I don’t know about y’all, but I need to have my portrait done by the individual responsible for capturing the Lindsay-Buckingham-level hippie-hotness and general IDGAF-ness of the Dunbonnet. Put that portrait on my grave. Staple it over my wedding photo. I want someone to capture me being that aggressively detached about anything, but instead here I am, writing another novella-length recap of a show that makes me cry like I’m watering a face-garden.
I’m not the only one involved in an unhealthy relationship right now. The main three characters are all in a holding pattern which two of them will break, only one by choice. Also, as advertised, there is a lot of sex, and all of it is sadder than that which preceded it. I’m going to write the publicity department a strongly-worded letter. I was sold a false bill of goods, damn it! Here’s a visual:
Scotland, 1752. The Lallybroch estate, six years after Culloden. The episode kicks off with 10-year old Wee Jamie and teenage-ish Young Fergus and Rabbie McNabb going off to the dovecote in search of a gun that Ian hid there. Ten year olds are ever-logical, and Wee Jamie Is the only one who thinks this is a bad idea.
Fergus climbs up, finds the gun, and attempts to prove his worthiness by recounting a much-polished version of the events of Prestonpans, reminding everyone he killed a man with a knife and it was the bravest thing ever. He omits the part about how he cried after, because those aren’t the kinds of things that impress your bros. What is apparent in his short speech is that Fergus has developed a real resentment of the English. He comments somewhat plaintively that if Jamie hadn’t sent him home, he could have also fought at Culloden. Oh, chicklet. There’s bragging, and then there’s 90s rapper.
The rumbling of hooves and a wagon alerts them to redcoats headed toward the house, and Fergus hurriedly hides the gun back in the dovecote before all three kids run back home. In the courtyard outside the house, the English are dragging Ian Murray out to question him. When wee Jamie runs to him in fear, he is roughly tossed off by one of the soldiers, and we can tell by his accent he’s a scot. The only time Ian appears to lose his temper, he is demanding his son not be manhandled.
Captain Samuel Lewis has come looking for the Dunbonnet, and though Ian pretends gamely to not know who he’s talking about, this Captain has read the novels pieced together rumors of the outlaw “Red Jamie” and a man known as the Dunbonnet are in the vicinity, and he suspects they’re the same person.
Ian’s teeth are blindingly white, and he’s well prepared to be charming af. When the Captain asks about Jamie’s ownership of the lands, Ian honestly says that the ownership has passed to his son, Jamie Murray. Jenny has come out, and once again she is heavily pregnant but no less bold for it. Behind her is Mary McNabb, Rabbie’s mother. Lewis reminds them that anyone harboring a Jacobite fugitive is guilty of treason, and it’s obvious he doesn’t believe them because he outright tells them so.
The Captain is the last in a long line of officers that have come looking for Jamie, and Jenny tells this one what she told the others. “Ye’ll find no sign of my traitorous brother here.” Lewis reminds them of the “substantial reward” for Red Jamie, but Ian once again plays dumb, and he’s arrested, taken away to sit in a garrison cell and see if that jogs his memory. As Corporal MacGregor takes him away, Fergus takes the opportunity to insult him for being a redcoat. “You’re the traitor,” he sneers, spitting on the ground. MacGregor calls him a “filthy frog-eater” and threatens to cut his tongue out. Ian reminds the boys to do their chores, and is led away.
Mary McNabb attempts to comfort Jenny, reminding her that each time Ian has been taken away, the courts have released him. I wonder if the garrison has a dentist. Jenny and Mary discuss MacGregor, and we learn that many lowland MacGregors fought on the Jacobite side, but the ones who fought for the English now feel like they’re better than the rest. “What the daft loons don’t realize is that the British hate them just the same,” Jenny grouses.
The whole family files back into the house, one by one, Fergus taking a moment longer than the rest to glare at the retreating wagon.
In the woods, a very hairy figure watches the wagon leave the estate. It’s Jamie, hanging out, stalking a deer, smelling droppings, getting his woodwose on. It seems he’s decided that the effort he puts into his grooming is directly proportional to the number of Claires in his immediate vicinity, so he’s rocking a serious head pelt and probably the odor to go with it. I can’t believe Jamie looks like a hipster Starbucks barista and his sister and brother in-law look like their own parents. Either they aged them with a way heavier hand, or that cave exudes powerful antioxidants.
