Finding their own place to be is the aim of both Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Catriona Balfe) as in Episode 3 of Season 4 of Starz Outlander, they set out from his aunt’s estate River Run, where living their life on a working slave plantation for them both has become an impossible prospect.
Jamie and Claire have a long journey in front of them across the gloriously forested landscape of North Carolina, where autumn has bathed the countryside in glorious red and gold leaves, starkly contrasting against the rich green that’s everywhere.
Despite the beauty all around them, they are both constantly aware nature can beguile them into thinking all is right in the world, before throwing down a clap of lightning and a thunderbolt. to help keep them grounded.
Coming back to reality in 1970, we once again visit their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) who is expecting after a long time, a visitor from Scotland, her friend Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin).
He is coming to North Carolina to play music at the local Scottish Festival. While she’s only hoping to enjoy a happy weekend getting to know each other again, he has another idea, one that may just tear them both apart.
Don’t Read Any More If You Don’t Want Spoilers.
Saying goodbye to Jamie’s aunt Jocasta Cameron (Maria Doyle Kennedy) at River Run for both Jamie and Claire is a painful affair, anxious as they are to set out to find the place where they can begin their new life together.
The exchange between Claire and Jocasta as they say goodbye is particularly vitriolic, causing us to doubt Claire’s renowned capacity for forgiveness
Accompanying them on their journey into the unknown is John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees), a friend of Aunt Jocasta’s. He knows the way through the mountains and has promised to guide them on their way.
Jamie’s nephew Ian (Steven Cree) and his wondrous wolf styled dog will be going too, following on from he and Jamie discussing his future.
Jamie wanted to send his charge back to Scotland because he promised his mother. However, Ian has other ideas. Having had a taste of freedom and very hard experiences since he was kidnapped by pirates, he’s gone from being a scrap of a lad to a man older than his years.
He convinces Jamie how he’s hoping to find so much more in this extraordinary land of hope and promise, America. Ian’s now aware how very different it is from life back home where the English have a stranglehold on his country and people.
But is America as free as he imagines… having just been on a glamorous southern plantation that also kept human slaves, it’s hard to figure where his head is at.
There are many painful moments in this episode I would have happily seen deleted, or indeed rewritten, because it often seems our characters author has lost the way and her plot, with the scriptwriters condemned to follow.
Ian goes off with Myers on a side adventure while Jamie and Claire push on forward deeper into the forest. Claire chasing their frightened bolting mule, loses her way in the forest during a raging thunderstorm.
Sheltering in the undergrowth until daylight, she finds a skull, the owner of which Otter Tooth (Trevor Carroll) appears as a spirit to light her way back to Jamie by walking in her shoes. She has to follow in stockinged feet.
While giving the skull and herself a wash in a nearby stream she discovers it has silver fillings in the teeth, which is particularly spooky.
It means to Claire the skull may belong to another time traveller like herself, someone who may or may not play a part in the ongoing story of the parcel of land they now find themselves considering as their future home; Fraser’s Ridge.
Jamie and Claire seemed to have both gained a few double standards in this episode; firstly, knowing it is land belonging to the Cherokee they are preparing to stake out a claim is as difficult as listening to her denouncing slavery, while one takes up the hem of her dress.
Back at the Scottish festival taking place in North Carolina, Brianna and Roger are also in deep trouble. Up until now Frank has been the only person to know about Brianna’s history; about Claire, her marriage to Frank Randall and how the object of his affection’s mother time travels.
His black and white attitude to the woman he professes to love while old fashioned, is one certainly still prevalent during the 1970’s, as is his desire to marry a virgin. Although they will not be attitudes easily understood or admired by the present generation.
After so briefly getting to know him, we gain the sense it’s perhaps time Roger moves on, allowing Brianna to find her real soul mate somewhere else; he’s certainly not a Jamie for us to admire and love!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018