Outlander Recap 303 – All Debts Paid

Boston, 1956. Seven years have passed since the last time we saw Claire. Morning at Chez Settle, and Frank Randall is cooking black pudding in TWO different kinds of fat to try to offset the insidious influence of Madison Avenue on little Brianna.

Claire, still looking crisp and professional, is studying gallbladders, but it doesn’t stop her nabbing a bite on the way to the table. As Frank jokes about either an English breakfast or Dickens as an antidote to Brianna’s excessive Americanism, we get a chance to look at the Randalls closely for the first time since we saw them in separate beds at the end of 302. They are both in crisp white tops and tan bottoms, he a pair of classic khakis and she in a slim pencil skirt. They are clear-eyed and chatty, and for all purposes, a perfectly matched pair. It is only when they begin speaking that the cracks begin to show. Claire, no doubt remembering that this is a person who she used to enjoy spending time with, offers Frank an evening out. She doesn’t have class tonight, she says, why not go see a film about a messed-up family? Or maybe another film about a messed-up singing family?

Frank might still be a John Wayne fan, but not around Claire. Turns out he’s already seen both movies, and at Claire’s incredulous “Both?” he squints just one eye in this tiny gesture that speaks volumes. “Yes.” Claire’s whole demeanor instantly changes. She is somewhere between surprised and mortified. The cut-off bits of the conversation that follow paint the picture pretty clearly: At some point, both these parties agreed that they could lead independent romantic lives. What I find very interesting here is not that Frank either asked for or received this concession from Claire, but that he offered it back. He didn’t just get to an emotional place where he accepts the insurmountable obstacle of his wife’s love for another man, but he also considered that she might eventually find someone to love other than Jamie that still wouldn’t be him. “I’m being discreet, Claire,” he offers up.

They are both uncomfortable, avoiding each other’s eyes despite Claire’s cheerful acknowledgement that yes, he is. They are interrupted by the arrival of a bouncing seven-year-old Brianna, who has come down for breakfast, a riot of autumn colors in a plaid dress that stands out starkly against all that white.

Scotland, 1755. Ardsmuir Prison. Three years have passed since Jamie was taken away. We meet Colonel Quarry, the outgoing governor of the prison, as he walks Lord John Grey, a major and his replacement, around prior to peace out’ing straight to the nearest pub.  Lord John is concerned about the lack of natural light, but Quarry tells him to cheer up, because the booze is great. Not much to do there, he explains. Just paperwork, grouse hunting, and the occasional hunt for Jacobite gold. There is a rumor that the King of France sent the Bonnie Prince some gold buillon and though he tried to find it and failed, he tells John that the man who did “would certainly have the attention of the Crown. When Lord John asks about the social life, Quarry laughs and says it will consist mostly of his fellow officers…and one prisoner.

He points out the “notorious” Red Jamie Fraser to his successor, and explains that he is the only Jacobite officer at the prison, and the only man they keep chained because the guards are afraid of him. The prisoners, however, respect him and treat him as their spokesperson, referring to him as “MacDubh.” Jamie looks up at John as the two talk, silently taking his measure. Quarry tells John that he took supper with him once a week so as to keep “his goodwill and cooperation,” and encourages John try a similar arrangement.

It’s probably hard to see how cute Jamie is at that distance and with that amount of filth, so John predictably balks at the suggestion and Quarry dips.

On their way back to the cells, Jamie and a prisoner named Hayes briefly discuss the new Governor. Although Jamie hides it well, he’s now in an uncertain position with a new player. Jamie is clearly comfortable among the men, but a bit set apart in his general demeanor. He goes in back, and starts speaking to someone we can’t see, but from the second the man says “neep-heids,” my  heart bursts with joy. It’s MURRRRRTAAAGGGHHH y’all.

That’s right. Everyone’s favorite human Scottish Oscar the Grouch is back in full Obi-Wan drag, and his beard is now dressed up in its formalwear, with a crisp touch of white right in the middle. Jamie is telling him that he saw the new Governor, his name is Grey, and he seems familiar but he can’t place him. Murtagh says it’s ok, “all the mollies look alike. Take God’s own eye to tell one from the other.” I have missed this man so much. He is us. Also, isn’t it curious that in any culture war, this comment pops up a lot? All our enemies look alike because if they didn’t, they’d be people and we can’t have that and hold on to our sense of injury. Jamie wisely points out that the British say the same about the Scots. As Murtagh speaks, he is fingering a bit of plaid, and he comments they could recognize them fine if only they allowed them to wear their plaids.

Jamie warns him to put the piece away lest he be punished. As he speaks, Murtagh coughs, and it’s obvious that Jamie, though still relying on his advice, has become his caregiver. He puts the plaid away, and asks Jamie for his impressions of Lord John. Jamie replies that he’s very young, carries himself well, “shoulders square… and a ramrod up his arse.” Murtagh chuckles and coughs, and joins in, saying that that is “standard issue in the British army.” Jamie notices the rats have been biting Murtagh, and that he can barely speak without coughing. He says he has brought milk thistles to help with the festering and la grippe. Murtagh jokes about Jamie thinking of him as a pig (“Stubborn as one,” is Jamie’s rejoinder), but Jamie’s patient explanation of how to administer the cure is a sweet callback to Claire, and all the times he must have listened to and retained her instructions.

As Jamie smells the thistles, they both feel the missing presence in the room, but Jamie can’t yet say her name. “I learnt the trick from…a lass who knew a fair amount about healing.” His eyes just collapse here with pain, and it’s obvious that the memory is both dear and hurtful.

