In “Down the Rabbit Hole,” the first episode of Outlander to feature neither Claire (Caitriona Balfe) nor Jamie (Sam Heughan), Brianna (Sophie Skelton) isn’t the only one through the stones and on the way to America.
Shortly after learning that Brianna has gone through the stones, Roger (Richard Rankin) follows. Tonight’s episode tracks both Brianna and Roger as they make their way to North Carolina from Scotland.
Brianna arrives in the 1700s with a bag containing a map, a compass, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread and a handful of other items. She sets out on foot from the stones towards the coast with the intention of booking passage to America.
Her travels begin well, but in a moment of excitement raised by spotting a key landmark, she takes a wrong step and winds up with a sprained ankle. Afterwards, traveling is increasingly rough. She passes out cold while in sight of a warm-looking house with lit windows and smoke coming from the chimney.
In her unconsciousness, she dreams she is a little girl again, asleep in the back of the car and being carried into the house by her father (Tobias Menzies). She’s on the right track, as she awakens cozy and warm in a bed inside the house she’d seen, which by some cosmic coincidence belongs to Laoghaire (Nell Hudson).
Laoghaire shows a side of herself we’ve never seen before– the maternal side that must have been in charge while raising Marsali to be a good woman. She only knows Brianna as a traveler who needs help, and she welcomes her into her home for the duration of her recovery. Laoghaire is a caring and kind hostess, and the only peek Brianna receives into the temperament we are more familiar with is when Ian Murray (Steven Cree) visits to tell Laoghaire that her husband has been unable to send the full amount of alimony he owes her.
Intermittently throughout Brianna’s time with Laoghaire, she flashes back to moments with Frank– including one in which she found him drunk in his office after receiving research from Scotland. We recognize the papers on his desk as being a letter from Reverend Wakefield and a photocopy of the newspaper clipping Roger received from America that tells of the deaths of Jamie and Claire in a fire. We also see Brianna’s final conversation with Frank on the night he died, when he sprang on her that he and Claire were divorcing and begged her to come to England with him. After his death, Brianna visited his grave and expressed regret for not having stayed with him, keeping him alive.
The days pass, and Brianna fits neatly into the rhythm of the household. She befriends Laoghaire’s younger daughter, Joanie (Layla Burns), helps in the garden and comforts Laoghaire as she considers the empty nest looming in her near future. As they grow closer, Brianna learns the story of Laoghaire’s marital woes, without ever having names put to the characters in the stories.
One day, as Brianna is nearly well, she and Laoghaire are working companionably in the kitchen when Laoghaire mentions Lallybroch for the first time. Brianna says innocently that that’s where her parents’ relatives live, which raises Laoghaire’s suspicions. She asks who Brianna’s father is, and when she finds out that it’s Jamie Fraser, she goes cold.
In a fairly quick transition from loving mother and welcoming hostess, the Laoghaire we’re used to emerges. Laoghaire tries to plant a seed of unrest in Brianna by lying that rumors suggested Jamie ditched Claire when he found out she was pregnant and that there’s a chance he’ll reject his daughter when she arrives in North Carolina. Brianna tells her that she knows Jamie and Claire will die in a fire, and although she cannot explain why she knows this, she must get to them to prevent their deaths no matter what kind of welcome she receives. This knocks Laoghaire out of conventional mean girl mode and all the way into murderous psycho-b*tch mode.
Laoghaire accuses Brianna of witchcraft, revealing herself as the enemy who tried to have Claire killed. She forces Brianna into her bedroom and locks the door from the outside, declaring that she’ll have Brianna arrested and burned as her mother should have been.
Fortunately, Joanie takes after Marsali– she loves Jamie and misses him, and she doesn’t have her mother’s mean streak. When the coast is clear, she frees Brianna and drives her to Lallybroch in a wagon. When they part, Joanie suggests that perhaps Brianna can ask their Da to come home.
Jenny isn’t there, but Ian welcomes Brianna as his niece without any doubt. He sees Claire in Brianna’s eyes and Jamie in her temperament. He outfits Brianna with a chest of Claire’s left-behind clothes and enough money to secure passage on a ship to the Americas and shelter when she arrives. He instructs her to look up Aunt Jocasta when she gets there, then takes her to the docks to see her off. When they part, he asks her to tell his son to write home more often.
Brianna enters a tavern to book passage, and is stopped by a desperate man (Alec Newman) who begs her to take his daughter as her servant to save the girl from becoming a concubine. She resists at first, but is wise to welcome the companionship of someone native to the time when she agrees and buys passage for herself and Lizzie Wemyss (Caitlin O’Ryan). They board a ship bound for North Carolina with money in pocket and era-appropriate clothing in a trunk– a fine outcome considering the perils of Brianna’s journey!
Roger is also experiencing some hardship on his quest. In another cosmic twist, he attempts to book passage on a ship bound for North Carolina that is captained by the evil Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers). Why do these young lovers need to pass through gates kept by Brianna’s parents’ worst living enemies to reach them?
Bonnet refuses to take Roger on as a passenger, but due to Roger’s persistence and a lucky coin toss, he does accept him as a crew member. He warns Roger that there are four ports before Wilmington, so it will be a while before he connects with the young lady he’s following.
At sea, Roger befriends a young woman who is traveling alone with her infant son. The baby is teething, and the captain is not amused by his fussing. In an incredibly tense moment, Bonnet takes the baby away from his mother and gives him some alcohol to soothe and quiet him. He leaves the flask with the mother with a look that suggests she would be wise to use it going forward.
Later, a little girl on the ship breaks out in a rash that looks like smallpox. Roger discovers Bonnet preparing to force the girl overboard to prevent an outbreak of the deadly disease. Roger fails to stop the cruel captain from throwing her out of his cabin window. The girl’s mother follows her voluntarily, and Bonnet orders the crew to search the rest of the passengers for signs of infection and bring anyone exhibiting symptoms to him.
Roger makes a beeline for the young mother. He tells her he wants to hide her and the baby until they arrive safely at their destination. She introduces herself as Morag MacKenzie (Elysia Welch), and Roger shares that he is also a MacKenzie. He promises to see her safely to America, and conceals her in the store room.
Some time later, Roger is sneaking provisions to Morag when Bonnet follows him. The captain reveals that a crew member had found Morag already and reported her. Roger’s one-man mutiny warrants death, but since Bonnet was spared from murder by a coin toss on his first job, he offers Roger the same mercy. The coin flips in Roger’s favor, and he survives to continue on his way. What will happen???
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