Saturday, December 29, 2018

“All roads lead to Wilmington” - a recap of season 4 episode 8 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

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Much of episode 8 revolves around the concept of power - who has it and who can exert it. In a moment, the strong can become vulnerable and the powerless can find a way to survive, but it is never without cost. This is an hour that runs the gamut of emotions from reunion to rebellion and from joy to desolation, but the struggle for power continues regardless. 

The episode opens with Roger, who is using the pastel sketch of Brianna and himself as an 18th century version of a wanted photograph. He is asking Wilmington citizens if they have seen Brianna, without success. He also stumbles upon the printer who will eventually print the obituary about the fire and peers through the window, somewhat disdainfully. The printer, John Gillette, notices this, and asks Roger if his establishment has offended him in some way. Instead of trying to explain future events, or making a comment about guarding against smudged type, Roger shows the printer the sketch as well, adding the details that Brianna has recently arrived on the Philip Alonzo and that his enquiries have, so far, come to naught. One of the printer’s employees appears at this point, his inventory complete. It is Fergus, but of course, Roger has no reason to know who he is. He shows Fergus the drawing as well, but still there has been no sign of Brianna. 

Fergus arrives home and Marsali is preparing food. “Where’s the bairn?” he asks. Marsali tells him to go and see for himself. In the next room, Fergus finds not only his son, but also Claire and Jamie, who have come for a visit.  Claire explains that they have been invited by the Governor and his wife to join them at the theatre. Jamie comments that Tryon is keen to introduce him to a Mr Fanning, one of his right hand men, and Claire adds that according to Murtagh, this particular right hand man has his hands firmly dipped in the treasury. 

Claire and Marsali go to prepare the rest of the lunch and Claire takes the opportunity for a heart to heart, asking the young mother how she is coping. Marsali is a glowing mother, her heart full of love.She tells Claire that she now knows that she would take a knife to the stomach before seeing Germaine hurt or in sorrow. Claire agrees that it is the hardest thing about being a parent - even though you would die trying, you can’t protect your child from anyone or anything. It is a poignant moment for Claire, missed by Marsali, who doesn’t know of Brianna. It is also a rather chilling moment of prophecy, for the events that book readers know are to come. 

Back in the inn, Roger spills his ale over the sketch, swearing in frustration as he tries to clean it. But suddenly he hears a familiar voice: it is Brianna, looking for passage to Cross Creek. Roger stares, hearing the man tell Brianna that the Sally Ann is in port. 
“Brianna,” he says, as she turns around and they stare disbelieving at each other for a moment, before embracing. 
“Thank God,” Roger says, his voice cracking with emotion. “Thank God I found you.” 
“Hi,” she responds, before asking what he is doing there. As the reality of his arrival sinks in, Brianna tells Roger that he wasn’t supposed to come, as it wasn’t part of the plan. Roger asks how running off to “bloody nowhere” was part of the plan. Brianna replies that she would have told him, but wasn’t sure how they stood after their last conversation. 
“You don’t know how I feel about you?” Roger asks, before noticing that other patrons are listening in. He grabs her hand and leads her outside, while Lizzie watches through the window. 

Lizzie is worried to see Roger grabbing Brianna’s arm, not knowing what conversation is going on around the action. To Lizzie, it looks potentially violent, but in reality Brianna is expressing her frustration too. She pushes Roger away, telling him that she would have called rather than written, but she didn’t know how to tell him that she loved him and that if she had called, he would have tried to stop her. For Roger, the only important part of this speech is that Brianna has just declared her love for him. He pulls her further away, again watched by Lizzie. 

They move to a nearby barn and begin to kiss and undress. Brianna asks Roger if he is sure, given that the two of them are not engaged. It is a reference to their previous 20th century fight, where Roger had said that he would have her “all or none at all” and Roger admits that he hasn’t changed his mind. Brianna has, however, telling Roger that he does have all of her. 
“You’ll marry me?” he says, smiling when Brianna says that she can hardly say no to a man who has pursued her over 200 years. Roger doesn’t have a ring, but Brianna shows him the bracelet she is wearing. It is the one he had given her at the festival and is also the gemstone that she has used to come through the stones. 

