Have I been very good this year? First my beloved Murtagh comes back to dispense glee and hugs, and now that adorable little morsel John Grey returns to stare longingly at Jamie. All I need next is for Jenny and Fergus to pop by for tea with John Quincy Myers.
Outlander doesn’t waste time, either. It knows what we want, and that is MEN IN HEAT. John gallops up barely a breath after the credits finish, as if he has been waiting backstage and CANNOT WAIT A MOMENT LONGER, and conveniently catches Jamie not merely being macho, but rhythmicaly sawing an actual giant log.
Oh good gracious me
This is colonial porn
Colonize ME, please.
Your muscles ripple
Like the breeze on my privates
Salute the flagpole
It’s like John wrote down his dreams and they came to life. He even stops for a second to drink it in, and they’ve styled Jamie all shaggy and messy like he might’ve been in prison when John first fell for him. Apparently he and Jamie still exchange letters, or at least have exchanged one, because John knew all about his land and where to find it. “I have business in Virginia,” he says by way of explanation for stopping by, as if Virginia and Fraser’s Ridge are not still super far apart. That’s like saying you rode to Los Angeles because you had business in Phoenix.
Hello sweet man meat
I’ve business in Virginia
Psst you’re Virginia
John tells Jamie that William is with him, too, waiting by the stream. Waiting ALONE by a river in a country with lots of wild animals and wary natives. John is maybe not super at this parenting thing, and yet he also seems like the kind of dude who’d be a helicopter parent — which I say as someone who would herself be hovering out of sheer paranoia that something had eaten him. Also, as much as I love John Grey and all his kind yearning, isn’t it a bit douchey to show up unannounced with Jamie’s secret child whom he bade a painful farewell many years ago? Jamie should’ve had a vote in whether this meeting happened, and Claire arguably should’ve had a say in whether it happened on their land or in Willem’s Creek, which is where John claims he’s dispatched the rest of their traveling party so that they can power up with some food and supplies and “business in Virginia” before they leave for the business in Virginia. Saying hello again, for Jamie, might not be worth the price of a second goodbye — OR the risk that William wold figure out the truth, although I suppose it’s unlikely a kid would EVER have thought of that plot twist in an era without Days of our Lives. I’ve decided John hoped Jamie would take one look at the boy, toss Claire aside so they could raise him together as a family, and skip off to do business in Virginia until the end of time.
Claire and Murtagh are fetching things by the stream when they run into Master William (not realizing that’s who he is) whingeing on a rock. I guess he ran afoul of some leeches, which are now crawling up his leg and suckling like mad. Claire is all, “NBD, they’re great, just hang out until they drop off,” and Master William is like, “THEY ARE TERRIBLE MAKE THEM GO AWAY,” and I am totally Team William on that one. Claire merrily and almost affectionately harvests them for her own medical use. I’m almost surprised she didn’t name them as she dropped them into her bucket. “There you go, Slurpy, good boy. Ah, here we are, Chugger, go see Slurpy in the bucket.”
John warns Jamie that little William might not remember him from before, given that he was only just gone 6 the last time they met. “A lifetime ago,” Jamie breathes. What? This child looks no more than ten. MAYBE 11, POSSIBLY 12, but that’s still only six years. William hasn’t lived QUITE as much life as Jamie has in the intervening time. When I was ten, or twelve, I remembered people I met when I was six. I still do. I remember my first grade teacher’s face perfectly, and my memory is nothing special. Also, his beloved “Mac” leaving was a tramatic event for Willie. He sobbed! He ran after him! Jamie gave him a wood carving! I don’t know why they’re acting like Willie was a two year old back then, or that 4-6 years is an entire lifetime of insurmountable mental fogginess.
Jamie broods attractively at the fireplace, perhaps mentally doing some math on this, before nodding that Willie having forgotten him is probably for the best. And for some reason, it’s only just NOW that Jamie asks about Isobel, the aunt who raised him as her own. John reveals that she died on the way to meet him in Jamaica. Bye Isobel! We hardly knew he before you fell into Lady Mary’s Fragina.
“How are you bearing up?” Jamie asks. “As you’d expect,” John whispers.
