Just in time for the holidays, this week’s Outlander gifts us with the reunion we’ve all been waiting for: Brianna’s much-heralded first meeting with her father, Jamie. And what a gingery good job the Starz series does in handling the tentpole moment with tenderness and grace, aye?
Thanks in large part to Sam Heughan and Sophie Skelton’s skill, the seminal moment from Drums of Autumn feels just as fraught and affecting as it does in Diana Gabaldon’s book. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser meets his daughter. Wary skepticism turns to tearful joy. And for a little while, all is right in the world.
And Claire’s reaction to seeing her child again? Well, that’s just the cherry on top of the Sassenach sundae, isn’t it? (To hear what Heughan, Skelton and Caitriona Balfe have to say about the episode, make sure to watch this video.)
Read on for the highlights of “The Birds and the Bees.”
THE MORNING AFTER | Picking up just as the previous episode ends, Brianna limps back to her room, where Lizzie is in bed but not asleep. Bree is in shock from her rape, bleeding from her nose and numbly going through the motions of undressing and washing before bed. “Oh mistress,” Lizzie sighs when she sees her, but Bree doesn’t want to talk about it and tells the younger woman that everything is fine. Lizzie asks if she was with “that man,” and Bree says yes. (This will prove very important later on.) Despite Bree’s protestations, Lizzie tries to help — but when she touches Brianna, the redhead flinches. Her skirts are bloody, her back is scratched up and her hands are shaking, but she orders Lizzie to go back to bed.
Bree gingerly crawls into bed next to Lizzie and turns away from her. “Did he hurt you?” Lizzie whispers, and Bree starts to cry all over again. “You have my hand here, and my ear, if you need it,” Lizzie promises. But Bree merely tells her to go to sleep.
The next morning, Roger shows up at the inn, but the innkeeper tells him that Bree hasn’t been down yet. However, Stephen Bonnett is there, and he makes it clear that Roger is bound to sail with the Gloriana all the way to Philadelphia, or there’ll be trouble. “I have friends in this town. I’d sooner see you lose a lass than lose a limb,” the Irishman threatens when Roger says he wants to stay with Brianna in Wilmington. And when the crewmates surround Roger menacingly, what choice does he have? “Tell the young woman I was here,” he asks the barkeep as he heads out for the ship.
THE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR | By the time Brianna wakes up, it’s afternoon, and Lizzie has washed her clothes. Bree absently tells Lizzie not to exert herself too much, because she’s recently been ill. She’s also adamant that they leave for River Run that day. But when she goes down to the tavern and hears that Roger was there, she runs for the docks in hopes of catching him. Too bad she’s way too late.
As Bree stands near the fish-stinky docks and likely ponders how her life could possibly get worse, Lizzie shows up with an unexpected piece of good news: Thanks to a chatty Scot she met in town, she heard about Claire’s public surgery performance at the theater the night before. That’s right, she tells Bree: Jamie and Claire Fraser are in Wilmington at that very moment! Her recent trauma and heartbreak pushed aside for a moment, Brianna runs to the business where Jamie was last seen.
Indeed, he’s still there… just out back, peeing up against a wall. She approaches him from behind, and when he turns, he wonders what she wants. “You,” she says, leading him to think she’s a prostitute. He chuckles and tells her he’s a married man, attempting to brush by her on his way out to the street. But Bree puts her hand on his arm, and his smile fades. “I mean it. I have a wife,” he protests. She asks if he’s Jamie Fraser, and he grows warier by the minute. “Have you a message for me, lass?” he asks. “My name is Brianna,” she says. “I’m your daughter.”
One of my favorite parts about this hour is watching Jamie’s face transform from being one giant, dubious eyebrow to taking on a wee bit of hope. “Brianna. Is it true?” he whispers, walking slowly toward her. “It’s you?” She says it is, adding, “Can’t you tell?” I’m not sure exactly how Heughan keeps so many unshed tears in his eyeballs, but the effect is a good one. “Aye,” he continues, still whispering. “Aye, I can.” Oh my goodness he’s turning pink, which is fitting, because I’m turning into a giant pile of mush, watching it happen.
Jamie, who clearly has no idea what’s really going on but also doesn’t want to jinx anything, starts to ramble about how he thought of his daughter as “a wee bairn, always,” even though he knew, rationally, she was grown. Then he reaches out to caress her cheek, and I am 100 percent focused on the beauty of this moment and not at all thinking about how Jamie hasn’t washed his hands since heeding nature’s call and/or about how Purell won’t be invented for another couple centuries. Brianna starts to cry and falls into his arms. Jamie hugs her close and tells her everything will be all right. Then he realizes that she probably hasn’t seen Claire yet. “Christ,” he says, and the little giggle he lets out nearly undoes me, “she’ll be mad wi’ joy.” (Side note: While not word-for-word, the scene’s a rather faithful recreation of what happens in the book, is it not?)
MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION | A while later, Claire exits a shop and hears Jamie call her name. When she turns, Bree and her father are on a nearby bench. Goodness gracious, Balfe absolutely nails Claire’s surprise at seeing her child again, something she thought would never happen. She gapes. She’s speechless. She’s about to cry. Bree runs to her and they hug. It’s glorious.
