Sunday, December 30, 2018

Episode 409: "The Birds and the Bees" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 409 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Birds and the Bees". I loved this episode! I think it's easily the best one of Season 4 so far, and one of my favorites in the whole series.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.


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The opening shot, showing a bee in a flower, is very appropriate, considering the title of this episode.

This episode picks up where Episode 408 ("Wilmington") left off, with Bree returning to the room she shares with Lizzie at the tavern, after having been brutally raped by Stephen Bonnet. Lizzie is clearly worried and frightened for her mistress, but Bree shies away from her touch when Lizzie tries to help with her laces. As Bree undresses with her back to Lizzie, the bloodstains on her petticoat are very obvious, and she has fresh bruises on her back and sides.

I got the impression that Bree desperately wants to be alone, but Lizzie won't let her withdraw into herself entirely. She lays a hand on the pillow next to Bree, saying, "Ye have my hand here, and my ear if ye need it." I liked that. It's the act of a friend, not just a bond-servant, and it's definitely in character for Lizzie.

The next morning, Roger enters the tavern, looking for Bree. Instead, he finds Stephen Bonnet, with whom he sailed on the Gloriana. Bonnet informs Roger that he's going to have to sail with them to Philadelphia (!)

"I'd sooner see you lose a lass than a limb," Bonnet says, smiling. This line isn't in the book, but I liked it.

Roger's grim expression makes it clear that he knows he has no choice. As he's half-shoved out the door of the tavern by one of Bonnet's men, he barely has time to ask the barkeep to let Brianna know he was there.

So he's gone, without a note or a word of explanation, or even a promise that he will come back to find her as soon as he can.

Back in her room, Bree wakes to find that it's well past noon, and Lizzie has taken the trouble to wash her soiled underclothes.

"I don't want you to exert yourself," she tell Lizzie. "You've been ill." Book-readers will recall that Lizzie suffers from malaria.

Bree insists that they must leave today. She's unwilling to stay in the tavern a moment longer than necessary, and I can't blame her one bit, under the circumstances. As she walks through the main room, you can see from her body language that she's still very tense, wary of being touched.

She goes to the docks in search of Roger, only to find that the Gloriana has sailed away. I like the shot of Bree staring out at the water, clearly wondering if Roger has left her forever. She looks at her bracelet: "I love you...a little...a lot...passionately...not at all." And where does Roger fit on that continuum? Given the way their last encounter ended, she has reason to worry.

Suddenly Lizzie rushes up to her, very excited, and tells her about an outrageous story she's just heard about an incident that occurred the night before: "At the theater, the play was brought to a halt when the wife of a Scotsman acted as a surgeon and cut a man open to heal him." Clearly, she's referring to the incident in Episode 408 ("Wilmington"), and just as clearly, it can't be anyone but Claire -- and Jamie is nearby.

The scene where Bree and Jamie meet for the first time is just WONDERFUL!! Very much as I've always imagined it from the book. Just watching it makes me cry. Jamie's reactions are perfect, just perfect! And I am thrilled that they kept the dialogue intact from the book, considering that this is a passage that readers know so well. When they embraced for the first time, I distinctly heard these words in my head:
He held out his arms to her. She stepped into them and found that she had been wrong; he was as big as she’d imagined--and his arms were as strong about her as she had ever dared to hope.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41, "Journey's End". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And a moment later, here's Claire. I laughed out loud when I realized we were seeing another scene taken directly from the book, with Jamie and Bree sitting on the bench side-by-side.

As Claire hugs Brianna, watch Claire's eyes, huge with shock and darting back and forth, very much the way she reacted when Jamie fainted in the printshop at the end of Episode 305, "Freedom & Whisky". Cait's face is so expressive, going from shock to incredulous joy to puzzlement -- what is Bree doing here?!? -- and back to joy, as she sees the look on Jamie's face.

For me, it's impossible to watch those two scenes back to back and not end up smiling, blinking back tears of happiness. Kudos to Sam, Cait, and Sophie! They absolutely could not have done this any better, as far as I'm concerned.

