Episode 504: "The Company We Keep" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 504 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Company We Keep". I thought this was an excellent episode, and they did a good job in adapting this part of the book.
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
The opening title card shows an unidentified but well-dressed man, tossing a silver coin. On re-watching, it's clear that the man must be Stephen Bonnet.
As the episode begins, Roger, Fergus, and the militiamen are arriving in the tiny settlement of Brownsville. Almost at once, they find a musket pointed at them from the main building, but the man holding it is aiming not at Roger but at one of the militia members, Isaiah Morton. (You may remember Morton from Episode 501, "The Fiery Cross", as the young man who was the first to swear an oath of loyalty to Jamie.)
This scene comes straight from the book (THE FIERY CROSS, chapter 28, "Brownsville"), and I relaxed at once, relieved that they're starting off with a scene that follows the original so closely.
Gunfire erupts from the window, the militia return fire, and Roger and Fergus take cover. Suddenly a teenage girl runs out of the building, sobbing, "Please, Isaiah, say you'll do right by me!" An older woman, evidently the girl's mother, drags her back inside, but not before the girl shouts, "I'd rather die than be without him!"
Roger, hunkered down listening to the gunfire overhead, is trying to decide what to do. But he's hardly a trained soldier, and this is the first time he's ever been under fire. So he mutters to Fergus, "I suppose we'd better do as they ask."
Fergus is surprised, but he follows Roger's instructions to fetch some whisky from the provisions they've brought with them. Roger orders the militia to stand down, and the shooting stops.
Meanwhile, back on Fraser's Ridge, Brianna and Mrs. Bug have returned from a shopping trip, presumably to the nearby town of Woolam's Mill, which seems to have a Colonial Home Depot, and maybe also a Colonial Walmart or equivalent. <rolling eyes>
"We got paper and books, fabrics, linen, cotton...." Bree says. (No mention of how they paid for it all....)
Mrs. Bug climbs down from the wagon, chattering to her husband Arch about preparations for supper, in a more characteristic way than we've seen her speak so far this season.
Meanwhile, Bree finds a silver coin in Jemmy's basket. Everyone is mystified. Where could it have come from? Mrs. Bug tells Bree that a stranger -- an Irishman -- had noticed Jemmy. "Saying, what a handsome lad, and did he take after his mother or his father?"
This conversation is based on a scene between Roger and Phaedre at River Run that takes place in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Was a big man, tall as you. Light-haired; he wasn’t wearin’ no wig. Was a gentleman, though.” By which, he assumed, she meant the man was well-dressed.I wasn't expecting this, but I think it fits well here, and it's obvious that only someone who knows the books very well could have chosen this particular bit.
“He looks round, sees Mr. Benjamin a-talkin’ with Miss Jo, and he takes a step to the side, like as he don’t want no one takin’ notice he there. But then he sees Mr. Jem, and he get a sharp kind of look on his face.”
She pulled Jem a little closer, recalling.
“I ain’t likin’ that look, sir, tell you truly. I see him start toward Jemmy and I go quick and pick the lad up, same as I got him now. The man look surprised, then like he think something’s funny; he smile at Jem and ax him who his daddy be?”
She gave a quick smile, patting Jem’s back.
“Folk ax him that all the time, sir, downtown, and he speak right up, say his daddy Roger MacKenzie, same as he always do. This man, he laugh and ruffle Jem’s hair--they all do that, sir, he gots such pretty hair. Then he say, ‘Is he, then, my wee maneen, is he indeed?’ ”
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "Stakit to Droon". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Brianna is clearly unnerved by Mrs. Bug's story. She's sure it was Stephen Bonnet. She tells Lizzie they should move into the Big House temporarily, for safety while all the men are away.
Meanwhile, in Brownsville, Lionel Brown (played by Ned Dennehy), father of the girl we saw earlier, is keeping a wary eye on Roger, who urges him to sample the whisky they've brought.
Roger offers a toast "to the men of Brownsville", and is met with utter silence. He informs Brown of his "obligation" to join the militia, and Lionel Brown replies in a low, menacing tone:
"The only present obligation I have is to my daughter, and these men here, who'll break that boy's neck without hesitation if I give the word."
That line isn't in the book, but I liked it. Lionel Brown comes off as a much more intelligent and dangerous man here than in the book, and he definitely bears watching.
Brown tells Roger that he had arranged a match for his daughter with another man, but "Morton got to her first."
The next bit comes word for word from the book:
“He’s dishonored my daughter,” Mr. Brown replied promptly, having recovered his composure. He glared at Roger, beard twitching with anger. “I told him I’d see him dead at her feet, if ever he dared show his wretched countenance within ten miles of Brownsville--and damn my eyes if the grass-livered spittle-snake hasn’t the face to ride right up to my door!”Meanwhile, somewhere on the road, Jamie and Claire have stopped beside a stream. Claire is holding Fanny Beardsley's newborn daughter.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Brownsville". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"She's a bonnie wee thing," Jamie says, and for the rest of the episode, they refer to the baby as Bonnie.
