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Sweatpants & TV | Outlander, Season 4, Episode 1 – “America the Beautiful”

By Emily Parker

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Welcome back! It’s been a long 11 months, but the Droughtlander is finally over, and season 4 is upon us!

When we last left Jamie and Claire, they had washed up on the shores of Georgia in the American colonies, having survived the shipwreck of the Artemis.

“From the hands of a clock, to a simple wedding band…”

We begin with Claire narrating over a scene from 2000 B.C., North America. The natives are building a stone circle. She notes that from time immemorial, humans have always been fascinated with circles, imbuing them with meaning.

Claire knows better than most how a simple circle can change one’s life.

“To my soul…”

In 1767 North Carolina, Jamie is looking as dashing as ever as he pays off a guard so he can “say goodbye” to Gavin Hayes, his friend who is about to be hung for murder. Jamie’s plan is to create a distraction so that Hayes can escape the gallows. Jamie feels responsible that Hayes is even in America in the first place.

Hayes says goodbye.

Hayes refuses, saying this is the way he wants it; he regrets nothing. His first request is a last swig of whisky. As they toast to Gavin’s soul, a nearby prisoner asks for a drink.

“How about a drop for my soul as well?”

Jamie obliges, and the stranger toasts. “To all our souls. Sláinte.” Hayes’ second request is for the last face he looks upon to be that of a friend, smiling at him. “You have my word,” Jamie smiles. He returns to Fergus and Lesley and tells them not to bother with the planned stramash; Hayes wants to die. They are aghast.

Our first look at Stephen Bonnet, bound for the gallows as well.

“This is the way Hayes wants it.”

As Hayes stands atop the gallows and his charges are read, Jamie pushes through the crowd to stand right in front. True to his word, he plasters a reassuring smile on his face. Hayes smiles back as his feet drop through the platform. Lesley, Hayes’ best friend, freaks out. “It’s no’ right! They cannae take him from me!” He is restrained by several onlookers. In the ensuing fray, Stephen Bonnet, the cheeky prisoner from before, uses the opportunity to make his own escape.

Jamie sports a pained grimace for the sake of his friend.

Honored, wept, and sung

After the hanging, Jamie, Claire & company are in a tavern, discussing their plans to set sail home for Scotland as soon as they have the money. They plan to visit Jamie’s aunt Jocasta first, who has an estate in the colonies. Fergus arrives with news that the local minister has refused to bury Hayes in the churchyard without a fairly hefty bribe. They decide they’ll wait until it’s dark, then bury him in the churchyard anyway. It’s not like the priest is going to bother to dig him up, once the deed is done.

Lesley sings to mourn his friend.

Fergus bows out of the grave digging adventure, citing that Marsali is quite tired and needs to rest (!!). Lesley declares that Hayes should never have met such an end without so much as a lament sung for him. “Well, he shall have a caithris!” Lesley begins singing in low Gaelic, and the entire bar joins in. There are apparently lots of Scots in North Carolina! (I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.)

The whole tavern raises a glass to Hayes.

As they ride into the churchyard that night, Jamie and Claire discuss their plans to fund their trip back to Scotland by selling gemstones they salvaged from the shipwreck of the Artemis.

“Some ghosts can only be banished by speaking their name and foul deeds aloud…”

While they dig Hayes’ grave, young Ian suffers a bit of PTSD from his encounter with The Bakra in the last season. Jamie is sweet with him and coaxes him to talk about it, and Ian describes how she raped him. “Have you ever lain with someone when you didn’t want to do it?” “I have,” Jamie replies. Little could he know that Jamie understands better than most how he’s feeling. They hug, and Jamie reassures him that it wasn’t his fault.

“It’s not your fault, lad.”

The charming rogue

When they prepare to unload Hayes’ body from the wagon, another body pops up, startling everyone. Jamie whacks it with a shovel, then uncovers it. It’s Stephen Bonnet, who has stowed away with them, hoping to be spirited out of town. Bonnet introduces himself properly. Jamie is at first nervous that he’s a criminal, but Bonnet charms him into taking him to safety after all. “In the name of Gavin Hayes…he said you’d never turn your back on a friend.” Dirty tricks! Jamie is convinced. “For a friend of Gavin.”

