Happy Sex Day, everyone!
I quite liked this episode. Mostly. It’s a languid rekindling of an old magic, until it trips and falls into the Outlander Rape Trap. You know, the one where every plot gets advanced by sexual violence or abuse, or the threat thereof. Without knowing exactly what happens next, it’s still pretty frustrating and Same As It Ever Was.
But let’s not dither. Let’s get naughty. Because the rest of it is really pretty great.
I. The Day
The most important thing you need to know is that Jamie now wears boots, a woollen wrap, and a tricorn hat. AND READING GLASSES. And he looks marvelous. Beyond that, the opening scene is to show that the day Claire found Jamie, a remarkable one in her life that she had ample time to anticipate and plan, was in fact just any old day in Jamie’s life. Like the rest of is, he didn’t wake up thinking everything would be different by bedtime. It makes me think of that Ani DiFranco song “Little Plastic Castles,” which talks about “a day which is every day” and then moves on to, “They say goldfish // have no memory // I guess their lives are much like mine // and the little plastic castle // is a surprise every time // and it’s hard to say // if they’re happy // but they don’t seem much to mind.”
In that vein, Jamie goes through his quotidian paces: gets dressed with the winking help of a lady — more later on her — and conducts business at his shop. Is he happy? Hard to say, but he doesn’t seem much to mind.
Who marches o’er the cobbled stones
so taciturn every day?
That celibate crumpet with ink-stained hands
The aliased J.Fra.
We learn that “Alexander Malcolm” prints illegal papist essays and has his shady, wily friends distribute them — friends who call him MacDubh, so I assume that means they were in prison with him (unlikely because they all went to the colonies, right?) or are Lallybroch dudes (dubhs?). There is mention of “Young Ian,” who we’ll learn later is the son Jenny bore before Jamie turned himself in, and we meet prissy Geordie, with whom I immediately sympathize because he just wants everyone to take things seriously and not make fun of his giant goiter. I’m with you, Geordie. Jamie’s cohorts insist their teasing is affectionate, and Geordie sniffs, “Pardon me if I don’t WELCOME that sort of amity.” Jamie sends him out to get more ash for the press, and Geordie notes with polite irritation that perhaps Jamie could let him know the night before if there are errands, so he can do them on his way in and not retrace his steps. Y’all, Funkiller Geordie is right. This is how I know I’m becoming a grandmother very quickly, emotionally speaking.
Who’s knickers wad at the slightest nudge
And won’t unwind? Oh lordy!
Be kind to him — he just wants respect,
Does our priggish snootball Geordie.
II. The Sassenach
We get Claire’s appearance from Jamie’s side now, and when he hears her voice, you can really see that he’s simultaneously wondering if he’s hallucinating again and yet also acutely aware that this time is different. When he comes to from his dead faint, Claire is crouched over him. “You’re real,” he burbles. Then he grabs his crotch, fearing that he’d wet himself, but instead he just knocked over the ink pot. This is a convenient excuse to get Jamie out of his pants immediately. He balks for a second and asks Claire to turn away. “It’s okay. We are married,” she says, semi-hopefully, to avoid being all, “WHY SO SHY? HAS IT CHANGED IN TWENTY YEARS?”
It’s not that his package has shriveled;
Nor that it’s forgotten how to play.
Just that he hasn’t worried about a lady’s opinion
Since he was J. Fra.
The gazing her is excellent. Jamie barely wants to take his eyes off her while removing his ‘loons, but he does, briefly, and then goes right back to her side. He touches their wedding ring, which has lived on her right hand — “I never took it off,” she says — and then slides in close with wet eyes. “I want…” he rasps. Then he composes himself. “I would very much like to kiss you. May I?” he says. Wow, Jamie would be GREAT in a consent seminar. Their first kiss is slow and tentative. When they part, he is crying, and tells her that he saw her so many times — dying on a battlefield, in a fever, in a dream: “Whenever I needed you, I woudl see you, smiling, your hair curled around your face,” he says, his voice catching. “But you never touched me.” Claire is all TOUCH ME YOU FOOL and they pull into a second kiss.
