Tuesday, October 3, 2017

“Better to have loved and lost?” A recap of season 3 episode 4 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown

At this point, you’d be forgiven for wondering just what else Jamie Fraser has to lose. After all, in season 3 alone, he’s already lost a battle, his men, his identity, his family and his freedom; to say nothing of the loss of the love of his life, the two daughters that he never saw and almost the loss of his mind after the horrors of Wentworth in previous seasons. Yet in episode 4, he is set to lose even more. Other characters too, do not escape unscathed. Geneva is facing the loss of her virginity; her family, the loss of their daughter and sister; Lord John, the loss of a friend; young Willie, the loss of his beloved “Mac”; while back in the 20th century, Claire is facing the loss of hope; Brianna and Roger, the loss of each other. It really is a cavalcade of despair. Many fans have commented already on the toll the episode took on them and the many tears that they shed, and so much praise must be given to the writer, Toni Graphia, the director, Brendan Maher and the actors, led by Sam Heughan, who just grows better and better with each scene. 

The episode opens in 1968, with the search for Jamie well underway. Roger stands in front of a huge timeline, explaining the simultaneous passage of time in the two separate centuries and the need to prove that Jamie lived 20 years past Culloden. Whilst he and Brianna discuss these details, (interrupted briefly by Fiona who rather endearingly encourages Roger to eat more), Claire has been gazing intently through papers. She reminisces with Fiona over Mrs Graham, and the special friendship that Claire had enjoyed with Fiona’s grandmother. 

Fiona contributes to the conversation at hand by suggesting that if Jamie had also been the legendary Dunbonnet then he would have been a notorious and well known figure. The search resumes, with Claire finally discovering what they have been hoping for: a mention of Jamie in prison records. Roger quickly checks the Ardsmuir lists for 1753-1756, finding Jamie on each list until the prison closed. Although he doesn’t know what happened to the prisoners at that point, Brianna agrees with him when he suggests that this is cause for celebration and that it’s “never too early for a whisky.” As the two of them leave in search of it, Claire is left alone in the study, and we watch a range of emotions cross her expression in a matter of seconds.

Meanwhile, in 1756, a stately procession is taking place. With a sweeping shot of carriages and a country estate reminiscent of Downton Abbey, the scene changes to Helwater, where the Dunsanys are arriving home. (The Downton similarities don’t end there; with the two daughters behaving very much like the haughty Mary and friendlier Edith Crawley; Lady Dunsany is, like Cora, the seemingly amenable mother who is fiercely protective of her family, and the head of the house, Lord Dunsany, is much like Lord Grantham, to whom duty is important.) It is an interesting similarity and one that even the producers of the episode comment on in the “about the episode” featurette. Lord Dunsany instructs the butler (not Downton’s Carson, but yet another good imitation!) to have the new man - Jamie - brought to see him. 

Having followed Lord John’s advice, Jamie introduces himself to Lord Dunsany as Alexander Mackenzie. The conversation between the two men is important as it not only establishes Jamie’s position at the estate - he is a prisoner, but will be called a groom and paid as such, with his involvement in Culloden deliberately kept from Lady Dunsany due to her grief over the loss of her son in the same battle - but it also sets up a grudging respect for Jamie by Lord Dunsany. 

In addition to being impressed at the recommendations provided by Lord John, Jamie’s new employer admires men who fight for their cause. He also sympathises with Jamie over the loss of children, a cross which both men have had to bear. It is one of Jamie’s losses that he has openly shared, and while the move could be seen as a calculated one, it is more likely that it is indicative of Jamie starting to find a place for his grief and move on with his life. 

In the 20th century, Jamie’s ‘lost’ living daughter is simultaneously flirting with Roger and outshining him in car maintenance, by finding the loose distributor cap that had resulted in the car breaking down. When Roger jokes “What do I owe you?” Brianna replies with, “I’ll think of something.” It is a small scene, but an important set up for later events, as we can see the two becoming closer. 

