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.
Before the episode even begins, there are reminders of the key events of the last season: Jamie letting Claire go so that she and their child won’t suffer the fate he expects will be his post-Culloden, Jamie’s first meeting with a young John Grey, and the precise wording of the promise Frank extracted from Claire. “We will raise this child together. Yours and mine. I cannot share you with another man, you must let him go.” “I accept your conditions,” Claire replies.
The show seems to want us to remember that all these characters went into the events of this season with open eyes, despite it meaning very little and changing even less in their hearts when all is said and done.
The opening credits have shifted again to show some modern elements (a television) that allude to our character’s time periods. Although they don’t appear in this episode, Roger and Brianna are also there, as our “lass” will soon be gone once more, setting off a chain of events that will impact them indelibly. A bedraggled Jamie is shown staring out the water in question at “over the sea,” dissolving into the image of he and Claire on horseback. It is a delicate bit of foreshadowing. They are apart, but they will be together again.
Scotland. April 16, 1746. The take-down and rough treatment of a bloody and torn Saltire (Ron’s homage to “Glory“) and a solemn pan through what seems like an endless sea of dead leads into the only portion of the first almost-quarter that is not from Jamie’s POV. The camera pans out, showing us a Rupert lookalike, and many, many Murtagh lookalikes ([puts fingers in ears] LA-LA-LA-LA-NOPE). Sound is kept to a minimum. The labored breathing of the dead is interrupted by the occasional muddy steps of the English soldiers as they search the corpses and stab the survivors.
Witness to one such stabbing of a young man is Jamie, barely conscious with a very familiar looking body laid on top of him. His breath is harsh and he is pale, likely fevered. As he turns away, he begins to have flashbacks of the battle. From here forward, it is his memories we see. As his eyes close, he flashes back to the moments before the charge.
The Bonnie Prince is busy staring at the gold cup his father gave him that he’s boasting about having the Duke of Cumberland drink from after his inevitable defeat. I think it’s fair to say everyone’s patience is about exhausted with him, and no one more so than Jamie. The look on his face isn’t even the tiniest bit subtle. His last f*ck just walked through a standing stone, and he is not here for Charles’ drink kink.
More memories of the battle, and the camera fades from Jamie’s face in a blurry way that manages to communicate his loss of consciousness. When he wakes again, night has fallen and it is snowing. As he wets his lips, English soldiers walk slowly through the bodies, and Jamie remembers the moments after Claire left him at Craigh Na Dun. He picks up the plaid they made love on moments before, burying his face in it. He might be smelling the sex, but I would rather not think about that.
His memories of riding back into the camp are cut with shots of his vacant eyes staring at nothing, and the sound of bombs. To say it’s disturbing is an understatement. Sam Heughan has his post-Wentworth eyeballs in. As the battle rages around them, Sullivan tells the Prince that it is a diversion, while Jamie begs him to “give the command to charge, while there is still a chance.” As hard as they are knocking, however, no one’s home at Chez Charles. He is frightened and mute as the reality of their defeat coalesces before him. We don’t hear Charles’ response, but a moment later Jamie is leading a charge across the moor.
The fighting is a free-for all, swords, guns, fists, and at one point, even a divot. That’s right. Jamie uses a clump of grass to suffocate a soldier. War really is hell. When Jamie releases his unfortunate forced herbivore, another body falls next to his on the moor, and as he rises, on his guard, a hand on his chest halts him. It’s Murtagh, (HOORAY!) back from leading the Lallybroch Frasers home as promised. Jamie asks him if he’s been “enjoying a wee whisky,” and we get one of the elder Fraser’s rare grins. The flash of levity (though improbably survived in a battle this vicious) is an emotional touchstone for everything this man has been to our hero: protector, mentor, conscience, partner, family. Efficient as ever, Murtagh kills a man coming at them as he assures Jamie his men were delivered, jumps up, reaches down to pull his godson up, and both men turn back to the battle.
More cuts to Jamie, laying still on the ground, remembering in out-of-order flashes. First the charge into English lines, waves of men falling under repeat volleys, finally crashing into bayonets and bodies in a frantic struggle. Suddenly the predominantly blue-grey lighting of his memories alters to a beautiful golden hue. The fighting has now progressed to the level of the cavalry, and officers on horses surround the Scots on the field. As Jamie stabs an officer on his horse, his attention is caught by another some ways away. Scottish warriors cling to him, trying to pull him off his horse as he viciously bashes them on the head with the pommel of his sword.
When Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall is finally grounded, he spins away from his captors and sees Jamie, staring at him with the shadow of an expectant grin.
For a moment, Jack is frozen by the vagaries of circumstance. He tilts his head in animalistic acknowledgement, like when he met Claire in France.
There is a heartbeat more of Jamie smizing at him before Jamie breaks into a run and Jack begins to push men out of his way, both focused on each other with singular, deadly intent. They leap at each other, swords clashing in an attempt by each man to wrench one final triumph. It gave me chills, and was by far the most memorable image of the episode. These are legendary adversaries, and this is the final moment they (and we) have been waiting for and deserve. I was unable to get a good capture of their leap, but trust me. It was like the Lion King up in this joint.
As they come together and apart on the golden field of Jamie’s memories, actual Jamie pushes away the body he has been lying under, and we see it is Randall’s corpse. Back in his memory, no quarter is given (and none taken) by either man. Jamie chokes Jack, who breaks free and cuts Jamie’s thigh. Jamie falls onto Jack and they grapple. Jamie seems to fail until suddenly, he stabs Jack right in the gut. Jack is taken aback, but not yet beaten. The men will continue to fight to the point of exhaustion, either unwilling to die unless they know they took the other along. Some time later, in a field that appears to hold no other survivors, Jack and Jamie stumble and lunge ineffectually at each other, upright only by sheer doggedness. The initial surge of bloodlust has given way to exhaustion.
Finally Jack falters, reaching out to a swaying Jamie with one hand out to touch him, an expression of sad yearning on his normally impassive face. Jack stumbles against him, Jamie turning briefly towards him as Jack rests his forehead on Jamie’s shoulder. The weight of the dying man causes both to fall backwards onto the pile of bodies that litter the moor.
A moment here to address some of the criticism I’ve seen here about this being filmed as a sort of love story, or that the fight had a romantic overtone. I think in the books it is clearer that Jack has a sort of twisted love (insomuch as he is capable of it) for Jamie, but in the series it is framed as more of an obsession, and I think that this view is an oversimplification. I think that in the end, both men recognize that they are polar opposites and as such, there is a part of them that is fascinated and put off by the essence of the other. Jamie could never do the things Jack does, and vice versa. I don’t think it’s love that Jack feels, at the end. The essence of who Jamie is is what first drew his attention and at the end, it’s the last thing that held it. And so, the loop is closed, the same way it opened.
Jamie once again loses consciousness, and as he and Jack lay facing each other, the camera pans down to show Jamie’s hand, covered in blood, clutching the dragonfly in amber that Claire gave him to remember her by. He opens his eyes to see it’s snowing, and a rabbit is next to him. He stares at it in surprise, this innocent animal going about its usual routine as he lays in a field, waiting to die. Besides the fertility association, the hare was sacred to the goddess Andraste, who in turn was worshiped by the great warrior-queen Boudica. The hare was also considered magical, a shapeshifter, their movements used for divination. Snow and winter are traditional symbols of the sleep of death. This loaded symbolism* (together with a haunting descant) announces a lovely apparition of Claire, dressed in white like an angel/white witch, coming to see her love in his final moments. Jamie stares longingly at her as she nears.
He seems almost happy as she reaches down to touch his face, and ask him if he’s alive. Jamie stares at her in silent wonder, and the question repeats, this time it is Rupert doing the asking.
Despite it being night, there are redcoats about killing the survivors, so Rupert wants to get him off the field. Despite Jamie’s pleas to let him be, the Mackenzie warrior cracks a joke and calls another man over to lift him off the field. When Rupert pushes Randall’s body off Jamie, we see his wound pump fresh blood. At last Jack made a good pressure bandage. Jamie attempts a reply to Rupert’s teasing, but his voice drifts away as he once again loses consciousness, dropping the dragonfly in amber on the ground, the token of his marriage another sad relic left to be found on the earth of Culloden Moor.
