‘Outlander’ Season 4 Episode 7 Recap: “Down the Rabbit Hole”

Outlander Season 4 Episode 7 Recap
Sophie Skelton as Brianna in ‘Outlander’ season 4 episode 7 (Photo Credit: Starz)

I’m not sure this is true for others, but the title for season four episode seven, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” gave me visions of The Matrix trilogy. Another good title might have been Outlander “NexGen.” This episode focused entirely on Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin).

The episode took a significant deviation from the book, largely owed to the absence of one key actress: Laura Donnelly who plays Jenny Murray. Scheduling conflicts happen at times, so a series must work around them. I think they did a great job, but you can judge for yourself. And if you look close, there was a new little flash of something to come in the opening sequence of scene clips involving the Natives. Tulach Ard!

Season four episode seven’s title card began with Bree making a PB&J sandwich. In the book, it was Claire who took that with her when she went back to Jamie. The last time we saw Brianna she was in the process of touching the stones on Craig Na Dun. The episode begins with her traversing a snow-covered 18th century Scotland with the little bit of provisions, including a map, she brought with her. She takes a spill along the way and injures her ankle. She didn’t have that injury in the book, but it leads us into the story change I mentioned. An injured lass on the side of a frozen road is hard to turn away.

Roger drives to Craig Na Dun with Fiona (Iona Claire) so she can take the car back after he goes through the stones. That’s the intent, anyway. With his provisions in his pocket, they climb up the hill to the circle. One last hug by old friends and Roger touches the stones.

Brianna brought matches with her and makes camp, settling in by the fire to eat her PB&J. The next morning she continues her limping sojourn toward a smoke-producing chimney in the distance. She gets close enough that we recognize it to be Lallybroch.

At dusk, Brianna’s cold, exhausted, and in pain. She falls near a tree and passes out. Book fans expect this to be where she might end up at Lallybroch. In the book, it was her cousin, young Jamie, who found Brianna walking the road toward the house – minus the injury.

In the show, Brianna dreams she’s little again and her father, Frank (Tobias Menzies), is carrying her out of the car and into her house. Brianna wakes up in a bed and is startled to find a strange woman and her daughter holding a breakfast tray. Brianna doesn’t know the lady, of course, but fans do. It’s Laoghaire (Nell Hudson)! In the book Brianna encountered a crazed Laoghaire upon reaching Lallybroch, but in the show we see that Laoghaire can have a hospitable side. Brianna’s grateful for the food and bed.

Later that night, Brianna overhears an argument between Laoghaire and Ian (Steven Cree) as he’s bringing the sum Jamie (Sam Heughan) sent toward his alimony. As Brianna overhears Ian and Laoghaire argue, she flashes back to when she was younger and heard Frank and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) arguing the night of Claire’s medical school graduation about Frank’s affair; mostly that the woman showed up at the house, if you remember from season two.

In the series, Brianna gets out of bed and limps into the main room where Ian and Laoghaire are talking. When Brianna interrupts them, Ian notices by her accent that Brianna is an Outlander (aka Sassenach). Laoghaire tells her she needs more rest and to have another lay down, so Brianna departs the room. At this point no one knows who Brianna is, just that she needs help and was near frozen.

When Brianna leaves the room, Ian offers Laoghaire more money to help provide food or provisions that Jamie’s sum might fall short in providing, but she turns it down. Laoghaire wants the money to come from Jamie alone.

The next morning, Brianna finds Laoghaire and her daughter tending their small garden. Brianna’s given a dress more fit to wear in the cold Scottish weather. It’s one of Marsali’s dresses.

Laoghaire leaves to put on some food and Brianna begins to help Joan (Layla Burns) with the gardening. They speak of fathers as Brianna puts flowers in Joan’s hair. Joan mentions her Da didn’t love Laoghaire in the same way he loved another woman. (We know she’s talking about Jamie and Claire, but Brianna has no idea.) Brianna mentions she felt that with her parents too, speaking of Frank and Claire.

Brianna flashes back to when she visited her father in his office at the college, where he was taking refuge and drinking. (Not an encounter in the book). Brianna’s much older now, about 18 years old. She storms in asking if he intends to stay there all night. Then she asks what’s troubling him, and he looks to his desk.