Jamie kills said deer with an arrow, hauls it over his back and carries it into the Lallybroch courtyard, where he pauses to stare at the back of a woman picking herbs from the garden. She turns and we see it’s Claire. Jamie freezes, staring at her as she smiles gently at him. As the camera pushes in on him and then switches back to the woman, we see it is actually Jenny, startled to see him staring at her with his sexy face because she probably didn’t recognize him with that hat on.
He drops the deer on a table like a big ol’ cat dropping off a mouse to show his indifferent affection. Jenny treats him matter-of-factly, telling him about Ian’s arrest and complaining that she thought they had stopped looking for him, since two years passed “with no redcoats bedeviling us.” Jamie is silent, methodically butchering the deer as he listens, the occasional pause the only thing that lets us know he’s listening. Fergus speaks directly to Jamie, telling him that together they can go and “slit their throats” and free Ian, but it’s Jenny who makes light of the suggestion, pointing out that all it would do is bring the entire garrison down on them and get everyone killed, Fergus included. Jenny’s humor is pretty dark, but I think that’s about what you can expect from a lady that laughed at BJR’s bits mid-assault.
Jamie doesn’t even acknowledge the boy with a glance as Fergus stares at him, waiting for him to speak. Jenny goes on, chatting about how Jamie is now called “the Dunbonnet” and pretty soon they’ll be singing ballads in his honor. She then mentions that Ian was about to tally the rents and asks him if he could do that for her. Finally, Jamie pauses and shakes his head in the smallest motion you can possibly make to indicate assent, but meets her eyes only briefly. Finally, Jenny loses her patience and has to call out “brother” twice before Jamie pauses mid-butchering. She tells him she can lie to the British and feel at peace because “James Fraser hasna been here for a long, long time.”
Jamie pauses, then goes on butchering the deer.
Boston, 1949. I feel like I’m interrupting Claire’s private time. Our heroine is in the middle of a pretty serious sex drought, and is taking matters (ehem) into her own hands. As she tells herself hello, she hits up her fap bank for truly quality Jamie data.
Not that I’m not riveted (and very open to a pounce), but I wonder if they dye Sam Heughan’s chest hair. It is remarkably vivid, and not only because I paused to look. There is also a visit from our dearest friend, Jamie’s tush. He’s doing very well, in case you’re curious. Also curious is the fact that Frank sleeps through some very loud heavy breathing, but it’s probably exhausting crying himself to sleep.
Important to note here that Jamie and Claire’s stories aren’t being told in parallel time anymore. What has been six years in Jamie’s timeline is only five-ish months in Claire’s.
Maybe the next day, maybe not, Claire is putting not-quite-five-month-old Brianna down in the playpen for a bit while she reads the paper (shout-out to the new Republic of Ireland!) when she’s surprised by the fact that the baby turned over.
As a thrilled Claire goes to pick her up, Frank comes down in a towel. The boiler cut out in the middle of his shower because that boiler is #TeamFrank. He asks Claire what happened, and she tells him. Frank asks if that isn’t a bit early, and Claire replies that according to Dr. Spock, she shouldn’t be doing it “for at least another month.” So begins a long tradition of Brianna Randall getting the drop on dudes everywhere.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that both these people obviously adore this little girl, and have read up in preparation for her arrival. Dr. Spock only published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care in 1946, about a year after the end of WWII and just months after Claire disappeared through the stones. Its groundbreaking advice on breaking with rigid schedules, affectionate parenting, and raising children as individuals would change the parent-child interaction forever. It’s a bittersweet reminder that, no matter what else happens here, they were both devoted to raising this child the best way they could.
Frank takes the baby from Claire, teasing about “What does Dr. Spock know,” asking her for a kiss, telling her she is clever. I know Frank’s not supposed to end up with Claire, but a damp Tobias Menzies in a towel kissing a baby is pretty much what I want for Christmas. Claire must think so as well, because her gaze turns tender and she lays her hand on his chest. Frank stills, looking into her eyes with an awareness of her touch, and she smiles shyly back.
They both fidget a bit awkwardly and Frank hands Brianna back, murmuring that he should go check on the boiler, and I’m 99.9% that “the boiler” is a euphemism. Claire stares at his back as he walks away, bouncing baby Bree on her shoulder.