The clanking of the chains alerts Lord John as to the arrival of Jamie, brought in and placed before him like a boy before a principal as he formally introduces himself and alludes to the “understanding” he had with Colonel Quarry, saying he would like to continue that. But John isn’t referring to a meeting of equals over dinner, but rather the practice of treating Jamie as a spokesperson for the prisoners. Jamie, realizing this, replies with a short “Fine.” John’s dinner is then brought by a prisoner named McKay in a porcelain dish that looks so elaborate as to be ridiculous in this setting, and John indicates that it be placed on the table for him. As he moves towards it, he gets in they way of a rat (who probably has seniority and right of pass, John, FFS) and gets ticked because this is probably the first time he’s seen a rat.

He asks that one of the cats be brought up from the storeroom, and then asks if there are many rats in the cells. This time it is Jamie who replies, keeping his eyes down. “Great many.” McKay says they run across his chest sometimes at night. With some offended dignity and no doubt a bit of basic human decency, John asks that every cell get its own cat, but the look that passes between Jamie and McKay alerts him that they might take issue with his order. He once again addresses McKay, and once again Jamie answers that respectfully, the prisoners would probably not like a cat taking all their rats.

Half in jest, John says that surely the prisoners don’t eat them, and Jamie’s deadpan answer makes him mute with shock. “Only when they’re lucky enough to catch one.” Jamie takes a step forward towards John, and though he rocks slightly back and the guards who brought Jamie in put their hands on their sword, no one says anything about it. Jamie has realized not only John’s youth and naiveté about prison life, but that he is at heart, a good man. “God knows what you did to be sent here,” he says bitterly, although not without sympathy, “but for your own sake, I hope you deserved it.”

Despite his earlier comment to Murtagh, Jamie knows it’s safer to hate the enemy than empathize, and since John is largely an unknown quantity, he’s keeping a tight lid on any empathy lest it put him and the men at a disadvantage. John looks surprised by the insight, but when Jamie asks if that will be all, he replies, “Yes. For now,” in a subtle power play meant to remind Jamie that haplessly gained or not, he is still in the position of power. Jamie’s slight smirk as he is hauled away acknowledges not only the hit, but the delivery. After Jamie leaves, John ragdolls into his chair like the Jamie fan he no doubt now is.

Boston, 1958. It’s Claire (and Joe’s) graduation from medical school, and they both proudly hold up their diplomas for Bree and Frank to take their picture. Frank asks Bree who is next, and she, like any child, wants a picture of her parents pretending to be happy together.

Claire is still in that cool white that evokes her profession, but Frank is in blue with touches of red, a deeper echo of Brianna’s color palette. It’s a visual foreshadowing of the scene, and too lovely not to point out. To their credit, there is only a slight awkward pause as Claire and Frank put their arms around each other, though they drop them (and their smiles) the instant the flash dies out. Frank reminds Claire of her restaurant reservation, and that he wouldn’t want her to be late, but she breezily tells him there’s plenty of time, since it’s not until seven. That surprised look tells me everything I need to know: It’s about to go down.

Bree asks her father if he is coming with them, but he says he has work that he needs to finish. Bree looks disappointed, despite his reassurance that she’ll have fun. There is ZERO way that Bree isn’t on to her parents charade already. Frank says a bit nervously that he thought the reservation was at six, and Claire jokes that they’ll be out of his hair soon enough. But it’s not his hair Frank’s worried about. Claire is having a grand old time, drinking Joe’s standard prescription martini when the doorbell rings, and she goes to answer it. She opens the door to the Betty to her Veronica, a cute woman whose face falls when she sees her.

Claire is smiling, not aware that she is looking at her husband’s lover, but the lover knows who Claire is, and immediately begins to apologize for showing her sorry husband-boot-knocking face in the daylight hours, when all mistresses should rightfully be crying in their bubble baths. Staring at the door with a concerned look on his face is Joe, and Frank pushes past him, Bree trailing him, to get to the door. The woman makes eye contact with Frank and as she does, Claire turns and sees her husband and her daughter, venom in her eye.

Frank tells Bree to go and play, and Claire can’t resist a pointed jab. “Your work, I presume?” She sweeps past him, pastes a smile on her face, gathers her daughter and tells everyone in the room that she has had an idea. They’ll go early, and if they can’t be seated, they’ll entertain themselves at the bar. She walks out holding Bree’s hand, head held high, and the entire uncomfortable party files past a mortified Frank and his backup woman.

Scotland, 1755. If you were looking for a scene with no principals in it, you’re about to get lucky. An old man walks across the countryside, running smack into an English Ardsmuir wagon. He is muttering Gaelic and French, and the bit of English that slips out is “The gold is cursed.” The officers, well-trained by years of a bored Colonel Quarry, recognize the reference and pounce on him, gathering him up to bring back with them.

Back at Ardsmuir, Jamie gets dragged out into the courtyard by both arms and John take the opportunity to make a funny, thanking him for coming. He tells Jamie that “a situation has arisen” which requires his assistance, a man named Duncan Kerr was found wandering the moor, he is near death, and was mumbling in all the Jamie-languages about matters of “substantial interest to the Crown.” Jamie surmises he wishes his services as a translator, but politely declines. You can tell the thought never occurred to John, and he politely but sardonically asks why. Jamie decides to go with the Bones McCoy rationale, and says “I’m a prisoner. Not an interpreter.”

