**Trigger warning/Spoiler warning: sexual violence**
Since the beginning of season four of Outlander I’ve been dreading one very specific scene. When Stephen Bonnet rapes Brianna we’re spared from actually seeing the attack, but we hear it, and we see everyone else doing nothing. In a pub full of people, men and women alike, the most anyone does for the screaming, crying woman begging for help in the back room, is move her discarded boots out of the way. The scene managed to be somehow more heartbreaking than either the book’s description of the attack, or than seeing the action itself.
Now, there’s a lot of other action in the episode, and I’ll touch on that as well, but the juxtaposition of Brianna and Roger’s reunion, handfasting, and love-making with the near immediate attack is stark. After, judging by hair length, weeks of searching for Bree and sailing across the ocean, Roger is damn near at his wit’s end when a chance encounter leads him to Brianna. The two hug and talk and take it outside where they begin to bicker, because together the two have the emotional maturity of my kindergartener combined. Bree tells Roger he isn’t supposed to be there, and Roger is like “um… yeah I know you didn’t want me to know for a year but maybe don’t trust your secrets to random innkeepers?” Roger’s pissed that Bree didn’t call and tell him what the fuck she was up to, and Bree counters with “Well I love you and can’t make words work!” Roger, finally pulling his head out of his own ass, then grabs Brianna, pulling her into an alleyway to make out. What will become a pretty important little tidbit of information, however, is the fact that Lizzie, Bree’s servant, has seen all of this from inside. She hasn’t heard anything, mind you, but she sees Roger and Bree’s wild arm-flailing and Roger dragging Bree off behind him.
Once they’re alone, the two start pawing at each other and smooching around when Bree tells Roger to stop. She reminds him of the fight they had at the festival and the fact that Roger told Bree he’d have all of her, or none at all, and Bree’s understandable reaction of “I don’t know if I’m ready to give all of me to anyone yet.” She asks him now if he’s changed his mind, and he says no. He still loves her and wants to marry her, which works out, since Bree tells Roger that she’s changed her mind and wants to marry him, after all. It’s a lot sweeter watching them say it, though. Roger tells Bree about handfasting, an old custom of a year and one day long marriage trial run that I think we should adopt today. Bree agrees and the two marry themselves. Once they are handfast, the two get right down to the consummation. They take their time exploring and Roger proves himself a good husband by trying to make Brianna’s first time as good as possible. Beforehand he checks again with her, telling her “If I take you now, it’s for always.” Bree enthusiastically says yes and Roger.. Takes her? Again, better to just watch.
In the post-coital glow, Brianna asks if she did it right, and Roger assures her that yes, she very much did. They talk and Roger accidentally lets it slip that he has known about the obituary that led them to 200 years in the past and kept it from Bree. This might be the shortest honeymoon phase ever as Bree, in all her hot-headed temper, flies off the handle. Roger tells her that he figured Claire had been dead for 200 years either way, and didn’t want to hurt Bree, and Bree insists that it was just so she wouldn’t “be sad” and marry him which, I feel like there are easier ways. Eventually the two get to the “Well maybe I should just go!” “Well maybe you SHOULD!” part of all super mature fights (Always, right Roger?), and when Bree calls Roger on his bluff (or honestly just wants him to go), Roger leaves. He leaves his wife alone at night in the 18th century. I mean, I know Brianna is a strong, capable woman, and they’re from the 1970s and all, but it’s tough to justify that. But he does. And I’m 100% sure he’ll regret that split second decision.
Once Roger leaves, Brianna collects both herself and her things, and goes to a pub. A pub where of course Stephen Bonnet is playing cards. He’s losing and grabs Bree, asking her to blow on his ring for luck. Except it’s not his ring. Bree recognizes Claire’s wedding ring and asks Bonnet about it and Claire. Bonnet tells her he doesn’t know where she is, but that she was alive when he left her, which, fair. Traumatized and robbed, but alive. Brianna asks how much he wants for it, and he tells her to come along to the back with him. Bonnet tells her that he has plenty of money and maybe there’s something else they can work out. Before Bree can get away, she’s smacked by Bonnet, and dragged back into the room, with neither boots nor allies. Bonnet closes the door and we stay in the main area while Bree screams for help. It’s intensely powerful and strong commentary when we see everyone in the pub, though slightly subdued, carry on with their lives while a woman is brutalized feet away. Someone stumbles over Bree’s boots and sets them to the side, some men quietly chuckle, and other play cards, all to the soundtrack of Brianna’s sobs and screams.
When he’s done, Bonnet insults Brianna’s lack of enthusiasm (“I’ve had livelier rides”) and gives her Claire’s ring, since he’s such an honest man and all, and tells Bree to give Claire his regards. Brianna, bloodied, once again collects herself and leaves. Outlander, more than most shows, has handled rape scenes with care and the seriousness they deserve. I’m not a fan of using rape to move forward plots or “develope characters,” but I understand that sexual assault is something that happens much too often, and to pretend it doesn’t is nearly as bad as it’s overuse. As someone who has read the books and understands why certain things have to happen, I nevertheless appreciate and can tell how thoughtful the writing staff at Outlander are when dealing with sensitive subjects.
Meanwhile, in the B-plot: Jamie and Claire are in Wilmington, too, but they were
summoned invited to see a play with Governor Tryon. The two visit Fergus and Marsali (and Germain, their new son!) while in town. While at the theater, the two meet a man named Fanning, who has a protuberance and somehow isn’t freaking out, and none other than Colonel Washington, himself! One of my favorite things about Outlander is the (usually awkward or funny) brush ups the Frasers have with famous historical figures).
Claire makes an adorably awkward comment about cherry trees, and when they’re alone, tells Jamie a bit about America’s father. They head in to the play (where, apparently people used to MST3K the whole thing and add commentary during the show) and Tryon, who has been bitching about the insurgents who don’t want him to build his palace, tells Jamie and a few others that he’s set up a trap for the robbers that are lying in wait. He has a spy within the Regulators and is excited to capture their leader, Murtagh. Jamie, understandably concerned about his Godfather, decides the best distraction is to “accidentally” hit Fanning’s aching stomach. He screams in pain, the play stops, and Clare straight up performs surgery in the middle of the lobby while Jamie sneaks out to get a warning out to Murtagh, who is also in Wilmington, waiting to reclaim some taxes.
When Claire is finished with her only-rum-for-anesthesia surgery, Jamie is back, Washington is gone, and later on, Tryon is pissed that his trap was foiled. A fellow cohort blames Washington, since he snuck out in the commotion, and Jamie lets him.
I don’t have a lot more to say on last night’s episode. It’s tough to watch Brianna go from such a high to such a low in one night, and it’s somehow worse, knowing that her parents are in the same city she is, unaware and unable to help her. It was a good episode, but it’s hard to say I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t call it filler, since so much that happens is important, but I view it more as a hurdle to get over to get to the stuff I want to see: the Fraser family finally united.