Jamie is fascinated by the sight of Claire holding an infant. Such a sad thought, that he never got to hold either of his children when they were babies, and that they weren't able to raise Brianna together.
"Do we bring a newborn all the way to Hillsborough?" Claire asks. "I'm not sure it's the best way to put the fear of God into the Regulators, unless they're afraid of a few dirty diapers."
"The surest way to send any man scurrying for cover," Jamie replies, smiling.
It's a cute exchange, and I like the bantering between them, but in the book, it was in fact Jamie who changed the newborn infant's clout.
Back in Brownsville, Fergus tells Roger that a few of the men have deserted. So his first try at command wasn't very successful. Time for a new approach. By the time Jamie and Claire arrive in Brownsville, Roger is entertaining the crowd, singing "Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie" (see one version of the lyrics here) while another man plays the fiddle.
I love the way they're including Roger singing so often in the early part of this season. Richard Rankin has such a beautiful voice!
Jamie and Claire inform the Beardsley twins that Mr. Beardsley is dead, Fanny is "gone for good", and Jamie has their indenture papers. Jo asks if they can ride to Hillsborough to fight with the militia.
"How old are you?"
"Ye canna be older than fourteen."
"We must be older than that!"
"No, I'm telling ye, you're fourteen. Too young to fight."
I like the way they did that. It makes sense, given that Jo and Kezzie, in the show, can't believably pass for fourteen. So Jamie meant what he said in last week's episode. They're under his protection, and he's going to protect them in the only way he can, by keeping them out of the fighting.
The next order of business is to find a nursing mother to feed the baby. I liked Fergus's reaction to the sight of Claire with the newborn ("You work fast, milord"), which is pretty close to the way he reacts in the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 31, "Orphan of the Storm"), even though the words are different.
Claire is introduced to Lucinda, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Brown, who immediately puts the baby to her breast. (Where is her own infant? We don't find that out until later.) Lucinda notices right away that the baby is part black, but she's not bothered by it.
The next scene, between Roger and Jamie, is not in the book. I was a little taken aback to see Roger in "Oxford history professor" mode, and it's probably not a coincidence that when he talks like this, he reminds me quite a lot of Frank, who has a similar background.
"Do you know where the expression, 'Dutch courage' comes from?"
"I'm sure you're about to tell me," Jamie says, not really listening.
So Roger starts to explain, and quickly gets carried away. <g> "Take the First World War, for example...."
Jamie really isn't paying any attention, or he would have at least reacted with, "The what?" or "Oh, aye, Claire told me about that. The Great War, she called it." But he doesn't respond at all, because he's preoccupied with more immediate matters. He's counting heads, noticing that several of the men are missing.
Roger takes Jamie to see Isaiah Morton, who's being held captive in a little shed, saying, "I had to do something."
"D'ye ken the meaning of the word 'Captain', Professor MacKenzie?" Jamie asks coldly, biting off each word precisely. Ouch! "Your men left because you betrayed their trust."
I'm on Roger's side here. What else was he supposed to do under the circumstances, having zero command experience or training?
Jamie confronts Morton: "Now, what disarray have you and your c*ck brought upon our endeavor?" Good line.
"I already have a wife," Morton confesses. I really thought Jamie was going to hit him, but instead he draws his dirk and cuts the young man's bonds.
"My heart had a mind of its own. 'Twas as if I had no say in the matter." And this is something that Jamie, of all people, can understand, given that he fell in love with Claire so quickly.
Roger pleads for clemency. "After all, 'love makes fools of us all,'" he says, in the tone of a quotation (from Thackeray, I believe, though there's no way Jamie would know that). So he's still in professor mode, and again Jamie doesn't react -- but in fact, he does take Roger's advice, and I think that's significant. He tells Morton to go, right away.
Meanwhile, Claire is telling the other women a slightly modified story of what happened to the Beardsleys.
Alicia's mother is philosophical about it: "Fanny Beardsley may be strange, but she isn't the first woman to find herself in an...unsuitable...situation, and she certainly won't be the last." Her words are clearly intended for her daughter's ears.
Claire accidentally spills a little of her drink on a broadsheet lying on the table nearby. Alicia picks it up, curious. "It speaks of ways to prevent becoming with child."
Getting a closer look at the paper, Claire realizes that this is in fact a copy of her own medical advice, written in Episode 502 under the pseudonym, "Dr. Rawlings". So this is what was written on the other side of the paper Fergus grabbed in last week's episode. Among other things, "Dr. Rawlings" advises against the use of pills containing mercury, and against the practice of blood-letting.
