There are three reasons why this post didn’t show up until just now.
One, I got early access, and didn’t want to rub it in the Outlander community’s collective face. I’m nice that way.
Two, niceness was reinforced by generic life stress and an underlying A.D.D. drive.
Three, I’m currently hiding from the mini-Sassenach’s birthday party and this is the perfect excuse.
We all on board now? Great. Let’s get this train rolling…
We start the episode as y’do after a Droughtlander wait: with a sudden-death memory gut-punch. Part to remind you why you love the show, part to remind you why you hate BJR (in case you allowed yourself to conflate him with Frank as a coping mechanism, more fool you), and part to scare off the silly sods who wandered in without running the first 16-episode gauntlet: GO BACK AND CATCH UP, YOU GREEN NUMPTIES. THAR BE SPOILERS HERE, Y’KEN?
So, just as in the first episode of the first season, we get Claire’s voiceover in a black screen. It’s beautiful, it’s soothing against what is certain to be a backdrop of the Scottish countryside, it’s… not what we expected, after the last rewind shot of them sailing away to a happier life in France.
We come up for air to see Claire Beauchamps Randall Fraser regaining rattled senses on the ground. She looks like she just faced down a train (and knowing Claire, she probably would) and is telling us about her passive death wish. “And if I kept my eyes shut, I could have almost touched the edges of oblivion…” is one of my favorite lines from the book series, and Caitriona says it beautifully, with such emotion, that I’m already crying before she starts screaming bloody murder at the stones that have brought her back. It is so raw, it hurts to hear. Before screaming, however, her first action after waking is to check to see that a ring (pay attention) is still in her possession… but it’s missing its setting. She frantically searches the ground around where she was laying, finding nothing. That’s the last straw. She rage-faces. The stones are, predictably, assholes about… whatever it is she’s grieving over.
She gets up. She drags herself down the hill, and forces herself to plod down the paved road toward town. She’s honked at (because that’s a classic move, that is) and a gentleman in a spiffy modern(ish) hat steps out of his car to ask if she’s lost her bloody mind… politely. Because we’re still all British, y’see.
Claire wastes no time demanding (like a lunatic) to know what year it is and who won the Battle of Culloden… a battle which is now 202 years in her past.
I want you all to pause for a moment to appreciate the sheer brilliance of Caitriona Balfe’s emotive skills, right here, upon receiving his answer — “The British!”:
It literally doubles her over. It is such tremendous acting that if there’s a special award for it, I hereby submit Cait’s name. Holy shit.
Anyway. We need a nice break from the gut-wrenching. Have some irrelevant theme-shots.
Unfortunately, I can’t help you anymore.
Back into the grief wagon you get. Go on. Shoo.
The poor man with the car is so befuddled at this crazy lady in period dress, spouting mad questions about Cumberland and the ’45 before collapsing in a puddle of agony, that he takes her straight to the hospital.
Where we see…
He’s brusque. He’s urgent and politely demanding of hospital staff. And for a moment, all of us are wondering which Frank this is: Is it the Frank who will love Claire no matter what? Or is it the Frank who has picked up a little too much of his genetic inheritance?
The doctors assure Frank that they gave her enough tranquilizers to soothe the 3rd Mounted Regiment, and that she should be calmer now. Go on in.
And when he does, we are treated to this:
Claire doesn’t immediately see him, and so Frank is left to stare and do her bidding when she snaps (without looking, assuming he’s a nurse) that he turn the damned radio off. She’s quite literally holding herself together at this point, only partially supported by the drugs. She hates the noise. She doesn’t like anything about her old life. She doesn’t want any of it.
I have to hand it to the production team. The cinematography and angles of shots throughout the episode are simply en pointe.
If you remember much about the first episode (and if you don’t, and don’t want me to spoil you, skip this bit), you remember that Frank had an encounter with a mysterious Highland ghost — tee hee. — outside Claire’s window.
Claire, however, doesn’t care much about cinematic or thematic parity at this point, and startles. But it’s not the startle-turned-joy we might expect for a wife reunited with her husband… first husband. No, Claire is proper terrified.
She doesn’t see Frank in the glass, at first; she sees Black Jack Randall.
In this instant, we feel what she does, and wonder what the hell she’s been through to be so scared of a ghost, that she doesn’t associate the image with Frank again. (Because, last we saw of BJR, he was flattened beneath some rather confused cattle. And a door.)
They used each and every moment in this flash-forward prelude to foreshadow the crap out of this season, people. This is one of those moments where so much is said in just one word: “How?” She thinks Black Jack is in her hospital room, after the two years we assume to have passed since their escape from his clutches at Fort William.
