Let us live, my Lesbia, and love,
and the rumors of rather stern old men
let us value all at just one penny!
Suns may set and rise again;
for us, when once the brief light has set,
an eternal night must be slept.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand, then a hundred;
then, when we have performed many thousands,
we shall shake them into confusion, in order for us to lose the count,
and in order not to let any evil person envy us,
as no one will be aware of how many kisses have there been.
This week’s episode was a favorite. It exemplified one of the things the novels do best: multiple points of view that each feel important. Although Jamie and Claire were at the center of this episode, it didn’t focus solely on their romantic relationship (except for the last few minutes that feature a quote from the above poem), but branched out to show some of the reasons these two exceptional people are just as exceptional apart. Spoilers ahead for episode 406.
Rumor Has It
A lot of this hour focused on the nature not of love, but of the allegiances that love entails. Does loving someone, and being loved by them, entitle us to be the priority in their hearts? I think this is something that changes more and more the older we get and the more allegiances we develop. When one is a child there is often one luminous adult, be they parent or grandparent (or groom) that helps us make sense of the world and our place in it. When we become parents, our children are the ones entitled to our greatest dedication, at least until they become adults. In Jamie’s youth, Murtagh was that adult, and the nature of their bond was so narrow that there was no one he trusted more. Now in his middle age, Jamie has made an unlikely but steadfast friend in John, who he appreciates not only for his own nobility of character but for the lasting commitment he made to raise Jamie’s son. Murtagh, who has only ever experienced loss at the hands of the English, doesn’t understand Jamie’s attachment until he guesses that William is Jamie’s son. Murtagh, who has thought of Jamie as his own son, must now weigh his allegiance to the one-time leader of his clan to that of the new clan he has created with the Scottish expats of Woolam’s Creek. He gently reminds Jamie when he leaves the Ridge that he has kept all his secrets so far, and perhaps can be trusted with the story of William’s mother; it’s a subtle dig that finds its mark. It’s not only Murtagh who struggles with Jamie’s regard for John. Claire, conscious of Jamie’s appreciation of William’s care, is perfectly polite to John in front of her husband but doesn’t hesitate to lay her cards on the table when they are left alone. Claire is making assumptions about John’s feelings for Jamie based not only on her own pain, but on the legacy of Black Jack Randall. William is operating from his memories of Mac and his belief that he is a nobleman’s son, above valuing the affections of a groom. Even the fandom, on occasion mentioning an episode that features one character over another, gets drawn into the fallacy that love of one thing must mean indifference or derision of another, when the opposite is true. So many hearts that begin the hour looking at love as an either/or proposition come to understand by hours’ end that the nature of a true love, one that comes from a good heart, be it eros, philia, storge or Claire’s evergreen agape, is that it cannot be lessened by division, only magnified.
Envy Eats Its Own Heart
John arrives at the Ridge ostensibly to allow Jamie to visit with his son, but it’s no surprise that it’s Claire who confronts him not once, but twice with his reason for coming. There is a searing honesty between these two that, if Jamie and his friendship is anything to go by, is a necessary requirement to a meaningful friendship with either of them. The way their relationship is advanced here, in a sort of abbreviated 3-act play with high emotional stakes, is my favorite part of the entire episode. It begins with a clawing out of boundaries where Claire not only confronts John with his real reason for coming (to see Jamie), but answers his accusation of envy by pointing out that she too, raised a child of Jamie’s and taunting John with the knowledge of what William’s reaction would be, should he learn that John is lying to him about his parentage. Despite Claire saying that her “devastating straightforwardness,” isn’t a choice, it’s certainly more of a choice than John’s sexual orientation, and especially in that time. The way that David Berry delivers that line, tears in his eyes, speaks volumes as to the pain in John’s heart. While John appears to be dutifully mournful when he tells Jamie of Isobel’s death, he confesses to Claire later, when he believes he is dying, that he felt “nothing” upon the death of his wife despite the fact that they had a life together and that seeing Jamie was a way to see if he still had feelings. He also tells her that he could have had Jamie once and chose not to, when Jamie bartered his body for his promise to take care of William, and Claire is shocked. Not because she would not herself have made the same bargain (remember her submission to the King of France in exchange for Jamie’s release), but because she knows Jamie’s history with Randall and what it must have cost him to make such an offer. The next morning when John wakes, he begs her forgiveness for his indiscretion, and confesses it is the “satisfaction on your face” that grieves him most. When he asks Claire if she knows what it is to love someone and not be able to bring them happiness simply because you were not born the right person for them, it is no coincidence that the hand that reaches out to comfort him is the one with Frank’s ring. John has William, she tells him, communicating in so few words what Frank meant to her as the father to her daughter. John will never be loved by Jamie as he wishes, nor Frank by Claire, but they have places in their hearts that they earned honestly, and that holds a value all its own.
A large part of the episode explored Jamie’s relationship with his son, William Ransom. William shows up with Lord John Grey, whose illness forces Jamie to take the boy into the woods and spend time together. We deviate from the book early on, as William remembers Mac the groom when Jamie speaks Gaelic to his horses on their way to the privy. The child’s hurt feelings are expressed in haughtiness. As John points out, this is a boy who has lost two mothers in his short lifetime, and now his father is ill. This illness is the catalyst for Jamie to take the boy out on a tour of the land. William is by turns enthusiastic and mulish. Although it is obvious that he admires Jamie and wants to learn from him, the mention of Jamie’s father reminds him of his own, and he lashes out in his uncertainty and fear, blaming his father’s illness on his visit to Jamie. William, as many children do, feels an intense loyalty to his father. The reminder of him fills him with a guilt that expresses itself in anger. While Jamie is emotionally intelligent enough to recognize his outburst for what it is, he is painfully reminded of the place John has in the boy’s heart, and how he compares. This makes his desperate offer to take Willie’s place for taking the Native’s fish all the more heartbreaking. When he shouts that he is the boy’s father, it’s such a ludicrous proposition that Willie assertively denies it, bravely claiming sole responsibility for the theft. William runs to Jamie’s arms for comfort, and they strike a truce. The next morning on the way back to Ridge, William asks Jamie why he didn’t turn around when he left Helwater. Jamie says honestly that he wanted to, but he didn’t want to give him false hope since he didn’t believe he would ever see him again. His affectionate rush to John and Jamie’s assurance that John is a good father in no way mars the closeness the two have achieved. Both men understand their place in the boy’s life, and when William looks back at Jamie as his horse ambles away from the Frasers’ homestead, his yearning gaze is a beacon of hope for his father’s heart to hold onto that someday, they will see each other again.
Let Us Live and Love
After the emotional turmoil of John’s visit, Claire and Jamie reaffirm their vows, in a way. Jamie washes Claire in a sort of baptismal cleansing. John wasn’t only a reminder of their child, but of their 20 years apart, and their yearning to be together. The ring Jamie gives her is emblematic of their commitment to each other, and the endurance of the Fraser clan in all its varied forms and iterations. Their first kiss, shared on their wedding day, multiplied into a thousand more, to be shared by them, their children, and the generations to come.