Outlander – Season 4 Episode 9
“The Birds & The Bees”
Outlander finally delivers on the long awaited father/daughter meeting as Brianna deals with the aftermath of what happened to her last week.
Brianna and Jamie’s first meeting has been a long time coming. The fact that they have never met has weighed on both of them as they have only had Claire’s accounts to base an opinion on. It has been particularly tough on Jamie as he has to deal with fathering two children that he could never raise so there’s a lot of regret on his side. Brianna has had to deal with being raised by Frank and later learning that he wasn’t her biological father. Jamie amounts to little more than a man she has heard about in stories who represents someone her mother loved over Frank. It’s complicated and adds so much fuel to their potential interactions.
Their first meeting was really simple and elegantly handled. Coincidence and misunderstanding informs a lot of the plotting on this show and this somewhat facilitates the meeting between Jamie and Brianna. Lizzie ends up finding out about Jamie and Claire’s exploits at the theatre last week entirely by accident which allows Brianna to basically stumble across Jamie when she thought she’d have to go via Jocasta to find him. Finding him so soon isn’t something Brianna was mentally prepared for and this is reflected in the way it comes across. She approaches him and isn’t quite sure how to approach it so doesn’t articulate herself very well which causes Jamie to dismiss her as a woman pursuing him. It makes sense he wouldn’t immediately recognise her as well because he has only seen photographs of her and presumably hasn’t looked at them recently plus he isn’t expecting her to show up. Any sense of familiarity he might be experiencing will be countered by feeling pestered by a stranger.
Once Jamie realises who she is everything about the way he conducts himself changes. It’s such a quietly powerful moment completely nailed by both Sophie Skelton and Sam Heughan. Brianna and Jamie likely never thought they would actually meet so the fact that it is happening sends them both into an almost dreamlike state as they wait for reality to sink in. I liked how little was said in this moment as there’s nothing that could really be said considering all that this meeting represents. For Jamie he gets to meet his daughter and be upfront about the fact that he is her father. For Brianna she finally gets to meet her birth father and consider the implications of that based on how she sees her family at this point in her life.
A good chunk of the episode is focused on Brianna and Jamie making up for lost time to get to know one another. There’s a charming family dinner where Murtagh tells embarrassing stories of Jamie’s youth much to the delight of Ian as well as Brianna. Scenes like this are great because they serve as a reminder that they are a family and there is a history there. Brianna learns a little bit about her heritage as well as her father which is definitely important as this is an entire side of her life she had no idea about. The show has never covered Frank’s side of the family so there’s no real indication of any other family that she might be close to. Come to think of it there’s no real mention of Claire’s side of the family as well so it will be comforting to her to know that she’s part of something much larger than herself that has endured for a long time and will live on through her.
At first there’s an understandable awkwardness between Brianna and Jamie as they try to figure out a baseline for their relationship. Jamie is very cautious around her because he’s worried that he’ll upset her. He senses that she’s dealing with her own emotional issues and is aware of her reading of the Roger situation so treads lightly around her. This is shown through opting not to tell her that “Bree” means “disturbance” in the Scottish language even though it’s not something likely to upset her. His reluctance to tell her what it means clearly shows that he’s not sure how to conduct himself around her and has no idea what she’s really like. Claire calls him out on this and Jamie acts very fatherly in response by pointing out that he doesn’t want to add to any heartache that she happens to be experiencing.
In order to get to know her better he takes her on the hunt for a beehive so that they can eat honey as a family. It serves as an opportunity for them to bond away from the trappings of Fraser’s Ridge and the others who live there. It’s just them and the wilderness so they have the perfect opportunity to talk. It was established earlier in the episode that Jamie is reluctant to bring up Frank around Brianna and that she isn’t sure how to feel about Jamie after having been raised by Frank. Jamie clears the air on this subject and tells her how grateful he is for what Frank did for them. He stood by Claire and raised Brianna as his own even though he didn’t have to do it. As far as Jamie’s concerned he owes Frank a great debt and will never have a bad word to say about him as a result. The “disturbance” meaning of Brianna’s name is appropriate to Jamie because her arrival certainly qualified as one but not all disturbances are bad and Jamie is glad to have her in his life at this point. Brianna isn’t sure what to call Jamie but settles on his suggestion to call her “Da” which seems perfect as it doesn’t forsake Frank’s role in her life while acknowledging that Jamie wants to be a part of it.
The bees themselves serve as a metaphor for Brianna as there is mention of destroying their home not being such a bad thing as they are able to adapt to changing circumstances. Brianna is similar in that she had a home in Boston that was essentially destroyed when Frank died but she has picked up the pieces and got on with her life. She still literally has a house to go back to but there has been a lot of change in her life that needed her to adapt and Jamie recognises that she has done so admirably.
