Wednesday, September 27, 2017

“A Promise made is a debt unpaid” - a recap of season 3 episode 3 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown

Everyone incurs debts throughout their lives. Whether it’s a financial debt in order to buy property, a car or that really big holiday; or the emotional debt we feel while owing someone something, these debts make an impact. Sometimes we consciously realise it, other times we don’t. But it’s the way that we deal with these ever present debts that can have an effect on what we do and how we live. Episode 3, brilliantly written by Matt B Roberts, explores this concept: what happens when debts span years, even centuries, and what happens once these debts are finally discharged? 

Time has passed in Boston, with the episode beginning in 1956. Immediately we see the result of Claire and Frank focusing on parenting, rather than each other. Frank is cooking up a full English breakfast, in the hopes of quashing any further requests from Brianna for “eggo toaster waffles”. The two are friendly, seemingly at ease in each other’s company, as Claire praises his cooking and smiles at his musing about replacing Brianna’s Dr Seuss collection with Dickens. In a spur-of-the-moment show of friendly affection, Claire announces she has no class that evening and since she doesn’t think she can study any more, suggests that the two of them go to a movie. Frank is friendly enough in his response, saying that it sounds lovely, but adding that he has already seen both of the movies that Claire mentions. It takes a moment for this to sink in. Frank has not been making solo trips to the cinema and Claire realises that here is the consequence of their single beds and their focus on being parents rather than a romantic couple. Discretion not withstanding, Frank is no longer being faithful to her and it is news that rocks her. Any further conversation is halted however, by the arrival of Brianna at the breakfast table. The scene ends with all vestiges of companionship gone; Frank and Claire are uncomfortable in each other’s presence once more. 

Time has passed in the 18th century too, although not as much. It is now 1755, three years since Jamie was taken from Lallybroch. He is now at Ardsmuir Prison, where the incoming Governor, Major John William Grey, is being given a tour by the outgoing one, Colonel Harry Quarry. 

Quarry looks as relieved to be leaving as Grey looks discomforted to be arriving. Quarry outlines Grey’s duties and mentions the famous Frenchman’s Gold, adding that while he had given up on finding it after a few years, the fact remains that its discovery would be very well received by the Crown. The prisoners are not expected to give Grey any trouble, Quarry says, given that the Jacobite Highlanders have lost all their heart after Culloden. He draws Grey’s attention to Jamie, who, as the only Jacobite officer, is the only one still kept in chains. Guards are wary of him and he is seen by the other prisoners as their leader. They have dubbed him MacDubh, which Quarry assumes is a mark of respect. He suggests that Grey keep the tradition of dining with Jamie once a week, stating that Grey will need Jamie’s cooperation in order to deal with the rest of the prisoners. But Grey refuses this suggestion outright, saying that he has now intention of dining with the prisoner. Quarry doesn’t press the matter - indeed, he doesn’t care. Wishing Grey good luck, he is gone. Throughout the exchange, Jamie has watched the two Englishmen talking and makes eye contact with Grey one last time as the scene changes. 

In the cells, one of the prisoners questions Jamie about the new Governor. It is interesting to watch Jamie in this scene. Although chained and in obvious discomfort, Jamie is more alive in the cells than we have seen so far this season. A natural leader of men, he is returning to this way of life, albeit as a prisoner rather than a free man. In his mind, these men are as much his responsibility as the highland army was. Similarly, the other prisoners defer to him; one handing him a cup as he passes and another seeking his approval, asking “Am I wrong, MacDubh?” and smiling when Jamie agrees with him. As Jamie sits, a familiar voice asks about the new Governor. The voice is husky and punctuated by coughing, but belongs unmistakably to Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. 

Jamie mentions that the Governor seems familiar somehow but he can’t yet place him, and the camera moves to confirm that it is indeed Murtagh sitting on the ground next to him. He is obviously unwell, coughing almost constantly and too weak to go into the yards with the others. Murtagh clutches a piece of tartan, which he puts away at Jamie’s reminder as to the punishment for being found with it. This action highlights the role reversal for the two characters: it is now Jamie looking out for Murtagh, trying to ensure his safety by advising him against an impetuous action that could bring him harm. The two discuss John Grey - a young man scarcely more than a child, who carries himself well - before Jamie notices that Murtagh has been bitten by rats. He begins to tell Murtagh of a herbal concoction that will help with the festering, saying that he learned the trick from “a lass who knew a fair deal about healing”. Murtagh knows exactly who “the lass” is and fixes his godson with a knowing look, but Jamie is still unable to say Claire’s name.

The appearance of Murtagh is a huge change from the books, as in Diana Gabaldon’s version, Jamie found his godfather moments from death on the battlefield. In the novels, it is Murtagh’s death that Jamie remembers the most vividly and it is a loss that weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to move ahead with his life. But the Murtagh of the tv series has been a much expanded character more integral to Jamie and Claire’s story, so it is not altogether surprising to see his resurrection. Book fans have already begun musing as to which character Murtagh will end up replacing as the plot moves forward, but only time will tell what the production team have in store. In the meantime, the #SaveMurtagh campaigners are no doubt doing a jubilant Highland Fling! 

Grey wastes no time in organising a meeting with Jamie, who is brought to the Governor’s quarters. Putting on his best show of authority and showing a change of heart, Grey announces his wish to continue the understanding that Jamie had had with the former Governor. This show of command is somewhat undermined by the arrival of a rat that scurries across the floor, much to Grey’s disgust. He demands that a cat be brought up from the storerooms, before asking if there are rats in the cells too. When Jamie confirms that there are a great many, Grey extends his command to include the provision of cats to all the cells. Jamie and the other prisoner, McKay, exchange a look at this, with Jamie adding that he doubts the prisoners would thank Grey for the addition of a cat that would take all their rats. Naively, Grey says, “Surely the prisoners don’t eat them” and is horrified at Jamie’s response, “Only when they’re luckily enough to catch one.” Any show of authority is gone at this point. Grey looks unnerved as Jamie shuffles towards him. “God knows what you did to be sent here,” Jamie says, “but for your own sake, I hope you deserved it.”  It is a hint towards a possible debt of his own that Grey is being forced to pay and could also be seen as Jamie’s recognition of Grey as the foolish young boy at Corrieyairack. At any rate, Jamie is roughly removed by the redcoat guards and Grey slumps back into his chair with a sigh. The first meeting is over.

Back in Boston, another two years have gone by. It is now 1958 and a graduation celebration is in full swing at the Randall’s. Dr Joe Abernathy and Dr Claire Randall are smiling for the camera, which is being operated by Brianna, who then requests a photo of Frank and Claire together - “Just you and Mommy now”. With stiff smiles and awkward stance, the photo is taken, before Frank starts reminding Claire of her dinner reservations. Claire is unconcerned, as there is more than an hour before they are expected at the restaurant. 

Brianna asks Frank if he is going too, pouting when he tells her that he has to work and stating that if he isn’t going, neither is she. Frank reassures his “angel”, telling her that she will have a lovely time. It is obvious that there is a close bond between Frank and Bree, just as he had alway wanted. Again, he queries the restaurant time with Claire, saying that he thought the reservation was for 6pm.  But Claire is being the perfect hostess and handing around drinks - obviously the hostility shown towards her by her male colleagues at the start of her studies has abated somewhat, or perhaps it is just that she is now performing a more “traditional” role - and cheerily says that Frank is not to worry, as they will all be out of his hair soon enough. Joe and Claire are sharing a joke and a martini when the doorbell rings and Claire goes to answer it. The young woman on the doorstep is horrified to see her, and amidst her stammers of apology and gazes towards Frank, who, has come into the hallway with Brianna, Claire realises what is going on. She sweeps back down the hall, with a biting “Your work, I presume?” grabs Brianna’s hand and quickly mobilises the guests, suggesting that they all go to the restaurant early. Meanwhile, Frank’s guest has entered the house and endures a somewhat reversed “walk of shame”, as everyone files past her with curious looks. The discretion of 1956 has come unstuck.