Roger has an idea, asking if Brianna knows what handfasting is. When she shakes her head, he explains that it is a form of temporary marriage, coming from the Highlands, where the availability of ministers can be scarce. The couple can be promised to each other for a year and a day and Brianna interrupts his explanation with the words, “Let’s do it.” Roger is overjoyed and the couple embrace again.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Claire have arrived at the theatre. Governor Tryon greets them, commenting that the play is said to be exceptional, written as it has been by a native son of Wilmington. Wasting no more time with pleasantries, Tryon motions to a man by the name of Edmund Fanning, and introductions are made. Fanning, Tryon says, sits on the assembly and is Tryon’s public register of deeds and is also the leader of the Orange County militia and judge of the superior court in Salisbury. Jamie comments that Fanning is a man with many strings to his bow and Fanning responds in kind, saying that Tryon also speaks highly of Jamie, especially in light of the current grievances in the western counties.  Jamie asks if Fanning means the regulators, but Tryon uses a different term, referring to the men as insurgents.

Fanning is holding himself awkwardly, his hand over his abdomen and groans suddenly. Claire asks if he is in pain and Fanning replies that he had injured himself while carrying rum to the river for the insurgents in an attempt to appease them and persuade them against their lawlessness. He had turned awkwardly, his boot sticking in the mud and he now has a strange protuberance that causes him pain when he moves. Fanning tells them that his physician has said it will go away in time, but Claire disagrees and offers to examine him. Fanning is taken aback by this, until Jamie explains that she is a healer. Unconvinced, Tryon suggests that they should defer to the physician, but Claire cautions Fanning: if the pain gets worse, he may need to see a surgeon. Tryon ends the conversation by telling Jamie that he wants to introduce him to a number of acquaintances, while his wife introduces Claire to the other women. Claire knows when she has been dismissed and she and Jamie share a look. 

“The society of the wives,” Claire remarks to Mrs Tryon, who promptly assures her that she will help Claire to navigate the waters. She points out various members of society, including a man known as Colonel Washington. It is none other than George Washington, but of course, no one has Claire’s knowledge of the future. At this point in time, he is only a former soldier with the Virginia regiment. Intrigued, Claire asks to meet both the Colonel and his wife. 

Moments later, the Washingtons, the Frasers and Governor Tryon are discussing Fraser’s Ridge, land that the Colonel had surveyed the previous year. Jamie agrees with Washington’s assessment as to the land being a magnificent stretch of wilderness, adding that it had been generous of the Governor to grant it to him. Mrs Washington adds that to receive 10 thousand acres is unprecedented, adding that Tryon must indeed be fond of them. Tryon confirms this statement, describing Jamie as a loyal man and a former soldier. This gets the Washingtons’ attention and they ask if Jamie had fought with them against the French. Jamie tells them that he heard tales of Washington’s deeds in those battles, but that he had fought at Culloden in ’46. The name is unfamiliar to Washington, who remarks that he spent his childhood in Virginia.  

“Chopping down cherry trees” quips Claire, making an allusion to the 20th century anecdote about George Washington’s childhood. Realising her mistake at once, Claire covers her faux pas quickly, telling the confused company that it is something a child would do and that it is merely a “figure of speech.” Interviews given after the episode have explained that this oft told tale about the young Washington was not in fact true, so there is no danger of Claire appearing clairvoyant. A nevertheless conveniently timed bell rings at this point and the party is asked to take their seats for the start of the play. Before they do, Claire tells Jamie that Washington will be the man who eventually wins the war against the British and will become the first leader of America. He won’t be a King, Claire says, but will be called a President and will be elected by the people. “If Brianna were here,” she adds, “she’d have a hundred questions to ask him.” 

Brianna is, of course, here - but not focused on the future President. She and Roger are preparing for the handfasting, spreading out a rug and kneeling before a fire. Taking his stock from around his neck, Roger binds their hands together and speaks traditional wedding vows, which she promptly echoes. Together, by the “power of the unusual Scottish tradition”, they pronounce themselves husband and wife. It is a touching scene, beautifully performed by Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. 

The audience take their seats, as Tryon complains to Jamie that the regulators mean to deprive him of his home, by refusing to allow their taxes to be put toward the building of his palace. He then comments that he hopes his men put on a good show that evening, and quotes Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” speech, before adding that they are in a glorious theatre that has been made possible by taxes, something that insurgents could never comprehend. Jamie asks what Shakespeare’s speech has to do with Tryon’s men. The governor explains that he has a spy in the regulator camp and so knows of their plan to rob a carriage carrying tax money as it leaves Wilmington that evening, bound for New Bern. The regulators are camped along the road,Tryon tells Jamie, and his redcoats are going to arrest them. Jamie asks if Tryon knows the identities of the men, his face freezing as the Governor tells him that he does, naming the leader as Murtagh Fitzgibbons. Thinking on his feet and wanting to warn Murtagh, Jamie offers to ride out and join Tryon’s men. The Governor thanks Jamie for the offer but assures him that he has the matter in hand and telling him to enjoy the performance. The action begins, but Jamie is not concentrating, as we are given a brief glimpse of Murtagh and the others, who are indeed encamped along the road.

