Recap below; above, some costumes, with dish from Terry Dresbach’s Twitter. If you were unable to read on mobile, here are the recaps of episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4. Please don’t discuss what’s coming in the books; if the plot point has passed, by all means let’s talk about the divergences, but no future spoilers. Thank you!
It’s no secret that I’ve had problems with the execution of this season, and this show in general at times, but: At we neared the end of this episode, closer and closer to the moment when Claire and Jamie might see each other again, my pulse was actually racing. I was nervous. Full-on jittery, fluttery, tense, edgy. And I mean, we all know they are each other’s lobsters and will sex each other up and down and three different types of sideways, so it’s not like there is any fear their reunion will go horribly, but from the moment Claire stepped out of her carriage in Scotland the pacing was painfully right. Mixed with Claire’s tangible adrenaline and anticipation and slight fear, it just worked. And also, I didn’t realize until that moment that I’ve been dying to see how Sam Heughan would play this; Claire knew this was coming but Jamie did not, and I think Sam is a marvel as Jamie. So, applause to Caitriona Balfe for inhabiting the lead-up feelings really, really beautifully, and for sucking me firmly into that moment when it did come. Ball’s in your court, Sam.
Boston, Christmas 1968
Claire is being a badass surgeon again with Joe Abernathy, whom I like so very much, and wish to see again. He notices that she’s distracted and extracts a modified truth from her about Jamie: that there was a man in Scotland and she hoped they could reunite, but fate dropped a bagpipe onto her heart. “Fuck fate,” Joe says, tilting back his scotch, and I adore him. I want Joe and Jenny Save The World, in which he and Jamie’s sister time-travel and fix all the shit that Claire and Jamie are probably going to break.
Meanwhile, Brianna is flunking out of Harvard. Eagle-eyed Internetters have noted that she wouldn’t be enrolled at Harvard in 1968, in so many words; they were handing out joint degrees, but technically, she’d be a Radcliffe student. Either way, Brianna’s outstanding grades have plunged into the bog, because she’s so blue about Jamie and Frank and What It All Means and WHO AM I and I’M JEAN VALJEANNNNN, etc. It’s a mood that has come vaguely out of nowhere, but let’s just fanwank that it’s been percolating off-camera.
All of which is to say that when Roger the Bearded Christmas Surprise pops up on their doorstep, he hears Brianna and Claire having a screaming match. Bri rips open the door in a snit, but the irritation melts off her face when she sees Roger’s kind, hopeful smile. “Happy Christmas,” he says, trying ineffectively to pretend he didn’t hear. Roger, you are darling. You mean well. But WRITE FIRST. Also, Rog just has such a Lonely Puppy aura about him. He is not a ballad sort of dude. He’s more of a no-caps formless wondering.
oh hi don’t mind me
i just love you with my whole beard is all
and i learned sex
so that’s fun
It turns out Brianna has decided to drop out of Harvcliffe because she couldn’t just slide back into her old life — not now that she knows she’s a daughter of history and not just a historian. “I tried. It’s not working,” she says, and I’m surprised Claire doesn’t see in this the echoes of her own inability to return whence she came. Then, in a move I don’t quite understand, Bri grabs a cardboard box and leaves in response to a honking car horn outside. Is she… moving out of a dorm, or something? With a friend’s help? She tosses over her shoulder that it was real nice seeing Roger and that they should hang out tomorrow. Poor Roger is like, “But our tongues? Shouldn’t they… okay.” Claire clearly feels sorry for him too. She refuses to let him stay at a hotel, realizing that this is his first Christmas without the Reverend. At dinner he reminisces about good old Reverend Wakefield and his plum pudding and the local urchins he helped, and the size six blond twins with blue eyes and matching lavalieres; those traditions don’t hold much appeal anymore without him. Claire recalls that she and Frank used to read A Christmas Carol to Bri every Christmas. A Christmas Carol on Audible, read by Tim Curry, is 3 hours and 33 minutes long. Pardon me if I’m not TOTALLY sure that was Bri’s very favorite evening.