Scotland, 1752. Out in the woods, Jamie is glancing around to see if anyone is around before seemingly disappearing into a rock wall and settling down to a quiet afternoon of fish gutting.
This is his cave, which is larger than most bachelor pads, but probably smells about the same. A bird call sounds outside, and Jamie goes to the mouth of the cave to respond in kind. The call repeats, and we see that it is Fergus. Jamie quickly pulls him inside, but Fergus assures him that he wasn’t followed. He shows Jamie Ian’s gun, and tells him he wants to learn to shoot. “Dovecote” in a french accent is my new favorite word. Jamie takes the gun from him, uttering his first words of the episode — “Where’d ye get this?” As Fergus tells him about the gun and says he needs to be ready to defend his home and for “our next rebellion.”
Jamie stands up and over Fergus to look him in the eye when he hears about a rebellion. “No more fighting,” he growls, and this sets Fergus off. He pushes at Jamie in frustration, saying that “just because you’re a coward now” doesn’t mean he is. Jamie doesn’t react. Instead he picks up the gun, tells him that weapons are outlawed, that he should put it back and not touch it again. Jamie then sits back down to pay attention to what’s really important here: that half-gutted fish.
An exasperated Fergus leaves with considerable less stealth than when he arrived.
Sometime after that, Jamie zombie-walks his way back to Lallybroch to find Mary McNabb hanging laundry. He has come to do the books, but finds Jenny is in labor. At first he’s startled by her cries, but Mary tries to put a positive spin on things by reminding him he will soon have another niece or nephew. They both head inside.
Later on Rabbie, Fergus and Wee Jamie are outside doing their chores when Jamie spots a raven. “My granny says that ravens are messengers of death,” Rabbie tells the other boys, saying that he can’t be near the baby or the baby will die. Fergus, chomping at the bit for an opportunity to show some heroism, races to the dovecote to get the gun.
It turns out his plea to learn to shoot was just a means to try to get close to Jamie. He has already observed Murtagh instruct the soldiers, and knows how to load and prime a pistol. He walks back to the archway and, assuming a classic dueling pose, shoots the raven dead.
Out in the forest, the redcoat scouts hear the shot. Back at Lallybroch, Jamie comes out and snatches the gun from Fergus, looming over him as he reminds him that he told him to never touch the gun again. Fergus pretty much has his IDC face on, and they end up having a stare down that’s only broken by Mary McNabb’s announcement of the birth of Jamie’s “fine and healthy” nephew. She notices the tension and gently holds out her hand for the gun.
Mary McNabb is basically female Ian, a quiet, rational presence that dials down the Fraser drama. Jamie hands it to her and heads into the house, and she quickly chastises her son before she follows him in.
Upstairs, Jenny hands the baby to her brother and jokes about finally naming a child after her husband, bless his patient, fecund self. Jamie is riveted, no doubt thinking of the child he didn’t get to hold and wondering about Claire. Jenny notices his absorption, and grins, commenting that “you always look braw with a wee bairn in your arms.” In that cunning Fraser way she has, Jenny gets straight to the point of her brother’s pain, asking how long it’s been since he’s lain with a woman.
Jamie’s expression is somewhere between panic and anger. “Don’t…Janet.” Jenny tries to keep her tone light, commenting that all he ever said about Claire was “She’s dead,” and not how or why. It’s been six years, she reasons, and Mary McNabb is young enough for children, good housekeeper, fine mother, breathes oxygen… But Jamie isn’t having it. He won’t marry, “ever again.”
Jenny grieves because Jamie never got to be a father, but he knows he is a father, he just can’t claim his child. Her good-natured insistence that he still has time and she only wants to see him happy prompts Jamie to leave her room under the pretense of introducing baby Ian to his brother. Now, when I first read the books, I resented the hell out of Jenny’s intrusion, but seeing these scenes on bodies is fleshing out (ha!) those emotions. Jenny knows Jamie isn’t living. He’s barely surviving, and she loves him. She wants him to come back from his grief, but to do that, he has to truly experience it first, and for all his bravery, grief is maybe the most intimidating emotion a man like Jamie can go through, because it highlights his ultimate powerlessness in the situation. It’s not something he can choose to do right now, no matter how good the intentions and pushy the sister.
In the hallway, Jamie hears the redcoats come into the house, and Captain Lewis’s order to find the gun. He hurries to hide in a room down the hall, still holding the baby.
