Sunday, January 13, 2019

Episode 411: "If Not For Hope" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 411 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "If Not For Hope".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The little scene immediately before the opening credits, showing Roger in the shower in the 20th c., was jarring and surprising, and probably messed with the minds of a lot of viewers who haven't read the books, considering where we left Roger at the end of last week's episode. It reminded me a bit of Episode 108 ("Both Sides Now"), which opens with the sound of a telephone ringing. I liked it.

I liked the glimpse of Bree's artwork in the first shot of the episode itself: charcoal drawings depicting life at River Run, including a number of sketches of slaves. I really appreciated the fact that this episode emphasized Bree's artistic talent. I've always liked that aspect of her character in the books, because it's something that she did not inherit directly from either Jamie or Claire.

As the episode opens, Lizzie finds Bree drawing by candlelight, and she's frightened by the pictures. Lizzie apologizes again for her role in the huge misunderstanding that caused Jamie to beat Roger nearly to death and send him away. Bree speaks kindly to her, and it's clear that she has already forgiven Lizzie. Jamie, on the other hand, is another matter.

"Even if I could forgive him for what he did to Roger, I can't forget the things he said to me."

The next scene shows Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian somewhere in the woods, trying to track down Roger. Jamie asks Claire what she knows about the Mohawk, and she says she's only seen them in movies.

"If there was a moving picture about us--about me--I'd be seen as a fearsome brute." That made me laugh a little.

Ian reports that the Mohawk have taken Roger to a village called Shadow Lake ("Snaketown", in the book), some two months' travel to the north. Unlike in the book, the local Indians refuse to guide them there, leaving Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian to find their own way. That sounds exceedingly risky, to say the least: three white people traveling all that way through unknown territory, with no clear idea of where their destination is located?

When they stop to make camp, Jamie and Claire seem to be consciously avoiding each other, and Ian has picked up on it. "I hate to see ye both sufferin' so." He's really quite perceptive, for a seventeen-year-old, just as in the book:
"But you think he thinks I’m angry at him?”

“Oh, anyone could see ye are, Auntie,” he assured me earnestly. “Ye dinna look at him or speak to him save for what ye must--and,” he said, clearing his throat delicately, “I havena seen ye go to his bed, anytime this month past.”

“Well, he hasn’t come to mine, either!” I said hotly, before reflecting that this was scarcely a suitable conversation to be having with a seventeen year-old boy.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "Blame". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Meanwhile, in Wilmington, Fergus is trying to track down Stephen Bonnet. In the tavern, he sees a wanted poster -- not of Bonnet, but Murtagh, who is wanted by the authorities in connection with his Regulator activities.

Fergus returns home, frustrated and depressed. "There's no work in Wilmington for someone like me." Someone with one hand, he means. I wonder what has changed? Fergus and Marsali have been living in Wilmington for several years by this time, since the beginning of Season 4. He had no trouble making a living before this. Why now, all of a sudden? That doesn't make sense to me.

Marsali is sympathetic, but she clearly doesn't like "harboring a wanted man under our roof," even if he is Jamie's godfather.

In the next scene, we're back at River Run. Phaedre bustles in, telling Brianna she must be fitted for a new dress, for a party Jocasta will be hosting for a visiting lord "from Mt. Josiah" and some other important men in the county.

Bree is distracted by the way Phaedre looks in the light from the window. She asks Phaedre to sit, and returns to her sketchpad.

"What are you doing, Miss Fraser?"
"I'm drawing you."
"Why on earth would you do that?"
"Because you're beautiful."

I liked Phaedre's reaction to that, very much. She's clearly startled, and a little flustered, to hear a white woman saying such things to her.

Later, Jocasta comes to see Bree. She appears alone, without Ulysses. She seems sympathetic, making it clear that she knows that Bree has little to occupy herself at River Run, and she tries to shake Bree out of her depression, saying, "There's comfort to be found in the company of others."

I like Jocasta's recollections of her older sister Ellen, Jamie's mother. Maria Doyle Kennedy is excellent, and thoroughly believable, as Jocasta.

Back in Wilmington, Marsali comes into the back room where Murtagh is sleeping, deliberately makes enough noise to wake him up, and says, "Tell Fergus ye want him to fight alongside ye."

Most of the dialogue in this scene is taken from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, the scene where they're preparing to go and fight for the Stuarts, and Jenny makes a similar plea to Jamie on Ian's behalf.
"Tired of marriage, are ye?” he asked conversationally. “Likely it would be easier just for me to take him out in the wood and shoot him for ye.” There was a quick flash of blue eyes over the mash tub.