Okay, but we all know Roger showed up for another reason. Part of that, which Claire susses out, is that he’s hot for Brianna. But then Roger primes the pump with a bolt of whiskey for them both and confesses to Claire that, as a historian, he’s also an amateur sleuth. And he Nancy Drew’d some serious shit right here. In a piece that OF COURSE I left out last week, Claire and Bri and Roger were commiserating at a bar during an open-mic recitation of Robert Burns’s 1786 poem “The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer,” which contains many lines Claire used to quote to Jamie a lot (“Freedom and whiskey gang together” and “ye knights and squires, what represent our brochs and shires”). I have always wished I was one of those TV and film people who could quote expansive verse — Keats, Shakespeare, even Silverstein — flawlessly at a moment’s notice, but I just can’t. However, if you want a recitation of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” or any number of Bon Jovi songs, I’m your woman. ANYHOO: Guess what? Roger found those same lines from 1786 printed in a 1765 essay about importing spirits — a time when Burns was still picking his nose and eating paste: “Only someone with knowledge of the future could’ve quotes lines that hadn’t been written yet,” he says. And it’s credited to a printer named Alexander Malcolm, which are Jamie’s middle names.
That’s right: Roger found Jamie, and he’s A PLAGIARIST.
When you’re fighting The Man and his booze laws
And you need poetic rationale
Who’ll swipe pretty words to bolster his cause?
The COPYCAT A-dot-Mal.
Okay, so he’s plagiarizing something that doesn’t exist yet, which thus isn’t ENTIRELY plagiarism. But Jamie does know they’re not his words, at least. Robert Burns is not going to be happy about this, although I suppose it didn’t taint his legacy, given that we’ve seen his poem being recited in a bar. Still, you know somewhere, there was a person sitting around snorting at that poem and going, “You thieving git, pillaging from the purple pen of the great bard Alexander Malcolm.” I hope it turns out that Jamie put those in deliberately as breadcrumbs for Claire. That’s the only other reason I can think of for him to shift to Malcolm from Mackenzie, also: His distinct middle names, offering a faint clue.
Roger, poor sweet Roger who does not seem to have any other family or friends, is SO DELIGHTED that Jamie can be pinpointed to Edinburgh in 1765 — which, based on how their timelines overlap, is only a year ago.
are you proud of me
i got an a+ on this test
someone please tell me
that i am getting ice cream later
But Claire tosses it aside and says, “I didn’t ask you to do this.” DIDN’T YOU? Then: “Twenty years ago, I shut the door on the past.” DID YOU? And finally, when Roger points out this is an actual tangible piece of information she can use to return to him, Claire says, “AND LEAVE BRIANNA?” like this is simply unheard of despite the fact that they just spent a bunch of time in Scotland working toward that exact outcome. In fairness, I guess Poor Roger and Brianna are the ones who uncovered Jamie’s survival and brought it to Claire, but they were all driving pretty hard at the investigation. I do buy that perhaps this is suddenly much more real to Claire in a way that it wasn’t even when they were in Scotland, plus Brianna is in a worse emotional place, so I’LL ALLOW IT… but I also think Claire is a master of revisionist emotional history.
“How could I do that to her?” Claire continues, knowing full well that she totally could, and wants to, and will. Poor Roger’s response: “How can I help you? What can I do?” He knows, too. He is so nice, and Claire is so flailing, and all he wanted was to make her smile.
so does this mean
no ice cream
i am sorry
i thought i saved your inner life
but it’s cool i’ll just grab a soda
and drown my failure
Also, I promise I’m not calling him Poor Roger because I think he is financially poor. Just that every time I see his kind, well-intentioned face, seemingly full of hope that either or both of these women will JUST BE HIS FAMILY ALREADY or at least tell him he’s done well, I just think, “Poor Roger,” and want to hug him.
Later, we get a weird detour that I assume is going to tie into a future adventure. Joe was sent a skeleton from an anthropologist friend, and Claire says, “Who sent you a 150-year old murder victim?” Joe is shocked: Claire dated it nearly correctly — it’s only a century old — but he never said anything about murder. She just bone-whispered it from touching the skull. The bones tell the tale, though: The victim was a white woman killed by a botched beheading in a cave in the Caribbean, and Claire is all OOOH TINGLY SPIDEY SENSE about the whole thing. The whole story grinds to a halt while we deal with this, so I have to assume it’s something I should not ignore; to circle back to Jamie, Joe gets Claire to admit that her Scotland man is Bri’s real father, and Joe encourages her to follow her bliss. Which no one at Harvard ever thought was Frank.
