Episode 401: "America the Beautiful" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 401 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "America the Beautiful". I thought this episode was very well done, and I really appreciated the fact that they used so much dialogue from the books.
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
The opening scene took me totally by surprise. 2000 B.C. ?!? Wow! I stared bug-eyed at the screen the first time I saw it, mesmerized. This is a clever way to convey the idea that there are stone circles in North America (foreshadowing!), and they have evidently been there for at least four thousand years. I thought the closeup of the noose was a very effective transition into the next scene.
Jamie slips a handful of coins discreetly to the jailer, and he's let in to speak to Hayes. The explanation of what exactly Hayes did to deserve hanging is different from the book (here, a man caught Hayes kissing his wife, they got into a fight, and Hayes kicked him down the stairs, where he presumably died from the fall) but I think it works pretty well. I think Jamie's concern for Hayes is very much in character, a side of him that we haven't really seen much since Ardsmuir.
"What about a drop for my soul as well?" And here we get our first look at Stephen Bonnet, played by Ed Speleers. I think he's just terrific in this role!
I liked the drumming as the prisoners approached the gallows, very much as it's described in the opening scene of DRUMS OF AUTUMN. And true to his word, Jamie makes sure that Hayes sees him smiling just before the end.
In the commotion after the hanging, you can clearly see Stephen Bonnet observing the scene and thinking, "That's it, I'm outta here!"
I have commented elsewhere about the new opening credit sequence for Season 4, so I won't talk about it here, but for the most part I like it.
Beautiful shot of a bald eagle in the title card, and certainly fitting for an episode titled "America the Beautiful".
The scene in the tavern with Gavin's caithris was well done, even though I didn't understand the Gaelic words. They included the celebration of his life, but omitted my favorite part:
Duncan, drunker than ever, fixed the soldiers at the next table with a baleful glare, sweat pouring down his face.It's fitting that Gavin's friend Lesley should be the one to sing the caithris, though I miss Duncan Innes and I still hope they haven't eliminated his character from the TV series entirely.
"A Shasunnaich na galladh's olc a thig e dhuibh fanaid air bàs gasgaich. Gun toireadh an diabhul fhein leis anns a bhàs sibh, direach do Fhirinn!!" Wicked Sassenach dogs, eaters of dead flesh! Ill does it become you to laugh and rejoice at the death of a gallant man! May the devil himself seize upon you in the hour of your death and take you straight to hell!
Ian blanched slightly at this, and Jamie cast Duncan a narrow look, but they stoutly shouted "Èisd ris!" along with the rest of the crowd.
Fergus, seized by inspiration, got up and passed his hat among the crowd, who, carried away by ale and excitement, happily flung coppers into it for the privilege of joining in their own denunciation.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A Hanging in Eden". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Young Ian's flashback scene was very effective, and I really liked the scene between Jamie and Ian afterward.
"Some ghosts can only be banished by speaking their name and foul deeds aloud."
At first I thought this sounded like a rather modern attitude (has Claire been telling him about psychotherapy? <g>), but in the context of Jamie's recovery after Wentworth, it makes sense. And it gives Ian time for the sort of emotional catharsis that he did not get in the final episode of Season 3.
John Bell is terrific in this scene! And I really like the way Jamie comforted him. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from VOYAGER chapter 62, "Abandawe."
Their discovery of Bonnet hiding in the wagon also comes straight from the book. Watching Jamie with his hands around Bonnet's neck, I couldn't help thinking that if he had killed Bonnet then and there, it would have saved everyone a tremendous amount of trouble and heartache. But of course he didn't.
"I won't bother you again," Bonnet says. "You have my word." Ha! And as I always do when I reach this part in the book, I'm mentally yelling at Jamie, "No! Don't trust him, you idiot, what are you doing?! You're going to regret this, big time!"
I liked the sweet, innocent expression on Bonnet's face as he asks "that you allow me to bury a friend." Note to self: psychopaths can be charming!
The next scene, with the soldiers inspecting the wagon, is taken almost word-for-word from the book. But when Claire asks Bonnet if he's wounded, he replies, "Danu the Luck-Giver was with me." (Foreshadowing, for anyone who's read the book!)
The scene between Claire and Bonnet is very good. I was surprised to hear Bonnet telling her about his fear of drowning, because we don't learn that in the books until ABOSAA chapter 105, "The Prodigal". But it's effective here, making Bonnet appear even more sympathetic, and I liked the way they made the connection to Claire's near-drowning in the hurricane at the end of Season 3.
