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 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.

Outlander Recap 303 – All Debts Paid

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

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

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Deep Thoughts Outlander 305: Freedom and Whisky

I freaking loved this episode. I wanted to bundle it in something pretty and display it proudly in my home. I need to name a child after it, and then when people ask me “Why is your child called ‘Freedomandwhisky?” I can sit their pristine little tushes down on my sofa and give them a parade of feels. Afterwards we can get drunk together and eat ice cream, and the world will seem a better, happier place. Not to say this was a happy episode, per se. What it was was about identity and change. As Semisonic once said, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” The revelations in episodes past all have their emotional payoff here, as characters experience new beginnings that come from some other beginning’s end.

Spoilers ahead for episode 305.

Here are five takeaways:

Randall aftermath.  One of the things this episode did really well was to tie up the emotional loose ends of the turbulent Randall marriage. Claire made a commitment to Frank, once upon a time, to forget Jamie. She made a commitment to Jamie to keep their daughter safe, and watch over her. To some extent, keeping each of those promises meant defrauding the other. Her choice (and it was a choice) to stay with Frank up until the end of his life impacted lives aside from their own, and it felt honest and real to see Sandy’s bitterness, hear Joe’s brief, brutal summation and watch Brianna doubt Frank’s love. Even though she is our hero, and 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.

The return of Magical Claire. Not since Master Raymond in Season 2 have we gotten a hint at the book’s allusions that Claire’s healing powers are, at least in part, magical. In that timey-wimey way Outlander has, her examination of Joe’s “pretty lady” bones is mostly instinctual, and it yields some insights that are in no way scientifically derived. The surgery that she encouraged Joe to attempt on his own would have undoubtedly been a failure, as he would have closed without extracting the necrosis she instinctively knew was there. Geillis and Claire were both called witches, and certainly Geillis owned that title much more than her time-traveling companion, but there might be more there than meets the eye. Her notebook is no longer seen as the ravings of a madwoman, but instead a reference manual for time travel, as evidenced by Brianna’s gift of a topaz necklace to aid in Claire’s return. These little moments are touched on very briefly, but very distinctly, and certainly bear watching.

Mommy’s Little Girl. Bree’s statement that she is more her mother’s child than either of her fathers’ is more revealing than she knows. Her “Everything is fine,” to her professors, her intense privacy and her pride are all callbacks to Claire. Certainly that deep breath in the kitchen, echoes Claire’s deep breath at the doors of the morgue after Frank’s death. Children do as we do, not as we say, and she’s certainly learned to suppress intense emotion and get on with it. Despite her very real loss of identity in finding out about her biological father and wondering if she was truly loved, questioning the authenticity of her own story, by the end of the episode the selfishness that has has been her most frequently cited negative trait is beautifully offset by her choice to actively encourage her mother to go back in time and retake the life that she unwittingly interrupted. It is a lovely, generous, action, and it served to endear me to the character in a way I didn’t experience until much later in the books.

Shipping RedBeard. I loved seeing the further blossoming of Brianna and Roger’s relationship. Series Roger is endearingly geeky and goofy, but that fumbling exterior covers up a deep well of understanding about what it means to be well-loved. Roger may have experienced a lot of pain and loss in his life, but he was also raised with honesty, and the stories he heard held deep, meaningful resonance. Brianna’s worldview has been forcibly shifted, and Roger’s upbringing gives him the means to remain grounded and hopeful in the face of her doubts, without needing to convert her to his way of thinking. He has all the patience of Frank with the emotional intelligence of Jamie, and this is a marriage of viewpoints that calls to the parts of Brianna that are in turmoil. Roger doesn’t deny his pain, and he understands loss. Bree is practical, analytical. Roger is introspective, sensitive. They are uniquely positioned to cover each other’s deficits and reinforce each other’s strengths — and they are cute as sleeping baby mice together.

But the book… I always understand the reasons for changing things from the book, but this was one of few episodes where I only briefly made a mental note, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. Usually there are a couple of lines or edits that will make me wistful enough to crack the books open a bit, but for me at least, Outlander is like Cinderella. There’s the source, the bible if you will, and then there are all the interpretations. The interpretations tell the story, but they also reveal insight into the teller. The things they choose to highlight, the things they leave behind, their own impressions of the past, and current times. One of the gifts of this particular retelling of this story is the ability to see the emotions we have so long held in our minds and hearts transposed onto real faces and bodies. I think this is one of the most exquisitely delicate episodes of this show produced so far, and I really feel it did justice to the wait.