“If I want anyone shot, Jamie Fraser, I’ll do it myself. And Ian wouldna be my first choice as target, either.”

He snorted briefly, and one corner of his mouth quirked up.

"Oh, aye? Why, then?”

Her shoulders moved in a seamless rhythm, one motion fading into the next.

“Because I’m asking ye." [....] "He’s a whole man to me, and always will be.” She looked directly at her brother. “But if he thinks he’s of no use to you, he wilna be whole to himself. And that’s why I’ll have ye take him.”

[....]

“I’ll have a whole man,” she said steadily. “Or none."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Moonlight". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's an interesting twist to see the scene in this context, with Fergus. His situation is somewhat different from Ian's in DRAGONFLY, in that he's lived fully half his life with a missing hand. Surely he's long since adjusted to it, and overcome any lingering feelings of inadequacy?

The scene shifts abruptly to River Run, on the night of the dinner party. Bree looks lovely -- and much older, somehow -- in Jocasta's borrowed gown.

Here's our first look at Gerald (aka Neil) Forbes, played by Billy Boyd, whom many of you will remember as Pippin in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. He's smaller than I imagined from the book, but he has a nice smile and a friendly expression.

I liked the awkward little moment when Judge Alderdyce's mother says, in a shocked tone, "You mean to say you draw Negroes?!?" And we get a quick glimpse of Ulysses a moment later, clearly uncomfortable but trying to pretend he's not hearing a word of this conversation.

As Lt. Wolff steps forward, notice the way he literally shoves the smaller Forbes aside. How rude!

Forbes shows Bree a collection of jewels: sapphire, emerald, topaz, and diamond. Fortunately for all of us, she restrained herself from blurting out, "Oh, topaz! That's my birthstone. Just like the pendant I gave Mama, before she--oh, um, never mind...."

Seriously, though: she doesn't react at all to the sight of the gemstones, which struck me as odd, considering how important she knows gemstones to be for time-travel. The dialogue in this scene is the same as the book, but the subtext -- what Brianna is thinking -- is missing.
Sapphire, emerald, topaz, diamond. And her father’s ring held a ruby. Five stones of power, the points of a traveler’s pentagram, the guarantors of safe passage. For how many? Without thinking, she spread a hand protectively over her belly.

She realized the trap Forbes thought he was luring her toward. Let her make a choice and he would present her with the unmounted stone on the spot, a public proposal that would--he thought--force her either to accept him at once, or cause an unpleasant scene by rejecting him outright. Gerald Forbes really knew nothing about women, she thought.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Lord John Returns". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I was relieved when Lord John appeared. David Berry is excellent as always in this episode.

"I'm an acquaintance of your parents," Lord John says, with vast understatement, but Bree doesn't respond.

Back in Wilmington, baby Germain's crying is distracting Murtagh from his meeting with the Regulators. Lying in his cradle, Germain appears not to have aged much if at all since we saw him in Episode 408 ("Wilmington"), but that was a few months ago, just before Bree became pregnant. I didn't like that at all, and I sincerely hope that they intend to age him up appropriately by the end of the season!

Murtagh does as Marsali asked, and invites Fergus to join the Regulators, but Fergus politely declines. "I'm honored that you've asked, but my place is here, with Marsali and Germain." And if you've read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, you can clearly hear the echo of Ian the Elder's voice, saying, "Guarding your weak side, man."

Marsali comes in just in time to hear this, looking much happier, and announces that Bonnet's ship, the Gloriana, has arrived in port.

Meanwhile, back at River Run, the dinner party is in progress.

"....But not the strangest thing that happened during my time in Jamaica," Lord John is saying, and my ears perked up. Is he about to tell the story of his encounter with a zombie? <g> Alas, no. He turns to Bree instead, saying, "Your turn."

What follows is by far my least favorite part of this episode, a scene that is most definitely not in the book.

Bree tells them that psychology is "the science of the soul, if you will." That's a bit of a stretch.

"Must I close my eyes, when you are before me?" asks Forbes, and Lt. Wolff rolls his eyes at this shameless bit of flirting. I liked that.

The bit with Judge Alderdyce went on interminably, to the point that on the first viewing, I actually started yelling at the TV, "Enough already! Get on with it!" On the second viewing, I see the point of this very long digression: to let the TV audience register two things:

a) Judge Alderdyce is keeping secrets from his mother
b) Judge Alderdyce and Lord John are exchanging covert glances across the dinner table.