Now, his brutality was dire enough to give people issues, to be sure, but after two years you would think she’d have had enough time to rationalize the fallout down to manageable proportions. So, what has happened, in the two years (give or take a couple of centuries) since we last saw her, to make that fear so fresh for her?
It’s not until Frank says, “Claire,” in the most heartbreakingly careful way possible, that she comes back to herself.
She’s back, she says. He’s grateful, he replies. It’s all very tense, despite the fact that Frank is doing everything he can to exude comfort and love and the wish to not strangle her before she’s had a chance to tell him where she’s been.
But mostly comfort and love.
He approaches her with the most timid respect for her fragility, and she reacts like this:
She pulls back and we see, in a literal flashback from her perspective, that this isn’t Frank approaching her. In her mind, in that second, BJR has found her and is going to strangle her — or worse — in her bed.
Frank pulls back, instantly afraid to do anything that might set her off again. He’s been through war, he recognizes “shell shock” (or, what we more modern people might call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). And he’s obviously wondering how the hell she wound up suffering from it.
He tries to calm her down by saying that good ol’ Reverend Wakefield has cleared out the east wing of his modest home for their humble use. Frank keeps trying to focus her on looking at him, making her understand that he wants her to get better.
She asks about the reverend’s fortune-telling housekeeper (who moonlights as a druid).
Frank’s reaction is priceless.
He gallantly takes it on the chin, however, and — after a run-in with an opportunistic photographer and Frank’s puzzling over Claire’s 18th-century costume — we’re soon off to the Wakefield residence.
We’ve jumped ahead about a week. She’s been convalescing at the Wakefield estate, and the reverend and Frank are discussing the response from one of Frank’s professorial colleagues: Claire’s “costume” is authentic, and valuable as hell.
The men puzzle over Claire’s hesitation to talk about her experience. She hasn’t said anything other than “pleasantries” for a week. The thing that unnerves the reverend the most is Claire’s sudden appreciation for history she couldn’t give a crap about before she left. She’s already blasted through the reverend’s considerable library on the subject of the Rising.
Reverend Wakefield comments that the press won’t leave her to her silence for long, leaving Frank to stare forlornly at her through the window.
Outside, Claire is complaining about the lack of books, and the surfeit of bloody planes.
All the tea in the British Isles hasn’t sated Claire’s need to rake herself over the coals of history, and she explodes when Mrs. Graham idly comments on the possibility of war with Russia. She tells Mrs. Graham another story about Jamie, how he didn’t know what “fucking sadist” meant, and about the laughs they had.
Mrs. Graham points out all of the amazing qualities that Claire has listed over the last week (not the least of which, his hair). Claire crumbles and then, realizing it, forces herself to come to terms with his current deceased status. She can’t move on, she says, unless she knows if Jamie actually died on Culloden Moor.
Mrs. Graham is the picture of support. She tells Claire to cherish the unique and wonderful experience with Jamie, tucked away in a secret place in her heart. And then she tells her to stop wasting her life on a ghost, when there’s a living
Backup Plan husband still hoping to love her.
There’s a second where Claire and Frank meet glances, and we all think she might smile at him or something… but her gaze wavers and he walks away in defeat.
Later that evening, after a long day of useless fretting, Frank wearily ascends the stairs. He pauses outside Claire’s closed door, and then slouches toward his own bedroom. Claire opens the door and stops him.
It’s an offer to come in. Despite the tense body language and hesitation, she’s finally ready to talk about the last three years. Frank can barely contain himself.
She’s been waiting for him to come upstairs. There’s a bottle and two glasses, already poured. Frank comments on this, saying that it reminds him of that time at Mrs. Baird’s. Claire’s strain is evident, because rather than ease into it she flatly says, “Of course I remember. Our last night together.”
Frank is hasty to assure her that she doesn’t have to explain herself. He’ll accept nothing, so long as she talks to him again. He’s in love and that’s that.
Claire, on the other hand, refuses to be moved. Let her tell it at her own pace, she insists, and then decide if you have questions. Or want to set the room on fire.
She tells him every detail of the last three years — some parts in triplicate, as Frank bitterly reassures her, when it comes to Jamie — and it’s dawn by the time she’s exhausted herself. She married another man, and was deeply in love with him. Clearly, she hints, this fantasy life and its very real repercussions are not a feat Frank is prepared to surmount.
Wrong, Frank insists, and puts her in her place.
He has spent the last three years in his world, fighting police, friends, and everyone who’s heard about his wife leaving that she didn’t do it to be with another man. He could have chosen to hate her, but he couldn’t find it in himself to do so. He loves her, no matter what, and is prepared to accept the gravity and depth of her feelings for Jamie.
Bam. How d’you like those apples, darling?
