TV Show Review

TV Review: OUTLANDER: Season 4, Episode 9: The Birds and The Bees [Starz]

Sam Heughan Sophie Skelton Outlander The Birds and The Bees

Outlander The Birds and The Bees Review

Starz’s Outlander: Season 4, Episode 9: The Birds and The Bees is the second part of a two part examination of sexual assault.

Regarding the presentation of this type of trauma on the small and big screen, there is the trauma itself and then there is the follow-up from the incident. Between Wilmington and The Birds and The Bees, the viewer gets both. When Brianna is painfully disrobing in The Birds and The Bees after the rape, bruises visible, blooded underclothes discarded, cleaning Stephen Bonnet’s DNA from between her legs, with the added discomfort of someone else being in the room, writers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts want the viewer to know that even in 1767 America, rape is not an everyday occurrence. Degradation of this nature transcends a year, a country, and a situation. It cuts through everything and lands on the human heart and in the human mind. That is what the viewer witnesses during the cleansing and as Brianna “Bree” Randall Fraser (Sophie Skelton) rests head-to-pillow on the greatest and most horrific night of her life.

Secrets in the world of Outlander sometimes have dire, unforeseen consequences. These season of Outlander has had a tantalizing increase in held secrets that have twisted and turned what would have been an good narrative into a riveting storyline.

Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) holding the identity of Brianna Randall’s sexual attacker in confidence bears unfortunate fruit in The Birds and The Bees as does the bearing of secrets Elizabeth “Lizzie” Wemyss (Caitlin O’Ryan) has no right to reveal to another living soul. If Brianna didn’t want to talk about her sexual assault with Lizzie, doesn’t it stand to reason that she wouldn’t want Lizzie to talk about Brianna’s resultant condition after the assault to anyone? What Lizzie does comes from the heart, from wanting to help Brianna (to possibly avenge Brianna through Jamie) but as the old adage goes “no good deed goes unpunished.”

What Lizzie says combined with the secret identity of Brianna’s attacker leads to one of the most grueling pieces of television, next to the rape in Wilmington, that has been on TV in some months.

When James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan) beats Roger Wakefield MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) bloody and senseless in The Birds and The Bees, the viewer feels sickened and saddened. Jamie Fraser is righteous in nearly beating Roger to death but bludgeons the wrong person. With every punch and kick, the fear that Roger will be beaten to death grows in the mind of the viewer. It’s that fear, as skin smacks against bloody skin, that is the worst part of the beating. If Jamie did beat Roger to death then found out afterward who Roger really was, Jamie would never forgive himself, and Brianna, the daughter that Jamie is trying to get to know, would find it extremely difficult to look Jamie him in the eyes.

Luckily for all parties concerned, this tragedy is avoided. In its place, Roger’s face is rendered a hunk of blood-laced meatloaf, his funeral visage, if it weren’t for bystanders traipsing in at an inopportune time.

I hope Ian Murray, Jr. (John Bell) does not kill Roger Wakefield after carrying his unconscious body into the woods. Ian doesn’t seem like a cold-blooded killer, even to avenge a family member. If Ian does, it will change the tenor of his character and his character’s arc in a dark, completely unexpected way.

If Roger Wakefield isn’t killed, survives his ordeal, and is somehow reunited with Brianna Fraser, I can’t imagine that Roger won’t be filled with rage at Jamie Fraser over what Jamie did to him, even-though it was a legitimate case of mistaken identity. Rage is rage, it isn’t rational, even when faced with reason and the facts. It will still burn and want to be quenched.

What is quenched in The Birds and The Bees is the long-sought meeting between father and daughter that have never met.

Like Tywin Lannister riding a defecating horse into the throne room before receiving acknowledgment from the king, before a pivotal moment in Jamie’s life occurs in The Birds and The Bees, it is proceeded by a bowel movement. Unlike the Game of Thrones example, in The Birds and The Bees there is an acknowledgement of parentage following “the movement” that begins with a hilarious misunderstanding followed by clarity. The pivotal moment in The Birds and The Bees is stretched out just right, with Jamie initially only seeing an amorous stranger that he must politely rebuff. Seeing Jamie and Brianna both cry when Jamie realizes who Brianna truly is was a moment the viewer has been waiting for since Claire Fraser became pregnant with Brianna Randall.

The special moment in The Birds and The Bees is amplified when Brianna surprises her mother by her presence in 1767 America, yet all of these first meetings and reunions are overshadowed by what Brianna Randall endured the evening before. All of the happiness on-screen has an undercurrent of waiting sorrow because what Brianna’s parents don’t know is going to break their joyous hearts.

Because she just met him, Brianna Randall believes that Jamie Fraser “can’t handle” her rapist, Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers). Brianna seems to have forgotten (or doesn’t know) that Jamie is a combat veteran whose fought and killed multiple trained British soldiers. That says a lot about Jamie’s prowess with arms and hand-to-hand combat. Just because a person is psychotic (i.e. Stephen Bonnet) doesn’t not mean they are the best warrior in the country. It may mean that they are unpredictable in combat but that is nothing that a seasoned soldier can not deal with or overcome. Stephen Bonnet, for all of his silver tongue and propensity for all manner of violence, is no Black Jack Randall. That is saying something when one considers that Jamie Fraser fought Black Jack numerous times, survived, and eventually killed Black Jack.

Captain Stephen Bonnet shows himself to be capable of stealing scenes within Outlander through his line delivery and menace in The Birds and The Bees. “Lass or limb” stays with the viewer after they hear it because Bonnet has every intention of maiming Roger Wakefield if he doesn’t comply with Bonnet’s demand. What also stays with the viewer is Roger’s cold regard for Captain Bonnet, Bonnet’s obliviousness to it, the relish Bonnet has with dispelling a dream, and telling someone what’s what, to that person’s dismay. Bonnet is capable of going from friendly to bleak in a microsecond where as Black Jack Randall seemed to exist only in darkness, rivaling in it, like a Sith. That is why Bonnet is far more dangerous than Captain of His Majesty’s Eighth Dragoons Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall ever was. Black Jack was a villain that someone could see coming. His reputation proceeded him in certain quarters. Bonnet, on the other hand, is a chameleon, changing and shifting with a situation into the persona that is necessary at the time for survival and for enrichment. Bonnet reads people and situations and is able to effectively pitch himself to the person or audience he is talking to. The viewer saw this in America the Beautiful and sees it again in The Birds and The Bees.

When Brianna Randall says that she needs to see her mother as soon as possible in The Birds and The Bees, it foreshadows something that the viewer can surmise because of Dr. Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser’s profession – that Brianna is pregnant. Brianna’s choice about her pregnancy is the real conundrum. Is it too late for an abortion? If it is not, will Brianna undergo the procedure? Some women decide to have a child conceived in rape, some do not, while others give the child up for adoption. Whatever the situation and ultimate decision is with the pregnancy, it will change Brianna (i.e. termination or adoption is no easy decision) and may alter the course of her life (i.e. keeping a child of rape).

Caitriona Balfe’s best acting in The Birds and The Bees comes in the moments directly after she learns of Brianna Randall’s rape. Inquisitiveness and waiting for an unspoken fact to be revealed is replaced by one of the worst fears realized in a parent for their child. From that precise moment moving forward, Claire Fraser’s existence and outlook on life irrevocably changes. The viewer can literally see the reality of what Brianna tells her mother washing over Claire in punishing, seismic waves while coterminous, the weight of Brianna’s ordeal lessens in the telling of it to Claire. It is the type of relief that can only be gained for someone from their parent.

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

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