In the next meeting between John Grey and Jamie Fraser, Grey attempts to make a bargain. A man named Duncan Kerr has been found wandering the moors, babbling in a mixture of Gaelic and French about the Frenchman’s Gold - which Grey describes only as “a matter of great interest to the crown.” 

He wishes Jamie to translate what the man says, a request that Jamie initially refuses, stating that he is a prisoner, not an interpreter. But Grey is not a fool, despite his inexperience, and makes Jamie an offer that is impossible to refuse: if Jamie will help, his irons will be removed. As Jamie rubs his chafed wrists, the two men swap conditions: Grey wants Jamie to relay Kerr’s words to him exactly and exclusively, while Jamie wants Grey to organise medicine and blankets for the ill men. Grey deems this request to be ambitious, stating that they don’t have enough supplies to bring this about and Jamie immediately declares the conversation over, prepared to have the irons reapplied if necessary. When Grey says in exasperation that he would honour the request if he could, Jamie tries again: he will act as translator if Grey will arrange for the treatment of one man - Murtagh - who, Jamie says, has been struggling to survive at the prison since Culloden. (It remains to be seen whether we will ever be told how Murtagh ended up at Ardsmuir.) Grey promises to see what they have in store and Jamie tells him that they have a bargain. The two men share the ghost of a smile. It is a start.

Yet as one relationship is beginning in the 18th century, another is breaking in the 20th. Claire is waiting up for a drunken Frank, and wastes no time in attacking him when he arrives, expressing disgust that he should invite his girlfriend to the house. Frank tries to explain that since Claire was taking the car, he had no choice - he was only being collected. Claire is not appeased, saying that Frank has humiliated her on her graduation night, in front of her new colleagues. But Frank has had enough. He tells Claire that she is not the actress she thinks: no one at Harvard believes them to be happily married. Angrily, he defends his girlfriend, Sandy, from Claire’s definition of her as a “blonde harlot”. Perhaps he had wanted to hurt Claire, he admits, to give her a taste of her own medicine. But when Claire asks if he has slept with Sandy in their bedroom, the desolation on Frank’s face is clear. “I think our bedroom is far too crowded already,” he says. “Wouldn’t you agree?” 

Claire’s eyes fill with tears. She can’t deny the truth of his words, but still stares angrily back at him for a moment, before suggesting that Frank take his freedom by filing for divorce. Fear crosses Frank’s face for a moment and we see his vulnerability again, but for a different reason. He is no longer worried about the loss of Claire. Instead, he speaks with increasing emotion of the divorce of their neighbours, Jerry and Millie and how Jerry has since been denied access to his children. Frank is terrified of losing Brianna and has not sought his freedom for that reason only. Claire assures him that she wouldn’t keep Brianna from him, but Frank states he will not risk everything on Claire’s promises, as she hasn’t been very good at keeping them. Both are exhausted and the scene ends with them sitting unhappily next to one another on the couch. There is a reason, Frank muses, with an ironic “my darling”, that the two of them are bad at games of charades. Regardless of their acting skills, they simply do not connect with each other any more. This entire scene is beautifully portrayed by Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies, who run the emotional gamut of anger, pain, guilt, fear, regret and sorrow in just a few moments. It is powerful, compelling stuff and desperately sad. 

A delirious Duncan Kerr is talking to Jamie, as John Grey waits impatiently outside. After telling Duncan that everything he says will be relayed to the English, Jamie tries to make sense of the man’s words. The gold is cursed, Duncan tells him, but unnerves Jamie with rambling thoughts that include the names of members of his family. But it is the mention of the Ban Druidh, the White Witch, that has Jamie desperately asking for more information. Duncan says only that “she will come for you” before he dies, and it is obvious that Jamie’s mind is racing with thoughts of Claire. Has she come back? Grey interrogates Jamie: what did Kerr say? He quickly becomes irritated with Jamie’s reply that the man had raved of white witches and selkies, saying that he believes Jamie to be holding back information. Jamie replies that he keeps his bargains, refusing to be intimidated when Grey threatens to force him to talk. “There’s nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done to me,” Jamie replies. “So try if you must.” This is an interesting dance between the two men. Grey stalks away, saying that they will speak again. Alone, Jamie looks back at the body of Duncan Kerr, deep in thought.

It is Brianna’s 16th birthday and Claire and Frank are singing to her. As Brianna blows out the candles on her cake and states she knows what she is wishing for, Claire advises not to waste her wish on a car, as she won’t get that. Underscoring the fact that the two no longer present a united parental front, Frank says, “Oh wish away, you never know”. Claire looks at him in irritation, as Brianna grins at him adoringly.

The scene shifts from birthday cake to thistle tea, which Murtagh is drinking under protest, stating that it is even worse than Jamie’s last concoction. He asks what had happened with Duncan Kerr and Jamie relays the confusing encounter. When he mentions the White Witch, Murtagh grips Jamie’s arm in realisation. He is the only other one who knows of the symbolism of this name and starts to ask Jamie if he thinks it is possible that if it is linked to Claire’s reappearance. He laments the fact that they don’t know what happened after Jamie sent Claire back through the stones and Jamie replies that wishing won’t bring her back. When Murtagh says that he still thinks of Claire and the child, Jamie tells his godfather not to do so, as it will only bring pain and suffering. Murtagh asks, “Can I at least pray them sound?” Interestingly, this is the closest expression to the prayer that Jamie utters repeatedly in the books, “Lord, that she may be safe. She and the child.” Jamie agrees that Murtagh can indeed do that, as he is once again called to the Governor’s quarters.

John Grey has changed his approach. This time, Jamie is met with a table set for two, and an invitation from Grey to join him for dinner. Jamie is immediately suspicious, telling the Governor to return him to the cells if he has plans of loosening Jamie’s tongue. But Grey reassures him that he only wishes to forge a connection that will be suited to them both. The arrival of the delicious smelling food soon wins out and Jamie agrees to dine. He doesn’t do so without a condition though: asking Grey to give the men permission to hunt for themselves. Grey is incredulous - why should the men be given weapons and be allowed to wander the moor? But Jamie explains that the men only wish to set traps whilst doing their usual work and to be allowed to keep the meat that they catch. Jamie adds that they can also collect watercress to eat, in order to prevent scurvy. When Grey asks where Jamie got that notion from, a shadow crosses Jamie’s face as he answers “my wife”, before adding “she’s gone.” Grey nods, promises to take Jamie’s request under advisement and then asks if they can begin their meal, announcing it to be pheasant in a wine sauce. It only takes one mouthful before we see the first unguarded smile for the season appear on Jamie’s face - he is relishing the meal. He mentions the name of the French wine sauce, catching Grey off guard. The Governor admits that he is not sure and his uncertainty is as endearing as it is indicative of the beginnings of a friendship. Grey is no longer determined to maintain the upper hand of the “man in charge”. The two men are beginning to interact with a measure of trust between them. 

Afterwards, Jamie is telling the other prisoners everything about the meal. He describes what was on the menu, while one of the men asks him to slow down, so that he can savour every morsel. Murtagh is leaning against Jamie, his eyes closed, coughing often. It is clear that he is becoming weaker. 

The next time the men are at work on the moors, we discover that Grey did indeed agree to allow the men to hunt. While two of his companions race off to check the snares accompanied by an officer, Jamie uses the distraction to break from the group. He dives out of sight and is hidden by clumps of heather that the other men place on top of him. This has obviously been planned amongst them and goes like clockwork. 

Jamie’s destination is revealed at the start of the next scene, when Grey and one of the other officers are looking at a small island. Patrols had seen Jamie swimming towards it, Grey is told, and he orders the search to continue. The other officer is sceptical - 3 days have passed and there has been no sign. But Grey is insistent - and annoyed! The men are to remain at their current post until nightfall, before returning to the moor. 

