Deep Thoughts Outlander 401: America the Beautiful

Outlander S4, Jamie and Claire, Jamie Fraser, Claire Fraser

Irony, thy name is Outlander.

You also have several other middle names, some of which are Gaelic, some the Latin names for various flora and some, just wonderfully original curse words. Spoilers ahead for the season 4 premiere.

outlander spoilers, ed speeler, stephen bonnet

It’s a Round, Round, Round World

The episode opens in 2000 B. C., with unnamed tribes dancing in a stone circle and Claire speaking about the symbolism attributed to them, of which she is intimately aware. When we rejoin the Frasers in 1767 North Carolina, the brutality of English justice calls back to Jamie’s original capture, and he visits Hayes to offer him the same kindness Dougal once offered him: escape. He and Claire end this episode on their way to ask for a MacKenzie’s aid, same as Jamie once did after his escape from Randall. Jamie offers help to Stephen Bonnet in the same spirit it was offered to him, and it is Bonnet that breaks the circle of trust by stealing and killing those who once helped him. Claire and Jamie lose a friend, but their bond still holds them together and Claire’s knowledge of history will help shape their future choices, even if it doesn’t guarantee their success. Still, from the infinity symbol created by Claire’s twin wedding bands moments before she swallows them to Marsali and Fergus’s happy surprise, we are reminded that circles by their very nature continue spinning, and this is only the beginning of their second chance.

Of Thee I Sing

Season 4 has been framed over and over again as the Frasers’ immigration story, and as any first-generation immigrant will tell you, it’s no bed of roses. Their current situation in Scotland might not be as deadly as it once was, but it certainly isn’t as promising as it could be in the Carolinas, the wee issue of loyalty notwithstanding. Jamie, Claire, and their family differ from the standard immigrant to the Americas not only in their beliefs (Catholic vs. Protestant) and nationality (Scottish/Scottish-by-marriage vs. English), but in their morality and belief systems. I didn’t find the last scene as upsetting as searingly, terribly honest. The jazzy, upbeat version of America the Beautiful playing over the violence at the end is disturbing only to those who haven’t experienced this version of America…and the Frasers aren’t part of the population that will ultimately suffer the most from the realization of the American Dream. They are about to experience, maybe for the first time, what it is to be part of the victor’s side of an equation where victory can at times ring hollow. From the natives that we have heard about (but have yet to see) to the slave trade, Jamie and Claire will face every immigrant’s dilemma: how to carve out a space for themselves and their family that holds on to the dearest parts of their identity while learning what to let go in order to survive in a new world.

The Bakra and the Sea

The question of good and evil is never a black-and-white issue in Outlander, and we are reminded of this three times this episode. First, when Hayes bravely accepts his fate as his due for laying with a married woman and killing her husband in a panic. Jamie knows him to be a good man, and reaffirms that goodness well past the man’s death, ensuring Bonnet’s safety in his name. Although these were actions taken in good faith, they ultimately enable the escape of a man who will come to be a great thorn in the Frasers’ side. Second, when Ian experiences a flashback of his time as Geillis’ captive while digging Hayes’ grave. He confesses to Jamie his shame at the pleasure of it, despite the “unspeakable things” she made him do. Jamie encourages him to speak of it to him the way he once spoke of it to Claire, and reduces it to a simple yet brutal truth that Ian can accept. “What it comes down to is your cock doesna have a conscience, but you have.” Third and perhaps most poignantly, when Bonnet tells Claire his dream of dying at sea, and she empathizes with him as a healer and human being only to have him later violate that trust by taking her most cherished possession, the iron circle, made from Lallybroch’s key, that Jamie gave her on their wedding day 24 years ago.

Suck It, Science

Ultimately we are left with the central, circular truth in this show: Love holds everything together. Marsali, despite Claire’s contraceptive, is happily carrying her first child, the first generation of Frasers in America. Jamie, thinking of America as his daughter’s future home, once again considers pledging an allegiance he will eventually need to break when the revolutionary war breaks out in eight years. Fergus, Marsali and Ian choose to remain with Jamie and Claire rather than go back to Scotland. Lesley honors his friend by singing a caithris in his honor, and dies protecting his leader’s wife. Ian finds comfort in the unconditional love of a selfless companion. Claire and Jamie meditate on the fragility of life and the importance of whatever moments they have together, even if they don’t last forever. Jamie pledges a love that lasts beyond death. “Nothing is lost, Sassenach. Only changed.” When Claire replies that it’s the first law of thermodynamics, he replies that no, it’s faith. That belief in things unseen, in the eventual harmony of all things, in the closing of circles and the ability of good to overcome evil as long as good people hold on tight to each other and stand against it.