Part of the heartache Jamie senses within Brianna is to do with Roger and the fact that she consented to him leaving her but it has more to do with her rape at the hands of Stephen Bonnet. The aftermath of this is portrayed wonderfully in the beginning of the episode with Brianna slowly undressing to show the extent of the physical toll this experience took on her. Lizzie looks on horrified only able to speculate as to what happened to her but it’s clear that Brianna has been traumatised by this and the scars from it may never fully heal. Brianna resolves to never wear those clothes again because they serve as a reminder of what happened to her. Little touches like that make it feel more visceral and life changing for Brianna. Sophie Skelton’s performance both at the beginning of the episode and throughout is excellent; Brianna comes across as permanently changed by what has happened to her.
She opts not to tell Claire or Jamie about the rape until much later. Hearing about what Stephen Bonnet did to them discourages her from opening up to them as she likely doesn’t want to burden Jamie with more reason to feel guilty about letting Bonnet go free. This clearly amounts to a decision that he will continue to regret because the negative consequences of it are far reaching for him personally as well as for other people. If Brianna had been upfront about who raped her then a lot of problems would have been solved but the episode justifies the confusion well enough.
Eventually Brianna opens up to Claire about what happened to her after Claire’s intuition clues her in on the fact that Brianna is pregnant. Naturally since she was with two men in the same night she has no idea who the father is so the best case scenario is that the baby was fathered by the man she promised herself to and at worst it’s a child of rape. That’s a lot to take in and it makes for a great mother/daughter scene that has a slight comedic undertone as Claire ties to broach the subject of safe sex with her daughter. Her pregnancy is definitely a problem as there’s no way to find out who the real father is in this time period so her choices are to get rid of the baby or decide for herself who the father is. It could present an interesting parallel to Claire, Jamie and Frank if Roger has a hand in raising a child that isn’t biologically his.
Roger’s arrival at Fraser’s Ridge makes for the weakest part of the episode for me. Misunderstanding is used to manufacture drama in this instance as Jamie has just enough information to know that Brianna was raped. He doesn’t know what Roger looks like and hears from Lizzie that Brianna was arguing with a man so jumps to conclusions and launches into an attack on Roger as soon as he meets him. I can buy that Jamie is angry enough to do that but the episode takes steps to ensure that Lizzie doesn’t know the difference between Roger and Stephen Bonnet so that this could happen. Jamie uncharacteristically decides to keep this from Claire and Brianna by sending Ian to get rid of Roger without killing him. It’s all very muddled as Jamie isn’t really the type to keep secrets from Claire nor would he really settle for injuring someone and sending them off where they could trouble him again. It all feels staged in order to create the necessary tension for the coming episodes where the truth will surely come out. Part of the tragedy here is that all of this could have been cleared up in seconds of conversation to ensure everyone was on the same page but Jamie’s behaviour seemed to be a little too out of character in order to have this work.
A strong episode that absolutely nails the first meeting of Brianna and Jamie while delivering some excellent character moments. There’s a believable awkwardness to the Jamie/Brianna connection at first as neither of them really know how to react to the other. The subject of Frank is continually dodged early on until a well played Bee hunting trip clears the air on that score and clears up what they should call each other. Other smaller moments exist such as a warm family dinner scene where embarrassing stories of Jamie’s youth are told.
The aftermath of the rape is really well handled with an excellent nearly silent scene early on as Brianna casts off the clothes she was wearing when it happened. There’s a lot of complexity surrounding it as Brianna is pregnant with either Roger or Stephen Bonnet’s child so has decisions to make. Her scene with Claire where she opens up about what happened and discusses it with her mother is excellent as well. Jamie attacking Roger based on Lizzie’s fractured account of the events as well as what he has concluded on his own feels like drama is being manufactured unnecessarily. I can accept Jamie’s passionate attack without asking questions but I don’t buy that he would keep it a secret from Claire nor does it make sense for him to have Ian take Roger away to be disposed of alive. It’s easy to see why Brianna wouldn’t tell Jamie about Stephen Bonnet given that she understands how guilty he feels over letting him live but much of the rest of it felt forced.
- a perfectly staged and acted first meeting between Claire and Jamie
- the Bee hunting trip where they clear the air and bond
- little moments such as the family dinner scene
- the strong mother/daughter scene where Brianna opens up to Claire about the rape
- Sophie Skelton’s performance in the aftermath of the rape
- the powerful scene where she casts off the clothes she wore during the experience and the unveiling of the scars
- Jamie’s attack on Roger feeling staged in order to create drama
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