Jamie questions Bonnet.

“Stab it in the leg, Griswold!”

On their way out of town, of course they’re stopped by guards looking for Bonnet. Jamie admits they have a body in the wagon and they stab it to make sure it’s dead. Bonnet doesn’t make a peep. They’re dismissed.

The occasional corpse-stabbing comes with the territory.

“I’ve found that a man most often makes his own luck…”

Outside of town, they stop. The bayonet had just grazed Bonnet’s thigh, and Claire attends to him. He notes that she wears two wedding bands. “I never married,” he muses, “but I’ve always been partial to rings.” He confesses to Claire that he has recurring nightmares of drowning. “Nightmares can’t harm you,” Claire says. “It’s the sea herself pulling at me,” Bonnet says. “Have you ever felt the sea pulling at you?” What is it with people confessing to the person who couldn’t possibly understand them any better!? Claire tells him that she almost drowned at sea. “Then you know what I speak of,” Bonnet replies ominously. She finishes patching him up and he goes. Jamie declines any sort of reward for his assistance and Bonnet thanks him, then warns them to beware of thieves and outlaws in the woods.

Bonnet and Claire chat.

“Can’t you see how small a thing death is, between us?”

Jamie and Claire opt to camp in the woods overnight instead of returning to town; outlaws and thieves be damned! The two chat by the fire, wearing a lot fewer clothes than I might be wearing if I were sleeping out in the woods. They discuss the nature of death. “Nothing is gone, Sassenach. Only changed.” “That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” Claire jokes. “No, that’s faith,” Jamie replies. The two engage in their first sexytimes of the season.

Just chatting by the fire with hardly any clothes on, NBD.

Jamie and Claire wake up all smiles (and surprisingly, fully clothed) and the two chat about the American dream. “The dream of living in a place where the only limitations are a person’s own abilities and will to succeed. People will come here in their thousands, and then millions.” “What about those already here? The natives? what becomes of them?” Jamie’s question is prescient, and Claire is honest. “A dream for some can be a nightmare for others,” Jamie says softly.

Could they be any cuter after just waking up out in the woods?

“Simple is best.”

As Jamie and Claire dress for the Lillington dinner, they’re hoping to find a buyer for a large ruby that Claire is wearing. At dinner, everyone is over-the-top racist, sexist, classist, and most any other -ist you can imagine for the time. The men are snidely discussing having to support the “charity savages” with their taxes. One of the diners baits Claire, saying he’s sure she’s unfamiliar with such matters. “On the contrary,” Claire says pointedly. “I’m sure the thought of unfair taxes brings out the savage in all of us!” She smirks as they titter.

Claire is no shrinking violet.

“In frankness, Mr. Fraser, there is the law, and there is what is done…”

Some of them men mention to Jamie that they know his Aunt Jocasta. The governor asks Jamie to join him after dinner for a chat. He offers Jamie some land to stay in North Carolina, but it’s more or less a ruse to have a soldier indebted to him when the revolutionary war starts heating up – and on the side of the King. Jamie doesn’t know the details of course, but knows a loaded offer when he hears one. Jamie neither accepts nor rejects the deal.

Is that a face you can trust, or what?

Should we stay or should we go?

Jamie & Claire have succeeded in selling the ruby to their mark at the dinner, so their return passage to Scotland is secured and then some. Lord John Grey has had the warrant for Jamie’s arrest lifted, so he’s no longer a wanted man. Claire is thinking about the governor’s offer. She mentions that the American Revolution is 8 years out, and that if Jamie takes the deal, he’ll be expected to fight on the wrong side of history. Again. And that the land the governor is offering will be taken from them when the British inevitably lose. Remind me again why they don’t just go back to Scotland?

Jamie suddenly decides, without much of a good reason, that he wants to stay and make America a good land for Brianna, who will be born there 180-odd years later. This whole exchange confuses me. They were all set to go back to Scotland, they discuss it, and they concede that staying in America is kind of a silly idea, but they decide to…stay? Okay.