The next scene is much more sobering, as Bree shows Claire and Jamie the newspaper clipping announcing their deaths by fire.

"Smudged date," Jamie says, frowning at it in disapproval. "Unforgivable mistake by the printer." That made me laugh. Jamie's a former printer himself, after all, and a perfectionist.

"There's still much to do, but we have settlers, and some crops."

I didn't care for this line, which seems inserted here rather clumsily just to make the point to the viewers that a) there is a community developing on Fraser's Ridge, even if we haven't seen much of it yet, and b) Jamie and Claire's homestead is producing enough food, even if we've seen little evidence of crops being grown, tended, or harvested as yet, aside from whatever Claire grows in her garden. My reaction was, of course they have crops! What do you think they've been eating in the several years since they settled on the Ridge? But I'll cut Jamie a little slack here. He's still in shock from Bree's arrival, after all.

I liked the scene where Young Ian meets Brianna.

"When it comes to you, Auntie Claire, I've learned it's better not to ask too many questions." Good line!

On board the Sally Ann, headed up the Cape Fear River, Lizzie can't keep her eyes off Young Ian. "So handsome," she murmurs, and Ian thinks she's talking about Rollo. <g>

Meanwhile, Claire and Bree are having a mother-daughter talk in the cabin of the boat.

"You're in love with him."
"Yes."

I'm glad to hear her say it out loud, even though I knew it already.

I was struck by the way Bree's voice is rather dull and lifeless when she's telling Claire what happened. I think that's realistic. She's been through a severe trauma, and Roger's leaving (possibly forever) has left her understandably depressed, to say the least.

Bree glances at Claire's hand, and notices the new silver ring, which must have reminded her of the circumstances that led up to the rape, but she says nothing.

That view of the Cape Fear River, as Ian says, "Something terrible happened," looks very authentic to me, very much like this. (As a side note, some of you may recall hearing about the major flooding on the Cape Fear River near Wilmington caused by Hurricane Florence in September.)

It's a good idea to have Ian tell the story of their encounter with Stephen Bonnet. When he says, "Stole her wedding ring, too," you can see the realization dawning in Bree's eyes. For a moment I thought she was going to be sick right then and there. I liked the way she flinched away when Ian tried to touch her. Sophie does an excellent job with Bree's body language throughout this whole episode!

After Ian leaves, Bree takes Claire's ring from her pocket, examines it carefully for a moment, then puts it back. I imagine that she's trying to put the memories of that night away, too, but without success.

The next scene shows Claire and Jamie riding on horseback through the woods, obviously approaching Fraser's Ridge, with Ian, Bree, and Lizzie in the wagon accompanying them. My question is, they've clearly been on a boat for some time, coming up the river. Where did the wagon and the horses come from? Is there a convenient livery stable at the point where the river ends and the mountains begin, where they just happened to leave their horses and a wagon to carry supplies home? (Sorry. This episode is so wonderful that I hate to nitpick anything at all, but that particular point niggles at me.)

"We could make sure we're never in the cabin the Sunday before January 21st."
"Every year for a decade?"
"We'll make a holiday out of it."

This made me laugh a little at the absurdity of it. This is, of course, different from the situation in the books, when they believe they know the exact date of the fire: January 21, 1776.

As they arrive on the Ridge, Young Ian stops the wagon so the newcomers can admire the magnificent view. "This is incredible," Bree says, and it is.

I liked the bit where Bree talks about Daniel Boone, especially the way Jamie smiles when he realizes she's talking about the future in the same way Claire does. "He's used to it," Claire says, making me laugh.

Home at last, and Murtagh comes out of the cabin to greet them.

"Ye ken by now, I'm no an easy man to kill." Good line, and very ironic, considering that in the books, he died at Culloden.

"You've a spy among your men," Jamie says.
"Had," replies Murtagh. So he's eliminated the threat. Did he kill the man? Jamie doesn't pursue it.