I had no business
In her Virginia, so I’m
secretly quite fine
John does say that William is grieving, and Jamie says nice things about Isobel’s sparkling soul and what a great mother she was, and John kind of MMMHMMs his way through it because Jamie’s shirt is open and nobody actually remembers what Isobel even looked like or anything she ever did or said.
Claire bursts in at this point and stops short. John leaps up as if he’s terrified to have to deal with this person again, and bows deeply. Jamie is looking at William with wet eyes as he, when prompted to greet Jamie, stiffly says, “I don’t believe I’ve been given your name, sir.” I can’t tell if we’re meant to think William is imperious or pampered, or what; Outlander is not great with child actors, although Fergus did grow on me, partly because he had a cherubic face and a HORRIBLE PAST, which is a traditional and effective recipe for sympathy. What’s hilarious though is that this child could not look LESS like the one they originally cast — the one whom everyone said was starting to look like Jamie, despite looking NOTHING LIKE HIM AT ALL, right down to not even having the same eye color. This child does have blue eyes and frizzy, reddish hair, as if the show is trying to correct its earlier mistake, but he also looks like his hair until recently belonged to a woodland creature.
Claire escorts William outside to clean his leech wounds, at which point John tells Jamie and Murtagh — once also a ward of John’s prison — that William doesn’t know that daddy was a jailer, and he’d like to keep it that way. Murtagh tries to give John some sass, but Jamie purrs that John is a trusted friend and what’s past is past. Murtagh side-eyes this in the extreme, but manages to swallow his sarcasm.
He cannot, however, swallow his objections to John’s politics. As they gather around the dinner table — Ian is conveniently “out hunting” during this episode so that he can stay mercifully in the dark and can’t ruin the tide of testosterone with his wiggly eyebrows — it’s revealed that John knows Governor Tryon. Murtagh drips with contempt when mentioning the mansion Tryon has built for himself, which John cheerfully praises as “a symbol of stability in the province” and which Murtagh implies is being paid for by ill-gotten gains. You know where this is all going: Murtagh sides with the regulators, John thinks they’re menacing, violent stooges, and it’s basically a super sexy scene about taxation.
Tax is natural, tax is good
(Not everybody does it, but everybody should)
I swear we don’t cheat you
I swear you’ll be fine
Just pull out your cash wad
And slip us some dimes
My palm’s at the ready
It’s soft and it’s primed.
Try it, don’t argue,
It will feel sublime.
I want your tax.
I want your tax.
John retells stories of murder at the protest marches, which Murtagh says are exaggerated and John SWEARS have witnesses. Murtagh makes a veiled reference to Ardsmuir in front of Willie (“I’ve more than RATS to eat now, my lord”), but Claire diffuses it a little, and them William needs to use the loo — which is basically an outdoor chamber pot, which naturally horrifies the wee lad, because he’s fancy. Jamie walks him there, and William immediately asks if his name used to be Mackenzie and whether he’s the groom here too. Jamie processes this, then says that he did use that name, but this is his own land. “Do you remember me?” William frets. He can’t fathom why Jamie didn’t acknowledge their prior acquaintanceship and really comes across like he’s agonizing over the whole thing; when Jamie affirms that he does remember and wonders if Willie still has the carved wooden snake, Wills tries to regain some emotional high ground by saying, “I’m too old for toys, sir.”
Later, Claire says she’s not too surprised Willie remembers Jamie, but does not point out that this is because IT BASICALLY ALL JUST HAPPENED. She makes idle small talk about how the boy is handsome, blah blah blah, meaningless stuff you say to someone when you aren’t sure how to comfort them about the secret child they’ve just been forced to encounter. Jamie reminisces about how he got William not to be afraid of horses, and how that led to their close relationship. For all his talk earlier, Jamie is wounded that William appeared to be recollecting a stranger rather than a friend. “He just needs to get to know you again,” Claire says, which is deeply unhelpful because of course that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever. Claire calms him down by making out with him. “I’ve been dreaming for a moment alone with you for weeks,” Jamie husks. Does Ian live in their house? They should really build him a shed.
