Warning- Contains spoilers from Outlander Episode 410: The Deep Heart’s Core
“I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
-William Butler Yeats, 1892
Like Yeats, dreaming of nature while surrounded by urban environs, our characters this hour wish to be elsewhere. Roger, most obviously, yearns for escape. Brianna and Claire wistfully remember their lives in the twentieth century. Jamie is troubled by guilt and regret. Brianna, haunted in her dreams and waking life, cannot keep from replaying her trauma. All them remembering, in their heart’s core, an easier and more peaceful time.
This episode essentially acts as an extension of last week’s and in this hour we see the ramifications of all those unforgivable mistakes made by our characters. Little happens action-wise: we learn Roger is captured by the Mohawk, conflict erupts as everyone on Fraser’s Ridge learns the truth and results of each other’s mistakes, and half of them (Brianna, Murtagh, Lizzie) go to River Run while the other half (Jamie, Claire, Ian) embarks on a journey to save Roger.
But the relatively slow pace suits the episode just fine, as it allows a ton of emotional weight to settle and the characters to sort through the main challenge (and theme) at hand: deciding what it is they really want. When they stop to listen, what is it that they hear in their deep heart’s core?
At its most basic level this episode is about choices: Brianna deciding whether or not to terminate the pregnancy, Ian and Jamie determining how to set things right, Claire deciding whether she can leave Brianna (again), and (somewhat hilariously) Ian deciding to propose to his cousin. (Psst, Claire, when you’ve finished teaching everyone about germ theory you might want to move on to recessive genetics).
Most dramatically, Roger must first choose whether to survive (because it was very much a decision), and then whether to escape through the standing stones. When he finally gets what he’s been hoping for– a chance for freedom and safety– we are left with a cliffhanger…and also some empathy.
Because often the things we’ve been wanting or envisioning- escape, vengeance, insults, violence- don’t end up matching expectations. Think of all those times in your own life when you actually said (or typed) the perfect insult. It probably didn’t have the desired or intended effect, right? Often we are left feeling worse than if we hadn’t said anything at all. Very often it wasn’t worth it.
And those things– horrible words, wrong actions– are the ones we can’t take back…the actions we come to regret. All we can do is move forward after pain. Like Roger, we must simply put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.
And that’s essentially right where this episode begins, with Jamie and Brianna working through the aftermath of her rape. Brianna wants justice; she (very understandably) contemplates murder. Pointedly, Jamie asks whether she’s killed anyone before. He knows that imagining the killing of a man is one thing, actually doing it is quite another. In the end it likely will not accomplish what she truly wants– an opportunity to undo what has been done to her.
By the time Jamie killed Blackjack Randall at Culloden it almost didn’t seem to matter…his wife and child were gone, his friends were slaughtered, his own life hung on a precipice. Three years of building to that one moment but the hard work of self-forgiveness and healing had already been done; Randall’s death was a footnote in the whole process.
And Jamie understands that it is a process. He knows that self-loathing can only be overcome through acceptance. He knows Brianna could not have changed the circumstances; helping her come to that same conclusion is an uncomfortable but necessary step.
Claire is there, too, guiding Brianna. Should she terminate her pregnancy? Should she return to the twentieth century? Claire stood in front of those standing stones enough to know that such difficult decisions are for Brianna alone to make.
Thoughts of Roger keep Brianna looking to the future, and she does the same for him. “I can’t die this way,” he says to his fellow captive, making a decision to figuratively and literally keep moving forward.
Brianna and Claire discussing what they miss about their old lives was a nice little interlude. Again, it ties into the question of what these characters truly want. Claire made that decision long ago (twice, actually), trading the conveniences of modernity for a once-in-a-lifetime love.
Now it’s Brianna’s turn. What does she want? What will have the greater pull? She undoubtedly loves her family, but this Led Zeppelin-loving, higher-educated woman is very much a product of the twentieth century.
And nowhere is that more obvious than in the scene where the proverbial shit hits the fan. Brianna has the independence to assert her feelings here, not allowing the emotions of others to steal or subvert her justifiable anger.
Claire must also choose between the pull of two difficult choices: staying with Briana, or accompanying Jamie and helping Roger. In a nice parallel to Freedom & Whisky (Episode 305), Brianna gives her permission to leave.
The plan is determined: Claire, Jamie, and Ian venture out into the Appalachian wilderness to rescue Roger, who is somewhere between North Carolina and upstate New York…should be a total cinch! Meanwhile, Murtagh takes Brianna and Lizzie to River Run for safekeeping. Needless to say, this is likely not what any of them wanted.
I’m somewhat bitter that Murtagh and Brianna did not let poor Ulysses read that damn letter. While we’re in the subject of what people want, I would like an entire episode of Colin McFarlane reading All The Letters. Please.
Nevertheless, Murtagh reuniting with Jocasta was very sweet. I’ve been one of many speculating if these two would end up together, but I honestly can’t see how the writers will do that now that they’ve made Murtagh a Regulator. Jocasta is unlikely to abet any attempts to overthrow a government that keeps her wealthy, and Murtagh is unlikely to support a lifestyle based on slavery. Still, family is family and we cling to home when we find ourselves in new lands.
Which brings us back to Roger, a man far from home, standing in front of a buzzing stone circle, conveniently in possession of a few gemstones…an opportunity for which he has been hoping but is now unsure. An uncertain future here with Brianna, or a chance for escape back into his own century? What is it, exactly, that he really wants? What will have the greater pull?
The Iroquois creation story tells of twin brothers, Sapling and Flint. Sapling created all that was good and Flint tarnished that which was created. Sapling created fish, Flint gave them bones. Sapling gave the world rivers, Flint changed the directions in which they flowed. Sapling created berries, Flint gave them thorns. For all the wonderful things Sapling created, Flint created a hardship.
And so it is in this episode: life comes with death, family comes with fights, and love comes with heartache. All that is good in this world is somehow flawed. Yet we mortals choose to keep surviving despite those hardships. Figuratively or literally, we walk through the pain and emerge stronger on the other side. When faced with difficult decisions we ask ourselves what it is we really want…what do we hear in our deep heart’s core? Then we venture forward, one foot in front of the other.