Outlander Recap 305 – Freedom and Whisky

Spring Summer is here and I finally managed to put out fires long enough to get back to the business the Lord intended for me ̶ ogling Scots and making lame jokes. My break went a little longer than I expected, but I’m ready to ignore my children once more and get the business of Outlander, so here we go.

When last I left our heroes, it was the end of an era. Frank exited via car, Claire threw in the towel on finding Jamie, Bree accepted the fact that half her DNA is aged more than the most expensive whisky, and Roger was given just enough hope-juice to keep his thirst for American-brand ginger soda going strong. That means that instead of Scotland we begin this episode in…

Boston, 1968. Claire continues to know and do better than every man around her. This time, it’s Joe Abernathy, who advises her to close on a surgery despite her hunch that the patient is harboring additional necrosis and time running out on the patient’s blood pressure. Claire respects Joe, but she believes in her own counsel above anyone else’s and it turns out to be a good thing. She saves her patient.

Meantime, Brianna is sketching and ignoring Lord Merton Professor Brown’s lecture on Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” as an example of how prose contributes to historical inaccuracy. Turns out Revere got sole credit for the Midnight Ride, but he actually didn’t go alone. Revere was accompanied by two men, and after his capture, the mission was completed by one of his companions, Samuel Prescott, who basically went on to be someone who never had a poem written about him.

Brianna looks up, her attention caught by the concept, but it fades once more when the Professor jokes about the cause for the misconception. Brown dismisses the class for the Christmas break, but asks Bree to stay behind to inform her that she’s not only failing his history class, but every one of her college classes.

Bree deadpans that maybe she’s not as smart as everyone thinks she is, but Brown counters that she wouldn’t be at Harvard if that were the case because Brown is a snob. He then pulls the guilt card, telling Brianna that her father was not only a colleague of his, but a friend.  “So I’ve always felt a responsibility to look out for you.”

Bree’s expression is oddly sardonic, probably because the subject of her father is a touchy one. Brown points out that she excelled last semester, and that she can talk to him, but Bree insists that everything’s fine. Not even his assertion that her future at college is in peril seems to penetrate her IDGAF shield. More than Brianna’s grades have fallen. She carries herself apart, as if no longer of her time or sure of her place in the world, and her insecurity expresses itself in a sort of angry stillness. But Bree, like Jamie and Claire, is a creature of action. This is a bubble she won’t be able to maintain, long-term. Here’s a visual:

It’s only later that night when Brianna arrives at a dark house, her First Christmas ornament up on the tree, that she allows her pain to show. No matter that he wasn’t her blood, Bree misses Frank. She lovingly runs a hand down his chair, smells his pipe, and goes to his desk to look through pictures of herself and her parents through the years. She runs her thumb down a photograph of Frank holding her as an infant, and even though her lip trembles, no tears fall.

Grief is complicated. Bree and Frank loved each other fiercely, and though she is intelligent enough to know her parents didn’t have an ideal marriage, the frustration of the search for Jamie has made her a stranger to her own life, her own memories. She no longer feels confident about the relationship she shared with the most important man in her life to-date because of what he must have felt for her birth father, and she is isolated from knowing Jamie by time and history.  To be perfectly honest, her grades are the least of it. Bree is undergoing a crisis of identity. The man who loved her and who she considered her father is gone, and the man her mother loved, who actually fathered her, is out of reach.

Back at the hospital, Claire unknowingly mirrors Bree’s actions, worriedly staring at a photo of her daughter while Joe brings her a drink and chats her up about Scotland, asking if she “met a man.” Claire tells him that there was someone from her past, as “Scottish as they come” and that they were “as serious as it comes.”

She had hoped to reconnect with him while she was there, but “fate had other ideas.” “Fuck fate,” Joe replies, confirming that Joe is the friend everyone deserves. Claire, who has literally attempted to do so several times already in two different centuries, seems on board.

Their talk is interrupted by a nurse bringing surgical reports for Joe’s review. Claire reminds him she’s off the clock and stands to leave, but Joe lets her know their conversation is “to be continued.”

A yellow cab stops in front of the Randall home, and out pops a giant beating heart sporting a fine coat and an even finer face-pelt. It’s Roger, giving himself an awkward pep talk about the pros and cons of popping in unannounced on his transcontinental crush.  Flying to Boston uninvited, he tells himself, is either “the most daft” thing he’s ever done or “the most brilliant.”

It’s about to be both.

He rings the doorbell and if the shouting voices of Claire and Bree aren’t a hint that daft wins, Brianna’s grumpy “WHAT?” when she opens the door certainly is. Despite her obvious bad mood, there is an immediate softening about her face and a sparkle in her eye when she sees him standing there.

The two take a minute to smile nervously at each other before she invites him in, and even though Roger glances at the boxes and suitcase assembled by the door, he discreetly says nothing. “Look who’s here,” Brianna tells a shocked Claire, who tries with some effort to tell Roger that he is a “wonderful surprise,” but Roger, bless his heart, hasn’t the guile to pretend. He knows he should have sent word, that he’s come at a bad time, and he looks even more uncomfortable as the reason for the argument emerges. It turns out Brianna dropped out of Harvard and has decided to move out.

Claire wants to speak to the Dean, but Brianna, exasperated, shouts at her mother that she isn’t listening to her. “I need a break.” Bree tried to come back to Boston, to the life she had before finding out about Jamie, but she can’t be that person anymore. “I tried, and it’s not working.” Both Roger and Claire look upset not only at what Bree is saying, but how she is saying it. This is a character who has, until now, been self-assured, centered. Claire lived a whole unwanted life for her daughter’s sake, and Roger crossed an ocean for her. But Bree doesn’t need something that anyone else can give her. She needs to find herself again. She doesn’t seem to believe in anything anymore. Not even suitcases.

The doorbell rings, and she tells them she has to go. She apologizes to Roger and asks him to hang out the next day. Roger offers to get a hotel, but Claire insists he stay with her. After dinner, Claire asks Roger if he has been back to Inverness and discovers that Bree might not be his only reason for showing up at her doorstep. This is his first Christmas without the Reverend, and as he tells Claire about his Christmas memories of his adoptive father, it’s obvious to her (and to us) that he’s lonely.

He’d like to try an American Christmas. “Maybe make some new traditions of my own.” Claire tells him they used to read “A Christmas Carol” to Bree until she grew out of it, “or maybe Frank and I did.” Claire points out that Roger is a magnet for their family quarrels.

Roger jokes that he hadn’t noticed, and Claire jokes back that he didn’t come just for the American Christmas. Roger asks if it’s that obvious, but Claire thinks it’s good he came because Bree needs someone to talk to that understands timey wimeyness what she went through this past summer. “She puts up a good facade,” Roger says, correctly identifying one of the dominant Fraser genetic traits.

They go into the living room, and as Roger pours Claire a whiskey, he tells her he has news that might put a smile on her face. Little does Roger know, Claire has a PhD in Confounding Expectations. “I’m a historian. That’s what I do. I pursue. I’m like a dog with a bone,” Roger explains. Claire looks perplexed until she asks what he’s talking about and he simply says, “I found him.” For just an instant, Claire looks like she doesn’t know who He is.

But then she must remember because her smile fades into shock as Roger goes on, showing her that he found an article in a 1765 journal called Forrester’s. In it are two quotes from Robert Burns’ “The Author’s Earnest Cry And Prayer,” which Roger remembers Claire quoted to Jamie. Claire argues that Burns was popular, and anyone could have known it, but Roger points out that the poem in question wasn’t written until 1786. At the time of the Forrester’s article, Burns would have been but six years old.

“Only someone with knowledge of the future could have quoted lines that hadn’t been written yet,” Roger explains, helpfully guiding us to the relevant plot point. Claire mentions that there is no author listed, but Roger points to the cover, which Claire is apparently too in shock to read: Alexander Malcolm, two of Jamie’s middle names. Jamie has become a printer, and according to the parallel calendar they created, was alive in Edinburgh as of one year ago. Roger grins at Claire, pleased with himself and expecting a positive reaction, when another gamble with a Randall goes south. Claire’s expressions work between joy and fear as she gets up to pace, finally stopping to snap at Roger that she never asked him to do this.

