When I’m not reading or watching Outlander one of my favorite things to do is think about the beautiful life lessons tucked neatly inside all those tales of love and adventure. These are my favorite lessons from Season 4 of Outlander.
This article was originally posted at outlandercast.com on May 1, 2019.
Two years ago I wrote a life lessons post after pondering the first two seasons of Outlander. I thought it would be a one-time thing until, one day last summer, I was driving with my daughter and life lessons from Outlander Season 3 jumped into my head. I asked her to grab my notebook and write them down. Because she’s a dutiful child (and by turns also willful) she served as my scribe and by the time we reached our destination I had a list of Season 3 Outlander life lessons. Outlander is funny like that. Unlike any show I’ve ever watched, it sticks with me long after I’ve stepped away from the screen. The moments come back to me over time and I think about them in the context of whatever wonderful thing or nonsense is going on in my own life.
This season I tried something a little different. I watched the episodes in search of life lessons rather than waiting for them to come find me. The result is a list of at least 20 lessons that threatens to grow with every episode rewatch. I won’t bore you with the full list. Instead, I’ll give you my 10 favorite Outlander Season 4 Life Lessons.
Never Underestimate the Value of a Hug
I come from a long line of huggers. Consider this your warning in the event that we ever meet. We hug when we’re happy. We hug when we’re sad. Sometimes we hug when words fail us and we don’t know what else to do. Those moments, in particular, are the ones where I most value a hug.
When Young Ian tells Jamie about his treatment at the hands of Geillis, it feels like a confession, as if his heart will burst if he carries the burden of the secret one minute longer. Jamie hears Young Ian’s story and comforts him. He assures the young man that he did what he needed to do to survive (as did Jamie all those years ago) and then they hug. That embrace of uncle and nephew conveys more than two more minutes of dialogue. While Jamie is quite often frustrated with his nephew, his love and concern for him are obvious here and it just gives me all the feels.
It’s Never Too Late to Build a Dream
Episode 4 features a beautiful montage of Claire, Jaime, and Young Ian raising Fraser’s Ridge from the forest floor. Clare and Jamie, now in their 50s, are building a home one felled tree at a time. Once the footprint been marked off Jamie gives Claire a “tour” of the house. He tells her that they will have a place for books and candles so that they can read in the dark, that their bedroom will face east so they can enjoy sunrises together, and that he has set aside a place for her to work with her herbs. Claire’s face glows with happiness and she tells Jamie that it’s “perfect.”
These two had a vision for the life that they wanted together and they devoted themselves to creating it. As I sit, comfortably ensconced in my 40s, I sometimes let myself believe that the time for dreams has passed, that it’s too late to reach outside my comfortable box and try something new. Jamie and Claire remind me that it is never too late to build a dream.
Bad Partners Can Be Wonderful Parents
There has been a lot of conversation about the way the show runners included Laoghaire in the Season 4 story line. And there has always been a lot of conversation and disagreement with regards to Frank and whether or not his character is true to the books. I think I’ve made it clear that I am not a Frank fan.
With all that said, I love the insights into Bree and Frank’s relationship and Laoghaire’s relationship with Joan and Marsali. It is an opportunity to see them not as the villainous spoils to Jamie and Claire, but as flawed humans who aren’t cruel at heart but rather hardened by lives that veered beyond their control. Frank and Laoghaire loved Claire and Jamie and both dreamed of lives with them. When fate intervened they didn’t know how to move on (and neither did Claire and Jamie) or how to build a life with what was left of their partners. What they did, instead, was pour themselves into raising their respective children. They passed on life skills, recipes, gardening knowledge, Bible stories, history, and they taught them how to love even though love had disappointed them time and again.
Friends for a Reason, a Season, and a Lifetime
My friend, Ashley Crawley, introduced me to the idea that friendships are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It’s difficult to categorize friendships when you are young because it’s so hard to believe that your current friends won’t always be by your side. As we get older, and reflect on the friendships that have come and gone and those that linger through time and distance and busy lives, we are better able to sort them out and confirm for ourselves that the adage is true.
