Outlander (S04E01) “America The Beautiful”

***Notice: This recap of “America The Beautiful” will have SPOILERS. Please be sure to watch the episode before continuing.***

If “America The Beautiful” is our title, I dare say “Circles” may be a secondary option for this episode written by Toni Graphia, Matthew B. Roberts, and developed by Ronald D. Moore. As Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) voice leads us on a meditative monologue about said circles, the first images we see the creation of a DIFFERENT set of standing stones. Native Indian American’s creating a North American set of stones? Though we aren’t given an explanation to that scene just yet, the circular theme is one we see crop up on multiple occasions.

We start us off this season with not only the new world to discover, but a new rendition of The Skye Boat Song composed again by the genius which is Bear McCreary (also known for Battlestar Galactica & The Walking Dead), and this nearly brings me to tears. I don’t know how he does it, but that man and whatever team he works with can seriously set a mood.

Proper mood acquired and just moments of screen time in, we are thrown into life in the America’s with Claire, Jamie (Sam Heughan), and all the 18th-century madness which comes with that period of history. Giving us barely a breath to take it in we get a close up of a noose hanging freely in a town center and it’s not long before we see that noose with a man’s body hanging from it.

Ed Speleers as Stephen Bonnet. Photo credit: STARZ media.

Poor Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk), who’s been a dear friend of Jamie’s for so long, misjudged his married bedding partner for that of a single lass and is paying for the mistake with his life. His dying wish, to have a friend smiling at him as the deed is done. While Jamie is all too happy to oblige, it’s been many episodes since I felt the need to look away from the screen, but I have to admit this time I did. No smile crossed my face. The close up of Hayes face post box kicking was more than I could handle. If an impact is what they were going for – impact is most assuredly what they achieved.

While I’m busy hiding from the sadness which hangs so casually from that rope, the distraction we wish curated Hayes escape instead allows another man to slip free from the hangman. It’s not until the Fraziers have conducted a bit of business and head to the next point in their journey that we find out exactly who this person is. In the meantime, Frazier and company meetup to discuss what their next moves are and to honor their friend with a song everyone seems to join in to sing.

 

With a pint of ale and money from the sale of gems, we learn that not so wee Fergus (Cesar Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle), having not taken Claire’s advice last season, are pregnant! Finally, some good news for the Fraziers. One more clan member was added to the team when we find out Ian (John Bell) has won himself what’s sure to be a fan favorite cast member: Rollo.

First meeting of our new favorite fur ball, Rollo. Photo credit: STARZ media.

Merilly on their way to the next leg of their adventure, a final (and less welcome I might add) member of the party reveals himself. A stowaway!? He introduces himself as Steven Bonnet (Ed Speleers) and upon being pressed, lists the reasons he was meant to hang for. If only the Fraziers took heed of this huge flag of red waving before them.

“In the name of Gavin Hayes,” he pleads as argument to stay with the party. Seriously criminal, you’re going to invoke the name of their dead friend to beg passage? Much to my dismay, his silver tongue grants him passage with them. At least the bloody scoundrel helps them bury their friend before showing his true colors. It’s at this point where Ian has a flashback of terror which Jamie can relate to like no other. This scene is so poignant that my heart breaks more than a little when Ian asks Jamie, “Have you ever lain with someone when you didn’t want to do it?”

Ian calmed and Hayes underground, they continue on their way. After a close call with Red Coats Bonnet talks to Claire about her rings “There’s something about the notion of an infinite circle which intrigues me.” A line I believe is less friendly conversation and more dollar signs in his eyes. With that, he finally bids the party adieu and even takes the time to warn them about thieves in the night. Can we all say red flag, one more time really loudly?

Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) and Claire Frazier (Caitriona Balfe) Photo credit: STARZ media

None the wiser they carry on to their floating fate as Bonnet makes his perilous return to the group, as the thieving pirate he said he was from the beginning. As we hear “America the Beautiful” begins to play so beautifully we get to see their kindness to him repaid by the piracy he nearly hung for. It seems he will do worse, but he leaves with just their gems, claire’s ring, and their hope for the “American Dream.” That ring Claire once said was all she needed, is now gone. One person’s dream, as Jamie previously mentioned, can be a nightmare for others. How true that is Jamie. How true indeed.

Favorite Quotes

Jamie: Nothing is lost, only changed.
Claire: That’s the first law of thermodynamics.
Jamie: No, that’s faith.

I was a bit sad not to see any Brianna (Sophie Skelton) or Roger (Richard Rankin) on screen, but at least we know we have that to look forward to! I’m also terribly excited to see Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) as Aunt Jocasta. Next week episode details here:

OUTLANDER 402: “DO NO HARM”
Airdate: November 11th at 8 PM ET/PT on STARZ, the STARZ app and STARZ On Demand

Claire and Jamie visit his Aunt Jocasta at her plantation, River Run. When tragedy strikes at the plantation, Jamie and Claire find themselves caught between what’s right and the law of the land, ultimately facing an impossible decision.