“I thought you’d want to know,” he replies, confused. “Well, I don’t.” Roger apologizes, turning away, but Claire is working herself into a right froth. “I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing.” She explains that she had shut the door on the past twenty years ago, the hardest thing she ever did. Then she began to hope again when she heard Jamie survived Culloden, but she can’t go through the cycle again. Roger says it’s not just hope, that it’s real. “You can go to Jamie,” he comforts, not prepared for her response. “And leave Brianna? With everything she’s going through?”

Claire doesn’t feel that she can abandon her daughter at a time when she needs her. A contrite Roger asks what he can do, and Claire asks him not to tell Bree about Jamie. “I won’t say a word,” Roger promises. Claire tells him she knows he meant well, but Roger doesn’t meet her eyes, excusing himself to retire instead, citing jet lag.

 

That night, Claire holds Ellen Mackenzie’s pearls as she stares out the window, lost in thought. I mentioned in my Deep Thoughts for this episode that “despite a keen scientific mind, Claire doesn’t always analyze her own motivations, and usually sidesteps blame when it comes her way. It’s one of those quirks that defines and humanizes her character, and the reason so many people end up entangled in so many shenanigans in her name.” Claire, impulsive by nature, wanted to find Jamie until the reality of what finding Jamie would mean was brought home via Adorable Scottish Historian.

It’s not that she isn’t still in love, or that she is even content with her life as it stands. It isn’t even Bree, really. It’s the overwhelming disconnect from the woman she was when last she saw the man she loved, and the weight of twenty years of a disappointing life. Claire, a time traveler by biology, a scientist by nature, has been existing in an unnatural state of stasis, and it will take a challenge to her carefully maintained equilibrium to force her back into movement

The next day at the hospital, Joe is playing with a box of bones delivered to him by an anthropologist colleague looking for a second opinion. He assembles the skeleton like a messed-up IKEA cabinet, telling Claire that she’s an adult “pretty lady” in about her forties.

Claire holds the skull and asks why he was sent “over a 150-year-old murder victim,” and Joe stops in his tracks, telling her she’s only off by about 50 years. His colleague was hoping he could discover cause of death, so he asks Claire what made her think she was murdered, but Claire doesn’t know. Joe says she was found in a cave in the Caribbean, along with other artifacts. He pulls up a vertebra sliced clean through the middle and tells Claire she was right. “Somebody tried to cut this lady’s head clean off with a dull blade.”

Joe asks Claire how she knew, and Claire says she “just felt like it.” They think it was a secret slave burial, but according to the bones, this lady was white. In an impressive pivot for two people just discussing a brutal murder, Joe goes right back to where they left off during their last conversation, asking about Claire’s man in Scotland, and Claire confesses that he was Bree’s real father, information she revealed to Bree in Scotland, and why her daughter is currently riding the front row of the struggle bus.

You know Bree thought about it. We all have. Claire’s sex life is basically our favorite subplot.

Joe is kind and non-judgmental, saying he’s glad she told him, and that it explains a lot. “No one thought you and Frank were Ozzy and Harriet,” he tells her, in case she was in doubt that she and Frank fooled anyone besides themselves for twenty years. He says he’s watched her live “a half-life” since they met, and counsels that if she has another chance at love, she should take it. “Brianna will come around.” His calm assurance seems to quiet Claire, who thanks him sincerely.

Back at the house, Roger has discovered his next sci-fi fandom in the form of Dark Shadows. In the show, vampire Barnabas is bemoaning the loss of Vicky Winters, a time-traveler, who followed her true love back into the 18th century rather than stay with him.

Brianna enters and makes fun of him for watching it, unaware that she is basically mocking her own parent’s lives and also that Dark Shadows is awesome and that Roger can’t help his amazing taste in television. Roger rightfully asserts that the “troglodytes” at Oxford wouldn’t understand “the travails of the House of Collins” and he’s so adorably, righteously nerdy that Bree’s joking indifference melts away, and she apologizes for the previous day.

Roger apologizes for dropping in unannounced, but she’s glad he did. As they both so often do when one of them shows true emotion, Roger changes the subject to his wish for an American Christmas, which has now expanded into a desire to try both lobster rolls and Boston cream pie. Bree playfully says she knows someone who can help him with that, but then becomes serious again as she invites him to “this thing” in honor of her father at Harvard, a fellowship being named in his honor. Afterwards, she offers to walk him around. “I’d be honored,” he answers seriously, touched that she’d invite him.

Bree breaks the tension by plopping next to him on the couch, assuring him they can watch the rest of the episode first.

Later that day, she walks him through The Robinson Cloisters (outside which Frank once asked Claire if she was all right after their first faculty party), explaining their Gothic origin as no doubt Frank once explained it to her. Roger wonders about the secrets the structure could tell and the notable Harvard graduates who once walked the very place they stood.  Brianna is a bit startled to realize that she never wondered those things. Instead, she marveled at the construction, that “every single piece of stone is held in place by the pressure of the one next to it,” and tells Roger that there is a “truth” to the building.

Roger teases that she doesn’t sound like the daughter of a historian, not expecting Bree’s emotions to be so close to the surface. She snaps that she isn’t the daughter of a historian, but of an 18th-century highlander. She might have thought twice about complaining about her parental richness in front of an orphan, but thankfully Roger doesn’t question her emotions. Instead, he shares a bit of his own history.

Even more so than the physical letters and mementos Roger’s dad left behind, the stories the reverend told him about his father made his father real, “and knowing my father helped me know myself. Everybody needs a history.” It doesn’t matter to him if it was made up or real. Bree, disillusioned by the discipline both Roger and Frank loved, doesn’t trust history anymore. “It’s just a story. It changes depending on who’s telling it. Like Paul Revere, Bonnie Prince Charlie, her parents…or her own. “History can’t be trusted.”

Roger doesn’t reply, realizing that nothing he says at this point will make a difference, and they go inside to the ceremony. Her bitterness and attachment to the tangible and rational are understandable. Bree needs precision and hard data, because she’s lived in a glass menagerie of a family, even before she found out about Jamie. This was not the case with Roger, who grew up with an adoptive but stable family, and whose place in it was not at all altered by the discovery of his Mackenzie roots.

Dean Tramble stands before a photo of Frank and a plaque that will display the names of the future winners of the newly-named Frank W. Randall Fellowship in the Field of European Studies. First, he speaks a bit about Professor Randall’s “ground-breaking research,” which the plaque describes as “European studies, in particular, his work charting the rise and fall of European dynasties in the early modern period.”

Spy on in Heaven, you taciturn spook angel.

Later on Claire, in perfect Jackie O. drag, thanks Tramble for honoring Frank, and is completely blindsided when he calls a “Professor Travers” over to ask for her grant proposal by Monday. Tramble notices the brief awkwardness and, apologizing, formally introduces Claire to her dead husband’s mistress. Sandy Travers, like Claire herself, is a career woman, working on research into “the influence of colonial English on autochthonous languages.” Like oh, I don’t know… Gaelic? Damn. No wonder Frank was into her. Cute AND useful. You can say a lot about Frank, but his multitasking game was flawless. In any case, what follows is the conversational equivalent of two cats hissing.

“That’s fascinating,” Claire lies.

The two women manage to stay frosty but civil until the Dean is called away. The second he steps away, Sandy ups the ante with every Other Woman’s favorite game, “I Knew Him Better”. She comments that Frank would have hated all the fuss. Claire, who like Frank himself, shared an intimate knowledge of each other’s defects and public sex kinks, claps back by saying she thinks “he would have rather liked it.”

Sandy retorts that he always said the work was the reward, and Claire, losing her taste for the conversation, excuses herself and begins to walk away. But Sandy has words burning a hole in her that she just has to blurt out, telling Claire that she should have let Frank go. “All those years. You never wanted him, but you wouldn’t give him up.”

Claire, probably sensing the effrontery of a woman she allowed to bang her husband questioning why she didn’t make things easier for her, seethes back that she doesn’t see how it’s any of her business. Sandy keeps talking, saying that Frank said he stayed with her for Brianna, but she knew that “part of him was still in love with you, and always would be, no matter how much you broke his heart.” Claire is still, at once both guilty and riveted by what she’s hearing.