“We die in a fire?” Claire says sometime later. (Well, that got dark fast, didn’t it?) Obviously, Brianna has filled her parents in about their fate. “Smudged date. Unforgivable mistake by the printer,” Jamie says. I love that he’s just been handed a rough outline of his own mortality, and the thing he’s verra put out about is that the printer didn’t take pride in his work. The three of them are basically like, “Welp, that’s a ways off, anyway,” and then Jamie invites her to stay with them at Fraser’s Ridge. Ian comes over and is introduced to his instant cousin; he takes it in stride. “When it comes to you, Auntie Claire,” he remarks, “I’ve learned it’s better not to ask too many questions.”
On the boat ride back home, Brianna tells her mom about how she is in love with Roger and how they’re handfast, but they fought “and now he’s headed to Scotland and back through the stones.” Thank God for Claire when she asks, “Over one argument?” (Side note: What I find most frustrating about this book is how people who normally act very intelligently, and who naturally are inclined to do a certain amount of fact-checking, go off half-cocked on the regular. I get why — something’s gotta further the story along — but it’s always bugged me a little.) Bree also sees her mother’s new ring and says nothing about being raped; later, Ian fills her in on how Stephen Bonnet and his men robbed them and took Claire’s Lallybroch ring, which he is unaware is now sitting in Brianna’s pocket.
‘WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG, LASS?’ | They all finally arrive home, where Murtagh is waiting for them. He thanks Jamie for helping him evade capture and intimates that he’s dealt with the spy in his group. Then he’s introduced to Brianna. “What took you so long, lass?” he says, smiling. I’ll say it again: I love having Murtagh back. At dinner that night, Bree gets her preliminary education in All Things Fraser. (Side note: I love how Balfe has Claire continually pet Bree, as though she can’t believe she’s actually there and has to touch her to confirm it.)
Murtagh tells a wooooonderful story about how a young Jamie had the hots for one of his cousins until Dougal, the girl’s father, threatened him with testicular torture — a riot, I tell ya! — and then Claire is like, “I met George Washington!” but Bree’s head is somewhere else, and her mother notices. The next morning, while Lizzie is suffering a bout of malaria, Bree tells her mom that Frank knew about the obituary years before. “Frank was an astute man,” Claire says, clearly thrown off her game a little. “He always knew my heart was here.” Brianna adds that she now understands why her mom had to come back. But when Claire pushes her to open up about Roger, Bree shuts it down, fast.
Time passes. Bree and Jamie bond during an all-day hunting trip. She admits that she feels disloyal to Frank for even being there. Jamie confesses that he doesn’t want to replace the man who raised her. During a quiet moment, he puts his arm around her, and honestly, I’m shocked that the father-daughter dynamic is working, given that the actors are only about 14 years apart in age. But it is working. Jamie tells her she can call him “Da.” “Is that Gaelic?” she wonders. “No,” he says kindly, “it’s only simple.”
One night, Claire wakes up to find Jamie fretting. “Must we lose her? I dinna want her to return to her own time, Sassenach,” he says quietly. Claire echoes his regret, but reminds him that it’s safer for her in the 1960s than it is in their time. Jamie nuzzles Claire and sadly notes that he could watch Bree sleep “and never tire of it. She is a gift, from me to you and you to me.”
THE FACTS OF STRIFE | Sometime thereafter, Claire and Bree go to pick herbs, and Claire knows something’s up. “How far along are you?” she asks. Brianna admits that she’s about two months pregnant, and that the baby might not be Roger’s. As Claire is trying to process this information (kudos again to Balfe for the mix of emotions that run across Claire’s face as she does so), Bree looks off into the middle distance and tells her mother about how Bonnet violated her. She starts to fall apart as she says she didn’t fight him. Claire is, of course, horrified. “Oh, my baby,” she croons while Bree sobs and adds that even though Roger did his best to ensure she wouldn’t get pregnant by pulling out, Bonnet wasn’t quite as considerate. Back at the house, Claire breaks the terrible news to Jamie.
MEET THE IN-LAWS | Here’s where it gets even more horrible. Roger, having wrapped his Gloriana stint and made his way back to North Carolina, runs into Ian and Lizzie on their way to the mill. Lizzie freaks out, because she remembers him as having an angry conversation with Bree at the tavern. “It’s him,” she tells Ian — and remember, she doesn’t know about Bonnet and thinks Roger is the one who raped Brianna.
At the same time, Claire is shaking out Brianna’s laundry when she finds her own ring in her daughter’s pocket. “Where did you get this?” she demands, starting to cry when she realizes that Bonnet was the man who hurt Bree. Brianna says she couldn’t tell her because she knew that Claire would feel awful and that Jamie would blame himself for having helped Bonnet escape the gallows way back. “If he knows, he’ll try to find Bonnet, and I can’t let him do that,” Bree says, making her mother promise to keep the secret to herself.
Uh, Bree? Too late. Once Lizzie and Ian run to Jamie and tell him that Bree’s abuser is in the neighborhood, Jamie makes it his duty to end him. Big Red finds Rog along the road, and I swear, Richard Rankin pitches Roger’s voice up an octave as he asks where Fraser’s Ridge is. Jamie says nothing, choosing to let his fists do the talking: He starts punching Roger, hard, and pretty soon there’s a lot of blood. Ian rides up with Rollo and stops Jamie from killing Roger, but only because there are people on the road who might see. So Jamie helps his nephew load an unconscious Roger onto his horse, and the young man asks what he wants to do with the newcomer. “I dinna ken. Just get him out of my sight,” Jamie says, and Ian rides off with his cousin’s half-dead, kinda-husband in tow.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Hit the comments and let us know! And make sure to come back to TVLine Monday morning, where we’ll have a fun behind-the-scenes look at the big reunion!