A sweetness that cuts…a reflection on Outlander episode 4.9 “Birds and the Bees

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I signed up for a Diana Gabaldon talk and book signing in Fairfax, Virginia well before Outlander Starz was a thing.  It was a sold out event and the one and only time I ever stood in line to meet someone famous. Worried about my navigating (and rightfully so) D.C. traffic, my husband drove me five and a half hours for an event he didn’t have a ticket for. Unbeknownst to him, I had put him on the waiting list and he got in!!!! He was thrilled (hard eye roll here)!!!! As it was our first time at such an event, we didn’t know what to expect and were a little shocked to see a line into the auditorium that wrapped itself through and around a very large campus building.  I was walking with a cane at the time and crestfallen, I knew I would not be able to stand in line. My big burly manly man of a husband breached the crowds of plaid clad women to secure us a place while I sat feeling guilty in a chair.  It remains one of the nicest things he has ever done for me.  Listening to Diana speak and meeting her in person was a surreal ordeal, but well worth everything we went through.  As great as it was to meet her and despite my love for the actors on the show, I can’t see myself waiting outside or inside a venue for the hours it seems to take to meet them.  However, …I swear I would for Matt B. Roberts, LOL! What can I say?  I’m a fan of writing and Outlander and he is my favorite Outlander script writer. I feel like I “get” him and the way he thinks. Well. at least about Outlander. No, …I really DO get how he thinks BECAUSE of Outlander.

I have learned that not everything a writer wants to be said or happen on a show comes to fruition. There are a lot of voices and logistics influencing the final product.  However, it is obvious to me what are Matt’s focuses and influences when I see an episode he has written.  In my humble opinion, he truly understands why this story and its characters are special. He sees through to the heart of what is happening. He gets what the story is saying about people, life, love, and family. That he is able to translate that visually continues to be a wonder to me.  Case in point? Outlander episode 4.9 “The Birds and the Bees”.

I recently republished a blog post  in honor of the 4.9 episode. I wrote about how I have grown to appreciate Diana’s imaginings of the first meeting of Jamie and his adult daughter. In that article, I point out how the expectations of that moment would have to have been unrealistic. The import placed on this meeting cannot be understated for either the characters or the fandom. I remember the first time I read it, I was a bit disappointed. Not exactly sure why, but I think I was expecting some equivalent of colonial fireworks.  Diana didn’t give me or Brianna what we expected instead she gave us what we …needed. I found myself measuring this episode against that standard.  Did Matt B. Roberts and writing partner Toni Graphia give us what we expected or what we needed?

We Needed to See Their Faces

I’m starting to appreciate how important it is for actors to emote. Not everything can be communicated in dialogue nor should it be in a visual medium.  We sometimes need to see what a character is feeling and I felt there were some really important feelings revealed in this episode.  Lizzie, Ian, Murtagh, Roger and all three Frasers told us volumes with a mere expression.

I found myself really looking at Roger’s face in this scene.  At first he seems just irritated that he still has to deal with Bonnet.  He doesn’t have time to deal with this piece of shit. He needs to find Brianna. When the reality of what the Captain is saying, he will be sailing to Philadelphia, starts to sink in you can see the resignation.  I’m not sure why, but I felt like Roger’s expression was slightly sardonic. Of course he isn’t done with Bonnet, of course he is about to get pulled away from Brianna before he can tell her he hasn’t left.  This is no idle threat. He is well and truly screwed. However, he cannot show too much emotion. You don’t want to give this monster any clues as to how you are feeling and give him any ammunition. How ironic that the one person he is desperate to protect from Bonnet is already his victim. His “especially when it comes to women” line made me cringe.  I think uttering “poor Roger” under my breath is about to become a regular thing.

Brianna…Within the span of a few minutes we see her face reveal what has to be the entire span of human emotion. I felt emotionally exhausted just watching her swing from grief to hope and back again.

 

I’m not sure I need to comment.  These faces speak for themselves.

