I’m always a bit less interested in Outlander episodes when Jamie and Claire aren’t in them and together. It’s no secret that a huge amount of the success of the show is thanks to the chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, and so much of what I found frustrating about last season was how long it took for them to finally share a screen again. “Down the Rabbit Hole” was a pleasant surprise, however, in that I didn’t miss seeing Mr. & Mrs. Fraser at all. There is a lot of ground to cover if Outlander is going to try and adapt the behemoth that is the fourth book in the series in just one season. I personally hope it’ll be spread a bit through next season, as well, since the fifth book is my least favorite and most (in my opinion) skewed in the quantity over quality of writing.
The seventh episode begins with and follows Brianna as she travels back to the 1770s to find and warn her parents about their imminent death by fire. I’m glad Sophie Skelton is finally comfortable playing Bree, because none of the complaints I had last year seem to apply anymore. One interesting thing I’ve found is, for all the work and preparation Claire did (and Bree helped with) to go back in time, Bree did none of it. Craigh Na Dun isn’t really near anything, it’s winter, and Bree is ill-prepared to walk miles in the Scottish Highlands. This is proven fairly early as, in her excitement, she stumbles and twists her ankle. Clearly the child of two stubborn and determined people, however, Brianna hobbles as far as she can before camping out with her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and match lit fire (say what you will, lighting a fire with one match is impressive AF). While watching this, I was struck by how young Brianna is. I mean, she packed a PB&J to travel through time as if she was going on a field trip.
Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, we see a beardless Roger (holy shit) and Fiona head to the stones. Roger is a bit better prepared than Bree (he has a compass and some money), but you can still tell that neither Bree nor Roger have any earthly idea what they’re getting into. With a quick hug and an “I hope time travel is real!” Roger also heads through the stones. Yeah family reunion!!
Of course it’s not that easy for anyone. Brianna, still hobbling and in pain, sees a house in the distance and walks as far as she can before collapsing. One exciting thing about seeing more of Brianna is that we’ll likely get to see more Frank (or more to the point: Tobias Menzies). So much of Brianna’s journey is influenced by her dad that the episode is often told in flashbacks. We see Frank carry a young Bree out of the car, and see that same little girl cover her ears while her parents fought. Claire isn’t looking back anymore, but Frank was so instrumental in shaping who Brianna is, I’m hoping to get to see more of these moments in the future.
Bree wakes up in a bed, rather than frozen on the side of the road, and who should be there nursing her back to health but Laoghaire, the nutbar!? She doesn’t seem crazy, however, and Brianna is grateful to her for saving her. It’s interesting to see who Laoghaire would be to someone whom she doesn’t blame for the situation in life she’s found herself. Laoghaire is warm and caring as she feeds Bree and tells her about her daughters, Joan (to whom Bree is introduced) and Marsali, who is now married in North Carolina. Bree’s ignorance is shown a little again as she tells Laoghaire in her very American accent that she’s from England and was hoping to “catch a ride” to a port town in order to board a ship for America. Later that evening while Bree is in bed, we hear Laoghaire and Ian Murray (of the Lallybroch Murrays) arguing over Laoghaire’s ex husband not being able to give her the alimony he owes. It’s interesting to hear, and I can’t help but feel for Laoghaire a bit. We know all that transpired to keep Jamie from sending Laoghaire the money he promised her, but she doesn’t know that. Laoghaire and her daughter are eating pigeons, and as far as she’s concerned, her husband ran off with another woman, leaving her destitute. Bree interrupts them and meets Ian briefly, but neither knows who the other is.
The next morning, Bree helps in the garden (and is more appropriately dressed). Joanie tells her more about her Da leaving and how it broke her mother’s heart, and Laoghaire talks some shit about her lout of an ex. We see another memory for Bree, this time of an argument with Frank at his office. He’s been drinking and she doesn’t understand why. She glances at a piece of paper and we see it’s the obituary that will ultimately lead her to the past. It’s clear Frank has just read it and saw Claire’s name. Bree doesn’t know the significance yet, and Frank can’t bring himself to try and begin explaining.
Back in the present, Laoghaire tells Bree more about the life and love story she imagined having with Jamie. The fact that he kissed her a few times and took a beating for her taking on much more significance for Laoghaire than it ever did for Jamie. It’s sad to hear until Laoghaire starts talking about the “witch” who took him away. Turns out Murtagh was right: Laoghaire will always be a girl rather than a woman. The next morning while Bree fixes a cupboard for her hostess, it comes out that they’re near Lallybroch. Bree excitedly tells Laoghaire that her mother’s family is from there, and then all the cards come crashing down. Laoghaire learns that Bree is Claire and Jamie’s daughter, and her whole demeanor changes. Bree doesn’t yet see it, however, because she’s in another memory with Frank, this time having tea while he asks about whether she’s ever thought of studying abroad. She’s brought back to reality, however, when Laoghaire tells her about the rumors heard around about Jamie and how he never wanted children, so he turned Bree away. Ahh there’s the embittered bitch I remember! Bree seems to almost believe it, but then mentions that, regardless of whether or not Jamie wants to see her, she has to find them to save them. Now we see the Real Laoghaire as she starts getting pissed about the possible loss of alimony and the puzzle pieces come together for Bree. Brianna knows that Laoghaire is the woman who tried to get between her parents, and she knows Laoghaire tried to have Claire burned for witchcraft. Laoghaire as much as tells her so before locking her in her room, off to get the daughter arrested, as well.
