This week Outlander returns to its time-splitting model of season three, alternating between Claire and Jamie’s story in the past and Roger and Bree’s story in 1970. We open in Inverness where Roger is selling his home to old friends Fiona and Bernie. He’s heading to America to sing at a Scottish festival and catch up with Bree — whom Fiona insists he admit his feelings for.
In the past, Jamie and Claire’s time at River Run has proved to be short-lived. It’s the morning after the incident with Rufus and they are packing up to go. Their current plan is to return Ian to Scotland and continue on to a town with Scottish settlers where Jamie will try to find work as a printer. Jocasta insists he keeps the money she gave him and gives him another more sentimental gift — his mother’s silver candlesticks. Ian makes a solid argument to stay in the colonies and Jamie relents. Ian is a man now, and as such, will write his mother and father to tell them of his plans not to return to Scotland.
Claire’s farewell to Jocasta is not quite as tender as Jamie’s. Jocasta castigates Claire, telling her she’s doing Jamie a disservice by not allowing him the chance to be the man he was born to be — a laird. Claire is allowing him to squander his talents behind a printer’s counter. Claire fiercely defends against the accusations, but silently they seem to hit home. Soon, the trio is on their way, joined by John Quincy Myers, who offers to guide them through the mountains.
Back in the 1970s, Bree picks up Roger at the Boston airport and they hit the road for the Highland festival in North Carolina. Their initial meeting is awkward with Roger going in for a kiss that only ends in an embrace. Sometimes Roger feels more old-fashioned than Jamie even — more on that later. The two warm up to each other as they road-trip together, making jokes about the nonsensical naming of French fries (fair) and playing a round of “The Minister’s Cat.” The game ends with Bree looking at Roger lovingly and nearly causing a car accident when she kisses him while he’s driving. Bree, let Roger keep his eyes (and hands!) on the road!
In the past, Myers drives the wagon of supplies through the forest, explaining to Claire, Jamie, and Ian the history of the land they’re on — how it once belonged to the Tuscarora tribe but is now the land of the Cherokee. He says the Indians do what they can to guard their lands against threats. Jamie takes in the sights of America (the Beautiful) — from purple mountain majesties to a bald eagle. Myers is getting ready to part with them to go trade tobacco for deer skins with the Indians. Ian wants to accompany him, and Myers promises the tribes who trade with the settlers are safe. Ian is apparently entirely his own man now because Jamie also signs off on this.
Claire and Jamie discuss their plans and Jamie wonders if she’d rather go to Boston, a place she’s more familiar with. But she says it will be too dangerous as the city where the American revolution begins — besides, she wants to build a place that is truly their own together. The two ride on without Myers and Ian, discussing Bree’s life back home and what she might have decided to study. Claire talks about Bree and Frank’s bond, musing that there will never be a day when she doesn’t worry about the daughter she left behind. There’s a storm coming, but Jamie stops to deal with shoeing the horses. Claire realizes that Jocasta was right and printing is not where his heart lies. She wants Jamie to be able to enjoy his right to the pursuit of happiness, which means doing something he loves. He says it’s no longer just about him — if he were alone, he’d live as an outlaw. “I would lay the world at your feet Claire, but I have nothing to give you,” he proclaims. The storm starts up and their new mule runs off frightened by thunder and lightning; Claire sets off to find it. Further into the forest, lightning strikes a tree, scaring her horse, who throws her, leaving her unconscious in the woods.
Roger and Bree have arrived at the Scottish festival, admiring Highland dancers kitted out in their tartan and kilts. Roger rocks a kilt (hello, ye beautiful kilts, we Sassenachs have missed ye) and makes viewers long to see Jamie in one again. Bree is surprised by the sheer number of Scots in North Carolina, which makes her wonder about Claire and if she ever found Jamie. She learns some of her father’s traditions, including how to dance a ceilidh. And she has her and Roger’s portrait painted, wearing the clan Mackenzie tartan and calling him her boyfriend. As they explore the festival, she falls harder and harder for Roger. This only increases when she gets to see Roger play onstage later that night — he sings a mournful ballad about loving a lass who has wed another. And in a time-honored tradition, Roger’s folksy guitar-playing skills mesmerize Brianna — no matter the era, it seems being a skilled musician is a sure-fire seduction plan.