“I quit!” shrieks Funkiller Geordie from the balcony, having returned to see his pantsless boss folding a woman’s pamphlet, and who is horrified at the impropriety. “Working for a papist is one thing. Working for an immoral papist is another… God’s tooth! It’s not even noon.”
Jamie isn’t worried that he’ll really quit — he and Claire get a good chuckle out of this tantrum — and so I assume we’ll learn more about Geordie Who Lives Across The Way and Probably Isn’t Seriously Going to Quit a bit later. I hope. I need a new Murtagh, and if we can’t get a rakish gent with a heart of gold and a soul of mischief, then I can totally live with a Suzy Rulefollower who just wants you all to GROW UP AND DO YOUR JOBS and STOP SPILLING YOUR INK-SEED ALL OVER THE OFFICE.
We get that you have manly needs, Mal,
But it’s just rude to fire up an orgy.
Unless you invite him — but no! He’ll not come!
Not our blueballin’ virgin boy Geordie.
Jamie brings Claire into his back room so that he can put on another pair of pants. “BUT WHY? WE ARE JUST GOING TO REMOVE THEM AGAIN,” Claire does not say for some reason. His little warren of a room is lit with candles everywhere, like the f*ck suite in The Bachelor except with a small board for a bed and no rose petals or Champagne, and Geordie is a way more judgmental Chris Harrison. Jamie clears his throat and says, “It’s very fine to see you again, Claire.” He’s so formal. Contemplating the day he sent her back makes Jamie remember her pregnancy. Claire brings out photographs of Brianna and tries to explain to Jamie what they are (“It’s like painting, but with light”), and Jamie has to get out his specs to view them. “For years I had the eyes of a hawk, but my sight is not what it once was,” he says sheepishly. Claire is like NOPE STILL HOT. It’s sweet that the show portrays him as being nervous that he’s not what she expected; for her part, Claire confesses she dyed her hair dark to try and look the same. “Time doesn’t matter, Sassenach,” Jamie says, touching her cheek. “You’ll always be beautiful to me.” And, to anyone with eyes. It’s not like you’re doing her a FAVOR with your outlook, Jamie. She’s objectively a dish.
Jamie is overcome by the picture of Claire holding baby Brianna, though — after dogging the name in a way that’s kinda douchey — he’s touched to realize it’s Claire’s way of keeping her promise to incorporate Jamie’s father Brian. He asks for details and when Claire mentions her red hair, he says, “Just like her sister, Faith.” That’s a very nice detail, and Caitriona has Claire give it a moment of admiration as well. But let’s discuss the other photos she brought: one of her and Bri from her med school graduation, aka the night she learned Frank had a regular; one of Bri reading on the couch, which is fine; one of her chopping wood and baiting a fishing hook (I think), both of which she’s doing in cords and a blouse, and neither of which bear ANY resemblance to the life we ever saw Brianna having or the person we knew her to be; and then a picture of her sitting cross-legged on the beach IN A BIKINI. Jamie is totally scandalized, as of course he would be and which Claire HAD to have anticipated — but also, do we really think Claire or Brianna would have chosen for Jamie to have a half-naked photo as one of his few mementos of her? Like, this is really not useful. And none of them are remotely as good as the framed pic she had on her desk of Bri in her cap and gown. Why not just bring that one? And finally, showing Jamie a modern beach is kind of flaunting it. The poor guy has been in prison in Scotland. He will not know the joy of a curled wave in East Coast summer heat. Do not taunt the man, Claire.