John is no dummy, however, and he segues smoothly into negotiation, offering to have Jamie’s irons struck if he cooperates. Jamie is undeniably interested, and not a little grudgingly respectful. John was able to get right to the heart of something that truly mattered to him, and he takes note. When Jamie’s irons are struck, John reveals his two conditions: Jamie must give a full and true account of what Duncan says, and Jamie can only share any information he gleans with John. This additional information prompts Jamie to add a condition of his own: that John “provide blankets and medicine for all the men that are ill.”

John scoffs at the ambitiousness of the request, and says both are in short supply. He can’t possibly. An annoyed Jamie tells him the deal is off, and to put on the irons again if he must. But John wants Jamie to understand that he is sincere, and he “would honor your request, if I were able.” Jamie then goes all in, asking then for the well-being of just one man: Murtagh. John seems riveted by Jamie’s show of emotion, promising to “inquire as to what we have in stores.” Jamie agrees to the bargain.

Boston, 1958. A very drunk Frank tries to wobble his way upstairs, only to be confronted by an angry Claire, who has stayed up to wait for him, drink in hand. Alcohol is the unseen sister-wife in this marriage. She is angry that he invited his paramour to their home, “where our daughter lives.”

Frank explains that Claire was taking the car, and so he was just being picked up. Drive-by bootie. No harm, no foul. But Claire, nominally focused on their daughter, really wonders at the extent to which Frank’s careful consideration of her and their marriage has eroded. She asks if he really hates her that much, and points out that it was her graduation. “You humiliated me in front of my new colleagues.” It has all the makings of a  classic married argument…but this is far from a classic marriage, and a drunk, tired Frank isn’t pulling any punches. “Welcome to the club,” he replies, and an outraged Claire demands to know what he means.

After warning her voice down so she won’t wake Brianna, Frank descends the couple of stairs he had managed to climb and walks over to Claire, saying she’s not as good an actress as she thinks she is, and that no one at Harvard believes they are happily married. “You’ve convinced no one.” He also reminds her with no little resentment, that it was her idea to lead separate lives, and walks over to make himself another drink because really, why be sober for this. Claire, never one to not clap back, reminds him that he agreed to be discreet, “and having your blonde harlot show up on our doorstep is quite the opposite of that.” Frank will take quite a bit, it seems, but name-calling his side piece crosses a line.

He roars at Claire not to call her that, angrier than he has been in some time, sticking up for his non-hussy’s bona fides. “Sandy has a Ph.D. fellowship in historical linguistics, she’s no f*cking harlot.” Now, there has got to be a reason the show dropped that little tidbit. Has someone been analyzing some 18th-Century Gaelic? Has Frank been reading some eighteenth century German cookbooks? No way this doesn’t come up later.

But I digress. Claire shoots back that she’s sure they’ll have “plenty to discuss, then,” and Frank sardonically asks if she is jealous. It seems ludicrous to think so knowing that she doesn’t love Frank anymore, but she’s certainly feeling something, even if it’s only hurt pride. Frank derives some dark humor from the irony. “Green ain’t your color, Claire.” Check out drunk Frank with the zingers! “Oh, go to hell”, snaps Claire. She goes back to the point of the discussion: her and her hurt feelings.

Claire accuses him of doing this deliberately, since he knew how important the day was to her. “You wanted to hurt me.” Frank is honest. Maybe he did. “Maybe I wanted to give you a taste of your own medicine, Doctor Randall.” It’s interesting where Claire’s mind goes next, and telling of what she thinks ‘her own medicine’ entails. “Have you f*cked her in our bedroom?” Frank chuckles at her outrage, strolls to sit next to her, and delivers a very genteel little backhand. “I think our bedroom is far too crowded already. Wouldn’t you agree?” DAMN, SIR.

His arrow hits the mark, and Claire falls silent, eyes welling up. Thinking back to the hopeful couple that promised each other their best effort after Bree’s birth and remembering the hopeful, forgiving man who took her back, it is truly painful to watch the extent of  Frank’s bitterness. Claire breaks eye contact, sighs, and tells him that they should “stop the pretense,” and file for a divorce… but Frank doesn’t jump on the opportunity. “You’d have your freedom,” Claire points out, trying to sell him on the concept. But she’s pitching from the wrong angle.

Frank agrees, but his voice is rough with emotion. He tells Claire that when Jerry divorced Millie a year ago (who’s surprised sex didn’t keep that marriage together), he gained his freedom, but lost his children. The court ruled that a child needs his mother more than his father, and he rarely sees them now. “I will not let that happen to Brianna and me,” he affirms. Claire replies that she would never keep Bree from him. Frank’s reply is honest, savage, and reveals the true wound in their marriage.  “Forgive me, Claire, if I don’t risk everything on your promises. You have not been very good at keeping them.” Once, these two trusted each other to be decent, and that trust is gone. Frank slouches down on the couch, this man who has always been so deliberate in his movement and deportment, messy and sprawling, Claire tense and straight-backed next to him. “Anything else you’d like to discuss while we’re here?”

But Claire is done talking. They both occupy the same piece of furniture, miles apart. “Oh, there is a reason we are so terribly bad at charades, my darling,” Frank drawls from his slouch and Claire, crying silently next to him, takes another drink and says nothing. THIS. WAS. BRUTAL.