Moreover, he says he believes her about going back in time. Claire scoffs at him and he insists upon it. He believes her, because — regardless of the fantastical aspect — she didn’t choose to leave him in the first place. That’s something he can build on. If she believes it, he’s prepared to do so, because that’s how deep his love for her is.
Truly, Frank is the shining epitome of male honor in this part of the scene.
But wait, Claire says, there’s more. She tries to hint, poke at the subject, and finally has to flat-out spell it out for him: She’s pregnant.
The news, at first, is a cup-runneth-over moment for Frank. He is so happy that it hurts any viewer with a working brain, especially if that viewer read the books first.
And then we watch the pieces fall into place behind his eyes, just as the tears are falling down cheeks (his, ours, it doesn’t matter, does it?).
Up to this point, Frank’s benevolent reception to his erstwhile wife’s reappearance has been nothing short of extraordinary. And for me, who loathed book!Frank (I have my reasons. Shush.), this is a big get for the showrunners. To have someone like me sympathize so completely with a character that she previously had convinced herself that she couldn’t stand… It’s immense, the talent involved on all ends of this scene.
Because when this happens…
… we are right there with Claire, lulled into security only to be catapulted back into the long-awaited arms of Black Jack Randall’s Rage.
Frank is not his forefather, however. He pulls it back in. The look on Claire’s face is a dash of cold water and he recoils, from her, from himself, from the whole damned room.
He stumbles downstairs, past a polite Mrs. Graham, and out into the garden shed. Where he promptly lets slip the dogs of war upon everything in range.
After an indeterminate amount of time, wherein he pulls himself the hell together, he’s back in the reverend’s parlor solemnly apologizing for his lack of control.
I love James Fleet in most things. He was perfectly cast in this.
Someone he hasn’t seen in years, and only that one time that his daffy wife disappeared — and then came back — has just laid waste to his back garden, leaving no survivors, and he just brushes it aside with an air of detached bafflement. “Meant to throw it all out anyway.”
The reverend talks Frank through the current dilemma: he was happy to have his wife back, but her onboard passenger is care of another man…
Reverend Wakefield asks Frank, quite wisely, whether he is prepared to raise another man’s child, let alone have children at all. We then find out that, after Claire’s disappearance, Frank’s doctors told him he was sterile. So, there’s that. He’d come to terms with his own infertility as a pseudo-widower. With her back and pregnant, he admits that his happiness was overwhelming. And then he realized he wasn’t the father and everything turned to dust in his mind.
The good reverend attempts to compare Frank’s situation to Mary and Joseph, and Frank treats a wandering Wee Roger to some colorful language on the subject. Frank apologizes, and then the reverend explains his own situation with Roger: the boy calls him “father”, despite knowing the reverend is not. He continues to call the current baby situation “part of God’s eternal plan.”
Cut to Claire’s confused reaction: “You want to do what?”
Frank: “Pick up where we left off, of course. We’ve already done the ceremony bit. Saves us a bit of bother. And that’s now my kid, btw.”
They back-and-forth it a bit: she has conditions, one of which being that he’s not allowed to ever use the word “flog” in her presence again.
His conditions: The baby will be raised as theirs. With Frank as Daddy, not a ghost. Also, Claire has to give up her fever-pitch research project and accept that the past is where it belongs. They will move to America, where he’s been offered a position in Boston, and start a new life with the baby.
She agrees, and attempts to surrender all reminders of her life with Jamie. When she gets to the ring, she hesitates. She can’t bring herself to pull it off, and her face slowly collapses like pastry.
Frank tells her it’s all right; she can remove it when she’s ready.
Cut again to a few days later, and Claire is dressed for travel. She’s packing a small trunk, and there’s the ring from the first scene. Still missing its setting.
Somehow as precious as her silver band from Jamie, she stashes it safely inside the trunk before closing it. She looks out the window, and watches Frank and his small bonfire — her Highland clothes, turning to ash. Going downstairs, she joins Frank to leave.
They take a plane, and we are treated to this shot:
Descending the ramp from the plane, after touching down, Claire hesitates. She’s still reeling from her past and present colliding, and we hear echoes of memories tugging at her, even as Frank reaches out a hand to coax her down: One more step…
The camera closes in on his outstretched hand, then flicks up to Claire, who is beaming. She reaches out to take the hand, and…
— //millions of thuds as fangirls everywhere squee and fall over dead//
We’ve missed him all episode, and so has Claire. She flashes joyously back to everyone’s favorite ginger studmuffin pulling her down the ramp of a ship, straight into his arms.
They’re in France now, and Claire teases Jamie about the speed with which he disembarked: “I thought you were going to knock people over!” Jamie is looking a bit green around the gills. Not a water-lover, this one.
And then there’s Murtagh.
