Poor Roger is completely out of his depth in the 18th century. While many wonder why the show changed the book, here’s a defense for Roger’s actions on Outlander Season 5, Episode 4.
I will admit that the moment I saw Outlander Season 5, Episode 4, I knew that book-first fans would question the show’s decision to make another change. In “The Fiery Cross,” Roger certainly didn’t handle the situation at Brownsville by handing Morton over and pulling out the whiskey.
But while watching it, I felt like it was honest to the character that the show has developed. Book Roger and Show Roger are two very different people. Because of that, their storylines will develop differently from this point onward. In fact, they develop differently from a previous point.
There’s been a lot of focus on Roger being a scholar. In the books, there isn’t as much of a focus on this. Roger has shown himself as somewhat capable of living in the 18th century, and also willing to try as hard as possible to make a life in the past. He’s embraced this choice, with his inability to shoot being more about his eyesight than a mental block.
This moment at Brownsville has been foreshadowed from before Roger was made captain of the militia. Jamie didn’t do this solely out of respect for Roger but more to keep him safe. Yet, it’s not a position that Roger was ready for, and he doubts his own capabilities.
As Maril Davis said in the Inside the World segment, you can read all you want about the past but that doesn’t mean you know about it. We can all say we’d do something or react in a certain way, but that doesn’t mean we’d actually go through with that. I can’t tell you the amount of people I’ve seen who say they would react a certain way in an emergency situation but then react in a completely different way.
Roger is that type of person. He’s researched the past. This time period is his time period of expertise, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to handle the tensions at Brownsville. He’s thinking like a scholar in the moment not as a militia captain, and that’s understandable considering the Roger we’ve got to know on the series.
I don’t view this storyline as one setting up more tension between Jamie and Roger. Instead, I view this as a man out of his depth and struggling to cope with everything expected of him. He’s trying so hard to prove that he’s worthy of the position Jamie has given him. His discussion of the origins of “Dutch courage” was a defense mechanism, talking about something he has control over to deal with the embarrassment of how he handled the situation.