This week’s Outlander continued the format we’ve seen so far this season: Jamie and Claire’s separate lives interwoven throughout the hour. Jamie struggles on without Claire, while she struggles with being married to Frank when she’s in love with and missing someone else. We got through Bree’s first 18 years this week, so maybe the print shop isn’t too far off?
Jamie is in Ardsmuir Prison, and has been for 3 years at this point. He’s the only prisoner kept in chains because he’s just that damn dangerous. He was an officer, so the prison’s governor treats him with a bit more respect, and he acts as spokesman for his fellow prisoners. They come to him with any problems or complaints they have, and then he reports them to the governor.
As the episode opens, command of the prison is changing hands. Lord John Grey has been assigned as the new governor of Ardsmuir, and Jamie implies that soldiers only get stationed at Ardsmuir as a form of punishment. I mean, it’s really gray and damp and nasty, so I think he’s probably right.
I’m sure, of course, you remember meeting John Grey’s brother, Hal, back in episode 1. I mean it’s only been 2 weeks, so. Yeah, you remember. John doesn’t mention anything about the debt he owes (or owed) Jamie, or their first meeting, so for a time we’re left wondering if he remembers it at all. Which seems kinda weird, since one would remember such a thing.
Anyway, like the former governor, John invites Jamie to dine with him from time to time. In addition, the soldiers out on patrol capture a guy who’s raving in a combo of French and Gaelic, so John offers to remove Jamie’s chains if he’ll translate what the dude’s saying about Jacobite gold.
Now you might not remember this, but mid season 2, before Bonnie Prince Jackass left France, he convinced the king to send gold to Scotland to help aide the Jacobite cause. He never got the money, and it’s rumored to be hidden somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. This isn’t the last time you’ll be hearing about this lost gold, so get used to it.
The dying man is ranting about the Mackenzies, Jamie’s mother’s family, and even mentions Ellen, Jamie’s mom. He says that the gold is cursed, and it’s protected by a White Witch…which of course was Claire’s nickname back in France, La Dame Blanche. Jamie is intrigued. Could Claire possibly have come back through the stones?
Jamie asks John if maybe the prisoners could set snares to trap food out on the moor, and also collect watercress. He explains that his wife told him eating leafy greens prevents scurvy, which John thinks is wacky wacky shit, but he agrees. One day while the soldiers are occupied keeping track of the prisoners as they collect their snares, Jamie runs off.
They track him to an island off the coast, and he sneaks up on John while John’s peeing—just like John did to him way back when. It looks like Jamie might kill him (which would be very un-Jamie-like), but then our emo king reminds John that he promised, once his debt on Jamie’s life was discharged, that he would kill him. He gives John back his sword and kneels, asking for death.
John refuses, and he hauls Jamie back to prison. His life improves a bit after that, though. He starts playing chess with John, and John sends his doctor to see about Murtagh, who’s been sick since arriving at the prison.
One night over a game of chess, Jamie tells him more about Claire, and John tells him about a “friend” of his own who was killed at Culloden. Oh, so that’s why he got assigned to Ardmuir! And he IS as gay as he looks! He sort of hits on Jamie, which of course flips him out since Black Jack kinda ruined any chance of Jamie ever enjoying that. While we all know Jamie wouldn’t be so cruel if it hadn’t been for Jack Randall’s abuse, poor lil John is just all sad eyes like a whipped puppy, because of course being gay in 18th century Britain’s gotta be pretty shitty.
I told y’all he looked like Brad Pitt in Interview. Gay pretty boy vampire realness.
The Crown then apparently decides the prison isn’t worth keeping open, and they’re gonna garrison it like a fort instead. Most of the prisoners (including Murtagh) are sentenced to transportation, that is, indentured servitude in the Colonies. For 14 years. Ugh.
Jamie, on the other hand, is a special case, and his sentence is served at the pleasure of the King. The King doesn’t want him released, even 14 years from now, so he isn’t eligible for transport. Instead, John marches him behind his horse for 3 days until they reach a grand house. He tells Jamie that he’ll serve there, and that he shouldn’t use his real name because the Lord doesn’t like Jacobites. He also apologizes for that night in his office, and he and Jamie make up.