Downstairs the boys are questioned about Jenny’s whereabouts, and Lewis and Corporal MacGregor head upstairs to her room. Jenny receives them still abed, and feigns ignorance of the gun as MacGregor tosses her things about and at one point, uncovers her legs instead of looking under her pillows because he either a) has a foot fetish or b) doesn’t understand how guns work. Lewis tells Jenny that the shot came from the vicinity of her estate, and that he will continue to ask her and search the premises until he is sure the Act of Proscription isn’t being violated. Jenny points out that she has complied with every search, but Lewis is no longer listening.
He’s noticed Jenny herself and the bloody cloths around the room, and asks if she has delivered a child. She admits it, but says the baby wasn’t born breathing. MacGregor’s “Good, one less teutcher we’ll have to deal with” earns him a sharp rebuke from Lewis, who isn’t so much sympathetic as busy following a trail. He wants to know where the child’s body is, and when Jenny says the midwife took it away for burial, Lewis asks for the midwife to be found so she may bring it. Into this debacle walks a calm Mary MacNabb, holding the pistol in her outstretched palms and telling the Captain that it was hers, a reminder of her deceased husband. “It gave me comfort.”
All this Jamie overhears from his hiding place. When Lewis asks why she fired it, she tells him of the raven flying close by during the birth. MacGregor mocks the silliness of the superstition like a man who hasn’t noticed the fit on his own uniform, but Jenny uses the opportunity to say that her child was born dead. Lewis won’t arrest Mary, but he takes the gun and warns Jenny that “if another violation occurs, there will be no mercy.” As Lewis and the Corporal walk out, a movement by Jamie causes the floor to creak and draws MacGregor’s attention. There is a tense moment, but then he is called away by Lewis.
Up in her room, Jenny exhales with real fear, and reaches for wee Ian as Jamie strides in. She puts the baby to her breast and thanks Mary, but she is wound up, and fearful. She has seen the look in Lewis’s eye before and knows he won’t give up. Jamie seems to acknowledge this with some sadness, but doesn’t say a word, walking to the door to let himself out. Jenny tells him to take a shovel, and dig a grave in the cemetery in case the redcoats take a look because Jenny is a freaking criminal mastermind. Jamie nods, and stares for a moment more at the sister who only moments ago was teasing him, now tense and anxious on his account.
Boston, 1949. It’s night in Claire and Frank’s bedroom, and Claire is turned toward her husband in bed, watching him sleep. There is sadness in her expression, and yearning. She reaches out the hand with the gold wedding band on it and briefly touches Frank’s shoulder in the same place as when he held Brianna, a gentle caress as her eyes close. She then stroke his face, and he wakes up saying her name. The sadness is back in her eyes as she leans over him, and raises the same hand again to hold his face. “I miss my husband,” she says, looking into his eyes as she leans to kiss him.
When their lips touch, her eyes close. Frank, meanwhile, cannot stop looking at her face with a sort of thrilled disbelief. Frank is passive, letting her take control, staring at her as she begins to rock him like a hurricane, eyes tightly closed. Now common knowledge says that Claire missing her husband refers to Jamie, and I think that’s part of it, but not all. She’s seen Frank with her daughter, and she remembers that he is a good man, with good intentions. Yes, Claire is a sexual being who has never been shy about those needs, but I think that what she is saying when she says she misses her husband here is that she misses the idea of marriage of equals, of what she had with Jamie, and what she and Frank had before she felt Jamie’s absence to the exclusion of any other man being able to occupy space in her heart. She misses being able to fully love and be with one person, and so she is making a concerted effort to try to get as close to that ideal as she can, even if she ultimately can’t even witness her own attempt.
Scotland, 1752. Fergus is feeding the goats when Corporal MacGregor shows up, bringing Ian back from the garrison. MacGregor tells Ian that officers all over are searching for Red Jamie, and it’s only a matter of time until the find him, and punish Ian and his entire family for hiding him. Ian grins as good-naturedly as if they were discussing the weather, and thanks him for the visit, heading inside. Sometime later, Fergus walks out towards the woods, looking about to make sure no one is following him. What he doesn’t see, however, is MacGregor and another officer, Jenkins, hiding in the bushes, watching him walk away.
