a moment of humour.
“It could have been a different end if we only had one take,” he said. “The first time Ed burst through the door and got me in the neck choke, his musket fell out of his belt, so I bent down and picked it up! I missed my opportunity to change the series there and then! Also, whilst I lay dead out of shot, he dropped the ring, so to help him out and save cutting, I reached it and handed it to him! Fun indeed!
But what we didn’t know, was that while the character of Lesley was dead, Keith was still suffering, due to an injury he had brought to the set.
“I was playing Macbeth at the time in the Citizens’ Theatre and I had dislocated my shoulder mid show,” Keith said. “The pain was incredible, but somehow I carried on. It was 2 weeks later when we filmed this scene, so my shoulder was back in, but was basically not as mobile as it had been. The stunt guys looked after me, but I had to go for it in the fight and lying on floor for many takes was uncomfortable - what we do for the art, eh!”
The scene was also a tough one for Keith emotionally.
“For me it was a mixture of playing the scene and knowing my time was coming to an end. I was going to be leaving this great group of people who'd become friends, not just the cast, but right throughout the crew, drivers, producers, the lot. And DEAD...! No coming back ...wtf? We also didn't film in order...so my death was on the Monday and I filmed my final scenes on the Friday which was the lament tavern scene.”
Sadly, since even Claire’s amazing medical skills couldn’t fix a slit throat, we have now seen the last of Lesley on screen. So, we finished the interview by asking Keith was was coming up next, career wise.
“Next for me...? Well, currently I'm in Cyrano de Bergerac with National Theatre of Scotland and then I'm doing a wee panto with Ryan Fletcher, who played Corporal McGregor at Lallybroch in season 3, and Charlene Boyd, who was my incredible Lady Macbeth when I dislocated my shoulder. After that, who knows? I've been asked about an exciting theatre project for Spring, but we will see. I'm genuinely gutted to be gone from Outlander but when your time comes, it comes. My character didn't appear in the books and I had a great experience. People started to compare Lesley with Rupert and Angus etc, but they were original characters who did exist in the books, so there was investment in writing their material and of course they became established. In my case, it's tricky for writers to keep someone who is almost perfunctory, when there are so many characters and storylines from the books to satisfy. You can only work with what is there.”
So did Keith have any parting words?
“I'd love to have said, ‘Two things: lose the death, and where is MY love interest?!’ Hahahaha!” he joked. “Seriously, I just tried to make a rounded, believable true character with what I had and I am so grateful to Matt and Maril for giving me the opportunity. Outlander is a stunning production and has a brilliant team. The fans are the icing on top.”
We’d like to thank Keith for chatting to us about his final days on the Outlander set and wish him every success from now on.
This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She’s had the privilege to interview a number of cast now and has just realised that Keith Fleming and Steven Cree have both played the role of Cliff in Cabaret. She wonders if they ever sang together on set?
Friday, November 9, 2018
Outlander Homepage originals
Every good story has a theme. It stands to reason, therefore, that a series which is based around one of the most successful stories of modern times would follow suit with a theme of its own. In episode 1 of the 4th season, that theme is a circle, symbolising the cyclical nature of life. In just one hour, the past is paralleled with the present and viewers experience virtually every emotion possible: from grief to happiness, from joy to despair. It is brilliantly crafted stuff and sets up the season perfectly.
The episode begins, unexpectedly and poignantly, in a totally different time period: 2000BC. A group of ancient Native Americans are building stone cairns, rock by rock. Once finished, a group of women perform a dance around the stones, reminiscent of the women who danced around Craigh Na Dun. Claire’s voiceover speaks of humans’ fascination with circles over the centuries - from the movement of planets around the sun, to clock hands, to a simple wedding band. The camera pans out and we see the circle in its entirety. Claire comments that she, more than most, knows how much a circle can affect one’s life or death.
The image changes then to a different circle, that of a hangman’s noose. It is a sober beginning to the new season. Jamie strides through the streets of North Carolina in 1767, bribing a watchman to allow him to bid farewell to a friend. On entering, we discover that the friend is none other than Gavin Hayes, who has fallen foul of the authorities for sleeping with a woman and killing the husband who interrupted them. But Jamie has come with a plan. As another condemned prisoner listens in, Jamie tells Hayes that he and Fergus will cause a distraction as Hayes is unshackled near the gallows, allowing him a moment to escape. Hayes tells Jamie he is mad: as he risks being hanged as well. Jamie counters by saying that he can’t let Hayes die, particularly when Hayes had only come on the journey to aid him. But Hayes tells Jamie that he doesn’t regret it. What he does regret is not listening to Jamie, who had warned him against bedding the woman, but Jamie observes that men do things drunk that they wouldn’t do sober.