It's no surprise to me that Lord John was thinking about Jamie in that imaginary forest. <g> But this is also a Major Clue for viewers who don't know, or may have forgotten, about his unrequited love for Jamie Fraser. Of course, Bree herself has no idea about that, at least not yet.

"He's an honorable man," Lord John says, speaking of Jamie.
"Don't talk to me about my father's honor!" she snaps, beginning to get angry. And then she seems to consciously realize where she is, and that it won't do to make a scene in public.

She excuses herself, but before she can leave the room, Forbes speaks up, proposing that they go for a walk together. And Bree promptly faints. The timing in this scene makes it look like she deliberately faked fainting just to avoid talking to Forbes, but she faints at this point in the book, too (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 58, "Lord John Returns"), so it may just have been a combination of stress, pregnancy, and overly-tight stays.

Afterwards, in the parlor, Lizzie comes in, full of concern for Bree "in your condition", and it's only then that Lord John realizes she is pregnant.

"Did you lose your husband?"
"I suppose I did lose him in a way, yes." Well, yes, in a manner of speaking....

Bree explains the situation in a few brief words, and then Lord John pulls out a sealed letter that Jamie sent him, to give to Brianna.

This makes no sense to me at all. Why would Jamie have sent a letter addressed to Bree all the way to Lord John at Mount Josiah Plantation, a distance of several hundred miles? Yes, I know the geography in Season 4 is largely fictional. <rolling eyes> But still.... why wouldn't Jamie simply give the letter to Murtagh, to hand to Bree when they arrived at River Run?

I don't like it. It's a very convoluted way of handling what should have been a straightforward matter. If Bree doesn't want to open Jamie's letter, fine, but there was no need for Lord John to deliver it in person.

The next scene, with Bree and Jocasta speaking frankly, is very well done. Both Sophie Skelton and Maria Doyle Kennedy are excellent.

"What if I don't want a husband?"
"What does want have to do with it?"
"Everything!"
"Everything? Ye've a bairn coming! Your time to be particular is long past."

This is taken almost verbatim from DRUMS chapter 50, "In Which All is Revealed", except of course it was Jamie who spoke those lines, not Jocasta. I think it works well in this context, because Jocasta is just as appalled at the idea of Bree having a child out of wedlock as Jamie was in the book.

"Like you, Ellen was with child before she wed." That's a good point. I like the way Jocasta's expression softens as she recalls Ellen outwitting her brothers, but then changes to dead seriousness again as she focuses on Brianna. "But the important thing is, the bairn was born in wedlock! If yours is not, he'll be branded a fatherless bastard. His life will be ruined."

And the words just hang there in the air between them, as Bree absorbs what Jocasta is telling her.

"Ye canna live on hope." Actually, I think Jamie would have a thing or two to say about that, if he were present. Listening to Jocasta talk about how Roger's not coming back, urging Bree to move on, I keep thinking about Jamie during those twenty endless years of separation, refusing to marry again, despite the fact that common sense told him Claire was gone forever. What else did he have, but hope, and faith in God, to sustain him during the worst parts of their years apart?

The next scene brings us back to the tavern in Wilmington, where Murtagh and Fergus have finally spotted Stephen Bonnet. I thought they captured him far, far too easily, making it look like child's play, and I didn't like that one bit. I would have liked to see some sort of a struggle, at the very least.

Back at River Run, Bree is unable to sleep. She looks briefly at the sealed letter from Jamie, but doesn't open it. Then she goes downstairs for a snack, and hears mysterious noises nearby, which turn out to be Lord John having sex with Judge Alderdyce -- out in the open, in plain sight, where anyone passing by could see them.

OK. The writers needed to establish Lord John's homosexuality in no uncertain terms, in a way that Bree would be sure to see it. I get that. I'm also aware that this show sometimes chooses to make a point by bashing the audience over the head with a sledgehammer. <wry g> But that still leaves the question: Given the considerable risk to both of these men if they're discovered (sodomy being a capital offense under British law at the time), why on earth would they have this encounter out in public, in a house that's full of guests and slaves who might come upon them at any moment?

I can only conclude (and this is my rationalization only, not based on anything in the episode itself) that Lord John was so drunk that he lost sight of his common sense and let down his guard entirely. Very, very risky! And very much out of character for Lord John, especially when you consider that this occurred about a dozen years after the incident with Percy Wainwright in LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.

In a house with that many rooms, surely they could have found a room with a door, and shut it firmly behind them, or even locked it?

I hate it when characters on TV shows do stupid, stupid things for no reason other than because it's convenient for the plot. This is sloppy writing, and I wish they'd found another way to do it.

