For the recap, read on; for just a few visuals — like a death-dance, bedhead, and some major apartment porn — drop into the slideshow. Sorry so tardy with this — I imagine next week’s will be a little late, too, because of the Emmys. Just FYI.
If you forgot where last season’s Outlander left us: Jamie sent Claire back through the stones so that he could die a Manly Muscular Death at Culloden, without worrying about leaving her behind with a baby and a bunch of Englishmen who are, let’s face it, depicted here as extremely fond of sexual assault. Dougal, Head Baldie of Clan MacKenzie, is dead at Jamie’s hand, and Claire found out that Jamie maybe didn’t die on that battlefield after all, because there are a bunch more books in this series.
Episode 1 was parallel tales of breaking and healing, and birth and dying — told via Claire’s early days in Boston, gestating Brianna, and what Jamie thought would be his last days on Earth. Shirtlessness: zero. Boning: zero. Panting: lots, but it’s all death rasps. Still, we knew this season would be about the long game, watching Jamie and Claire live without each other, knowing they’re going to find their way back and be REALLY AMAZED that neither of them has aged a day. It would be kind of great if Claire came back to Jamie and she was a size 16 and LOVING IT, and he was bald and without a couple teeth.
I also need to tell you that I missed the line about what became of my beloved Murtagh, at first, and spent this entire hour thinking, “IF THEY TOOK MURTAGH THEN I AM GOING TO RAGE ALL OVER MY COMPUTER.” They didn’t. His cohorts “lost him on the battlefield,” which means he’ll turn up for a misty hug or back-slapping at some point down the road. Or just walk up and punch Jamie in the face, because whatever, that’s how dudes show love.
The Past: Culloden Moors
We open with some intercutting between a dying Jamie and the battlefield blur that was Culloden, during which Jamie and Black Jack Randall make slow-motion eye contact. Obviously, we know Black Jack has a carnal fascination with Jamie, but the moment — wind artfully ruffing Jamie’s hair — and subsequent charge toward each other is only missing the From Here To Eternity song. The way they slash and swing and grunt at each other, and clutch at each other, gracefully brutish and open-mouthed… It even ends with Jack collapsing atop Jamie’s wobbling form, having been knifed by Jamie at long last. Jack is Jamie’s rapist, let’s not forget that. So while, yes, it’s cinematically clever to draw these parallels (some shots are in the slideshow), it’s a bit jarring that Outlander leaned so heavily into making this one long charged double-entendre. But I guess that’s because this IS the climax of their story. This is the release Jamie’s been hell-bent on reaching. Jack is dead, and he did it.
Unfortunately, Jamie has a bad leg wound. When it’s all said and done, Culloden is littered with dead or dying Scots, and English soldiers walk amongst the dead and deliver death blows to anything still moving, breathing, or moaning. Jamie can barely stir, but he can see and hear. I’m unclear on why nobody noticed him still there, but he IS trapped under someone heavy, so maybe in the end Black Jack saved him in a way. I also almost called him “Jack Black,” which is a TOTALLY different story.
Rupert — whose name I forgot so my notes just call him “Eyepatch” throughout — apparently also survived. He lopes out of the twilight and drags Jamie to a barn where the living and wounded have huddled, I guess from during a time when the English were napping. But they’re sitting ducks, and they know it. Heroically, Rupert and Some Other Dude Who Is An Emotional Fill-In For Murtagh refuse to leave despite the fact that they’re able-bodied and could maybe get away. What ensues is the most polite ritual execution imaginable. Lord Melton and others of Cumberland’s men arrive and inform each man he will be given a chance to write a letter before being shot, and Melton is galled when someone asks whether the wounded should be shot on the ground. “GOOD LORD,” Melton gasps. “No man in the king’s custody will be shot lying down on MY watch. Not even a traitor.” The etiquette of slaughter: It’s what’s for dinner. Rupert tries to argue for the safety of two boys and is met with a very apologetic no. But not SO apologetic that they don’t go ahead and do it. Every dialogue scene is punctuated with a single shot from a gun, to let you know that another one has fallen.
Jamie, weakened from blood loss and probably no small amount of burgeoning infection, gets TWO weepy scenes: One to Some Other Dude Who Is An Emotional Fill-In For Murtagh, and one to… sniffle… Rupert. SODWIAEFIFM volunteers himself for the next bullet after making sure Jamie is squared away and that he didn’t want a letter transcribed. CRACK goes the gunshot. And then, Rupert. Dear Rupert. He and Jamie joke about him being reunited with Angus in the afterlife. He also says that while he can’t forgive Jamie for killing Dougal, he won’t die hating him for it, either: “The Lord will judge us both, and I trust in his mercy.” CRACK. “Farewell, Jamie.” Then he steps up for his turn, and as the camera lingers on Jamie, we wait, wait, wait, wait… CRACK. Jamie starts to cry. This whole thing is heart-rending, much more affecting than the battlefield scenes because we know the worst is coming and so does he, and we’re tight on Jamie’s face when it hits. It’s also really not a good look for England, y’all.
