Outlander: Ep. 403 Review – The False Bride, and The Measure of a Man

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One of the most attractive parts of Outlander, I’ve always found, is the strength of character of its men. Jamie, Roger, Lord John, Colum, Ian Sr and Jr, even Dougal, are men with failings, to be sure, but they know where they need to go, they have faith in who they are, and they develop, throughout the series, an understanding of the world and their place in it. In this week’s episode, False Bride, three of those men display the depths of their character.

Jamie, of course, has deep-rooted strength – but we haven’t seen it much in the past several episodes (going back seasons), instead deferring to Claire. Here, he finds a sense of purpose. We’re just beginning to see Roger’s strengths as we get to know him. And Ian Jr. is learning his, as he is a young man who has faced several tests that most men will never face, and especially not at such a tender age.

This episode was a huge improvement over the last one, even though it did have some problems, and even an improvement over the first episode of the season. One big reason is that writer Jennifer Yale (and writing staff) looked liberally back at Diana Gabaldon’s original source material – which should be happening every episode. Much of the dialogue came directly from the books, even if scenes were rearranged and compressed, sometimes with dizzying results (like, how did Roger get back from the Scottish festival? He surely wouldn’t have wanted to drive back with Brianna after all of that).

One of the biggest issues was Claire’s continued pigheadedness. She argues with Jocasta (my dear late mother in law once told me that one of the things she admired about me was my ability to nod and appear to take advice, then quietly go off and do whatever I wanted to do anyway), effectively creating ill will with someone who will likely be an important source of assistance and family feeling (not to mention important plot points). And she runs off in unfamiliar woods – don’t we teach our children not to do that? Claire is humorless, selfish, defensive… I can’t tell you how annoying I find her, almost every minute she’s on the screen.

Jamie

But let’s talk about the men. It’s obvious Jamie has some reluctance to leave River Run, but having been virtually a slave himself, as a prisoner, he can’t in any way stomach the idea of owning other people. And Claire won’t tolerate it at all, rightly so. And even the pleasure of once again being with family – and a doting aunt who needs his help, at that – doesn’t outweigh his need to be true to his convictions.

His recognition that he has more to lose now, and other lives to be responsible for, for the first time in many years, isn’t sitting lightly with him. You can see him stand taller, re-learning his place in the world.

You dinna think I can be happy unless I’m a criminal. I was an outlaw when first we met. And an outlaw when you returned. If it was only me, I would live as one again. And when I was old, I would lie under a tree and let the wolves gnaw at my bones. But it’s not just me. It’s you. And Ian, and Fergus, and Marsali. Ye understand? I would lay the world at your feet, Claire. But I have nothing to give you.

Jamie needs to give her something – and he finds it, in the land. How many times has he said he is, practically and in his heart, a farmer? The essence of farming is care-taking. Animals, land, crops – and people. Jamie understands. This is his place, as caretaker, protector, laird. No, being a printer won’t satisfy that – he could earn a wage, but he couldn’t earn his soul. This final scene of the episode was lovely – looking out over (what’s supposed to be North Carolina) the valley, seeing their future – we can hope they’ll have some peace here. (But no…. did we forget who wrote the story?)

Roger

Roger is perhaps my favorite Outlander character. With the longing of an orphan, even one as well-loved as an elderly bachelor uncle could manage, he has found a soulmate in  Brianna. I saw the attraction and the relationship much more clearly, and much earlier, in the books than I have in the series, but in this episode, it really started to come out. Roger is serious, smart, and principled – he believes Brianna is the light to his shadow, also smart, also principled. And, in effect, an orphan as well, needing his protection and guidance to get through these first years of bereavement.

The Scottish festival was one of my favorite scenes in the book, and I really worried that they wouldn’t include it, when they already had had Roger come to America before this. I must say that the Tea Cups-style dancing had me a little nauseous, both from the spinning and the weird expressions on their faces, but other than that, I loved the glimpses of the Scottish dancers, the caber tossing, and of course, the singing. We’ve been waiting for Richard to take center stage with that gorgeous voice! And what a beautiful song! I hope we get more in future episodes. Here it is again, just so you don’t have to search through the episode for it.

But Roger is older, and Brianna is still very young, and they’re at definitely different points in their lives. I cringed – for Roger’s sake, not because of the scene – when he said that the weekend was perfect, and he wanted the moment to be perfect, and he pulled out the bracelet as a gift. “I love you a little, a lot, passionately, not at all….” perfectly summed up their relationship – except for the not at all, on Roger’s part. He knows what he’s asking, he understands what she wants to give, and she realizes that he’s far ahead of her on the relationship ladder…. broken hearts, anyone? While this was a combination of a few different scenes from the book, it worked – for the most part. But it was certainly better to combine these scenes – a Christmas visit to Scotland mashed up with the Scottish festival – than to let either of them go completely.