Sandy, tearing up, tells Claire that she had to live with it, because Frank was the love of her life, and she wanted him, even if it meant she had to share him. “I could have made him happy. But you were selfish. You wanted it all.  So you lived a lie, and you made Frank and Brianna live it, too.  You threw away twenty years with him.  I would give anything to have just one more day.” Sandy might have a doctorate in languages but she probably minored in guilt. She leaves, and the camera pans out to show Brianna watching her mother.

For all that Sandy is and what she did and represents, the reason it wounds Claire is obvious: Frank was Sandy’s Jamie, and by passively staying in a marriage she no longer wanted, Claire actively kept them apart. Neither woman can help who she loved (or didn’t love) and because of that, their overlapping romantic histories became something that eludes their ability to control it. They both believe the other had a choice, when in the end, neither really did. It’s a deeply moving scene that serves to show another poignant cost of the decision Claire and Jamie made twenty years ago on the eve of Culloden.

On their way out of the reception, Bree asks her mother about the blonde woman she was speaking to, and says she recognizes her. When Claire replies that she was one of Frank’s old students, Bree tells her that she remembers being younger, at a store with Frank when he Sandy and stopped to speak to her. “Something about it… the way he looked at her? It was the same way he used to look at you.” The fact that she would have noticed this about her father and that she’s the initiator of this conversation is both indicative of the dysfunction Bree witnessed growing up, and the way she has chosen to deal with deception in her life as an adult. I hope this is addressed before they develop the relationship with Roger any further. This girl is bound to have relationship issues.

She reminds Claire that they promised at the stones that there would be no more lies between them. Claire wearily admits that “Frank loved her. It went on for many years,” and that he was going to marry her.

outlander, claire randall

This information saddens Bree, but not for the reason we think. She isn’t upset at the state of her parents’ marriage. She’s dealt with that her whole life. Instead, she is thinking about the father she loved and wondering if he loved her back the way she thought, or if their history was a lie. Bree reminds Claire that she told her she looked like Jamie, and voices out loud the thought that must have been eating at her since Scotland, that all her life her father had to look at her and see another man – the man her mother really loved. “He must have hated me.”

outlander, Bree Randall, Branna Randall, Brianna Fraser

Claire rushes to reassure her of her importance to Frank.  “Raising you… that was his life’s work.  His greatest joy.” Bree isn’t only unsure of Frank, however. She also wants to know if Claire resented her for being “the reason you lost Jamie.” Claire seems flabbergasted that she would think that, saying that the only thing she resented was having to leave Jamie. She looks at her daughter tenderly tells her of the day she was born, holding and nursing her and having Bree look at her for the first time, how she had never felt anything like it before. “I love you for you, Brianna.  Not for the man who fathered you.”

Claire Randall, Outlander

Bree says Claire must still think about him, and when Claire admits she does, she decides it’s time to share another truth: the article that Roger found. Bree sees Jamie’s middle names and grins, realizing it’s Jamie. Claire tells her that Roger found him, and Bree comes to an immediate conclusion. “Then you can go back.” Brianna knows what’s at stake here.

Brianna Fraser, Bree Fraser, Brianna Randall, Bree Randall, Outlander

Claire says that he life is there, with her, but Bree isn’t having it, pointing out that she’s grown up, and could live on her own. “I love you, but I don’t need you — not the way I did when I was little.” Claire smiles at her, noncommittal.

On Christmas eve, Claire and her hospital colleagues watch the Apollo 8 broadcast. As the crew recites from the book of Genesis, Joe wonders out loud about their life after space. “How do you take a trip like that, and come back to life as you know it?”

Claire Randall, Joe Abernathy, Outlander

If the connection wasn’t to Claire wasn’t obvious enough, her voiceover pops in to confirm it. In some ways, Claire says, she’s been further than space, and though she did come back to her life, “it’s never the same.” Maybe, she wonders, it’s enough to have gone just once, which is more than most people get. She looks around the room, already a stranger in a strange land, and walks over to the window to stare at the moon and consider her decision.

Outlander, Claire Randall, Claire Fraser

That night at home, she and Brianna discuss the possibility of her leaving, and Claire explains that there is no guarantee that she can ever come back. “It’s possible we may never see each other again.  Can you live with that?  Because I don’t know if I can.”

Outlander, Claire Randall, Brianna Randall

Like any mother, Claire would like to be there for Bree’s wedding, and when she becomes a mother, to hold her first grandchild. Brianna knows it won’t be easy, but she’s been thinking about whether she’s “more Randall or Fraser,” and she’s reached the conclusion that she’s more like her mother than either of her fathers. “And if I can turn out to be half the woman you are, then I’ll be fine.”

Brianna Fraser, Brianna Randall, Claire Fraser, Outlander

Claire is touched, but still worried. To her assertion that she knows her daughter better than anyone, Bree replies that the person who doesn’t know her at all is Jamie, and Claire owes it to him to go back and tell him everything. Claire smiles absentmindedly, and Bree realizes that there is more bothering her mother than she’s said. “What if he’s forgotten me?” Claire wonders, “Or what if he doesn’t love me anymore?”

Claire Fraser, Claire Randall, Outlander

Brianna reminds her that if what she what she felt for Jamie is still the most powerful thing in her life, she must trust it is also still the same for Jamie. “You gave Jamie up for me. Now I have to give him back to you.” Both overcome with emotion, they embrace.

Christmas Day at the hospital, Claire asks Joe for a consult on a very important matter: her own hotness. It’s a man’s opinion she needs, and Joe’s the only man she can have this conversation with. “Am I attractive? Sexually?” This is one of my favorite parts in the novels, because no way my best guy friend doesn’t get asked this ON THE REG, just FMI.

Outlander, Claire Fraser, Claire Randall

He doesn’t disappoint, joking that it must be a trick question and guessing that this is about her man in Scotland. Claire wants to know if she’s “changed terribly” from when Joe first met her, and he chuckles.

Outlander, Joe Abernathy

“You’re a skinny white broad with too much hair but a great ass. He’ll be in heaven when he sees you, Lady Jane.” Claire grins and thanks him. It’s exactly what she needed to know.

That night, Claire, Roger and Bree exchange gifts. Claire gets what every woman wants: cold hard cash and an abridged history of Scotland. Bree jokes that she didn’t get Claire a flashlight because Roger was afraid she’d end up at another witch trial, as if that alone would stop her. Claire returns their gesture by confessing to a bit of light larceny, saying she thought about what she’d need and so took some scalpels and penicillin from the hospital. “I thought 1766 Edinburgh will need it more than 1968 Boston.”

Claire Randall, Outlander

Claire thanks them both for their generosity, but Bree has one more gift. Claire unwraps a small box to find a teardrop-shaped topaz pendant on a golden chain. Not only is it Bree’s birthstone but also a tool to help Claire through the stones, according to what they read in Gillian Edgars’ notebook. Claire confirms her theory by saying that she lost gemstones both times she went through: the jewels on her watch, and the stone on Jamie’s ring.

Brianna wonders how Claire will carry everything with her (I guess suitcases don’t time travel), and Claire says she will make something. It turns out Claire sewed not only Bree’s clothes, but also her pageant dresses and then I get sidetracked wondering if that’s a UK term for prom or if Bree competed in beauty pageants.

Claire Randall, Outlander, Pageants

Roger brings it back to his fandoms when he jokes about Claire having a utility belt, “just like the caped crusader himself,” and this segues into one of the most non sequitur montages in the show. Claire in her workroom, MacGyvering a three-piece outfit out of a raincoat to the piercing harmonies of the 1966 Batman series theme song.

Claire Randall, Claire Fraser, Batman, Outlander

That basically covers that.

All that garment design and construction wears Claire out, and that night she spends some quality time staring at her ridiculously attractive face and worrying about whether or not it’s attractive ENOUGH. It has been twenty years since she last saw Jamie, and I suppose it stands to reason that even the top 1% of genetic lottery winners have their insecurities when faced with going back to their rock-hard tiger cub spouses.  Of course everything is right and tight, but just in case her racing stripe of grey hair’s a deal-breaker, she dyes it out.