Hayes recounts the incident, admitting that he didn’t know the woman was married until her husband appeared with the pitchfork. He had kicked the husband down the stairs to save his neck, but is now about to lose it at the gallows. Resigned to his fate, Hayes asks Jamie for two things. The first is whisky, in the hope that with enough of it he won’t notice the noose tighten. Jamie has not been able to procure whisky, given that it is not common in America, but gives him rum instead. Hayes comments that he has always been able to count on Jamie. Overcome with emotion, Jamie takes a swig as well, for Hayes’ soul.
There is one slight change to the books, in which Hayes is hanged for theft, rather than murder. But the stakes are higher here, and the scene serves to illustrate the point that the Jamie of North Carolina does not have the same authority of the Jamie in Scotland. In Ardsmuir, Jamie had been the protector of the men, able to negotiate successfully on their behalf. In Edinburgh, he had regularly warned Hayes and Lesley to stay out of trouble, but there was still the belief that he would be able to save them if they did. Here, for the first time, Jamie’s pleas have been unsuccessful. The best he can do is bribe a watchman to bring rum to his condemned friend, but he cannot save his life. Even so, he feels compelled to try, by devising the plan with Lesley and Fergus. But at the last, it is Hayes who warns Jamie. To try such a plan would be foolish and Hayes won’t risk their safety. He has learned his lesson, but it is too late. He looks so vulnerable and resigned that it adds heartbreak to the realisation. There can be no reprieve. There is nothing to be done. This is wonderful acting by James Allenby-Kirk and deserves special mention.
With the flask being passed between the two men, another prisoner asks for a swig as well, for his own soul. After a moment’s hesitation, Jamie passes him the flask and he makes a toast to all of their souls. Hayes’ final request is a poignant one: that his final sight can be of a friend smiling at him. Jamie places his hand over that of his friend’s, telling Hayes, “You have my word.” It is an emotional farewell, faintly reminiscent of Rupert’s farewell in the farm house after Culloden.
Outside, a crowd is gathering. Many are happily awaiting the spectacle of an execution, but Fergus and Lesley are anxiously awaiting Jamie’s return. When he appears, he tells the two kinsmen that they are to do nothing when Hayes is unshackled. Fergus asks if there is another plan, but Jamie tells them that it is what Hayes wants. It is clear that they are not happy with this, and Jamie lays a hand on Lesley’s shoulder in sympathy.
The drums begin and the condemned men appear. Jamie, Claire, Fergus, Marsali and Lesley stand together, while Claire’s voiceover explains that 4 months have passed since their arrival and that they had been making their way up the coast when they heard about Hayes. Despite Jamie’s best efforts, the magistrate would not listen. Hayes is pushed up the stairs to the gallows, and it is clear that there is to be no last minute reprieve. As the sentence is read and the noose is placed over Hayes’ head, Jamie pushes his way into the centre of the crowd and into Hayes’ line of sight. The two men smile in farewell, Jamie’s smile immediately faltering as the lever is pulled and Hayes drops to his death, neck snapping in one motion. The sight of his friend’s lifeless body swinging at the end of the rope is too much for Lesley, who strikes out at the redcoats. With great irony, the remaining prisoners follow the plan that Jamie had spoken of, using the distraction to try and disappear into the crowd. Two are recaptured, but the third, the man who had shared the rum, succeeds in escaping. With a final look at the face of his friend, Jamie turns away and the new season theme song begins, complete with an American folk music treatment and a long shot of an eagle flying majestically over the water .
Later in the tavern, the group are discussing Hayes’ burial. Fergus and Lesley have been to the local minister, who refuses to have a convicted felon in his graveyard, without a good deal of recompense. Young Ian suggests burying Hayes in the wood, but Jamie and Lesley discount this, explaining that their friend had been afraid of spirits. This is another slight change from the book, in which Hayes had been afraid of the dark, but it is a small detail. Jamie says that they will not bury him in unconsecrated ground, but take care of the burial themselves that night and lay Hayes to rest with other souls. Lesley speaks of the need for a proper lament to be sung for Hayes. This he performs, with the assistance of Jamie, Ian and all the other Scots in the tavern. As a side note, the fine singing voice of actor Keith Fleming should be mentioned.