Up to a point, the pretense may have been maintainable, and earlier scenes show moments of true conviviality…but what Frank and Claire lack is faith in each other — or a love that assumes goodwill — to smooth over the inevitable slights that sharing a life brings. Instead, their mutual resentment is a monster lurking under the surface of seemingly calm waters. Where once Claire’s love and regard were the thing Frank wanted most, they seem to have become incidental to his access to Brianna, and now Claire knows it. She can no longer rely on his affection for her for indulgence of her worst tendencies, and his overwhelming resentment has buried any inclination to acknowledge her pain over his own. Neither of them is their best self during these moments in their marriage, and it’s a shame to see them this way: good people hurting each other, stockpiling their own hurts, waiting for something to break the status quo.

Scotland, 1755. Jamie visits the dying Duncan Kerr while John watches from the doorway. He warns him in low French that everything he says will be repeated to the Englishman, while the Englishman in question hides like a Looney Tunes villain.

Switching to Gaelic, Jamie asks Duncan what he knows of the gold, and he replies in English that “the gold is cursed.” Duncan speaks to Jamie in alternating French, English and Gaelic, and tells him that a woman hid the gold for a man that is dead, and “for her brothers and her home.” She is death, he says in French, and then in English, “He is dead. The MacKenzie is dead.” Jamie, who killed the MacKenzie and is looking for an immediate change of subject, asks again about the gold, but Duncan is on roll. “All of them. All dead. Colum. Dougal. Ellen, too!” He mutters about Ellen MacKenzie leaving to marry “a silkie from the sea.”

An exasperated John enters the room, bored with the history of Clan MacKenzie and eager for information. Jamie insists on knowing the gold’s location, but Duncan warns him “it was given by the ban-druidh, the white witch.” Jamie’s eyes widen at the term, and he places his hand on Duncan’s, eager to find out more. “Who is she? The white witch.” Duncan replies that she is seeking a brave man, “a MacKenzie,” and Jamie’s hope grows. He wants to hear it again, but Duncan rasps “she will come for you,” and dies. John, who can barely wait until Jamie closes Duncan’s eyes, asks Jamie for what he was told, but Jamie’s mind is elsewhere, and he mentions only that Duncan spoke of witches and silkies. John isn’t fooled. He knows Jamie is holding back.

Jamie states that he keeps his bargains, but a frustrated John doesn’t believe him.” I suspect there is more to this story. I can force you to talk.” Jamie doesn’t laugh because he’s going through an emo phase, but come on. Our boy has a gold medal in the Pain Olympics, and he isn’t impressed.

Jamie replies that there is nothing he can do to him that hasn’t been done already, “so try if you must.” John promises they will speak again and leaves, and Jamie looks thoughtfully back at Duncan’s body, a restlessness about him, an animation, that we haven’t seen in some time.

Boston, 1964. Brianna turns sweet sixteen, and although the table is set cheerfully and her parents look like models, the cracks continue to show. At the end of the birthday song, Bree jokes that she knows what she is wishing for, and her mother replies sternly not to bother wishing for a car, because she isn’t getting one. On her other side, Frank contradicts Claire, telling her to “wish away, you never know.” Bree turns briefly to grin at her father, and an annoyed Claire meets Frank’s eyes over their daughter’s head.

It is not clear whether or not Frank is being indulgent or getting a dig in, but it’s probably six of one and a half-dozen of the other. Where once their approach to raising their daughter was a meeting of the minds, it seems Claire and Frank have lost their remaining middle ground. Bree blows out her candles and, once again, her parents paste on their smiles and get back to the business of pretending.

Scotland,1755. Murtagh grouses about Jamie’s milk thistle drink, which is all the medicine Jamie can currently manage since he is holding out on John, and they discuss Duncan Kerr.

Jamie tells him about Duncan’s “mad rant” and the curse on the gold, but when he tries to mention the rest, he pauses, the familiar reluctance to speak of his wife overtaking him. “Get on with it before I die of old age,” Murtagh prods, and Jamie says “a white witch…who had some connection to the gold.” Murtagh instantly gets the reference, and the happiness that lights up his face tells us that Jamie isn’t the only one who has been missing Claire.

There is something about his godfather’s eagerness that sobers Jamie, and when Murtagh hints at the possibility of Claire’s return, Jamie deflects and demurs as to whether it could be her, or if she could even come back. The elder Fraser wonders wistfully what became of her, and Jamie, his voice a bit deeper than it was, says curtly that wishing won’t bring her back. You can tell he’s tried.

Still, Murtagh smiles fondly and tells him he thinks of her every now and then, “and the wee bairn she was carrying.” Jamie says gravely that he should try not to think about it as it will only bring him “pain and suffering,” but he forgets that Murtagh loved Ellen, lost her to another, and survived her death without ever having the consolation of her love. Murtagh knows heartbreak. But perhaps because he understands so well, the older man only grumbles at him, asking sarcastically if he “can at least pray them sound?” Jamie’s reply is briefly delayed by officers coming to collect him, but before he leaves, he replies that yes, he can.

Jamie is taken to Lord John’s rooms, and this time there is a dinner service laid out for two in front of a cozy fireplace and John himself, congenially reminding him of his arrangement with Quarry and suggesting they do the same. Jamie is instantly suspicious, and says as much. “You think your pleasantness will loosen my tongue?”

Even though John says that wasn’t his intention, Jamie quietly tells him that he can return him to the cells. John replies that his only goal is to “forge a connection” between them that is better suited to their situation. Jamie stands silently, seemingly indecisive, but his eyes follow the roast pheasant and wine as they are brought in, and he finally bites out a short “Fine,” and walks towards the table.