 

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Outlander Recap 302- Surrender

I don’t know about y’all, but I need to have my portrait done by the individual responsible for capturing the Lindsay-Buckingham-level hippie-hotness and general IDGAF-ness of the Dunbonnet. Put that portrait on my grave. Staple it over my wedding photo. I want someone to capture me being that aggressively detached about anything, but instead here I am, writing another novella-length recap of a show that makes me cry like I’m watering a face-garden.

I’m not the only one involved in an unhealthy relationship right now. The main three characters are all in a holding pattern which two of them will break, only one by choice. Also, as advertised, there is a lot of sex, and all of it is sadder than that which preceded it. I’m going to write the publicity department a strongly-worded letter. I was sold a false bill of goods, damn it! Here’s a visual:

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Deep Thoughts- Outlander 302: Surrender

Back again! Didn’t this one just fly by? It didn’t seem like much happened, but this one was like an iceberg, the majority of its bulk not immediately visible.  Spoilers for Outlander episodes 301 and 302.

You can’t name an episode “Surrender” and expect me not to sing-yell the Cheap Trick song of the same name over the credits, but that was one of few moments of levity this hour. Neither Mommy nor Daddy are all right, to be honest, although at least one of them is pretending to be. Things are kind of a hot mess.

Here are five things I noticed:

  • The sound of silence. There is an economy of dialogue in this episode that feels very expectant, and very appropriate to an episode about difficult choices and transitions. The silences keep waiting to be filled, and sometimes never are. Sometimes awkward and painful, sometimes redemptive, they evoke the inner dialogue that is driving some of the less-than-noble actions our characters are taking onscreen. Their hearts speaking what the mind cannot bear to have uttered.
  • The Wild Man of Lallybroch. Six years into hiding in a cave, Jamie’s gone full First Blood. He’s surviving somewhere between the first and second levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Jamie we know is a man who felt deeply about his connection to his culture and his family. When Jamie and Claire were still in Paris, Fergus became their adopted child in all but name. Jamie sent both Claire and Fergus off to safety, but when he lost Claire, Fergus in turn lost Jamie. Fergus’s injury (and the birth of wee Ian) serve as wake-up calls to Jamie not only by reminding him of his connection to Claire, but by reminding him that there are still people in the world that he can love and care for.
  • Representation matters. Much like I did when I first read the novels, the friendship between Claire and Joe Abernathy made me tear up when I saw it onscreen. Not only is Joe a well-defined character and a good role model, the traits that make him stand out in his own time closely echo Claire’s story throughout the novels: an intelligent, scientific mind, insight into the human heart and the stubbornness to face down a society that thinks less of him because of his biological makeup. Really looking forward to seeing their friendship progress over the next few episodes.
  • Romeo and Juliet was overrated. Sure it made for a great play, but I have to confess that I’m not one of those girls that thinks that wasting away for love is necessarily that idyllic. While it reaffirms the stereotypical idea of True Love, when you see it acted out in real bodies and see it happening to someone you admire, you realize that it may be the romantic choice to pine, but definitely not the emotionally healthy one. There is an idea here that Claire and Jamie’s love for each other is so strong that nothing else can motivate them or make them truly happy, but they are both protecting something they can no longer have, and that’s a choice with real consequences for the people who surround them. I was glad to see Claire seem to move on by the end of the episode, even if she continues to miss Jamie. I’m hoping to see Jamie move on some in the next episode, as well.
  • She’s not with you, but are you with her? This is the beginning of the end of Frank’s love for Claire, right there in that single bed. Back when she disappeared through the stones, he still had her to some extent, perfectly preserved in his memory, the best possible version of his wife. Now she’s with him, he is losing her because she doesn’t love him, but also because he has begun to willingly give up on the things he can no longer bear to accept. Frank wants Claire, but he doesn’t want this version of her. Claire wants a husband, but not the one she has. It’s an example of what happens when we build human beings into unattainable ideals. People will disappoint, and love is forgiving, but neither is a well that can be drained dry.

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Outlander Recap: 301 – The Battle Joined

In the post-episode discussion, Showrunner Ron Moore says he named this episode “The Battle Joined” as an umbrella metaphor that covered both Culloden and the Randall’s attempt at saving their marriage. It also works as a metaphor for Jamie and Claire in their new lives apart. This episode is about disruption and tragedy, but it is also about rejoining life when you want so badly to isolate yourself. Of finding an anchor in people and callings when a part of you would rather disappear, about feeling pain when all you want to do is numb yourself and ignore it. “The best way out is always through,” said Robert Frost, and this is a painfully detailed reminder. In life, there is no escaping the consequences of your actions, even if they live only in your heart.