Poor Roger gets to play therapist for Bri (when he isn’t getting hooked on Dark Shadows, which is actually an awesome touch). She takes him on a monotone tour of… the University of Glasgow, which looks both beautiful and like an UNBELIEVABLY poor double for Radvard. (There is no red brick anywhere to be seen. Indeed, the term “red brick university” specifically exists in England to describe places that would’ve been better facsimiles, and would a jaunt down south from Scotland have been so hard? Maybe.) As they gaze up at the arches that so clearly are not in Cambridge, Massachusetts — they ADR a lame line that’s like, “Look, one of the only examples of Gothic revival on campus!” — Poor Roger asks if she gets a thrill imagining the whispered plans and secrets that great figures of the past might’ve shared. Bri is like, “Wuh?” (Brianna, clearly, takes after Claire or Jamie — she’s more a science mind, specifically engineering.) Poor Roger carelessly notes that this is funny talk from the daughter of a historian, and Brianna stiffens and reminds him that she isn’t. So Poor Roger launches into a story about how he only knows his real father from papers the Reverend saved, and I thought it was going to wind it around to the observation that the Reverend was as much a part of him as his biological father, and just as influential and formative. Because I think that’s a bit of what Bri wants to hear, with regard to Frank — that she doesn’t have to question everything about who she is, because nurture can be as strong as nature. Instead, Poor Roger says that the Reverend “made my father real to me, and knowing my father helped me know myself. Everybody needs a history.” Dude, she has a history! So do you! With Frank, and the Reverend! Don’t discount them. Also, this is NOT as helpful to Bri in her current mindset, because she’s just learned all about how Paul Revere’s ride is LIES and concludes that “history can’t be trusted.” I think you whiffed that pep talk, Poor Rog.
i just mean
she said jamie was a vigorous lover
and like maybe that would be useful?
or maybe not
At an event launching a fellowship in Frank’s name — “Let’s talk about Professor Randall and his groundbreaking research,” says the dean, but we cut away so that no one has to decide what that even was — Claire is introduced to Professor Travers, Frank’s would-be bride. She lays into Claire about how brutal it was of her not to set Frank free, going on and on about how Frank claimed he only stayed for Brianna but that she knew he probably also harbored hope with Claire, but she stuck it out because he was the LOVE OF HER LIIIIIFE, and how selfish Claire was not to release him, and how she stomped on his heart… and honestly, Claire is a better person than I am. She says nothing to deflect this. I would have said, “Honey, I OFFERED HIM a divorce THAT VERY NIGHT YOU CAME TO MY HOUSE and he refused, so STICK THAT IN YOUR BUN AND SCRATCH WITH IT.” It’s this whole lecture rooted in only the merest of truths. Claire tried to set Frank free, he said no way, and that was that. The next time it came up, Frank died later that DAY. YOUR FACTS ARE JACKED, PROFESSOR.
Bri recognizes her from an old encounter, and because they’ve sworn honesty, Claire confirms the affair in very kind and positive terms. Bri is afraid that Frank secretly hated her because he saw Jamie in her face, the way Claire does. Claire instantly drop-kicks that and promises that Brianna was Frank’s pride and joy and the center of his world. But when Bri asks more questions about her love for Jamie — nothing about actual Jamie; just about whether Claire misses him — Claire is compelled to tell the truth about Poor Roger’s findings. But Claire insists she’s not going back, because her life is in Boston now. “I’m all grown up, mama,” Bri says. “I could live on my own. I love you, but I don’t need you. Not the way I did when I was little.” Sophie Skelton is so, so pretty. But since she doesn’t look like either Sam or Caitriona, I can’t quite sort out the casting. Roughly 75 percent of her heavy scenes are too matter-of-factly delivered. It’s like they said, “Is she gorgeous? Is she physically capable of forming words with her mouth? DONE.” Whether she’s getting buried in the accent, or by the wig, or the fact that her part requires a lot of leaps that aren’t all on the page… I don’t know. I will lay off her now in the hopes that the next time we get Bri, it’s better.
Then Claire watches Jim Lovell in space on TV with Joe, and friends, who are all marveling at how anyone could return to the regular world after such a marvelous journey. And because Outlander is incapable of trusting us or its actors to drive home an emotional journey, Claire suddenly VOs, “You can come back to your life, but it’s never the same. But maybe it was enough to have gone once. How many people can say they had that?”
Cut to: It was NOT enough to have gone once, and she’s totally going back, and just wants to make sure Brianna is okay with them never seeing each other again. “Can you live with that? Because I don’t know if I can,” Claire says, getting all sniffly about missing out on the milestones. “I know. It won’t be easy,” Bri says, easily. “But I have been trying to figure out if I was more Randall or Fraser… I’m more you than I am either of my fathers. And if I can turn out to be half the woman you are, then I’ll be fine.” Aw, that’s nice, and it only really works because Caitriona’s eyes are everything in this scene. Bri adds that she wants Claire to go back and introduce her to Jamie, in a way, so that he can at least know her even if she can’t know him. Claire admits that she’s scared Jamie will have forgotten her, and Bri assures her that if the power of their love is still as strong for Claire then it will be for Jamie also. “You gave Jamie up for me. Now I have to give him back to you,” she concludes.