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, Murtagh and Fergus are loading Stephen Bonnet's unconscious body into a wagon when Murtagh is apprehended by the local authorities. Fergus escapes, but Murtagh is arrested.

Back at River Run, Phaedre wakes Bree the next morning with the news that Forbes is planning to propose to her. Bree arranges to meet Lord John outside for a private conversation.

This whole scene between Lord John and Brianna is one of my favorites in DRUMS OF AUTUMN. I was really looking forward to seeing it on TV, and I think Sophie Skelton and David Berry did a terrific job with it. My only regret is that it's abbreviated, compared to the scene in the book, and they omitted some of my favorite bits, like this one:
"[....there] isn’t any reason why I can’t marry you.”

He repressed a strong urge to bang his head against the wall.

“There most assuredly is.”

“What?”

“To name only the most obvious, your father would undoubtedly break my neck!”

“What for?” she demanded, frowning. “He likes you; he says you’re one of his best friends.”

“I am honored to be the recipient of his esteem,” he said shortly. “However, that esteem would very shortly cease to exist, upon Jamie Fraser’s discovering that his daughter was serving as consort and brood mare to a degenerate sodomite.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "Blackmail". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Still, they caught most of the flavor of the original, for which I'm grateful.

"If I marry Forbes, I'll be exhanging hope for a broken heart. But I'll do what I must, for the sake of my child."

This sounds like Bree has given up, and resigned herself to marrying Forbes. What happened to her Fraser stubbornness?

And just when it appears that Forbes might succeed in proposing to Brianna after all, Lord John steps in just in the nick of time, and announces that he's engaged to her himself. I wonder if viewers who have not read the books will understand that he did this just to protect Bree from unwanted suitors, that he still has no intention of actually marrying her.

Forbes bows stiffly to them and leaves. He didn't look particularly angry, but book-readers know that Bree has just made an enemy of Forbes by rejecting him, and this decision will have serious repercussions in the future.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the woods, Rollo has found the bones of Roger's fellow captive, the man who died on the trail in Episode 410, "The Deep Heart's Core". Amazingly, Young Ian recognizes him, because the man was missing two fingers on one hand. (If that detail was shown in last week's episode, I totally missed it.)

"There's hope that Roger's still alive," Claire says, stating the obvious.

Back to River Run, where Lord John and Bree are talking on the veranda. John tells Bree about Willie.

"I love him more than life itself." I didn't like this. Not only is it overly sentimental for Lord John, but it's such a cliché. I much prefer the original dialogue:
"So you see, there is no blood between us at all--and yet were any man to impugn my affection for him, or to say he is not my son, I would call him out on the instant for it.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Forgiveness". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Hope is at the very heart of love." That's a pretty clunky bit of dialogue, and I'm not even sure what he meant by it.

As Lord John leaves, Bree finally breaks the seal on Jamie's letter and reads it, but we don't find out what it says, at least not yet.

Back in the woods, Jamie, Claire, and Ian have buried the unnamed man. Late that night, Claire comes to Jamie in their tent (and that is an ENORMOUS tent!) I loved this whole scene. Very well-written and well-acted.

"When I made you that promise, there was no one else in my life who could come before you. But I don't know if I can keep that promise anymore."

I like this line very much. Claire is, of course, referring to her promise of honesty that she made to Jamie very early in their marriage: in the book, on their wedding night; on the show, when she tells Jamie the truth in Episode 111, "The Devil's Mark".

"I canna be a father to her, Claire." Ohhhh, that's sad. After the absolute joy of his getting to know Bree, it breaks my heart that he could even think that.

The part beginning, "I never thought I'd be jealous of a dead man" comes straight from the book. (DRUMS chapter 53, "Blame") This is really wonderfully done! I couldn't be happier with the way this scene turned out. It's tender and heartfelt, and one of those scenes where I don't see Sam and Cait at all, I see Jamie and Claire, come to life on the screen. And even after four seasons, I still think that's amazing.

Finally, at long last, Roger and his captors arrive at the Mohawk village of Shadow Lake. The amount of detail in this scene is just staggering: the longhouses, the costumes, all of it. I thought they did a good job of conveying a little of what this must feel like from Roger's point of view. It's really too much to take in all at once, especially combined with the Mohawk shouting in an unfamiliar language.

Suddenly Roger finds himself shoved between a double line of Mohawk warriors, all of them shoving, hitting him. The gauntlet. And before he reaches the end, a blow knocks him unconscious, and that's the end of the episode. Wow. I really was not expecting it to end like that.

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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 412.

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:

Cynthia4 hope said...

