Season 4, Episode 11: ‘If Not For Hope’
Early in this episode, while on the trail of Roger and the Mohawk, Jamie gets curious about the sorts of stories that survived from his era into the 20th century.
Claire tells him that the Mohawk are largely relegated to movies, and that those stories don’t tend to be happy for anyone involved. But Jamie has more personal concerns. “I would be seen as a fearsome brute,” he mutters, as if hoping Claire will contradict him. But Claire isn’t playing that game.
“That would be one side of the story,” she shrugs, sounding as if a hundred years had passed since they started after Roger.
The suspense of this episode’s journey is about finding Roger. But the tension of that journey is about the distance between Claire and Jamie. Of course, Claire and Jamie make up — it would drag on an already heavy story to have Claire carry these hurts for very long. And their reconciliation is an interesting reminder that this cast makes the most of the material, even in arcs that can feel less satisfying as a whole.
In the moment, Claire and Jamie’s heart-to-heart about Brianna and the ghost of Frank is honest and intimate, and Jamie’s choked-up apology feels cathartic. It is certainly good work by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. But it feels odd that this comes only after Claire practically begs Jamie for forgiveness for … keeping her daughter’s confidence when she asked. (It doesn’t help that Ian also implored her to forgive Jamie but never asked Jamie to, say, apologize. It seems Jamie’s feelings are once again paramount.)
At River Run, even Lizzie takes a break from begging Brianna’s forgiveness to beg Brianna to forgive Jamie, too. But Brianna isn’t having it. She hasn’t forgotten what Jamie said to her, and she isn’t ready to forgive.
She is also not ready to go to a dinner party, but Aunt Jocasta didn’t summon all these guest stars for nothing.
The objective of the dinner, technically, is for Jocasta to find an eligible bachelor for Brianna, one who might not care she’s a few months along. The actual objective is to make the most of those guest stars. Maria Doyle Kennedy is in fine form as the original cotillion wine mom. And the jostling suitors are delightfully wretched, particularly Gerald Forbes, into whom Billy Boyd has the time of his life pouring Pepe le Pew energy.
We also get to see how Brianna handles her first big occasion. Sophie Skelton makes the most of Brianna’s discomfort with unfamiliar manners and with her changing body. And there are echoes of Claire in her attempts to pleasantly redirect attention without giving herself away or falling into anyone’s agenda. It makes me wish we’d gotten a better sense of Brianna before her trauma so we would know how much of this she has learned on the fly in the 18th century, but it still works.
It works particularly well on Lord John Grey. How well? He comes for a tryst with one of the visiting suitors and stays for an engagement to Brianna. It’s a very interesting narrative position for them both — the weight of being mutual runners-up, hoping to make the best of it. (Their connection so far seems a little strained, but maybe that’s inevitable when the proposal includes both a halfhearted extortion threat and a halfhearted rape threat.)
But if Lord John dreams of walking through the forest as part of the happy Fraser family, he’ll have to wait. Brianna might have forgiven Jamie enough to open his letter by the end of the episode, but her earlier pronouncement to John still hangs in the air: “Don’t talk to me about my father’s honor.” That’s going to be an interesting family reunion.
• Interesting to watch Ian gently shoot down Jamie’s assumption that the Cherokee will be happy to go two months out of their way to guide the Frasers north.
• Heughan and Balfe are getting to be very good at the stage business of making camps.
• The music cue for Lord John Grey entering that party was Helm’s Deep levels of heroic.
• You can tell Brianna didn’t watch a lot of TV before she went through the stones because Lord John and his Pause You Could Drive a Truck Through didn’t tip her off whatsoever that he might be in love with her dad.
• “You mean to say you draw Negroes?” Brianna’s drawing is clearly meant as evidence of her modern attitudes. But she is apparently surprised that her aunt’s plantation friends are racist, which seems … disingenuous. And making Phaedra model without really asking doesn’t read much differently than making her work without really asking.
• We haven’t really seen Fergus and Marsali on their own before. The question of whether Fergus is “whole” is awkward at best, but Fergus makes a nice counterpoint to Jamie in terms of protecting the family. (Even better to see Marsali and Murtagh chatting — and Murtagh getting his boots off Marsali’s guest blankets. Glimpses of the dynamics across the family sprawl help ground the high-drama exploits.)
• The episode ends with the captive Roger staggering through a gantlet of warriors. Great job showing both sides of the Mohawk!