 Brianna and Roger have begun to make love, and in moments reminiscent of Claire and Jamie’s first night together, they are both nervous. They move slowly, Roger telling Brianna that  her skin is so soft and that she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He carries her over to the rug in front of the fire, Brianna murmuring that she has wanted this moment for so long. Roger replies that if he takes her now it is for always and she agrees. Roger grabs her hand. “Feel my heart,” he murmurs. “Tell me if it stops.” The music swells and the lovemaking continues.

Back at the theatre, Jamie is still paying no attention to the action on stage. Other patrons are calling out as the actors recite their lines, but Jamie is deep in thought.  Meanwhile, in the dark on the road, Murtagh urges patience amongst the men.

Brianna and Roger lie by the fire. Again, in comments reminiscent of Claire and Jamie’s early post coital conversations, Brianna asks if she “did it right”, concerned because Roger had just laid there as if someone had hit him over the head. Roger chuckles, assuring her that behaving as if his spinal cord had been removed is a fair indication of male satisfaction. In turn, he asks if it had been painful for her. “Yes,” she says, “but I liked it.” Roger tells her that his dreams of their wedding night had always included champagne, clean sheets and a bed, but Brianna tells him that she has had those things, but has never been as happy as she is now.

The audience is getting increasingly restless as the play continues. Jamie notices that Fanning, seated next to him, is moaning softly, his hand pressed against his abdomen. Taking his chance, Jamie causes a disturbance, by “accidentally” elbowing Fanning, rising to his feet and calling for a surgeon when Fanning collapses in agony. Apologising to the actors, Fanning is carried from the theatre, Claire taking over as surgeon, against the protests of Tryon.  As her initial orders are carried out, she and Jamie share a hasty conversation. Claire reassures him when Jamie asks if has killed the man, saying that in all probability he has actually saved his life, as she can now operate. Jamie tells her that Tryon’s men are about to arrest Murtagh and the others for robbery, which is a hanging offence. He needs to warn Murtagh he says, but Tryon cannot know he has gone. Claire promises to buy him as much time as she can. 

Amidst Fanning’s cries of pain, Claire and Tryon argue, while Jamie slips out of the building. Tryon wants to send for a surgeon, while Claire tells him that she is one. He wants to carry Fanning to somewhere more private, but Claire says this is too dangerous. Sending people to collect needle, thread, a knife, liquor and linen, Claire prepares to operate. Holding the decanter to his lips, she instructs Fanning to take a long drink, in the hope that it will render him unconscious.

Outside, Jamie is met by the Washingtons, who have taken advantage of the drama to leave the theatre. Washington asks how the patient is and Jamie responds that his wife will do her best. He is, he says, on his way to get her surgical tools from their residence. The Washingtons promptly offer him transportation, which he accepts. An idea has occurred to him.

Claire is beginning the operation, with an audience of intrigued bystanders. The supplies arrive, along with an apron, which she puts on. Tryon is questioning Claire’s every move. She tells him that she needs men to hold Fanning down and keep him still, as the rum will only do so much in the way of dulling the pain. Fanning is likely to come in and out of consciousness, Claire says, emphasising that she can’t do the operation without his help. Telling Tryon that if he wakes, it will do Fanning good to see a friendly face, Claire further instructs the Governor to allow his colleague to bite down on his handkerchief if necessary. The men take their positions and the operation begins.

Jamie arrives back at the residence and tells the Washingtons that he will borrow a horse from here. He thanks them for aiding a fellow soldier. “Is there a war I’m not aware of?” Washington asks and Jamie answers honestly. “Aye,” he says. “Aye, there is, sir.”  The carriage drives off and Jamie hurries inside. 

Claire makes the necessary incision, to murmurs of horror from her audience and cries of pain from Fanning, who regains consciousness almost immediately. Claire urges him to keep calm and tells Tryon to distract Fanning from the pain. Tryon dutifully promises Fanning that if he lies still, Tryon will dip his hands into the treasury and build Fanning a house. Claire wrestles with the hernia and Fanning writhes in agony, his screams muffled as Tryon stuffs his handkerchief into his colleague’s mouth. Claire works quickly and the hernia is repaired. Tryon declares the operation exciting, asking Claire to confirm that Fanning won’t remember what he had just promised. At this point, the official surgeon arrives, demanding to know why Claire has butchered the man, saying that all he had needed was tobacco smoke up through the rear. But Claire has found an ally in Tryon, who promptly dismisses the surgeon with the comment that they have no need of him, as the lady has everything in hand. 