Let Freedom Ring: Outlander Season 4 Official Trailer

It’s that time again, to be teased with all the wonders that await us in the season to come and make preemptive judgments about which book scenes we’re most likely to be cheated out of. Let’s take a look at the high points of the S4 trailer.

We open on Claire and Jamie cuddling under a horse and speaking about the Scottish-American Dream. Claire is telling Jamie the story of America…

Outlander Independence Day Will Smith Claire and Jamie Fraser

…but leaving out most of the stuff that’s not really great pillow talk.

Outlander Trailer American Dream

Then we get some Claire-Jamie lip congress, just so we know they’re still banging like fireworks.

Outlander Claire Fraser Jamie Fraser Freedom Kissing

We then get an aerial view of River Run, the North Carolina plantation owned by Jamie’s widowed Aunt Jocasta, sister to his mother Ellen. If Jocasta is any indication, the long tradition of ball-busting Mackenzie women is about to be HELLA UPHELD. Somewhere in Scotland, Jenny is chortling.

Outlander Jocasta RBF

Jocasta is going to take her nephew in because family, but you better believe she’s going to read him to filth and that Claire is not going to stand for it. On a positive note, Claire and Jamie get to wear fancy clothes again, and it’s always good to see them clean and pressed.

Outlander Jamie Fraser Steak

Outlander Claire drinking

After this there’s a brief clip of Tim Downie as Governor William Tryon trying to hard sell Jamie on North Carolina by saying it “offers wealth and prosperity.”

Outlander Governor Tryon

The only fly in the colonial ointment, is Claire, bless her 20th-Century morals. After a brief flash of her gazing out the window at the River Run field hands, she point-blank tells Jocasta she doesn’t agree with keeping people as property while Jocasta’s slave Phaedre is on her knees pinning her dress and casting the subtlest and most effective of shades.

Outlander Phaedre The office

Jocasta bless-your-heart’s her HARD, replying “You’re a lively one, are ye no’?” in the time-honored tradition of polite derision which perfectly marries Jo’s Southern and Scottish sides. It is, however, no match for a pushy English broad who’s used to pushing both buttons and boundaries.

Outlander Claire pain in the ass

This results in Jamie telling Claire that it’s time to do what they do best: GTFO. There follows a montage of what I’ll refer to as “Colonial MacGyver”, Jamie chops wood, Claire sharpens the axe (this might not be in strict chronological order) and then Jamie ensures no evil spirits claim his bride by carrying Claire over the threshold of their new home.

Outlander Claire and Jamie Ball Pit

Claire pronounces the house “perfect,” and Jamie sweetly reveals he’s trying to leave something good behind for his daughter, so his “presence here now can be felt by Brianna later.” Back in the 20th century, his daughter is certainly feeling something: hunger for a Scottish biscuit.

Outlander Brianna grin brush beard

Outlander Roger Beard

A brief flash of Claire shooting a chopping block that probably asked for it, and then we meet Stephen Bonnet, the Big Bad of season 4 and charming PoS par excellence.

Stephen Bonnet is an ass

This is basically the cue for the “bad stuff happens to good people” portion of the trailer, where we find out all the messed-up things in the Frasers’ future. Cut to a concerned Jamie telling Young Ian that there are “savages” there.

Outlander Jamie savages

Several quick cuts follow: Men with torches in the night; men with rope headed to River Run; Bonnet and masked men bursting into Jamie’s bunk; a surprised Jamie, Claire and Ian sitting up in bed and finally, Jamie being pulled into a boat as he shouts Claire’s name. It’s all very stressful so let’s take five for some deep breaths and a meditation on Scottish teddy bears.

Roger Wakefield, Scottish Teddy Bear

I bet his face is like the finest velour.

Back to the 20th century, where Roger finds the land contract Gov. Tryon signed with Jamie and calls Bree in Boston to let her know he’s got news about her mother.

Brianna Outlander New Phone Who Dis

Outlander Roger Mac Indiana Jones

Flash back to the 18th century, and Jamie just looking worn out from all the plot. Poor Jamie. Boy just wants a cuddle with the Mrs. and maybe some pie or something, but stuff keeps going down.