The following scene is a clever reversal of season 2, when a young William Grey attempted to capture Jamie whilst Jamie was relieving himself. This time it is Grey who is set upon by Jamie, who is much more successful than the teenage Grey had been. In one move, Grey is both silenced and disarmed, as Jamie tells him that is how it is done, giving Grey his full title of 2nd son of Viscount Melton and recounting the events at Corrieyairack several years earlier. 

Each man asks the other why he hasn’t spoken of it earlier. Jamie answers that he had been waiting for the proper time; Grey because of his shame at his own foolishness. Grey adds that this foolishness had resulted in the sparing of Jamie’s life at Culloden. Jamie agrees, confirming that Grey’s brother had been an honourable gentleman. When Grey says that the family debt incurred by him had been discharged, Jamie replies, “But not your promise.” The young Grey had vowed to kill Jamie once the debt was paid and to Grey’s great surprise, Jamie throws down the sword, kneels before Grey and bares his throat. But Grey is as honourable a man as his elder brother was before him. After a brief moment where he holds the sword to Jamie’s throat, he hisses, “I am not a murderer of unarmed prisoners.”  He sheaths the sword and stalks off, leaving an emotional Jamie to gather himself.

Moments later, Jamie explains why he had escaped from the group. Kerr’s revelations about the gold, which Jamie had relayed faithfully as requested, had also had personal meaning. He tells Grey about the connection between the Gaelic name of the white witch and his wife, correcting the Englishman when he says that Jamie’s wife is dead. “I said she was gone,” he replies. Jamie explains that he had needed to see if Claire had returned, but had found nothing on the island to do with her. “She is truly gone,” he says and a sympathetic look crosses Grey’s face. 

He asks Jamie about the gold and Jamie replies that King Louis had not sent gold to the Stuart cause, saying that he found only a box and one stone, which he hands to Grey, as proof, along with his word, that the story is true. He had taken the sapphire, he says, because he though it might be useful should he ever be freed. 

It is now 1966 in Boston and Brianna is graduating in front of a proud Frank and Claire. Frank calls out, “That’s my girl!” while Claire mouths, “I’m so proud of you!” when Brianna turns around. It is telling that each use “I” rather than “We.” The smiles are all for Brianna. Claire doesn’t look at Frank at all and he only glances briefly at her. Although still maintaining a semblance of unity for their daughter, it is purely for show.

The prison door is unlocked and a doctor is brought in. When Jamie queries what is happening, he is told that the Governor has ordered the doctor be brought to treat Jamie’s kinsman. The doctor moves over to Murtagh, who lies nearby, eyes closed. 

The treatment is obviously successful. In the next scene, Grey and Jamie are playing chess and Grey remarks at the improvement in Murtagh’s health over the past three months. The two men are relaxed in each other’s company now, Jamie even calling Grey a “cunning wee bastard” when he is beaten in the chess game. Grey is pleased to win; telling Jamie that his elder brother had taught him the move. At the mention of Lord Melton, Jamie opens up a little more, telling Grey of how he had wished to be shot after Culloden and how he wasn’t grateful at the time to have his life spared instead. Grey asks why Jamie felt he had reason to want to be shot, hastening to add that he asks not out of impertinence, but curiosity, as he had once felt similarly. The conversation that follows shows the extent to which the two men now trust each other. Grey speaks of a “particular friend” who had died at Culloden, one who had inspired him and who he had discovered dying on the battlefield, only to have Hal drag him away out of embarrassment at his younger brother’s depth of feeling. 

The implication is clear: Grey had been in love with his fellow soldier and the grief on his face is obvious.  He remarks that Hal had told him that he would come to terms with it in time, adding that while his brother is often right, he had not been on this occasion. “Some people,” says Grey, with a look over at Jamie, “you grieve over forever.” He asks Jamie if he finds life to be burdensome. Jamie answers that the greatest burden lies in caring for those he cannot help, not in having no one for whom to care. Grey smiles in understanding.  There is emptiness, Jamie continues, but no great burden. 

The conversation then turns to Claire, with Grey saying, “Your wife. She was a healer, you said?” Jamie smiles and agrees, before finally saying her name. “Claire. Her name was Claire.” This is a huge moment. It is the first time he has uttered her name since sending her back through the stones before Culloden and we see the relief and emotion on his face. 

Jamie then reveals to Grey the final piece of the puzzle that the Englishman had not deciphered: that the woman he had defended as a teenager at Carrieyairack was none other than Claire herself. Grey chuckles at his own immaturity, having been duped by Jamie all those years before. But Jamie praises Grey’s earlier courage, saying that he had been impressed by the young man’s willingness to risk his own life for a woman’s honour and that it was an action he had thought of in the time since he had lost Claire. They share a look of mutual admiration.

But then, the mood changes. After telling Jamie he is sorry for his loss, Grey puts his hand over Jamie’s and strokes it gently. The look he gives him now is no longer sympathetic, but charged with something more. Jamie freezes. In one moment, he has been catapulted back to his assault at Wentworth by Black Jack Randall and the look that he gives Grey as a result is chilling.  “Take your hand off me,” his whispers, “or I will kill you.” Shocked, Grey does just that and Jamie returns to the cells, leaving a shaken, tearful and remorseful Grey alone. This move seems to have undone the friendship that had been developing between the two men. The endgame has moved from the chess board to real life.

In Boston, Frank finally plays his own endgame. Brianna is now 18 and Frank announces his wish to take her with him to England. At first, Claire thinks this is for a holiday, but is shocked to discover that Frank means to move back to England for good. Again, she misunderstands, thinking that the invitation includes her and saying that she can’t leave the hospital or her patients. But Frank delivers the final blow: he wants a divorce and he wants Brianna, adding that although Brianna doesn’t yet know about the plan he thinks she’ll come. With a thinly veiled accusation that Claire has been a bad mother, he remarks that between med school and the hospital, she has barely been around, adding that there are wonderful universities in England, where he could probably influence Brianna’s acceptance for study. He tells Claire that he plans to marry his girlfriend, Sandy, as soon as he is free. Suddenly, Claire realises. He hadn’t wanted a divorce when Brianna was younger, as he would likely have not been given custody or access to her. Now that Brianna is 18 and can make her own decisions, he wants to start a new life. Claire is incensed. “You’ve been waiting for the clock to run out” she accuses. We see the utter exhaustion in Frank’s face as he tells her that he is done with it. But Claire responds with fury. She will give him a divorce on any grounds he wishes, except for adultery, which doesn’t exist, adding that if he tries to take Brianna away from her she will have a thing or two to say about his own adultery.  It is worth mentioning that Frank could argue that while Claire has not been physically unfaithful since her return, the same could not be said for her emotional fidelity.  But he doesn’t, saying only that the situation is not about the two of them anymore. Brianna is a grown woman with her own life, who can make her own decisions. Frank wants the chance to live the rest of his life with a wife who truly loves him, adding that Claire could never look at Brianna without seeing Jamie. 

It is then that he asks the final question: without that constant reminder, could she have ever forgotten Jamie? Her eyes full of tears, Claire whispers, “That amount of time doesn’t exist.” It is the last nail in the coffin of their marriage. Defeated, Frank collects his keys and leaves the house, as the phone starts to ring. Composing herself, Claire answers. It is the hospital and Dr Randall prepares to return for surgery.  

The men of Ardmuir Prison are lined up in rows, like somewhat bedraggled soldiers. Amidst scraps of shouted conversation like “Set sail at night fall”, Jamie is suddenly pulled out of line and away from Murtagh who is standing behind him. 

When he asks what is happening, Jamie is told that the prison is closing and that the prisoners are being removed to the colonies. But a manacle is being attached to Jamie’s wrist, which in turn is attached to a rope linked to Major Grey’s horse. Jamie demands to know where he is being taken, but no answer is given. As the snow falls, Jamie can only look back in despair as he is led away from Murtagh and the others. 

