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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Outlander Recap: Season 2 Episode 8 – The Fox’s Lair

Outlander Recap: Season 2 Episode 8 – The Fox’s Lair

The Outlander Holiday Gift Guide

If you, like I, have trouble shopping for people that technically don’t exist or their real-world doppelgängers, give me a cyber-five, and never say I don’t think of you.

FOR THE LADIES

1) Mrs. Fitz. If you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life trippin’ the light fitztastic, you’re in luck. I was born an elderly Scots woman.

Mark her territory to anyone intent on making mischief in her kitchen with this personalized cutting board. Put a big knife next to it so they know you mean business.

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Personalized Cutting Board, $32 at ShadyOakBoardCo on Etsy

In the same vein, Mrs. Fitz is an alpha femme who loves nothing more than being on top of her housekeeping game and showing up that Fiona, so gift her with something that will enable her to out-fancy every other household for miles with her epicurean dominance.

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French Spice Stack, $25 at Dean & DeLuca

2) Laoghaire. We all have one of these in our group, and rather than crap on a poor girl because of her cluelessness, let’s all Cher Horowitz the $#@! outta this situation.

First, because OBVS. Girl, you gotta love yourself. Dudes come later, when you’re all “FYEAHME”.

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The Feminine Mystique, $18.27 on Amazon.com

Once she’s read that, really, just listen to this. If you don’t feel your feminine power rise up and shake its booty on “Flawless”, I can’t help you. Now go conquer, girl. Be better.

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Beyoncé CD + Blu-Ray, $18.29 at Target

3) Geillis. GillyD is a whole ‘nother breed. Among the most unpredictable frenemy in your cadre, but fabulous as hell and pragmatic in a way few of us can ever be. Expect to pay out the nose, because this is a lady that enjoys the finer things.

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Izolda Silver Plated Crocheted Feathers Cuff, $157 at Ksemi on Etsy

And because this lady has a mouth and isn’t afraid to use it, you never know when a little, um, assistance may be needed. Best to be prepared.

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TaskOne iPhone Case, $89.95 at The Task Lab

4) Claire. Our heroine is tough as nails, scientifically-minded and has that milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard. What do you get the woman who has everything? The obvious answer is liquor, but she may appreciate one of these, as well.

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The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, $29.99 on Amazon.com

And why not. When you are already married and need to marry again, you need a drink. How do you eliminate the chance of dicey water, the dilution of your whisky and keep your drink soothingly cool?

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Sipping Stones, $11.95 on Amazon.com

FOR THE DUDES

1) Black Jack. I don’t even know what you’re still doing here. If you know this one or one of them, RUN.

But if you refuse to run, get the tormented demon in your life the only gifts that count, your compliant submission, your plentiful tears, and these beautiful leather tools of punishment, because you’re bad-and you need to be punished in an efficient, portable manner.

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Black leather paddle, $30 at 6WHIPS on Etsy

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Black and red leather mini-flogger, $ at 6WHIPS on Etsy

2) Frank. For those of us in love with the beta male, Frank’s our guy. He’s smart, kind, the kind of man that forgives needing to get some side-boo in times of war and, if the evidence holds up, a great lay. I love me a studious man who both looks and acts the part (Professor in the streets, gigolo in the sheets). If this happens to be you, boys, rejoice. Those of us that are homebodies are big fans.

Lecture boring? Won’t matter if your man’s in tweed. If a blazer is too much, ease into it with a vest.

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Bar III Carnaby Tweed Vest, $69.99 at Macy’s

This man owns many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany. Keep the Indiana Jones fantasy going with a briefcase that is both classic and tactile. Rawr.

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Amerileather Legal Executive Briefcase, $89.99 at Overstock.com

3) Dougal. If the object of your generosity is a bearded Veep with a wry sense of humor and zealous ideals, you’re in luck. Hit them with a 1-2 punch of gifts that both celebrates their occasional zaniness and their hunger for power. Then accept my hearty congrats. If this is you, SAME.

Get him a shirt that asserts his superior hirsuteness AND bedroom prowess. I don’t think I need to sell this any more than that. Also good for any Murtaghs.

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Furry and Delicious tee, $20 at Burlyshirts.com

Yummy bears who wrestle with ideas of right vs. might, loyalty to country vs. family, attraction to a woman not your own and other moral conundrums may appreciate the go-to book for all who would be leaders.

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The Once and Future King, $8.99 at Amazon.com

4) Jamie. Finally, our Prince in Plaid, the redheaded Beatle. If you have one of these, I have no idea what you are doing wasting time with me. If you are one of these, same. Jamie is a perfect, borderline unrealistic specimen. Not only is he Michealangelo’s David come to life, but he has a gooey center and he loves fiercely. I am going to stop typing now before I cry. Why I wasn’t born a fictional brown-haired English nurse, I’ll never know.

For the most part, this man will have simple needs, and one of them will be food. Keep up that physique with some quality protein delivered from the Midwest to your door, and from your door to his tummy.

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Filet Fling Steak Club, $84 at OmahaSteaks.com

One of the most endearing characteristics of Jamie’s character is the fact that he was a virgin before Claire. Experience has its place, but there is nothing like an authority of the subject to imbue you with um, ideas.

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The Joy of Sex, $14.44 at Amazon.com

So there you go, Outlanders! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy shopping for all your friends and family, made up by Diana Gabaldon or otherwise. If you like, you can follow me here  or @conniebv on Twitter.

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