Boston, 1948. Claire and Frank are looking at the home they intend to purchase in Boston, and Claire’s anxious remarks about the price and size are met with reasonable responses from Frank. “It’s a little tight. You’ve always said you wanted a real home.” Claire comments that “It sure is real,” and goes on to wonder about all the space just for the two of them when Frank reminds her that it will soon be three.
She changes the subject, wondering about the location of the study. Frank’s teasing comment about her being “the lady of the house” and her smiling response is the closest they will ever get (down to their outfits) to their episode one selves. They move into the kitchen, and as Frank gamely channels his best John Wayne and attempts to entertain her talking about “vittles,” her expression once again sobers. She plays with the stove, telling him she is “out of practice” and that he shouldn’t get his hopes up too high. Frank is so tuned into her mood, he realizes she isn’t speaking only about the stove, gently reassuring her that he’ll be happy with “whatever you make.”
Claire’s shy, hopeful smile is painful to see. They both hurt me. They are trying so hard to please each other, and they are both such good people. If only buff highlander renaissance men that rocked you like a hurricane were easier to forget, amirite?
The hopeful scene melds into the more pragmatic reality of being a housewife in the forties, which is not great if you are a woman who enjoys her autonomy, like Claire. About eight months later, a frustrated and very pregnant Claire gives up on lighting the stove and wanders out to plop tiredly on the living room sofa.
It’s a bit of an opportunity to look around at Claire’s home. It is instantly obvious that she is an indifferent housekeeper, and that the home Frank tried to give her as a reward is a duty at best and a chore at worst. Her kitchen is plain and largely unadorned and the pots chipped and discolored, hinting at many a meal made under duress. The wallpaper is the same, and the living room has the barest decorations in it and no family photos. The pillows look like they came with the couch. Her mantle holds only a large box of matches, and this is a house she has lived in for at least seven months now. There is a marked absence of vases. It’s not a coincidence that her direct view of the large fireplace causes a particular idea to take root in her head. Claire is camping in the brownstone of her life.
An inspired Claire takes herself and her trusty blue scarf out to the woods the wood store and purchases wood like the modern woman she is. Shout-out to her adorable Packard 8, which looks like it would be great to nap in. As she starts loading up to go inside, we make the acquaintance of her oversharing yet sympathetic neighbor, Millie Nelson. Millie offers to carry the wood for Claire, saying “Of course you can manage, my dear, but why should you when you can have help?” I’m going to start cross-stitching this onto baby shower gifts.
Millie combats the inherent sexism of the times and the very real sexism of her “handsome but lazy bag-of-bones husband” by fast talking and even faster boundary-crossing. She’s certainly a contrast to reticent Claire, who seems touched by the gesture but also uncomfortable with it, because she’s not yet used to brash Americans who need to see what the inside of your house looks like so they can gossip.
Inside, Claire is open-hearth cooking because Uncle Lamb, and also because she is more comfortable in the 18th century than this one. Millie drops exposition like it’s her job (it is), letting Claire know the high points of modern wife-hood: cooking in the fireplace is fine if hubs likes it, your husband liking things is “all that matters,” springing food-related surprises on your husband is brave, you should look pretty when you meet your husband’s boss, and Jerry (Millie’s husband) has really boring taste in food which Millie hopes will someday give him a heart attack (she loves him, really). Claire tentatively replies that she thinks “Frank might like something different for a change. He’s very progressive. Very open-minded.” Millie’s look here is EVERYTHING.
Modern Everyman Jerry Nelson doesn’t want the wife doing anything out of the ordinary. No dentistry. No French monarchs. Just housekeeping, cooking, taking care of the kids, and looking pretty when she meets his boss. “You’re lucky,” she tells Claire sincerely. “You won’t find another man like Frank again.”
Claire seems both pleased and chagrined at this response. It’s a reality check. Much in the way Frank occupied her thoughts and caused her guilt when she first fell in love with Jamie, now Jamie invades her time with Frank. The difference is in the depth of feeling. She knows she could have come back a to a worse partner. She knows she should be appreciative, but via expression alone, Caitriona Balfe shows us Claire is basically treating herself like a fireplace supper and just making do.
Scotland, 1746. Jamie wakes up in an abandoned farmhouse to glare resentfully at Rupert helping him drink some water.