Murtagh is not best pleased that Jamie has befriended a loyalist, and Jamie is irritated that Murtagh is going to get himself killed protesting. I am with you there, Jamie. I will be really put out if Murtagh survived this whole time as a surprise to the book readers, only to get whacked in some kind of Bonus Culloden. Jamie is snowed by Tryon, believing that he wants to put an end to the violence and corrupt taxation. “So he can build his monument to elegance,” Murtagh spits. He wants Jamie to press John for information, but Jamie refuses to take advantage of a friend, especially when William’s well-being is at stake. Jamie says just enough with his eyes that Murtagh immediately realizes William is his child. “Don’t worry about me keeping your secrets. I’ve kept them. Each and every one,” Murtagh says, pointedly, then asks if Claire knows. Jamie nods. Murtagh is NOW cheesed that he’s the only one who wasn’t trusted, and sniffs that he’d love to hear the whole story if Jamie can ever find the time: “Unless that’s a secret as well.” I hate it when Dad is upset. Jamie, go hug him again.
Instead, Jamie goes inside to play chess with John.
My, you work a board.
Nudge my bishop; seize my rook.
Take my king. TAKE IT.
Jamie feeds him some homemade whiskey, and John asks — as they both glance over at a slumbering Willie — if Jamie feels content. Jamie says he has all that a man could want: a home, good work, his wife, good friends, and the knowledge that his son is safe and loved. They drink, and John blinks his eyes, which are wet with lustwater.
The next morning, John is burning with fever, which Claire correctly diagnoses with measles. She’s inoculated and Jamie already had it, so he’s tasked with whisking William away while Claire nurses John. Let’s deal with the bromance first: Claire tells Jamie to take Willie away on a tour of their lands and stay away “for at least six days.” You know what that means: MONTAGE! Except, no. The show makes it feel like an overnight. William is understandably bratty when Jamie separates him from the only father he’s ever known, after already losing his mother to disease. He blames the visit to Jamie for John contracting it in the first place, because the poor child is too young to understand what it’s like when a man’s loins burn like the devil’s sauna. Jamie forcibly lifts him onto a horse — “You, sir, are a LOUT,” the child says, and in that moment I liked him enormously — and they trot away to explore. Jamie explains to him how to read the trees that mark the edge of their land, so as not to run afoul of the Cherokee. They pull over to ogle the view, and William sternly asks if Jamie has ever seen anything so beautiful. This kid. He’s rather joyless. Maybe a kilt would help.
Willie is also cranky that he can’t catch a fish, and is being snobby about using worms as bait instead of a fly. I am ALSO Team William on this, with one lone exception: Fishing is icky and fish are supremely icky and if I had lived in olden times I probably would have died. Jamie is amused at how easily grossed-out William is, given that they used to do this all the time, but Jamie is also that rare breed of person that doesn’t think ANYTHING is disgusting. But he seems frustrated by Master Wussypants, so he starts telling him all about how the Indians fish with tree branches that they use like spears. Then he demonstrates how Highlanders catch them with bare hands. William scoffs at this until Jamie plucks a large one from the water, then seems delighted that it’s deer huntin’ time. Jamie also, of course, has lessons about this as well, and William, of course, is a snotrag who thinks he knows best until he does it Jamie’s way and Learns How To Listen. It’s all very meta, because Jamie asks if William knows how about firing a kill shot, and William says, “Aim for the heart.” This whole episode is full of little kill shots to the heart — for Jamie, for John, even for Claire.
Later that night, they cook it up, and Jamie says, “My dad always said it tastes better if you’ve earned every bite.” This makes William start to cry, because he’s thinking about his dead mother and his dying father and he just wants to GO HOME. He flounces into his little shelter and Jamie covers him up and broods. The next morning, he wakes and Willie is gone. Jamie discovers him down by the creek fishing successfully with a spear, but the boy’s pure delight at this is spoiled by the advance of the Cherokee, who’ve caught him in their part of the river. Jamie draws his weapon, stumbles through some Cherokee, and then drops it pointedly and hands them back the fish. The Cherokee tell him that they need to pay for this theft with blood, but when they lay hands on Willie, Jamie screams, “THE BOY IS MY SON. His blood is my blood. Take mine instead.” The show gives William a split-second to register this, but we can’t actually tell if he believes it, or if he thinks Jamie is lying for him. So the natives kneel Jamie down and reach up with the axe; Willie refuses to leave Jamie, and throws himself in front of the blade and screams that Jamie is NOT his father (kill shot!): “He showed me the boundaries but I did not respect them. I alone stole your fish.” The Cherokee make a big show of flashing the axe at Willie, but merely prick his hand before retreating. Jamie doesn’t know what they said, but tells Willie that he could tell it had something to do with being impressed by William’s courage. They hug tightly, and Jamie seems incandescent about this little scowler’s affection.