Under the cover of darkness, Jamie, Claire, Lesley and Young Ian pull the wagon containing Hayes’ body. Claire’s voiceover laments that Hayes would never make it back to Scotland and indeed their own return depends on the sale of a gemstone. Conversation turns to this, with an upcoming dinner serving as the best chance to make a sale. Arriving at the burial ground, Lesley and Claire stay with the body, while Jamie and Young Ian go to dig a grave.
The next scene is a spectacular piece of acting by John Bell and Sam Heughan. While digging the grave, the two men are confronted by ghosts of their own. The dark rectangular shape of the plot reminds Ian of the bath of blood that “The Bakra”, aka Geillis had been bathing in when he was taken to her. He begins to experience flashbacks and scrambles out of the grave in a panic. He tells Jamie that he doesn’t want to summon the memories, but Jamie replies that sometimes ghosts can only be banished by speaking their names and foul deeds aloud. He tells Ian that he had a festering pain inside him too, but only by sharing it with Claire was he able to feel better. In halting tones, Ian tells Jamie of his ordeal with Geillis and how he had been forced to do unspeakable things against his will. Tearfully Ian asks Jamie if he has ever lain with someone when he didn’t want to. The spectre of Jack Randall is raised when Jamie tells Ian that he has. Bitterly, Ian says that Jamie will understand then, the feeling of detesting what he is doing, even though it feels pleasing. Jamie lightens the mood a bit by telling Ian that what it comes down to is that Ian has a conscience, even if other parts of his anatomy do not. Taking a more serious tone, he adds that Ian had done what he had to do in order to survive. Again, we are reminded of Jamie’s ordeal with Randall, to ensure the survival of Claire. Comforted by his uncle’s words, Ian embraces Jamie, and the two go to collect Hayes’ body.
For a moment it looks as if a third ghost is about to appear. As Lesley prepares to take Hayes’ body from the wagon, a figure inexplicably rises from underneath the cover. Lesley and Ian start to panic, while a more practical Jamie punches the supposed ‘creature from hell’ in the stomach. The cover is pulled off to reveal the escaped prisoner from the gallows. The Irishman admits to having been hiding out in the wagon since that afternoon, in the hopes that if the group left town, they would take him with them unawares. He introduces himself as Stephen Bonnet (a name that sends a chill down any Outlander book reader’s spine), stating his crimes as thieving, smuggling and piracy and saying that he has never killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill him first. He asks them for assistance to convey him past the watch, so that he can make good his escape, promising to then trouble them no more. Echoing Jamie’s prison promise to Hayes, Bonnet says, “You have my word.” When no one seems to be convinced, Bonnet changes tack, asking them for the sake of the life of Gavin Hayes, who had told him that Jamie would never turn his back on a friend. This sways the them and Jamie agrees to take him where he wants to go. Claire says she will accompany them, as a husband and wife travelling together will seem less suspicious. And so a plan is made: they will bury Hayes, then Ian and Lesley will return to the tavern, while Jamie and Claire transport Bonnet. A seemingly grateful Bonnet then offers to help “bury a friend.”
The next scene opens with Jamie and Claire being stopped by redcoats. Both are nervous, but state that they are on family business when questioned as to why they are out so late. Jamie lists the contents of the wagon: a side of venison, sacks of oats and a body. Explaining that a man was hanged that afternoon, Claire tells the officer that they are taking him for a proper burial. Unconvinced, the officer orders his companion, Griswald, to stab the supposed corpse in the leg to check that it’s dead, a request that alarms Jamie and Claire, who jumps slightly at the sound of the bayonet striking flesh. But there is no cry of pain and they are allowed on their way. Once safely out of the sight of the officers, they stop to check on Bonnet, who has emerged from the incident with only a slight cut, the majority of the damage being inflicted on the venison. Jamie tells Bonnet that Claire will attend to his leg, given that she is a healer.
The scene between Claire and Bonnet is a very clever parallel to the one between Jamie and Young Ian, similar in that both characters share personal information about themselves that establishes a bond between them; different in that while Ian and Jamie are related and already have a relationship of trust and respect; the usually cautious Claire is sharing important personal details with a complete stranger. Bonnet comments on her two wedding bands, complimenting her by saying that she had married two lucky men. He states that he has always been partial to rings, and fascinated by the notion of an infinite circle. Claire observes that the hangman’s noose is also a circle and one that he should avoid. After a moment in which Bonnet observes Claire closely, he shares his personal fear - it’s not the noose he fears, bur drowning. It is a fear that haunts his nightmares, from which he is unable to wake. He says that he knows that drowning will be the death of him. Claire replies that nightmares can’t cause actual harm, but Bonnet counters that he feels the sea pulling at him and asks if she has felt the same. Claire then shares her personal story, about nearly drowning in the storm. They have undoubtedly made a connection, but there is something strangely uneasy about it. Ed Speleers, the actor playing Stephen Bonnet, shows particular skill in demonstrating Bonnet’s guile. Bonnet is a people watcher - observing them intensely, then charming them with personal stories. It remains to be seen what will be done with them.