All around are wounded Jacobites, moaning, crying or quietly staring. Rupert and Killick, the man who helped carry Jamie, discuss whether or not to “make a run for it.” Killick is wounded and not running anywhere, though he encourages Rupert to do so. Almost matter-of-factly, Rupert chooses to stay.
A suddenly attentive Jamie listens to this conversation from his pallet. The British are out looking for Jacobites, and it isn’t safe for any man caught out in the open. When I first watched this, I wondered why Jamie was concerned, but I think it is in his nature to archive this sort of information, and he has got to be peripherally aware that Murtagh is not one of the voices he is hearing.
Boston, 1948. Claire sits at her vanity in her nightgown and robe, giving herself sad blue steel in the mirror. Frank calls to her, saying they need to leave in twenty minutes and she replies “Coming, Frank!” seemingly without thinking. She sighs deeply, muttering “Got to look pretty when you meet the boss” at her reflection as she applies mascara.
The boss in question, Dean Jackson, might be a Harvard dean but he is also a small-minded misogynist, a snobbish elitist, and a boor. This is all codified in his bow tie, the neck wear of choice for (non-Timelord) people whose faces are begging to be punched. He speaks of Truman’s ascension to the White House after Roosevelt’s passing as “an accident of history,” refers to him as “the haberdasher from Missouri,” and scoffs at the likelihood of his re-election that year. I bet he and Millie’s husband would get along.
Claire sits in an armchair across from Jackson, Frank standing behind her. With the characteristic diplomacy of someone who worked intelligence during the war, Frank attempts to counter his boss’s narrow views on the unlikelihood of a democratic victory by saying that he would not bet against it. When Dean Jackson counters that the press certainly believes in the likelihood of his defeat and Frank jokes about preferring his beliefs over resignation to a Dewey presidency, Claire interjects, stating that she read a column in The Boston Globe about Truman and Dewey that said the President had more support than he was given credit for.
To his credit, Frank does not interrupt or make excuses for her, but as Jackson bristles, he and everyone in the room except Claire expresses visible discomfort with the subject. The Dean addresses his comeback not to Claire but to Frank, instructing him to “pay closer attention to your wife’s reading habits” or soon Claire will want “to get women into Harvard Law.” Speaking over the male laughter, Claire points out that Harvard Medical started admitting female students three years ago, which Dean Jackass poo-poohs as “a bone cast in the general direction” of the Eleanor Roosevelt set. He goes on to report that not only are the female students “barely adequate,” but they are not likely to succeed as physicians. Claire’s outrage is written on her face and visible in her posture.
Frank interjects, putting a hand on Claire’s shoulder and pointing out that she was a combat nurse during the war. Dean Jackson lauds this as patriotic, but is sure Claire was happy to resume “more important and fitting domestic concerns for a lady” upon the end of the war. Before Claire can formulate a response, however, Frank’s hand presses sharply into her shoulder, and as she smiles with everything but her eyes, she grips his hand in a parody of affection and says “Yes. I’m very happy,” in a cutting tone that communicates her mood just fine to her husband but seems to affect the Dean not at all. He blithely agrees that any young woman would be “at the prospect of impending maternal bliss” and lifts a finger for another drink, dismissing Claire from his mind as he turns to ask Frank about the upcoming curriculum.
Alone on the couch, Claire seethes, but later on when they leave and Frank asks if she is OK, she replies with the classic response of spouses that are not fine. “I’m fine.”
Scotland, 1746. A weak Jamie calls out for Murtagh, but Rupert doesn’t know where he is. When asked, Killick says he “lost track of him in the fight,” and he hopes he’s already dead. Jamie’s face crumbles as he hears this, but there is no time to process. The English soldiers have found them. Their commander introduces himself as Lord Melton, and Rupert returns the courtesy with his full name, residence (Leoch) and identifies the rest of the men as “others late of the forces of his majesty, King James.” Melton informs them of the Duke of Cumberland’s command that anyone participating in the “recent treasonous rebellion” be executed, and asks if any of the men present claim innocence of treason.
