As ever: Plot below, photos above, including some Naked Jamie AT LAST. If you’ve read the books, please avoid discussions of what’s coming, but dissecting the different depictions of what’s already taken place is totally okay. Thanks!
The discussions of the books in last week’s comment section helped a lot in terms of confirming my concern that TV Outlander is giving short shrift to Claire — allowing her no pleasures in her post-Jamie life, giving the complexities of her relationships no shading, and in deifying poor besotted, beaten-down Frank. Meanwhile, Red Jamie is off killing Black Jack and not dying in Culloden, and then Dunbonneting all around Lallybrochshire or whatever they might call it, and then MacDubhing in prison. This week, he starts another new life, in which all KINDS of interesting and complicated emotional scenarios present themselves, while Claire… flips through some books, and cries.
In short, this show was once about the path of a fierce, strong-minded survivor named Claire (“You’ve had a long journey, from Craigna to Cambridge, oh Claire, oh Claire…” Now if only Kramer could make her out of pasta), and now it’s only truly alive and heart-wrenching when Jamie is on-screen.
We can cut through a lot of this quickly. Bri and Claire and Roger are able to track down that Jamie was in Ardsmuir Prison, but lose his scent after it shuts down (understandably, but also, would Claire not have seen Murtagh’s name on that same register of prisoners on which she found Jamie’s? IS NO ONE THINKING ABOUT MURTAGH?). Claire is hella depressed because she’s been looking for like 22 whole minutes of screen time and has concluded they will never find Jamie. It’s a salient point that Claire could’ve been looking into Jamie’s life and death for years. She had a world-class library at her fingertips at Harvard. I know it was a lot more complicated back then, and info like this likely more regional, but once it became apparent she was not moving forward emotionally and that she and Frank were dunzo… instead, it supposedly took finding out Frank wrote the Reverend to make her think, “Oh, huh maybe.” I don’t know about that. Especially THIS Claire, who’s been painted as never having forgotten Jamie, nor made room for any other man.
At any rate, she concludes it’s time to go home. Brianna and Roger sit by the fire and lament this, with Brianna confessing that she’s afraid every step toward Jamie takes Claire away from her, and Roger admitting that he’ll be so sad to lose Brianna. So she kisses him, satisfying a chemistry that’s been operating at Teardrop In The Ocean levels of rippling ever since like ten entire minutes ago when she fixed his car. Turgid. TURGID, I TELL YOU. Aren’t these two significant characters? He’s descended from the Mackenzies, and she’s Jamie’s kid, so why are they such non-entities? The TV show really needed to commit better to Brianna, because Jamie’s journey is visually so much richer and more aching, and this part can only be found wanting in comparison. The stakes feel oddly low. There should be a tug at the prospect of Claire leaving her daughter and going back to Jamie — and at Jamie missing out on Brianna’s entire life, and Claire essentially picking him over their child — but so far there isn’t one, because Brianna is hugely dull, and no one has been given any space or time or decent dialogue to work through all these potentially juicy emotions. The season two finale touched on some fiery dynamics between Claire and Brianna, but honestly that was mostly out of a need to tantalize; we hadn’t seen any of Claire’s life, so every word was a tease, like when Bri wished Claire had died instead of Frank, and Brianna and Roger snooped and found Frank’s letter to the Reverend and the articles about Claire’s disappearance. Their fight when Claire tried to explain that Bri’s real father is a Highlander she met when she touched the rock equivalent of a DeLorean should have dredged up feelings not so prettily resolved. And yet here we are in a new season, and everyone seems to have unpacked all of this super neatly. There’s a little scene where Bri calls Claire “mama” or somesuch, and Claire marvels at how long it’s been since she called her that, but in this context it means almost nothing because THIS season we only know their relationship through Frank’s eyes (when he accused Claire of being absent because of her career). We know very little or possibly nothing from them of her bond, or lack thereof, and Brianna herself is a cipher. (Even when the prospect of Jamie and the Dunbonnet being the same person comes up, Bri is like, “Huh.” WRITE HIM SOME VERSE AT LEAST.) I’d have LOVED them to dig into this more, and show us the Jamie-and-Claire in Bri’s veins. Much less the Mackenzie in Roger.
So anyway, they go back to Boston, wet-eyed and mopey. Mope mope mope, that’s all this storyline was. Even Joe Abernathy moped, when he called Claire to ask when she might come home. She was all, “LATER. BYE.” Be nice to Joe, Claire. He’s had nothing to do here. Let’s get to the better stuff.