We Needed to Know Roger Didn’t Leave

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There were some pretty big departures from the book in the last few episodes and I have learned (not easily mind you) to be patient.  Episodic TV can try that patience when you have to wait a whole week to get answers and everyone in the fandom is speculating and spouting disappointment. There are some things I still need to know about Roger and his storyline, but the biggest thing I needed to know was if he actually left. I needed to know he didn’t. I needed to know that it was just an argument fueled by some really piss poor communication, but that it was just an argument and not an abandonment. Nothing more happened than what has happened in my own and many other’s relationships. People got angry and said stuff they really didn’t mean out of hurt and stubborn pride. I needed to see when Roger did leave it wasn’t his choice. I knew when he left with Bonnet, he was coming back.

We Needed This Scene, This Exact Scene

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Jamie meets the child he sacrificed all for. The child he never thought to see. Like all important moments like this, reality is never quite as we expected.  Nothing is ever as good or as bad as we might think.  Brianna only knows what she has been told about her “father” Jamie. He had to seem the stuff of legend and fairy tales to her. Her first view of her father was of him relieving himself. That very human reality took him very quickly from fairytale hero to just a man.  It was exactly what she needed. Her expectations needed this adjustment.  I was thrilled to see they kept this part of the book!  Well, maybe not actually thrilled, maybe a bit uncomfortable, but you get the point.  She rounded that corner looking for someone bigger than life and found a man, a man whose arms were a safe place to rest.

In my blog, I point out that Brianna learned more about her father in the few minutes he didn’t know who she was than in all the stories she could have been told about him.  We know fans can often loudly complain about any changes from the book. There were changes to this scene, but none that greatly affected its impact. Brianna learns that her father is loyal, firm, but kind and most importantly that he loves her.  It was so very close to how Diana imagined it.  Creating that visual representation of her imaginings was definitely made easier by actors who seem to inhabit their characters. Sam Heughan was absolutely amazing.  Sophie Skelton played Bree’s excitement and trepidation to perfection. When she fell into Jamie’s arms all felt right with the world.

We Needed Our Mothers

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I still struggle with Claire’s decision to leave her daughter in the future. I appreciate that the show allowed Claire to show us she still struggled with that decision. Although she seemed shocked and overjoyed to see Bree, I had the sense that she was also dismayed.  The past is a dangerous place for a woman and I was struck by all that happened because Bree needed her mother. I would find it difficult to reconcile all that loss and wondered at how it would affect Claire’s relationship with Jamie. Bree is obviously struggling and Claire can see it, but she also knows that Bree is a woman now and as such can no longer be compelled as a child to tell her what is going on. However, Brianna needs her mother maybe more than she ever has.  She needs her mother to draw her out and comfort her.  We needed to see that happen.

We Needed To Feel Our Way

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I love that this show takes its time with people. The tender and tentative dance between Bree and Jamie was needed.  They are virtual strangers. Strangers who want and hope and long and need to find a way to a come together and build a relationship. We needed to see them tiptoe around Frank. We needed to hear Jamie’s gratitude towards Frank and Bree’s guilty feelings about wanting to be with Jamie. We needed to see Jamie’s avid attentiveness to Bree’s every move and his constant furtive glances and smiles. We needed childhood stories, working together on the ridge, and time around the family table.

We Needed to See That Bree Understood

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While it was obvious that Jamie was studying Bree.  It wasn’t quite as obvious that she was studying him and maybe more importantly, she was studying Jamie with Claire.  Bree telling Claire about Franks’s knowing she came back to Jamie was unexpected. The sadness with which this news was received gave me a lump in my throat. I felt for all of well-intentioned choices and unintentional pain in Claire’s marriage to Frank. I’m not sure what Claire was supposed to do with that knowledge except feel guilt and regret, but Bree’s acknowledging she understood why Claire had to return was also unexpected and a…gift.

