Jamie and Claire are back in action, and our Outlander Roundtable had things to say about episode 4×01
It’s been a long time since we’ve been with our friends Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe)! When we last saw them they had washed up on a beach on the shores of the good old United States of America. What are they up to this season? Turns out quite a bit. We catch up with our intrepid travelers in North Carolina attending to a hanging. Maybe not the most uplifting beginning but that’s where we are! Poor Hayes has killed someone and been caught. Jamie is all for a jailbreak but Hayes is resigned. Someone who isn’t quite as resigned? Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speelers), convicted pirate. And he manages to escape in the confusion after another prisoner isn’t quite resigned to die either.
After a rousing pub sendoff for Hayes, Young Ian (John Bell) starts having flashbacks to his sexual assault at the hands of Geillis Duncan. His Uncle Jamie has experience with that and is able to be there for him in a touching scene. After the gang buries Hayes they run into the pirate Stephen Bonnet again and Claire and Jamie help him escape.
Claire and Jamie get some alone time in the woods before making a plan to sell a gem to finance their travels. They’re able to do a little politicking as well as Jamie makes the Governor’s acquaintance. Even Fergus (Cesar Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle) have great news: They’re going to be parents! But despite all that good news we knew the other shoe was going to drop. Remember that escaped pirate that Claire and Jamie helped? He’s back and showing his gratitude for his life by robbing our heroes blind. Whatever happened to hospitality?
Let’s see what our roundtable had to say!
Carole (@cbraunnj) – Costumer, teacher, admin for Outlander Forever. She makes use of her excessive tv watching by being an obsessive knitter.
Heather (@taterbug160) – Came for the tea. And Rollo.
Radha (@BaaderLander) – I watch Jamie and Claire for the articles. Talk Outlander to me on Twitter!
1) Wow it was a packed premiere and there were so many book homages readers should be happy. Let’s just get your overall impressions of the first episode now that the droughtlander is officially over!!!
Carole (@cbraunnj) – We really are back! Yay! I really thought this was an excellent start to the season. A first episode where various threads of the previous season need to be picked up and launched into a new one can be tough, but I believe we are going to be enjoying the trials and tribulations of our Frasers this season
Dee (@OL_America) – My overall impression of Episode 4×01 is that it did not disappoint. Having seen the episode first at NYCC and then at the Savannah premiere, I like it more each time and see something new that I missed before. The acting was spot on in every case, and what an exciting, although heart wrenching, cliff hanger for Episode 4×02!
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – It’s a good start! Not my favorite Outlander premiere but I’m happy to have the gang back and oh to hear that theme song again!
Heather (@taterbug160) – Though probably my least favorite of all the premieres so far, I understand that there is a lot of plot to set up for this very expansive season, especially if they follow the book. Because of that, the pacing this episode seemed to suffer. There were some parts I loved – the moment between Young Ian and Jamie at the graveyard, many tender moments between Jamie and Claire, introductions of new baddies. Overall a lot of buildup with a cliff hanger ending on whats to come, and I’m excited to see what’s next, because I know there is so much good stuff ahead!
Radha (@BaaderLander) – It’s hard to be totally objective, isn’t it? If you, like me, spent a lot of mental energy over the last nine months on scraps of anything Outlander-related, it was fantastic to have some quality time with these characters again. They lost none of their warmth, energy, and charm in the shipwreck and it’s so comforting to spend an hour in the company of familiar people.
2) Jamie and Claire together again, and it feels so good. But first there’s the hanging of a friend to get through. It was an emotional start to season 4.
Carole (@cbraunnj) – Well Hayes, it was good to know you. But we have circled around to the rest of the party and it seems that they weren’t that emotionally attached to him, except for Lesley.
Dee (@OL_America) – The death of Hayes was a tragic loss, especially for Jamie and Lesley. Jamie fulfilling Hayes’ last request to smile at him at his hanging was heartbreaking. Singing the lament in the pub was also sad. By the way, Sam was not an awful singer. Unlike Jamie, he did not seem to be tone deaf. Hearing Sam sing was actually fun, though the scene was sad. That was a nice surprise.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – I think the opening and ending of the episode book ends the the theme of danger and uncertainty in a new land full of promise.