Claire takes the paper. "I could use it to, um, light a fire." Wow, she really is a terrible liar!
Outside, Roger has resumed singing. This time it's "Twa Recruiting Sergeants" (lyrics here). I laughed when I recognized the song. It's very appropriate, considering their mission!
Jamie is still brooding over the fact that Roger's actions cost them several men. "Actions have consequences, Sassenach."
"Yes, I know they do, but everyone can make a mistake."
It's a good point, and Claire is probably the only one who could have told him that.
Claire shows Jamie the paper, and naturally he wants to know who Rawlings is.
"Beauchamp, Randall, Fraser, now Rawlings. You have another husband I should ken about?" Good line.
They go to find Fergus, who confirms their suspicions about how the printer got hold of it. Jamie doesn't think it will cause trouble, "unless someone tries to find the author." Gee, what do you suppose the chances of that might be? (I hate it when the show advertises possible future plot twists as though there's a bright red flashing arrow pointing to the words.)
Suddenly there's a commotion outside. "Morton's gone!"
Lionel Brown is understandably furious, but Jamie insists Morton is under his protection. And just when I thought things might escalate out of control, Richard Brown arrives.
I liked the actor playing Richard Brown (Chris Larkin) very much. From the moment he appears, he has a very commanding presence, and I couldn't take my eyes off him.
Jamie says that if any harm comes to Morton, "I'll have no choice but to consider ye traitors to the Crown, no better than the Regulators we were sent to disperse."
Wow! That particular threat is not in the book, and it strikes me as bold and very risky.
Lionel Brown and his men take offense at the word "traitors", but Richard Brown calms the situation, saying, "You sound foolish. And a drunken fool at that." I had to smile at that, because that pretty much sums up my impression of Lionel Brown from the books, especially in ABOSAA.
I liked the next scene, though it's not in the book. Richard Brown reminds me a little of Clive Russell as Lord Lovat in Episode 208, "The Fox's Lair", in terms of his sheer physical presence and force of personality.
It turns out that Richard Brown has no love for the Regulators.
"So if you have come recruiting, you could not have found any better men in all the Carolinas. We'll ride to Hillsborough with you. But they'll all be answering to me."
"As long as you're in agreement you'll answer to me."
I liked this very much.
Lionel Brown invites Claire and Jamie to stay in his house overnight. "What kind of man would I be, if I allowed a lady to sleep outside with the militia on a cold, dark night." This strikes me as foreshadowing, and very ominous.
Meanwhile, back on Fraser's Ridge, Germain and Jemmy are playing quietly by the hearth in the evening. Bree goes out to get more wood for the fire, and when she comes back, Jemmy is nowhere to be found.
Bree questions Germain: "Where's Jemmy? Where'd he go?"
"Ball," Germain says. "Ball."
Marsali questions him.
"Ball," he says, pointing.
Now I'm wondering if Germain has suffered some sort of brain injury, and I'm only half-kidding, because I can't think how else to explain why he's suddenly reduced to communicating like a one-year-old. What happened to the Germain we saw in Episodes 501 and 503, who was speaking in age-appropriate complete sentences? I didn't like that at all.
Bree is starting to panic, and you can see the thought cross her mind: what if Stephen Bonnet is somewhere nearby? Fortunately, they locate Jem pretty quickly, safe and sound.
Back in Brownsville, all of the Browns are signing up for the militia. Mrs. Brown shows Claire to a spacious bedroom, which seems awfully luxurious compared to the rest of the house. She tells Claire that the young mother who has been nursing the Beardsley baby recently lost a premature infant.
Claire and Alicia Brown have a heart-to-heart talk, in the course of which Alicia reveals that she is pregnant. The dialogue in this scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished". It's a touching scene, and Alicia comes off as a more sympathetic figure than she was in the book, in my opinion.
I liked the next scene, between Bree and Marsali, very much. It's fun to see the two of them bonding.
"I never told you this, but...I killed my father." Marsali says this very matter-of-factly, but I was startled, until she explained further. The abuse she describes ("He broke my lip. I couldn't speak for a month") is worse than anything described in the books, although I have no trouble believing that it could have happened that way.
"You see, thinking, no matter how hard or long, doesn't make something come true."
I like that. Marsali has the makings of a pretty good amateur psychologist. <g> I'm glad that Bree has found a friend, even if she can't tell Marsali everything that's bothering her.
Claire examines Kezzie Beardsley and discovers that he, like his brother, needs his tonsils out. I liked her exclamation of "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" We haven't heard that in a while.
Jamie, hearing the news, tells Claire she must go back to the Ridge with the twins. "We didna spend a day in hell to secure the safety of those lads to see them suffer now." Good line.