When they follow him and sticks crack under their boots, however, Fergus hears them and begins to lead them in circles. By the time they catch up to him, he turns around and settles into straight sh*t-talk. He tells them he knew they were following them, and calls them names in English and French. MacGregor is sure Fergus knows the whereabouts of Red Jamie, but Fergus says “There is no Red Jamie,” and that they’re harassing the Murrays and should leave them alone. Now he has a chance to air his feelings on the matter, there is no restraint in him. Further up in the forest where he has gone to fetch a rabbit from a snare (talk about metaphors, the brief flash of life we saw in 301 is now the necessary death for survival in 302), Jamie overhears him cursing at them and starts to creep towards the sound.
Finally, Fergus calls out MacGregor for being a traitor to his people, and says that “the Scots hate you for it. You’ll never be one of them.” He makes a rude gesture and runs off, and the two redcoats chase after him. As the camera pans through the trees, we see Jamie observing, knife in hand, and Fergus running away, still taunting the officers with insults. MacGregor especially is becoming more livid by the minute, promising retribution.
“Don’t taunt them,” Jamie whispers, but an exhilarated Fergus has control of a situation for the first time in a long time, and Jamie isn’t close enough for him to hear. “Run, you fool,” Jamie growls, but it’s too late. Two redcoats on horses come at Fergus from his other side, and he is effectively fenced in. He trips and falls to the forest floor, Jenkins falling on top of him to hold his arms out over a fallen log. MacGregor, the commanding officer present gives the order to hold him down and removes the sword from his scabbard as Jamie watches, horrified. Jenkins protests that “he’s just a lad,” but those words seem to mean precious little in the aftermath of this war, unless you hold a title. Book readers know what’s coming, but I still averted my eyes when the sword swung down, severing Fergus’s left hand at the wrist, and my throat hurt when he started to cry.
Poor baby. MacGregor tells the redcoats to leave, but Jenkins points out that Fergus is likely to die if they don’t do anything for him. MacGregor then pulls rank, issues an order, and the redcoats all take off. Jamie scrambles down the hill at a run, slipping and sliding until he can reach Fergus. He covers the wound and takes off his belt to make a tourniquet. As Fergus cries, he tries to tell him not to be scared, as he has “seen milady” do this many times. It is the closest he has come so far to mentioning Claire by name, and for once he sounds like himself, affectionate and authoritative. As Fergus begins to shake with shock, Jamie picks him up and carries him to the house.
The camera pans to his disembodied hand, and it is so perfectly evocative of the passage in the novel that describes it that I have to quote it here:
“…the final sight of Fergus’s hand, that small and deft and clever pickpocket’s hand, lying still in the mud of the track, palm turned upward in supplication.” -Diana Gabaldon, Voyager, Ch. 6
Back at the house, Jenny comes downstairs to let Jamie know that his quick actions saved the boy. Jamie is shaking, and tells her he should have stopped them. With her characteristic directness, Jenny points out that he and Fergus would both be dead. “We’d all be dead.” Jamie nods in seeming agreement when, all of a sudden, a sob escapes him and he falls to his knees. Jenny rushes to gather him to her, finally able to give some of the comfort he has rejected for so long.
After, Jamie goes to visit the boy, who wakes when he opens the door. Fergus apologizes, explaining he meant to lead them away from the cave, but Jamie says he did well, and that he is the one who should apologize. He tells him that he reminds him that he has “something to fight for.”
Fergus’s head lifts from his pillow, and looks penetratingly at his guardian. “There you are, milord,” he says with quiet satisfaction. They chat for a bit in lines taken directly from the novels, about Fergus still feeling the pain in his hand and preferring French wine to the whiskey with which Jenny has been “most generous.” A troubled Jamie rises to pour some whiskey when Fergus tells him not to be upset, as he has been fortunate. He reminds him of the deal they made when Fergus was hired in Paris, that if he were arrested or executed, Jamie would pay to have masses said for his soul for one year.
…But if he lost an ear or a limb, “That I would support you for the rest of your life,” Jamie finishes, assuring the boy that he can be trusted. Fergus replies quite seriously that he has always trusted him, and then makes a little joke, also from the novels, about one stroke making him “a man of leisure.” Jamie chuckles quietly, and for the first time since the farmhouse, the shadow of a smile crosses his face.