It is three more days before Jamie learns the reason for the separation. The other prisoners will serve out terms of 14 years before being given their freedom. But as a convicted traitor, Jamie has been imprisoned at the pleasure of the King, whose approval is required before his sentence can be commuted. That approval has not been forthcoming and since Grey cannot give Jamie his freedom, he intends to do the next best thing. Jamie is to go to an estate called Helwater, to be in the service of Lord Dunsany, with Grey to visit every quarter to check on his welfare. 

Grey also suggests that Jamie change his name, as his new employer was not remotely sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. Free of the manacles once more, Jamie asks why Grey is doing this for him, particularly when he didn’t allow Grey to act on his earlier affections. Grey expresses regret at his actions, commenting that both men had shared the loss of someone close. Jamie had given him his life years ago and now he is returning the favour, not in order to discharge the debt on his family’s name, but on his own. With a deep sigh, he says, “Now Mr Fraser. Let’s be on our way.” Jamie turns, looks down on what is to become his next prison and follows behind.

Claire is out of surgery and has just finished consoling a worried husband, when she sees Joe coming towards her. 

She knows that something is wrong by the look on her friend’s face, news that is confirmed when Joe utters the words, “It’s Frank. There’s been a car accident.” After the implication sinks in, she runs down the corridor until she reaches the room where Frank’s body lies. With genuine sorrow, she kisses Frank’s chest and strokes his cheek, before whispering, “If you’re still close enough to hear me, I did love you very much. You were my first love.” A single tear falls onto Frank’s face as she kisses him one last time and it is the final tragedy that this was not something she had told him in life. Yet with his death, the final debt has been repaid. Claire had promised Frank that as long as he drew breath on the Earth, she would not speak of Jamie, or search for information of what had happened to him. She is now free to do both. 

This was a powerful episode, cleverly written to highlight the effect and consequences of real or perceived debts upon people’s lives. Debts of honour saved the lives of both Jamie and Major John Grey and allowed them to form a relationship that, while not yet one of friendship, is certainly one of respect. How different would things have been had either they, nor Lord Melton, not been honourable men. The debt of a promise made on her return to the 20th century led to years of unhappiness for both Claire and Frank, even though the emptiness of this life led Claire to the medical career that would prove so important and also allowed Frank to forge a strong relationship with Brianna. As the episode ends, both Claire and Jamie are about to embark on new challenges - and whether these bring more debts to be paid remains to be seen.

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She is very proud to claim David Berry as a fellow countryman, as she thinks he is already doing a fabulous job as Lord John! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

“And somehow, life goes on” A recap of season 3 episode 2 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown

Yield, submit, succumb, crumble, sacrifice. All these are synonyms for the word “surrender” and all are on display in this aptly titled second episode of season 3. Each of the main characters must make a personal surrender at some point during the hour and as always, it is powerful stuff.

The episode opens with a wanted flyer being nailed to a door. This is the third time that viewers have seen a picture of Jamie as a wanted man: in episode 8 of season 1, he was the mysterious highlander in the 1940s, suspected of abducting Claire Randall; in season 2, Claire noticed his poster whilst in the company of the English soldiers prior to meeting Hugh Monroe. Now it is a wild version of Jamie with long hair and a beard, but this figure is known only as the “Dunbonnet.” It is a brief but effective reminder that Jamie has been hunted for many years, with the British in both centuries eager for his capture.

It is 1752 in Scotland now and Rabbie McNab, Jamie Murray and Fergus are stealing towards the Dovecote looking for a hidden pistol. This scene serves to show the false bravado of the now teenage Fergus. With the occasional Scottish “Aye” creeping into his French accent, he boasts to the other boys of his time before Culloden, regaling them with the story of how he once killed another man with a knife. Far from the traumatised, white-faced youngster we saw in season 2, this Fergus declares that he wishes he hadn’t been sent home, so that he could have fought at Culloden as well. While teenage boys are known for their exaggerated bragging in each other’s company, this scene is important foreshadowing of what is to come later in the episode, when Fergus’ over confidence leads to his ultimate sacrifice. 

The sound of redcoats in the courtyard results in the hasty re-hiding of the pistol and the boys rush back towards the house, just in time to see Ian Murray being dragged down the stone steps by an unnecessarily aggressive Corporal MacGregor. The officer in charge, one Captain Samuel Lewis, interrogates Ian and a heavily pregnant Jenny about the location of the “Dunbonnet”, hinting that he knows the notorious figure to be none other than Jamie and reminding them both of the severe penalties that come with knowingly concealing a fugitive. 

Despite their assurances that no sign of Jamie or any other Jacobite is to be found at Lallybroch and after refusing the offer of a substantial reward for information leading to the capture of “Red Jamie”, the officers leave with Ian in custody, but not before Fergus insults Corporal MacGregor for being a redcoat and betraying Scotland. 

As the redcoats and Ian leave, Jamie appears. But this is not a Jamie we have seen before. With long hair and beard hiding much of his face, this Jamie does not speak. Having hunted and killed a deer with his bow and arrow, Jamie brings the animal to Lallybroch for the family. As he enters the courtyard, the deer slung over his shoulder, his gaze falls on the woman facing away from him. In his mind it is Claire and he stares at her as she turns around. In reality, it is Jenny who speaks to him, shocked at his sudden appearance. Jamie’s gaze drops - Claire has gone. Defeated, he nods imperceptibly as Jenny gives him the news that the redcoats have again taken Ian away.

The conversation continues in the next scene while Jamie carves up the now skinned deer. Fergus tries to stir Jamie up with a plan to free Ian, while Jenny tries to joke that people will soon be singing ballads about the Dunbonnet. Neither approach works: Jamie is still mute and remote.

Jenny comments that she hasn’t been lying to the redcoats at all: so changed is his personality that Jamie Fraser hasn’t been at Lallybroch for a long time. Still Jamie will not look at her but merely hacks at the deer’s corpse as the scene ends, lost in his tortured thoughts. 

Back in Boston, Claire is also lost in her thoughts, but hers are more erotic. She pleasures herself in bed next to a sleeping Frank, who she imagines to be Jamie smiling back at her. 

The next morning, Claire reads the paper, as baby Brianna defies Dr Spock’s developmental milestones by turning over by herself at least a month early. Clad only in a towel after the boiler cuts out mid shower, Frank hears this news and we see a brief family scene, with Frank kissing Brianna and Claire laying a hand on Frank’s bare chest. It is the first gesture towards intimacy between the two that we have seen and we witness both Claire’s disquieted look and Frank’s hopeful one.

Jamie is gutting fish in his cave when the secret whistled signal announces the arrival of Fergus. Brandishing the pistol from the Dovecote, Fergus tells Jamie he wants to learn to shoot, so that he can be ready for the next rebellion. Jamie speaks at last: saying that there will be no rebellion and no fighting. This angers Fergus, who pushes Jamie and accuses him of being a coward. But Jamie will not rise to the bait. He hands the pistol back to Fergus, reminding the teenager that weapons are outlawed, and telling him to put it back and not touch it again. After a long look of disgust, Fergus leaves the cave. The scene further emphasises how removed Jamie is from the loved ones who remain in his life. He has surrendered to the loss of Claire and is merely going through the motions of living.