Jamie Fraser too old for this

More quick cuts: What I am guessing are Tuscarora coming over a hill and startling Jamie, Claire and Ian; a public hanging that should look familiar to book readers; Bonnet, on a ship, telling someone who looks suspiciously like a beloved Scottish history professor we all know that “Everything’s in my power” and an angry mob throwing a rock through a window at River Run. I bet Claire forgot how deadly the 18th century is on account of the sex haze.

Outlander Claire Ginger Nookie

During what appears to be an extensive tour of the North Carolina woods, Claire’s skull Spidey-sense once again hits pay dirt, this time in the form of a skull with several silver fillings that, she tells Jamie, won’t be invented for another hundred years. Their dental hygiene seems to have improved when they traveled to the past.

Outlander Jamie Fraser time travelers

More quick cuts: Jamie dropping his dagger into the ground in front of the Tuscarora; another angle of the mob at River Run; an angry man being restrained in the street and over all of this, Claire’s voice saying that “This will lead us to fighting in another war. We will be on the wrong side of history again.” Right at the tail end of this, Roger is silhouetted in front of a bonfire with tears in his eyes, and a crying Bree stares at Roger. It’s very sad. It also looks very hot.

Outlander Roger Wakefield wool was a bad choice

More quick cuts: A clock strikes midnight; a drum circle at night looks eerily like standing stones; a close-up on the noose hanging in the middle of the town square; a strangely dressed Brianna looks up; Claire on a horse, frantically looking around and Bree kneeling in front of what might be Frank’s grave. Back to Jamie and Claire at River Run, Jamie telling his wife that they can’t change the world without her.

Outlander Claire Fraser

Ramping up towards the end, we see Claire’s horse get spooked by lightning…

Outlander Claire Fraser Horse Spooked

…Receive reassurance that Jamie’s back is still in working order…

Outlander Jamie Fraser Claire Fraser Tub

…Get slight motion sickness for the very best of reasons…

Don’t mind me, just drunk on joy

Back to Jamie’s voice reassuring us that “A dream for some can be a nightmare for others.” Cut in between footage of storms on land and sea, there’s a flash of maybe Otter Tooth walking through the woods at night, Claire aiming a shotgun at an unknown target, people being tossed about what looks like a ship and Jamie angrily pinning Stephen Bonnet against a wall and giving him what appears to be a scathing Yelp review.

Outlander al dente Jamie Fraser Stephen Bonnet

A quick flash of the fire at the Celtic festival Roger and Bree attend in the 20th-century fades into Bonnet jumping over a man’s body as he turns a corner. Now Jamie’s pointing a gun and Claire runs to hug him. The hug changes angles, but the hair peeking out from Claire’s arms is a darker red. The date of the premiere flashes quickly onscreen and then, in a beautiful bit seeming to guide his daughter onscreen, Frank’s voice: “Sometimes, life takes unexpected turns.”

Outlander Bree Fraser

Sometimes, those turns go backwards. Reverse clockwise, as it were.

When last we saw Jamie and Claire, they were newly arrived in Baby America, their copious enemy slate wiped clean. Miles and centuries away, Bree and Roger were newly in love and exploring each other’s um, oral traditions. By all rights, season four should be one long Ed Sheeran video. Instead, this trailer is rife with foreshadowing of trouble. It makes sense: no one is tuning in to watch Claire knit, and happily ever after is the kind of stasis that’s hard to maintain when you’re a time traveler with a brain built for science and a body built for sin. Still, the Frasers have some tough road ahead that will see the traditional Claire-Jamie focus expanded by events that will serve to emotionally attach you to their (bio and adopted) children. This is the season where our sci-fi-romance adds yet another category to its hypenate: Saga. Some might want the narrative to remain solely focused on Jamie and Claire but if the producers do right by us (and it seems they will), Outlander will once again pull moves like Jagger, giving us not what we might want but instead, what we need. Bree and Roger both amplify Claire and Jamie’s love, orphan children kept healthy and safe in the world because of people that loved them, and together their story (and Ian’s, and Fergus and Marsali’s) becomes the story of a fruitful love: a family whose determination to flourish despite the odds is a re-telling of the immigrant story that so many of us can identify as the American dream of our forefathers. The dream that we might build something good, so our presence may be felt through centuries.

Bring it.