A brief cutaway scene to the forest shows a carriage approaching. Redcoats are inside, pistols at the ready. One of the party asks the carriage to stop and Murtagh and the others draw their own weapons, ready to attack.  “Let’s take our money back,” Murtagh says.

Everyone, including the surgeon watches in silence (apart from suitably dramatic music!) as Claire finishes stitching. Governor Tryon asks if she has finished. Claire confirms this and says that she will see Fanning home. Tryon comments that in his opinion, she may well have saved Fanning’s life, at which spontaneous applause erupts. Tryon adds that he can now see why Jamie claims that he can’t live without her in the wilderness. 

Right on cue, Jamie arrives. Claire moves to him, commenting that he had left his arrival to the last moment. Tryon hasn’t noticed his absence though, which is a relief. Claire asks if he managed to reach Murtagh in time. “I hope so,” Jamie replies.

In the next scene, we realise that it is not Jamie who has gone to warn the regulators. Just as Murtagh is about to attack the carriage, there is a hand on his back. He whirls around, and the figure whispers, “It’s me, Fergus. The Governor knows of your plan and intends to have you arrested.” 
Amidst the drama, Murtagh smiles at the man in front of him. “Fergus,” he asks, “is that you?” 
Fergus confirms that Jamie has sent him to warn the men and implores them not to rob the coach. Murtagh calls off the attack with a series of whistles, as the men on the road embark on a story about having had too much to drink, asking the coach driver if they are on the road to Wilmington. After the driver advises the men it isn’t wise to linger on the roads, the carriage drives on. Crisis averted, Murtagh tells the men they’ve been found out. Fergus tells Murtagh that there is a spy in the camp. When Murtagh comments that Jamie couldn’t be bothered to come and tell him himself, Fergus tells him that Jamie is at the theatre. Murtagh is dismissive of this, but claps a hand on Fergus’ shoulder, saying that there is no man that he would rather see. 

Roger and Brianna are lying side by side. Roger says that they should start looking for gemstones, so that they will be able to return to the 20th century after they help Jamie and Claire. Brianna agrees, adding that it’s frustrating not knowing the date of the fire and that she could kill the printer. Roger chuckles, saying that he had been tempted to tell the printer off when he met him, for smudging the date. Brianna immediately asks how Roger knows this, given that she has only just told him about the obituary. It is a big mistake, which Roger hastily tries to correct. He asks her not to be angry and admits knowing about the obituary before Brianna had left, but tells her that he hadn’t wanted to make her sad, particularly when she had been so happy to learn that Claire had found Jamie. But Brianna is moving away from him. “You knew my mother died,” she says, “and you didn’t think that I should know that?” Roger says that he had decided that there was no point in breaking her heart, and that Fiona had agreed.

If the comment about the date was a big mistake, then this is a bigger one. Brianna is incensed that Roger has discussed Claire and time travel with Fiona, although Roger tries to explain that Fiona already knew and this is how he had found the obituary in the first place. But Brianna is not accepting this, furious that Roger and Fiona had decided that she shouldn’t know about her mother’s death. Roger tries to say that regardless of the circumstances, Claire had already been dead by the simple passing of years by the time that the obituary was discovered. He wants to know what she could have done, even if she had known. 

For Brianna, the answer is obvious. “This,” she says. “I could do this.” Roger cautions her, saying that even though they both have the gift of travelling through time, they cannot be the arbiters of who lives and dies. But Brianna replies that it was her decision to make, asking how he dared to take the choice away from her. Roger tells her that he didn’t want to break her heart, but Brianna doesn’t believe him. She counters that he only wanted her to be happy so that she would marry him. Roger doesn’t disagree, but becomes sarcastic, asking her to pardon him for wanting her to be his wife and that since she now is, perhaps she should start listening to him.

This is the final straw. Brianna can’t believe that Roger would expect her to meekly accept his every decision and not worry her pretty little head about anything. Roger says that she is twisting his words and that he nearly died coming after her and Brianna retorts that she didn’t ask him to follow her. 