There’s an envelope with a letter and a copy of an article on the desk. You can only see part of the picture underneath the letter, but it’s enough to notice it’s the same article Roger had about Claire and Jamie’s death by fire on Fraser’s Ridge. Brianna, naturally, doesn’t know about Jamie Fraser yet, nor her mother’s life in the past.

In the book, Frank received research about Jamie from the Reverend, but it was about his surviving Culloden – not the fire on the ridge. Brianna found that information herself and went to the past. Frank was a historian and naturally he taught her how to do some of that for herself. Plus, she was majoring in history at Harvard. In this episode Brianna can tell the information is a gut punch to Frank, but he wouldn’t explain why.

That night at Laoghaire’s home when Brianna takes off her clothes to get ready for bed, Laoghaire comes in to remove the bed warmer from the bed. (Brianna hadn’t seen that used before.) Laoghaire describes how she felt her last husband would do anything for her and her daughters, but a terrible woman took him from her. Brianna’s a sympathetic ear, not knowing the story is about her own father and mother.

Outlander Season 4 Episode 7
Richard Rankin and, Iona Claire in ‘Outlander’ season 4 episode 7 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Roger makes his way to a shipping port looking for passage to the Carolinas. Guess who he runs into? Nope, not Brianna… The Captain of the Glorianna, Steven Bonnet (Ed Speleers). Roger tries to purchase passage on the ship, but Bonnet will have none of it. He claims his ship is full. Not one to give up easily where Brianna’s concerned…obviously, given his dangerous journey through the stones…he follows Bonnet out of the tavern. Roger continues to argue his case to Bonnet, and eventually is forced to turn to working as a member of the crew to get Bonnet to consider allowing him aboard.

Bonnet finds Roger’s offer amusing, so he takes a coin and flips it. Heads wins him a job on the ship. The old saying “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind right about now. Deceptive charm and his own code are what moved Bonnet, that and money. Roger will come to learn that lesson the hard way, just as Jamie did.

Laoghaire’s preparing a meal in the kitchen while Brianna’s repairing a cabinet door for her. Joan comes in still wearing the flowers in her hair Brianna placed there the day before. Laoghaire mentions the ladies at Lallybroch would wear flowers at times in the spring and summer. Brianna mentions her mother would speak of those at Lallybroch fondly. Now things start to spill out. Laoghaire asks who Brianna’s mother is. When Laoghaire hears Brianna mention her mother’s Claire Fraser, Laoghaire’s blood begins to boil. Brianna uses the last name Randall in the show, but she never used it after going through the stones in the book. She only used Fraser from that point forward.

In the show, Laoghaire hides the full truth from Brianna, but Bree can tell by Laoghaire’s changed demeanor that something’s wrong. The air’s strained and full of tension. As the meal’s being prepared, Laoghaire can’t help but be devious when it comes to Claire and Jamie. She tells Brianna that folks talked about Jamie at Lallybroch and that he doesn’t have room in his heart for a child. That’s the reason he sent her mother away. (Laoghaire can wrap a deception in a passive aggressive comment so easily it can make your head spin.)

Brianna explains she still needs to see her mother and father because of a danger that will come upon then. Things go south pretty quickly after that revelation. Laoghaire snaps and turns completely irrational, as she always does where Claire and Jamie were concerned. Laoghaire accuses Brianna of being a spy sent by her mother. Brianna declares she can tell she’s no longer welcome and gathers her things.

Laoghaire follows and reveals she believes Claire should have burnt at the stake long ago. Brianna suddenly understands she’s in the home of the woman who tried to kill her mother to steal Jamie. Laoghaire accuses Brianna of being a witch and locks her in a room. She swears she’ll see her burnt for witchcraft.

Brianna flashes back to the last conversation she had with Frank. Frank pulled up near where she was with some friends and asked her to get into the car to talk. It was after he and Claire had their last argument about Frank leaving and taking Brianna with him to England. (None of this happened in the book. Frank’s car slid on ice which caused his death in the accident in the book.)

In the flashback, Frank tells Brianna that he and Claire have decided to divorce and he’s leaving. Brianna’s very upset, as any child would be upon hearing their parents are parting. Frank tries to get Brianna to come with him to England. She says she has to go and gets out of the car. Frank tells her he loves her, but she doesn’t say it back before slamming the door.