In the next scene, Jamie encounters Mary McNab taking clothes from the line. He walks slowly and uncertainly, refusing to meet her eye. His arrival is unexpected, she says, and Jamie mumbles that he has come to look at the ledgers, as Jenny had requested. Speaking is almost painful for him and we can clearly see the effect that his solitude has had on him. Once confident with man, woman or child alike, this Jamie is a shell of the man he once was.  A groan from inside the house indicates what is happening before Mary announces it - the baby has decided to come early. Jamie heads inside to wait, while Fergus, Rabbie and young Jamie work in the yard. As Jenny’s screams are heard by the boys, a raven appears on the roof. Superstition states that ravens are messengers of death, Rabbie says, predicting that the baby will die as a result. Immediately the boys head to the Dovecote, where Fergus loads the pistol the way he had seen Murtagh do with the Highland soldiers. Running back to the courtyard, Fergus takes aim and fires. For one who didn’t know how to shoot, his aim is good and the bird falls. Jamie stalks from the house and takes the pistol from him, admonishing Fergus for disobeying his orders. As Fergus stares him down defiantly, Mary McNab appears to announce the arrival of a healthy baby boy, gentling taking the pistol from Jamie’s hand. As Jamie returns to the house, it is Mary’s turn to admonish Rabbie, asking her son, in a far sharper tone than she uses with anyone else, what he was thinking and telling him not to cause any more trouble. None are aware that the shot has been heard by the nearby redcoats.

Inside Jenny’s room, Jamie is holding his baby nephew. Jenny announces that the baby is to be called Ian, named for the man who sired him and comments that Jamie has always looked good with a bairn in his arms. (The last time we saw this was in season 1 and it is confusing that there is no sign of the little girl who Claire helped Jenny to deliver. 

Maggie should now be around 8 years old, but she has not been mentioned and her non-appearance is never explained. In the book, Jenny and Ian have 5 living children and have also lost one by the time young Ian is born. While most of the Murray clan were born after Culloden and it is conceivable that they are not needed for the series, the absence of Maggie still seems strange.) Jenny tries to engage Jamie in conversation about love and marriage, suggesting that Mary McNab would be a good woman and “young enough for bairns”. She wants to see her brother happy, she says, and that his own lack of children is a tragedy. But Jamie is having none of this. Using her formal name of Janet, he shuts down any such talk, saying that he will never marry again. He takes young Ian from the room, suggesting that it is time the baby met his brother. But as he walks down the corridor, he hears the redcoats entering the house, demanding that the weapon be found. 

The fear in this scene is palpable. Downstairs, the boys are rendered mute at the sight of the redcoats charging up the stairs. Jamie hides desperately in an adjoining room, willing young Ian to be quiet. Meantime Jenny, with amazing composure given the fact that she has just given birth and knowing that her brother and son are hiding nearby, confronts the redcoats searching her room. Denying that there is any weapon in the house, she tries to convince Captain Lewis that his officers are mistaken. The redcoat notices the bloodied sheets on the floor and asks if Jenny has recently given birth. 

With appropriate emotion, in reality from fear rather than grief, Jenny lies and tells the men that her child was born dead and that the midwife has taken the body away to prepare it for burial. Next door, Jamie holds the very-much-alive baby in one hand, and his dirk in the other, as the shadow of Corporal MacGregor can be seen on the wall. Captain Lewis sends MacGregor in search of the midwife to verify Jenny’s claim, and just as she calls out desperately to stop them, Mary MacNab walks into the room, holding the pistol. She hands it to the officers, saying that it belonged to her late husband and that she had kept it to give her comfort. Quickly following Jenny’s lead that the baby is dead, Mary also claims to be the one who fired the shot, taking the blame for shooting the raven because of the highland superstition. MacGregor grabs her roughly, asking Captain Lewis if she is to be taken into custody. But the Captain refuses. They have the weapon, he says, and the officers leave, but not without a warning that if there are any further violations, there will be no mercy shown. Everyone begins to breathe a sigh of relief, but as Jamie moves, a creaking floorboard gives way. MacGregor hears it and is about to investigate, but is called away by Captain Lewis. The danger is over for now. Jamie returns the baby to Jenny, who tells him that the officers won’t rest until he is swinging from a rope. She asks him to go to the cemetery to dig a mock grave for the baby, in case they come back to look. Once again, Jamie doesn’t speak, but the look of pain on his face gives away his emotions.

Claire is watching Frank sleep. A decision made, she edges towards him and strokes his face. When he wakes, he asks what her the matter is. Her answer, “I miss my husband” is deliberately ambiguous, but Frank chooses to ignore this and they begin to make love. Claire has always been a sexual woman and she finally surrenders to this need. But her eyes are closed throughout their lovemaking and we are left in little doubt as to who she is imagining beneath her. 

Back at Lallybroch, Fergus is in the yard tending the goats when the redcoats return with Ian. Corporal MacGregor is at his obnoxious best, threatening that they will find “Red Jamie” and then return for Ian and his whole family. Ian doesn’t rise to the bait, but MacGregor sneers at Fergus as he leaves. It is enough to send Fergus off towards Jamie’s cave, and the redcoats watch him leaving from their hiding place in nearby bushes. But Fergus is aware that he is being followed and leads MacGregor and his companion in circles, until at last he confronts them, telling them that they are harrassing his family and to leave them alone. Hunting rabbits nearby, Jamie hears the confrontation getting more heated. Fergus is swearing at the soldiers now and making insulting gestures. Jamie mutters warnings under his breath, begging Fergus not to antagonise them, but it is to no avail. Fergus is enjoying himself, until a third redcoat arrives on horseback and, thrown off balance, he falls to the ground. 

As a horrified Jamie watches, the men hold Fergus down and Corporal MacGregor cuts off his hand, ignoring the pleas of his companions that Fergus is “just a lad”,  then insisting that they leave the boy, not caring if he dies or not. 

Within seconds of the soldiers’ departure, Jamie is by Fergus’ side. Taking off his belt, he uses it as a tourniquet, reassuring Fergus that he watched “Milady” do the same thing many times. It is the first time we see the decisive Jamie return, caring for Fergus as he scoops the boy up into the arms and heads for Lallybroch. 

It is night time and Jamie paces the floor downstairs. Jenny soon joins him, telling Jamie that his quick action saved Fergus’ life. But Jamie is distraught. He should have stopped the soldiers, he says. Jenny reminds him that had he done so, they would all be dead, but the weight of what has happened is the final straw for Jamie. He surrenders at last to the grief that he has been keeping out for so long and collapses, sobbing to the floor. Jenny holds his head and strokes his hair, and finally Jamie allows himself to be comforted. It is beautiful work by both Sam Heughan and Laura Donnelly. The bond between the two is as strong as ever and we see the strength that the Fraser siblings draw from each other. 

Shortly afterwards, Jamie comes to see Fergus, who apologises to him, saying that he had tried to lead the soldiers away from the cave. But Jamie responds that it is he who is sorry, telling Fergus that he has now been reminded that he has something to fight for. Despite the pain, Fergus sits up at this, a ghost of a smile on his face. “There you are, Milord,” he says. Jamie is coming back to them at last and the two share a look of understanding. Fergus reminds Jamie of the bargain they had made in Paris and what would happen should he lose a hand whilst in Jamie’s service. But Jamie hasn’t forgotten. He had promised to support Fergus for the rest of his life, and, handing Fergus a glass of whisky vows that Fergus can trust him to keep the bargain. “I have always trusted you, Milord,” Fergus responds, adding that he is lucky, having become a man of leisure in one stroke. The two smile at each other, their relationship mended. 

In Boston, Frank and Claire are hosting a dinner party for Millie and Jerry Nelson. Lighthearted small talk about desserts give way to innuendo and once the guests have gone, Claire takes the innuendo a step further. With a nod to the opening episode of season 1, where “Mrs Randall had forgotten her underwear”, Claire removes hers provocatively. It has the desired effect and the two begin to make love on the floor in front of the fire. But this time, Frank wants more. Claire’s eyes are tightly shut once again and he demands that she look at him. When Claire doesn’t, he stops, demanding to know why she won’t open her eyes. Claire tries to placate him, saying that it doesn’t mean anything and that she is enjoying it, but Frank is not convinced. Annoyed now, Claire sits up, bringing things to an immediate halt and saying that if Frank wasn’t in the mood he should have said. 