Boston, 1949. Back in modern times, Claire appears not only to have given up on the stove, but also the oven, serving what she cheerfully admits is “a failed pavlova” (Eton mess) for dessert to Millie and Jerry Nelson. Jerry suggests Claire give Millie the recipe, but she shoots back that if it isn’t in the frozen food section, they’re not having dessert. Jerry tells the Randalls that he knew “she was no Betty Crocker when I married her, but her talents…lie elsewhere.”
Millie, playfully outraged, smacks his arm and they kiss, looking into each other’s eyes. Frank and Claire smile nervously at the natural display of affection, although Frank recovers first, asking if anyone wants more and rising from the table to go to the kitchen, clasping Claire’s shoulder briefly as he passes her chair. He really is progressive!
After the Nelsons leave for the night, Frank and Claire wander back into the living room and Frank asks Claire if she’d like a nightcap. They have a brief Hepburn/Tracy sort of exchange, alluding to Millie’s “special talent” being “an encyclopedic knowledge of the complete works of William Shakespeare.”
Claire teases Frank about being a snob, and he grins, reminding her that she asked the question. They both take a drink, looking at each other saucily over the rims of their tumblers. Claire takes Frank’s drink from him and places both tumblers on the mantelpiece, then turning away from him to coyly drop her panties. Things progress pretty quickly from there. There is honest sexual desire on Claire’s face, and she looks at Frank all the way until they fall on the carpet in front of the fire, and then…she closes her eyes. It is certainly passionate, but while Claire seems intent on her own release, Frank searches her face, noticing that once again she isn’t looking at him, that she doesn’t touch him, her arms up by her head.
At first he asks her to look at him, “Claire, look at me,” and she doesn’t. “Baby…Claire, open your eyes.” When he realizes she is purposely ignoring him, he stops. A frustrated Claire asks him why he stopped, and he tells her plainly that she never used to close her eyes when they… Claire doesn’t even let him finish the sentence, saying it doesn’t mean anything. “I’m enjoying this,” she tells him, and he calls her bluff. “Then why can’t you look at me?” Claire has never been good with a direct question that she doesn’t care to answer, and this is no different. She pushes away from him, angrily telling him that if he wasn’t in the mood, he had only to say so. Her attempt to deflect doesn’t work, however. Frank is as direct as he can be. “Claire, when I’m with you, I’m with you…but you’re with him.”
Claire, who is not here for honesty about this particular subject, leaves.
I’d like to point out that for all the faults Frank may possess as a man, he has a solid point taking issue with Claire’s denial. In the beginning of their time together this go-around, he has been the one time and time again to point Claire toward the reality of their interactions and moments when they are failing as a couple, and Claire has consistently glossed over and withdrawn from the issues in her marriage. Sure she didn’t grow a beard and go live in a cave, but she is 1000% emotionally unavailable and gaslighting like a pro. Of course she’s in pain and she needs a measure of denial to keep functioning, but this ability to set aside reality might be something she eventually regrets setting up as a status quo. That river flows two ways.
Scotland, 1752. Jamie and Ian have a drink by the fire, and Ian begins to talk matter-of-factly about how his leg sometimes pains him despite not being there. We are meant to think he is going to draw a parallel to Fergus — and he does, briefly — mentioning how Fergus will likely feel the same with his hand. “Feeling a pain in a part of ye that’s lost…and that’s just a hand. Claire was yer heart.” Jamie looks up in surprise.
Ian doesn’t say anything else, simply raises his glass in a toast. What a great couple, the Murrays. One is a tank and the other’s stealthy, but they both know how to effectively deliver a bomb.
Later that night, Jamie is looking at a ruined Fraser coat of arms when he runs into Mary MacNabb, who tells him the soldiers did it the last time they searched the house. Jamie realizes they won’t stop looking for him. The next morning, he speaks to Jenny and Ian, and suggests they should turn him in. Jenny hell no’s it, but Jamie points out that not only would she get the reward money, but the redcoats would finally cease harassing the Murrays because she would then be perceived as loyal to the crown. He explains how to set up his own ambush, but Jenny is concerned he’ll be hanged. Ian, who until now has been silent, volunteers that the British are no longer hanging Jacobites. “It’s likely he’ll only be imprisoned.”
Jenny is exasperated with the number of prisons Jamie’s seen in his lifetime, but Jamie in turn is exhausted, heartsick, and determined to make a change, even if it’s personally for the worse. “Little difference to the prison I live in now.” He stares pointedly at Jenny, who looks back at Ian for support, but her husband doesn’t meet her eyes.