Now I know this character is fleshed out in the Lord John novels, but I haven’t read those. I know he’s supposed to be very honorable, but this mission is crap, and I can’t really respect him following orders, small concessions notwithstanding. I’m not inclined to look at him very sympathetically, but maybe that will change in time. Looking around the room at the wounded and bedraggled kilted lot, Rupert answers with his trademark wit, made dark by his deadpan delivery. “No, my lord. Traitors, all.” He asks if they will be hanged and Melton replies that no, they will be shot like soldiers, and Rupert thanks him.
Melton gives them an hour in which to prepare themselves, offers them writing materials via his clerk, and exits. Rupert hangs his head. A couple of young boys exchange tense looks and on his pallet, Jamie closes his eyes.
Boston, 1948. Claire is once again the picture of domesticity, (over)cooking bacon and eggs for Frank’s breakfast in her nightgown and robe. As she goes about her business, inexplicably tossing only half of the spoiled milk, she is distracted by birdsong outside the kitchen window and pauses to watch a goldfinch pause and then fly away. Finches are a christian symbol of resurrection, but also of suffering.** Her initial delight transforms to a tragic expression, and she begins to tear up.
An ignorant Frank walks into the kitchen behind her, chatting happily about the smell of bacon and eggs after years of rations. He offers to help Claire with the kettle while she makes toast, and her efforts to sidestep him leave him staring after her. He jokes about American tea, not understanding why they had to change something when the original way “worked so well.” He mocks the American obsession with “new new new,” but Claire tells him that that is what she likes about the country. “It’s young, it’s eager… it’s constantly looking towards the future.”
She tells Frank that she has been thinking about applying for American citizenship, since she has never had a great attachment to England and wants “our child to have a real home.” The mention of sharing the child touches Frank, and he stops behind her chair on his way back from the cupboard to grasp her shoulder in an echo of Black Jack from “The Garrison Commander.” Claire is uncomfortable, but stays still. Frank swallows and breathes deeply, repeating “our child.” He attempts to reach over her to touch her belly but Claire flinches and pulls away, and Frank’s mood plummets.
He sits down and begins to question her shift in allegiance to England, and it’s clear that in this metaphor, Frank is England. He asks when her allegiance shifted “from England” and reminds her that he fought a war to hold on to the things she is rejecting.
Claire understands the subtext, but chooses to ignore it, saying it’s “just something that I want to do.” Frank, probably fed up with doing what Claire wants to do at this point tells her tersely that there is no need, as his job provides them both with indefinite residency. It is an angry power play that not only denies her autonomy, it reminds her that she is not the source of their livelihood. Forced into a corner, Claire finally acknowledges that they aren’t just fighting about citizenship. Frank agrees, and reaches out to hold her hand, which she instinctively jerks away, a trapped look on her face. “It’s about that,” he says quietly. What follows is terribly, awfully real and should win both these actors an Emmy.
The fact of the matter is, both of these people are trying their best, and that best not only isn’t good enough to rise to the level of Claire’s relationship with Jamie, but it’s not even good enough to rise to the level of their own relationship pre-Craigh Na Dun. Claire is a woman stifled by a life in which she no longer has any agency, and haunted by a man she can no longer have. Frank is so traumatized by her absence and desperate to please that he doesn’t force conversations until things are at their boiling point and they are both at their worst. Both of them are mistrustful of the other, playacting at a happy marriage that neither can make authentic.
It is understandable that Frank is crushed that his wife “won’t let me touch her,” but Claire, overcome with the burdens of her child and her own pain, simply does not have the emotional gasoline to fuel anyone’s engine but her own. Her snapped apology and retreat out of the room are classic avoidance, and Frank calls her on it, asking for her to talk to him. Finally, she expresses her frustration. “And say what, Frank? What is it that you want from me?” “I want you to come back from the fucking past!” he growls, finally losing his temper.
Claire reminds him that he made her leave “everything she loved” behind, and that they promised never to talk about the past, a bargain she has kept “to the letter.”
Frank tells her that their bargain was that they would raise this child together, but even though it is yet to be born, Claire won’t let him in, “let alone touch you, God forbid.” Claire hits back by asking him if it’s about sex, and tells him that “if it’s about a good fuck” there are “some lovely girls at Radcliffe that would just die over your English accent.”
