We’re in the home stretch here in season 4 of Outlander, which brings us an episode that mentions the word “hope” more times than Barack Obama in the 2008 election.
Bree is adjusting to life at River Run. She passes her days drawing sketches, exorcizing her trauma by creating images that would most likely be an automatic referral to therapy if she were in the present day. Lizzie is aghast at the pictures and apologizes again for her error, but Bree still blames Jamie for all of it and refuses to forgive him for the things he said to her.
Ian is showing his necklace to the Cherokee looking for information, while Claire tells Jamie about the little she’s gleaned of the Mohawk from movies in the present day. Spoiler alert: they are not positive representations. Ian says the Cherokee think the jewelry is from a village called Shadow Lake, a ride approximately two months north from them. The Cherokee won’t join them, so they must make their way alone — and Jamie is quite tortured by the worry Bree is suffering. Ian wants Claire to make things right with Jamie and also apologizes for his part in it all once again. Claire isn’t angry at either of them, but she can’t stop worrying about Bree and Roger.
Fergus goes to the tavern to ask after Stephen Bonnet, who should be returning to Wilmington in a week’s time. He sees a “Wanted” poster for Murtagh on the wall and tears it down. Returning home, Marsali asks after his job prospects, but no one wants to hire a one-handed man so there’s no work for him in Wilmington. Murtagh is holding meetings with regulators in the backroom. Marsali is uneasy about harboring a wanted man, but Fergus insists Murtagh would do the same if the tables were turned. He tells Murtagh about Bonnet’s expected return.
Phaedra wants to make Bree a new dress for a dinner party Jocasta is having – a dress designed to hide her pregnancy. Bree isn’t interested in meeting anyone and distracts Phaedra by getting her to sit for a portrait. Later, Jocasta brings earrings for Bree and talks her into agreeing to the dinner, where they will welcome a “Lord” to River Run. Bree insists she’s happier alone, reading and drawing, but Jocasta changes her mind when she tells her about Bree’s grandmother and her sister, Ellen. She tells Bree she’s very much like Ellen, headstrong and always following her heart. Ellen refused to marry until after her father died and then chose the man she loved, Brian Fraser.
Marsali purposely wakes Murtagh in the night while getting a drink of water. She asks him to invite Fergus to join the regulators — she wants Fergus to feel like he’s wanted and appreciated because of the insecurities he has about being turned away repeatedly due to his missing hand.
It’s time for a dinner party at River Run, which turns out to be a 17th-century version of The Bachelorette where Jocasta is Chris Harrison. Bree’s milkshake brings all the boys to the plantation. She descends the stairs trussed up in a gown to meet a host of suitors, including our favorite sneaky little hobbitses — Pippin!!! Sorry, I mean, Gerald Forbes as portrayed by Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd. Lt. Wolf is back, as well as another new suitor, Judge Alderdyce. Girl, go for the hobbit!
Bree shocks the crowd with her revelation that she’s drawn a portrait of Phaedra. Wolf tries to pick her up with a line about his new empathy for Jocasta’s loss of sight and offers to take her on a trip to New Bern to show her some magnificent sights (yeah, Lt. Wolf, I can guess what those entail). Mr. Forbes brings her into the parlor and asks her to choose from four gemstones — sapphire, emerald, topaz, and diamond — to make one into jewelry. Bree defers to Mr. Alderdyce’s mother. The party is interrupted by the arrival of their guest of honor, who as it turns out, is Lord John Grey. Yay! Bree is happy to learn he’s an acquaintance of her parents.
Back in Wilmington, Murtagh asks Fergus to join the regulator’s militia because he has courage and he trusts him. Fergus says he is honored, but that his place is at home with Marsali and his baby. Marsali tells them Bonnet’s ship has been spotted in port, and as they go, she draws Murtagh aside to thank him.
At the dinner party, Lord John regales the crowd with tales from Jamaica, but Forbes wants Bree to tell a story. She doesn’t have one but instead plays a psychological game where she asks the guests to close their eyes and imagine themselves walking with a person in the forest and encountering an animal. She will use their answers to analyze something about them. Judge Alderdyce was walking with Christ and encountered a squirrel from his mother’s garden. She says that means he is seeking forgiveness for something and his life’s problems, as represented by the squirrel, are secrets. This makes him uncomfortable enough to leave the room.
She turns next to Lord John. The person he envisioned in the forest was Jamie. Naturally. He makes up an excuse that it’s because Bree is sitting right here, and it was Jamie who asked him to come to River Run to check on her. Forbes wants his go at being psycho-analyzed, but Bree faints and John catches her and escorts her to the parlor.
Lizzie, who has an incurable case of foot-in-mouth disease, walks in flustered about Bree fainting “in her condition.” So, now Lord John knows Bree is pregnant. Great job Lizzie! John assures Bree Jamie did not tell him. He asks after her husband, and she explains Jamie allowed him to be traded to the Mohawk and is searching for him now. She wanted to go, but could not because of the baby. She knows Jocasta had this dinner to see her married off, but John is confused since she is already married. She explains she was only hand-fast and had no witnesses. John passes along a letter from Jamie.
Jocasta comes in and Bree asks for a word with her alone. She’s irritated that Jocasta is playing matchmaker, but Jocasta insists they’re her friends and acceptable suitors. Bree’s reputation, which is frankly all she has, is at risk of being permanently damaged and her baby being branded a bastard. Not to mention the marriage would greatly benefit them all financially. Bree counters that her grandmother married for love, and Jocasta reveals that Ellen was pregnant when she eloped with Brian Fraser, ensuring their baby was born in wedlock. She says Roger is not coming back and Bree must accept that. One cannot live on hope — just you wait, Jocasta.