Roger is angry now. No, he tells her, she just left without a word, except for a letter that he was meant to receive a year later, after it was too late and she could have already died. The irony that he had done exactly the same thing, by keeping details from Brianna, is lost on him. Perhaps he should just go back, he says and she agrees. Perhaps he should. 
“Is that what  you want?” he challenges. “For me to leave and return through the stones?” Brianna replies that Lizzie and her are doing all right on their own. 

Desperate to convince her, Roger reminds her of her last words to Frank and how she had never forgiven herself for the way things had been left between them. This is the fatal blow and Brianna hisses through clenched teeth. How dare he bring her father into the situation, she says. It’s the same thing, Roger tells her. Right when it matters, she is pushing him away. He tells her that she is acting like a child and that perhaps his coming has been a mistake.

Brianna tells him that if he really believes that, then he should go.  Roger makes one final challenge, demanding that she look him in the eye. If she really wants that, he will go. Looking him in the face, Brianna replies, “No one is stopping you.” 
Of course neither of them wants this, but these two minister’s cats are stubborn, proud and wounded. Without another word, Roger gathers his belongings and leaves. Brianna’s temper dissolves and she cries. 

In the carriage, Tryon is musing as to who has warned the regulators of the plan. He lists the people he has told, adding that everyone had been in his company. At the mention of Colonel Washington, Tryon’s companion disagrees. He had seen the Colonel and his wife putting on their coats when he had gone to fetch the surgeon, he tells the Governor. “Never trust a Virginian,” Tryon seethes, adding that Washington’s day will come. Jamie realises he is now free of suspicion, but his expression is solemn. He is playing a potentially dangerous game.

Brianna finishes dressing, her face still streaked with tears. She wipes them away and returns slowly to the inn, where men are playing cards. One of them is none other than Stephen Bonnet. He is losing, but offers his fellow players something of more earthly value, and holds up a silver ring. Brianna walks past the table and Bonnet grabs her by the arm. He asks her to blow on the ring, saying that perhaps she will change his luck.

Brianna recognises the ring at once. It is Claire’s. She demands to know where Bonnet has gotten it from and whether her mother is still alive, cautioning that it is bad luck to wear the jewellery of the dead. Bonnet comments that he hasn’t noticed that effect himself, but adds that when he last saw Claire, she was both alive and well. Brianna asks where Claire is, but Bonnet replies that he doesn’t know as it has been some time since he saw her. But, he says, if Brianna would like to return the ring to her mother, perhaps an agreement can be reached. He folds his hand of cards, as Brianna asks if he will sell the ring to her. Bonnet stands, saying that he never haggles in public, so Brianna follows him into the adjoining room and asks how much money he wants. Bonnet replies that he has enough money, but that perhaps Brianna can earn it. 

Brianna realises too late what he means. “I think you’ve mistaken me,” she says and turns to go. But Bonnet grabs her. “I think you’ve mistaken me,” he replies. He forces her to her knees and slaps her hard across the face. She tries to crawl away, but he pulls her back, asking her if she wants to play games. He wrenches her boots from her feet and throws them outside the room, as she begs to be let go. The camera pans across to the fire and then back into the main room of the tavern, as Bonnet slams the doors shut.

Book readers knew that this was coming, but the scene is perhaps more horrific by the way the rape is not shown, only heard. As a terrified Brianna screams, everyone in the tavern knows exactly what is going on and no-one tries to help. Indeed, some of the men chuckle and smirk as ale is poured and the card game goes on. More chilling still, someone picks up Brianna’s boots, places them neatly outside the door, and walks away.

When it is over, Brianna is slowly coming back to reality. Bonnet’s voice is muffled, his figure blurred, as we hear him say that he had thought Brianna might have been a virgin, but that he knows he was not her first. She sits up, her nose bloodied, stands uncertainly and goes to leave, but Bonnet calls her back. He holds out Claire’s ring, saying that he pays for his pleasures and that he is an honest man for a pirate.  She takes the ring, Bonnet making one last comment as she walks out. “If you find your mother,” he says, “give her my regards.” 
The inn is deserted now. Brianna picks up her boots and slowly makes her way upstairs, as the poignant closing music begins.

This was an emotionally charged episode and while everyone performed strongly, all the praise must go to Sophie Skelton for the range of emotions she showed throughout the hour, from vulnerability to determination; happiness to fury; ecstasy to fear; strength to fragility. Surely the last of the Brianna/Sophie critics must have been silenced for good. This was a first class performance and this reviewer can’t wait for all the scenes to come, as Brianna becomes integral to the rest of the season’s storyline.

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She, like many, found the assault scene extremely confronting, but applauds the decision to portray it in the manner that it was. 

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