Jamie is called outside by one of the other grooms, in order to draw straws. He soon discovers that the man with the shortest straw has the unfortunate task of accompanying Geneva Dunsany on her ride. Jamie is not chosen, but is not fast enough in bringing Lady Geneva’s palfry, earning him her irritated insult of being a “useless Scotchman”. As Geneva and the unlucky escort depart, Jamie and another groom share a joke, with Jamie suggesting that a boot in the hindquarters is what is needed. It is a comment overheard by Geneva’s sister, Isobel, but fortunately for Jamie, Isobel is a much friendlier soul, remarking over Jamie’s stammered apologies that she knows exactly what he meant, but that it would not likely do any good. The following conversation between the two is both poignant and symbolic. Isobel tells Jamie that she comes down to the stables to admire the horses, expressing regret that her father confines such splendid creatures. When Jamie remarks on the fine nature of Helwater’s stables, Lady Isobel replies with “A cage is still a cage.” This is magnificent writing, as Jamie is not unlike the horses that he now cares for: while he has swapped the horrors of battle and the chains of Ardsmuir for a paid position on the estate, he is still a prisoner and ultimately caged. Isobel’s meaningful glance suggests that she is aware of this too. She then confides to Jamie her affection for Lord John. Jamie tries to dissuade her without disclosing John’s secret, declaring Major Grey’s passion to be for the military, but Isobel replies that John’s dedication to King and country is one of the qualities that she most admires. 

The phone rings at the Wakefield Residence, with the caller asking for Claire. It is none other than Dr Joe Abernathy, from whom Claire is delighted to hear. 

After some small talk over Italian food, Joe asks two questions: when Claire will be returning and why she is not insisting on performing surgery on a patient that they both know well. Claire evades both questions: she will return “soon” and expresses her confidence in Joe’s ability to handle the operation, asking only that he let her know how it goes. Claire here is lost too: the search for Jamie is colouring everything, to the point where she is abandoning the profession that she loves. 

It is now 1757 at Helwater and the Dunsanys are congratulating themselves on the betrothal of Geneva to the much older Earl of Ellesmere, as it will bring good fortune to both families. Geneva’s beauty and character flaws are discussed in her presence without a second thought: she too, is living in a beautiful cage. Jamie is cleaning the hooves of Ellesmere’s horse and the older man comments on Jamie’s hair, saying that if a child of his were to have hair that colour, he would drown it. He smirks at his own supposed wit and is gone, after bidding an unimpressed Geneva goodbye. As the coach draws away, Geneva’s gaze falls on Jamie. The next straw drawing by the grooms proves to be unnecessary, as Geneva demands that Jamie accompany her on her ride. 

Once out on the estate, Geneva wastes no time in talking about her situation, asking Jamie what he thinks of her future husband. Jamie refuses to give an opinion, but when Geneva forces the issue, he says that the Earl appears fond of her. Commenting that the Earl’s only attractive quality is wealth, Geneva asks Jamie what he finds attractive. Jamie deflects the question, saying that he doesn’t think of such things. It is an answer that Geneva doesn’t believe, calling him a liar. When Jamie suggests they turn back before it is dark, she refuses and gallops ahead, reminding him that he has to do her bidding. 

A moment later there is a scream and when Jamie follows, he finds a seemingly unconscious Geneva lying on the ground. He picks her up, at which point she revives, giggling wickedly and saying that she knew he would do as he’d been told. Furious, Jamie dumps her into the mud. It is a risky move: he is still a prisoner and to deliberately drop the Lady Geneva could be cause for punishment should she wish to cause a fuss. But Geneva has other ideas. As Jamie rides back to the estate, she laughs, calling after him that she looks forward to their next ride.