I liked Murtagh's reaction to meeting Bree. It's understated, especially compared to the way he reacted on hearing that Claire had come back. "What took ye so long, lass?" is all he says.

The next scene, with the five of them getting to know one another, is a good addition. Jamie's hair looks decent for a change. <g>

So Fergus and Marsali and little Germain might move to the Ridge in the spring? Good. That means we have a pretty good chance of seeing them again by the end of Season 4.

I like this bit:

Jamie: "Awww, your ma, chidin' you from across the seas."
Murtagh: "Aye, and if ye have any sense, ye'll pay heed, or no doubt she'll cross the sea and tell ye herself."

I was surprised and delighted to hear them telling the story of fourteen-year-old Jamie's encounter with his cousin Tibby, which we heard about in OUTLANDER:
"Well, the morning after Tib’s mother caught us, I woke up just at dawn. I’d been dreaming about her--Tib, I mean, not her mother--and I wasna surprised to feel a hand on my c*ck. What was surprising was that it wasn’t mine.”

“Surely it wasn’t Tibby’s?”

“Well, no, it wasna. It was her father’s.”

“Dougal?! Whatever--?”

“Well, I opened my eyes wide and he smiled down at me, verra pleasant. And then he sat on the bed and we had a nice little chat, uncle and nephew, foster-father to foster-son. He said how much he was enjoying my being there, him not having a son of his own, and all that. And how his family was all so fond of me, and all. And how he would hate to think that there might be any advantage taken of such fine, innocent feelings as his daughters might have toward me, but how of course he was so pleased that he could trust me as he would his own son.”

“And all the time he was talking and me lying there, he had his one hand on his dirk, and the other resting on my fine young balls. So I said yes, Uncle, and no, Uncle, and when he left, I rolled myself up in the quilt and dreamed about pigs. And I didna kiss a girl again until I was sixteen, and went to Leoch.”

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Kisses and Drawers". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's natural that Murtagh would know a lot of these old family stories, and I really enjoyed hearing him and Jamie tell this one.

Claire tells Bree about her encounter with George Washington in Episode 408, "Wilmington", but Bree barely reacts. "That's amazing," she says, but she's too exhausted to muster any real excitement or interest in the news. I found that disappointing. Bree was a history major at one time, and born and raised in America, so you'd think she would be curious enough to ask for details, but she doesn't. That's a wasted opportunity, if you ask me -- but I think her lack of enthusiasm is very likely a symptom of depression.

"You've suffered enough pain in your life," Murtagh tells Jamie. "I'm glad for ye, lad."

So am I, definitely!!

In the next scene, Bree and Claire are alone in the cabin when Bree tells her, "Daddy knew. That you came back." She explains about seeing the obituary in the Wilmington Gazette among Frank's papers. Claire looks stunned, as though she doesn't know quite how to respond to this.

"It's quite a lot to take in, being here," Claire says. "It was for me. It's quite overwhelming." That's true, but Bree has a lot more to deal with right now than adjusting to life in the 18th century. The stress and worry is making her clumsy, and Claire easily guesses that Roger is weighing heavily on her mind.

"He's gone," Bree says. "There's nothing I can do about that now."

In the next scene, the Gloriana has finally come to the end of her voyage and Stephen Bonnet is distributing pay to his men, including Roger. Suddenly Roger sees a collection of small gemstones among the money on the table, and he asks if he can have a couple of gemstones as his pay, rather than coins. I like this. It's a reasonable explanation for how Roger managed to acquire gemstones from Stephen Bonnet (something that is not explained in detail in the book), and it makes sense to me.

Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, it's laundry day. Claire looks altogether too happy, considering how backbreaking laundry was in those days, but she's clearly delighted just to have Bree there.

I enjoyed the little montage of daily life on Fraser's Ridge. It looks peaceful and idyllic, too good to be true, until you take a closer look at Bree's face and you see how preoccupied and unhappy she looks.

