This show just backed itself into a wee corner with its time jumps: In Scotland, six years have passed since Culloden, and yet Fergus has barely aged. Manhood should have chased him down by now, but I assume they didn’t want to recast, so… maybe when you’re raised in a French brothel, you’re hexed with eternal youth.
As for the rest of the hour, the main commonality here is disconnect: Fergus, in a literal sense, and Jamie and Claire, emotionally. They are simply going through the motions, present in body but empty inside, struggling to figure out how to be a person in the world without each other. Jamie, indeed, has a whole other identity. He is now THE DUNBONNET (which everyone except Outlander Wikis spells as DUN BONNET; the poster from the show doesn’t use the space, so I’m going to assume THAT is correct). But we’ll get to that.
The show has no other way to work in a naked, virile, yet also clean Jamie, so we get flashbacks to his prodigious hotness as Claire lies in bed masturbating. Sadly. It’s very, very depressing masturbating, which is not a sentence I’ve ever had occasion to contemplate before now. She’s in bed with Frank in body, but with Jamie in her mind, and she knows that’s fruitless. Especially because Frank is a pretty doting dad, and they aren’t unhappy in each other’s company. So one night, Claire tentatively reaches out to him and says, “I miss my husband.” (Note: She does not say “Frank,” so she is not technically lying, although I don’t know that Claire is aware of that little lingual dodge.)
This vaguely kicks open the door of intimacy. After a dinner party with Thoroughly Neighborly Millie and her husband — at which said husband makes a winky crack about how her talents lie outside the kitchen and then they make out; were people that randy among friends in 1949? — Claire and Frank giggle about it and then she drops her underpants and straddles him. They start to shag right on the carpet, as she throws back her head and closes her eyes. “Open your eyes,” Frank pants, then repeats it with more urgency once he realizes she isn’t going to do it. He pulls away and notes, sadly, that she never used to close her eyes during sex — and Claire, silently, is kind of like, “ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO SHUT DOWN THIS VAGINA RIGHT NOW.” But Frank isn’t done. He hangs his head and says, “When I’m with you, I’m with you. But you’re with him.” Yes, but he’s living in Scotland and is, regardless of what happened on Culloden, super dead by 1949. Do not be short-sighted, Frank. The long game is yours to play and win. But I’m at least relieved Claire didn’t scream out Jamie’s name.
What she does do is try to circle back to what else fulfilled her: Claire enrolls in medical school. But what’s really weird is that Outlander chooses this time to use narration again. The narration is not Caitriona Balfe’s strong suit — she’s a very good actress, but her disembodied voice doesn’t bring any energy to the scenes, or at least not as directed — and Outlander is so spotty with using it, in part because it’s no longer a show from solely Claire’s perspective, that honestly it feels jarring and like a crutch. Or a network note. “We don’t understand Claire’s thought process here. Can you just have her explain it?” When in fact, acting and visuals could’ve done it. She looks at a newspaper that notes the hiring of Georgia Neese Clark, the U.S.’s first female Treasurer and a very distinguished Kansan, and voices-over all about missing being a part of something bigger than herself. Which I truly think we could’ve figured out from Balfe’s facial expressions coupled with the cut to her arriving at school. Oh well.
Naturally, she shows up for class with a bunch of runny-nosed Boys Club embryos who don’t understand that a woman’s vagina is not simply the open space where a brain was not installed. Her teacher snorts dismissively, “How modern,” because he has a woman and a black man in class. Naturally, Claire is radioactive, so there’s an empty seat when said man shows up for class. He is older than the others, and seems older than her, looking to change his life in the same way. His name is Joe Abernathy, he’s played by an exceedingly kind-faced English actor whom Fug Nation U.K. might recognize from his various endeavors, and he and Claire shake hands and make immediate allies of each other in an unfriendly, chilly room.
