By Maureen Lee Lenker
December 23, 2018 at 09:00 PM EST
Aimee Spinks/Starz
S4 E8
A
type
  • TV Show
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At last, Claire, Jamie, Brianna, and Roger are all in the same place and time — Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1769 — though not together because that would be way too easy!

Roger has made it to Wilmington, and he’s using his portrait of him and Brianna from the Highland festival to try to track her down. He knows she arrived on the Philip Alonzo but has been unsuccessful locating her in town. His search even brings him by the Wilmington Gazette, the paper bearing Jamie and Claire’s obituary that started this whole thing, and Roger has a chance encounter with Fergus, though they don’t yet know who each other are.

Fergus goes home to Marsali to find Claire and Jamie playing with his son during a surprise visit. Ian is away fetching casks for whiskey, but the Frasers are in town at the summons of the governor to attend a play. Tryon wants Jamie to meet Edmund Fanning, his right-hand man and one of the men Murtagh dislikes for dipping his hands into the treasury.

Roger is staring at Bree’s portrait while drinking, and he smears the pastel drawing when he spills it. Just as it seems all hope is lost, he hears Bree’s voice across the room asking about finding passage to Cross Creek. They reunite and embrace. He tells her he’s been looking for her, and they argue about her coming to the past without telling him. She explains she didn’t know where they stood, which Roger can scarcely believe. He pulls her outside for some privacy, and Lizzie watches this, only seeing what she believes to be a strange man pulling Brianna outside in a pique of anger.

Outside, Bree drops a doozy on Roger after he explains how he tracked her from Inverness to the past. “I didn’t know how to tell you that I love you and I thought you’d try to stop me,” she confesses. The fact that Bree loves him is all he needs to hear, and he pulls her around the corner for some fierce kissing. Things get hot and heavy pretty fast, but Bree stops. Last time they got this close to doing the deed, Roger tried to force the issue of marriage. Has he changed his mind? He says he hasn’t, to which Bree responds, “Well then, you’ll have all of me. You’ll marry me. How could I say no to a man who pursued me for 200 years?” RAINBOWS, HEARTS, FIREWORKS, SQUEEEEEEEEEE.

Roger has crossed an ocean and 200 years to find Bree, so he’s not really interested in waiting to find the local preacher. Instead, he decides they should try hand-fasting. It’s an old Highlands custom that would serve as a temporary marriage for folks far from the nearest minister — it’s a promise that can last between two people for a year and a day until a proper ceremony can be performed. Brianna is all in on this idea.

Claire and Jamie are dressed up in their finery to accompany the governor to the theater. There they meet Edmund Fanning, who has been troubled by grievances with the regulators, including injuring himself while carrying rum to a mob to try to appease them. He has a strange protrusion, which Claire offers to examine, and as she suspects it’s a hernia. But the governor is not down with lady surgeons, so instead, he leaves Claire with his wife to talk about girl things.

Which, as it turns out, means meeting Martha Washington and her good old husband George. George had apparently surveyed some of Jamie’s land in the past because of course, he did. Martha is impressed by the governor’s generosity to Jamie, heavily implying a warning of all the strings attached. George has never heard of Culloden because he was born and raised a Virginian. This tidbit causes Claire to slip and make a reference to chopping down cherry trees, which makes for a very awkward moment — though it still remains unanswered whether this fave bit of founding father trivia is apocryphal or not.

After they walk away, Claire explains to Jamie that George Washington is going to be the most famous American to ever live (it’s really a shame she didn’t stick around in the present day until Hamilton debuted). She tells Jamie how George will become the first leader of the country, a president elected by the people, not a king.

They take their seats for the show, while the governor continues to whine about the regulators not wanting to use tax dollars for the construction of his “palace.” Bro, do you even hear yourself? He boasts to Jamie about how his men, the redcoats, have a plan in place that very night to intercept a group of regulators planning to rob a carriage holding tax money. The governor has a spy among the regulators, and the redcoats are going to arrest them the minute they strike the carriage. Tryon is particularly gleeful about the prospect of capturing their leader — one Murtagh Fitzgibbons. Jamie offers to ride out to “help” the governor’s men while an unwitting Murtagh is standing in a dark road waiting to walk into a trap.

Back in the barn, Bree and Roger perform their hand-fasting ceremony. They kneel in front of a fire, bind their hands together with Roger’s neck kerchief and exchange traditional vows before pronouncing each other man and wife. Now that the formalities are out of the way, they can finally get it on.

This show continues to be a sterling example of how to write and shoot sex scenes, privileging the female gaze and a woman’s pleasure. The scene is achingly romantic and tender with Roger undressing Bree and professing her the “most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.” Their first time is painful for Bree, but Roger still treats her with care. Then they have some very equitable, reciprocal loving (take notes Tinder dudes) — Roger may have some old-fashioned ideas about virginity, but he’s a progressive gentleman where it really counts. Bree worries that it wasn’t good for Roger because he’s been rendered rather catatonic by the situation, but he assures her that’s a good sign.