I love the brief glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance while Bree is (listlessly) churning butter. Just gorgeous!

The scene with Jamie and Bree doing target practice is very entertaining, and I loved Jamie's reaction to Bree's shooting ability. She really is very good, considering she's presumably never fired an 18th-century musket or rifle before.

Now we get our first good look at Jamie's whisky-making operation.

"It's a far cry from the still-cellar at Leoch. It does make whisky, though."
"Of a sort."

This bit comes straight from the book. (DRUMS chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar")

I didn't really like the way they made such a fuss over "Bree" being a Scots word. Why would Jamie claim that "it doesn't translate", when it becomes clear in the next scene that the word has a very specific meaning? Just because he doesn't want to hurt Bree's feelings? That doesn't make sense to me.

So Claire suggested the idea of Jamie and Bree going hunting together? I like that.

Before dawn the next morning, Jamie comes in to wake Brianna, and finds her smiling in her sleep. Awwww! This is such a bittersweet moment. Wonderful that Jamie finally gets to see that, but heartbreaking at the same time that he didn't get to know her as a child. I love the way his eyes light up when he looks at her, as though he still can't believe she's really here.

Just wondering: have we seen Bree wearing trousers since she came through the stones? I can't recall. It certainly makes sense that she wouldn't go hunting wearing an 18th-century gown and stays; I'm just wondering where she got them. (But it's a minor point.)

A bald eagle! I'm a little surprised that Bree didn't tell Jamie the significance of bald eagles as America's national symbol.

The bee-hunting scene is wonderful, very close to the way I've always pictured it from the book. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes almost verbatim from DRUMS chapter 42, "Moonlight".

And I have to admit that watching Jamie teach Bree how to "herd" bees is highly entertaining to me personally. <g> As some of you may know, Diana Gabaldon gave me the title of "Chief Bumblebee-Herder" a few years ago, a reference to my role as Section Leader (aka moderator) of the Diana Gabaldon section of TheLitForum.com, which is the online forum where Diana hangs out.

This is my favorite bee-related scene in the whole series, and I'm delighted to see it brought to life on TV.

"I feel disloyal to [Frank] even being here with you." Wow, that's harsh. Thinking it is one thing, but why say it to his face?

"I'm grateful to him. He raised you for your mother's sake, a child of another man. A man he had no cause to love." This quote is based on Jamie's very similar thoughts in DRUMS chapter 44, "Three-Cornered Conversation". It feels right to me that he would say it directly to Bree, though.

"I had to give ye to him. Though I canna say I'm sorry you came back to me." Good line.

I laughed when Jamie said, "Aye, ye are [a bree, or disturbance], as was your mother before ye." I love the wry look on his face, as he thinks about his time-traveling women. "But you're one I welcome." Awwww, sweet!

"You can call me Da, if ye like."
"Da. Is that Gaelic?"
"No. It's only....simple."

And again I have tears in my eyes, watching this. These unforgettable lines are, of course, from Jamie and Bree's first meeting (DRUMS chapter 41, "Journey's End"), and I'm so glad they found an appropriate place to fit them into this episode.

In the next scene, Bree and Jamie have returned, and they sit down to enjoy some of the honey from the new hive.

Late that night, Claire wakes to find Jamie unable to sleep.

"I dinna want her to return to her own time, Sassenach."
"I wish she could stay here, too."

This scene is another one that's based on the book (DRUMS chapter 42, "Moonlight"), but I'm glad that they re-worded it somewhat. It's always bothered me that Jamie, in the book, was saying, "She must go back," from the day Bree arrived on the Ridge, almost before he'd had a chance to get to know her.

"I remember Jenny bending over each of her newborn bairns, watching them for hours. I could watch Brianna like that and never tire of it." Awwww!

"She is a gift, from me to you. And you to me." Good line.