The next bit is adorable. Claire marches into Joe’s office and demands to know if she is sexually attractive, or if she’s turned into a hideous she-beast from Planet Fug. She’s completely freaking about about whether Jamie will still want to jump her bones. “You’re a skinny white broad with too much hair and a great ass,” Joe grins. “He’ll be in heaven when he sees you, Lady Jane.” I was really nervous the show would try to give him the hots for Claire, and so my favorite thing is that there is no sense of that at all. They’re true friends, true equals. Claire had better come back to visit.
For Christmas, Poor Roger gives Claire a book about Scotland, which she jokes would’ve been handy the first time. Bri’s gift is a topaz necklace — her birthstone — because Gillian’s notebook says gems are part of the magic (and Claire exposits that she lost stones both times before, in case we had forgotten, which… I had, so thanks). Claire talks about how she ganked penicillin and scalpels from the hospital, in case they’re useful in 18th century Edinburgh, and Roger laughs about how she’s going to smuggle all that through the stones and the streets without being noticed. This leads to a Caped Crusader joke that segues into a sewing montage set to the Batman theme song, which is a bit forced for this show, for me. But she does make herself a bonny period outfit from a raincoat, with secret pockets, and then dyes the gray out of her hair because she’s angsting over how old she is now. (HOW OLD IS SHE, THOUGH. For real.) And then she tells Bri that all her accounts and the deed to the house are in her name, and they hug goodbye and Claire sweeps away in a taxi, leaving Poor Roger and Brianna to wonder things like: Is he staying forever? What is his job? If she’s not in school anymore, what the hell is she going to do? And did Claire leave any contraception behind?
Brianna has procured Poor Roger a lobster roll to try, and he hands her his gift: A Christmas Carol. So enflamed with desire is she at the idea of 213 minutes of spoken-word Dickens, that she leans over and kisses Poor Roger. They make out a little and then curl up with page one, because Poor Roger cannot catch a break and will now have to wait 213 minutes for the nooky train to arrive.
i know tantra
i’m fine fine fine
Scotland, 1766 (I think)
After a nearly unendurable voice-over musing from Claire about puddles being portals — I don’t even know — they go from her staring at one in America to stepping over one in Scotland. She’s BACK and it is ON, and I just hope she is prepared to relive the vibrant smells.
It is not really possible to make this funny, because by now, I was dying inside a little bit. Claire makes her way to Alexander Malcolm’s shop, and the look on her face is very difficult to describe. It’s disbelief and awe and longing and excitement. She runs her fingers over the A.MALCOLM sign, and then slowly ascends the stairs, her hand on the wooden rail. She gazes at the door with a heart-in-her throat tremble, smoothes her hair, and then plunges inside. A bell rings. Jamie’s voice drifts to her from the side and downstairs; he thinks it’s his assistant coming home. She recognizes it instantly and seems amazed this actually worked, and slowly, slowly, she walks into the next room of his warm wooden shop and looks down through the window. There is Jamie, back to her, surrounded by piles of papers and a shitload of candelabra, because I guess the printer’s lament is needing to read but also having to risk lighting all his product on fire.
Caitriona does the most magnificent job of communicating that she a) never actually thought of the perfect entrance line and is kicking herself, and b) can’t figure out how to announce herself. You can practically see the different sentences running through her head, her mouth beginning to form a whole raft of words until she settles on, “It isn’t Geordie. It’s me. Claire.”
At the sound of her, Jamie’s back straightens. He turns at the speed of a snail. His eyes are narrowed, like he’s suspicious of his own ears. He turns them up toward her, and they begin to widen fractionally as he takes in what he’s seeing. His body gives a tiny involuntary-looking gasp and he leans haltingly back onto his table for a split-second, and just as the weight of it seems to hit him, he FULL-ON FAINTS.
When the feelings rise up and engulf you
And you’re tingling in all your canals,
You’d best have an hour more’s patience
For the Unconscious A-dot-Mal.
Next week, NOTHING. Because I guess Outlander is taking a week off, but will return with an episode that is as supersize as I assume Jamie to be. There will be caressing. There will be eye-banging. There will be ACTUAL banging. Get ready for the devirginizing of Alexander Malcolm.