Wonderful comments and I too loved the Claire and Jamie in the tent felt their pain. Also loved Lord John and Bree powerful and wonderful episode.

Anonymous said...

I agreed with everything you said. This recap was spot on! I was thinking a lot of what you mentioned: The letter from Jamie to Brianna, Lord John having sex out in what looks like a hallway, the talk between Jamie and Claire in the tent, everything. It was a good episode.

Tibi said...

I enjoy your recaps immensely!

I didn't think the letter for Brianne sent by Jamie and delivered by Lord John was an issue. Jamie knows it's good to have friends in high places and that Lord John would help Brianna if she needed something (although he might not have had a marriage proposal in mind). Jamie wanted Lord John to know of the situation, even if he didn't go into all of the details and bringing the letter would ensure Lord John would meet Brianna.

JENBEE said...

I am really enjoying this season. I get very confused when I read the many extremely negative reviews online. (Book reader since 1993) am I missing something???

Debra E. Marvin said...

Great points. I can't disagree. The LJG hallway scene was out of character. And that tent? wow. A tent that big and Ian sleeps outside?
The letter to LJG wasn't as much of an issue for me as I can see Jamie sending him to check on Bree. Great season!

Anonymous said...

In regards to the other prisoner: I think it was two episodes ago when the other prisoner died, the scene opened on his hand with the two missing fingers then pans up to see the dead mans face and the audience is relieved to realize its not Roger that is dead.

Love your recaps, I probably enjoy your added commentary more. So far this season seems boring; I'm bored with the long dialogue and short action scenes.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen loved this episode and season 4 is getting better and better I think LOrd John was a great comfort to Brianna during this hard time in her life and she showed her Fraser colors as well as her Mackenzie side as well and held her own in several scenes and loved seeing Jamie and Claire go ack to being the loving couple they always have been , I think they have stuck to the book very much and the changes were ok for Tv audiences so I don't have a problem with them , so only two more episodes to go until another Droughtlander. will be watching more this Week. please post more soon. Happy Week. Sincerely .

Jeanie said...

Spot on Karen. Seems we agree on almost everything! I was really struggling with what you termed ‘sloppy writing’ & I agree with you on the whole LG scene; the only time I get my back up about this is when actions appear completely out of character & this was it. Wasn’t bothered by the letter to Brianna- Jamie would have written to LJ anyway & May have wanted to take additional time to write hers as well. & I loved the opening with Roger apparently hallucinating about a hot showe LOL! (Glad they did that as I truly hate cliffhangers!). The Fergus job & fighting thing was just odd - as you noted he’s been in Wilmington for a couple years now & was clearly working for that smudged-date printer in prior episode. Ah well. Like you the LG/JA tryce really bothered me (I think they were in the butlers pantry) in that both of them would have rooms in the house; I found it out of character - not what, where. Episode was ok but not as stellar as last 2. & I couldn’t figure out who wrote it from credits, it didn’t seem consistent with prior weeks. But yeah overall I still loved most of it.

Carolyn said...

Thank you! Not only was it dangerous for LJG to be out in the open, but he is far to classy and refined (both in the books and the show) to be having sex out in the open where he could be discovered easily. This really bothered me. It could have been handled much more tastefully, as it was in the book, where Brianna saw him coming in from his rendezvous. I did enjoy this episode though as I have the last few. I feel like in spite of the reduced timeline (and geography!) they have been much more on point this season, much more like the first.

Susan said...

Great recap!I also think the LG/JA scene could of been handled a bit differently but am assuming they had this set already and it worked in this scene, so can get past it. Wasn't fond of the dining table game, but over all really loved this episode! The Jaime and Claire tent scene was fantastic, my favorite scene in this episode!

Beth said...

Hi Karen -I am relatively new to Outlander (binge-watched it the past 2 months) and to your recaps (love them). I also started listening to the first book on audio (love it). I love your recaps as well. I have something that is still bothering me from a couple episodes ago. What do you think about Frank having that article about Jamie and Claire dying in the fire when Claire has not yet gone back in time again? It doesn't make sense to me. I actually paused the show to make sure it said that they died (it did). History wouldn't change until she actually went back, correct? I'm so confused. I would love to hear any insight that you have on that.

Vicki @ lifeinmyemptynest said...

Loved/hated this episode equally. Everything with Lord John and Brianna was very good. Did not like the dinner psychology game at all and was a clunky piece of writing. Also, the many references to hope in the various bits of dialogue were very heavy handed to push a theme. I think for me the whole episode had me agitated wondering how the rest of the book will be fit in the two remaining episodes.