Replying to a nasty comment with one in the same vein, Frank unleashes the nuke in his back pocket. “Well I’m not the one who’s been fucking other people!” OUCH. Claire, for lack of a retort, throws an ashtray at his head, which he ducks. Frank stares in momentary disbelief, and then suddenly deflates, reaching for his jacket and walking to the door. When he pushes past Claire she seems regretful, but when he pauses she is once more aloof. He reminds her he didn’t force her, not to their agreement, and not to come to Boston. He pauses, inhaling suddenly. What follows is difficult for him to say. “And I’m not forcing you to stay.” “I never thought otherwise,” Claire replies, looking past him. “Go, or stay,” Frank tells her, looking ten years older than he did ten minutes ago, “but do it because it’s what you really want to do.”
He walks to the foyer and pauses briefly before putting on his hat and quietly walking out. Claire hurries after him, but pauses before she reaches him, sobbing quietly to herself.
Scotland, 1746. Outside the farmhouse, a man is executed as Rupert crosses himself and Jamie turns towards the wall. Later, he tries to dissuade Melton from executing two young men, explaining that they shouldn’t be held to the same standards as the rest. Melton’s regret is brief but obvious as it crosses his face. “The Butcher” Cumberland has specifically asked that no exceptions be made on account of age. “I’m sorry,” he says, quickly excusing himself.
Rupert comforts the frightened boys, telling them it will be over soon, and to keep their chin up. The boys walk over to Melton’s secretary, who will record their names (Giles McMartin and Frederick MacBean), before they are pushed out together to be executed. I think of their mothers, protecting their baby bodies and little boy selves from harm and I think I might throw up. War is so, so stupid.
Inside, Killick asks Jamie if there is someone he would like him to write to, and Jamie rasps out, “No, let it be.” When Killick asks about his wife, Jamie replies that she is gone. “Where did she go?” Killick wonders. Technically Jamie could have told him, but the sound of the guns interrupts them both.
Melton comes inside to ask if there are any volunteers to go next, and Killick accepts. He reaches for Jamie’s hand and holds it up. “I’ll take my leave of ye now, Jamie,” he says formally, kissing his hand. “I’ll see ye again soon,” Jamie croaks, a smile on his face. Rupert helps him up, and they share a look before he limps over to give his name. “Gordon Killick.”
Rupert comes over by Jamie to say his farewells, and the two joke about farting and snoring, like men. Rupert says that he always got blamed for it, but it was Angus who snored. He pauses, briefly emotional at thoughts of his best friend. “It’ll be good to see him again,” he tells Jamie. “It’ll be good to see the two of you together,” Jamie replies with a faint smile. Rupert, touched, tells him that he won’t forgive him for Dougal, but he isn’t ready to hate him to the grave, either.
“The Lord will judge us both, and I trust in his mercy. Farewell, Jamie.” The gunfire sounds once more, and in the space between that and Melton’s next request for a volunteer, the two men stare poignantly at each other, a world of things unsaid transmitting from one soul to another. Rupert’s eyes well up, but when he volunteers his voice is gruff and strong, and he walks out to his death with a jaunty joke that touches even dour Melton. “I mean to set a quick pace, so try to keep up.” Laying quietly on his pallet, Jamie waits anxiously for the gunfire and when it comes, his nostrils flare and his mouth starts to tremble as a single tear falls. “Farewell, Rupert,” he whispers in Gaelic.
I know I touched on this already in my 301 Deep Thoughts, but no matter how many times I watch this scene, I cry like someone tossed me in a vat of onions. Excellent job by both Sam and Grant. What an exit.
Boston, 1948. The camera flashes in a rather jarring transition from an extreme close-up of Jamie’s face to an extreme close-up of Frank, laying on the couch in his sleepin’ robe and suffering through the particular kind of insomnia brought on by wives in love with Highlanders from the past. After some time, he decides to get up to go into his study (which is where Claire said it should be), pull out a sheet of stationery and begin writing the first of many letters to the Reverend about Jamie Fraser that Brianna and Roger will find after his death.
