After two episodes focusing solely on Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) in 1760s America, Outlander's third episode, "The False Bride," finally checks back in with Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) in the 1970s. Sadly, by the end of the episode, their relationship has taken quite the turn.
Warning: spoilers for the most recent episode of Outlander ahead!
Upon selling his father's house in Inverness, Roger travels to America to see Bree in Boston and take her with him to a Scottish festival in North Carolina, where he's performing. Things are going really well for them until Roger asks Brianna to marry him. She doesn't exactly bolt because she obviously loves Roger, but Brianna is decidedly not ready for that kind of huge commitment, and she rejects him. She doesn't see why they can't still sleep together, though, and that's when Roger really loses it.
"You don't want to marry me, but you'll f*ck me?!" he yells. "If all I wanted was to have my way with you, I would've had you on your back a dozen times last Summer."
After this, Bree slaps him and they go a few rounds about how he has slept with other women, but he expects Bree to save herself for when they're at least engaged. It's incredibly hypocritical of him, but he thinks he's in the right and storms off.
If nonbook readers were left with their jaws on the floor about how Roger could be so awful to Bree, well — they're right. The show actually takes this fight nearly verbatim out of Diana Gabaldon's book Drums of Autumn, upon which season four is based. In fact, in the book, the fight gets even uglier, with Roger forcing a kiss on Bree, after which she bites him.
However, there is one thing in the book that makes the entire incident slightly more palatable. In it, Bree and Roger work things out during the fight, and it makes a big difference in how I personally regard Brianna's agency in all this. After they've had their row, she explains how her parents' marriage was supposed to be forever but then it turned out her mother went on to meet her soulmate later. Bree won't have that — she'll marry once and that's it, so she has to be 100 percent sure and she's not quite there yet.
Roger understands that, but he says he will have her as his wife or not at all. He won't just sleep with her. So Roger is going to wait until Bree finishes her degree and then they can actually be together for more than a few days at a time.
On the show, the fight ends and Bree goes to find Roger later. The reason I don't care for this resolution is that Bree should not be the one going to Roger, hat in hand. Without the momentum of the fight carrying them into a resolution, it feels much more like she is in the wrong and must explain herself to him rather than Roger having to grovel for Bree's forgiveness at saying such gross and cruel things to her.
Either way, if you're wondering how Roger could be such a jerk, keep in mind two things. First, this is only 1971. The women's liberation movement is still in its infancy, and society is still grappling with accepting women who want sexual freedom without marital commitment.
Second, Roger was raised in relatively rural Scotland by a reverend; Brianna was raised in urban Boston by Claire, the only woman in her entire medical school class. Those are two very different perspectives on sex and gender roles, so it's not a huge surprise. And while of course viewers want all the leads to be amazing people all the time, that's just not realistic. Even Jamie, whose only flaw it seems is that he can't wink, had that incident in season one when he used corporal punishment on Claire after she ran off and put his men in danger. Modern-day readers/viewers may see that as domestic abuse, but that's not necessarily how it was viewed back then. It's an interesting gray area, and it doesn't stop Claire from falling for Jamie, so this likely won't stop Brianna from falling for Roger. But it does present an obstacle for them, certainly.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.