Throughout the four seasons of Outlander Jamie had Claire have made numerous friends for specific reasons or in seasons of their lives. Geillis (pre-goat’s blood spa treatment), Louise de Rohan, Joe Abernathy, Angus, Rupert, and others helped Jamie and Claire navigate tough situations and cared for them when they couldn’t care for themselves. Remember Louise’s heart-wrenching visit to Claire after Faith was stillborn? These friendships were ended by time, circumstances, and war but each made lasting impressions on Jamie and Claire and, in some cases, changed the trajectory of their lives. Outlander would have ended abruptly if Claire had been burned at the stake rather than Geillis causing the commotion that allowed Claire to escape.
Then we have the friendships that have thrived and continue to nourish Jamie and Claire. Lord John Grey loves Jamie, and comes to love Claire once they make their peace with each other and John’s affection for Jamie. However long it has been between visits, John and Jamie seem to pick up wherever they last left the conversation. Jamie and Claire resumed their comfortable relationship with Murtagh as if 20 years had been only two. Sure, they are at odds politically in the fourth season but that doesn’t change the love and respect they have for each other. Murtagh and John are friends for life. If we are lucky, we all have one of each in our own lives.
Avoid the Temptation to Call a Blessing a Curse
In episode 5, Herr Mueller loses his ever-lovin’ shit when he sees the Cherokee watering their horses in front of his house. After Claire convinces the Cherokee to water their horses downstream, they sprinkle something into the stream and begin to walk away. Herr Mueller is convinced they have cursed “his” water and Claire does everything within her power to convince him not to shoot the Cherokee. Herr Mueller was so worried about protecting something that didn’t even belong to him that he couldn’t see past his own blind rage to see the blessing.
Recently, I had been having a trying day at work. It was just one of those days when everything went sideways. I wanted desperately to get back to my office so that I could have a few moments of silence to collect my thoughts. As I waited for the elevator an elderly woman struck up a conversation and it became clear that she was bound for my office to inquire about donating a “collection.” We often gets calls from community members wishing to donate antiques, collectibles, and personal libraries that we just can’t accept. On our ascent to the sixth floor I mentally prepared my remarks and hoped that I could have her out of my office in under five minutes. As we approached my office door, a voice somewhere deep inside said “give her ten minutes.”
I‘m not the kind of woman who ignores random internal voices so we sat down and I asked her to show me her “collection.” It consisted of five books, all written in Vietnamese that I assured her we could get into the hands of people who would use them. She then told me stories about working with Vietnamese orphans (one of whom she adopted) and how she then moved on to China to help open the channels for adoption between that country and the US. It was at that point that my tears flowed freely. I pointed to the pictures of my daughter over my right shoulder. It is likely that this woman‘s efforts made it possible for me to adopt my daughter. I thanked her for her work and, in the next few minutes, she went on to tell me about her life in Micronesia, Japan, and several other countries. I sat awestruck with a smile that I could not wipe from my face. I had nearly labeled this sweet woman as a curse and she was precisely the blessing that I needed on that bizarre day; lesson learned.
Being Prepared Doesn’t Necessarily Make the Journey Easier
Unlike Claire’s Bat Suit montage in Outlander Season 3, we don’t get to see Bree’s preparations for her journey through the stones. We do, however, see the contents of her purse spill out on the moor as she tumbles down a hill in episode 7. We then see her make a fire with matches that were clearly from her own time. Bree had the benefit of seeing Claire prepare for her own trip. She was as prepared as she could have been and, yet, one small, unforeseeable twist of fate nearly threatened to derail all her plans and her hopes of finding Jamie and Claire.
How many times have we planned our lives, our careers, or even just dinner and then had to watch as the plans are ruined by events, people, or dairy products (it’s a long story) that are completely beyond our control? The important thing to remember is that our planning is never for nothing. We learn something in the process. We figure out how to avoid the same results in the future. We grow professionally. We grow personally. We become better humans when we plan, fail, and keep on going. And who knows? Maybe as you persevere on your re-imagined journey, you’ll meet the step-daughter of your biological father which would make her your…ahh…never mind. You get the point. Right?
A Father’s Love is Letting Go
A few years ago I wrote an essay for Father’s Day called A Father’s Love is Letting Go. It details how my partner and I love my daughter in two different but valid ways. I prepare my daughter for the future by teaching her how to be self-sufficient and strong but I live in constant fear of the time when she’ll need to be both. I want to protect her from everything and everyone who might hurt her. While I want her to explore the world and have life-changing experiences, I would also very much like to roll her in bubble wrap and carry all one hundred and ten pounds of her on my back like I did for much of her toddler years. A father’s love is less about bubble wrap and doing all the things without fear.