The next day Bree and Roger walk in for some compliments and brief Miss Clairol ad, as Claire self-consciously admits to “touching up the grey.” Roger asks about “the bat-suit,” and Claire points out all the features of her very own superhero outfit and its many, many pockets. Claire is going on about her her uneven hems, but Bree tells her “no one cares. Especially Jamie.”

Roger Mac, Roger Mackenzie, Roger Wakefield, Outlander, Brianna Randall, Brianna Fraser

Bree notices that Claire is taking the blouse she wore to Harvard, and when Claire sheepishly asks if she can borrow it, her daughter reassures her that it will look perfect. They stare at each other for a moment, and Roger excuses himself to “fetch one more last-minute provision,” and no doubt to give mother and daughter a moment alone because Roger has a PhD in feels.  “He’s a good one,” Claire tells Brianna, and she replies that she knows.

Outlander, Claire Randall, Brianna Randall, Claire Fraser, Brianna Fraser

After a brief pause, Claire gets down to business, giving Bree her resignation letter, which she is to give to Joe Abernathy, as well as the deed to the house and information about the bank accounts, which are now in her name. The reality that her mother is leaving seems to shake Bree, and she complains that Claire won’t let her come to Scotland to see her off…but this is how Claire wants it. The first time she went through the stones she was terrified, then heartbroken, and this time, she wants it to be peaceful.

Outlander, Claire Randall, Claire Fraser

“If I had to say good-bye to you there, I might never go.” “Well,” Bree replies, choking up. “That is not an option.” Claire holds her daughter’s face and calls her “my beautiful girl.” Brianna’s voice breaks as she tells her she will miss her so much, but she wants her to go and find her father, and “give him this,” a kiss.

Brianna and Claire kimoji, outlander

Claire, tears running down her face, smiles and says she has something to give her. Out of a velvet pouch she takes Ellen MacKenzie’s Scottish pearls, and places them around Bree’s neck. She tells her they were a gift from her father when they married, and then tells her she can wear them on her wedding day, if she likes.

Claire putting scotch pearls on Bree, Outlander, Brianna Fraser, Claire Fraser

They both seem to realize at the same time that it is a day that Claire won’t get to see, and they rush into each other’s arms. Roger walks back in with a tray of whisky, and Claire lets Bree go to thank him tearfully for being “a dog with a bone. For everything.” He offers her “a wee nip for the road,” and as he pours, Claire cuddles her daughter close. Roger hands them their glasses, and Bree offers a toast that Claire echoes. “To freedom and whisky.” It would be sad except for Roger lighting up the world.

Roger Mackenzie smiling, Roger mac lighting up the world, Roger Wakefield, Outlander

That night, Claire walks out of the Boston brownstone for the last time and turns back to see a tearful Brianna in the window, pearls still on, Roger standing solid and sympathetic behind her. She touches her hand to her lips and smiles tremulously, then turns and walks to a waiting cab.

Claire Randall misses flushing toilets, Claire Fraser, Outlander

Now that her mother has turned away, Bree spins from the window, straight into Roger’s arms. He holds her as she cries, and we watch Claire’s cab pull away. After a moment Bree pulls away and smiles at Roger through her tears. “Stay here a minute,” she says, and walks away to the kitchen. Roger looks a bit sadfused at the loss of his snuggle buddy.

Roger Mac needs to hug, roger mackenzie, roger wakefield

He calls after her to ask if she is all right, but she just nods quickly and keeps walking. Bree comes from a long line of compartmentalizers, so she allows herself only a moment of tears and then visibly pulls herself together, determinedly pulling on a Santa Claus hat and picking up a tray. Roger sees her come out of the kitchen with a smile on her face, and he accurately guesses what she’s carrying: Boston cream pie and a lobster roll.

Brianna Randall serves food eats feelings

She suggests that they watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” later and when Roger asks what that is (GASP) she explains it’s “Part of your new American Christmas tradition.” Roger pauses, then replies that he too, has something for her. Reaching under the tree, he picks up a small present and hands it to her to unwrap. It is a copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a reminder not only of a happier time with her parents, but also that she was and is loved. Roger doesn’t say anything but rests his chin on his hand and looks at her tenderly, until Bree leans over and kisses him. Is that a foghorn I hear?

SS RedMac, Roger and Bree kissing, Outlander

Afterwards, they stare at each other for a heartbeat, recognizing a new closeness and dependence on each other that remains beautifully unspoken. There is no great declaration, no promise of forever, but they are there, together, their bodies echoing each other’s movements in almost every scene, a glance shared or avoided communicating everything we need to know about them, two exceptionally good-looking young people who just happen to have enough faith in each other to risk falling in love. Bree tucks her legs underneath her, Roger reaches for a lobster roll with one hand and put his other arm around her, and she begins to read to him. It is a new generation, building new traditions from the old. A portent of things to come.

Roger and Bree eat a sandwich, Outlander

In the meantime, Claire travels back in time via Voyager Prologue. One moment she is looking out from her 20th-century cab at a puddle in the street, and the next she is stepping from a carriage into a puddle in 1766 Edinburgh.

Claire Fraser smells true love, Outlander

She wastes no time asking about Alexander Malcolm, printer, and is told he’s “just around the way” in Carfax Close. Claire makes her way down the crowded street to Jamie’s shop, pausing to run her fingers over the ornate symbol-laden wrought iron sign that proclaims “A. Malcolm, Printer and Bookseller.”

18th century first base, outlander

Her giddy expression turns to wonder as she climbs the stairs, and as she nears the door, to insecurity. She takes a moment to breathe, smooth her hair and then she opens the door, a bell tinkling merrily above her.

Claire Randall so many vases

She looks around the empty space, only to hear a familiar voice calling from one floor below. “That you, Geordie? Took ye long enough.” Claire turns towards the voice, walking to it and the interior window it’s coming from with a joyful, nervous expression.

Follows pheromone trail, Claire Fraser Outlander

She peers down through said window at Jamie, his back turned to her, grousing to who he still thinks is Geordie.

She tries to say his name and falters, finally managing to get out a teary “It isn’t Geordie.” At the sound of her voice, Jamie stiffens, lowering the paper he was reading. “It’s me,” Claire says, glowing with happiness. “Claire.” I find it endearing that she feels she has to point out who “me” is. I’m pretty sure he know, girl.

Claire fraser outlander

Jamie turns slowly, peering up at her with a suspicious expression that smooths out into shock as he looks fully at her.

For a moment, they just stare at each other.

And then Jamie wobbles a bit, planting a hand behind him to keep steady. Claire smiles nervously at him, and his brain decides he needs a time out. Jamie gracefully topples over in a faint, paper scattering all around him.

Upstairs, Claire gasps.

This episode was a lovely bookend of two distinct ages in a woman’s romantic life, and of the complex and symbiotic relationship between mothers and daughters. At one end is Claire, about to begin married life again after a long period of mourning the loss of her true love. Jamie is a bit of an unknown quantity to her, and that carries different weight in middle age. Certainly their love is epic, but it hasn’t conquered all. There has been a lot of pain, but the fact that she is ready and willing to dive back into that work speaks volumes. When you’re older, you realize love takes work, and the effort makes the commitment all the more dear. Claire is wiser, if no less in love. Back in the 20th century, Bree is discovering her own path, and her own sense of self outside her parents. Even though Claire is gone and she’s embarking on a new romance with Roger, her parents’ lessons are strong voices that will continue to influence her. Claire has left Bree more than deeds and bank accounts: she has left her a sense of what it is to waste a life, and it’s a lesson she won’t take lightly. In the end, we are all the cumulative history of those who came before us, mixed with our own experiences, forming the alchemical mix of our distinct personalities. And one day we will influence and perplex those after us, much as we were frustrated and marked by those who came before us, stretching into the past and future, making us all immortal.

