Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 4 episode “Down the Rabbit Hole.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch the episode yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
Hey there, sassenachs! All tuned in to this week's episode yet? In case you need to revisit all the wild, wacky, and illuminating events from last week, that recap is here, but if you want the super short version: Lord John Grey showed up at Fraser's Ridge with Jamie's son William, but he's, like, still not in love with Jamie at all. Oh, but there was that part where he sort of came down with the measles and confessed everything to Claire, so now that's out there, but even though Jamie and William spent some manly-man time camping and hunting and sleeping out under the stars, William still doesn't know who his real father is. Oh, and Brianna definitely went through the stones and we're about to find out where she wound up. Let's jump back in!
Well, friends, Brianna made it through the stones seemingly intact and wearing clothes that could pass quick inspection in the century she's just arrived at but definitely not get her through Scotland in winter. Did no one teach you to layer appropriately for the weather, Bree? Anyway, the first ten minutes of this episode involves a lot of walking, a little more walking, an accidental trip-and-roll down a steep hill and subsequent ankle-bashing, and then more walking with a severe limp.
At one point, Bree makes camp and eats a PB&J sandwich that she adorably packed back in the '70s for her journey through time, but it turns out Wonder Bread isn’t really adequate sustenance for hiking through a remote Scottish countryside when one is already hurt and lacking in warmer clothing. Bree collapses on the road after glimpsing signs of smoke from a short distance away, and when she wakes up she’s being tended to by none other than Laoghaire. Of all the houses in all the land, Bree, you had to pick the one where there is absolutely no love lost for either of your parents, but both women remain ignorant of their mutual connection and things seem pretty friendly at first, even after Brianna finds out she’s been fed roasted pigeon. Bree makes herself useful and shows off some of those engineering skills by fixing Laoghaire’s cupboard and spends a little one-on-one time with the woman's young daughter Joanie.
While this is going on, the episode also treats us to flashbacks to Brianna’s relationship with her other dad, Frank, and the fond dynamic they maintained even while Frank and Claire’s marriage was past the point of saving for years on end. Through the course of these scenes, we discover that Frank had a copy of the obituary publicizing Jamie and Claire’s death in North Carolina all this time, which means he knew that Claire was going to go back through the stones to Jamie AND HE SAID NOTHING? It’s tough to say if Frank decided to withhold that information from Brianna because he didn’t want her to be prematurely devastated by a possible future or what, but regardless of his intentions it certainly casts his character arc back in Season 3 in a different light.
We already knew Frank was staying in the marriage for Brianna’s sake, and it’s a truth that’s ultimately lost on Brianna when he shows up to tell her that he and Claire are finally divorcing. It’s a bit tough to understand Brianna’s unwillingness to accept that decision, especially since the episode establishes that she’s been listening to the two of them fight for years, but she’s hurt and continues to be even after Frank asks her to come with him overseas when he accepts an offer to teach at Cambridge. We soon learn this was the last conversation the two of them had before Frank’s accident and subsequent death, and later, as a remorseful Brianna stands over his grave she promises the only father she’s ever known that she’ll soldier on.
Of course, the truth about Brianna's true parentage does ultimately come to light, with Bree eventually deducing that Laoghaire is the woman responsible for why Claire nearly died at Cranesmuir all those seasons ago, but as far as Laoghaire is concerned the witchy apple probably doesn’t fall far from the tree — especially when Bree confronts her with the bold truth that (shocker!) Jamie never really loved her to begin with. So Laoghaire does the perfectly rational thing and locks Bree in her room, but Joanie busts her out and takes her down the road to meet with some of her real family, the Murrays, up at Lallybroch. Sadly, Jenny isn’t in, but Ian is, and even though he didn’t recognize Brianna as Jamie’s kid before he’s remarkably okay with that piece of info when it’s presented to him, even offering Bree some money and a trunk of clothes Claire had left behind with them. Cue Brianna looking FIERCE in a fur-lined coat while preparing to buy passage to the colonies, but she won’t be going alone. A man approaches her and asks her to buy passage for his daughter in exchange for her service as a bondservant to spare her from a man who intends to make her a concubine. Horrified, and perhaps because part of this episode seems to be about fathers and daughters, Brianna agrees — and together with the young woman, Lizzie Wemyss, she officially sets sail for America and for her parents.
Roger has a somewhat easier time than Brianna after his own trip through the stones, at first, but when he makes it to the nearest harbor in search of a girl he encounters a man who’s destined for the colonies — and it’s none other than the dastardly terrible Stephen Bonnet, who seems to have done well for himself after robbing the Frasers earlier this season, enough that he’s the captain of his own ship now. He’s not taking on any other passengers, but when Roger asserts himself as a possible member of the crew it’s a lucky flip of the coin that convinces Bonnet to take him along.
As Roger soon realizes, being in service to a man like Bonnet doesn’t come without signs that his new boss is kind of a monster. When a young passenger shows signs of smallpox, Bonnet promptly orders the girl thrown overboard rather than run the risk of the disease spreading. Roger is understandably horrified, and the ship doesn’t have a doctor as qualified as Claire Fraser is to diagnose or contain contagious illnesses, so Bonnet takes it upon himself to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Roger, meanwhile, is looking after a single mother traveling with her young son: Morag and Jimmy MacKenzie. How much you wanna bet Roger’s just been tasked with ensuring his own existence? Anyway, when Bonnet finds out that he’s been smuggling extra rations to them, he’s less than happy and goes off on a rather sociopathic monologue about lording power over everyone and everything. Another flip of Bonnet’s shilling determines whether Roger should live or die for his actions, and this one is also a lucky toss.
- It was absolutely wonderful to have Tobias Menzies back on screen as Frank. I didn’t think a Bree-centric episode could make me cry, and then it gave me the visual of Frank (as a vision? a ghost? who knows) smiling and nodding proudly as Brianna boarded a ship to the colonies. The ep overall did drag at some points, but this moment was worth waiting for.
- Glad to see Laoghaire is as ridiculously superstitious and paranoid as ever. The way she ultimately turns on Brianna because of incorrectly perceived wrongs is unfortunate considering how much time they spent friendly before, and I don’t think that’s a bridge that’s ever going to be mended.
- Ed Speleers returns as the Irish pirate Stephen Bonnet, and methinks now that he’s tangled up with Roger his fate may be more linked with our favorites than we really want it to be.
- One character I was sorely missing at Lallybroch was Jenny, though it turns out this was a scheduling conflict, as actress Laura Donnelly was acting in a stage show at the time and couldn’t return in the role.
That’s it for now, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, as well as your predictions for where this season will go, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. We already know how Roger's journey at sea is going, but how will Brianna fare in her sail over to the colonies? And how are Jamie and Claire surviving on Fraser's Ridge? Will Young Ian pop up, or will he be conspicuously absent in lieu of hanging out with his new Cherokee friends? See you next week!