Over a board in the gardens, John and Jamie are playing chess. John remarks that the Dunsanys are pleased with Jamie’s work and Jamie comments that even after all these months John is still returning to check on his welfare. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of John’s elder brother, Hal, accompanied by the Dunsany sisters. This is potential danger for Jamie, as Hal knows his true identity. Geneva asks the Colonel if he remembers Mackenzie. 

Hal does not correct her, stating only that it has been some years since they last met. Isobel comments on the fact that John had recommended Mackenzie for the groom’s position. A look passes between the two brothers at this revelation; closely followed by one between Geneva and Jamie, when Geneva remarks that it would be better if Jamie was as good with people as he is with horses. The rest of the conversation has a duel meaning. Isobel asks Hal how the family could be managing without Alex, assuming that Jamie was in Colonel Melton’s employ. Hal replies that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t have let Jamie go, but he is not his brother. This of course eludes to Culloden’s aftermath, and both Jamie and John look disquieted. Geneva notices this and suggests to Melton that they go and catch up over a game of cribbage. The implication is strong that she means to find out more. 

It doesn’t take long. In their next conversation, which takes place next to the manure pile, Geneva reminds Jamie that she could have reported him to her father for dropping her in the mud. Commenting on her upcoming marriage and the vileness of an agreement that marries her to a man old enough to be her grandfather, Geneva asks Jamie if he has ever been married. When he answers that he has, she announces a new plan: Jamie will be the one to take her maidenhead. Jamie refuses, but she plays her trump card: Colonel Melton had revealed, after a number of ports, Jamie’s true identity. 

Threatened with the revoking of his parole when Lady Dunsany finds out, Jamie still refuses, saying he will not return to prison. But then Geneva delivers the final blow, asking if Jamie will return to Lallybroch and musing as to whether soldiers would be posted there, looking for Red Jamie. At this point, Jamie is trapped. He will not risk danger to his family again and agrees to her demand that he will come to her room that night.

Jamie does as he has been ordered, entering Geneva’s room under cover of darkness, to find her sitting on the bed in a white lace nightdress, her hair unbound. She calls him Jamie, which he forbids, telling her that since she has brought him there by threats against his family, she is not to call him by the same name they do. He tells her she may call him Alex, as it is his name as well. She replies by ordering him to disrobe. After sneaking small looks as he begins to do so, Jamie gives her permission to watch him undress. It is at that point that we see her haughty demeanour begin to slip. She gasps at the sight of the scars on his back and when faced with a naked Jamie before her, expresses vulnerability and fear, whispering that she doesn’t know what to do. Jamie tells her that she can still change her mind, but she replies that she wants to do this for herself, wanting her first time to be with someone like Jamie. He seems to react to this: no doubt remembering his own first time with Claire. There are parallels with the wedding night throughout the scene: Claire too had demanded that Jamie take off his shirt, as she wanted to look at him. When Geneva asks Jamie to show her how it’s done and asking if it will hurt much, he answers that it will all right as long as he takes his time.

The following sex scene between the two characters has caused as much of a stir online as the same scene did in the novel. While the contentious moment in the book (where Geneva changes her mind at the last minute and Jamie does not stop) has been removed from the television version, fans are still divided as to the morals in this scene. Some fans have criticised the action for being too sexy, that Jamie looks too much like he is enjoying it; others argue that it is merely an act that Jamie has been forced to perform by blackmail, but even so, he takes care to ensure that she isn’t hurt in the process. The dialogue after, when he asks if he did in fact hurt her seems to support the latter argument, as well as being another parallel to the wedding night in season 1. 

When Geneva tells him that she loves him, Jamie is quick to deny this. He tells her that she only thinks that because of the feelings that have been aroused in her body; but that love is when you give your heart and soul to another and they give theirs in return. It is yet another reminder to Jamie of what he has lost. 

A few months have passed before the next scene, when a heavily pregnant Geneva, now Lady Ellesmere, returns to Helwater. Jamie and the other grooms have come to attend to the coach and Geneva, with her hand on her belly, looks backwards over her shoulder at Jamie, as she hurries inside with her sister. The glance is enough: an unsettled Jamie suspects that he is the true father of the baby Geneva carries. 