Was Roger wrong to ask, or to walk away when she couldn’t give what he wanted? Was Brianna wrong? I certainly don’t think Brianna made a mistake – she offered herself to a man she is probably more than halfway in love with, even with her concerns that the example of a marriage she lived with wasn’t confidence-inspiring. And she certainly shouldn’t have accepted his proposal if she wasn’t ready – clearly she wasn’t, whether it was doubts about Roger, about herself, or marriage as an institution that stopped her.

And Roger – should he have slept with her just to keep from arguing? That would have been death to their relationship. Should he have been more understanding, given her more time, not pressed the matter, and let her come to her own decision? Maybe. But he’s looking at it as an older, more mature and experienced person – he’s ready. He’s past the point where everything was fun, nothing was serious, a man and a woman could sleep together without commitment (although, keep in mind – this WAS 1968, “summer of love” notwithstanding – morals were different then).

But I think both of them were true to themselves, neither were in the wrong. Roger could have handled it better, but it showed us that he’s a man of character, a believer in love, a man you can count on to have strong convictions. I loved the passion Rik Rankin brought to the scene. And for the first time, I saw a bit of what I’m looking for in Brianna – I haven’t been convinced by Sophie’s portrayal. I’ve felt that she’s playing it too sweet, too girly – but here was fire. I sure hope that she can build on this new-found emotion and discover the true essence of this interesting woman.

Ian

Ian’s moving from pup to wolf. I appreciated the way the writers acknowledge the fact that he’s faced more trauma in a short amount of time than most grown men ever have. This can’t help but have a maturing effect on a young man – and Ian’s insistence on his own self-determination and independence is a joy to see, no matter the terrible things that have happened to him.

Dangers we dinna ken? And what about the dangers I do ken? I’ve been set upon by pirates. Twice. Kidnapped, thrown into a pit, sailed through a hurricane. Before we came here, I saw things through the eyes of a boy. And the things I’ve seen have changed m. I’m no the same lad ye kent in Scotland. I’m a man. Free to call the place I choose home. . .A man writes his own letters. Word of my decision to stay in America will come from me.

John Bell is showing some steel – and he’ll need it to get through this season. He’s curious, adventurous, brave. He’s been tested and come through it triumphantly, not giving in to the terror he’s seen. I’m happy to see this coming through in John’s performance.

The Ghost

Claire’s pigheadedness in chasing after Clarence the scaredy-mule led to one heck of a creepy scene. Book readers will recognize the missing shoes, but this ghostly encounter was actually the result of several different scenes sort of mashed into one. The timing of the scene in the season was a little strange, and the introduction of this Indian character was very confusing, I’m sure, to anyone who hasn’t read the books (and if you haven’t, just be aware that – as long as the writers pick up the rest of the storyline – he, or at least his legend and importance, recur during the season). But this was creepy – Claire could see him clearly when the lightning flashed, and he was gone – not just hard to see, but GONE – between flashes.

And more – the skull, which obviously belongs to the ghostly figure who appears to her, based on the gash in his head – is that of a fellow time traveler! Who is this Indian? How did he get here, where did he come from, what does he want? I’m really excited to see how they handle this in future episodes.

One reason I loved this so much was that the production has really shied away from the many supernatural bits Diana has included. When the show first started, I thought that we’d get this aspect of the books – the ghostly figure Frank encounters outside their bed and breakfast in the first episode was done pretty well. But then the difficulty and terror of travel through the stones was minimized to the point where I wondered why Claire didn’t just pop back and tell Frank she was ok, then pop, return to the 18th century. When Master Raymond healed Claire after her miscarriage (Season 2, Faith), the psychic healing  was there, but greatly reduced. This season, in the first episode, the book contained a fantastic story (fantastic in the supernatural sense) of Gavin Hayes and the tannasch, which is mentioned in all of 6 words in the show.  But this scene of the ghost Indian brought some of Diana’s touches back to the series. I hope they continue to include these, and not abbreviated as they have been.

This episode helped clear out the bad taste in my mouth from episode 2 – helped, but didn’t quite remove it. That irritation lingers with Claire’s uncomfortable behavior, and as much as the production focuses on her, I’ll hold off predicting if the season will live up to the high expectations I have for it. But this was definitely an episode I’ll happily rewatch.


The Outlander Gab on the Air

Join me, Samantha, and Alyson on Tuesday nights to review the week’s episode, maybe chat with a guest, and take your phone calls, live on internet radio! The show airs at 9 pm eastern/8 central/6 pacific. Go to this link on our website (it’s the Live Radio tab at the top) and click to listen. Give us a call and tell us what you think about the episode, or chat about anything Outlander! You can listen to past episodes by going to the same link.

This week, we’ll celebrate everything we’re thankful for in the Outlander world – from the actors and crew to the friends we’ve made. Call us and tell us what give you the gift of gratitude!


That terrific stag that was burned at the Scottish festival was created by Sam Heughan’s uncle, Trevor Leat! Here’s a short video about his artistry.

Trevor Leat – Artist of the Wickerman. from DBonnarFilms on Vimeo.


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Erin Conrad