Jamie then confesses the existence of his son Willie: “I’ve never told anyone about him. Not even Jenny.” Jamie apparently has a portrait of him painted onto what looks like a cameo, or something, which I assume John Grey sent to him. And while he says it happened while he was in service and that the mother died, and that he didn’t love her, he does NOT say, “Also, she forced me to take her virginity by threatening my family,” which is a detail I would’ve had a hard time leaving out — especially at the sight of the faint wave of hurt on Claire’s face. Which she know isn’t deserved; she acknowledges that when she came back, she realized he’d have lived a live without her. But did he really have a life without her? The look on Jamie’s face suggests, a little wistfully almost, that he did not.
Oh, and Claire also tells him that Frank is dead, and that he was a great father to Brianna. “What did you tell him about me?” Jamie asks. “Everything,” Claire said. “And we never spoke about it again.” Which is a complete lie. In every scene with Frank — every slurry argument — Jamie was mentioned, if not by name. It’s a weird lie to tell. I guess it’s true that Frank didn’t ever question the story after that, and in fact, she gives Frank no credit for being the catalyst for her to find Jamie again (because he initiated correspondence with the Reverend). RIP Frank. You have been lost to future history.
Jamie remembers he has an errand to run, but he wants Claire to join him, acting almost afraid to let her out of his sight in case she evaporates. Instead of discussing where they are going, she fills him in on what happened to the Bonny Prince, until we hear: “MILADY?!?”
They’ve cast a kid as Fergus who looks rather more like Hot Neville than the original actor, but whatever — you’re never going to get a double. He and Claire embrace delightedly, although she is sad about his prosthetic hand. She tells him that she fled to the colonies once she believed everyone to be dead at Culloden, because she was afraid the wife of a traitor would endanger Lallybroch. Then Fergus and Jamie step aside to discuss business, which is weird. I mean, I guess they’re just getting used to Claire again, but what’s with acting like Claire doesn’t get full disclosure? I suppose she’s not pushing it because her mind is on Sexy Times and just drinking in being back, or that she’s not trying to rush herself back to his side, but. I kind of want Claire to be like, “I have NOT suddenly become fragile, gentlemen.”
V. Mr. Willougby
I wish I could tell you that Greg Wise storms in here, rescues Geordie from the rain, and delivers longing glances at him that appear to be wordless promises of fealty and desire. Still, this Mr. Willoughby seems nice. Oh, sure, Jamie had to go find him because he’s hammered and causing bar fights, and tried to lick a prostitute’s elbow for free, but he’s a stowaway from China who nearly died when he landed in Scotland — that must have been an excruciating trip — until Jamie rescued him. So he’s not having an easy time. Luckily, he’s creating this scene EXACTLY where Jamie needs to be for his covert meeting. While Jamie goes off to pay “taxes” to a threatening Brit who seeks to extort him over his operations, whatever they truly are, Claire bonds with Willoughby and learns to say his true name (Jamie had him change ‘Yi Tien Cho’ because it sounded too close to a rude Gallic phrase), which translates from Chinese into “Leans Against Heaven.” Although I didn’t hear him SAY the words “Jordan Catalano” so I don’t know. Also, he says something to Claire that Jamie translates as “honorable wife,” and Claire is duly impressed that Jamie has casually picked up Chinese. So am I. Honestly, CAN people casually pick up Chinese? It doesn’t feel like it’s an “oh hey I just absorbed some complicated Mandarin phraseology while I was giving this dude some carrots” kind of thing, but maybe I’m just easily intimidated.
J.Fra was carved by hard labor
And one vigorously sexual gal.
But hewn from prison and the Rosetta Stone
Is the multilingual A.Mal.
VI. Madame Jeanne
The next stop on Claire and Jamie’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” walking tour of Edinburgh is a brothel. It’s boggling to me that Jamie wouldn’t have elucidated anything about this to Claire as they made their way there, but hey, it’s TV. It’s more interesting to make her act all confused, I guess.