Jamie recognizes this as another negotiation between he and John, and before he sits he attempts to leverage this imposition on his personal initiative with a gain for the prisoners. He asks John to give the men leave to hunt for themselves, since the Crown can’t provide for them. John is amazed that he would consider giving the prisoners weapons, but Jamie isn’t talking about shooting anything or allowing them to wander the moors, but setting snares and gathering watercress when they are out cutting peat. John asks why the watercress, and Jamie tells him that eating it will stop the men from getting scurvy. “Wherever did you get that notion?” scoffs John.

Jamie looks down. “From my wife.” John seems surprised to find out that his high-profile prisoner was married, and asks him about it. “She’s gone,” Jamie says simply. “I see,” John replies, and he does. He is looking at Jamie’s averted face, seeing evidence of his pain, and he tries to lighten the conversation. “I shall take your proposal under consideration. Now may we please begin?” He keeps up a steady stream of polite, witty, but empty chatter about the stupidity to deliciousness ratio of pheasants, meant to smooth over the uncomfortable moment. Jamie takes the cue, nodding politely, but when John serves Jamie first, his eyes light up with sincere pleasure in the meal. “Vin de Bourgogne,” he says reverently, naming the wine in the sauce. They settle in to eat, and it is the first moment of real shared enjoyment between the two.

Some time later in the cell, the prisoners all crowd together for warmth, and Murtagh’s is head pillowed on Jamie’s shoulder as he describes the meal. He lists not only each course, but also any condiments with which they were served. One of the men who is listening raptly, eyes closed, interrupts and asks him to go a bit slower because he wants “to savor every morsel.” Jamie proceeds to the next course.

The next day perhaps, the prisoners are being led out to the moor to cut peat when two of them break lines to run and check their snares, citing Lord John’s permission. They are followed out by the two armed guards at the front of the line, and the two on horseback in back move forward a bit to keep an eye on the situation. As one of them make a big deal of a captured rabbit and argues loudly with a man whose snare was empty, Jamie breaks away from the line and dashes to lie down in a depression.

Two other prisoners hurry to cover him up, and then run back to the line while the officers’ attention is still on the squabbling prisoners and their rabbit.

When John learns Jamie escaped, he starts a search for him that lasts three days. He has received word of a sighting near a small island, and he asks his men to search the cliffs and islands for small sloops.

Although his Corporal points out that Jamie is not likely to be seen again, John doesn’t rescind his order, but tells him that he doesn’t need reminding, and gives orders to remain there until nightfall and then return to the moor.

As John is tapping the ol’ kidney, a man sneaks up and grabs him from behind. It’s Jamie, who remembers who John is, and rewards him with a reverse bear hug, a stolen sword and the formal address of “William Grey, second son of Viscount Melton.” Jamie wonders idly how long it took John’s comrades to find him tied to that tree, and whether he soiled himself. Important events in this relationship seem to revolve around bathroom breaks.

He then thoughtfully takes his hand off John’s mouth to hear the answer, but John instead says, “You remembered,” and wonders why he didn’t bring it up before. In short, Jamie held his cards close to his vest until he knew John’s motivations, and John was not eager to revisit the great humiliation of his youth with the man who meted it out to him. John tells Jamie that his actions then “were that of foolish boy,” and that not only does he regret them, the memory “burns shame” into his gut.

But John isn’t one to give up a tactical advantage, and he reminds Jamie that his youthful shenanigans resulted in his life being spared after Culloden. Jamie reflects on this with new emotion in his eyes, acknowledging that John’s brother was honorable. John then points out that his family’s debt to Jamie has been discharged, but Jamie disagrees. He remembers the debt of honor he incurred for saving John’s life, but he also remembers that John made him a promise.

I may ship it a little.

He backs away from John and eventually kneels, burying the point of John’s sword in the ground and offering himself up for sacrifice, and there is a brief moment of horror on John’s face. John approaches Jamie swiftly, taking the sword and holding it to his throat. There is a small gasp from Jamie that is likely meant to be relief but was oddly sexual (I may stand alone here, but I don’t think I do) as John runs the sword back and forth briefly under his jaw.

When the camera pans back up to John’s face, it is as stern and beautiful as an archangel’s, and his voice is indignant when he informs Jamie that he is “not a murderer of unarmed prisoners.”

He puts his sword back in his scabbard, and a disappointed Jamie looks down, no doubt feeling a bit of the shame he had earlier revisited upon John. This moment doesn’t happen in the books and I have a hard time thinking that Jamie would offer himself up like a lamb to slaughter, but the scene does serve to show that these two characters are evenly matched in their intelligence and honor, and there is a great call-and-response between Sam and David in their scenes together.

The two men walk within sight of the prison, and Jamie thoughtfully touches the heather as he returns John’s honorable gesture with the complete truth of his talk with Duncan Kerr. He reassures John that he faithfully relayed everything the dying man said, but he didn’t reveal that some of what he said had personal meaning.

He reminds John of their conversation about his wife. “Yes, you said she was dead,” says John, and Jamie’s clarification is swift. “I said she was gone.” He mentions she was a healer, a white lady, and when he runs through the word in Gaelic and its alternate meaning, that of a witch, John remembers mention of “the white witch,” and asks Jamie if it was a reference to his wife. Jamie answers that he thought they might be, and he had to go see for himself, but there was nothing there to do with her. “She is truly gone.”