We have literally no good reason to stay here. Let’s do it!

“Claire and I have decided to try and make a life here…”

The next day, Jamie & Claire run into young Ian, who has won a dog (and some money) gambling. They scold him. They go into a tavern for some food and discussion, and spring on the group that they’re thinking of staying in America. Ian is super down, but Jamie thwarts him. “What in God’s name would your mother say?” “I dinna ken,” Ian grins. “But she’ll be saying it in Scotland, won’t she!” Jamie isn’t convinced, but drops the matter for the time being.

Ian is in.

Jamie and Claire offer to send Fergus, Marsali, and Lesley back as well, with a bit of money for each of them to get by on. Turns out, Fergus and Marsali are on board with staying too, and they announce that Marsali is pregnant. Lesley just flat doesn’t want to leave Jamie. So it’s settled – they’ll all stay for now, and Jamie, Claire, Ian, and Lesley will journey to River Run to visit Aunt Jocasta.

Announcing their happy news.

“Best waterman on the river.”

They take a riverboat for the next leg of their journey. Jamie fills Claire in on Jocasta. “She’s a McKenzie,” he says by way of explanation. She’s got three dead Cameron husbands. Claire scolds the riverboat operator for having had his man on his feet all day, steering the raft. He explains that the man is free and paid a fair wage, ever since he saved his life. Even so, everyone takes their turn at the pole; even Claire.

Rollin’ on the river.

The greatest gift…

Jamie gives Claire a lovely present of a tiny trunk filled with surgical tools and potions of various sorts. “I’ve never been able to give ye much, ever, save this wee ring,” he says. “This ring is all I need,” Claire sighs.

Claire’s box of goodies.

Betrayal

That night, as all of them are sleeping, Stephen Bonnet bursts through the door of the riverboat. He punches Jamie and his men restrain him and the others as they savagely rob them of everything they have. Bonnet murders Lesley as he is attempting to defend Claire. Bonnet menaces Claire, demanding her two wedding rings. She tearfully slides them off, then defiantly pops them into her mouth. Bonnet grabs her throat before she can swallow all the way, and digs in her mouth with his fingers to get the rings. He gets one, and he and his men leave with their spoils. Claire sinks to the floor, gagging. Jamie staggers into the riverboat to a sobbing Claire and she coughs up the one ring she has managed to save, and my heart drops. It’s not Jamie’s ring. It’s Frank’s.

Claire tearfully removes her rings.

Stray Observations:

  • The opening credits music this time is colonial-type music with fiddles and banjos, befitting the location, I suppose. They’re also slowed down a bit and contain a chorus. This is definitely not my favorite version.
  • The English translation of “caithris” is “wake-up call.” It’s a Gaelic lament for the dead. (Pronounced kaer”èsh, a bit like “care-ish.”) This particular lament was composed by Gaelic singer Robert Robertson.
  • Can I just say how great it is that this show tends to devote time, when appropriate, to addressing how victims feel in the aftermath of rape, and how they’ve done it equally with both female and male victims? This is both progressive and socially important. Bravo, Outlander.
  • It’s nerdy, but I loved Claire’s “first law of thermodynamics” joke. She’s about 70 years ahead of their time with that one.
  • SO MANY CURRENT AMERICAN SOCIAL ISSUES! From Ian’s PTSD, to displaced natives, to taxes supporting the poor and indigent and more, Outlander has become even more progressive than usual so far this season, and I am here for it.
  • I’m beginning to like Marsali. Her “Aye, it surprised us as well!” to Claire’s reaction to her pregnancy announcement was charming.
  • Jamie mentions that they’ve been married 24 years in his timeline. Wow!

Join us next week for Episode 2, “Do No Harm.”

Image Credits: Sweatpants & Coffee.

Emily Parker is a musician, writer, and avid reader who started Bucket List Book Reviews, the ‘1,001 Books to Read Before You Die’ project. For Sweatpants & Coffee, Emily hopes to inspire the reading of the classics by a whole new audience by only reviewing the really good stuff.

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