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Deep Thoughts- Outlander 301: The Battle Joined

Aaand we’re back! I’ll be working on my recap this week and hope to have it done before 302 airs, but in the meantime I wanted a place to unload my first-watch musings. These are notes that I make while watching the episode that sometimes don’t make it into the recaps as fleshed-out thoughts or theories because I am rushing to get it out or because they’re more serious. If you’re interested in those, now you can look for them to post directly after the show’s EST/CST airtime. They will include episode-specific SPOILERS, so beware.

This episode was a classic Outlander premiere in the sense that it sets the tone for the story going forward. My joy at the return of the series was quickly tempered by the barrage of emotions it evoked, but overall I was left with a real sense of anxiety. The last words uttered in the final scene are a hint that things will get much worse before they get better.

Here are five things I noticed:

    • An all-inclusive look at war. A significant portion, about twelve minutes of what we first experience as viewers is given over to the aftermath, reality and moments preceding Culloden. The bodies of the men, piled haphazardly on the field and shot from every possible angle, (including aerial) are like the bones of the earth bared to the elements. The sheer disconnect on Jamie’s face, which Sam does unnervingly well. There are moments of ridiculousness, and even brief humor. There are times it is hard to look. It’s frustrating, and tragic, and terrible. All the emotions that will be called up by events going forward are called up like soldiers themselves to stand in line and await their resolution. It humanizes violence in a way rarely seen on television, by making it familiar and alien all at once. Outlander turns another trope on its head. Brilliantly done.
    • Tobias Menzies, master of the unexpected. It’s no secret I love this actor to bits, but even I was shocked by the unexpected emotion in Jack’s face when he passes, how he reaches out to Jamie with yearning. Black Jack as created by the unique partnership of Tobias and the writers is such a complex character that even knowing all he has done, there is a brief moment of sincere empathy for his depth of feeling, even as I cringe at the amount of time they spend in the parody of an embrace. Even in this, though, Randall is thwarted. Despite lacking the strength to move his most hated enemy off of him, Jamie does manage to hold on to a token of his wife, the dragonfly in amber (Easter egg) that was their wedding gift from Hugh Munro back in Season 1. As much as Jack (and later his descendant Frank) wanted their relationships to be exclusive, there would always be a third party present.
    • First sign of old Jamie. The first time post-battle that Jamie’s face shows something other than despondency and resignation is when he overhears Killick and Rupert talk of the British patrolling. Is this fear for the men of Lallybroch, despite Murtagh saying they were safe? Fear for Murtagh himself? Or just general concern because it is in his nature to gather information, and now he knows the fate of any men left wandering is likely death? In an otherwise spotless episode, this pulled me out of the narrative for a bit. If you have any theories, put them in the comments!
    • Things fall apart. It starts with tremulous hope, but the devil is in the details of the Randall marriage. The almost unseen clasp of Frank’s hand on Claire’s shoulder. Claire’s dismissive “I’m fine.” The reminders of past hurts and the past itself, when both had been promised away. So many little betrayals, all done in the name of good faith, of reaching out for understanding from a partner that results instead in that partner feeling misunderstood themselves. Little resentments, nominally forgiven but hoarded like nuts for the winter of their discontent. It’s a fascinating study of a marriage doomed to fail, that still surprises with its sudden moments of true tenderness shown by people who are both good, just unequal to the promises they have made each other. Tobias and Cait are doing minute, exacting work and it’s mesmerizing.
    • I’m not crying, you are. The one time I cried sobbing tears this episode was not at all what I thought it would be. Rupert Thomas Alexander (thought: these two MacKenzies were likely named after the same Alexander, here’s a tissue) MacKenzie exited the world with singular grace. We watched Jamie, Claire and Frank all rail against fate in some way, and act in ways that were at times, beneath the best of their characters due the stress of a terrible situation. In the aftermath of what must be a crushing defeat for a patriot, with all his hopes crumbling around him, Rupert rescues Jamie and sets him at ease about the death of Dougal, chooses to stay with the men when he could escape, tries fruitlessly to advocate for the boy soldiers, and finally, makes a joke that even causes dour Melton to flash the shadow of a grin in the terrible execution of his orders. How fitting and tragic that a character who was so frequently the source of so much comic relief meets his Maker in the midst of this terrible carnage with an amused nobility. It was a heartrendingly appropriate goodbye to the last of the Mackenzie Highlanders, and a note-perfect performance.

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