Brianna was left with the inevitable onslaught of questioning her actions after Frank died. If she’d stayed in the car, if she had agreed to go with him, if, if, if…. But she agreed that she would ‘soldier on’ as Frank had said they would do after the divorce. Brianna is soldiering on for him.

Meanwhile on the Glorianna, Roger’s moving about the lower deck among the passengers looking after the lights. He comes upon a woman and her wee bairn. Bonnet arrives, standing behind Roger as the baby starts crying. Bonnet takes the baby and touches his lips with a drop of whiskey and the baby calms.

Bonnet can be thoughtful at times as just displayed, but he can turn on a dime into a cold, heartless monster. Roger’s seen the good; he’ll soon meet the bad and ugly in Bonnet.

The crew’s roused some days or weeks later by a scream from a child. Roger runs to see what the fuss is about and finds a mother clutching her child of about seven or eight. The child has smallpox. On a ship, in extremely confined spaces, the disease would spread across the entire population. We found out how fast and deadly the disease worked when Claire had to help an infected British ship in season three.

Bonnet instructs Roger to throw the child overboard. He declares all the sick have to be sacrificed so the rest don’t get infected. He does have a point, but it’s a horribly hard move to make and Roger can’t do it.

Bonnet takes the child and throws her out the window. The distraught mother follows her child to the depths of the sea. The crew starts sweeping the ship for others with signs of the rash that indicates smallpox. Roger’s fearful for the young mother and her baby, so he begins hunting for them during the chaos. He finds them, and the baby does have a rash on his face. Anyone who knows babies realizes a teething or milk rash is not a smallpox rash.

In the book it was a breast milk rash on the baby’s face, but in the show they use the excuse of teething. Bonnet would not be one to know the difference, and Roger wouldn’t take the chance either way. He agrees to hide them until the child gets over the rash.

The mother’s Morag Mackenzie (Elysia Welch) and her baby, Jamie. Roger realizes from the name that she’s a member of his family tree. He’s a historian after all, and the Reverend had kept a copy of his family tree for him so he would know about his family after loosing his parents in WWII. They don’t go into this point in the show, but just throwing that in for flavor. Maybe the show will explain that bit sometime.

Brianna’s still trying to escape the room she’s locked in when she hears someone with a key come to the door. She grabs a pitcher and intends to smash Laoghaire in the head with it, but it’s Joan who enters the room.

Joan takes Brianna to Lallybroch and Ian comes out to meet them when Joan explains the traveler is Jamie’s daughter. Ian gives Brianna money and tells her where to go once she arrives in the Carolinas. He also gives her a trunk of Claire’s clothes to take with her.

Back on Bonnet’s ship, the captain discovers the mother and bairn down in the hold. Bonnet follows Roger down to corner him and the mother about the deception. Bonnet pulls a coin and recites a tale, as Irishmen like to do. (I have Irish and Scot in my tree, so I know what of I speak.) He reveals why he uses the coin to make his choices, explaining his life hung in the balance once on a coin flip. He just so happened to be on the winning side, but the situation made a distinct impression on the rest of his life. Would Roger be so lucky?

Bonnet says heads Roger lives, tales he dies. Roger holds his breath as the coin spins in the air. Bonnet catches it and congratulates Roger on the fact the gods are with him that night.

Brianna and Ian make it to the harbor to see Brianna off to the colonies. As Brianna heads inside the tavern to book passage, a man approaches her. In the book, Ian insisted on Brianna getting a servant to travel with her. Ian had intended it be a man for protection, but between the book and show the result remained the same.

Brianna takes on a young lass who’s about to have her bond contract sold to a man that wanted to have her as a concubine. The lassie’s father, Joseph Wemyss (Alec Newman), was beside himself about the issue and begged Brianna to take Lizzie Wemyss (Caitlin O’Ryan) with her, even after Brianna explained where she was headed. The man would rather never see his daughter again than see her shamed and abused.

Brianna has never been in favor of having any kind of bond contract but she decides to help the young lass. Brianna’s hit hard with the realization that a woman’s plight in that time was hard and not always of her own choosing. Lizzie’s father shouts a reminder for her prayers and suddenly Brianna sees a manifestation of Frank. Both lassies have to say their farewells to their fathers. It’s time to soldier on!

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