This Outlander review contains spoilers.
“Perpetual Adoration” changes the status quo for Claire’s surgery, Roger & Bree’s relationship, and Jamie’s militia. Outlander’s cutest supporting character ever joins the cast as well. However, although the episode delivers on allowing viewers to see more of the mindset of their favorite characters, it also inadvertently raises more questions as two plots remain unresolved…
The episode begins with Claire praying in a cathedral in 1960’s Boston. This is the first time we’ve seen a completely 20th-century-set scene this season. Across the episode, it is revealed that Claire developed a deep connection with a patient who moved to America from Scotland: Graham Menzies, a man sick with cholangitis (inflammation of the bile duct), who is hoping to recover in time to attend his wife’s memorial service. Harvard’s architecture, Claire’s Jackie Onassis dress, easy city life in contrast to the linen petticoats and rustic farming life of Fraser’s Ridge but the most important part of these flashbacks are how they are used to to move Claire’s career and her relationship to Bree (and by extension Roger) into focus.
Religion has taken a bit of a backseat in the show’s version of book events. These flashbacks prove that, although Claire does not consider herself religious, she does turn to prayer rituals when her confidence as a doctor wavers. Her worry over the Beardsley brothers unfolds alongside flashbacks to treating Graham Menzies. While the actual removal of Keziah and Josiah’s tonsils is a minor part of the episode, fans can still appreciate Marsali’s continuing medical education and her ability to withstand the sight of blood. Lizzie Weymiss, on the other hand, can’t handle the pressure, but she won’t stop looking at the brothers. Is this a sign of things to come?
Despite Claire’s best intentions and practice, Mr. Menzies’ is one of the 0.5% of patients who are allergic to penicillin. Mr. Menzies passed away before he could attend the annual memorial for his deceased wife at the cathedral, which was incredibly important to him. His devotion to his wife who passed away mirrors Claire’s constant devotion to Jamie despite the separation of time and distance. It’s clear though Mr. Menzie’s expressions Claire felt reminders of Jamie’s voice and personality. The experience explains in further details Claire and Brianna’s decision to travel to London and reconnect with Roger.
Along the way, she meets Joe Abernathy for drinks and advice over her regrets of becoming too attached to Mr. Menzies.Colin McFarlane as Joe Abernathy is a sight for sore eyes. Season 3 of Outlander featured part of Joe’s friendship with Claire but didn’t develop it enough compared to the novel as many of those episodes focus on Claire and Frank’s marriage drama. Joe’s advice about Claire needing to assess her heart is clearly key to her decision to return to Jamie, which was also previously downplayed on the show as well.
Joe’s position as Claire’s closet friend also brings to light a key weakness in the overall plot. Although fans of color have questioned the way the Outlander novels present race, there is at least an attempt to depict the interesection of slavery, colonialism, and white settlers in North Carolina. Claire and Brianna in the books are better informed from their friendships with black people in the 1960’s to then be more vocal against incidents at River Run and other occasions Unfortunately, the show has sidestepped these issues and this includes the cliffhanger from last week about Fanny Beardsley’s baby (named Bonnie in the novel). Would Lucinda really be the best option for care once the Brown clan find out about Jamie’s role in helping Isaiah and Alicia run away? Could the baby assert her rights to the Beardsley property when she comes of age due to race-based restrictions on property ownership.
While Claire prepares more remedies for common illnesses amongst Ridge residents, Roger and Bree hit a rough patch. He accidentally discovers the black diamond Bonnet gave Bree at the end of last season. Roger’s ugly streak of misaligned jealousy returns as he interrogates Bree about how she dealt with the trauma of confronting her rapist. After Bree tries to reassure Roger the diamond is for Jemmy’s safe return to 1970, he angrily leaves the room. Not even the reveal that Bonnet has been sighted in Wilmington is enough to convince Roger to try to work things out. He grabs the hunting rifle and leaves Brianna in tears. Roger critics are back to either sighing about Roger doing well in his journey towards redemption or wanting to slap some sense into him again.
Claire reflects on her conversations with Brianna as she finds Roger doing more sulking than hunting. We see, through Claire’s memories of her conversations with Bree on Harvard’s campus, the depths of her relationship with Brianna, and how that plays into her acceptance of Roger. She tells him marriage isn’t easy and that her lie about Jamie’s identity helped Bree to feel secure and loved. Her relationship with Frank was not always easy but everything she did made the best out of a difficult situation. This informal marriage counseling session proves the evil mother-in-law is a trope Outlander actively rejects. Although some viewers may dismiss the importance of Roger and Bree, it is clear Claire has completely embraced Roger as a son-in-law, despite Jamie’s tough love tactics. Roger and Bree’s relationship has a different dynamic than Jamie and Claire’s but can still endure trauma and time travel.
Roger’s apology may not convince everyone that he has indeed learned his lesson about downplaying Bree’s trauma. His initial reaction is clearly motivated by selfishness, but the apology is a step forward towards reconciling show canon and book canon. So far, Roger has achieved partial redemption but if future episodes can show Roger defending Bree either emotionally or physically, then critics of his past may be completely convinced he has redeemed himself.
In between the flashbacks, Jamie’s militia arrives in Hillsborough to a lukewarm reception. Lieutenant Knox receives orders to disband the troops and militia as Governor Tryon is handing out a pardon-shaped olive branch to the Regulators, except for Murtagh. At first, Knox says he values Jamie’s military camaraderie, but his obsession with finding Murtagh swerves left once he reveals he’s obsessed with figuring out who from Ardsmuir prison is enabling Murtagh. The theme of tough ethical decisions from earlier episodes comes back to play as Jamie realizes Knox’s obsession is going to cause more Scotsmen to die. If Governor Tryon finds out about the family connection, Jamie could be condemned as a traitor all over again. He sets an “accident” for Knox and slips away in the night.
During the getaway, Jamie finds the cutest supporting cast member ever: Adso the cat. Regardless of if you’ve read the novel or not, his fluffy coat and quiet demeanor will melt your heart. Even diehard dog lovers will have to crack a smile and coo over Adso.
“Perpetual Adoration” is the last episode before the midseason mark. Although it achieves the goal of expanding the emotional development of the key characters, fans are still left with unanswered questions. When will Bonnet strike? Will the Redcoats be satisfied that Lieutenant Knox drunkenly set the inn on fire? Will Jamie be ordered by Governor Tryon to hunt Murtagh solo? However those questions are resolved, the end of the episode cements the main theme of this season: Claire’s continuing devotion to her family and her surgery as well as making Fraser’s Ridge a refuge from troubled times.
The name of Claire’s patient in Boston, Graham Menzies, is a clever nod to former cast members Tobias Menzies and Graham McTavish. To add to the meta moment, He is married to an American named Olivia. The Crown fans know that’s a reference to Olivia Colman, Menzies’ current co-star.