He sends the lovebirds packing off to find rooms, while he sorts out the luggage… and OMG the laughter as he does, because the boat-bastards are just throwing no fucks. Plenty o’ luggage, though.
Claire and Jamie find some reasonably posh rooms. His relief over a stable bed was infectious.
Of course, the relief doesn’t last. They’re not in the room thirty seconds before she insists that they formulate a plan for stopping the Jacobite Uprising.
Jamie is appropriately skeptical. He reminds her that they agreed to discuss an insurrection, not play one out immediately after landfall.
Claire insists that is why they came to France: to stop good men from dying on a battlefield in 1746.
Jamie asks her for details, but Claire doesn’t know that much. Bet she’s kicking herself now for not paying more attention to Frank’s scholarly rants on the subject, eh?
She says there has to be some way they can shift the balance, though. His cousin is in town and can make the introductions to key Jacobite leaders, being the owner of a profitable wine business… and a Jacobite sympathizer.
Jamie doesn’t think a crippled redhead and a pregnant Englishwoman have much chance of success, but Claire challenges his manly pride. Done and done. His main concern afterward: “What the hell are we going to tell Murtagh?”
Murtagh doesn’t seem to find the idea of stopping an insurrection in the Stuart name to be a very wise decision, and asks for the long version.
He doesn’t take kindly to being brushed off, and demands an honest answer from Jamie. Murtagh trusts Jamie with his life, and is wounded that he doesn’t have Jamie’s trust in return. He deserves that much and won’t settle for less. But how do they tell him it’s because she’s from the future without him chucking her into the harbor to see if she floats?
They manage, though. Jamie promises Murtagh answers in the future, just not today. Murtagh accepts it, for now, and agrees to help in whatever way needed.
Three weeks later…
Cousin Jared’s in the mood for a sit-down, but doesn’t quite buy Jamie’s patriotic turn. Why suddenly a Stuart supporter?
Jamie and Claire smirk at each other…
So Jamie does what any sane activist does when questioned about his motives.
He takes off his shirt.
The ace-in-the-hole that is a plethora of back scars moves Jared in such a way that he instantly absorbs Jamie into the fold. He’ll set up meetings, he says, but Jamie has no value as he is: a poor, wanted man.
Jamie argues that he is the rightful laird of his own clan and the Jacobites could do worse than his association.
Jared offers to bring Jamie into the fold in the wine business, to get his feet wet while raising his profile. Jamie sharply negotiates his way to a higher cut of the profits, and Cousin Jared is impressed by his cunning.
While the cousins are hammering out the details, Claire goes for a bit of a wander. As y’do in the seedy side of a foreign town before the age of cell phones and mace.
Coming across a flurry of activity near a docked ship, she sees two men carried off the ship on stretchers. Nurse!Claire kicks in and she pushes her way into the warehouse, past a gathering crowd of fearful onlookers.
It doesn’t take her long to pronounce what everyone around her is dreading: it’s smallpox. She wades right in and eases into the scene; after all, she’s not about to get it.
Nobody is happy about this, and certainly not the warehouse manager, the captain of the ship, or the Comte de Saint Germain… the wealthy and snobbish Frenchman whose wine is still in the death ship’s hold.
Jamie runs up to her and tries to shoo her out the door, not pronounce the illness to authorities when they show up.
Claire doesn’t give a damn about the rising temperature of the air surrounding them, and slips out of his grasp the moment he’s distracted.
Meanwhile, the authorities have shown up, and are taking stock of the situation. Shouting down a ferociously pissed-off comte, they inform him that the disease has cost him his entire shipment of wine. Sucks to be him.
Now, anyone seeing that face has backed up a good several thousand feet by this point.
Not our girl.
While Monsieur Le Bitchpants is kicking up a fuss, Claire wades right on in and lists every fuck she does not give. In French.
St. Germain promises the duo that their uppance will surely come, and that it will not be pretty. Jared backs this up by stating that they’ve made an enemy in France this day. Duh.
Later, it’s quite a show. The couple gaze lovingly at each other in the dark, before watching the destruction of several men’s livelihood from a comfortable distance.
But it’s okay, because we then get this:
They speak ominously of Next Week, we see some choice glares from French Enemy #1, and then the camera pans out wide. Bathe in the glory of the well-paid CGI staff members. They’ve earned it.
And that’s a wrap for this episode.
Honestly, I’m happy they did it this way. If you’ve read the books, then you know that the book starts a bit differently. (I won’t spoil how.) The change is good though, because the opening scenes with Frank showcase needed information that we are not privy to in the books until much, much later. It makes far more sense to get that out of the way now and use it to further support the story arc they’re laying out this season.
Claire’s back, and she left Jamie to die. How? Why? And how red will the baby’s hair be? (You already know, dammit.)
Stay tuned until next week!