Heather (@taterbug160) – It was indeed but besides the obvious lack of heat of humidity the south has in abundance, the hanging scene played out exactly how I expected. My heart definitely felt a twinge when Jamie had to honor his promise and smile as his friend took his last breaths on earth.
Radha (@BaaderLander) – Oh Gavin Hayes, why are you always imperiling yourself? Only this time, Hayes claims a simple dignity in the truth of his actions and spares Jamie the danger of bailing him out, only wishing to share a dram and lean on his support at the gallows. It makes the sight of his dead face a jarring beat before the cut to the opening credits. Lesley also gets an endearing character moment leading the tavern in a Gaelic lament for Hayes. It hurts to lose a bit of your homeland but you can try to keep memories alive in new places.
3) It was our first time meeting Ed Speelers as Stephen Bonnett. What were your first impressions of the pirate, and what you thought of Ed?
Carole (@cbraunnj) – It seemed as those he was a very mild sort of criminal, which was the reason why everyone let their guard down. But boy, were we shown the real Bonnet! Ed Speelers is showing he’s a worthy villain.
Dee (@OL_America) – Ed Speleers is a great Stephen Bonnet (bastard!). Book readers knew what was coming, and I found myself want to shout, “Kill the bastard, Jamie!” The fact that Ed made us hate Bonnet so is a testament to his acting skills. That was a great casting call.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – He’s such a charmer! Must be the Irish accent. Nothing good ever comes from Jamie being nice and not letting someone die! Ed might be fun to watch and see how bad he truly is.
Heather (@taterbug160) – My first impressions of Stephen Bonnett were so different upon viewing the TV episode than they were to the book, which took me for a spin. Diana [Gabaldon] always left an opening for some kind of attraction to him, some tiny little bit of sympathy so that you can relate to another characters own sympathy for him later on. I always kind of figured him for the sexy pirate that did bad things because he just didn’t know any better, but still had some sort of endearing qualities. Unfortunately in the show, there is none of that. He’s starts off mildly annoying and sardonic, and then turns full blown evil and unlikeable. I think Ed does a fine job, but he’s not at all like I had made him out in manner or likeness in my head. That said, I’ll reserve judgement fully for later episodes.
Radha (@BaaderLander) – I’m a book reader, so… yeah. I have words about Stephen Bonnet and they all rhyme with duck you. But, the cheese stands alone and so must the show and it’s a credit to Ed Speelers that I was charmed by his sly, amused interpretation of Bonnet even as I was revolted by what I know him to be.
4) Poor Young Ian. He didn’t have such a great time this episode, but at least he had a friend! Talk to us about the graveyard and Ian’s new friend Rollo.
Carole (@cbraunnj) – Young Ian has a case of PTSD. Gellis did a real number to the Wee Lad. Good thing he has Uncle Jamie to talk to, who has his own fair share of trauma. As for Rollo, all I can say is, Can we keep him? He’s gorgeous!
Dee (@OL_America) – Rollo is a great animal character in the books, and I was anxious to see him brought to life on the show. He did not disappoint. The graveyard scene with Ian and Jamie highlighted Ian’s PTSD resulting from his capture and rape by Geillis. Fortunately for Ian, his Uncle Jamie had experienced PTSD from his torture and rape by Black Jack Randall and offered him some sage advice. “When it comes down to it, your cock doesna’ have a conscience, but you have. It’s not your fault lad. You did what you must and survived. That’s all that matters.”
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – I really enjoyed John Bell’s performance in that scene. It was heart felt and another example of Outlander not shying away from sexual violence even if it’s amongst men. Rollo seems less vicious than in the books but I can’t wait to see their relationship unfold.