Back at the Truth Ranch: Claire makes John some tea and tries to keep the headache and fever as manageable as possible. The small talk, as you can imagine, is pointed. When John mentions Isobel in passing, Claire offers condolences for her death, and John’s response is, “We’d known each other all our lives. She may as well have been my sister.” That… doesn’t make it any less sad that she’s dead, dude. Most people grieve their sisters. Claire seems unusually slow on the uptake, or else she’s trying to be subtle about her questioning, because she frowns and asks if Isobel was really satisfied with simply being like his sister. John says, defensively, “I believe she was satisfied with the life she lived,” and then appears to consider this before saying with adorable confusion, “She never said that she was NOT. I was an adequate husband to her. IN ALL WAYS.” What an odd brag.
Three whole stars on Yelp.
That’s my husband score. AWWW YEAH.
… OK, two and a half.
It’s not my fault though.
She never said she wanted
to see Virginia.
Claire, who earlier raised the mildest of brows at John’s “business in Virginia,” had wondered then whether John was spying on Jamie’s loyalty for the governor. Fortunately, John has a fever, so he’s bringing the real talk. He says that if Claire were to accept that John is a nice person and a good husband, then it would make it harder for her to dislike him, then suggests — as politely as possible — that what’s really going on here is jealousy: of his time with Jamie, of him raising Jamie’s son (a relationship I rather think John views as more of a marriage than his actual one). Claire takes this in, and then levels John with, “We have a daughter.” She twists the knife by saying Culloden robbed them of the chance to raise her together, which has the dual effect of reminding John which side of the war he was on, and underscoring that Brianna predates his special friendship with Jamie. John senses her tone and says he didn’t mean to offend — and I don’t think he did, but I DO think he was marking his territory there, a little — and Claire leans in and says, “But you did mean to imply that you and Jamie have something together that we did not. Perhaps you’re right about that. … What if your son takes a good look at Jamie’s face and sees his own? If he did learn that he’d been lied to his entire life, he’d be devastated. I can’t for the life of me understand your motivation for coming here.”
Did you not hear me?
I told you. Virginia.
BUSINESS TIME, BABY.
Claire, I think, is really just trying to make John say it out loud himself. John fumbles, sputtering that it’s obvious he’s just trying to give Jamie a chance to see the boy. “Or the other obvious,” Claire says. “To allow you to see Jamie.” John gapes at her, and then smiles with admiration and respect, because he is seriously the nicest person on the wrong side of history that you can imagine. He tells Claire that she’s remarkable, and devastatingly straight-spoken. “Well, it’s not by choice,” she says. “I was born that way.” OMG DOES BRIANNA GROW UP TO BE LADY GAGA? Also, as Claire gets up, the heavy hand of Ron Obvious reaches into the scene and yanks on John’s ponytail as he whispers, a single tear streaming down his cheek, “So was I.”
You’re honest. Big deal.
I CAN NEVER LOVE FREELY.
GET OVER YOURSELF.
Y’ALL. I seriously cannot believe they are drawing a parallel between the pain of John’s repressed sexuality and Claire — who is from 203 years in the future — being blunt. The two are not comparable problems. At all.
John’s fever and headache worsen, so Claire sticks her fingers all up in his eye sockets, and for enduring that this actor deserves an Emmy and an Oscar and a Nobel Prize and Employee of the Month and Homecoming King and whatever else you want to hand him. Quietly, John asks if he’s going to die today, and wants to confess: When Isobel kicked it, he felt nothing. At all. The real answer to why he came, then, was to see if he is totally dead inside or whether he still has embers within: “If it was my feelings that had died, or only Isobel.” I mean, he probably also showed up on the offchance that Jamie was single and re-considering mingling. Isn’t that half the reason anyone thinks to text an ex? Then he moans, “Oh, it’s hard. It’s HARD watching you with him.” Claire does not like hearing this. Her entire face tightens. “Why torture yourself?” she asks. “Knowing you can never have him.” John, bless his heart, growls that he COULD HAVE had Jamie, because Jamie offered his body as trade for protecting William, but John didn’t want him on those terms.