But Frank is determined to bring the problem out into the open. “Claire, when I’m with you, I’m with you,” he says. “But you’re with him.” Claire cannot disagree. Both have surrendered to the truth: the ghost of Jamie is ever present.

By another fire, in another century, Ian and Jamie are having a heart-to-heart. Ian talks of his missing leg and how it still pains him, sometimes waking him in the middle of the night. He remarks that Fergus will no doubt feel the same, feeling a pain in a part of him that is lost. But then Ian gets to the truth of what he wants to say. “That’s just a hand,” he says. “Claire was your heart.” The two share a long look, Ian raising his glass of whisky to his brother-in-law. It is a lovely moment of understanding between them. Wandering the halls shortly afterwards, Jamie notices a deep gash in the family crest that hangs on the wall. He asks Mary McNab, who is passing by with a blanket for Fergus, who is responsible. Mary tells him that the soldiers did it when they were searching the house. At last Jamie voices what they have all known for some time: the redcoats are not going to stop until they have found the Dunbonnet. It is time for another surrender.

In the next scene, an incredulous Jenny is resisting Jamie’s plan. He wishes her to turn him in, so that she will get the reward money. The soldiers will leave the family alone then, believing them loyal to the crown. “To hell with the Crown,” Jenny retorts. But Jamie will not be deterred. He tells Jenny that she is to contact Captain Lewis, and tell him that she has heard from her brother. When Jamie arrives for a visit, the soldiers will be there to arrest him. Jenny tries to dissuade him, saying that he will be hanged. But the determined Jamie of old will not let them risk their lives for him any longer. Ian tries for a moment of comfort, saying that British are no longer executing Jacobites and that Jamie will probably only be imprisoned. But Jenny is not convinced, remarking to Jamie that he must surely have seen the inside of enough prisons in his lifetime. Jamie’s reply is heartfelt and poignant. “Little difference to the prison I live in now,” he says. We are left in no doubt that Ian was right - Claire was indeed Jamie’s heart and without her, life has lost its joy. 

With Jenny unable to persuade Jamie to change his mind, plans for his capture begin. Mary McNab arrives at the cave, bringing Jamie a final feast from Jenny. She asks Jamie if he minds the company and he replies that it will be welcome. She enters the cave and here begins one of the most beautiful scenes in the episode.  

As Mary removes six years of beard and hair growth, Jamie praises her act of turning over the pistol to the redcoats, telling her that she was brave to do so. “It was the only thing I could do,” she replies. Next, he thanks her for the barbering and after telling her that he will leave the cave the next day, goes to wash up by the river. 

When he returns, he finds Mary dressed only in her shift. Immediately suspicious, he asks whose idea it was, Mary’s or Jenny’s. Mary asks if it matters. Jamie answers that no, it doesn’t matter, as nothing is going to happen. If Mary won’t leave the cave, he says, then he will. But Mary stops him, with a hand on his back. She tells Jamie that no one had told her to do what she is doing now. She knows what it was like between Jamie and Claire and she doesn’t want him to think that he is betraying that. She reaches gently for his hand and Jamie begins to turn, warily, towards her. Mary wants to share something different, she says, possibly something less, but something they both need. Jamie looks at her now, as Mary speaks of them both needing something to keep them whole, as they each move forward in their lives. She touches his cheek and this time, Jamie doesn’t pull away. Instead, he moves towards her, but he is uncertain. He hasn’t done this in a very long time, he tells her. “Neither have I,” she replies, letting her shift fall from her shoulders. They kiss briefly, his eyes closed. Mary tells Jamie that he can look at her if he wishes. With tears welling up, Jamie says that she is a bonny lass, but it is something that he always does. Finally, he allows the tears to fall and he surrenders to his own needs. It is a truly beautiful scene, full of tenderness, vulnerability, sorrow and release. There aren’t really enough accolades for Sam Heughan and Emma Campbell-Jones here. The whole scene is pure perfection. 

Claire’s voiceover is back! As Claire pushes a slightly older (and gorgeous!) Brianna in the pram, we hear her thoughts. Although she has thrown herself into her role as a mother, she needs something more. Once, she says, she had loved a man, borne a child, healed the sick and been part of something greater than herself. It is a lifestyle that she wants again and the small knife from the kitchen morphs into a surgical scalpel. As a new scene begins, Claire Randall, medical student, introduces herself to Dr Simms, the first year anatomy professor. But her enthusiasm is soon halted by Dr Simms’ condescending tone. He has been told there is both a woman and a negro in the year’s intake, sarcastically musing as to how modern the university has become. Soon other students begin to enter the lecture theatre, looking suspiciously at Claire. She moves to take her seat, but her first attempt is blocked by a young man who childishly refuses to let her pass. 

Undeterred she moves to another row, ignoring the whispers and hostile glances from the others. At last another man enters, who momentarily takes the focus off Claire. Soon enough, the aforementioned “negro” sits next to Claire, introducing himself as Joe Abernathy. The two shake hands and smile. An alliance is formed, one which book readers will be looking forward to immensely. With a final deliberate insult to Claire, Dr Simms invites the “gentlemen” to begin the lesson. 

Preparing for bed, Claire and Frank briefly discuss Brianna’s lost bunny rabbit before bidding each other good night with a friendly smile. Claire turns out her bedside lamp and we watch Frank watch her, his smile fading. The camera pans back and we see two single beds. Frank too has surrendered to the inevitable. The “new beginning” that they had hopefully spoken of at Brianna’s birth has ended. There is to be no great rekindling of the romance between them and they will now be parents, not lovers. 

But the final surrender of the episode is twofold, occurring back at Lallybroch. Jenny is scattering seed to the chickens when Jamie suddenly “appears” in the courtyard, announcing that he has come home. He walks towards her, smiling, arms outstretched, playing the part of the prodigal son to the letter. Jenny is not smiling, the tears falling as the soldiers appear to arrest him for high treason. Jamie keeps up the pretence, playacting at being outraged that his sister would betray him. Jenny’s voice breaks as she plays her part, telling Jamie that it is his own fault and that he has brought it on himself. Captain Lewis presents her with the reward money, congratulating her on her service to the crown. Responding to Jamie’s cries of “blood money”, Jenny calls after him, “You gave me no choice, brother. And I’ll never forgive you.” It is true, of course. 

Jamie has surrendered to the English, to save his family from persecution, while Jenny has surrendered to Jamie’s wishes, although it has broken her heart to do so. They share one last look, before the soldiers wrestle Jamie into the back of the wagon and Jenny runs inside. The forgotten “dunbonnet” lies in the mud in the courtyard, as a now manacled Jamie begins the journey to his next prison. He looks outside, as bagpipe music seems to play in the distance.

The music is not from the eighteenth century, but the twentieth. Claire is walking over a bridge, when she sees a lone piper. He is playing, aptly, Scotland the Brave. Overcome, she pauses. The longing is clear on her face, as she reaches into her purse and makes a donation, before continuing her own journey.

This episode covered so much ground and was beautifully written, acted and directed. We are left under no illusion as to the personal surrenders that each of the main characters have made and it remains to be seen what will happen to them as a result.

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She hesitates to say that she has seen the name “McGregor” on her own family tree, but hopes that the spelling of Mc rather than Mac renders those ancestors Irish, rather than Scottish, as she wants no connection to the horrible Corporal MacGregor whatsoever!!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Josh Horowitz brings Jamie to the future for couples therapy!


“Life's Rich Tapestry - survival, loss, hope, despair.” A recap of season 3 episode 1 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals By Susie Brown

We really shouldn’t complain. After all, as season 3 begins, Jamie and Claire are about to endure 20 years of separation, whereas Droughtlander has lasted a mere 427 (or perhaps 428, depending on your location in the world) days by comparison. Yet fans felt every single one of those days since Jamie sent Claire back through the stones and thus expectations were high when the familiar theme music heralded the official beginning of a new season.  Would the first episode live up to them? 