This is the great secret heart of Frank, that even as he exhorts Claire to forget the past, it holds an unquenchable interest for him as a historian. Despite his show of disbelief on the subject of time travel, there is a part of him willing to entertain the idea. Even as Claire pretends and fails to forget Jamie, Frank is also pretending not to believe that he existed. Denial, however, is not a permanent address but a resort location, and neither he nor Claire can live here forever. Not far into the letter, Claire appears in the hallway in her nightgown, coat on. Frank hurriedly turns the letter over. Her water’s broken, and the moment he hears it, Frank hurries over, gently touching her hand as it cradles her belly, and for once, she lets him. He leaves to go warm up the car, and she follows.
Scotland, 1746. Melton’s secretary informs him that all who were able to walk were executed, and he asks that stretcher bearers be appointed for those not able to get themselves outside. When the secretary asks if they are to be shot laying down, Melton is indignant, insisting they be “propped up.” I’m sure it’s the honorable thing to do, but it seems like a pretty academic detail when you’re already killing them. I was very distracted at this point by Melton’s uniform being tacked open at the crotch and behind.
Fashion is weird. Melton speaks to the men to inform them of the terms of their sentences and executions, and Jamie is super ready for it, volunteering to go first. The secretary calls out for his name, and between its length and the anguished pauses Jamie gives between each word, it’s a wonder Melton isn’t halfway to England before he’s done but he manages to hear all of it, and freezes when he hears his last name. “Fraser?” he repeats, walking back in and signaling to his secretary to pause before writing the name down. “Are you the Jacobite known as ‘Red Jamie’?” Melton asks, and Jamie chuckles, admitting his enemies have called him that because why not, Jamie has more names than God.
Melton rolls his eyes so hard it probably tightens the curls on his wig. He asks if any other man would volunteer, and crouches next to Jamie to ask if the name “John Grey” meant anything to him. Jamie seems worn out, and tells him to either shoot him or “go away,” but when Melton reminds him of the boy’s age, Jamie recalls Grey, who “tried to kill me while I was taking a pish. I broke his arm, I recall.” (Episode 209, Je Suis Prest.) Melton asks if he remembers the promise he made him, and Jamie says that Grey promised to kill him, but he doesn’t mind if Melton does it in his place. Melton, however, tells him that his brother owes him a debt of honor, and gets up to speak to his secretary, Wallace. It is here we find out that there are broadsheets asking for the capture of ‘Red Jamie,’ and that the Duke of Cumberland would be thrilled to capture such a high-profile Jacobite.
The issue is that Melton doesn’t feel he can turn him in or kill him without discrediting his brother’s oath and dishonoring his family. “I winna tell if you dinna,” Jamie quips from his pallet. Nihilist Jamie is funny. Wallace suggests shooting Jamie under an alias, but thank goodness Melton is too honorable for that. He tells Wallace to have a hay cart and a driver willing to accept a bribe come to the farmhouse after dark. Jamie won’t be crawling anywhere before then. Overhearing this plan, Jamie demands to be shot. “Raving,” Wallace comments. Melton doubts Jamie will survive the journey, but at least this way his death won’t be on his head, “or on my family.” As dusk falls, a barely conscious Jamie bounces along the roads in a hay wagon, and his pained moans merge with Claire’s as we change time periods once more.
Boston, 1948. Claire pants her way through a contraction sitting up in a hospital bed while Frank complains about the doctors taking their sweet time. He rushes to comfort her with nonsense words, but she instead comforts him, telling him it’s perfectly normal. He rubs her back, and she smiles regretfully. “I’m glad I missed you with that ashtray,” she says, getting a chuckle from Frank, who compliments her aim in throwing it and his own “cat-like reflexes” in avoiding it.
In walks Dr. Thorne, who is basically Dean Jackson in scrubs. Or maybe he’s Millie’s father-in-law. He tells Claire to Be Calm and Do Everything I Say, ignoring her protests. Infuriatingly, he asks Frank and not Claire about her contractions and medical history, noting Claire’s responses but continuing to address an unsure Frank. When Claire admits this wasn’t her first pregnancy, you can see the impact on Frank’s face, but when she attempts to apologize, he tells her it doesn’t matter now, and she should just promise him not to throw an ashtray at the doctor. “I can’t promise that,” Claire replies before another contraction, and Frank wishes out loud he could be with her, assuring her he will wait as long as it takes.