 

Deep Thoughts Outlander 313: Eye of the Storm

So here we are, staring down another Droughtlander, and aside from thoughts specifically about this episode, I had some thoughts about the entire series.  Thinking back to where we started, with a pregnant Claire and the aftermath of Culloden, the scope of what needed to be covered is pretty overwhelming. For the most part, we got there…and there was a lot more sex.

Spoilers ahead for episode 313.

Here are five takeaways:

I’m surrounded by Frasers. Seasons 1-3 really did focus mostly on Claire and Jamie, but that won’t be the case being forward. While the Frasers’ story continues to take center stage, all the characters we’ve been introduced to as part of the expanded Fraser clan will need time and audience investment to develop properly. One of the issues going forward that was glaringly obvious during this episode is how adapting these increasingly more complex subplots will affect the flow of a televised series. This episode attempted to cover a lot of emotional and plot ground, and it didn’t always do so in a way that made sense to anyone who didn’t read the novels. One book per season may have worked up until now, but I really hope they’re negotiating at least two seasons per book going forward.

Who’s doing what to the who now? I had a hard time following the purpose of the coach pausing for the group walking with torches, and later, the masked dancers. Sure I’ve read the books, but I made a point of not doing so during the season, just to see if I could follow the story without them. I didn’t feel that either of these choices was given any context. I assumed the former was a group of escaped slaves (the “maroons” Father Fogden spoke of in 311), and the latter Geillis’ slaves practicing some of their native rituals, but this wasn’t really explained aside from using this group of people to represent a magical “other” that I’m not sure jibes with the story as told onscreen. Are we supposed to believe they are all infected with a sort of bloodlust, or that being okay with the sacrificing of a chicken, they decided Archie was a bonus?

Friendship is great but villains are better. I’ve said it before, but morally ambiguous villains are one of the things Outlander does best, and Gillian/Geillis Edgars/Duncan/Abernathy is one that’ll be missed. The second half of this season suffered from some disjointedness (the plot to find Young Ian took a slightly comedic detour that echoed the Dance Tour to Find Jamie from Season 1), but nothing helps pull your heroes together and give them a purpose quite like having a great antagonist. Part of what makes Geillis so fascinating to watch is her heartfelt, maniacal commitment to her cause. You get the sense that she truly does value Claire, even as you know she would kill her without a moment’s thought. It’s villains like these that throw our main characters’ heroism into stark relief: Ian’s bravery, Jamie’s steadfastness, Claire’s fierceness.

The sanctity of life. It seems like at least once per season, Claire’s commitment to a life with Jamie in the much less-regulated past means she ends up having to betray her physician’s oath and take a life. Each of these choices have been life-and-death, split-second decisions made to protect herself, but this is the first time she did so not for her own sake, but her daughter’s. In this instance, we also find out that Claire’s ability to suss out the cause of death of Joe Abernathy’s remains was because she was the one who dealt the blow, and the echo of that moment contributed to her insight. What doesn’t seem to ever click into place for our heroine, however, is any sort of regard for her own safety. Claire’s need to help the wounded during the storm that hits the Artemis after Ian’s rescue almost kills her New Moon-style.  I’m not sure which made me want to throw my shoe harder: knowing that Claire was putting herself in danger again, or knowing for sure that if Jamie and Claire made it on a crosspiece of timber, that Jack could have lived.

A Whole New World.  So thanks to Mother Nature, our heroes end up at the fictional Les Perles plantation, Georgia. It’s probably a safe move, because Jenny Fraser is waiting in Scotland with an itchy slapping hand and Young Ian’s been through enough. Also, much as I love that Scottish countryside, it’s been kind of a shark tank inside a snake pit for the Frasers. The colonies represent a chance to start their life over again, plus Murtagh is there, and that’s reason enough to visit a continent for anyone.

Deep Thoughts Outlander 312: The Bakra

By now, I should know that Claire or Jamie telling the other that they won’t be separated again ends with them being separated again, but what can I say? If loving this show is wrong, I don’t want to be right. We finally arrive in Jamaica, and get to revisit characters, outfits and plot points that went a bit MIA for a while. We also got to check back in with everyone’s favorite Scottish Regina George, and their favorite Lovelorn English Lord, and our first-ever (if brief) POV from a character other than Jamie and Claire. In truth, Young Ian’s time with Geillis represents a kind of Wentworth in his life, and these experiences cause the character to grow in ways that will be very exciting to see onscreen. Finally, the introduction of the prophecy of the Brahan Seer (referred to as The Fraser Prophecy in the books) marks the beginning of the story’s shift past Claire and Jamie as a couple, to encompass their entire dynasty and what it potentially means to the future of Scotland. One more episode to go!

Spoilers ahead for episode 312.

Here are four takeaways:

Return of the Mack. The Mackenzie plotline we last revisited in the 1960s with descendant Roger Wakefield picks up once more with the re-appearance of his five-times great grandmother Geillis. Geillis is now an Abernathy, having black-widowed her way into what I can only assume is a goat plantation on Jamaica and being referred to by the Jamaican patois nickname of “Bakra,” which means slave driver (literally ‘back raw’). It’s a thrill to see her, mostly because Outlander excels at the Morally Irreverent Villain, and the story overall is better when our heroes are, well, being heroes. I know Geillis is evil and probably a sociopath, but I just love her. I didn’t even get angry when Claire basically provided her a plot outline at the Governor’s reception, because there was a true closeness and friendship between these women. The seminal difference is that Claire values human life, and Geillis doesn’t (it’s a small distinction, but pretty important). Geillis’s #1 concern is still putting a Scottish ruler on the throne, and the fact that she speaks more affectionately of Dougal’s testicles than their child should probably tell Claire something. That, and all the husband-killing.

More Things on Heaven and Earth. It’s been hinted at for a while now, but this week Outlander slides feet-first into the religious cultural collision of the Caribbean.  A rich native culture fused with African traditions from the slave trade and European religions to create spiritual practices that fascinate people even today. The first hint came back in 306, when we first met Margaret Campbell and she prophesied about Abandawe, the cave that Father Fogden would later tell Claire was used for sacred rites. The alligator skeleton last episode was a callback to the one that hung in Master Raymond’s shop.  Jamie himself heard talk of a “white lady,” equating her to Claire, and not an actual witch. For all that they are 200 years apart, Claire and Jamie are both highly pragmatic, and except for the stones, have yet to experience the collision of magic and spirituality that so vividly color the Caribbean experience of spirituality. It’s an entirely new worldview, and it’ll be interesting to see how each character processes and interacts with this new take on spirituality.

The Importance of Being Other. The slave market was as hard to watch as I anticipated, but I didn’t anticipate the line that would make my head snap back. The slave merchant’s disdainful “What do you take me for,” in response to Jamie’s inquiry about selling a white youth was so matter-of-fact and time-appropriate that it instantly set the scene.  It was, like the men and women lined up like so much window dressing, a ruthlessly effective way to make a point about these people’s standing and significance in the world at that time.  So, too, is the way that Yi Tien Cho is first addressed at the Governor’s reception, the young woman marveling that “Goodness, he even speaks English” when the ‘he’ in question is standing right in front of her. The show slightly alters the circumstances of both characters, but there are lovely allusions to both Yi Tien Cho’s and Temeraire’s humanity that are doled out with respectful kindness. Temeraire’s assistance is requested, not demanded. Terms are set up that he is free to accept or reject. Jamie and Claire refer to people as “enslaved,” and to him as a manservant.  Yi Tien Cho is given a formal, respectful introduction by Jamie at the ball, and, despite his claim that he came to a place where women reject him, he finds a mutual admiration and understanding in fellow outsider Margaret Campbell.

The Jamie Fraser Fan Club. I wallowed in Lord John’s return like a pig in mud. Beautifully embroidered, sapphire-accented mud. Not only is the chemistry between Sam Heughan and David Berry electric, but add Caitriona Balfe to the mix and it’s like I’m back in high school and someone just shouted “Fight” down the hall. I am desperately craning my neck trying to find every nuance of expression and hear everything that is being said. The warmth between Jamie and John is so gratifying to see, because it is obvious that Jamie appreciates this man not only for the care he gives his son, but knows of his feelings for him and is tenderly solicitous of him. There is a true bond there, and while Claire is at first as warm as Jamie, it doesn’t take her long to notice that John’s attachment to her husband is more than friendship. When John speaks to her and very subtly attempts to test her relationship with Jamie by alluding to their great shared secret…and finding out Claire knows everything. Claire in turn gently but pointedly asks for clarification on the ‘gift’ of the sapphire, and John admits Jamie surrendered it after he went searching for her, thinking she had come back, “And now you have.” Claire’s smile is kind, but her eyes are solemn, and her words, an unmistakable warning. “Yes. I have.”