This explains Jamie’s earlier despair, and there is a brief flash of sympathy in John’s expression before duty reasserts itself and he asks about the gold. Jamie says King Louis never sent gold to the Stuarts, and all he found was an empty box with a single jewel. John doesn’t believe the story is true. Jamie calmly gives his word as to its veracity of it, and pulls out the single jewel, a tear-shaped sapphire, hands it to John, and begins the walk back to the prison as John stares after him.

Boston, 1966. Brianna’s high school graduation. She crosses the stage when her name is called, happy and glowing back at her two gorgeous parents, who are proudly clapping for her. Frank comments, “That’s my girl.” Claire is once again in white and the bouffant she had when we first saw her in episode 213. She mouths “I am so proud of you” at her daughter and as she stares at her with obvious love, Frank takes a moment to observe his wife, and then once again looks forward.

Scotland, 1755. An officer enters the cells bringing another man with him, and points out where Murtagh Fitzgibbons lies.

Jamie stands up and asks what this is about, instantly defensive, but the officer replies that the Governor has asked that the doctor taken to the cell, to treat his kinsman. John has kept another of his promises to Jamie, to see Murtagh cared for in exchange for honesty about Duncan Kerr. Jamie notes the gesture, and stands aside to let the doctor pass.

Three months later, Jamie and John are playing chess in John’s quarters when John comments that it is good that Murtagh is doing better. Jamie smiles as he makes his move, telling him that after the three months of care by John’s physician, “he is in fine fettle.” John smiles back, and checkmates him. Or at least I assume that’s a checkmate, because I don’t know the first thing about chess.

Jamie’s reaction (“Why ye cunning wee bastard. Where’d you learn that trick?”) clues us in that these men have gone from treating each other formally to an informal friendship, insomuch as the governor of a prison and a prisoner can be friends. John grins fondly, and says his brother taught him. Jamie remembers Lord Melton, who “stubbornly refused to shoot me,” and how at the time he wasn’t grateful for it. John, rearranging the board, asks if he wished to be shot. Jamie tells him only that he thought at the time that he had reason to wish it.

John clarifies that he doesn’t mean to be impertinent, but at that point in time he felt much the same way himself. The painful pause we recognize from Jamie’s reluctance to speak Claire’s name enters John’s speech when he describes losing “a particular friend” at Culloden. He tells Jamie that this friend was the reason John joined the army. “He…inspired me.” Although he’s silent, a wariness has crept into Jamie’s expression as John describes that his brother found him with his friend as he was dying, and dragged him away without letting him say a proper goodbye. “He was embarrassed, you see.”

The nature of their attachment is obvious in the painful tenderness and reluctance with which John speaks of the man. Hal told his brother that he would overcome it, in time. “Hal is generally right,” John says ruefully, “but not always. Some people you grieve over forever.” Likely in a bid to deflect some of the emotion his memories evoke, he asks the next question very formally. “Do you find your life very burdensome, Mr. Fraser?” Jamie is thoughtful as he answers. He has turned a corner, and is perhaps not as burdened as he once was. He tells John that what is most burdensome is in caring for people that are beyond his reach to help, as opposed to not having anyone to care for. “That is…emptiness. But no great burden.” I had to listen to this several times, but I think I finally got it.

In short, Jamie has once again taken on the mantle of leadership, and though burdensome, it enables him to care for someone — as opposed to having no one and being unburdened, but overcome with bleakness. It is a practical, optimistic stance, and another step back to the man he was when he was with Claire. Jamie has grown. John smiles at the insight, and asks after his wife. “She was a healer, you said?” Jamie confirms it, a fond smile on his face as he allows his memories of Claire to surface. His voice is deep with feeling as he calls her by pronoun, and starts to speak of her anonymously as he has always done…and then he makes a decision to return John’s confidences with one of his own. He looks up, tears in his eyes, but he is smiling as he finally says her name. “Claire. Her name was Claire.”

John tries to get a bit more detail, asking Jamie if her cared for her very much, and as a response, Jamie says he meant to thank him for his actions at Corrieyairack, and what he did for his wife. John remembers the woman Jamie held as leverage, and grins ruefully. “That was your wife?” At Jamie’s nod and assertion that he was “a worthy foe,” John jokes that if he found a 16-year old “sh*tting himself with fear a worthy opponent,” then “it is little wonder the Highland army was defeated.”

Jamie replies that a man who doesn’t soil himself with a knife to the throat either has “no bowels, or no brains.” Even though Claire was never in any danger, John thought she was, and acted to protect her life and virtue with no thought to his own. “I admire that,” Jamie says, and tells him he has thought about it “now and again since I…since I lost her.” Jamie is once again melancholy, thinking of her, and a sympathetic John reaches over to put a hand on his and say with feeling that he is sorry for his loss.

Had things ended there, the easygoing nature of a very emotional conversation between these men may have continued, and their mutual admiration remained untarnished, but John, perhaps misreading the intimacy of the moment, strokes his thumb once over Jamie’s hand as he holds  his gaze, his own turning from sympathy to very obvious desire. Jamie, who has a fraught history with people in a position of authority over him, English officers, men who desire him, and English officers in a position of authority over him who desire him, is triggered in exactly the way you would expect him to be.

Jamie looks vulnerable, visibly swallowing as he addresses John, who is starting to get clued in to the fact that his move, however subtle, is beyond unwelcome. “Take yer hand off me,” he says in a voice that trembles a little, and steadies with conviction as his eyes rise to meet John’s. “Or I will kill you.” John’s expression crumbles by infinitesimal degrees, and he withdraws his hand slowly, like someone backing away from a wild animal. It is not totally retracted to his side when Jamie rises and walks away, leaving Lord John to break the one-tear run on Outlander as their hard-won closeness seems to evaporate.