Some time later, Jamie looks out the cave at an approaching Mary MacNabb, who shows up to feed him, shave him and cut his hair. Jamie gives her a couple of tips about what to do with his things when he leaves the next day and then, with a warning to stay out of sight, he leaves to wash in the river. When he returns, he stops dead in the entry at the sight of Mary in her shift, putting her clothes away. He instantly deduces Jenny’s influence, and asks Mary whose idea it was. “Does it matter?,” she replies. “It doesn’t matter because it’s not gonna happen,” he responds.
He tries to hand her her clothes, but she won’t take them, and if she won’t go, then he will. Mary stops him, and lets him know that Jenny didn’t ask her to do what she is doing, and she knows what he is thinking. She saw him with Claire, and how it was between them. As she speaks, she gently reaches for his hand, and turns him around to face her. There is something infinitely sad and tender about Mary, and it recognizes Jamie’s sadness, and his need for affection that doesn’t feel like a betrayal of his love for Claire. She doesn’t want to aspire to that, but “something different. Something less, mayhap, but something we both need.”
Jamie turns to look at her, and it’s clear that he is in pain. What Mary is offering is simply tenderness, a chance for two lonely people to share the physical, if not in love, then in sympathy. Jamie bends towards her, drawn by her unselfish kindness, but pauses before kissing her, unsure. “I’ve no done this in a very long time.” Neither has she. She unlaces her shift in a sad parallel to Jamie’s wedding night, and places his hand on her shoulder as he bends to kiss her. When he pulls away, we see his eyes are closed. Mary tells him that he can look at her if he likes, and he returns all her kindness to him with a tearful white lie. “You’re a bonny lass. It’s just something I always do.”
When he closes his eyes and blindly lowers his face to hers once more, Mary rises up and meets him halfway. I can’t begrudge him this closeness, and I think it noble of Mary to offer. The world has been cruel to them both for a pretty long time, and they made it a little easier for each other, if only for a night.
Boston, 1949. Claire pushes adorable baby potato Brianna around in a buggy when her voice over makes a comeback, informing us that she threw herself into her role as best she could, but there was something missing. “Once, I had thought I was whole.” She loved a man, had a child, healed the sick, “and all these things were natural parts of me.” But the man she loved was Jamie, and for a time she felt part of something greater than herself. “I wanted that again.” Eventually, she would have to do something more.
The knife she is washing in the sink turns into a scalpel, and we see a very professional-looking Claire (in a woolen plaid suit, note the symbolism) waiting for her professor’s arrival in an anatomy class. Dr. Simms, the professor, at first thinks she might be lost, but when she introduces herself as a first-year student he remembers the Dean telling him that there would be “a woman and a negro” in this year’s incoming class. “How very…modern…of us.”
Claire’s excited smile freezes on her face, but she determinedly walks up to the seats and positions herself alone in the second row. An African-American man pauses at the door as the other students whisper, and he quickly scans the desks with his gaze. Walking up to Claire’s row, he pushes past a couple of haters to ask if the seat next to her is taken, and a smiling Claire says, “It’s all yours.” He holds out his hand to introduce himself as Joe Abernathy, and Claire smiles conspiratorially at him as she shakes his hand. “Claire Randall. Pleased to meet you.”
As the rest of the room glares at them, they grin at each other and prepare to begin. Nothing can dim the excitement on Claire’s face, even when the professor deliberately addresses the class as “gentlemen.” She is finally where she needed to be.
Maybe that night, Claire walks into her bedroom to tell Frank that Brianna’s Bunny was wedged behind her bed again. She is no longer in the satiny nightgowns, but a crisp yellow set of pajamas, the shape echoing her husband’s nightwear and her emerging confidence. Frank looks up from bed, where he is reading, and says he thinks “Bree might be trying to tell us something.”
Claire chuckles at the joke, and takes her robe off to get in bed. She looks over at Frank and smiles a big, pleased grin as she tells him goodnight. “Goodnight,” he replies, glancing over and returning the smile. She reaches over to turn her lamp off and roll over, facing away from him.
