Catch Up:

Episode 1: “America the Beautiful”

Author’s Note: Whew, this one was hard to watch! But although this episode contained intense themes of violence, slavery, and more, we have avoided including pictures of the worst of these scenes.


A brooding Jamie is flexing his sore fists after Bonnet’s robbery of them. Jamie is lamenting that they had to bury Lesley in a shallow grave on the river. He blames himself for trusting Bonnet and for having helped him.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

As they pull up to River Run, Ian marvels at its size. Jamie says to Claire that now they’re penniless. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” she jokes. She reminds him that Jocasta is family, and that they’re lucky they have relatives they can turn to in their time of need.

“A house befittin’ a king!”

“Welcome to River Run…”

Jocasta Cameron comes out to meet their boat and greets them warmly. Jamie is a little choked up, seeing her. She falters a bit when Young Ian presents her with some flowers, and explains that she has gone blind. Her man, Ulysses, seems to help her get around a great deal. She invites them all inside.

“Ye’ve grown into a giant!”

“I may not have my sight, dear, but I have been keeping an eye on you.”

Jamie explains to Jocasta over tea how they were robbed, and she is appalled. She wants them to stay as long as they like, but Jamie refuses to be a burden. Jocasta remarks that it wouldn’t be a burden to have such a businessman at her disposal, and that she intends to throw a party in their honor.

“Ye flatter me, Auntie.”

“The stench! It burns my eyes!”

You Ian appears with a putrid-smelling Rollo, having run afoul of a skunk. “It lifted its tail and sprayed a foul liquid from its arse!” Jocasta explains what it was, and that her friend John Quincy Myers is visiting – a “man of the wild” who can rid Rollo of the odor.

What dog can resist chasing a skunk?

Memories of Mother

As Jamie and Claire are shown upstairs to their bedroom, Jamie remarks on how similar Aunt Jocasta is to his mother. “I always wished ye kent my mother, but having you meet my Aunt is just fine.”

Ulysses shows them to an ostentatiously purple bedchamber where two more slaves await their bidding. Jamie remarks to Claire that she hasn’t had a lot to say since their arrival. Claire gazes sadly out of the window at yet more slaves, toiling away in the fields. “It’s like you said,” Jamie says gently. “One day, it will all be different…”

Claire is troubled.

“I dinna wish him to go on, reekin’ like the devil’s arse!”

John Quincy Myers turns up with two pails of vinegar for bathing Rollo. He and Ian trade good-natured barbs, and joke about Quincy’s beard. He retorts that ladies love a big hairy man – especially Indian ladies. Ian is scandalized. Myers says it’s probably the novelty – that Indian men aren’t nearly so hairy. “Why, you take one look at my buttocks, and you’d think my daddy was a buffalo!” Ian guffaws.

Those Highlander Savages

“What are the Indians like?” Ian asks seriously. “Depends on the tribe,” Myers says, his tone suddenly serious. He warns that some are friendly, some ought to be steered clear of. Ian says he’s heard of Indians who’ll cut out your heart and devour it whole. Myers snickers. “I can’t say I’ve heard of any who will do that exactly.” He mentions scalping. Ian takes this in stride. “There are clansmen in Scotland who’ll do the same,” he says. “I guess the Indians are not much different from Highlanders.” Myers smiles. “That’s a fine way of looking at the world, Ian.”

Ian is a progressive young man.

The Benevolent Slave Master

As Jocasta gives them the tour of the grounds, Jamie asks how many slaves work there. “152,” she replies. Claire looks sour. She explains “I purchase them in lots, in order to keep those with children together.” She finds that they perform better when treated with benevolence. Plus, she points out, “who knows where they’d be if I hadn’t taken them on, and given them a home and a purpose!” She goes on to say that she even considers some of them to be friends. At that, Claire can’t keep her mouth shut any longer. “Do you think any of them feel the same way?” Claire asks. Jocasta assures Claire that her slaves are quite happy. Claire excuses herself from the conversation.

Happy, Claire’s arse.

“I ken a bit about dirt.”