Then, Jamie himself begs for death. But as the English go to drag the wounded outside to sit them up and then kill them, they take their roll and realize Jamie is Red Jamie, aka the noted outlaw. Melton goes pale: Turns out his brother is the kid whose life Jamie spared, and who owes him a debt of honor. “GOD’S BLOOD!” he squawks. “Can we kill him under an alias?” his underling asks hopefully. Jamie is like, “Dude, I’m chill, kill me anyway, it’d be so much nicer,” but noooooo, Melton lives by the book. So he orders up a wagon and goes, “Find me a trustworthy man BY WHICH I MEAN A MAN WHO WILL TAKE A BRIBE.” Then just… say that the first time? Anyway, the wagon carts Jamie to Lallybroch, where he wakes up to find Jenny ecstatically stirring him. “Lallybroch,” Jamie breathes. God, that word is musical coming from his mouth, even when he’s all chapped lips and waxen with death’s sheen.
The Present: Boston
Frank has hooked himself and Claire up with a sweet, sweet pad. He’s teaching in Boston, and the fat cats at his university are all sexist blowhards. Outlander cannot resist doing the obvious thing where it places Claire and Frank alone on the right side of current events that we know are coming: There is all this vague talk about the upcoming presidential election, and then finally someone says something like, “Well, PERHAPS Mr. Dewey WON’T win the election,” in a way that feels extremely winky. The portly bespectacled smug mugs glance knowingly at each other as the little lady argues in favor of Truman, but then one of them takes umbrage when Claire counters him with an incisive summary of a Boston Globe article. He remarks to Frank that he should be more careful what he lets his little woman read. (Claire has always felt like a more modern woman than ANY of her times — which is fine — but her level of surprise at this treatment, which cannot have been unusual in England either in this era, made me forget she isn’t secretly from 2017.) Claire also spars with him about a woman’s place in Harvard Medical, or Harvard Law, all of which is to make the point that the more things change the more they stay the same: From feudal Scotland to Louis’s Paris to Boston, women are often relegated to the role of breeder or arm candy with little else to contribute. Although there’s also an undercurrent of Claire having carved out a life of use and respect in Scotland and losing that again now.
Overall, Claire seems edgy and wary. She hates the new stove, preferring to cook with saucepans over a fire in the hearth (which amazes her friendly neighbor, a woman who bears a passing resemblance and personality to Jamie’s sister Jenny — if slightly less feisty — and I can’t tell if that’s intentional), every time they ease into any kind of affectionate banter, she seems to catch herself and shut it down. This doesn’t go unnoticed by poor Frank, especially when he reaches down to stroke her pregnant belly and she lurches away from him. This leads to a corker of a fight. “Talk to me!” he begs, and when she snaps at him, he screams, “I want to know when you’re going to come back from the fucking past!” That is both a fair and a vaguely insensitive question, as there are no manuals entitled How To Recover From Leaving Time-Traveling Away From Your Hot Hot Hot Man Piece And True Love Who You Suspect Got Slaughtered Moments Later. Claire spits that she’s abided by their bargain never to discuss the past, and ALSO insists he asked her to leave everything that mattered to her (which was… Scotland?), but he points out that, no, their bargain was that they’d raise the baby as theirs and as partners, and she accepted it willingly. “You will not let me in, let alone touch you,” he whispers. But Claire is on a MAD ANGRY ROLL, and says unkindly that he should feel free to go bang any of the Radcliffe girls “who’d die at your English accent.” Oh, Claire, do not be so reductive of your own gender when you yourself were just reduced. Frank screams that HE isn’t the one who slept with someone else. As that hangs between them, Frank reminds her that he never forced this on her. “Go. Or stay,” he says. “But please do it because it’s what you really want to do.”
And that, Fug Nation, is when I realized I’m into Frank.
I most decidedly was NOT at first, but they’ve done a much better job establishing him as a viable, heart-tugging prong in this. He’s not perfect, but he was totally reasonable in this fight, and it’s no small thing for a man of that time to have accepted Jamie’s baby either. Plus, he is actually kind of right. While the circumstances were obviously very strange, his fidelity was — to my memory — not in question. He stayed true, he’s trying to give Claire EXACTLY what Jamie sent her back to have, and he is not imprisoning her. He is actually ensuring she feels safe asserting her free will. You feel how much he loves this person who will never love him in the same way, and that he’s just desperate to be able to trick himself into thinking she can. But she isn’t playing along.
Later, Frank sits down at his desk and writes a letter to the Reverend asking for research into one James Fraser. (Because he’s so nice and sensible and caring and REASONABLE IS THE NEW HOT. Although he’s also good-looking.) But then Claire wanders in with her coat on, clutching at her pregnant belly. Frank, who is not dumb, says dumbly, “What’s wrong?” GEE I DON’T KNOW. But the forthcoming birth thaws the chill between them a bit, even as Frank is left out of the actual process.
When Claire reveals her past miscarriage, the doctor decides they need to intervene in the birth. Because Outlander is also very into men forcing themselves on people — in body or in mind — that means Pompousface M.D. puts her under despite her express wishes not to be — because, of course, when she lost her baby in France, she was super out of it and woke up alone with an empty belly and no idea what happened, and she doesn’t want that to happen again. But he gives her no body autonomy; back then, it was the norm, but now we recognize it a form of rape when he jams the syringe in her arm after she’s said no repeatedly. When Claire wakes in a panic this time, though, Frank waltzes in with their bundle of joy. They kiss, as Claire somehow manages to cradle a baby in her right arm and yet also use her right hand to stroke Frank’s face. She is very dexterous. And of course, right when the two of them seal their vow to start fresh as a family of three, and gaze lovingly upon their child, the nurse asks brightly, “Where’d she get the red hair?” Frank’s face falls faster than Humpty Dumpty off his ill-fated perch. POOR FRANK. But son, you’re gonna have to get used to that one. Pick a grandmother and say she was a ginger.