Frank’s smile fades as he watches her, a sad yearning on his face… for only a moment. He turns to close his book and turn off his light, and we see they are no longer in one queen bed but two singles. Claire’s satisfied grin and his sadness suddenly make sense. It is a gut punch. For all that we knew going in the marriage wasn’t going to be a happy one, this is the point of no return. The Randall marriage has been a painful game of tag that counted on at least one of the two parties making the effort to reach out to the other. Now that those efforts have ceased in all but the most superficial of ways, their emotional separation is complete. The fact that they both allowed this to happen is their contribution to the symbolism of this week’s title, a surrender to a marriage in name only.
Scotland, 1752. Speaking of surrender, the morning after we last saw him, a much more chipper (Thank you Mary) Jamie wanders into the Lallybroch courtyard where Jenny is feeding the chickens. “Jenny,” he calls and when she doesn’t say anything, he takes off his hat just to make sure she isn’t Clark Kenting on him.
“It’s me. I’ve come home.” He walks to her with a wide grin and open arms as she stands still, clenching her fists and waiting for the inevitable. British soldiers pour out of every nook and cranny, all pointing guns at Jamie. He pretends to be surprised and hurt, and Jenny stews silently as her reproaches her in public. Lewis struts down the steps, and places him under arrest for treason after reciting his full name and alias. “Not my own sister,” Jamie insists as Lewis asks he be put in irons. The Captain hands Jenny a purseful of coins, and tells her she did a service to the crown. She can’t look at him as she takes it.
Jamie, still acting, shouts back to her “This is blood money!” and Jenny replies, “You gave me no choice, brother! And I’ll never forgive you. Never!” Her voice is rough with tears, and as he is loaded into the wagon, Jamie turns back to look at her, because she isn’t pretending. She is honestly devastated at what she had to do, and when the doors shut on the wagon, she runs inside. Inside the wagon, Jamie stares at his manacled hands, and we get the impression he is wondering just how long it will be before they are once again free. In the muddy road outside Lallybroch, the brown knit Dubonnet’s hat lies forgotten.
Boston, 1949. A bagpipe playing “Scotland the Brave” transitions us from this scene to Claire crossing a bridge on her way to class to place some money in a bagpiper’s case. Though the shadow of regret crosses her face as she watches, she isn’t tied into the bagpiper visually in any way. She is in a very structured coat and black heels, suitcase and purse in her arms, very much of this century. Though she pauses to listen, it is only for a moment and then she keeps walking, her focus on the future.
Now, I am not ashamed to say I found Claire irritating at various points throughout this episode. While Jamie and Frank suffered in various obvious ways, she buried her pain and set out to make the best of things via selective denial. But hers was by far the most selfish of the paths, and she got more out of her choices, however unhappily made, than either of her husbands. Her surrender had to do more with accepting that, no matter how good her intentions, she was simply not going to be able to be happy being only a mother and wife–and especially not a wife to a man she no longer loves in a romantic sense. So instead of fitting in, Claire surrendered to making herself an even more perfect square peg in a round world. There were times I was frustrated with Jamie, and how insular he was becoming as a result of his pain. Although willingly done, his sister’s family withstood years of searches and imprisonment in an effort to give him space to mourn his loss and lick his wounds. Fergus too, was left to do as best he could while Jamie detached from any emotion, including the young, needy reminder of the family he’d lost. Fergus’s behavior, while no one’s fault but his own, had its origins in his need to play the role for himself in his new life that his mentor had allowed to go vacant. Meanwhile, Frank was annoying in the sense that a college-educated professor was so enamored of history that he continued to try to revive the marriage he had before Claire’s trip through the stones, instead of working on a livable compromise (let her keep her eyes closed, dude) that might give him a working marriage in the present. His intentions were perhaps the most optimistic, but also naive, which made it all the more frustrating.
In short, what I realized at the end of the hour is that, thanks to a life well-lived, I have been all of these people — being hurt, insular in my own pain, selfishly ignoring others’ pain lest it reflect aspects of myself I dislike, desperately closing my eyes to reality even when all hope is lost — and my annoyance sometimes is nothing more than a mirror for my guilt. When we are in situations where our options are limited, we sometimes flail about in our pain, hurting those around us, in an effort to stay whole. If the situation is greater than what we can ultimately heal, we have a choice to rise above or withdraw. It is a testament to the acting and writing in this episode that those emotions felt so personal, and that I took them so to heart. These characters are better than heroes. They are real people, who show that the actions we are most annoyed by are an echo of the hurt we fear the most.