As Claire leaves, Jamie and Jocasta are visited by Lieutenant Wolff, a froggy little man who oversees River Run’s contract with the Navy. He advises them to plant wheat in their fallow lands along the river. Jamie is quick to correct him, saying that wheat won’t thrive along the river; plant rice. It’s worth more, anyway. Wolff is annoyed, but Jocasta is amused. She also seems to have Claire’s number – when Jamie apologizes to her for offending the Lieutenant, Jocasta says he was right to speak his mind, and that it’s a luxury she wishes she could enjoy herself. “A woman’s unsolicited views are not always welcome,” she says pointedly. Jamie nods.

Lieutenant Wolff doesna ken much about dirt.

The Fire of MacKenzie

As Claire is fitted for a party dress, Jocasta goads her by making rude little remarks about her supposed appearance. “Don’t tell me you’re black-haired and sallow!” Claire demurs. Jocasta finally asks Claire what she thinks of River Run, framing the question as Claire not being used to such fine accommodations. Claire is cagey. “It’s all very overwhelming.” Jocasta pushes. “What is it that you most admire?” Claire parries again, and Jocasta flat calls her on her obvious disapproval. “I don’t agree with keeping people as property,” Claire admits. “Jenny was right about you,” Jocasta remarks. “She made mention in her letters that you were…spirited…that you no’ blush to share your thoughts on any matter; versed in it or no.” “The same could be said for Jenny,” Claire says wryly. Jocasta bursts out laughing. “Oh, aye,” she says, with barely concealed pride. She can’t help but respect Claire at least a little, even if she doesn’t necessarily like her.

“Ye’ve the fire of MacKenzie in you!”

“How charmingly naive…”

At the party, Claire keeps politely excusing herself from conversations rather than offer her “unsolicited opinion.” She’s trying! Young Ian has her back – he’s a progressive, too. Aunt Jocasta calls for a toast and blindsides Jamie by naming him as her heir – and the master of the River Run plantation. Jamie and Claire look like deer in headlights. Lieutenant Wolff looks annoyed.

Excuse me?

Later that night, Jamie and Claire discuss it privately. Claire is nearly in a panic. “I can’t own slaves, Jamie.” He agrees, but wonders if they might make a difference by taking the job. Maybe they can pay the slaves a fair wage? Treat them better? Claire is unconvinced.

“I canna change River Run without ye, Sassenach.”

The Dirty Details

The next day, Jamie is discussing the particulars with Aunt Jocasta and her adviser, Farquard Campbell. Campbell thinks Jamie is incompetent and is further horrified by Jamie’s desire to free the slaves. A heated argument ensues. Campbell explodes, but Jocasta says she sees no harm in at least discussing it. Campbell relents and tells Jamie that not only is it prohibitively expensive, he’d have to prove that each slave deserves to be free, such as because they saved a life, for example. Jamie is undeterred and goes full Braveheart. “Ye cannae put a price on freedom!” Campbell makes some not-so-veiled threats to Jamie’s safety, if he insists on this. The other plantation owners won’t look kindly on having their way of life threatened.

And Jamie doesn’t look kindly on being lectured.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an ear…

Claire and Jamie’s subsequent discussion of the matter is interrupted by Jocasta, Campbell, and her men. Her overseer has been attacked by one of the slaves and lost an ear. She sends Jamie to deal with it in her stead. Straight into the fire! Claire goes along to patch up the overseer and reattach the ear. Unfortunately, the scene when Claire and Jamie arrive in the woods is far more gruesome than they could have imagined. Despite having been provoked by the lash, Rufus, the slave who perpetrated the attack, is to be executed for having raised his hand to a white man. Some of the white men there have already taken the law into their own hands and are stringing Rufus up a tree, cruelly impaled on an iron hook.


Claire and Jamie spring into action to help the slave rather than the injured overseer, and it’s the wrong choice. Jamie draws both pistols and they reluctantly bring the man down. Campbell smooths the way by scolding Byrnes, the overseer, for having taken the law into his own hands. Claire has Rufus brought back to the main house; the injured white man all but forgotten as she attends to the more serious patient. Claire goes into triage mode and begins barking orders at everyone in sight as she prepares to operate right on Jocasta’s dining room table, to everyone’s shock.

Claire sedates Rufus for surgery.

Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner?