Deep Thoughts Outlander 311: Uncharted

Claire’s streak of improbably surviving things that would kill the rest of us continues. This time she lands on modern-day Haiti, her clothes intact and her hair looking way better than it should and narrowly misses the three-day survival deadline. Because she’s Claire, she finds a nutty priest (he literally uses a coconut as a life coach), swans about in a fly robe and manages to be called a whore by an older woman whose only daughter ran away with a priest. That’s right, Mamacita. GLASS HOUSES. While the first half had some of the comedy that I always love to see, the second half was an emotionally satisfying dessert. I would watch the hell out of a Fersali spinoff.

Spoilers ahead for episode 311.

Here are four takeaways:

A quarter hour is way longer than you think. I understand the need to impress Claire’s peril upon the audience, but that’s about ten minutes more than I wanted to spend watching her wander around the island. Just for comparison’s sake, that’s about two more minutes’ more screen time than was spent on Culloden, which was much more of a big deal in my mind. I get that it was to illustrate the passage of time and call back to the peril she was in due to hitting her third day sans water, but I wish we had spent more time with Jamie and Fergus, maybe gotten a hint of the storm that broke the Artemis’ main mast. Instead we got an extremely aversive introduction to the flora and fauna of Hispaniola. I’m not even talking about the snake. It was the ants that made me want to bathe myself in a cloud of Raid. And how is it that it took Claire about two days to find Father Fogden, but only a few hours to run back to shore to find Jamie? Of course, running to meet your sexy gingersnap puts wings on your heels, but I don’t think it adds an engine. Ah, Outlander. You are a time-travel show in more ways than one.

Geography is hard. I can’t tell you the number of maps I looked at to figure out where who was when, or how teensy the Turks portion of Turks and Caicos is when you’re desperately hunting for Cockburn Town. That strugglebus was on a circuitous route. It was nice to see the Americas featured, however, and to recognize and lust after fried plantains. I was, however, confused by the Spanish subtitles. Following the idea that the show doesn’t subtitle Gaelic or Chinese because Claire wouldn’t understand them, but did subtitle the French in Season 2, does that mean Claire speaks Spanish? Why then does Fogden translate for her? (An aside: I must congratulate the actress that played Mamacita for her very convincing Cuban accent. I could tell it wasn’t native, but I couldn’t identify what colored it until I saw she was Spanish and had lived in the U.S. Good job, Vivi.) In any case, because I had to make a visual for my own visual reference, here’s my super highbrow map of this episode, for the map dunces like me.

Eat your heart out, Jenny Fraser. There is a new HBIC in town, and her married name rhymes with “Taser.” Marsali is adaptable and practical, which is a necessity for joining the Fraser clan, but she also is a girl who, as Fergus says, “speaks her mind.” Fiercely loyal, she repeatedly speaks up in Fergus’s defense, first to Jamie, and now to Father Fogden. She is a Jenny Fraser for the next generation, imbued with all the grim shrewdness of a country girl and the genetic bull-headedness and managing nature to see her plans through. What is especially endearing about Marsali, and especially this episode, is her perceptiveness.  Sheh alone, in Claire’s absence had the stones to tell Jamie to snap out of it and trust in Fergus’s love for him last episode, and this episode she finally comes clean to Claire about the real status of the Jamie/Laoghaire marriage, and her fears for her own. Claire and Marsali connect on the very deep level of headstrong women who value their agency, and it did my heart good to see Fergus get what he has long wanted, a woman like madame.

More Frasers than you can stab with a branch. Oddly enough, Jamie and Claire’s reunion wasn’t the emotional high point of this episode. That was reserved for the funny, touching, memorable wedding of Marsali and Fergus. From Fergus’s untidy ponytail to Marsali’s sweet shawl and earrings, to the candlelight in the reverend’s garden are meant to evoke an aura of intimacy and ease. A wedding is a simple thing, really. It’s the building of a relationship that is difficult, and the maintenance of the ties that keep a family together. Marsali’s tart admonishments for Father Fogden are more than a girl mouthing off: they are the impatient nudges of a woman set on getting her heart’s desire, and the fact that this desire is a bastard boy with no last name and only hand speaks to the worth of her character and the love she can give. The fact that Fergus can’t even finish chastising her for her outspokenness before claiming that it is one of the things he loves about her shows the same for him. Jamie and Claire’s exchange of wry glances also tells the audience that Fergus isn’t the only one who appreciates an outspoken female. Finally, Fergus’s quiet admission that he has no last name, and Jamie’s assertive claim that he is a Fraser brought me to tears. Marsali turns immediately, startled. In contrast, her husband-to-be stills, then turns with shining eyes to regard his father before saying his full name proudly for the first time. So the Frasers grow, having lost both a son and daughters, to claim Fergus and Marsali for their own. In turn Fergus, who once sacrificed a hand to keep Jamie safe, now receives the final portion of the lifetime of care he was promised as a boy: the protection of Jamie’s name.

Deep Thoughts Outlander 310: Heaven and Earth

This week’s episode wasn’t impactful for any plot-driven reasons. As a matter of fact the biggest plot reveal, Captain Leonard’s intent to arrest Jamie, receded into the background to make room for a resolution to the Fergus/Marsali wedding, a viable plan for rescuing Claire from the Porpoise, and to allow for some much needed character development as we continue to rediscover the expanded Fraser clan.

Spoilers ahead for episode 310.

Here are four takeaways:

The Family You Choose. Fergus and Jamie have arguably been together since the latter left Ardsmuir, and their last moment on-screen when the former was still a child was the touching reminder that Fergus knows Jamie better than anyone. Because we, along with Claire, are still coming to understand the aspects of Jamie that changed in the last twenty years, this episode was pivotal for the audience’s understanding of their unique bond. Fergus is a man, but one with deep love and respect for Jamie, who has seemingly — except for handfasting Marsali — always deferred to Jamie when it comes to decision-making about their mutual paths. Now with Jamie locked up and their fates resting on him, he once more shows the boundless loyalty and insight about human nature that make him such an asset, and Jamie ultimately bestows upon him not one gift, but two: his blessing upon a marriage with his adopted daughter, and a verbal recognition of the depth of their attachment. “Mon fils,” Jamie calls him. My son.

Fersali Is Strong. It becomes clearer every day why Marsali, raised by a mother with a long history of unfortunate decisions in love (and most recently set aside by a father figure she had grown to trust) is attracted to Fergus’s loyal, devoted, steadfastness.  Fergus, raised by women and predisposed to appreciate their individuality, offers her the chance to express herself as a true partner, and to have a marriage where she has input into her future and decisions, unlike Laoghaire. But where Fergus is a pickpocket, teasing out truths and subtly making points, Marsali is much like her mother and her Auntie Janet: a sword that cuts mercilessly to the heart of the matter. She’s not always correct, but she’s fierce and committed: qualities that can’t help to appeal to a boy who grew up with no true sense of belonging and whose only other solid attachment to a woman was Claire Mothereffing Fraser. Lastly, the realest part of this episode was Marsali trying to sneak in a quick deflowering while Jamie was in the clink. I see you, girl. Way to keep it 100.

I Wanna Know What Love Is. Jamie, single-minded in his need to recover Claire after their recent reunion, is almost feral in his insistence that true love means “moving heaven and earth” for the beloved. But he forgets that he isn’t the only one with a beloved on-board, nor is Claire the only life he’s accountable for. Apparently love is also narrowing your depth of focus to exclude everyone in your life but one person. This didn’t ring true to me, but I can understand why it was written this way. If not for some conflict, the plot on the Artemis would have been very dull. Still, it felt less like shrewd, leader-of-men Jamie and more like a plot device. It’s the object of Fergus’s love herself that reminds Jamie of his commitments outside Claire, and the need to step carefully and intelligently around the dual landmines of Jamie’s arrest and Claire’s abduction. Jamie comes to see the wisdom in this approach, and in the effect Marsali and Fergus have on each other. It’s a different kind of love, but just as worth protecting.