Scotland, 1752: Six years post-Culloden
Jamie has been living in a cave this whole time, fully recovered and looking like a cross between Yukon Cornelius, the “Mna-Mna” Muppet, and a variety of baseball pitchers when they aren’t shaving because it’s the playoffs. He only speaks in grunts, if at all; he simply shows up now and then and butchers whatever kill he found for their supper. He can’t live at Lallybroch because the Redcoats are still on the hunt for him, and have by now turned some Scottish men into their loyalists. “What the daft loons don’t realize is the British hate them just the same,” Jenny sighs. (She’s so exasperated. She just CANNOT with these dipshits.) So he roams the countryside wearing a hat, which is apparently such a clever disguise that he’s got a whole other outlaw identity: THE DUNBONNET. Which I cannot type but in all-caps, because it’s so dramatic. “Soon enough you’ll have a ballad sung in your honor,” Jenny snarks, because she is the best. I Googled it, and there is not one. Let’s remedy that:
When injustice chokes your country,
Who’s gonna be totally on it?
Why, Scotland’s favorite hat rack,
The Notorious DUNBONNET.
Done. It was very hard for me to take seriously every intoned reference to THE DUNBONNET because in Australia (and as employed in one of my favorite Blackadder III episodes), “dunny” is slang for “toilet,” so all I could think of was them calling Jamie a toilethead and him walking around with a bedpan on his noggin.
ANYHOO: The Redcoats descent on Lallybroch and quiz Jenny and Ian about the whereabouts of both Red Jamie and THE DUNBONNET, because there can only be one outlaw in Scotland at a time (although of course they’re right). This shouldn’t have taken that much detective work, though. Wouldn’t anyone in the vicinity recognize Jamie of Lallybroch if they ran across him? What new outlawing is he even doing, to have established some whole other mythos? The Outlander readers will be able to shed light on that, I assume. As played in the show… I mean, if you asked at Ian’s local tavern, they’d probably all be like, “The Dun-WHAT? Do you mean Jamie Fraser? Because he hangs around all the time in his beret thinking we can’t tell it’s him. It’s funny. Go by his Man Cave, you’ll see.”
Jenny tells them she hasn’t seen James Fraser in years — which she later notes is a true fact because he’s a mere shadow of himself — but they arrest Ian for good measure. Ian takes this so amiably. He and Jenny basically eyeroll and tsk this whole process, because they’re apparently quite accustomed to him being dragged off to the pokey every time a new commander is in town, on the offchance that it makes Jenny — or Jamie — let something slip. But Jenny won’t. Jenny is smarter than EVERYONE. I love Jenny. So does Ian, as she is heavily pregnant again. I wish she would take the initiative to tell him to pull out sometimes FOR GOD’S SAKE because her bits need a break.
The kids, meanwhile, have a smoking gun that will go off in act two. It is an actual pistol that Rupert — the son of Kind Mary the Maid — knew his (dead, I think) father had stashed there. I’m not sure the details, but basically, the gun was his brilliant idea but Fergus is enthralled with it. So when Jenny is screaming her way through labor and the superstitious boys see a raven perch on the wall, they freak out that it’s a harbinger of death. Fergus decides the obvious solution is to shoot it. My notes here read, “Kicky music, so you know no one will accidentally die.” Apparently Murtagh taught Fergus to shoot, and he must be a great instructor indeed (of course he is; he’s Murtagh) because Fergus blows apart the raven with one shot from a fair distance. Kind Mary is enraged because the gunshot will obviously draw the attention of the Redcoats… and sure enough, they heard it, and return to rip through the house.