Heather (@taterbug160) – I LOVE Young Ian. The scene with he and Jamie was lovely and touching, and a good reminder of all Ian has gone through and how resilient he is. Rollo is such a wonderful new addition to the show, and though he’s definitely a softer, cuddlier, and squishier version than the one in the book, he’ll be a fan favorite without much effort at all. He’s just lovely, and you can’t help but love him!
Radha (@BaaderLander) – Young Ian and Jamie’s scene in the graveyard was my favorite bit of acting in the episode. If you’ll allow a moment of armchair psych, boys and men get hurt and taken advantage of and traumatized like anyone else. A person in pain deserves comfort and help to unburden themselves and this is exactly what Jamie does for Ian. Outlander has moments that I’ve never seen on screen before and this kind, sensitive exchange was one of them.
5) Claire and Jamie got some alone time in the woods of North Carolina. Were you here for this, or were you obsessing about how many bug bites they would be getting outdoors in the mountains in North Carolina?
Carole (@cbraunnj) – I frankly wasn’t thinking at all about the pesky mosquitoes, I figured all the dirt from the grave digging would keep away most bugs. It was an intimate scene but not a sexy one. There was more of the heart to heart than the heat.
Dee (@OL_America) – Oh, I was there for the Jamie and Claire’s mountain love scene. We can’t be distracted by unnecessary worries about real life situations like mountain bugs and insects (or worse) when the heroine of your story is a time-traveling, wise woman, white witch, “Old One,” or one of the “Wee Folk” faeries now, can we?
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – I think Stephen Bonnet was watching them behind some trees.
Heather (@taterbug160) – Are you kidding, it’s about to be a a cold damp winter here in (actual) NC, and I’ll take all the heat I can get! And since they seemed to have forgotten the weather in NC completely, I doubt there are any bugs to worry about, much less the mosquitos the size of house cats we get around here! (Besides, bugs don’t really go for Claire in the past anyway.)
Radha (@BaaderLander) – You’re kidding, right? I’m here for this, I’m always here for this, and can someone please make a gif of the shirtless Jamie and shift-y Claire scenes on the show? Side note: Shirtless and Shifty are definitely a comical bandit pair just waiting for a cartoonist. You’re welcome.
6) Jamie and Claire have decided to stay in North Carolina! They’ve sold the ruby and now they’re embroiled into some complicated maneuvering with Governor Tryon. They just can’t seem to stay out of trouble! How was the politicking in this episode for you?
Carole (@cbraunnj) – I felt the political was just touched on, it wasn’t delved in too deeply here. I think another conversation is going to have to happen with the Governor to get into the meat of the politics of the time.
Dee (@OL_America) – Jamie and Claire always seem to be involved in some political scheme or issue, but knowing what is coming in eight years, Jamie and Claire may have to navigate with caution. Regardless of the political intrigue at hand, they have a way of effortlessly rubbing elbows with very powerful people.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – I glazed over just enough to hear “King” “land” “offer” “wrong side of history”.
Heather (@taterbug160) – No matter what, they know how to find trouble. Claire could give Jamie all the warnings of the worst war there ever was and with all his warrior optimism he would he would still storm ahead armed with only those big muscles to try and save the day. It’s kind of maddening, really. But don’t say she didn’t warn you.
Radha (@BaaderLander) – For a penniless couple in middle age trying to create a home, support an extended family, and build a legacy in a new country, one probably couldn’t do better than Governor Tryon’s offer of land, even if the price is loyalty to an enemy country destined to lose the coming war. Anyway, war is a crucible in which loyalties can be reforged. The politicking has only just begun.
7) THAT ENDING. Where do we start? The music? The absence of sound EXCEPT for the music? How about Bonnet stealing Claire’s key ring instead of the more valuable gold one??
Carole (@cbraunnj) – That entire scene was incredible! The overlay of The Song instead of dialogue was a brilliant touch. Jamie and Claire have their American Dream come crashing down on them. A man they helped turns on them to be a crazed criminal. Jamie loses another of his Ardsmuir men, so he is no longer MacDubh. As for Bonnet stealing the key ring instead of the gold band, there could be a couple of reasons. It was the first one Claire coughed up. Or he recognizes it as a more of a ring of his time period, and not a smooth shiny one, which is more consistent of a later time period. But wow, bring on episode 402!