Ulysses leads Jocasta into the dining room, and it’s probably a good thing she’s blind. She’s shocked enough by the notion that Claire would even attempt to heal Rufus and not Byrnes. Jamie jumps to Claire’s defense, but Jocasta dismisses him. Rufus must be hanged. Before he can reply, it is announced that Lieutenant Wolff and Campbell have arrived, likely to see to just that. They leave Claire to her ministrations to receive the two men.

Jamie has heard a lot of lecturing for one day.

Wolff and Campbell are furious, and Jamie doesn’t take too kindly to being lectured yet again. They assure him that the men responsible for impaling Rufus have been jailed for taking the law into their own hands, and that now, Rufus has to pay the piper for his part in the debacle as well. They threaten to jail Jamie and Claire as well. Jocasta steps in and offers an “ignorance of the law” defense of Jamie, and pleads for an opportunity to set things right.

The Way a Lady Talks

In the dining room, Rufus is coming to. Claire explains to him where he is and what happened, and assures him that he is under Jamie’s protection. He asks why she healed him when he broke the law, and Claire replies “Byrnes is a son of a bitch. I’m sure you had a good reason.” Ha! As Rufus shares his history, Ian looks pained. He’s getting quite an education today.

Rufus wakes up.

Saving a Soul

As Claire cleans up, Ulysses confronts her. He inquires how Rufus is doing, and Claire says that she intends to do what she can to ensure his recovery. He points out to Claire that if she heals him, he’ll face a far worse fate than if he had just died. Those men will tear his limbs off and leave his body as a lesson to slaves who would disobey. Does she want that for Rufus?

Ulysses is forthright.

But Who’s Going to Tell My Wife?

Meanwhile, Jamie broods as Campbell and Wolff stalk around outside. Jocasta chastises him. Apparently, she has struck the bargain that Rufus is to be turned over to them at midnight, but he will indeed be turned over to them. Jamie isn’t happy. I wouldn’t be either – he still has to tell Claire, who has had Rufus carried up to their bedroom where he will be more comfortable. What the hell, Claire? You haven’t overstepped your bounds quite enough? Jamie doesn’t beat around the bush, and Claire, unsurprisingly, refuses.

It’s easy to refuse until the angry pitchfork mob shows up.

As Jamie attempts to explain to her that if they don’t turn Rufus over, it will be taken out on the other slaves and all hell will break loose, a literal lynch mob – complete with torches and pitchforks – has assembled outside River Run. Jocasta and Ulysses knock at their door, telling them that it’s time. As the tension outside escalates and a brick is thrown through the front window, Jocasta loses her temper. “Your wife’s foolishness will get us all killed!” She yells at Jamie. She goes downstairs to address her neighbors.

Jocasta does her best to reassure the angry mob that justice will be served.

Shades of Colum

As unlike Jamie as murder is, he makes a split-second decision that Claire should poison Rufus, killing him before they deliver his body to the mob. That way, he won’t suffer. Claire reluctantly agrees. As Jocasta desperately tries to hold her neighbors at bay, Claire spends long moments talking to Rufus (Jeez, Claire, hurry up!) and he passes away just as the clock strikes midnight. As the mob starts shouting and more glass shatters downstairs, Claire and Jamie take a long moment to pray over Rufus’ body.

Praying over Rufus.

Jamie somberly lays Rufus’ lifeless body on the front steps of River Run, and the men snatch him up and tie a noose around his neck. “String him up!” They shout, as the household watches in horror from the porch. The men hardly seem to notice that he is already dead; so bent are they in seeing him broken.

Delivering Rufus unto evil.

Stray Observations:

  • I loved Claire’s WW2 nurse persona coming out during crisis, then her surgical skills shining with Rufus. On the way to the overseer, she leapt out of the wagon and barked “I’m the healer. Where is the injured man?” I love an assertive woman.
  • Jamie’s prayer over Rufus appears to be a variation on the sacred Celtic Rann Romh Urnuigh, or “Rune Before Prayer”, traditionally done as a hymn before praying, alone by the sea. Jamie’s version: “I’m bending my knee in the eye of the father who created me. Pour down from heaven the rich blessing of thy forgiveness. Be thou patient wi’ us. Grant to us, thou savior of glory, the love of God…and the will to do on earth, at all times, as angels and saints do in Heaven. Give us thy peace.” Traditional version:


Join us next week for Episode 3, “The False Bride.”

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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