SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Down the Rabbit Hole,” the seventh episode of “Outlander” Season 4.
“Down the Rabbit Hole” is likely to be a divisive episode, especially for those viewers who have read the books. While the return of Frank was a lovely surprise — Tobias Menzies is a talented actor and it was nice to see him get scenes with Sophie Skelton — the show also took some major liberties with Brianna’s (Skelton) journey back in time that changed the tone of her entire time in Scotland.
After landing in 1760s Scotland, Bree took off across the cold and barren landscape to try to find the harbor where she could sail for America. But she was alone and not exactly outfitted for hiking miles across the Scottish wilderness, so of course, she twisted an ankle and eventually collapsed in a shivering mass.
Who should find her but none other than everyone’s favorite wretch, Laoghaire (Nell Hudson)? She had been living alone with her younger daughter Joanie (Layla Burns) and constantly complaining to Ian (Steven Cree) about Jamie not sending her enough money. Of course, neither woman had any idea of their shared connection, so Laoghaire was perfectly lovely to Brianna, at least at first, taking care of her until she was well enough to continue on her way.
While there, Brianna bonded with Joanie over them both not really knowing their biological fathers as well as their parents’ hearts being broken by someone they loved who didn’t love them back. It created an interesting parallel between Laoghaire and Frank, and made Brianna’s flashbacks to the time right before her father died fit in well with the episode’s main plot.
Anyway, over the course of Brianna’s stay, Laoghaire slowly revealed just how mentally unhinged she still was when it came to Jamie (Sam Heughan). Laoghaire severely romanticized Jamie’s feelings for her, convinced that he was in love with her until Claire (Caitriona Balfe) bewitched him with a love potion and hardened his heart against Laoghaire. It would actually be pretty sad — if Laoghaire hadn’t tried to have Claire burned as a witch.
It eventually came out that Brianna’s biological parents are Jamie and Claire — and Laoghaire lost her ever-loving mind. She immediately told Brianna all sorts of lies about her parents, including that Claire was a witch and that Jamie didn’t have room in his heart for a baby and sent Claire away when he found out she was pregnant. She also locked Brianna in her room with the intent of having her burned as a witch as well, but luckily Joanie could see the writing on the wall in regards to her mother and took Bree to Lallybroch.
The show spent so much time with Bree and Laoghaire, which wasn’t a story adapted from the book, that Brianna’s time at Lallybroch was majorly truncated. When she arrived, her Uncle Ian welcomed her wholeheartedly and quickly helped her find a ship sailing to America. The last thing Bree did before departing was take on a chambermaid named Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan), in order to save the young girl from being sold as a concubine.
While all this was happening in Brianna’s new “present day,” she kept thinking of Frank, the man she thought of as her father because he raised her, which provided the show a chance to flash back and offer a glimpse into their time together before his death. He found out about Claire and Jamie’s deaths in the 1770s from Reverend Wakefield and struggled with whether to tell Brianna about it, ultimately deciding he not only couldn’t explain the time travel but also couldn’t ruin Bree’s world like that.
But Bree knew that he was keeping something important from her and lashed out at him. Then later, he informed her that he and Claire were divorcing, which hit her hard even if she had to know they were unhappy because of all of their fighting. But it’s still hard for a child — even a grown one — to deal with his or her parents’ divorce, and she blasted him for his decision and told him there was no way she’d go with him to England to study. Frank was offered a position at Cambridge and wanted Bree to come with him, but she refused and stormed out of the car. Then that night he was killed in the car accident and Bree blamed herself for not staying with him that night.
When she departed for America with Lizzie, Bree had a vision of her father wishing her well on the docks and seemed to find peace with his memory. It was great overall interweaving of Brianna’s two lives, even if it was a shame we didn’t get to see her meet her Aunt Jenny (Laura Donnelly) and other Lallybroch family members.
While that certainly felt like enough material to fill an entire episode, the show also managed to include Roger’s (Richard Rankin) adventures trying to find Bree — and wow, was it dark.
After traveling back to 1760s Scotland, Roger beat Brianna to the harbor, owing to the fact that he didn’t get waylaid in a “Misery”-type situation with a twisted ankle and a twisted woman. But he found a twisted, evil being of his own when he booked passage on Stephen Bonnet’s ship, the Gloriana.
Aboard the ship, Roger quickly found out how ruthless Bonnet (Edward Speleers) could be when a young girl was showing signs of smallpox and he tossed her out a window into the sea. Her mother jumped in after her, which showed Roger that he had to protect another young mother (Elysia Welch) and her baby who had a rash because he was teething.
Roger hid them and snuck them rations until Bonnet found out about it, and it was only by the luck of a coin flip that he didn’t kill Roger right then and there. It wasn’t a surprise that Bonnet was bad, but this was another glimpse into just how evil he is.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.