We Needed to Share Our Feelings

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The quiet conversations between Jamie and Claire were everything. I get another lump in my throat just thinking about them. Jamie sitting on the edge of the bed rubbing his aching hand, a reminder to us that he too suffered what he does not yet know Brianna suffered. It reminds us that he has known so much pain and loss in his life and Brianna’s return is an unforseen and never dreamed of reality that he doesn’t want to end. He is human after all and a father wants his child to stay. Jamie’s openness and vulnerability with Claire is one of the main reasons this couple holds a special place in my heart. He is able to share his fears and regrets and his joys with her and know she does not judge him. In her arms, he is safe to be himself without fear. In return, we know that he constantly thinks of her and a large part of his joy in Brianna’s return is because he knows Claire misses her so much. This child was the impetus for all the sacrifice and the 20 years of loneliness. The couple’s constant touching and silent looks communicate their gratitude for all they have. But, I also feel each touch acknowledges the weight of all they have lost. They have Bree now, but they lost 20 years together with her.

We Needed Something to be Simple

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In the end, Bree’s pregnancy, Claire’s promise, Lizzie’s mistaken assumptions, Jamie’s parental protective instincts, will result in complications that will change everything for everyone and I can’t say I’m looking forward to witnessing what happens.  And so, I’m grateful that Matt and Toni gave us something else we needed. They gave us something simple. They gave us birds, and bees and a simple name Jamie has longed to hear …Da.

 

 

57 thoughts on “A sweetness that cuts…a reflection on Outlander episode 4.9 “Birds and the Bees

  1. Beth, your summary was absolutely perfect. I enjoyed this episode (except for the last minute) more than any other this season and have already re-watched it multiple times. I also agree that Matt Roberts really seems to understand the source material in a way that other writers don’t. Thanks so much.

  2. Lovely, Beth! So much has gone on since Episode 1 of Season 1, but I can truly say that I felt wonderful at the end of 4.9. It just FELT like DG’s book brought to life. I was emotionally exhausted by the end, but I was happy. Well…I was sad for Roger and what hardships lie ahead, but really, what I felt was the luxurious satisfaction as at the conclusion of an amazing meal. I just want to savor this episode. I told my husband that it is one of the very few that I can and will watch over and over and over and over. …sigh… – Dawn

  3. Lillian Sams

    I feel the same way you do about Matt B. Robert’s! I would be a fan girl mess if I ever got the opportunity to meet him. Outlander would not be the quality production that it is without him.

  4. Shelia DeSantis

    This episode was primo. I Agree, Beth, that Matt gets this story, these feelings in the telling of the tale. Sam has so completely embodied JAMMF. He is amazing and he cares every minute in front of the camera. So does Cait. And therecore, we care about these actors and writers. We are so lucky.

  5. Ann Kelman

    Aw, Beth you had me greetin ( all over again) reading this. How right you are on all counts. The acting was superb. Wee changes in expression and fleeting glances showed how they were exploring each other. I loved it. Thank you yet again for a post that sums up the episode so beautifully.

  6. Christine Colt

    I thought the last 2 episodes were especially good—not frantic like the 1st ep in season 4, and these two prompted emotional feelings in me that other episodes have not. I think credit is due to the writer and director of these 2, Luke Schelhass and a woman whose name escapes me. Excellent work!

  7. Really wonderful observations, Beth. I enthusiastically agree with all of them—especially the expressiveness of the cast. Your words always make my heart happy. This was
    no exception. TY.

  8. JANET A EWASKIEWICZ

    Loved your reflections on this episode.

    You wondered what Claire would do with the knowledge that Frank knew of the obituary and realized she’d gone back to Jamie. I thought she might have realized something — that it explained Frank’s timing about asking Claire for a divorce. Maybe he thought moving to the UK with Sandy would free Claire to go back to Jamie; or he may finally have decided he needed to find happiness, too, since Claire apparently did with Jamie. He had no reason to believe Bree would be able to go back in time as well, which could explain why he wanted her to go to England with him. Whether that was his motivation or not, I’m glad that bit was added to the TV series. It made ME feel better about Frank, I know. (I’ve never been a big Frank fan, although I always did feel sorry for him.)

    Thanks so much for the review. And happy new year!

  9. Kay Seccurro

    You have such a true way of analyzing each episode! I believe Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia write the best episodes! They love the books and really understand the characters. All the actors did a wonderful in this episode. I loved it and look forward to the next.