"Travelers in these woods -- they're often set upon by thieves and outlaws." I love the way Bonnet says this with a straight face, the picture of innocence. <g>
As soon as I saw Jamie bare-chested in the next scene, I thought, rather cynically, "OK, the show's almost half over, time for a sex scene!"
"It isn't wrong to be alive, Sassenach." Huh? Why would anyone think it was wrong? Claire certainly hasn't given any indication that she feels this way. Or is this Jamie's way of saying he feels guilty over not being able to save Gavin Hayes?
"Don't you see how small a thing death is between us?" I wasn't expecting to hear that in this context, but I'm glad they included even part of this quote from DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics", in the show. It's one of my all-time favorites!
“So long as my body lives, and yours—we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.In the next scene, with Jamie and Claire looking out at the woods, I like the kerchief (or whatever it's called) that Claire is wearing tucked into the bodice of her costume. The dialogue in this scene is very good.
“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The next scene shows Claire and Jamie dressing for dinner with the Governor. Terry Dresbach did an excellent job with both of their costumes, and the ruby pendant looks just right. The other thing I liked about this scene is that J&C are finally, FINALLY, comfortable in touching one another casually, showing affection even in small moments like this, as when Jamie puts his arms around her from behind. That's a good sign.
I found the dinner scene a little hard to follow, because of our unfamiliarity with all these new characters. All these gentlemen wearing wigs are hard to tell apart! I'm sure one of the dinner guests had to be Philip Wylie, but I couldn't quite figure out which one he was.
"I'm sure the very thought of inequitable taxes brings out the savage in all of us." Good line.
Does this dinner party scene remind anyone else of the infamous dinner party in Episode 204, "La Dame Blanche"?
"Cross Creek....at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains." Um, no, not unless they moved the mountains a whole lot further east! All you have to do is look up the distance from Fayetteville, NC (the modern name for Cross Creek) to Asheville or Boone, NC, to see that it's quite some way from Cross Creek to the area where Fraser's Ridge will be located.
The scene with Jamie and Governor Tryon is well done, but I don't understand where this reference to a quitrent that must be paid in coin came from. In the book, the issue was that Jamie, as a Catholic, was not eligible for a land grant; it had nothing to do with money. Here, it appears that Governor Tryon is willing to waive the requirement of the cash payment in return for a pledge of loyalty to the Crown.
"And with [the money] left over, I can purchase a printing press...." I was a little startled by this, until I remembered that in the TV show, Jamie's printing press did not survive the fire in Episode 307. But I was glad to see that the rest of the dialogue in this scene was taken almost word-for-word from the book.
The scene where we meet Rollo is just priceless. "I won him. Lucky roll of the dice, so I called him Rollo." <g> I like Rollo's coloring, which is more wolf-like than I had pictured from some of the behind-the-scenes photos. Young Ian seems to be more self-assured in this scene than we've seen him before. I liked that and I want to see more of it.
In the next scene, I love Young Ian's reactions throughout, from his obvious excitement on learning that Jamie and Claire will be settling in America, to his blatant eye-roll when Jamie says, "Your parents....want you to grow to be a man of learning and influence, a man of worth," which made me laugh. Typical teenager!
I liked the way Fergus and Marsali announce that Marsali is pregnant. I think it makes sense for them to stay behind in Wilmington for the time being.
Watching Lesley in this scene the first time I saw the episode, it occurred to me that he wasn't going to survive. He's basically fulfilled his dramatic function at this point, and therefore he's expendable, like one of those "red-shirt" security guards on the original STAR TREK.
Finally, they set out on their journey up the river to Cross Creek. I was happy to see that the TV version of the Cape Fear River looks very much as it does in real life.
I loved the scene where Jamie gives Claire the medical chest. Just wonderful, and very close to the way I imagined it from the book. Great job!
Now, about that final scene. I'm sure it was meant to be riveting and emotionally intense, just as it is in the book, but IMHO the effect was nearly destroyed by that "America the Beautiful" song overlaying the final action sequence. It was anachronistic (much too modern, IMHO), FAR too loud, distracting (not in a good way!), and completely inappropriate, emotionally, when juxtaposed with the very disturbing and violent scene taking place on the screen. This is a life-and death situation (Lesley is actually murdered right there in front of our eyes!) and one that will have major repercussions for the rest of the season and far beyond, as book-readers know all too well. Why couldn't they simply have let us hear what was going on, and left the song for the closing credits? Major fail, IMHO. I will be muting this whole scene every time I watch it from now on.
Overall I thought they did a good job with this episode, and I'm looking forward to next week!
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 402.
Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.