While Murtagh stands in danger of being ambushed, Jamie continues to watch the play feeling powerless. Fanning’s hernia is making him uncomfortable, so Jamie elbows him on purpose causing him to double over in pain. Jamie calls for a surgeon, which Claire obviously is. Jamie reveals to her that he did it to buy him some time to warn Murtagh since being arrested for robbery is a hanging offense. But she’s cool with it since forcing Fanning to have surgery might just save his life.

Claire lays Fanning out in the theater lobby and calls for a needle and thread, a sharp knife, linens, and more. Tryon is still very anti-women practicing medicine so he sends a boy to fetch a surgeon, but she insists it can’t wait. If she doesn’t operate now, Fanning will die. She tries to knock him unconscious with liquor before cutting into him.

Jamie uses the hubbub to sneak out and he catches a ride away from the play with the Washingtons, under the guise of fetching his wife’s surgical tools from their residence. He stops them after they travel a short distance and says he will borrow a horse, thanking George for aiding a fellow soldier. “Is there a war I’m not aware of?” Washington asks. “Aye,” Jamie replies. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge you non-prophetic important historical figure!

Claire has a full audience for her surgical procedure (God knows it’s more entertaining than that terrible play they were watching). She asks the governor and three other men to hold Fanning down while she operates. She cuts into his hernia, and when Fanning cries out, asks the governor to talk to him to distract him. The male surgeon finally arrives and is horrified by Claire’s bloody approach when all Fanning needed was some tobacco smoke blown up his rear. And you thought your healthcare system was bad.

Claire impresses Tryon as he realizes she probably saved Fanning’s life. Jamie returns to the fray just in the nick of time before anyone can realize he’s been missing. He says he hopes he managed to reach Murtagh in time.

The robbery is about to happen on the road and the soldiers inside the carriage cock their guns preparing to ambush the regulators. At the last moment, Fergus appears to warn them at Jamie’s behest. Murtagh calls off his men with a whistle and the men in the road pretend to be drunk and asking for directions. Fergus explains to Murtagh that there is a spy among the regulators.

Wrapped up in post-coital bliss, Bree and Roger discuss their plans for the future. This discussion leads Roger to mention meeting the printer and wanting to tell him off for smudging the date on the obituary. But Bree doesn’t understand how Roger knew who the printer was when she only just told him about the obituary today. Whoops, Roger. Big mistake. Huge.

Brianna flies off the handle after realizing Roger knew about her mother’s impending doom and chose to keep it from her, particularly when he discussed it with Fiona. Claire had already been dead for 200 years is his argument, and he didn’t want to break her heart all over again. Bree isn’t having it and insists Roger withheld the information to manipulate her into marrying him, but now they are married, so he wants her to start listening to him. This is definitely the wrong thing to say. It leads to a worse argument that ends in Roger suggesting he just return to the future and Bree agreeing with him. He calls her a child and says she’s pushing him away just like her father, but she tells him to go and he does.

Taking a carriage home from the play, Tryon knows that the regulators must have received word of his plan. But he doesn’t know how since everyone he told was at the play with him. Except, another man mentions, he saw Colonel Washington leave during the medical emergency.

Bree is distraught over her break-up as she comes back to the tavern. Stephen Bonnet is there playing cards, and he moves to bet Claire’s wedding ring. But first, he grabs Brianna and asks her to blow on it for luck. She recognizes it as her mother’s ring, and Bonnet offers to make an agreement with her, pulling her into a side room. She asks how much money he wants for it, but that’s not what he’s after — he wants her to “earn” it and stalks toward her. She tries to escape but he slaps her and pulls her along the ground, removing her boots and throwing them from the room.

Everyone else in the tavern continues to play cards and drink as if nothing is happening while we can hear Bree screaming for help and the bumps and thuds of their scuffle. When Bonnet has finished raping her, she’s bleeding and shaking on the table. He hands her the ring, saying, “I pay for my pleasures. I’m an honest man — for a pirate.” Sir, I don’t think that word means what you think it means. The episode closes on Bree’s silent trauma as she takes her mother’s ring and climbs the stairs to her room alone.

This is another example of Outlander’s deft storytelling from a woman’s point of view. Bree’s assault is horrifying and chilling, but we never have to bear gratuitous witness to it. We can live through the force of her trauma without it being exploited. What’s more — by making the rape one everyone in the tavern can hear, the writers hammer home the historical truth of how often women’s traumas were/are ignored or dismissed. For the audience and Bree, what happens here is a supreme violation, but for everyone else in the tavern, it’s business as usual.

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Diana Gabaldon's genre-bending time travel novels come to life in the Starz series.
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