Outlander is back! Jamie and Claire will face new challenges in a new world this season, and it’s going to be an emotional ride. Here’s our review of “America the Beautiful”!
“America the Beautiful” kicks off in 2000 B.C. with Native Americans building up their own stones surrounding a portal like the one in Craigh na Dun. They build columns of rocks around a center stone, and when it becomes dark, there’s scene like the Druids from season 1, where the women of the tribe, dance around the stones. An added beauty of this scene is Bear McCreary’s score that’s been adapted to fit this new time period. He is and always will be a genius.
From there, a voiceover from Claire let’s us know that people have always been fascinated by circles and what they mean, little did I know at the time, but this will play a huge part in the episode which picks up four months after their shipwreck at the end of season three.
Currently, we’re in North Carolina in 1767 and Hayes, a man that Jamie has known since last season, is about to hang for killing another man. Jamie visits him before his execution and tells him they have a plan to get him out, but he declines, saying that this is what he deserves. He only asks that Jamie share some whiskey (he only has rum) and that when he goes up to the gallows that a friend (Jamie) smiles at him.
Jamie agrees to these requests, but in between one and two, he’s interrupted by some random prisoner that asks for some of the rum, too. Jamie shares with him because he’s Jamie and of course he does.
When Hayes hangs, Jamie is there to offer a smile, but it’s terribly tragic to watch. In the end, another of their friends, Lesley, makes a scene and this allows the other prisoners to run free, including random guy who drank some of Jamie’s rum. This opening sets the stage for the events to come, especially how honorable men end up paying for their sense of duty and criminals exploit goodness to their advantage.
Let’s take a look at how everyone is doing at the start of “America the Beautiful”.
That night after Hayes has been hung, Jamie and Ian are digging a grave in the cemetery in secret because the priest won’t allow Hayes to be buried on consecrated ground without a bribe. It’s during this that Ian has a panic attack, thinking back to Geillis and what she did to him in season three.
When Ian is hesitant to tell Jamie what’s wrong with him, he tells Ian:
“Some things can only be banished by saying their names and foul deeds out loud.”
Jamie shares with Ian that he also had a great pain inside until he told it to Claire. That helped him, and maybe it can help Ian if he unburdens himself to his uncle. That’s when Ian tells him about Geillis’ baths of blood and the rape that followed.
“Have you ever lain with someone when you didn’t want to?”
“When you understand how it can be, how you can do it without wishing to, detesting it. All the while, it feels pleasing.”
“Aye, lad. When it comes down to it, your cock doesn’t have a conscience but you have. It’s not your fault, lad. You did what you must to survive. It’s all that matters.”
Jamie doesn’t discount Ian’s pain or tell him to be a man. Instead, he hugs him and is supportive. Honestly, it’s a great scene, and I’m so glad they included it. It allows Jamie to help Ian process his guilt, grief, and confusion. I will say that I wish that Claire was able to unburden herself like this to Jamie with her sexual assaults, but her strength allows writers to internalize a lot of her trauma.
That’s an issue.
In the process of trying to bury Hayes, the group realizes that an escaped criminal has stowed away in their wagon. This turns out to be Stephen Bonnet. He begs them to help him get away safely, and Jamie and Claire, being the decent people they are, actually help this raggedy bitch get away. He even makes them a promise:
“I won’t bother you again. You have my word.”
They smuggle Bonnet out, but get stopped by Redcoats. When Jamie tells them that he has a body in the wagon, they decide to see if it’s a real dead body and stab it. When nothing moves in the wagon, Jamie and Claire are waved on.
Jamie gets far enough away and stops, allowing Claire to check on Bonnet. He moved the venison over and the soldier stabbed it but caught him, too.
Claire fixes him up and Bonnet questions Claire about her wedding rings when he notices she has two. She tells him that she has been married twice and that she didn’t get rid of the first one. He says circles fascinate him, and I’ll be honest, he’s creepy and none of us care. We just want him to go away.
Of course, he feels like now is the time to confess to Claire that his biggest fear is drowning and the sea pulling him under. She tells him that she almost drowned, and I think he sees that as a bonding moment, but it’s odd. He looks at her entirely too closely. As he parts ways, he makes sure they know that people in the woods will attack travelers. He also says that he and his group of pirates will be near one of the tributaries to meet up.