This idea appears a few times in episode 7 and was sprinkled throughout Outlander Season 4. Lizzie’s father begs Bree to take her on as a servant to save her from being dishonored by a man. When he finds out that doing this would mean a trip across the ocean for Lizzie and likely never seeing his daughter again, he doesn’t blink. He sees this as the only way to give a Lizzie a better future. Lizzie’s father loves her so much that he lets her go. He lets her go across an ocean with a stranger with the hope that an uncertain future in the colonies will be better than the certain future of sexual slavery in Scotland.
As they board the ship, Bree turns one last time and sees Frank smiling and giving his approval to her voyage. Book readers already knew, and show watchers would realize, that Frank had prepared her for this moment. He taught her to shoot and ride horses and he planted the seed of a return to the past that Bree would only come to understand years later. Frank loves Bree so much that he gives her the tools she needs to make the journey he knows she is destined to make. Franks devotes his life to letting Bree go.
No Force on This Earth is Stronger Than Two Parents Protecting Their Child
The Outlander Season 4 finale has a lot of wonderful moments but one of my favorites is the conversation between Claire, Jamie, and Roger after Young Ian secures Roger’s freedom. I love it so much that I made note of it in the episode recap that I wrote with Ashley. Claire and Jamie want Roger to know exactly what awaits him if he returns to Brianna. This forest showdown reminds me of what a force Jamie and Claire are in general but also how that force is amplified when they are united in defense of their daughter. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of those cross-armed stances and icy glares!
But isn’t that what we do as parents? We claw and fight and attempt to break down anyone who threatens to harm or break the hearts of our children. The enemy list is long and we’re ok with that. If protecting our flesh and blood means shedding a little blood in a forest where no one can hear the screams then that’s just what we’ll do.
If You Love Something Set It Free (or Sell It to Your Neighbors Who are Moving to Upstate New York)
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.” Bree and Roger both bring their modern sensibilities into their 1760s romance and it results in Bree basically telling Roger that she doesn’t need no stinkin’ man. A few missed steps and a reminder by Captain Bonnet that Roger has a debt to work off and the two are separated assuming that each has decided to move on. When Roger is finally able to make it to Fraser’s Ridge he is immediately beaten to a pulp and sold to the Mohawk who just happen to be on their way to New York.
During his captivity, Roger has plenty of time to convince himself that Bree is not worth the trouble. In their post-freedom chat, Jamie and Claire give Roger every reason that he needs to return to his own time and carry on as if nothing has happened. All he has to do is leave and he doesn’t. The pull of Bree and their love of each other is enough to make him ride a horse all the way back to North Carolina and declare his love for the woman for whom he has traveled through time. Bree set Roger free and he (eventually) comes back. I guess he’s hers now.
Find Your Tribe
Book readers know that Jamie spends no small amount of time trying to serve as a tutor to Young Ian. Ian has no aptitude for languages and no patience for books. Much to Jamie’s chagrin, Young Ian is always in search of the next adventure and the next lady. Jamie seems to have been born a warrior, a laird, and a protector. Ian? Well, he was born for something else, something that he can’t quite name until he finds himself right in the middle of it.
We watch Ian grow during Seasons 3 and 4, ever chaffing under the control of his uncle, always looking for “something else.” When he trades places with Roger, Ian likely thinks that his life is over (I certainly did). As the scene progresses and Ian conquers the gauntlet, we are left to believe that he has proven his worth to the Mohawk (as he already had to his uncle) and that he will be a revered part of this community. The looks of joy on Ian’s face say everything.
I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I have family and friends who are dear to me but I tend to keep the circle small. I never truly understood the importance of having a tribe until I found myself (much like Ian) right up in the middle of one with a big, goofy grin on my face. This tribe is the group of people who have seen the inside of my heart and welcomed me anyway. We are there for each other through every up and down that life throws our way. We’ve got each other’s backs. We lift each other up. We love unconditionally.
To those of you who haven’t found your tribe yet, keep looking. They are waiting for you and their group won’t be complete until you join it. To those of you who have found your tribe, we know who you are; the smile gives it away.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Outlander might be fiction (I say might because I’m still holding out hope that time travel is possible) but there’s a lot of real life lessons just waiting for you if you peel back a couple of layers and think on them for a bit. Happy ruminating my friends!
Did you find any life lessons in Outlander Season 4? Do you agree with mine? Disagree? I want to hear from you!