Welcome to our recap of Season 3 of Outlander! This season is based on the novel Voyager, a beefy book that follows the storylines of both Claire and Jamie, separated by two centuries. It’s early days in the season, and we’re still going through the process of finding out exactly what Claire and Jamie have been up to over the course of twenty years. So far, we’ve seen Claire decide to follow her dream of attending medical school, and we’ve seen Jamie sacrificing his freedom for his family after hiding in a cave for six years. Tonight, Claire’s story catches up to her present-day timeline, and Jamie serves out his indenture at the estate of Helwater. Another beloved character makes his first appearance as well, prompting both smiles and tears in anybody with a heart.
Let’s start with Claire’s storyline, since she’s not in the episode all that much. She, Brianna, and Roger are searching for evidence of Jamie’s survival during the twenty years since Culloden. Claire stumbles upon his name in the rolls of prisoners at Ardsmuir, and the trio are excited until they find that the prison closed and the prisoners were transported to America. Subsequent searches of ships’ manifests and passenger logs turn up nothing further. Roger is willing to travel to all the actual ports and see if more records exist, but Claire decides to call it quits and returns to Boston.
Oh, and Roger and Brianna finally kiss. Seriously, how did she resist those sweaters for so long?
Back in the 1700s, Jamie is looking smart in a groom’s uniform and stylish ponytail. He works for the Dunsany family, consisting of the lord and lady and their two daughters, Geneva and Isobel. (As a side note, I squinted at the actor playing Lord Dunsany for the entire hour before realizing that he’s the actor who played Mr. Hurst in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. Small world.) The grooms all have a habit of drawing straws to see who has the, ahem, good fortune to accompany Geneva on her daily ride. Not very popular, that one. Her sister even realizes it, as she is fairly nonplussed at overhearing Jamie express the desire to give Geneva a kick in the butt.
But Geneva has some reason to be grumpy, since she’s headed for an arranged marriage with a guy old enough to be her grandfather, Lord Ellesmere. And one thing she doesn’t want is to lose her virginity to an ancient lecher. Luckily for her (unluckily for our hero), she cooks up a scheme to fix that.
Lord John has been keeping his promise to visit Jamie, and the pair are enjoying a quiet game of chess when the girls show up with John’s brother Hal–the same one who saved Jamie’s life at Culloden. Geneva notices Hal’s reaction, although the older brother follows John’s lead and pretends (not very convincingly) to be meeting “Alex Mackenzie” for the first time. But Geneva plies Hal with wine that night and gets the truth out of him. This truth allows her to blackmail Jamie: if he wants her to keep his identity a secret, and possibly avoid complications for his family, Jamie will come to her room and take her virginity. Jamie is understandably pissed off, but bows to the inevitable. (This is different from the book, in which Geneva intercepts a letter from Jenny that is enough to give away who he is.)
Jamie grits his teeth and does what he has to do. It turns out that Geneva isn’t nearly as confident as she makes out to be. She’s scared and completely in the dark as to what is supposed to happen in bed. You can sympathize with her, to a degree, because she’s basically been bartered off to a stranger. As uncomfortable as it is to see a sex scene with Jamie that doesn’t include Claire, you have to give it to him–he tries to make it not-too-terrible for Geneva. Later, after the wedding, Geneva and her husband visit Helwater and we see that she’s hugely pregnant. Oh dear…
One night, Jamie is summoned by Isobel to ready the carriage. Geneva is giving birth and is in distress. The family hurries to the Ellesmere estate to find that Geneva has given birth to a baby boy. And Jamie finds out that Isobel knows who the real father is when he comes upon her crying in the hall: Geneva has bled to death after the birth. And the chaos doesn’t end there, as Lord Ellesmere also knows that the baby isn’t his, since he says he never shared her bed. (He’s freaking out now after the birth? Did this not occur to him in the previous nine months?) Jamie and Isobel round the corner to see Ellesmere holding a knife to the infant, and Lord Dunsany holding a pistol aimed at Ellesmere. Jamie tries to calm everyone down and manages to get the pistol, but when Ellesmere threatens to stab the infant, Jamie fires one perfect shot that takes Ellesmere down without harming the baby. (Damn, I’m proud of that screencap.)
Days later, Jamie is confronted by Lady Dunsany, who reveals that she knows Jamie is a Jacobite prisoner, but in her gratitude for saving her grandson, she not only tells him that he won’t be held responsible for Ellesmere’s death, she will help Jamie get paroled so that he can go home. But Jamie won’t go yet–he needs to watch over his son. But as the boy grows, the resemblance between the pair gets too obvious. And so, Jamie decides to leave his son and go home.
But he wants his son to have a guardian, and so he asks Lord John to watch over little William. He offers John his body in exchange, to which John reacts with horror. He says that he will never stop wanting Jamie, but that he won’t force himself on his friend. And hey, he’s marrying Isobel, who has custody of William, so… instant stepfather. He may not be a Murtagh, but John ain’t half bad.
Before Jamie leaves, William sneaks into Jamie’s room to see him. He finds Jamie praying to the patron saint of lost things, and Williams declares that he wants to be “a stinking Papist” like his beloved “Mac”. Jamie baptizes him “William James”, and gives him a carved snake just like the one his older brother (also named William) made for him. The next day, he takes his leave of John, Isobel, and his son, and rides away without looking back.
Next week brings us to the moment when Claire returns to the past to finally be reunited with Jamie! I wonder if that will end the episode, or if the showrunners will tease us by ending the episode with the print shop door opening…