A Life Wasted. The surprising emotional heart of this episode didn’t center around one of our regulars, but rather a supporting character we met at the very end of last week’s episode. Elias Pound isn’t much younger than Young Ian, but he’s much worldlier, having lived half his life at sea. The combination of dutiful soldier and tender young man seems designed to pull at a mother’s heart, and it certainly affected Claire. I can’t imagine she didn’t think of the children she has cared for in her life, and the one she now seeks. Claire is a mother whose children are not with her, and Elias is a motherless child. Pound’s plaintive question about Claire’s ability to “remain calm in the face of so much death” is precisely the kind of question one asks of a parent when trying to make sense of the world, and his gift of the rabbit’s foot is both a callback to the accidental bunny theme running through this season (Jamie at Culloden; Bree’s bunny) and a heartbreakingly chivalrous gesture by a boy who is gamely attempting to be the best man he can, before his time runs out.

Deep Thoughts Outlander 308: First Wife

This week, the series came roaring back with the goodness. Last episode was the troublesome middle child in the Fraser Reunion Trilogy, but this week resolved all my issues with 307. 308 was all the things I love about Outlander: real talk, athletic sex that serves the story, a successful Bechdel test, emotions, Science!Claire and more fun words (kebbie-lebbie, Hogmanay) than you can shake a stick at.

[Quick personal update: Still doing the recaps, just very slowly. I knew the moment the series changed from summer to fall that I would likely not be able to keep up, so for the meantime there are these, and recaps to come when life slows down.]

Spoilers ahead for episode 308.

Here are five takeaways:

The Gideon of Scotland. For a dude who is nominally childless, Jamie sure does have a lot of kids. Only William and Brianna are of his body, but besides Fergus and now Young Ian, we find that he has played father figure to Laoghaire’s two daughters, and that he was upset when his nephews didn’t recognize him upon his return from Helwater. Jamie genuinely loves children, and enjoys their company. The two young men closest to him, Young Ian and Fergus, differ in that one was bred in a whorehouse and is no stranger to crime, and the other raised in a peaceful home, with only the stories of his uncle’s (mis)adventures to aspire to. The real kicker with children is that as much as you counsel them with words, it’s the actions that they mimic, and Ian Sr.’s advice to Jamie to be mindful of Ian’s love and tendency to follow him “like a puppy” proves to not only be accurate, but premonitory.

Dishonorable Second Wife. Whatever else you can say about her (mouth like a sailor, cute daughters, fine ability to sew a pleated cap) maybe the most relevant thing, to me, is that Laoghaire MacKenzie MacKenzie MacKimmie Fraser is a woman who courts unhappiness. I never hated this character like a lot of people did. I have a lot of sympathy for her early unrequited love of Jamie. I think her setup of Claire was more heedless than evil. To me, she is more of a cautionary tale about the dangers of drawing self-worth solely from the object of one’s affection. As a young woman, Laoghaire let her feelings for Jamie and an assumed moral superiority over Claire draw her into sinful and criminal behavior. As an adult, holding on to her unhappy union with Jamie supersedes everything. She is not above using her children, a gun or the law. And I don’t think it’s because Laoghaire truly values what Jamie provides. She’s an attractive woman, and could still marry elsewhere. The reason Laoghaire balks at giving Jamie up is because having him is the sole thing that has given her life meaning, and if he goes, he takes her identity with him.

Ghosts of Past and Present. For all the comparisons that can be legitimately drawn between Frank and Laoghaire — most obviously the fact that they both failed miserably in their chance at happiness because the person they loved would never love them back, and their resulting bitterness — what struck me most deeply was their differences. Frank wanted to make things work with Claire, but ultimately decided to let her go. Laoghaire and Jamie seemingly struggled from the very beginning, but even when the end was inevitable Laoghaire turned to violence rather than accept the inevitable. Frank and Claire both struggled to put parenting Brianna first, while Laoghaire thinks nothing of subjecting her daughters to their stepfather’s humiliation, leaving Jamie to console little Joan and assure her of his love. It’s not the first time I’ve thought that, after all is said and done and for all her own suffering, Claire was much luckier in their life apart from each other than Jamie.

If You’re Coming for Jenny Murray, Make a U-Turn. The world according to Jenny Murray might have shades of grey in it, but probably only two or three. She is, without a doubt, the best representation of the moral compass of the time. Jenny’s greatest asset is her ability to see directly into the heart of a matter. Her greatest failing is her resistance to applying that insight inward.  She may have seemed hard, but when Claire first came back, Jenny gave her a brief opportunity to come clean. When Claire attempted to resume their old closeness without its accompanying honesty, that door shut tight. Instead, Jenny hastened to arrange matters to lance the infection she saw poisoning her family.  Not even Ian agrees with the way she dealt with the situation, but where other people have self-doubt, Jenny has a gold-plated statue of herself giving herself a thumbs-up. I may not always agree with her, but she speaks a lot of truth (love her pointing out that Claire went looking for Jamie last time she was told he was dead, and that by leaving him, she left the rest of his family, including Jenny herself). I can’t help but love a woman whose f*ck field is so very, very fallow when it comes to anything other than her family.

The Power of Love. One of the things I have always loved best about the story of Jamie and Claire is that neither is perfect in anything but their love for one another. Time and again it has served as both an inspiration and a reality check. As much as we all love to call him the King of Men, it’s instances like this that show how Jamie gained the wisdom he did to truly earn this moniker. He and Claire were not married long before their separation, and though his delay in telling her the truth was understandable, so is Claire’s disappointment. These are two people who have risked much to be together, and though it would be tempting to make their reunion all wine and roses to compensate for their time apart, it felt very satisfying to finally see the depth and complexity of these feeling exposed and discussed. Unlike last episode, this all flowed, it all felt rooted in genuine emotion. This is the part of marriage that almost no one shows on television: the constant reaching out, past hurt and pride, that ties each pearl and sinew of a lifetime together. The look, touch, or words from one heart to another to say, “Are you still in this with me?” “Are we okay?”

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Deep Thoughts Outlander 307: Crème de Menthe

This week is all about when people stop being polite and start being real. It’s like The Real World: Edinburgh. Claire and Jamie don’t get naked once this episode, but there is a lot of bared insecurity. Their second honeymoon over, the Frasers get down to the business of attempting to find their partnership once more. Despite some initial push-back due to the circumstance, Jamie doesn’t stand in the way of Claire being a healer, and despite disagreeing with the way Jamie handles the situation with Ian, Claire doesn’t blow his cover. But there are little clashes here that highlight the differences in their character, and the manner of lives they have lived when apart.

Spoilers ahead for episode 307.

Here are four takeaways:

Things Get Real. Real Shouty. Now that the thrill of reunion is past, we’re starting to see how some of the Frasers’ years of independence will work against them. These are no longer two young adults, but two middle-aged people with a lot of baggage that colors their decisions. No matter the time, Claire is a healer, first and foremost. Her instinct to save lives without judgment will clash not only with the fluid morality of Jamie’s current career path, but also the rigid gender roles and expectations of the 18th century. It’s not in Claire’s DNA to meekly accept limits, so it’s interesting to note when Jamie defers to her and when he chooses to assert his will over hers, and how that all works out for them going forward.

Bros Before Ho’s. Let me take a moment and fangirl over the joy of seeing Young Ian and Fergus BROTP’ing hard, talking about the ladies, Claire’s badassness and her general propensity for trouble, and the effects of brandy on a man’s mphhmm. Young Ian is an able negotiator in true MacKenzie fashion, but also a sweet peach-faced virgin, and the last time we ran across that combo it worked out pretty well for us. As for Fergus, I’m not surprised at all that he lost his virginity in a three-way, or that he’s got a practical, results-oriented take on art of seduction. What was a very gratifying surprise was hearing Fergus call Ian “brother.” This relationship is one of my favorites from the novels, and I may have clutched at my heart a bit when I heard that word.