Unfortunately, Jamie is inside at the time, cuddling his new nephew. So he goes and hides around a corner and appears to try and cover up the baby so that it doesn’t make a peep, which… I mean, he doesn’t suffocate it, but I am not going to lie: I was concerned. When pressed about her infant’s whereabouts, Jenny tells an outrageous and perfectly performed lie that the baby died at birth, and the body is away being prepared for burial so she can’t produce it. Then, Kind Mary comes in and confesses that the pistol was her husband’s, and says she shot the raven to try and cheat death but that it didn’t work. (It’s also worth noting that, in the vein of Lord Melton, the douche commander is immediately deferential to Jenny’s grief and scolds one of his men for being insensitive about it. They’re asshats, but you know, etiquette.) The troops leave, and Jenny immediately orders Jamie to dig a baby grave in case they go sniffing around looking for fresh earth. Do NOT go up against Jenny when death is on the line.
Now that we know Kind Mary is also Brave Mary, it’s inevitable that she and Jamie will end each other’s loneliness. Jenny even pimps her out, not realizing, I don’t think, that Claire had been pregnant at any point; otherwise I don’t think she’d have nattered so matter-of-factly about how cute Jamie looks with a bairn in his arms and the fact that Mary could probably still pop out at least one. “How long’s it been since you’ve lain with a woman?” she asks. “It’s God’s sorrow you never had a chance a child into the world.” Jamie brushes her off, not pointing out that if THE DUNBONNET was running a bang ring from his cave, the ENTIRE VILLAGE would be talking about it and there’d be 65 little Jamies running around and the Redcoats would’ve found and killed him years ago.
When it’s a child your uterus misses,
Who’s the one to try and spawn it?
Why, it’s Scotland’s deftest swordsman
The lascivious DUNBONNET.
When the Redcoats return Ian home — one of whom is one of the Scottish converts — Fergus gets into some verbal sparring with them. He is called a dirty frog-eater, which… dude, in this era of Scottish history, you’ve probably eaten a few peculiar things in your own time, jerk. They lurk in the bushes and wait for Fergus to leave, then follow him clumsily through the woods. Fergus casts a knowing glance back at them, so at first I thought he was deliberately leading them near Jamie so that Jamie could EXACT REVENGE, or just because he hoped to provoke Jamie into action (you know Fergus; he’s always amped up for a fight, because he’s a teenager and he thinks battles make you a man). But later he remarks to Jamie that he was trying to lead them away from Jamie’s cave, so I’m changing my answer to: Fergus picked up their trail and proceeded to lead them as astray as he could. Sadly, his strategy for this ends up involving hurling insults at them, including this little gem that Captain Von Trapp would later repurpose for Rolf: “You’ll never be one of them.” And as Jamie follows the sound of arguing voices, he arrives to see Fergus thrown down on a log and GETTING HIS HAND CHOPPED OFF. Poor Fergus. He was raped by Jack Randall — Tobias Menzies must burn sage every time he walks into his trailer — and now loses a mitt. He’s run afoul of some bad, bad people.
“He’s just a lad,” panics one of the soldiers, because again, Outlander’s M.O. is to have at least one soldier offering tepid mercy: “If we do nothing, he’ll die.” But they leave anyway, because they’re not THAT nice. Luckily, Jamie is there to scoop up Fergus and take him back to Lallybroch.
When the Redcoats thirst for your blood
Who’ll scoop you up once they’ve drawn it?
Why, it’s Scotland’s beefcake nursemaid
The tenderest DUNBONNET.
I don’t know why the Redcoats, having chosen Fergus to lead them to Jamie, wouldn’t then double back and see if Jamie showed up to save his young charge. They’re really bad at plans. Jamie is wracked with guilt that he didn’t intervene, but Jenny wisely points out that one hand is worth the sacrifice: If he’d done anything, the Redcoats would’ve killed him, killed Fergus, and then gone to Lallybroch and murdered them all. Jamie, shaken, collapses sobbing into Jenny’s arms. “Don’t fret, brother,” Jenny coos. “Luke Skywalker defeated the empire with no more’n one hand.”