Jamie is ensconced at the estate of Helwater, which for some reason yields approximately zero “Hell or Helwater” puns from anyone, possibly because that phrase wasn’t a thing. Oh, how they will chuckle about it in the afterlife. Red Jamie Dunbonnet McDubh is living as Alexander Mackenzie so that his trail will go cold for Claire — er, I mean, so that his anti-Jacobite masters won’t realize they’re sheltering THE NOTORIOUS ETC. Lord Dunsany makes it clear that he knows Jamie fought for the Jacobites in a war that killed his son; it isn’t until Jamie plays the I’ve Lost One More Child Than You Have card that Dunsany sees him as a person and not a lowly criminal. He agrees to keep his secret, and his service.
This week, the role of Claire’s Proxy will be played by Mercy Street’s Hannah James, who appears as chilly, snobby Geneva Dunsany. Once we learn Geneva is not well-liked by the servants AND betrothed to a wealthy sexagenarian, it’s immediately clear that she will be our path to getting Jamie naked. As soon as she gets a load of Jamie, she requests him personally to accompany on her morning ride, and flirts heavily with him. He recoils, so she scampers off on her horse and then pretends to have fallen so that he will scoop her up gallantly. That he does exactly this makes her giggle, so he DUMPS HER INTO A PUDDLE. (It is a touch more of a violent heave than I would have liked.) She’s so horny that she just laughs even harder at this.
When the groomsman swells your hormones
And you find yourself on your back.
There’s no release there for your jones
From the Untemptable A-dot-Mac.
But Jamie’s undoing — of his distance, and of his trousers — comes when Lord Melton pops by for a visit and catches Jamie and John Grey in an erotic woodland chess game. Well, it’s erotic for Grey, anyway, who still harbors a crush despite Dunsany’s gangly daughter Isobel being in love with him. But Melton knows what’s what with his brother, and once he recognizes Jamie, he appears to draw a few conclusions about what mercy has spared the rebel’s life — but manages to roll with Grey’s lie that Jamie used to work for them, despite his obvious disapproval and loaded statements like, “YES IF IT WERE MY CHOICE I SHOULD NEVER HAVE LET HIM GO.” Geneva, though, notices the awkwardness, and then comes to Jamie the next day and says it only took a couple drinks for Melton to spill the entire sordid tale. She then insists Jamie come and devirginize her IMMEDIATELY because her wedding is in three days, and she refuses to give her virtue to a gross old buzzard.
When your hymen is feeling heavy
And you want to give it a thwack
Cast your eye for a lonely meatstick
Like The Delectable A-dot-Mac.
Geneva, I bow to you for recognizing an opportunity when you see one. You chose CORRECTLY. However, she does casually threaten Jamie’s entire family if he doesn’t wang her up with a quickness. That’s not polite. It works, though. When he arrives in her chambers, she’s ready for him in her gigantic robe, and he starts to strip and then offers, “You can look at me if you want.” She does. Oh, how she does. It’s quite funny. She’s scared and awed — and briefly horrified when he turns around and she sees the scars on his back — but for the most part she’s got this amusing mix of, “Oh my God what did I just get myself into,” and, “Oh my God this was the best idea I have ever had I am a goddamn genius.”
Unlike with Kind Mary, Jamie has no hesitation and no moments of yearning for Claire. Instead, he’s methodical, but careful. He’s gentle but not romantic. He does kiss her, he does touch her, and he does eat at least one of her nipples. All-told, Hannah James got the best guest-starring role of the lot; he gives her a very thorough and solid experience, four courses, served hot, great service, five stars on Yelp. Plus a few actual yelps. And when it’s done, Geneva — like so many virgins of both genders before her — decides she is madly in love with him, and tells him so. (And Outlander, for a show that once featured a lactating breast squirting milk, completely backs off the realities of sex and there is nary a speck of blood on the sheets.) Jamie begs to differ, insisting that lust, passion, and afterglow are not the same thing as soul-searing time-bending magic-rock-shagging love, but you know Geneva won’t see that distinction. And who could blame her? Look in the slideshow at the sculpted man rock that was her first. He looks like that AND purrs in a brogue AND cares about her pleasure AND is hyper-conscious of consent issues AND says heart-melting things about love AND is sensible. Jamie is the Holy Grail of bangs.
When your virtue is a present
You can’t give to any old hack.
You must find the man who bonks with finesse
The tender-lovin’ A-dot-Mac.