Anyway, the madam is the woman we saw helping Jamie dress in the morning. We’re meant to think perhaps they are bonking, but no; Madame Jeanne seems to have hoped Jamie would fall into her bed someday, and is extraordinarily put-out to see that he’s brought a wife in with him, and is asking for his regular room to be prepared for them. Madame Jeanne may well turn into a thorn in their side, because she didn’t get Jamie’s thorn inside. ZING. And Claire is totally tense, because she can smell a rivalry, and also she’s a HUMAN PERSON WITH FEELINGS and it’s annoying that Jamie isn’t considering those AT ALL as he drags her around town; obviously everywhere she looks, she’s wondering if she’s meeting a woman Jamie has nailed.
Sure, you’re a rogue who’s impulsive
Who’s lived for two decades as a stray.
But did you leave your finesse in your other pants,
You uncommuicative J.Fra?!?
VII. The Foreplay
Jamie’s room, and the entire setup, evokes their wedding night — except there, the Scots were at a tavern (right?), so the noise from downstairs was rowdy revelers. Here, the sountrack to their impeding lovemaking is other people’s lovemaking. Jamie correctly diagnoses this as AWKWARD and bumblingly apologizes for not thinking this through; what he dances around is that a) this bed can withstand a reunion shag much better than the tiny one in his office, and b) no one is going to walk in on them here, least of all Fun Killer Geordie, who would explode with stress-bile if he were to come upon them, well, coming upon each other.
Claire, of course, is looking around with a touch of irritation, wondering if Jamie having a regular room means he’s a VIP customer, Captain Insatiable of the Edinburgh Roughriders, the Sausage King of Scotland, a bottle of Jim Bone’s Fine Scotch Frisky… At first this annoyed me, because Claire is a modern (to her) woman and it’s not Jamie’s fault that she apparently chose to be celibate for twenty years. But it’s also a completely realistic reaction. She has fantasized and idolized this man, and their love, for two decades. Obviously, standing in a brothel where he’s coming off like Norm from Cheers, she’s going to be like, “DID I MISCALCULATE?”
Jamie explains that he’s often prowling around doing “work” so late that this is a convenient place to grab an all-hours meal and nap, and Madame Jeanne is one of his best customers — though he is emphatically not one of hers. Then he looks right at her and says, “Sassenach. Why have you come back?” Claire blinks, disbelieving: “Why do you think?” TO HAVE SEX JAMIE. COME ON. NO SERIOUSLY.
But, again, I also get Jamie’s reaction. He’s wondering if she just popped through the stones to bring him some family pics, or if she’s there for good. Claire explains that she thought he was dead, until a young historian helped her track him down via the A. Malcolm name. She doesn’t mention the poem, interestingly, and gives herself a touch more credit than is fair; neither does she note that said historian is shacking up with their child now, and Jamie never even ASKS who’s with Brianna at this point, by the way. I guess in the Highlander culture, babysitters are weak sauce.
Jamie sits down on the bed and asks her again why she is here. “Are you trying to tell me something?” Claire asks. “I know you have a life now, and perhaps there are… other ties…” Jamie shakes this off. “I’ve burned for you for so long. Do you not know that?” he says. I defy anyone not to climax on the spot if anyone says that to them with THAT much burning heat (the eyes and the bod are a bonus). “But I am no longer the man you once knew. You and I, we know each other less than we did when we were first wed,” he insists. Claire gets a little churlish here, as I totally would in her shoes, and is all, “WELL FINE IF YOU WANT ME TO LEAVE…” But he doesn’t. He just needs to know if she wants him, and I assume it’s all she can do not to shout, “DUH.” They agree that at this precise moment, all up in each other’s sex faces, they don’t actually care that much if either of them has grown into a nice person.
My one criticism is that I don’t really feel the elapsed 20 years. There’s no real way to fix the fact that for us its only been a few TV hours since they were last together, nor the fact that these two actors look the same. They’re doing a great job with the emotions of it — Caitriona wrings her hands nervously in a way that’s familiar to just about anyone in the world, and Sam plays so many layers in one minute that it’s a crime the EW pieces and their ilk only ever focus on his nudity — but it’s very hard for me to join them in this mindset of, “We’re two totally different people now,” because I don’t really feel like I went through a 20-year wringer with either of them.