The next day, we find Bree outside, sitting by a nest full of baby birds. (First a bald eagle, then baby birds. This episode is really living up to its title of "The Birds and the Bees", even before we learn that Bree is pregnant!) Lizzie is concerned because Bree is having nightmares, crying in her sleep. She announces that she's going to go with Young Ian to the mill -- conveniently leaving Bree to spend some "quality time" alone with Claire.

Most of the dialogue in this scene between Bree and Claire comes straight from the book. (DRUMS chapter 45, "Fifty-Fifty".)

"I didn't think I needed to pack condoms, Mama." Haha! Great line, and Sophie's delivery is just perfect. This particular line isn't in the book, but it certainly sounds like something Bree would say.

"It might not be Roger's baby." I like the fact that they changed this line from "it isn't" (in the book) to "it might not be", because of course there is no way for her to be certain. I also liked Claire's reaction -- shocked, but then visibly pulling herself together, saying calmly, "All right."

"And then...I didn't fight him. I didn't fight him hard enough! Why the hell didn't I fight him?" And they hug each other tightly as Brianna finally breaks down and lets out the tears she's been holding back for weeks.

I like this, very much! I hope we get to see the scene where Jamie shows her exactly why she couldn't have fought Bonnet and won. But whatever happens, at least Claire will be there for her.

Later that night, in the cabin, Claire tells Jamie that Bree was raped. Immediately Jamie is on his feet, looking around as though he wants badly to hit something, or to go out that very minute and kill her attacker.

"But there's something else," Claire says. "She's pregnant."

I wish we'd been able to see Jamie's reaction to that, but the scene shifts instead to Roger, who has arrived on horseback in the vicinity of Fraser's Ridge. He stops to consult a compass (at least that's what I think he's holding), just as Young Ian and Lizzie emerge from the woods -- and Lizzie recognizes him as the man she saw in the tavern in Wilmington.

Meanwhile, Claire, sorting through a pile of laundry in the lean-to shelter where Bree has been sleeping, discovers her missing wedding ring, the one Bonnet stole from her on the river.

The next scene, with Jamie, Lizzie, and Ian, is taken almost verbatim from the book. (DRUMS chapter 44, "Three-Cornered Conversation".) Lizzie is extremely convincing in this scene. I was a little doubtful at first about whether Caitlin O'Ryan was the right choice to play Lizzie, but I'm not worried about it anymore. Based on what I've seen of her in this episode, she'll do just fine.

In the next scene, Claire confronts Brianna with the ring, and learns that Stephen Bonnet was the one who raped her.

"Why did you not tell me this?"
"Ian told me about what happened on the river. And I knew that you would feel awful for what happened to me because of the ring, and Jamie would blame himself because he helped Bonnet escape. If he knows, he'll try to find Bonnet, and I can't let him do that."

From Bree's point of view, that makes a certain amount of sense. She's trying to keep Jamie from getting hurt, or killed. But of course we know Jamie won't see it that way at all.

Bree makes Claire promise not to tell Jamie any of this.

And suddenly we're back to Roger. He encounters Jamie, berserk with fury, in the woods, and barely manages to ask if Fraser's Ridge is nearby, before Jamie is pounding at him, beating the crap out of him without even bothering to ask his name.

Just when I was starting to fear Jamie might actually kill him, Young Ian and Rollo arrive. Jamie tells Ian to "get rid of him". They load Roger, unconscious, belly-down on a horse.

"What d'ye want me to do with him?" Ian asks.
"I dinna ken. Just get him out of my sight."

And with that Major Cliffhanger, the episode ends. Wow! What a terrific episode! This one's definitely a keeper, no question about it.
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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 410.

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.

12 comments:

Jeanie said...

Great review...& great episode. I loved that so much of Diana’s wonderful dialogue from the books was used & even more that the meet Jamie scene, & the bench scene was included. Those were just sweet! I agree with you, best yet!

Cathie Jones said...