Jamie reappears and asks Bonnet where he will go. Bonnet mentions meeting up with friends who will be nearby, Jamie remarking that these men will undoubtedly be pirates - an observation that Bonnet does not exactly dispute. He offers Jamie a reward, which Jamie refuses, saying that he saved Bonnet for Hayes’ sake. Bonnet offers them a piece of parting advice, saying that they should be careful in the woods, in case they are set upon by thieves. When Claire says she hopes his good luck continues, Bonnet replies that he has always felt a man makes his own luck.
Determined not to make the redcoats suspicious by passing them again so soon, Claire and Jamie decide to camp in the woods. The next scene gives Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan the opportunity to show how Jamie and Claire’s relationship has changed. They constantly touch each other throughout the scene, but they are the tender touches of a couple taking comfort from the familiarity of each other and the closeness they share, rather than the passionate embraces of new love. They stroke each other’s face, kiss briefly, interlace their fingers and smile and gaze at each other as they talk softly. Although still a passionate couple, this is a different mood. We see just how strong their bond is. They speak of treasuring the moments of just being together, as they know how fleeting life can be. When Claire says she can’t help feeling that it could all be ripped away in a moment, Jamie replies that death is a small thing between them. They were separated by 200 years, but all the time he was “dead”, he still loved Claire. When his body dies, he tells her, his soul will be hers. A favourite quote from the book appears here: “Nothing is dead, Sassenach, only changed.”
“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” Claire whispers.
“Nah,” he replies. “That’s faith.”
The following lovemaking is every bit as passionate as their wedding night, but this time the passion is fuelled by simply being alive, and the joy of being together.
The next morning, Claire and Jamie sit and look at the view ahead of them. Claire tells Jamie that they are looking at the start of what America will become. North Carolina will be just one of 50 states, filled with people from countries all over the world, hoping to live the American dream. When Jamie asks if it is the same as their dream, she answers , “I suppose it is. The chance to live in a place where the only limitations are a person’s own abilities and the will to succeed.” Thousands will come, she says, and then millions. Jamie asks about the country’s native inhabitants and the picture Claire paints is more disturbing, telling him that many will be forced from their lands, killed or forced to live in reservations. It is a disturbing parallel with the Highlanders after Culloden. Indeed, Jamie’s next observation that “a dream for some can be a nightmare for others” is portentous, not only for the Outlander story, but for the world at large.
That night, Jamie and Claire prepare for the Lillington dinner, hoping to sell the ruby. Jamie presents it as a necklace for Claire, which has been set into a simple design. The two discuss the chances of one of the dinner guests, known for a love of beautiful things, in being interested in the stone. Again, the two display the easy closeness of their relationship. Jamie wraps his arms around Claire’s waist, she leans into him, he requests the pleasure of her company.
The Lillington dinner is also somewhat reminiscent of the dinner party that was given in Paris. In Jared Fraser’s house, the stakes were high and the dinner guests irritating - and the same can be said here. But Claire and Jamie are surer of themselves this time, the desperation of Paris is missing. Claire easily holds court, charmingly putting the men in their place and dealing with the jealousy of one of the female guests who sarcastically insults her hairstyle. When Baron Penzler attempts to examine the ruby by boldly staring at Claire’s cleavage, she merely removes the stone and hands it to him. At all times, she is totally in control. Jamie too is receiving attention, confirming to the men that he is indeed the nephew of Jocasta Cameron, a woman of some influence, who fellow guest Governor Tryon is also acquainted with. They discuss her property River Run, on the banks of the Cape Fear River at the foot of the mountains. When Jamie comments that as a highlander, mountains are like home, the governor replies that the Blue Ridge mountains are some of the most majestic in the world. Jamie adds that he will see them when he visits his aunt before returning to Scotland, and the Governor invites Jamie to join him after dinner, as he has a matter he wishes to discuss. Jamie agrees and he and Claire share a brief curious glance.
Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to discover what the “matter” is. In front of the fire with pipe and brandy, the Governor makes Jamie an offer. As both a farmer and a soldier, Jamie fits the criteria of “industrious, God fearing family men” that North Carolina is looking for. Large land grants are available, Governor Tryon tells Jamie, for men who would encourage emigrants to come and settle on such land under their sponsorship. Jamie baulks at the amount that would need to be paid in coin, but Tryon leans forward conspiratorially to tell him that “there is the law and then there is what is done.” It is a distinction not lost on Jamie,and we are reminded again of Hayes. It further underlines the power Jamie does not yet have. Perhaps, if he did, he could indeed have saved his friend. Exceptions can be made, the Governor says, as long as the man concerned swears an oath to the King, if not already done so. With the spectre of Culloden raised, Jamie answers the Governor’s hinted question: as a pardoned Jacobite, he has sworn the oath, adding that like so many others, he did so to keep his life. He takes his leave, but nevertheless, the seed has been planted.
Back in their quarters, Jamie is counting the 100 pounds sterling that Claire has received for the sale of the ruby, whilst commenting on the lechery of the Baron who purchased it. They have enough money to secure passage to Scotland and purchase a printing press. Claire is silent, which Jamie interprets as worry for their safety. He reassures her that he is no longer a wanted man, thanks to John Grey. But it isn’t that: Claire has been thinking about the Governor’s offer. Jamie admits he has too, but is suspicious of the Governor’s motives. Why him, he asks. An outsider with few ties and no loyalties. Tryon is a soldier and a man of strategy who has had trouble with the regulators, men of the wilderness who have had issue with Tryon’s tax collectors and taken matters into their own hands to stir up a spirit of resistance. He needs Jamie to help restore order. Claire reminds Jamie that the American Revolution is a mere 8 years away and that if Jamie accepts the offer, he would be expected to fight for the Crown against the revolutionaries. Jamie is not overly concerned, saying that he has fought in wars before. But unlike Culloden, Claire tells him, the British will lose. They would be on the wrong side of history, yet again, and the land would be taken from them. But Jamie has another thing to consider. America will become Brianna’s country, he says. He doesn’t wish to fight, or to endanger Claire, but if he can help to make the land good, so that his presence can be felt by Brianna later, then that would be something. He may not have power in the present, but perhaps he can affect the future. Claire agrees. Their decision is made.
Approaching the tavern, Jamie and Claire meet Ian, who is sitting outside with an enormous dog, so big that it must be part wolf. Ian has won it in dicing and has named the creature Rollo. Jamie admonishes him against dicing with sailors, but Ian is unperturbed. Jamie gambles too, he says, and besides, he has won. He has contributed money for the journey home,but promises not to do it again. Claire tells him he doesn’t need to anyway, as the sale of the ruby has provided them with plenty of money. Jamie tells Ian to bring the dog inside, as they have things to talk about.
Inside, Jamie and Claire share their news with the others. They have decided to make their home in North Carolina. When Jamie tells Ian he will still be returning to Scotland, Ian begs to be allowed to stay. He doesn’t have much luck though, as Jamie is determined that Ian will amount to something, for Jenny’s sake. Jamie gives Fergus his share of the profits. He tells Fergus that it is enough for he and Marsali to return to Scotland if they choose, as well as some alimony money for Laoghaire.
Next Jamie offers money to Lesley, but Lesley tells him to keep the coin, as he wishes to travel with them for a moment longer. In a parallel to Murtagh, Lesley declares his place to be by Jamie’s side, reasoning that North Carolina is wild country. Touched by the gesture, Jamie agrees. Fergus and Marsali also declare they want to stay, as Marsali would not be suited to a long journey - she is pregnant. Given Claire and Marsali’s conversation during season 3, Claire’s comment about it being a happy surprise is loaded with extra meaning for Marsali. Marsali acknowledges this, but adds that they are delighted. They plan to stay in Wilmington, where they both hope to find work. Jamie asks God to bless them both, with a heartfelt comment to Fergus that he will make a fine father. While Claire congratulates the young couple, Jamie suggests that Lesley and Ian accompany them to River Run, until Ian’s ship leaves in a fortnight’s time.