And then: MAKING OUT. Almost.
VIII. The Dinner
Pauline the Maid arrives with food, so they stop sucking on each other’s lips and sit down to eat. This is correct. They need to carbo-load for the energetic festivities ahead. You do not run a marathon on an empty stomach. So instead, we get what I refer to as Network Note Narration, because that’s what it feels like — the random returns to Claire’s voice-over, when there are less lazy ways to achieve the same effect — that notes they reminisce about their lives and then fill in a couple careful blanks about their pasts, to see if these two hideous, decaying old crones could still possibly want to screw each other like power tools. The answer: Yes. They cannot eat nor drink without eye-banging each other all over the oxygen between them. Finally, Jamie asks if she’ll come to bed with him, and again she’s like, “UM YES PLEASE BEEN WAITING ALL DAY.”
IX. Round One
The undressing is eternal, because of all the layers, and Outlander lingers over the details in a way that’s extremely effective. It’s like the 20-year build all over again. Claire does not have to say, “Jamie, please don’t rip off my clothes because I didn’t pack another outfit.” It also, if I remember correctly, echoes the slow burn of their wedding night — to the point where it makes sense when they start reminiscing about it while they’re standing around naked. Caitriona’s nipples get an ENORMOUS amount of loving exposure in this episode, although lest you think that’s the male gaze, it was directed by a woman (and Claire does feel very in-control during the sex, in scenes that give her pleasure its justice). Once she’s nude, she grabs at herself uncomfortably. “Bloody well say something,” she mutters. He, of course, gazes at her perfectly and tells her with the most astonished tone, “Claire, you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” Don’t be too astonished, there, Jamie. Anyway, as they slowly begin to touch each other, the desire takes over and they crash together. He chucks her on the bed and they bash heads; for a second, she thinks he broke her nose, but she’s fine. They’re just out of sync, but they forge ahead admirably. Bravely. Such courage.
As soon as he’s on top of her, Claire looks like she’s rediscovered breath. She grabs his face and growls, “Do it now. And DON’T BE GENTLE.” And he does, and he’s not, and there are a lot of sex noises. She’s moaning, he’s going, “GUH,” and there is a lot of erotic pounding.
Al Malcolm’s got no mojo;
No fire for his hose to spray.
But he’ll fire his thrusters gleefully
As the acrobatic J.Fra.
In the afterglow, Claire gets her boobs stroked and MIGHTILY complimented — they are ivory, they are white velvet, they are divinity in a hill — while they discuss their mutual arousal. Claire asks if he felt this hot for her after their very first time. “It’s always been forever for me, Sassenach,” he says. They giggle about being reunited in a brothel, of all places, and Claire prods him about what exactly he does: She knows it’s not just printing, because, as she points out, he’s way too cut and foxy to be a typesetter. While the International Association of Cut and Foxy Typesetters prepares its angry letter, Jamie coyly insists he’s just a printer who occasionally dabbles in traitorous leaflets. “The press was a weapon into my hands again,” he explains. “I’ve been arrested for sedition six times in two years. And had my premises seized twice, though the court wasn’t able to prove anything.” He’ll be hanged if he’s caught, though. “Do you want to leave now?” he asks. Claire sits up and leans in, grinning goofily, noting that she didn’t come all that way through time and space just for ONE roll in the hay. “To find you again, and to lose you…” Jamie can’t finish the thought. “You won’t lose me,” Claire says. “Not unless you do something immoral,” she adds, needlessly, a qualification I feel like she’d never make except for how they needed a transition. It’s Jamie’s gateway to admitting that he also smuggles booze on the side for cash (hence the brothel’s patronage). He should’ve just admitted that from the jump. I need to remember that the motivation for half this stuff is: Jamie has just gotten back the one thing that makes him feel whole, and he’s still afraid she’s going to disappear again.