Back in the 20th century again, Fiona Graham presents Claire with a gift: the pearls that Jamie had given to her on their wedding night. Claire had given them to Mrs Graham years before, she tells the younger woman and Fiona replies that her grandmother had also spoken of their special friendship and that while the pearls had been left to her, she knew that Mrs Graham would want Claire to have them back. 

An emotional Claire is sincere in her thanks and Fiona leaves her to her thoughts. This is a complex scene to play: the pearls represented something Claire had lost and never thought to see again, much like the search for Jamie has awakened feelings of hope, when she had assumed for so many years that he was lost to her forever.  But if the search is successful, it will bring another loss, by leaving Brianna behind. Indeed, as Claire enters the study, she is unable to share Brianna’s excitement at the recently discovered ship manifests in Edinburgh. Brianna asks if she is all right, calling her Mama, something which she hasn’t done for years. It is a further jolt for Claire - the two are getting closer: could she allow Brianna to be lost to her? 

It is a question that Brianna has wondered as well. Sitting by the fire with Roger, she announces herself to be a terrible person. Ever since being told about Jamie, the wall between the two women has come down and now that they are getting closer to finding him, Brianna is afraid of her own loss, with Claire’s likely departure into the past, as well as being afraid for Claire and the dangers of making another trip through the stones. 

Roger comments that this only makes Brianna a daughter who loves her mother, but that he must be a terrible person as well, given that he doesn’t want to find Jamie either if it means that Brianna will go back to Boston. Impulsively, Brianna kisses him, a move that they both deem “unexpected.”

Jamie is in his quarters when a distraught Lady Isobel knocks on the door. He must get the horses and prepare the carriage, she tells him. Geneva is about to give birth and all is not well. The mercy dash to Ellesmere ensues, with the family arriving in time for the birth. Jamie questions one of the servants as to how both mother and child are faring, to be told that Geneva is still bleeding but that the boy is fine and healthy.  He allows himself a brief moment of carefully concealed joy. 

It is shortlived, however. Later, he comes across a sobbing Isobel, who tells him that Geneva is dead. She had been sitting up holding the baby and laughing, but the bleeding had returned and they had been unable to stop it. Jamie moves forward to comfort her, but is slapped across the face. Isobel knows that he is the baby’s father, as Geneva had told her. Any further conversation is halted though, by the arrival of another servant announcing trouble and both Jamie and Isobel run for the house.

The Earl of Ellesmere is in a rage. He declares Geneva to be a whore, and since she has given him a bastard, he refuses to grieve for her. He is holding a sharp letter opener in one hand and the baby in the other. Lord Dunsany is incensed too, refusing to let his lost daughter’s reputation be sullied in this way. He draws a pistol and aims it at the Earl. Jamie intervenes, telling Geneva’s father he needs to give him the weapon, for the baby’s sake. After a moment, Lord Dunsany does so and Jamie advances towards the Earl. 

Refusing the entreaties of Lady Dunsany and the threats of Lord Dunsany to give up the child, the Earl yells that he will kill the boy before he will allow that to happen. He moves the letter opener towards the baby’s throat and in one swift motion, Jamie shoots the Earl dead. Rushing over to the child which has landed on the floor along with the body of Ellesmere, Jamie picks up his son and is rewarded with a brief look, where the young boy’s eyes stare straight back at him. The depth of emotion that passes fleetingly over Jamie’s face is beautiful - Sam Heughan is a master of expressing so much without saying a word. 

Back at Helwater, Isobel is walking with the baby when she encounters Jamie on the estate. She tells him that they have named the child William, but that she calls him Willie. Of course, she cannot know that this was Jamie’s brother’s name and he doesn’t tell her, saying only that it is a fine name. Isobel apologises for her behaviour towards him, saying that she had been angry, looking for someone to blame. She admits that Geneva had been a difficult woman and that Jamie had been kind to her. She moves away as Lady Dunsany approaches, but it is enough time for Jamie to speak briefly to his son, telling the baby not to worry, because he is there. 