The trip to River Run is a gentle one along the water. Claire asks Jamie what his aunt is like and he replies that he hasn’t seen her since he was a young boy. She is a McKenzie, his mother’s sister, and has been widowed three times, all to men named Cameron. Claire asks what the fascination with Camerons is and Jamie remarks that they have a way with words, adding that Jocasta and her third husband had come to North Carolina after the Rising. Claire says she hopes the message reaches River Run before they do, so that Jocasta will be expecting them. A grumpy Ian, who is helping with the rowing, remarks that a messenger could get there faster than them even if on hands and knees. Jamie laughs, telling Ian to keep going and he will have them there before nightfall. Claire, meanwhile, is looking critically at the boat captain, who has a black man steering the vessel. She assumes that the elderly man is a slave, who is being forced to work without a break. But the captain corrects her: the man, Eutroclus, is being paid. Eutroclus was once a slave, but had saved the captain when he had fallen asleep with the lamp burning and the cabin caught fire. The captain immediately petitioned the court for his slave’s release and offered surety for his freedom. Dubbing him the best water man on the river, the captain explains that Eutroclus has worked for him ever since. Claire looks at the captain with more respect, commenting that he must be grateful every day.
As the sun begins to set, Jamie sends Ian to take his turn at steering. Claire has been getting a lesson from Eutroclus, remarking that the current is stronger than she imagined and that the job is harder than it looks. Jamie asks Claire to join him and a breathless Claire agrees. Jamie then presents her with a present, asking her to open the wooden box in front of her. Claire is overcome: it is a beautiful medical chest, filled with all sorts of supplies. Jamie asks proudly if she likes it and she immediately embraces him, declaring it to be wonderful. She asks where he found it and Jamie explains he saw the box when he went to have the ruby set. Somewhat wistfully, Jamie says that maybe one day he will be able to deck her in laces and jewels, lamenting that he has never been able to give her very much, except for her wedding ring and his mother’s pearls. But Claire disagrees. He has given her so much more, she tells him, Brianna being the most important. Claire says that she gave the pearls to their daughter, and that the ring is all she needs. Jamie replies that it has been 24 years since they were married and he hopes that he has never given her cause to regret it. Tearfully, Claire replies: “Not for a single day”. They smile at each other as the boat continues down the river.
It is night now and everyone is asleep. Suddenly Rollo sits up, growling. As Ray Charles’ version of “America” plays throughout the action of this final scene, terrible brutality occurs. Rollo races onto the deck, pushing an intruder into the water, as Stephen Bonnet bursts into the cabin, with the words: “Mr and Mrs Fraser, a pleasure to see you again.” He swings a punch at Jamie, who lunges at Bonnet, but Jamie is then lured outside where his other pirate companions await. Tragedy after tragedy follow in quick succession. Jamie is restrained and relieved of the gemstones, Ian and Lesley are attacked by another pirate,with Lesley briefly knocked unconscious. Claire is held at gunpoint. Regaining his senses, Lesley tries to come to her aid and attacks her captor, but a horrified Claire is then forced to watch as Bonnet cooly slits Lesley’s throat in front of her. Jamie is beaten up outside and Bonnet advances on Claire, screaming at her to remove her two wedding bands. Shakily she does so, but at the last minute attempts to swallow them. Bonnet grabs her neck and forces his hand into her mouth. It is a violation that seems almost as shocking as a sexual assault, and the look on Claire’s face is heartbreaking. Bonnet manages to recover one of the rings: it is Jamie’s. With a final look at both the body of Lesley and the restrained Jamie, Bonnet leaves. He has what they came for and the reason for his earlier friendly encounter becomes clear. Bonnet had gained their confidence and learned enough from his time hidden in their wagon to know precisely when and where to strike. The warning he had given them was actually for himself and they have paid dearly for their act of kindness towards him. The attackers gone, with the gems, money and ring, Claire and Jamie have lost everything once again. Jamie staggers back into the cabin, to find Lesley dead and a sobbing Claire, Frank’s ring lying in her shaking hands. Their American dream has turned into a nightmare.
This scene was a truly stunning and disturbing one, every bit as dramatic as the battle for Culloden and with Stephen Bonnet proving every bit as evil as Black Jack. Partly this is due to the amazing acting, performed with no audible dialogue but incredible emotion, but the atmospheric choice of music also plays its part. Some viewers of the episode have criticised its choice as being a thinly veiled political statement for the current American climate. As an Australian reviewer, I can say in all honesty that this didn’t cross my mind. I was more impressed by the genius at which writers, director and actors conveyed the circle theme once again. Life is indeed an infinite circle - a mixture of past, present and future, joy and tragedy, happiness and loss, plenty and poverty, despair and hope. If this episode is any indication, season 4 is going to be every bit as amazing as the previous 3.
This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She was left speechless by the final scene and marvels at the talents of all who created it.
A huge thanks to FarFarAway.com site for sharing their high res photos!