When the doctor comes back, Frank is hustled off to the cigarette and flop-sweat-scented father’s waiting room, but not before he tells Claire he loves her. Claire, who quite obviously doesn’t know what to say, is saved by her contractions from having to reply. In the operating room, the doctor tells Claire that she “won’t feel a thing,” but she objects to being put under for the birth. Dr. Thorne, who doesn’t want to be bothered by Claire’s bodily autonomy when he’s probably got a golf date or something to make it to, LITERALLY TELLS HER NOT TO WORRY HER PRETTY LITTLE HEAD ABOUT IT.
Claire’s Monologue of Righteous Indignation is unfortunately stopped cold by a hypodermic needle filled with downers, and I have never been prouder of this character than when she manages to get one last insult to Dr. Thorne out before she loses consciousness. “You bastard.” Attagirl.
Scotland, 1746. Jamie opens his eyes to see his hand over his wound, and holds it up, marveling silently at the blood coating it. “Jamie,” a woman’s voice says. “Jamie, can ye hear me?”
It is Jenny and Ian Murray, peering worriedly into the hay wagon where a pale and emaciated Jamie stares out at them without seeming to recognize them. “Am… am I dead?” he asks with the same expectant half-grin that his own death seems to provoke this episode.
It’s creepy how much Jamie wants to die, and I am ready for that to be over. “Ye’ve come home to Lallybroch,” Jenny tells him, and though he repeats the name, it is with concern that fades into the same remote expression he started with, and it belies the pleasure his sister expresses at having him home when she reaches into the cart to embrace him. The camera pans up to the Fraser crest over the archway, and then we are back in…
Boston. November 23, 1948. In a touching echo of Season Two’s “Faith,” Claire wakes up feeling her empty stomach and asking for the whereabouts of her baby in ever-louder-and-more-panicked tones. “Is it dead?” Unlike that episode, however, this labor ends happily, and Frank walks into her room holding the baby in his arms. He hands her over, thrilled and proud. “She’s perfect, Claire.”
Claire is relieved and enchanted, cooing to her daughter and telling her how beautiful she is. Frank brushes Claire’s hair back from her face and kisses her, overcome. “Just like her mother.” Claire smiles at him, and notices a tear rolling down his cheek. She is suddenly remorseful, and reaches out to hold his face. “Frank… I’ve been so horrid to you,” but Frank cuts her off, saying “This is all that truly matters now.”
Claire looks into his eyes and agrees, and then into her baby’s eyes, repeating her agreement. “It’s going to be all right,” Frank assures her (and likely himself). “We’ll be all right. I promise.” They kiss, and it is so hopeful. Claire tells him that maybe this (Brianna’s birth) “really can be a new beginning… for all of us.” Yes, let’s make it so,” Frank agrees, “I love you.” They kiss again, Claire holding the baby, Frank’s hand on the baby’s head and his arm around Claire’s back. It’s a damn heart-breaker.
They pull apart after the nurse walks in, complimenting the baby. “What a beautiful little angel,” she says, and while Claire beams up at her, Frank proudly thanks her…but the nurse isn’t done, because apparently she went to nursing school at a KFC and lacks all knowledge of genetics. “Where’d she get the red hair?” Both Randalls’ happy expressions melt right off their faces, and the scene fades out.
Brianna’s birth is more than a step into the future, it is a portent of things to come. Time and experience bring with it a kind of re-birth. We are no longer the people we were when we knew less, felt less. Still, we often resist change, and in doing so become atrophied, trapped in a world we can no longer access. Any birth is painful, and our main characters will likely experience some personal lows in the next twenty years as they become the people they need to be to meet again. This episode was a sometimes brutal, sometimes very sympathetic look at the consequences of our decisions and how reality can subvert our expectations. Jamie, who expected to die, stubbornly clings to the image of himself as doomed so he doesn’t have to think of himself as something other: a man who risked everything and lost, a man who sent his love to another. Frank expected his wife to eventually return to the person he knew, because doing so enabled him not to think of himself as a man forsaken for another, but merely the victim of a temporary but reversible circumstance. Claire, despite knowing Jamie is likely dead and certainly out of her reach in this time, cannot reconcile herself to mere affection and an uneven partnership having known the oneness of true love. For all of them, there is only one path, to go forward as best they can. Time marches in only one direction, and they must march with it.