Boston, 1966. Claire is reliving one of her surgeries in the living room, when Frank walks downstairs and asks if it was tough. “I can tell just by looking at you.” No matter their emotional distance, he still observes her, and recognizes her moods. She says they all seem tough these days, and he tells her that she has done what she can, “worrying about it won’t change it.”

He has said all this to her before, and it hasn’t made a difference…but he finally seems ready to take his own advice. Claire knows him, too, because when he looks off into middle distance, she knows something is up and asks him about it. He seems somewhat startled and nervous that she noticed, but now the decision’s been made. He’d like to take Brianna to England. At first Claire thinks it would be a good idea, and thinking it a vacation, asks how long they would go for. Frank sits down across from her and explains that he has been offered a good position at Cambridge. Claire immediately asks about her career at the hospital, and her patients. She tells Frank she can’t move to England. It is then that the other shoe drops, and Frank explains he isn’t asking her to move.

He is asking for a divorce. Claire seems somewhat dazed, reminding him they spoke of this years ago, and Frank remembers, “but Brianna is 18 now.” His one good reason left to hang around finally aged out, and he’s finally done. Claire asks if Brianna knew about this plan and Frank says he hasn’t told her yet, but he thinks she’ll come. “Between med school and the hospital, you’ve barely been here.”

Claire reacts to this direct statement the way she always does when someone points out a weak spot, and gets angry. “How dare you,” she seethes, rising. Frank remains seated, asking Claire to remain reasonable and consider that there are fine universities in England for Bree, “including Oxford, where I still have some pull.” Claire asks what about ‘Candy,’ and after Frank corrects her, he says he and Sandy will marry as soon as he is free. Claire scoffs at the idea (why, I’m not sure), but he’s perfectly serious. As she paces, he sits quietly on the couch. “I’m finished with this, Claire.” He wags his head sadly, and it looks like he will say more, but doesn’t.

Suddenly Claire seems surprised to realize that the man who told her two years ago that he was only staying with her to be near their daughter now wants to divorce her when her daughter is a legal adult who can make her own choice about where she lives. Still, Claire must feel some degree of insecurity about Bree’s choice, because she accuses Frank of “waiting for the clock to run out,” and gets so angry she forgets Brianna isn’t a child anymore. “Well Brianna is my daughter. And you will not take her anywhere.” Frank mutters that he doesn’t think he’ll have to. Claire calls him a bloody bastard, and he loses his temper, shouting at her to be reasonable. Rookie mistake, Frank. You should know better.

In all fairness to Claire, it’s pretty tough to be reasonable about this, even if the choice is ultimately Bree’s. In any case, Claire pulls a desperate move that is in my opinion, beneath her. She tells the man who co-parented her daughter, her daughter’s father in all but biology, the guy she agreed to let sleep with someone else, who she knew was only staying married to her for their child, that he can go ahead and divorce under any grounds except adultery, because “it doesn’t exist.” I’m not sure you can claim righteousness here, Claire. I mean, that is another dude’s biological daughter you’re arguing about. She warns Frank that if he takes their daughter, however, then she “will have something to say about ADULTERY…FRANK.” She spits his name out like a bullet.

Recognizing the unproductive turn the conversation has taken, Frank rises to try to explain himself. It’s no longer about the two of them, and Brianna is a grown woman who can make her own choices, but he would like to live the rest of his life— a deep breath as he gathers his courage — “with a wife who truly loves me.” Frank doesn’t claim to love Sandy, or even that they will be happy. He is basically revealing that he would like someone to give him what he once offered Claire: unequivocal (if one-sided) love. It’s a vulnerable moment, and Claire’s sarcastic expression prompts him to again attempt to give meaning to this choice. He asks her if she never looked at Brianna without seeing him, and Claire’s eyes begin to shimmer.

After all these years, it still hurts her to speak of Jamie. Frank then asks a question that must have haunted him since the nurse first commented on Bree’s red hair. “Without that constant reminder…him…might have you forgotten him…with time?” This is not a question a man asks if he doesn’t care about the answer. You can’t convince me for all the tea in China that Frank loves Sandy. He’s still in love with Claire, and she sees it, so she gives him back an honest — if brutal — answer, the answer she maybe should have given years ago. “That amount of time…doesn’t exist.” Frank backs away from her slowly, mouth working, his eyes slowly unfocusing as he processes this information. He doesn’t say anything else. He snatches up his car keys, and stalks off.

The sound of the phone ringing overlaps with that of the shutting front door, and Claire hurries to answer. They are prepping a patient of hers for surgery, and she is off to the hospital.

Ardsmuir, 1756. It is snowing, and the men are all lined up outside. A man’s voice announces that a ship sets sail at nightfall. Suddenly, Jamie’s name is called and he is pulled out of line, away from Murtagh.

He’s told that the prison is becoming a garrison and the prisoners are being removed. When Jamie asks where to, the answer prompts him to realize he won’t even get the chance to bid his godfather farewell. “The colonies.” Jamie is tied up behind John’s horse like he’s on Game of Thrones while all fellow prisoners, Murtagh included, are pushed towards ships. John says nothing, setting his horse to a sedate walk as Jamie tries to look back and get one last glimpse of the man he has had at his back since he became an orphan, and Murtagh looks back as well, locking eyes for just a moment with the man who was like a son to him, the child of the only woman he ever loved. DAMN IT, SHOW!