Funny that's it's been a long time since I read this book, but I'm always more comfortable with episodes that have original dialog. This one still felt rushed (I do miss the traveling) but not as much as before. The title and opening scene reminded me of the upcoming book, "Tell the bees .... " especially since DG has said there's a possibility it will be out in 2019. I'm so looking forward to Roger finding Bree and their time on the Ridge. At least I'm hoping there will be some time around the homestead. ;-)

Unknown said...

Love this episode, may be my favorite of all.
What gets me though is that Bree is doing to Jamie what she blew a gasket over Roger doing to her. She's deciding that Jamie can't know something, just as Roger decided that Bree didn't need to know about the obituary. Oh the irony! Human as all get out, we're all hypocrites about something, but, still, she's making decisions for Jamie... and Claire as well where the ring is involved.
Again, I love this episode, even the little changes don't bother me. Great job by all involved.

Suzi Bergsman said...

What a difference when people like Toni and Matt, who honor the books, write an episode. However, I disagree with you about Caitlin O’Ryan. As executive producers, how could Matt and Toni have approved of the casting of a tall, broad,brunette who appears to be in her mid to late twenties as our frail, fair, fourteen year old Lizzie? This is the girl who is supposed to bring out the protectiveness of the fourteen year old Beardsley twins (it’s important that they’re 14—as you know, Jamie invites Jo Beardsley specifically because he’s too young to be called to the militia and he can hunt for the families on the Ridge if the men are called away for an extended time against the regulators). It’s very much like casting Gwendolyn Christie as Arya Stark. Casting could have gone through the actresses who auditioned for Marsali but who didn’t appear to have her iron will and have them come back to read for Lizzie.

Dragonflylady said...

I loved this episode! Start to finish, it had my full attention. The best episode in a long time. I don’t need to analyze it at all ... it was just perfect!

Dragonflylady said...

Loved this episode! The best in a long time, it had my full attention start to finish! I don’t need to analyze it ... it was just perfect!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for doing these recaps. I haven't read any of the books & I enjoy hearing your perspective.

BTW, looks like Brianna borrowed the breeches from Claire, who borrowed them from Ian!

Anonymous said...

Excellent point!

Susan said...

Excellent recap! I have been a fan of season four all along but must say that this episode could very well be my very favorite! I guess I love the fact that Jaime and Claire, together, have their daughter with them at long last! For me also, it was absolutely perfect!

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. I’m out of town for a wedding and I thought I was going to miss it but was able to on my iPad. I watched it 3 times in a row and then watched Jamie and Brianna meeting over and over. It was beautiful and perfect. Now I normally don’t let my 12 year old daughter watch but I knew this episode would be “clean” so she watched it with me, drawn to it, no matter how many times she already watched it. At one point she turned to me with the most earnest look on her face and declared “I love Jamie”. I feel bad as she can’t watch the series until she is much older...

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen wonderful solid episode and one worth waiting a year for and it was right from the books and cried when Jamie got to hold his daughter for the very first time and also Claire 's reaction on seeing her daughter again was also priceless and loves the family scenes on Fraser's Ridge and Jamie getting to bond with his daughter while hunting bees and getting to know each other was beautiful and so was his talking about her with Claire , their reactions to hearing about Brianna being raped and peranut was natural and so was Jamie's reaction on hearing Lizzie describe what she had seen , so his beating Roger to a bloody pulp was a loving father's natural reaction so a very strong and well done episode and one I will be watching again and again , love being a Superfan of such a wonderful series and books , please post more soon. Sincerely .

Anonymous said...

I also disagree with the casting of Caitlin O’Ryan on the points mentioned. As well, if I hadn’t read the books, all the references to Lizzie being ill would make no sense whatsoever. There has been no evidence of this and she looks perfectly healthy, not frail and sickly like in the books. She is supposed to be small, young and frail not large, hail and hearty as she seems to appear to me. This it what bothers me the most, not how they managed to get a wagon and horses, or how Bree managed to find trousers to go hunting in. Otherwise it was a great episode, especially the acting skills of Cait, Sam, and Sophie.