I’m not feeling this guy at all.
Jamie tells Claire that it’s not a smart idea to go by the Redcoats agains so quickly, so they camp in the woods for the night. It’s the first time in the episode that we get Jamie/Claire alone time and it’s so needed. Claire feels a little unsettled due to Hayes’s death, and Jamie tries to reassure her:
“It isn’t wrong to be alive, Sassenach.”
“I can’t help but feel that all of this could be ripped away at any moment.”
“That doesn’t matter, Sassenach. Don’t you see how small a thing death is between us? After you left me, after Culloden, I was dead, and all that time I loved you.”
“I loved you, too. I never stopped.”
“When my body dies, my soul will still be yours. Nothing dies, Sassenach. Only changed.”
“That’s the first law of thermodynamics.”
“No. No, that’s faith.”
Then it’s a fantastically hot scene between Jamie and Claire, and I’ll be real honest. If you gave me a time traveling romance, with limited angst, and these two making sure history happens while having extremely hot sex in their downtime, I’d be there for that.
The next morning, Claire gives a geography lesson to Jamie and explains to him what the “American Dream” is or will be.
After hearing all of it, Jamie asks a questions that more people need to ask:
“What about the Natives? What happens to them?”
“They’re driven their ancestral lands. Killed or forced to live on reservations. Not unlike what the English did to the Highlanders.”
“A dream for some can be a nightmare for others.”
This is what happens in Outlander that is also troublesome. I know we’re not going to get long diatribes about treatment of Native Americans because it isn’t the focus of the show, but when your show is set during a time with Native Americans are treated horrifically, you need to be able to write it and not have it as a backdrop. Certainly don’t have your heroine tell the hero that Native Americans are killed or forced to live on reservations while packing up a blanket it like it’s not a big deal.
That evening, Jamie and Claire go to the Governor’s home for a dinner party and have hopes of selling the ruby they found among the shipwreck in order to pay for their trip home. At the dinner party, they talk about the “savages” and y’all…I can’t. I realize Claire can’t be super out there with her beliefs that people are actually people, but just don’t write it if you’re going to make it seem like she’s okay with the rhetoric.
Claire and Lillington go on to discuss her ruby, and Jamie is invited to an after dinner brandy with the Governor after he confirms Jamie is Jocasta Cameron’s nephew.
It’s during that talk that the Governor tells Jamie about land grabs that would persuade immigrants to come over and work the land and call it their own. The Governor tells Jamie that he’d have to pledge loyalty to the Crown, and Jamie tells him that as a Jacobite, he already had to do that to save his own life. He leaves the Governor’s company and goes back to Claire. At their room for the evening, Jamie and Claire talk about their success at selling the ruby and how they now have plenty of money.
Jamie’s excited about going back to Scotland, but Claire is hesitant. He tells Claire that John Grey got rid of the bounty on him so they can go back and not to worry, but Claire is thinking of the land grab, and it’ turns out, so is Jamie. However, he’s not too sure about it because there’s always a catch with people who offer such good bargains. He believes that the Governor wants an experienced soldier who is indebted to him to take care of the “regulators” if they should ever rise up and try to overthrow the government.
Jamie calls them “the spirit of resistance.”
“Jamie, you have to remember it’s going to be another war in eight years. The American Revolution. If you accepted the Governor’s offer of the land, he’d expect you to fight for the Crown against the Revolutionaries.
“I’ve fought in wars before, Sassenach.”
“Yes, but unlike Culloden, this one the British will lose. We’d be on the wrong side of history again. We’d be branded as loyalists and the lands the Governor has offered you, would be taken from us.”
“This becomes Brianna’s country, does it not?”
“She was born here.”
“I do not wish to fight in wars again or have you in danger, Sassenach. If there’s a bit I can do to make this a good land for Brianna, and my presence here now can be felt by her later then that would be something.”
“Yes, it would.”
This is a beautiful sentiment, but oh my goodness, y’all don’t have to be in the middle of everything. Go back to Lollybroch. Try and go see Bree together. ANYTHING ELSE. Stop being in wars throughout history. Take a vacation.