Well, you know where this is going. We jump to about nine months later, when Geneva comes to visit with a ripe belly and then dies in childbirth. Isobel cuttingly tells Jamie that the baby was his, that Geneva never lay with her rich buzzard, that she was in love with Jamie, and Jamie didn’t care/broke her heart/whatever other grief-induced ranting she can summon. And the other person who’s figured out the baby isn’t his: the rich old buzzard, who goes bonkers and clutches it and waves a knife around, screaming that he was supposed to have married a virgin and he doesn’t want to be stuck with her illegitimate kid. It ends with Jamie shooting him right as he’s rearing up his knife hand; the baby lands gently on his dead body, and everyone is fine (well, other than the two corpses). But Jamie is so struck by seeing his child that when he’s offered his freedom by a grateful Lady Dunsany, he refuses, claiming it’s because he’d like to send more money to his family before he departs. She promises that all he must ever do is say the word, and she’ll have him freed of his obligation for life.
Predictably, Jamie and the little boy — William, or Willie, as he’s known — become the best of friends. There is a pretty cringey scene in which Lady Dunsany blithely says, “We joke that he spends so much time with Mackenzie, he’s even starting to look like him!” Lady, you HEARD the old dude say it wasn’t his child. EYES UP, WISE UP. Jamie overhears this, and realizes he has to leave before it stops being quite so funny. Grey — who knows the truth — notices, too, and reaffirms to Jamie that he’s doing the right thing. “He has your eyes,” he says, despite them casting an actor who IN NO WAY resembles Sam Heughan AT ALL. If you’re going to miscast, at least take out all the specific ways in which you’re alleging they’re identical. Their eyes aren’t even the same color, yo.
But I mean: OF COURSE Jamie’s sperm is super-powered.
When you’ve got one shot at intercourse
And you want to bear fruit from his smokestack,
Find legendary sperm to eggjack your sac:
The crotch-pack of A-dot-Mac.
In a truly wonderful scene, Jamie awkwardly asks Grey to keep an eye on his son, and offers his body in exchange. Grey’s face LIGHTS UP with disbelief and amazement: “That I should live to hear such an offer!” he sputters. He’s clearly not going to take it; I think it’s a cocktail of being impressed Jamie would go so far for his child, pleased Jamie trusts him so much, and in a weird way, taking it as a compliment. Jamie, of course, wonders if his refusal means Grey no longer wants him, which makes me laugh — it’s very, “I know don’t want to order off this menu, but what do you MEAN you aren’t even going to bring me one?!?” Grey tells Jamie, with such an adorable and charming DUH face, “I shall want that you until the day I die,” but that he would never require that from his friend. Besides which, he’s going to marry Isobel. Jamie is concerned about this, but Grey points out that it’s not like he can do as he pleases in this regard, and that he is at least extremely fond of Isobel and that it won’t be difficult to do right by her. And that way, he’ll be with Willie all the time. Jamie blesses this.
But, y’all, the scenes with the little dude are very emotional. None of this storyline is necessarily surprising, but we have such a keen sense of what Jamie has lost — Claire, most of his clan, his life at Lallybroch, his freedom, lots of skin cells, and two children — that watching Willie call him “Mac” and want to be like him, and spend time only with him, and beg him not to leave… it’s just heart-rending. There’s also a funny little bit where Willie finds Jamie praying to the patron saint of lost things, and the two of them joke that Jamie is a “stinking papist.” Willie then begs, “I want to be a stinking papist like you!” So Jamie pretends to baptize him and names him William James, calling it his special secret papist name. And then Willie grins, “I’m a sticking papist now!!!” He’s not the best child actor I’ve ever seen, but he’s doing exactly what he needs to: making me hurt for Jamie. Their goodbye is equally tragic, as NOBODY looks happy, and Jamie walks away slowly on horseback. Willie breaks free from Grey and screams, “Don’t go, Mac,” and as Grey corrals and tries to comfort Willie, we see Jamie shedding silent, copious tears over leaving the only child of his that he’s gotten to help raise.
YOU GUYS. It’s so sad. And it works, again, because Jamie’s journey is more visceral and tragic and fully realized than Claire’s. Honestly, this comes off like her life — in which she was ostensibly fairly unhappy at times — was all cake and rainbows, and then poor Jamie watched everyone DIE and then lived in a CAVE and then a PRISON… I think the Boston stuff was missing the injection of heart and care that Jamie’s story got here.
Also, watching Jamie cry made me irrationally angry — not in a real way, just in an I LOVE JAMIE kind of way — at the book series for taking this particular turn, separating Jamie and Claire for SO long that those milestones and those experiences are removed from the equation. Which does make me wonder if Diana Gabaldon left the door open for Claire to be JUST young enough for a miracle baby. (NO SPOILERS, or even winky suggestions, please.) I mean, maybe when you pass through the stones, your uterus does not age. Anyway, not that it matters, but I just want Jamie to have all of the things, ever, forever. Eventually I will want that for Claire again, too, but I need her to get back to herself. Boston Claire has not been an incarnation that I’ve enjoyed.
Next week, they tease Claire going back through. IT’S TIME.