  10. Nancy Powell

    Thanks, as always, Beth, for your amazing review that nails exactly how I am feeling. One of my very favorite episodes. Best wishes for a wonderful 2019.

  11. Cathy Lee

    Beth, you have such incredible insight. You continue to eloquently put what I think into such beautiful words/thoughts!

    JANET A EWASKIEWICZ, such great points about Frank knowing Claire going back to Jamie. As a TV fan, I took it as Frank being a little selfish? Never thought it the way you described which makes Frank more likable in a tragic situation.

    Anybody feel slightly uncomfortable that Jamie touched Bree’s face after he went to the bathroom? I know it’s the 18th century and we currently live in a germaphobic society 🙂 Also, nobody questioned how Bree and Roger went through the stones? Like it was a normal trip from 20th century to 18th 🙂

    • Susan Mills

      I too wondered why no one questioned anyone how The travelled through the stones. lol. Oh well. I prefer to believe it was a conversation off camera. 🙂

  12. GGWann

    Beth, I hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year’s and blessings to all for 2019. I was fortunate enough to briefly meet Matt B Roberts at a fan event premiering the 2nd half of S1. Everybody else was blasting down the aisles to try to get autographs from the principals but I hung back and had a 5 minute conversation with Matt and Anne Kenney and exchanged hellos with Toni Graphia. Other than to tell him how much I enjoyed the episode, which he also penned, we spoke mainly of photography. I neglected to get either a selfie or an autograph (I still regret the latter!), but I hold it as a highlight of being part of the Outlander Starz fandom. He and Toni have written some of my favorite episodes of Outlander and this episode is likely the best of those favorites! In addition to a great script, as I think all agree, the acting was phenomenal. I quite literally had chills when Claire sees Bree for the first time. The moments between Jamie and Bree were so tender. Little details that I missed the first viewing jumped out after I’d stopped “Awwwwww”-ing! Jamie rubbing his damaged hand and most specifically, there was a beat when Bree stood up after dropping the bundles she was making with Claire. She put the back of her hand to her forehead and I thought to myself, that’s the same movement Claire makes when she’s trying to compose herself. So good! Knowing it was coming still did not prepare me for Jamie’s violence to Roger at episode’s end. That was hard to watch. Misunderstandings and omissions that cause so much pain. I look forward to your first blog of 2019!

  13. SI Sharon

    Hi Beth, You never disappoint. You have a wonderful way of finding the gems in each episode and you outdid yourself here. What struck me were the quiet times, like when Jamie looked in on sleeping Bree and saw that she smiled in her sleep and the humor related to Bree’s nickname and its Scottish meaning. These and the wonders of everyday life that Diana writes so well in the books came to life in this episode. For me, this episode not only provided the significant plot points but gave an intimate look at day to day living that is not generally seen in episodic tv and that is such a major part of Diana’s books (and a favorite theme in the books for me). And leave it to Matt B. Roberts* and Toni Graphia to write the script that brought it home.

    I hope you have a wonderful new year that brings you and yours good health, happiness and personal fullfilment.

    And many thanks for the joy you bring to this fan, Sharon

    *I think, if my memory serves, that it was actually Matt who introduced Maril to the books and the rest is history.

  14. BETH, this was the Symphony, The Ballet, the Masterpiece We’ve been waiting for. It clicked on all cylinders!
    …#BirdsandtheBees was like Honey melting on a warm biscuit!
    Adored your blog! Perfect! I’m a happy camper!

  15. You are right on the money once again. I loved this episode and was amazed that they managed to get so much of the story in and so many quotes directly from the books. I truly thought Sam and Sophie were amazing. Sam can say more with his lip and eyebrow twitches than any actor I can think of. I loved seeing Bree & Jamie sizing each other up and liking what they saw.
    I’m truly grateful they chose to give us just the audio version of the rape, it was horrifying listening to her screams and the men just ignoring her. Ed Speleer is playing the part of Bonnet to perfection – oh he’s just so despicable. It would have been wonderful if Roger could have let Bree know he was not leaving her intentionally.
    I have to say it – poor Roger. If there’s one thing the Fraser’s do well its non communication. Lordy, if they had only taken communications 101. Miss Lizzie is a whole other story. Bree is her father’s daughter.
    Next week I believe Jamie will have some ‘splaining’ to do to both Bree and Claire.