Dee (@OL_America) – The ending was moving at the very least. About Jamie’s ring, in an interview when questioned about this decision Ron Moore explained that decision to divert from the book was because a plain gold band, like the one Frank gave Claire, would be harder in the future to identify as special and belonging to Claire (trying to avoid spoilers here), whereas Jamie’s ring is quite unique and more easily identifiable as Claire’s. For me, that was an acceptable explanation. The visuals have to make sense in the show more so than the books.
In terms of the music, as always Bear McCreary’s genus is obvious. He always adapts the theme to the cultural geography of the setting, and in this case he includes a banjo and slightly twangy vocals. The first time I viewed the episode, I was almost distracted and taken out of the scene by “America the Beautiful.” It was a surprise, considering what was happening in the final scene. After reading the producers’ reasoning behind their choice (“juxtaposition”), my opinion hasn’t changed. I like the song itself and the muted sounds but would have preferred not to have a modern song in an early colonial setting, regardless of the circumstances. However, that musical choice is not a deal-breaker for me. I still loved the episode!!!!!!
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander) – I really loved the choice of music and felt it was powerful then hearing the actor’s dialogue. The theme of inevitable danger was felt. I think the gold one should’ve been taken but now it might be a source of tension between Jamie and Claire i.e. a reminder of that “other” marriage.
Heather (@taterbug160) – Ah yes, the ending. I loved the absence of dialog – I think it really heightened the sense of what was happening. Unfortunately I found the song they used to be misplaced and terribly distracting. I think they could have been better served with a different kind of written score, rather than an iconic song such as it was. As for the ring, it’s a plot twist and we’ll have to see how it plays out in the future. But we can all agree that with sound or no, Caitriona Balfe is exceptional in this scene.
Radha (@BaaderLander) – I re-watched the scene with no sound — it’s incredibly effective in the absence of dialogue. Caitriona Balfe anchored the sequence with Claire’s palpable terror. I’d be curious to hear the original version of the score — an instrumental version of America the Beautiful — to contrast the action because the Ray Charles vocal jarred me out of the horror. Consider how the plaintive Walk off the Earth cover of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall supported the end of 3×04 so beautifully, partially because the audio wasn’t so iconic. Here, the lyrics and Charles’s voice were so familiar they distracted me from the action and ultimately the story. I respect a bold creative choice, this one just didn’t work for me.
Final Verdict: Outlander is back and though not all of us were sold on the ending, our fan roundtable was (mostly) sold on Ed Speelers!
A rollicking good time was had by most in this week’s Outlander premiere! While not our fan panel’s favorite premiere most agreed it was a solid episode. And of course everyone is delighted to be watching Outlander once more! We met some new bad guys and welcomed back old friends. But even though everyone is excited the show is back there were some things that received mixed reviews.
Our panel is split right down the middle over the controversial use of Ray Charles’ America the Beautiful. Some of our roundtable were pulled from the moment but some were able to be drawn in further. Everyone really loved the lack of dialogue over some really wonderful acting by Caitriona Balfe.
Ed Speelers made quite the impression as the big bad in this episode! Will he prove to be a worthy villain for the rest of the season? After he nabbed that ring it definitely didn’t seem like it was over by a long shot between him and Jamie and Claire. And speaking of the ring, it appears not to have been an issue for our fan roundtable! (Wish we could say the same for us!)
For all the politics and action in this episode our fan roundtable is here for the relationships and the characters above all else! Nothing but high praise for Jamie and Claire scenes even when they’re just talking politics. And despite this author trying to goad them into thinking about mosquitoes it appears not to have worked!
Next stop: Jamie and Claire arrive in River Run! It’s an episode sure to tackle some hot button issues, and we’ll be here for it!