After telling Jamie that the official ruling by the coroner is that a grieving Earl had met his end by misadventure and that the family is grateful to him, Lady Dunsany admits that she knows Jamie to be one of Major Grey’s Jacobite prisoners and that she is certain that Lord Dusany could arrange for Jamie to be pardoned so that he could return to Scotland. Jamie’s initial joy at this possibility is quickly tempered by a look at his sleeping son. As quickly as his freedom is given back, he chooses to lose it again. He tells Lady Dunsany that he would prefer to stay in service for now, as times are hard for his family and that the money he has been able to send them has been welcomed. Of course, we know the real reason for Jamie’s wanting to stay: he cannot yet add Willie to the things he has lost. He cannot bear to lose a third child. Lady Dunsany agrees to his request, but tells Jamie that when he is ready to leave, he only has to ask. 

More years pass and in 1764, Jamie is leading young Willie around on a horse, watched by Lady Dunsany and a family friend. Lady Dunsany comments that Willie spends so much time in the company of their groom that he is beginning to look like him. 

Jamie overhears and later, when Willie is helping him to wipe down the carriage, he catches sight of himself in the glass. He realises the similarity of expression between the two of them and realises that it is time to do what he has been avoiding: he must leave Helwater.

In Edinburgh, the much hoped for revelations of the ship manifests is not to be: the documents are from the 1600s, not the 1700s. There are no more records to be found and they have reached a dead end. When sitting in the hotel bar later, where a Robert Burns poem is being recited by a female entertainer, Brianna notices that everyone is staring at them and asks why. Claire explains that it is because the two women are not supposed to be sitting at the bar with the men. Roger suggests that they could move to the lounge, but Claire is angry: it’s 1968 she says, and she and Brianna have as much right to sit there as any man. Roger realises the true cause of her anger and vows that this is just a setback: there must be records somewhere and they can search every port of call on the Western Coast until they find what they need. Brianna agrees, emphasising that they will find Jamie. But Claire looks towards the entertainer, who has just recited the line, “Freedom and whisky gang thegither”, remarking how she used to quote that very line to Jamie. Brianna tells her that she will again: they are not giving up. But Claire is. She tells them of Mrs Graham’s warning - that she couldn’t spend her life chasing a ghost. Raising her glass, she makes an emotional toast - “To all of those we have lost” - and after swallowing the whisky as the Jamie and Claire theme plays briefly in the background, announces that it is time to go home. 

The line is echoed in the next scene, as Jamie tells Willie, “It’s time for me to go home.” The little boy is confused, telling Jamie that Helwater is his home. When Jamie disagrees, Willie makes the same demand that his mother had made - that Jamie has to do what he says. Petulantly, he kicks over buckets when he is told ‘no’, ignoring Jamie’s demand that he stop. Jamie reacts angrily, smacking the boy’s behind. When Willie retorts that he hates him, Jamie says “And I’m not very fond of you either just now, ye wee bastard.” It is something that he immediately regrets and apologises for. Sad now, Willie asks if Jamie truly has to leave, throwing his arms around his father’s neck when Jamie nods. Jamie returns the hug with feeling, whispering words of Gaelic telling his son not to cry, because it will be all right. The camera focuses on Jamie’s face - which is another beautiful portrayal of grief and quiet desperation.

In the next scene, John Grey has come to make his own farewell. He tells Jamie that he is sorry to lose his chess partner, but that Jamie has come to the right decision. Willie has the same cock of the head and set to his shoulders, as well as the Fraser eyes, John says, adding that it wouldn’t be long before Willie noticed it himself. Jamie asks John to walk with him, so that he can ask a favour. He asks John to act as father to Willie, to look out for him and spend time with him. In return, Jamie offers what he knows John wants: his body. 