Fergus is taking this way better than I handle a stubbed toe. He’s chilling out in bed, winking that Jenny has been generous with the whiskey, “but you know I prefer the taste of French wine.” Jamie apologizes and tells Fergus that he’s at least reminded Jamie what’s worth fighting for, and that the promise he made in France will hold forever: If Fergus is ever harmed in Jamie’s service, he’ll be protected for life. As if anyone thought they could bear to part with him. I am pretty sure Claire would feel that schism even from the 1950s (which is what it is for her when this happens).
This is also the show’s first chance to connect a phantom limb — Fergus can still feel it, even though it’s gone — with Jamie’s loss of Claire. For good measure, Ian then pours Jamie a glass and starts waxing on about how he can still feel HIS missing leg sometimes even though it’s been gone an eternity, and that’s just a damn leg: “Claire was your heart.” Got that? Jamie can still feel her even though she’s been cut cleanly and quickly and cruelly from his life? Okay.
Then Jamie develops a plan: Jenny is going to turn him in for the reward money, which also then means the Redcoats will protect her and in fact stop coming over quite so often. Jenny understandably loathes this idea, but Ian helpfully points out that they’re really only locking people up nowadays rather than executing them. Isn’t he forgetting that Jamie isn’t just Some Dude, but Red Jamie, THE DUNBONNET?
When you’re itching to use your gallows
Who’re you going to hang up on it?
Why, it’s Scotland’s most dangerous hider
The elusive, sad DUNBONNET.
The night before, aka Jamie’s last of freedom, Kind Mary comes to him to “deliver” “food” and then offers him a haircut and a tender shave, so that I guess he can start his prison growth from zero. He goes to bathe in the river, and when he returns, she’s stripped down to her underpinnings — which is more than Bella Thorne wears in a week, honestly, but for the times this was a randy act of seduction. Jamie winces and refuses her overture, angrily assuming that Jenny pimped her out for real this time. Kind Mary insists that, no, this was her own idea, and that she’s not in any way looking to compete with or violate what he had with Claire. “What I want is to share something different,” she whispers. “Something less, mayhap, but something we both need. Something to keep us whole as we move forward in this life.” In other words, Jamie: You’re the hottest thing to roll through Lallybroch in a decade, and she is PARCHED, and nice and clever and loyal to your family, so please, for the love of GOD, CAN YOU JUST WATER THE GARDEN OF KIND MARY?
When you’re bursting for a bratwurst manwich
Where’ll you go to climb up on it?
Why, to Scotland’s most engorged of lairds,
The virile, huge DUNBONNET.
What ensues is actually quite heartbreaking. This is two people who haven’t been intimate with another person in such a long time, and Jamie is crying slow, silent tears as they gingerly kiss. It’s as if every touch is both a comfort and agony. Mary offers that he can open his eyes and look at her, but he cannot. Much like Claire, he isn’t ready to see anyone but her.
The next day, the stage is set: Jamie pretends to return home, and the Redcoats catch him, as he yelps to Jenny about her betrayal. Jenny doesn’t have to act; she looks sick to her stomach. “You gave me no choice, brother, and I’ll never forgive you,” she trembles, carefully chosen words that are also halfway true: She was not in favor of this plan. Poor Jenny. Ian had better live FOREVER, because I cannot handle her losing Jamie all the time. Although she may have a piece of him, because honestly, with all that talk of babies… would ANYONE be surprised if he gets out of jail and finds out he’s got a child with Kind Mary? I hope that DOES happen.
Meanwhile, we leave the episode with Brave Scotland playing on the bagpipes. Jamie is carted away to jail, where Jacobites are no longer hung, so maybe he’ll get sucked into the graft trade and start a flag football team on the yard. Then we crossfade to Claire, walking across campus, and stopping to give cash to the busking musician: As Jenny takes the Redcoats’ money with a bitter turn of her heel, Claire is literally paying the piper.
And so our tale has reached its end.
It’s a sad song, not a sonnet.
But don’t give up, for hard to kill is
The immortal Scot DUNBONNET.