As the rich vocals and stirring vocals of the opening credits die away, a tattered St Andrew’s Cross flutters in the breeze. Viewers had been promised the Battle of Culloden and the episode begins with its brutal aftermath. There is no gentle ‘easing in period’ to the first episode of season 3. Bodies are piled high, the decimated Highland army lie dead or dying on the unforgiving soil. English soldiers move amongst them, collecting up swords and slaughtering any man who still breathes. Suddenly the camera pans in on two familiar bodies - one Highlander and one English soldier. Jamie Fraser’s eyes flutter open and he takes a ragged breath.

The camera takes on a blurred dreamlike quality that matches Jamie’s unfocused gaze, as he slips in and out of consciousness. The narrative alternates rapidly between the reality of a seriously wounded Jamie, who watches as a kinsman is slaughtered by a nearby redcoat and his fragmented, delirious recollections of parts of the battle. In brief glimpses, viewers see the overconfident Bonnie Prince before the battle begins, as well as the desperate charge of the Jacobites towards their enemy. 

Night falls and snow drops gently onto Jamie’s face. He licks a fragment of a snowflake and swallows painfully, as the redcoats continue their examination of the bodies. Jamie’s visions continue. This time, he is reliving the moments immediately after Claire’s departure, his grief raw as he touches the cold stone and picks up her shawl. Then he returns to the battlefield to find chaos all around him. Charles Stuart is panicked and indecisive, his generals at odds with each other as to the best course of action. As he did so often in season 2, Jamie tries to advise the Bonnie Prince, who once again ignores him. Jamie’s disgust is obvious as he turns away, while the camera closes in on a fearful Charles’ face. 

With or without an official call to charge, the battle begins and is brutal in its intensity. Jamie is locked in a struggle with a redcoat, finally succeeding in defeating the British soldier as his godfather appears miraculously at his side. It is perhaps the one brief lighthearted moment of the exchange. Murtagh grins at Jamie, who immediately asks whether Murtagh has been off ‘enjoying a wee whisky’. 

Murtagh answers by knifing another redcoat coming towards them, and telling Jamie that the Lallybroch men have gotten safely away. Helping each other to their feet, the two men leap back into the fray, as the Highlanders charge towards the British. It is certain slaughter, yet Jamie charges forward, as the men around him are felled by either bullets or bayonets. Then the action slows, the lighting changes and somehow Jamie seems to stand apart from the other men as the familiar face of Jack Randall comes into view. Jamie almost smiles. The longed for confrontation with his ultimate foe is finally here. The two men make eye contact before lunging towards each other.

This is a brief and horrific moment of reckoning. Jack’s sword slices Jamie’s leg; Jamie’s dirk finds Jack’s belly. As the haunting music underscores their battle, both wounded men swing their weapons past the point of exhaustion. Both are grievously wounded, until in a final macabre dance, Jack staggers towards Jamie.

He collapses on his shoulder and both men fall. It perhaps the last irony that in his death, it is the weight of Randall’s body that keeps Jamie alive, acting as a human tourniquet for the wound he has inflicted. From season 1, every touch by Jack has caused pain to Jamie’s body and soul. This final touch inflicts an additional pain, as it denies Jamie the death that he had expected. In Wentworth Prison, Jamie had said that Randall owed him a death. It appears he still does. 

In the eerie silence of the night, Jamie still lies on the field. He sees a rabbit, hopping amongst the bodies. But then his gaze focuses on an approaching figure. It is Claire, clad in white, an angel of mercy amongst the dead. She reaches Jamie and caresses his cheek. “Are you alive?” she asks. It would be a perfect moment of death and one that Jamie clearly wants. But the figure of Claire morphs into that of Rupert Mackenzie, who has found his kinsman on the battlefield. Declaring that he will not leave Jamie to be slaughtered in the mud, he asks if Jamie can stand. Randall’s body is pushed away and the blood flow begins once more. As Rupert and another highlander drag Jamie away, it looks for all the world as if his death is imminent. Indeed, he asks Rupert to leave him be. But Rupert is in charge now, and viewers are relieved to see one whole and seemingly uninjured man from the Mackenzie clan, still capable of making a joke about whisky and Jamie’s inability to drink him under the table. Jamie’s fingers drop Claire’s dragonfly talisman, which is left on the battlefield as the surviving men attempt to find shelter and escape. At this point, the timeline shifts and we are in Boston in 1948. 

Claire and Frank are walking around their new home. With echoes of the very first episode of season 1, they are uncertain and nervous around each other, attempting light hearted conversation as they discuss the location of Frank’s study and Claire’s position as “lady of the house.” The mention of Claire “rustling up” dishes in their new kitchen indicates already the role she is expected to play - that of domestic housewife. It is not a role that Claire is either used to or comfortable with, and this is a theme visited many times throughout the rest of the Boston part of the episode’s storyline. 

We soon see Claire do battle unsuccessfully with the stove, until the fireplace in the living room gives her an idea. With an affectionate look at the hearth, she hits on a solution and we next see her arriving home in the car with a load of firewood. A new neighbour, Millie Nelson, immediately displays good old fashioned Boston hospitality and helps Claire inside with the wood, marvelling at Claire’s ability to cook over the open flame. A word of warning is inserted into proceedings, as Millie embarks on a discussion of men and their expectations of their wives. She remarks that Claire is lucky to have such a progressive, open minded husband. When Millie says, “You’re lucky. You won’t find another man like Frank again”, we see Claire close her eyes briefly in pain. We know, although Millie does not, it is not Frank she is thinking of, but Jamie. 

Back in the 18th century, Rupert is giving Jamie a drink. The survivors of the battle are huddled together in a cottage somewhere, most gravely wounded. Rupert and another man, Gordon Killick, discuss the possibility of making a run for it, an option that is quickly dismissed. Jamie listens as the two men outline the hopelessness of their situation and realises that the Lallybroch men may not be safe after all. The healthy English soldiers would have no trouble hunting down the bedraggled escapees from the battlefield. He stares into the distance. There is nothing he can do.

Perspective shifts again and an obviously pregnant Claire is staring into the mirror. She is preparing to “look pretty to meet the boss”, a task that she is obviously not relishing. The following scene shows exactly why. Frank’s new boss is a misogynist of the highest order, taking exception to Claire’s opinions on American politics and admonishing Frank for allowing his wife to read the Globe. His opinion on women at university or at work are scathing, dismissing both female physicians in general and Claire’s combat nursing during the war in particular, with a condescending remark about how relieved Claire must have been to return to more important and fitting domestic concerns. Somehow, Claire manages to control her temper, biting her tongue as she grips Frank’s hand and declares her happiness at her impending maternal bliss. The look on her face shows her true feelings, but of course, this is not noticed by the patriarchal group around her. It is increasingly obvious that Claire is not fitting into her new life at all. 

As Jamie grows progressively weaker, he asks about Murtagh, who hasn’t been seen since his brief appearance by Jamie’s side. Rupert asks the other men, but no one knows of Murtagh’s fate, having lost sight of him during the fighting. The comment is made that they hope that Murtagh is already dead, when suddenly the doors open and two English officers enter the cottage. The leader introduces himself as Lord Melton and Rupert responds with his own introduction as Rupert Mackenzie of Leoch. It is odd to see someone other than Jamie in charge. While leadership suits Rupert (and it is a transformation that Grant O’Rourke portrays beautifully) it also highlights the desperate nature of Jamie’s condition. Without preamble, Melton informs Rupert that the men who engaged in the recent treasonous rebellion are to be executed and asks if anyone wishes to declare their innocence. With a smirk befitting the hopelessness of their cause, Rupert speaks for the group, declaring them to be “traitors all”, and asking if they will be hanged. 