Meanwhile in 1956, Claire and Frank are muddling through the best they can. They both love Bree. Claire is trying to at least be friends with Frank, but he’s busy with his girlfriend and doesn’t have that much time for his wife. I don’t feel as bad for Frank as I did before, especially because…
Time jumps forward to 1958. Claire looks amazing, and it’s her medical school graduation. She’s having a small get-together at their house, with plans to go to dinner after. Frank isn’t going to dinner with them because he says he has to work. There was a bit of confusion about the time of her reservation, and Frank looks nervous.
There’s a knock on the door, and Claire opens it to find a little blond. Frank’s girlfriend. Nice, Frank, real goddamn classy. Claire quickly gathers the party and they head for the restaurant, but I mean…Frank stays with the blond, so like who else is she but his mistress??!
They fight that night when he gets home (drunk), and she offers him a divorce. He refuses, because he doesn’t want to risk losing Bree. She promises she would never let that happen, but he doesn’t believe her. He’s being such an asshole.
Jump forward to 1966. Bree’s graduating high school. Claire is a successful surgeon. Frank tells her he wants to take Bree to England with him, because he’s been offered a position at Cambridge. At first she thinks he means take her on vacation, but then he explains no, he means for good.
She’s furious. She tells him he’s not taking Bree away from her. He says he thinks Bree will choose to go to England with him, because Claire’s been absent most of her life. He asks for the divorce she offered before, and Claire says she’ll give it to him, but he can’t cite adultery as the reason why.
He asks her point blank that if she didn’t see Jamie every time she looked at Bree, would there have been time for her to get over him? She tells him that such an amount of time doesn’t exist. Frank leaves, and Claire gets called to the hospital. She’s comforting a patient’s husband when her friend Joe Abernathy approaches and tells her there’s been a traffic accident. Frank’s been killed.
In the morgue Claire kisses his forehead and tells him that he was her first love. Gahhhh.
This episode was really, really good. I mean, I know I say that every week, but it totally was. I wasn’t as invested in Jamie’s arc, but Claire!! Claire had me riveted every second she was on screen.
It’s not that Jamie was boring or anything. I was invested in his emo prison situation, and I was super glad Murtagh got better. Because who doesn’t love Murtagh? But, honestly, I wish there had been more of it. Like I know we’re splitting the narrative between Jamie and Claire, but I almost wish this episode had focused on just Jamie, or just Claire. I wanted to dive a bit deeper into Jamie’s relationship with John Grey—which we’ll see more of this season—and his life at Ardsmuir.
That’s weird, right? I wasn’t as interested in Jamie’s half, but I wanted more of it? Okay, I get it, but I think I wasn’t as invested because it didn’t go deep enough. We know Jamie’s suffering, blahblah, we know the prison’s shitty. But, we only got a very tiny peek at John Grey realizing what life was like there and gaining some sort of sympathy for their situation. Considering that the English viewed the Scots as barely more than animals, that meant something. I know obviously the story isn’t about John Grey, but still. More of that would’ve been interesting instead of just nibbling around the edges of it.
As for Claire’s half of the story, once again I feel like it jumped too much too fast. Having said that, how often can we see Claire and Frank at odds because of Jamie? So really the format works for the material we have.
Like I said before, I felt much less sorry for Frank this episode than I have earlier this season. He was being a straight-up jerk. He was so furious at Claire that he couldn’t go to her graduation party?! He had to go out with his girlfriend instead?! And invite her TO THEIR HOUSE?? He admitted later he did it partly to hurt Claire, and boy did it work. I understand Frank’s frustration, but honestly he doesn’t have to be a total asshole.
Of course, now Frank’s dead…which brings us nearly to the point where we were last season, with Bree and Claire traveling to Scotland shortly after his death to visit Reverend Wakefield. Which means they’ll be working on getting Claire back to Scotland. Which means PRINT SHOP!! Soon!!
I hope. Jamie’s still got a lot of story to tell before then, though.
These criticisms are such nitpicky things, honestly, because it was a really great episode. I want Jamie and Claire back together, but I’m enjoying their journeys apart, too.
Episode Grade: A-. Just little nitpicky things, like I said.
Images Courtesy of Starz