  16. Sherri Fincher

    Beth, I don’t know how I’ve just now happened upon your blog, but you verbalized numerous things I felt emotionally about this episode but which I could not find the words for. We are blessed to have actors who understand the smallest nuances of their characters and the ability to show those things to us. I agree with you completely about Matt B Roberts and Toni Graphia. They get it!! The books truly come alive when they write the episodes, and I admit freely that I was unaware of anything around me during the whole hour of this episode! I was drawn into the story in the same way that I am when I read Diana’s writing. It was an absolutely mesmerizing episode, and your blog hit the nail on the head! I look forward to seeing what you have to say every week!

  17. ROCHELLE HAMEL

    Not only was the episode perfect, your recap was the most perfect of the (many!) I’ve read! I want to clasp it to me like a lost child! It made me weep, and none of the others did. Bravo!

  18. Marjelaine

    How can you so perfectly put into words all the feelings I have as I watch each episode! It was perfect,. The last few scenes were excruciating but necessary. Keep up the good work, writers!

  19. Marie Roberts

    Did enjoy the episode, nothing like reading the book, but it can’t come near the writtings. I was a little disappointed on how you made Claire look so old.

  20. Betty

    Beth, your review so perfectly encapsulates all the emotion in this episode. I have little to add. For me, it was like the completion of a circle: so many strands coming together at last, so many half-remembered images swimming into focus, or throw-away remarks suddenly making sense. The thing I loved most, though, was the transformation in Jamie. All those sidelong glances and half smiles when he looked at Bree reminded me so much of how he would look at Claire in the first few episodes of the first series. Sam played those brilliantly, but it was especially heartwarming to see the glint of light back in Jamie’s eyes – it has been absent so often while he’s been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders for the last three seasons! Such a shame we’re probably not going to see it again for a while.

    And I know it’s not really appropriate to use the word “enjoy”, but I did appreciate the shockingness of the last few minutes of the episode. I find I blow hot and cold towards him, but, oh dear, poor Roger indeed.

  21. Andrea

    TY! TY! TY! It nice to read an article or blog about this show that takes in both sides, Book vs Show! As a reader I can see where it is a bit disappointing when the writers miss out or change certain aspects from the story, but I love to see the new version that appears in the screen.

    You are, yourself, an amazing writer who manages to capture everything that is right and wrong about the show without degrading the hard work that the cast and crew have put into it.

    Again my thanks for this piece. Happy New Year Beth 😘💜

  22. Susan Mills

    Anyone else laugh out loud when Brianna said to Claire, “It’s not like I packed condoms!” ?? It was such a serious moment but that comment and the way it was delivered was brilliant.
    I love seeing glimpses of 20th century when these two lovely ladies are together.

  23. Barbara Spellman

    My computer was down for 8 days, and dare I admit that at the top of my thoughts was, “Oh no, I am missing Beth’s analysis of the Birds and the Bees?” Finally, I got to read it and was not disappointed. It was so intuitive and right on the mark, as usual. I also share your opinion of Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia. They get it. I saw and enjoyed everything in the episode that you did, except Jamie massaging the injured hand. I missed the connection. Thank you for mentioning it. I’m so glad you broke the episode down into each character and their relationships. I am so happy you noticed the importance of Bree finding Jamie as you so aptly worded, “just a man”, I found myself rewatching the episode concentrating on each developing relationship, the interplay between Jamie and Bree on that first meeting, their facial expressions, Jamie’s especially, the constant looks of love that Jamie furtively casts toward Bree are so beautiful and meaningful to their developing relationship, the revealing of the Gaelic words that Jamie uses for Bree, “my darling, my blessing,” how Jamie notices the smile like his in her sleep, and so much more. Then Roger and Bree, Bonnet, Bree and Claire, Jamie and Claire, the family. Oh so much! So well done by writers and actors and so well analyzed by you. Thank you.

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