Melton replies that they will be shot like soldiers, the implication being that this is somehow the most noble death that the men could expect. Resigned, Rupert nods and thanks Melton, whilst the younger members of the party look at each other in horror. Melton gives the men an hour, offering them writing materials to compose a letter. It is a formal show of English honour and highlights that Melton is a man of duty, a fact that is soon to become very important. 

Time shifts again and back in Boston, Claire is making breakfast. She has mastered the stove now and is going through the motions of a domestic morning, when she is distracted by the bird outside the window. The music underscores her thoughts as we see first her fixation with the small creature, and then her desolation as it flies away, free, while she herself is trapped. She and Frank make a pretence of the happy family meal, beginning by commenting on the abomination of tea bags and the abundance of post war bacon. But the mood is shortlived. Claire announces her intention to apply for citizenship, due to her inability to identify with being English and her wish for their child to have a real home. The mention of their child is an important emotional moment for Frank, but it quickly dissipates when Claire flinches as he tries to touch her pregnant belly. The tension escalates quickly.

Franks lists the importance of their British heritage, but the mention of the Stuarts hits a nerve with Claire. She repeats that citizenship is something she wants to do, but Frank dismisses the idea as unnecessary, given that his employment gives them both indefinite residency. Claire says that it isn’t what the situation is about. Frank acknowledges this, attempting once more to touch her. Again, Claire pulls away and the anger mounts. Frank accuses Claire of using the pregnancy to keep him at a distance.  Frank asks Claire when she will come back from the past; she accuses him of having made her leave behind anything that ever mattered to her. Each inflicts their pain on the other, the accusations becoming more and more bitter, culminating in Claire throwing an ashtray at Frank. After a long stare, Frank puts on his jacket and delivers a final ultimatum. He did not force Claire to come to Boston, he says, nor will he force her to stay. There is a moment just before he leaves the house that parallels a similar breaking point in Jamie and Claire’s relationship in Paris, with each character standing at opposite ends of the same room. Emotionally exhausted, Frank leaves, leaving a distraught Claire to break down in sobs. Kudos must go to Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies here, for portraying the desolate nature of Claire and Frank’s already crumbling relationship so beautifully. 

It is kudos that is swiftly followed by more praise for Grant O’Rourke in his final scenes as Rupert Thomas Alexander Mackenzie. After entreating Melton for mercy for the youngest boys in the company and failing, Rupert tries to give them strength and comfort as they march outside to their deaths. This is followed by a determined farewell to the only other healthy man in the group, Gordon Killock, who after taking leave of an increasingly weakened Jamie, volunteers to be the next man to meet his own death. 

Left alone, Rupert and Jamie share a beautifully touching final scene. It is a masterclass in acting by Sam Heughan and Grant O’Rourke and one that leaves viewers (well, this one, at least!) an emotional wreck. Rupert reminisces about Angus, his voice breaking slightly as he expresses joy over seeing his friend again. Jamie, his speech markedly slurred, adds that it will good to see the two of them together. Gripping Jamie’s hand, Rupert says that while he can’t forgive Jamie for Dougal’s death, he won’t go to his grave hating Jamie for it either. Instead, he says, he will trust in God’s mercy when they are both judged. Bidding Jamie farewell, the two look sadly at each other one last time, before Rupert becomes the next volunteer. With one final quip to his English executioners, “I mean to set a quick pace, so try to keep up”, he walks outside. The single gunshot that follows takes its toll on Jamie. Lip trembling, eyes full of tears, he murmurs a Gaelic farewell to his friend.

It is 3:30am in Boston and Frank is trying to sleep on the couch. Kept awake by the noises of the house, he goes to his desk and begins a letter to Reverend Wakefield, asking for assistance in gathering research on one James Fraser. His letter is interrupted though, by Claire’s appearance. Her waters have broken and it is time to go to the hospital. 

Meanwhile, the last of the Jacobites, those unable to walk on their own, are to be executed. Melton gives orders for the men to be propped up before they are shot, as no man, traitor or not, is going to be executed lying down on his watch. It is another example of Melton’s sense of honour. Jamie volunteers to be the next man shot, but the announcement of his full name brings Melton to a halt. 

Book readers already know why, but the reason is then made apparent for tv viewers: Melton is the elder brother of John William Grey, the young boy who had attempted to kill Jamie before the battle and whose life Jamie had spared, albeit with a broken arm into the bargain. This action had incurred a debt of honour upon the Grey family, meaning that Melton cannot in all conscience execute Jamie. Melton’s dedication to his honour is outlined one final time as he rejects, with a withering glance,  his deputy’s suggestion that they shoot Jamie under an alias. 

All the while, Jamie is desperate to be shot. He doesn’t wish to be reprieved, he wishes to die. But Melton will not comply. Instead, Jamie is to be taken, under cover of darkness, away from the cottage. Melton muses that Jamie will likely not survive the journey, but that the death will not be on his, or his family’s head. As a result, Jamie endures a jolting journey in the back of a wagon, groaning in pain.

Claire too, is groaning in labour. The doctor, who has taken his time, finally appears, condescendingly ignoring Claire as he asks Frank about his wife’s contractions. But Claire answers, overriding Frank’s answer as to whether this is her first pregnancy. A shocked Frank mutters “of course” when Claire reveals that she had had a miscarriage about a year before. (This would seem to be a continuity error, as Faith was stillborn in 1744 and the battle of Culloden was in 1746. Claire was in the earlier stages of this pregnancy on her return from the stones and has now reached full term. Even given the vagaries of time travel, this seems to indicate more than a year, but it is a minor point.) In the book, this childbirth is revealed as being difficult and possibly life threatening to Claire had she remained in the 18th century. Here, the only indication of this is the doctor’s mention of higher risk factors for mother and child following a miscarriage. Their previous estrangement paused by the impending birth, Frank declares his love for Claire as she is taken away. Claire is soon at the mercy of another misogynist in the form of the doctor, who dismisses her wishes for the birth with an injection of anaesthetic against her will. 

As Claire loses consciousness with a murmured “You bastard”, a barely conscious Jamie is being roused by Jenny and Ian. Jenny tells her brother that he has come home and Jamie breathes the word, “Lallybroch” with a smile. He looks delirious, but seems pleased to be dying at home, with loved ones. 

Claire awakens, in a direct parallel to her waking at L’Hopital des Anges after the stillbirth of Faith. Running her hand over her belly, she starts to call, “Where’s my baby?” becoming increasingly agitated and asking the nurse if her baby has died. But Frank enters, holding a little girl in his arms, and together they marvel at her beauty. Overcome by the emotion of having a healthy child, Claire turns to Frank for the first time, accepting his kiss and apologising for being so horrid to him. 

Frank is immediately forgiving, telling her to forget all of what has happened and that what they have now is all that truly matters.  Tearfully, they make a pact: Frank promising that everything will be all right and Claire agreeing that this can be a new beginning for all of them. After all the death and horror of the episode, it is a relieving happy moment. (Shortlived, of course!) As the nurse bustles back in, she compliments the couple on their beautiful little angel (another parallel to season 2), before asking, “Where'd she get the red hair?” The spell is broken, the smiles disappear and the episode ends, with the viewers left in no doubt that far from a new beginning, more tension is ahead.

This was a spectacular start to a new season that already promises much heartache and emotion. Kudos must go to all the main players in the episode. Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies give beautiful portrayals of Claire and Frank, trying to negotiate their marriage after all that has happened and already starting to sink under the weight of both societal and personal expectations. Sam Heughan, who spent most of the episode gasping, delirious and weak, left us in no doubt as to the utter desolation Jamie is feeling. And as for Grant O’Rourke, his time as Rupert came to an end with heart wrenching perfection. 

The stage is set. It’s going to be one hell of a voyage, that’s for sure. 

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. Her tweet immediately following the episode was: “Brutal, confronting, heartbreaking, desolate, hopeful, emotionally charged brilliance. So much kudos to everyone involved. I need a whisky!” She stands by her reaction!