Once Claire establishes that he doesn’t accept payment from Madame Jeanne’s private ladypurse, the two of them spend about 20 seconds sideways-banging while staring into each other’s eyes.
He’s a multidirectional power drill
Who charges wirelessly from your gaze.
Get ready to hang the towel rail
Of the Come Depot prez, J.Fra.
One interesting tidbit: She finds his knife wound, and he tells her it’s from Culloden, but does NOT mention that Jack Randall gave it to him — nor that he is the one who killed Black Jack once and for all. This seems like information Claire would have wanted to hear, but I guess Black Jack has spent enough time in their bed, either figuratively or in the form of Frank. He does tell Claire that she was right to leave and keep Bri safe. “Because of her, we will live forever, you and I,” Jamie says, with his poet’s soul.
XI. The Morning After.
Claire wakes to find that Jamie has been watching her sleep; after he makes a light crack about never imagining he’d come to a woman’s bed in anything other than blind soulless need, Claire finally works up the courage to ask if he’s ever been in love with anyone else. He says no, and as Pauline bangs on the door to bring them breakfast, Jamie’s all, “GONNA EAT HERE THANKS.” And he does.
He’s a growin’ lad of some-and-forty
And he loves a crotch buffet.
You’ll not need a special sneezeguard
For the cunnelingual J.Fra.
I hope Claire brought some Monistat with her through the stones. She hasn’t seen action like this in two decades.
Jamie also reminds her she has to be Madam Malcolm, not Fraser, on the streets of Edinburgh. And then he leave to go about more coy business. I don’t get why he is so secretive with her, but I guess it’s only been a day.
XII. Ian & Dorcas & Molly & Peg
I thought the whole point of the brothel was privacy, but Claire is lounging around eating old grapes — not a euphemism — when a 16-year old boy bursts in looking for Jamie. Good thing she got dressed. As she shrugs on a robe, he introduces himself as Ian Murray and Claire correctly deduces that this is her nephew, and one of Jenny’s sons. She asks no questions about Jenny or Ian, though, because we apparently don’t have time in this episode for Claire to show an interest in any beloved former relatives. Instead, she grinningly indulges him asking if she’s a white witch, or a fairy, because that’s what the Lallybroch gossips claimed. He seems to ME as if he’s almost a wee bit skeptical when she announces she’s back for good, but says, “Nice to meet you, Uncle Jamie’s Wife,” and leaves. Claire smiles, apparently satisfied with how completely surface and uninformative this interaction was.
Then she spends a diverting morning breakfasting with a bunch of friendly, chatty hookers, who of course mistake Claire for a newbie and give her all kinds of handy tips on how not to get pregnant — including sticking a vinegar-soaked sponge up her “nether mouth” — and how to get a gross suitor off faster by sticking a finger up his bum. It’s like the end of The Client List, except in 18th century Scotland rather than suburban Texas. What does suck is that when Madame Jeanne discovers this, and threatens to flog Pauline for not bringing Claire food, Claire does not say, “Oh, she did, but we were too busy making our own sausage.” She just escapes upstairs. Thanks for being a friend, Claire.
XIII. Unlucky 13
When Claire goes back upstairs, there’s a British guy ransacking the room in search of Jamie’s ledgers. He also assumes she’s a prostitute and tells her to stand back and earn her coin after he’s found what he came for, but Claire angrily tells him to leave because she’s Jamie’s wife. He asks her to show him Jamie’s ledgers, which, I mean, he DOES have the hottest books in town so who can blame him. Claire doesn’t know where they are, not that she’d admit it, and so the dude says classily, “Maybe if I f*ck you it’ll jar your memory.” He seizes her roughly and we cut to black on her terrified gasp.
Yes, this lovely, languid valentine to two people learning their flame never died, and kindling it tenderly, ends with POSSIBLE RAPE. Thanks, Outlander. You really dumped water on my ledgers there.