Jamie summons Roger by addressing him as "Roger Mac". I like that a lot. I think it's the first time he's called Roger by that nickname, which book-readers will recognize as one of the most common ways Jamie refers to Roger in the books. It may be a small thing, but to me it felt like a piece of their relationship falling into its rightful place.
Jamie tells Roger he is to take Claire and the twins home to the Ridge the next morning.
"I made ye a captain without time to prepare ye, or teach ye what the word meant."
The tone of his voice is apologetic, but Roger (the walking dictionary!) takes him literally. "From the old Friench, via Latin...."
"Take my wife home." And Jamie walks away without another word.
Roger is still feeling very much inferior to Jamie, and this seems to confirm his worst fears. "He doesna have any faith in me."
Claire disagrees. "He just entrusted you with the one thing he loves most."
I love that!
Back at the Big House, Brianna looks through her old drawings, of baby Jemmy and of Bonnet, and pitches them all into the fire. Too bad she can't dismiss the memories so easily.
The sword-dancing scene is a lot of fun. I liked watching Jamie's reaction as the first men tried it, shaking his head as if to say, "No, that's not at all how it's supposed to be done!"
Sam did a great job with the sword-dance. It must have taken a lot of practice to get that right! I just wish he'd been wearing his kilt. Still, I think he captured the essence of the scene as described in the book:
He knew--and had not needed Roger to tell him--that the old ways had changed, were changing. This was a new world, and the sword dance would never again be danced in earnest, seeking omen and favor from the ancient gods of war and blood.The scene that follows is excellent, too, very much in the spirit of the original scene in the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished")
His eyes opened, and his head snapped up. The tipper struck the drum with a sudden thunk! and it began with a shout from the crowd. His feet struck down on the pounded earth, to the north and the south, to the east and the west, flashing swift between the swords.
His feet struck soundless, sure on the ground, and his shadow danced on the wall behind him, looming tall, long arms upraised. His face was still toward me, but he didn’t see me any longer, I was sure.
The muscles of his legs were strong as a leaping stag’s beneath the hem of his kilt, and he danced with all the skill of the warrior he had been and still was. But I thought he danced now only for the sake of memory, that those watching might not forget; danced, with the sweat flying from his brow as he worked, and a look of unutterable distance in his eyes.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"I have no life but you, Claire. But if ye wanted another child, I thought that perhaps I might give ye one. One that ye wouldna have to suffer carrying."
"Please know, that if it's at all possible, I love you even more for wanting to take the chance. I also regret that we were never parents together. But regret isn't reason enough." I love the look in Claire's eyes as she says this.
"I'm grateful for every day we have." And once again I'm struck by what a miracle it is that they are in each other's arms at all, after those twenty endless years of separation.
The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. Hurrying to investigate, they find Alicia Brown, who has accidentally shot herself in the arm with a pistol while attempting to commit suicide.
"You are not alone," Claire tells her, very seriously, "and your baby is worth living for." She's speaking from bitter experience there, no doubt remembering those first months after she returned through the stones to Frank, when her unborn child was the only reason she had for continuing to live.
Jamie goes out to find some whisky at Claire's request, and runs into Isaiah Morton, who insists he must see Alicia before he leaves.
“[The] lass kens ye’ve a wife already,” he said brutally, "and if her father doesna shoot ye on sight, she may stab ye to the heart. And if neither of them succeeds,” he went on, drawing himself up to his fully menacing height, “I’m inclined to do the job myself, wi’ my bare hands. What sort of man would slip round a lass and get her with child, and him with no right to give it his name?”This bit is taken almost word for word from the book, but Jamie's tone is much calmer than the words suggest. I thought he would have been angrier. (That's not a complaint, just an observation.)
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jamie takes Morton up to see Alicia (somehow not noticed by any of the other members of the household?) and they have a tearful reunion. There's a knock at the door, but Morton makes no effort to hide. (Risky, considering how many of the Browns would shoot him on sight!) It turns out to be Roger.
"Are ye telling me that if someone told you to leave, and you'd never see [the woman you loved] again, you'd stand for it? That you'd obey without a fight?"
Interesting, on a couple of levels. Claire and Jamie can't help but think of their farewell before Culloden, when Jamie begged her to go, to save their child's life. And Roger has to be thinking about the huge fight he had with Bree on their handfasting night, when he left her, only to find out that she'd been raped by Stephen Bonnet a short time later.
The scene where Jamie lets the horses out of the barn to cover the lovers' escape is vivid and dramatic, and must have been a challenge to film.
"All you can hope for is that the good may outweigh the harm that may come of it." And as the episode ends, that's not a bad thought to leave us with. With luck, Isaiah Morton and Alicia Brown will find happiness, at least.
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 505.
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