Later that night, Roger and Bree kiss goodnight, and before he goes to bed, she gifts him with whiskey and a book about Scottish settlers in colonial America. She invites him in for a nightcap and soon her shirt is flying off to land atop the deer antlers mounted on the wall. The two kiss and it grows more passionate, but Roger stops saying he wants it to be perfect. He gifts Bree a silver bracelet, confessing his love to her and asking her to marry him. Brianna says what we’re all thinking, which is that this is “very fast.” I mean, seriously Roger?! He gives an impassioned, romantic speech about having a long engagement and wanting Bree beside him as a Mackenzie at the calling of the clans the next day. He gets way too intense too fast, talking about their house and their four or five (!!!) kids and a dog. She says she’s not ready, which enrages Roger because he can’t believe a proper Catholic girl (who is still a virgin) wants to have sex with him, but won’t marry him. Remember what I said about him being more old-fashioned than the people in the 18th century? They have a hurtful argument in which he says if he only wanted her body, he would have done it last summer – but he wants more. Insisting Bree doesn’t love him, he leaves the room.
Back in the past, Claire awakes in the dark and stormy night. She takes shelter under a copse of leaves (Jamie is out in the rain searching for her in vain). She takes off her boots and nestling in for the night, finds a skull in her hide-out. Claire studies the skull and the gash mark in its head. She also finds a gemstone buried with the skull, asking it aloud if the rock belongs to it. A figure with a torch approaches, but it’s not Jamie – it’s an Indian, or rather, an Indian ghost that goes in and out with the flashes of lightning. He wears the same gemstone around his neck that Claire holds in her hand and when he turns around, she sees he’s been scalped, mirroring the wounds she traced in the skull.
In 1970, it’s time for the calling of the clans and the burning of the stag. Bree comes to sit beside Roger in the crowd. But she says she can’t marry him — based on her mother’s experience with Frank and Jamie, she’s not even sure if she believes in marriage. Roger gives her an ultimatum — “I love you all or not at all” — totally chill and not emotionally manipulative move, Roger. In response, she gives him back his bracelet, but he insists she keeps it. He stands to participate in the calling of the clans and when he looks back to the stands, Bree is gone.
Claire wakes the next morning to find her boots gone. There are footsteps in the leaves, which she follows to find Jamie sitting near a stream with her horse. He’s thrilled she had the wits to return here, but Claire is confused — she’s never been here before. Jamie is perplexed because he followed her footsteps here and found her boots beside the stream. She tells him about the ghost she saw in the night and shows him the skull — the ghost must’ve used her boots to lead them back to each other. Claire cleans the skull in the stream and notices it has a silver filling in its mouth — an invention 100 years away. The skull belonged to another like her — someone able to travel through time. Claire wonders who the man might have been.
Continuing on their journey, Claire and Jamie come upon a patch of strawberries. He explains that it’s the emblem of the Fraser clan as they enjoy the sweet fruit and take in the view. Jamie declares it the most beautiful land he’s ever seen and starts musing about how the meadow would be good for animals, the practicality of being near the river, and more. Claire teases that he’s in love with the land and he puts forth the notion of accepting the Governor’s offer to settle there. He’s dreamt of having a home with Claire, a place of their own. She pledges her eternal trust to him, and Jamie declares, “Then this will be our home, and we’ll call it Fraser’s Ridge.”
So there you have it Sassenachs, Claire and Jamie are well on their way to truly becoming Americans (or at least colonists), while Bree and Roger seem to be at an intractable crossroads. What do you think? Was Roger being too old-fashioned? Or should Bree have been more amenable to things? Book lovers — what are your thoughts on how huge a chunk of Jamie and Claire’s time at River Run was excised from the story? Sound off in the comments below or hit me @themaureenlee on Twitter.