I was tempted, but
Pity wang is not my jam
HOW DUMB AM I THOUGH
Claire seems REALLY unhappy about this twist. I read an interview with Caitriona Balfe where she said the script for this episode was very heavy on jealousy vibes, but they all talked about it and filtered some of it out, because Claire never felt threatened. I… do not think they successfully filtered that out of her performance at all. (Also, that’s a boring choice. It’s WAY better to have her be jealous! John Grey was the closest thing to Claire that Jamie had while she was in Boston. They weren’t lovers, but they knew each other’s secrets, they were devoted to each other in a way, they have a far-reaching emotional bond, and Jamie feels deeply indebted to his friend… it’s a very layered situation, and it’s way more interesting to make her jealous even if she doesn’t believe anything ever happened or could happen. Jealousy doesn’t have to be rational; indeed, it rarely is.)
Anyway, Claire freezes up a little and tells John he needs to rest. The next morning, or whenever it is, John is feeling better and issues a very embarrassed apology to Claire for his bluntness. She tries to give him a sickness pass, but he won’t take it, and then he tells her that she’s wrong about him. He actually accepts the truth that Claire has Jamie and John never will; what he said eats away at him is seeing them together, and witnessing Claire’s loved-up and satisfied face, an expression he was never able to replicate for his own wife.
Dear Madam Fraser
Your afterglow is showing.
And I am taunted.
“Do you know what it’s like to love someone and never be able to give them happiness?” John asks. He’s talking about Isobel, whose G-spot he apparently never did find. Claire, indeed, can relate all to well to this, because: Frank. She also does AT LAST tell John that she envies his time with Jamie a bit, given that they were together when she and Jamie were not. She does want to know whether John still has feelings, though. “I do, yes. God help me,” he says. Claire moves closer and puts a hand on his arm. “When you said you have nothing of Jamie, you were wrong,” she says. “You have William.”
And speaking of the sprog, on the ride home William finally asks Jamie what I think has been nibbling at him: When Jamie left Helwater, and Willie ran after him, why didn’t Jamie didn’t turn around and look back at him? Jamie, whose face William cannot see fortunately, says he wanted to but was worried it’d give William false hope that they would meet again. When they return to Fraser’s Ridge and find John largely recovered and sitting by the fire, William throws his arms around him, and Jamie commends Willie’s bravery and John’s parenting. “You’re lucky to have each other,” he says, as Willie squeezes John again and Claire and Jamie gaze upon the bond borne of The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, But If It Did Someday, I Wouldn’t Be Mad At It.
Claire bids John adieu with some dietary advice for his recovery, and then pauses. “Don’t lose hope,” she says. “You too deserve to have the look of satisfaction on your face.” John seems lit from within for a second that she sees him and doesn’t reject that part, and even champions the orgasm of the homosexual male. Thus strengthened, he gives Jamie his chess set. This time, when they leave, the farewells are polite — but William does indeed turn back for a last look at his old friend Mac. Jamie drops his arm from Claire and takes a step forward, as if to see it better, as if to draw from it a promise that they WOULD meet again.
Their departure is not a moment too soon, because Jamie and Claire haven’t done business in Virginia in AGES and the pent-up sexual energy is going to blow a nuclear hole into the entire region. We join them with Jamie giving Claire a bath, telling her all about how he longs for her bod, and he’s essentially jealous of the water he is drizzling onto her naked form. Just when things get hot, Jamie pulls away and grabs the ring he had Murtagh forge from one of his mother’s candlesticks. It’s inscribed with, “Give me a thousand kisses and I’ll give you a thousand more,” which I think is meaningful to them and the commenters will tell us all why (I gather it may also have featured in the books, in ways the show didn’t use). And then, Claire is lain down and pleasured to high heaven by Jamie, which I like to imagine is because a woman directed this episode and was like, “FORGET HIS PLEASURE FOR ONCE; LET HIM WORSHIP HER.”
May I just object?
I volunteer as tribute
His pleasure is life.
Virginia is for lovers, y’all.