I know Murtagh doesn’t survive in the books, and trying to insert him into what happens next on the show would have been awkward BUT…This is a heartless way to separate these two characters, and it kind of undoes some of the excellent work they did building up John’s noble persona. He knows what Murtagh means to Jamie, and he could have arranged for a private goodbye. That he would allow this sort of pointless cruelty to a man who he admires as an equal in so many ways… it makes no sense here.

Three days after they set out, John turns to a man who he was formally friendly with and seemed to respect and comments that he’ll have to talk to him eventually.

Jamie isn’t upset about himself as much as his men, who were sent off to a term of indentured servitude in the colonies. “‘Tis no better than slavery,” he mutters, and before the letters can start rolling in to Starz, John explains the difference: a term of indenture is 14 years as opposed to a lifetime, and the men will regain their freedom afterwards. “If they survive,” Jamie points out. He has no real reason to be optimistic. His life, especially lately, is full of more calamities than a Turkish soap opera. He asks why he wasn’t transported along with the others, and when John doesn’t answer, he pulls on the ropes, stopping John’s horse. “Why d’ye keep me here, Grey?”

John dismounts, and tells him that he isn’t a simple prisoner of war, but a convicted traitor, which means his sentence can only be commuted by the King, and “his Majesty has not seen fit to give that approval.” Jamie grudgingly accepts this as fact, but wants to know where he’s going instead. John couldn’t get him his freedom, but he got the next best thing, service at Helwater, Lord Dunsany’s estate. John will visit him there once a quarter to ensure his welfare, and he offers a piece of “well-meant advice”: his new host is not well disposed to Scots, and thought he cannot hide his Highlander-ness, John suggests he use another name.

He opens the irons on Jamie’s wrists, and Jamie wants to know why he has done this for him, “when I didna let ye have your way?” John says he regrets that moment of weakness. “It was foolish,”  the result of both men discussing people they cared about. John says that Jamie gave him his life all those years ago, “and now I give you yours. I hope you use it well.” Jamie reminds him that Melton discharged that debt, but John says that was for the sake of their family name. “I discharge it for the sake of my own.”

Boston, 1966. Claire is speaking to a patient’s family post-surgery when Joe comes to find her. The pity on his face signals that something is terribly wrong before he says it, and then he says it. “It’s Frank. There’s been a car accident.”

That’s probably the last joke I can tell about this, it was so well-acted it seemed real.

Claire’s face goes vacant, and then she nods absently, accepting the news. She opens the door to the hall, and starts walking faster, then running to her husband… but timing is beyond Frank’s concern now. Claire pauses outside the door of the morgue, steeling herself for what is to come. It is one thing as a medical professional to witness death, to feel it as a constant shadow over your work, and it is another entirely to see it inhabit a body you once loved. Frank’s body lies on a metal gurney, a sheet covering his body so that only his head and shoulders peek out. Claire approaches him slowly, her eyes becoming glassy as she sinks into the chair next to him, and breathes out a sad, “Oh, Frank.” She bends down to press a kiss onto his left shoulder, the same one she once touched when she first tried to make their marriage work again. She looks at his face searchingly, as if to memorize it, and traces a finger down one of the creases next to his mouth. “If you’re still close enough to, hear me,” she tells him kindly, swallowing a sob, “I did love you. Very much. You were my first love.” She leans over him, and when she kisses him one last time, her tears roll over and fall down his cheeks.

I’m sure there were people who were glad to see this character go, but his was a tragic story with a tragic end. I hold no resentment for Frank Randall. This also marks the end of Tobias Menzies’ run on the show, and those are big shoes to fill, indeed.

When Claire finally walks out of the morgue, wiping her tears away, she takes a deep breath before exiting through the doors, this chapter of her life now over.

The bulk of my Deep Thoughts deviated to other aspects of the story, but seeing as this marks the end of her first marriage, I’d like to dip a bit into the impact this time had on Claire. When she first went through the stones, she was 27. When Frank dies, she is 48, and aside from her age there is at least one immutable consequence to her time in the present: Bree will be her only living biological child. She has become a successful surgeon, and her professional life has, in some ways, assuaged some of the emptiness she felt without Jamie. BUT— and this is important — Claire was not happy. Most characters in epic romance endure temporary setbacks, but there is always the expectation of a happily ever after. That isn’t the case in Outlander. This is significant because Claire going forward will be more than Jamie’s wife, or Bree’s mother, and more even than a healer. She is facing the age of the matriarch, the time when your children are grown and move beyond you, and you become the center of your family in a completely different way. Her time of romantic unhappiness ran parallel to her greatest personal and professional achievements, and she learned to hold strong for herself, and her child. This sort of self-reliance will serve her well in the future, and serve as a source of strength. Claire has almost two decades’ worth of a compromised life behind her. She never overcame it, but she learned to endure the worst and thrive during the best of it, and that is a wisdom and an inner strength that only come with loss.

 

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4 comments

  1. Lisa Jennings · October 15

    Love, love this! Two things: bullion is gold; bouillon is soup. Frank didn’t divorce Millie: that was Biff or Shep or whoever — I call him Bad Boston Accent. The Princess Bride reference was terrific, and I can’t wait for your treatment of Jamie’s offer to Lord John at Helswater!

  2. Sue Galeone · October 15

    I can’t believe you used Murtagh to rick roll us!!! How dare you! 😉