While trying to escape, Bree remembers the last conversation (or confrontation) she had with her dad. He beckons her to his car and asks her to go with him to Cambridge, telling her of the divorce. Bree, like all kids, gets upset and is blindsided by the end of her parent’s marriage. Brianna, upset, leaves and doesn’t tell her dad she loves him, too. It’s clearly a regret she’ll be holding onto forever.
Lest we forget, Roger is also looking for passage to the new world, and I’m not sure who has the worse luck, since he manages to finagle and annoy his way into a job as a crew member on none other than Stephen Bonnet’s ship. Bonnet tells him no several times, but after Roger just starts loading the ship and Bonnet flips a coin, the job is his. While working, Roger meets the passengers, most notably a little girl and a woman with a young fussy baby. It’s creepy to see Bonnet take the infant (because we know he’s a monster), but he quiets her and all seems okay. Feeding teething babies rum wasn’t uncommon.
Later that night, Roger is woken by the sounds of screams, and when he gets to the Captain’s quarters, we see the same little girl screaming with her mother. Turns out he girl might have smallpox, and so Bonnet is going to throw her overboard to try and keep the disease from spreading. Is it awful? Absolutely. Is it exactly the kind of logic Bonnet (and many others) would use? You betcha. If I’m being honest, even I can see the logic, and if I didn’t already know that Stephen Bonnet is a villain, I could easily twist this into a horrible sacrifice made to save the other lives onboard. But, we all saw what happened to the ships in season two when they came to port with smallpox (the ship and all its contents burned), and we do know who Stephen Bonnet is. Roger refuses to be the one to chuck the seven year old out the window, so Bonnet does it himself, while the little girl’s mother flings herself into the ocean after her. Bonnet orders his crew to bring any other passengers with a rash to him to determine the spread, and when Roger finds the young mother and her baby, he agrees to hide them. The baby has a rash, but it’s more the “teething dirty infant” kind of rash than the “deadly infectious disease” kind. The woman introduces herself as Morag Mackenzie and Roger replies that he’s a Mackenzie, too.
A ship doesn’t have too many places to hide, however, and soon enough Morag and her baby are discovered, with Roger. Bonnet tells Roger of when he was 17 and nearly sacrificed to be buried in the foundation of a house he was helping to build, and how a coin-toss saved his life. Bonnet is clearly pissed, and tells Roger that the same toss of the coin would determine life and death again. Roger is aghast that Bonnet would be so frivolous with the life of a baby, and Bonnet corrects him. Roger is the one who stole the rations, and Morag won’t pay for that. It’s Roger’s life the coin toss is determining. Roger is allowed to live, and I can’t help but think that maybe the dude should just lay low until he can get off at the nearest port. Just keep your damn head down and your 20th century sensibilities to yourself, Roger!
Meanwhile, Brianna finally opens a window just in time for Joanie to open the door and let her out. Joanie brings Bree to Lallybroch and asks her to see if maybe their Da could come home. Poor Joanie. She tells Ian that Bree is Jamie’s daughter and he warmly welcomes her. Ian tells her he’d long given up hope of seeing a child of Jamie’s, and offers her money, clothes, and a ride to town to board a ship. While in town, Ian asks (for an absent Jenny) that Bree ask Young Ian to write his mother more often, and they part ways.
Brianna goes inside to buy her passage when a man begs her to take his daughter along as a servant. He tells her that Elizabeth (he daughter) is in danger of ruination if she stays with him, and Bree (still not understanding the brutality of the time) tells him to just… not let it happen. Eventually she agrees and buys passage for two. When she and Lizzie head to the ship, Bree turns around to see her dad there, silently encouraging her and assuring her that she’s doing the right thing. It’s a bittersweet moment, and especially touching for those who have lost a parent and lost them young.
I gotta say, I absolutely loved this episode. So much was packed into it, but it didn’t feel overstuffed or rushed. I’m so excited that the whole family is in the same time now and I cannot wait for Jamie to see his daughter in person for the first time. It’s one of my favorite moments in the books, and while I’m not looking forward to all the events leading up to it, I’m ready for the Fraser family reunion.