The following morning, they meet Ian in front of the inn and he has a new pet. It’s not really a dog and not quite a wolf, but it’s adorable and his name is Rollo. He won it gambling with sailors the night before, and he also won a little money.
Over breakfast, Jamie and Claire tell everyone that they’re going to try and stay in America. Ian firmly states that he’s not going back home. Jamie tells Fergus and Marsali that they can go back to Scotland, and Jamie will send money with them for themselves and for Laoghaire.
They don’t want to go back to Scotland yet, and they also think it wouldn’t be a good time because Marsali is pregnant! Jamie is super proud dad.
“You’ll do fine, Marsali. And you, you’ll be a fine father.”
In the end, Lesley decides he wants to travel with Jamie and Claire longer, too.
“My place is at your side.”
Honestly, this little family they’ve got going on is lovely.
Later, they’re on the river after having gained passage on a riverboat. Lesley, Ian and the new dog are on board, but Marsali and Fergus have stayed back.
Claire uses this opportunity to bring up the woman they’re going to visit, Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta.
“So, what is your Aunt Jocasta like?”
“She’s a Mackenzie.”
Aunt Jocasta has been going through Camerons apparently because after each of her husbands dies, she marries a cousin to keep in the family. It’s odd. It’s really, really odd. Jamie goes on to tell Claire that Cameron’s are either poets or jesters. So, hopeless romantics or fools. I think a Mackenzie would chew up and spit out either one of those, and maybe that’s what Aunt Jocasta has been doing?
During their passage, Claire shades the captain of their little barge by saying that his slave, an older black man, shouldn’t be on his feet all day. That’s when we get the story that he’s not a slave, he’s a free man. The captain went and got his freedom after Eutroclus saved his life.
Okayyy…so here’s my issue. This man didn’t think Eutroclus would want freedom until after he saved his life? Now he’s saying he’s the best waterman on the river, and Eutroclus is looking on with pride like he’s been given a cookie?
That’s some white savior nonsense right there. Sure, in this situation the man is free, but that was extremely uncommon for that time period, especially in the South. The captain didn’t even decide he was a person until after he saved his life, so it wasn’t even out of the goodness of his heart. It was a “life for a life” thing.
Once that is all settled, Jamie surprises Claire with a medical kit he bought for her. It’s an incredible gift, and unfortunately, she’ll need to use it soon. We do get a sweet scene between them first, though.
“24 years ago I married you, Sassenach. I hope I’ve never given you cause to regret it.”
“Never a single day.”
Everyone has gone to sleep and boat is moored for the night. Ian’s dog attacks someone who gets on the boat, and that’s when Stephen Bonnet busts through the doors of the boat. He sucker punches Jamie and gets him to follow him out on deck where other men are waiting to hold him down. Over the last four minutes of the episode, we hear no dialogue at all. The trauma of the situation is drowned out by “America the Beautiful” performed by Ray Charles.
Bonnet knocks out Ian, slits Lesley’s throat, takes the jewels and money from Jamie, and forces Claire to hand over her rings. Claire tries to swallow them, but Bonnet chokes up and digs a finger in her mouth to make her spit them up. In the end, he manages to steal Claire’s wedding band from Jamie. This ring isn’t worth anything at all, and he takes it purely out of spite because he’s that asshole.
They all leave and Jamie runs into the room where Claire is and sees her sobbing against the wall, holding onto the wedding band Frank gave her because she coughed it back up.
I think this was a very strong premiere for Outlander. We got Jamie/Claire reconnection, a good amount of family time and them working together, and they’re solid as always.
Jamie is such a fantastic man, but I really need him to regard people with a little more wariness. Him taking Bonnet at his word and helping someone who was sentenced to die, just seems wrong. I know Jamie was in prison before, but this man didn’t sit right with me the minute he showed up, interrupting Jamie and Hayes. I’m not looking forward to Bonnet’s presence the rest of the season. He’s a trope if I’ve ever seen one, and we can do better.
How did you like “America the Beautiful”? Next week, we meet Aunt Jocasta at River Run! What do you think she’ll be like in person?
Check out the season preview below, and be sure to live tweet with us and watch new episodes of Outlander at 8/7c every Sunday on STARZ! (You can also catch us on Youtube with our weekly WSN Reviews series!)