This is a huge offer for him to make, given the horrors of Wentworth. But again, Jamie is prepared to lose his sense of self to protect those he loves: first Claire, now Willie. John is astounded and refuses, saying that while he will probably want Jamie until the day he dies and tempted as he is, he could never accept, adding that he would feel his honour insulted if he hadn’t understood the depth of feeling that prompted the offer. John then shares news of his own: he is to be married to the Lady Isobel. When Jamie expresses disbelief, John tells him that there is much more to marriage than carnal love and that he is genuinely fond of Isobel. Besides, he says, this will allow him to truly care for Willie as a father. Jamie expresses his gratitude, holding out his hand and tearfully placing his other hand over the top of John’s when he takes it. This is the opposite response to when John had touched Jamie’s hand in Ardsmuir and also a departure from the book, (where Jamie had given John a gentle kiss) but the effect is moving, nonetheless. The two are parting as equals and most importantly, as lifelong friends. 

That night, Willie comes to Jamie’s quarters saying that he wanted to see him and asking if he can stay. Jamie agrees and Willie watches as Jamie begins this preparations for prayer, lighting a candle and putting out the image of St Anthony. When Willie remarks that his grandmother says that only stinking Papists light candles over heathen images, Jamie tells his son that he is a stinking Papist. He explains why he lights the candle, adding that St Anthony is not a heathen image, but the patron saint of lost things, so Jamie prays for the people he has lost. Willie asks who those people are and Jamie answers honestly: his own brother, Willie, his sister, his godfather, his wife. 

When Willie counters that Jamie doesn’t have a wife, he replies “Not anymore, but I remember her” and the Jamie and Claire theme begins again in the background. Jamie tells Willie that one day he will find a wife, or perhaps, his wife will find him. Again, Jamie is remembering Claire. 

Willie announces his wish to be a stinking Papist too, so Jamie baptises him William James, telling the boy that it is his special Papist name, one that he himself has. He also gives Willie a carved snake with his name on it, to remember Jamie by. It is a carbon copy of Sawny: the snake that his own brother Willie had given him. When Willie says that he has nothing for Jamie, his father tells him not to worry, as he will always remember him.

The final moments of the episode feature simultaneous losses and farewells in two centuries, as a cover of “Hard Rain” plays in the background. The lyrics are poignant and fit both storylines. As Claire slowly takes down the research timeline in the Wakefield study, Jamie is making a heartbreaking farewell to Willie, Isobel and John. Isobel embraces him, whispering that she and John will take good care of his son. Jamie is barely holding his emotions in check as he mounts his horse. 

Meanwhile, Brianna, suitcases in hand, is sadly looking around the house, pausing briefly in front of a display of Culloden portraits and St Andrew’s flag. As Jamie begins to ride away, Willie, with John in pursuit, runs after the horse, begging Jamie not to go. Alone, Roger sits in front of the fireplace, a wistful look on his face and the toy aeroplane of his childhood in his hands. The images changes to a real aeroplane taking off, as Brianna and Claire,each deep in thought, head back towards Boston.

But the final moments of the episode belong entirely to Sam Heughan. He conveys a man utterly bereft, fighting every instinct within him to turn around and return to his son (who is standing, fists clenched in the same way that his father does when worried about something). Willie is distraught, and as the lyrics “It’s hard” build to an emotional crescendo, the camera closes in on Jamie’s face. Just perhaps, this is the greatest loss of all.

A lot of ground is covered in this episode and each moment is beautifully portrayed. It is no mean feat to convey such depth of feeling in multiple characters across multiple centuries, but the Outlander team has done just that and done it brilliantly. The hard rain is indeed falling and we are desperate for some sunshine! 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She remains in awe of Sam Heughan’s acting ability and knows she is echoing the thoughts of many when she says that she hopes some major awards are not too far away! 

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