Slim Shady. Now I love me some Jamie, but I must admit I laughed out loud at the “I didna realize lies had shades” line. This was a man lying about who he was since well before he met Claire, whose character is largely founded on gauging and reacting to nuance.  It doesn’t mean Jamie is dishonest, but he has always known when and to what degree to fudge the truth. That’s not a sin he can lay at Claire’s feet, who is if anything, a terrible liar. It seems to me that the fact that he didn’t get to parent either of his children should sensitize Jamie to the plight of a worried parent, not the other way around. As for calling back to the bikini and using that to deflect Claire’s pretty dead-on points about Ian, it seemed an obvious ploy to change the subject. Jamie is withholding an actual other wife from Claire, so his overreaction to being called out on a lie seems to stem more from guilt than righteousness.

Fire Sale.  The Print Shop was more than the scene of a sex-a-thon between two baby rabbits. It was also the physical manifestation of Jamie’s new life. Granted, it was largely cobbled together out of lies and treason and held together by prostitution, but there was a beat last episode — when Jamie cleaned the sign — where you could see real pride and accomplishment in what he managed to put together. Claire’s return throws a wrench into his life. He verbally reassures her of his commitment, but the reality of making space for her is more complex. This week, he literally watches that life go up in flames, a fire that ends one of his lives and forces a return home to Lallybroch, which in turn hints at the moment of truth that will likely come next week. In TV-speak, there’s nothing like the reassurance that nothing will happen (“Balriggan is miles from Lallybroch,” Jamie says confidently) to assure that it will.

 

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Outlander Promo Recap: Parallel Lives

Hey all, thanks for the well-wishes, and here’s payback in the form of an unnecessarily long promo recap.

The title of this promo is more than a righteous Magic:The Gathering card. It’s also the nickname for Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, a series of biographies of famous men that highlighted their similar virtues and failings, and a fascinating study of morality and choices. It’s an apt lens through which to view this season of Outlander, in which Claire and Jamie struggle to make the most of their choice to separate, consequently exposing the best and worst of themselves (and those closest to them). It’s a reminder that our heroes are no more human than any of us: sometimes disturbingly fallible, others heartrendingly persistent. Plus I hear there’s a lot of sex.

Let’s dig in.

The promo opens on Claire and Bree, presumably on a plane back to Boston after their visit to Scotland. Caitriona Balfe narrates, letting us know that when we last saw the character it was 1968, right after her character discovers Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. Both Randall ladies seem immersed in thought.

Information like that has a way of jump-starting one’s fantasy life, and Claire gazes out of her plane window while Bree reassures her that they “will find him.” Don’t pat yourself on the back, kid. Everyone finds Jamie eventually. He’s pretty noteworthy.

Cut to Bree and Claire researching at what looks like a library with Roger. This promo needs more Roger. If this keeps up I am just going to start Photoshopping his face onto vases and stuff. Here he is, color-coordinating not only with the rich wood paneling but also Bree’s vest. I assume he’s the head researcher because he’s the only one who can read fluent Scottish noises.

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I would’ve dated every character on Outlander.

First, let me say that this is what happens when the hiatus runs long and I’m on medical leave and I end up watching what amounts to 48 straight hours of Comic Con videos and photos and thinking, “Damn. These are some ridiculously attractive people.” A recap of the promo is a bit much for my short bursts of energy as things stand, but this rolled right out, ha ha.

Let me say first that obviously the series is more than the love scenes, and of course the actors on the show are talented, incredibly generous with charities and time spent connecting with the fandom. Absolutely true that the sum of the narrative is about more than physical bodies and the collective gravity-defying sex appeal of the cast. Now that we have established that, I’m just going to talk about the sexy, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, jump ship.

For purposes of this rumination, I am going to stick with the principal S1-S3 characters. The adult ones, or the ones that will be adults by the end of S3. Also, when I refer to “boy-me,” that’s because I am cis hetero. Insert your own gender/orientation as it applies. Or don’t, and taste the rainbow. Live a little.

Fergus Fraser- I have yet to see adult Fergus onscreen, but if the social media reaction is any gauge at all, he’s going to be propelled straight into heaven by giant, gusting sighs. Fergus combines the earnest face of a renaissance angel with the easygoing rough-and-tumble-ness of your favorite boy band member, and 14-year old me would be HERE FOR IT. Tween/early teen me had a short list for the ideal boyfriend: be arguably prettier than me, have an accent and be super into insecure, cantankerous young women. Fergus and I would have been blissfully happy right until I met him in person at my local mall and fainted dead away, ending our brief, blissful love.

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Outlander S3 Teaser Trailer Mini-Recap: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Have you been too happy lately? Face hurt from smiling? Did you find that the Droughtlander was finally long enough that you remembered your kids, started reading books other than Voyager and finally quit re-watching Outlander S2? Are you feeling like maybe your kids aren’t as fascinating as wondering about the print shop scene?

Starz has the cure. A new teaser trailer for Season 3 dropped a week ago, and with it, an opportunity for me to procrastinate indulge in shenanigans.

Let’s get to it.

We begin by briefly revisiting Jamie and Claire’s angst-ridden goodbye from the S2 finale, just in case you didn’t remember how sh*tty that was. This also serves as foreshadowing so you know in advance that it doesn’t take a great production an hour to make you into a sobbing pile of used tissues and turn your previous playful humor dark as the Batcave. We’re getting it done in under 30 seconds.

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The next image flashes by, but is a gut-punch all the same: the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. A literal and figurative dark night of the soul, and a reminder of just how awful we can be to each other in the name of a principle.

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At its center, Jamie. Sad, blue, and probably suffering hypothermia and raging blood poisoning.

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Jamie’s voice-over, which runs the entire length of the clip, is this pared-down and restructured novel quote from e213:

“I have lied, killed, and broken trust. But when I stand before God, I’ll have one thing to say to weigh against all the rest. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

This is followed by two brief glimpses. One of Lallybroch in what looks like summer…

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…and one of a serious, pale Jamie, dressed in breeches, riding a horse through the woods. He looks ghostlike in the mist, his features sharp and drawn.

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And last in this series, the Selznick-technicolor-like shot of Jamie in the thick of battle at Culloden field, his attention caught by something we can’t yet see. Despite his obvious exhaustion and what is going on around him, he is as brilliantly rendered as a medieval saint, beautiful and stoic as any martyr.

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Hopping forward to the 1960s, Claire is sitting in perhaps a doctor’s lounge with what looks like a poinsettia pin on, seemingly staring at something on maybe a television along with her fellow staff.

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Depending on the month and year (Claire’s hair doesn’t show the grey streak but is already in the 1968 pompadour), it could be this, this or heck, maybe the grey is just hard to see and it’s maybe even this.

Then some more flashes of Claire’s life sans Jamie. The happy parts, like Bree graduating high school…

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…and the sad parts, like forgetting that she no longer has an all-access pass to the Ginger Roller Coaster at FraserWorld.

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Back to post-Culloden Jamie, who is also Very Sad and is wandering around  the countryside, petting Scotland like it’s a giant cat and looking like Highland Kurt Cobain.

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Then, a brief flash of the [OMG BOOK SPOILER] Fraser kids, 16-year old Bree with Frank and Claire at the world’s saddest teen birthday…

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…and what I am assuming is little William Ransom, launching himself at Mac the stable groom (aka JAMMF).

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UGH THE HEARTBREAK. If there is anything Heughan excels at, it’s letting his face crumple from neutral to devastated, and I look forward to feeling my own face fall in helpless sympathy.

As we draw to the end, a frightened Claire runs down a hospital hallway in her scrubs…

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…and a determined Jamie, shooting a man point-blank.

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Finally, as the final two lines of Jamie’s voiceover play (”I’ll find you. I promise.”), a bedraggled, wild-eyed Jamie stumbles through some ruins while looking for the Frenchman’s gold and a white witch, shouting Claire’s name.

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We hear ya, Red. We hear ya.

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