Fergus and Murtagh spot Bonnet in the tavern, once again making merry with a wench (he really is a man of simple pleasures isn’t he?). Murtagh corners Bonnet in his room at the tavern, holding him at gunpoint and knocks him out with the butt of the gun.
Bree can’t sleep and despite reaching for her letter from Jamie, she sets it aside and goes downstairs for water. She hears a noise and is shocked to discover Lord John hooking up with Judge Alderdyce in the storeroom. Luckily, Lord John is enjoying himself too much to notice her before she sneaks out. Yes, Lord John, good for you — get yours! You deserve some modicum of happiness and pleasure in this world.
The next morning Murtagh and Fergus have a still unconscious Bonnet tied up, but they’re intercepted by two soldiers. Murtagh sends Fergus home and puts his hands up. He turns Bonnet in, who they realize is the escaped murderer who evaded the gallows. But unfortunately, they also recognize Murtagh from the broadsheets and arrest him too.
Phaedra wakes Bree the next morning with news that Forbes is in the parlor waiting to ask for her hand. Damn, and here I thought he was just there for second breakfast. Bree tells her to say she’s on her morning walk and will return in an hour. Then, she sends Lizzie to find Lord John to meet her near the large oak tree on the grounds.
John and Bree walk, and she asks him straight out if he’ll marry her. At first, he laughs at the preposterous suggestion and then is horrified when he realizes she’s serious. She’ll sign a paper saying she wants none of his money and that they don’t even have to live together, though she should probably go to Virginia to keep up appearances. Lord John admits Jamie is one of the people he cherishes most and because of that he’s drawn to her, but he cannot accept her offer.
Bree switches tactics and opts for blackmail, threatening to reveal what she saw him doing with Judge Alderdyce last night. He tries to wave it off and say she’s mistaken, but she pushes further saying she’ll write letters to the governor. John is hurt, saying his life would be ruined. So, she softens and says she’ll tell Jamie, which John points out is assuming he doesn’t already know. She guesses at his affection for Jamie based on his envisioning them walking together during the psychological exercise.
John matches Bree’s tempestuousness with his own, saying he’s tempted to accept and teach her to play with fire — i.e. require her to fulfill her wifely responsibilities. She’s shocked, having assumed his marriage was only one of convenience, but he assures her he is capable of carrying out his husbandly duties.
They sit and talk it out. She apologizes and admits she really would not have told anyone his secret. He says when he closes his eyes, he sees Jamie in the forest with him, but he also sees Claire and the bond Bree’s parents share. He can’t marry her because of all these reasons. What’s more, he has faith that Jamie and Claire will find Roger and bring him back to her. She shouldn’t give up hope. Bree reveals she’s not sure if Roger will want her back because she was violated and doesn’t know whose baby it is. She resigns herself to accepting Forbes’ proposal knowing she will exchange hope for a broken heart, but will be doing the right thing for her baby.
Forbes is waiting in the parlor with a ring and Bree finally arrives. But just as Forbes is about to propose, John rushes in and asks if Bree has told them all their good news. He has asked for Bree’s hand and she has accepted. Jocasta is shocked, but pleased, while Forbes is dismayed to have lost out. Bree thanks Jocasta for encouraging her to open her heart to John, and Jocasta notes that she’s a true Mackenzie with her scheming.
On the road, Rollo comes to Ian with a huge bone, which Claire recognizes as human. Rollo leads them to a rotting corpse, and by his clothes and missing fingers, Ian recognizes him as a man who was with the Mohawk when he sold Roger. They search the surrounding area and find nothing, hoping that means Roger is still alive. They bury the man and say a prayer for him, while Jamie continues to stew over his mistakes.
Bree and John talk on the porch having reached an understanding. John reminds her sometimes people do the wrong things for the right reasons, essentially forgiving her for trying to blackmail him. John tells Bree about William, explaining he has a son though they do not share any blood. Bree says he’s a good man for it, but he admits he loves Willie more than life itself. Awww. Because of this, he’s certain Roger will also love Bree’s baby whether it’s his or not. He says the new world, a.k.a. America, is only new “because there is hope and hope is at the very heart of love.” With this in mind, Bree finally opens the letter from her father.
Back on the road, Claire finally apologizes to Jamie saying she’s not upset with him, just angry at the world and Stephen Bonnet. She explains that she and Bree used to only have each other after Frank died and thus were used to keeping each other’s secrets. She’s sorry she didn’t tell him the truth about Bonnet. Jamie understands that Bree comes first at times, but he worries he can’t ever truly be a father to her. He’s jealous of Frank because he never would have made these mistakes and Bree thinks Frank a better man — he was worried Claire might too. Claire insists that Bree didn’t mean the things she said, much like Jamie doesn’t mean the things he says when he’s upset. They kiss and have some tender make-up sex.
At long last, we’re back to Roger — who is somehow not at the stones but back with the Mohawk. The tribe in the village gathers and makes a receiving line for Roger — a receiving line that turns violent as they all take a whack at him as he goes down it and is brutalized once again. Sigh, remember what Claire said about depictions of the Mohawk in movies not being complimentary? Yeah, that.
Before we close, I want to take a moment to shout-out David Berry as Lord John Grey. The entire Outlander cast is wonderful, but he is truly something special. He elevates every scene he’s in. He says so much about his pain, his secret yearnings, and his good-heartedness with just the briefest of looks or the slightest gesture. Berry makes Lord John perhaps the noblest and most open-hearted character in the series, and he’s absolutely mesmerizing in every scene. This is my formal plea that the Outlander producers go ahead and pitch that Lord John spin-off series because who doesn’t want more of this on a weekly basis?! And wouldn’t that be a nice thing to fill in the Droughtlander with?