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. When last we saw our intrepid hero and heroine, it was April 16, 1746, and the Battle of Culloden was beginning–the battle that would mark the destruction of the Highland way of life. Jamie had sent a pregnant Claire back to her own time through the stones at Craig na Dun and then returned to the Highland army with the expectation of dying on the battlefield. Twenty years later, Claire discovers that Jamie did not actually die that day and vows to return to the eighteenth century to find him again. The first few episodes are going to be covering what happened in Jamie and Claire’s lives after their separation.
Claire’s storyline isn’t too hard to recap this week, as it all runs along the lines of her trying to insert Frank into Jamie’s place. Yes, I know what i just said… it was deliberate. That’s because there’s a lot of focus on Claire and Frank’s sexual relationship in this episode. It reminds me strongly of the very first episode of this series, when the two were reunited and on their second honeymoon. Claire says straight out that she and Frank used sex to find their way back to each other after being separated for several years in the war. Back then, they were torn apart before they could really complete the process of reconnecting, and I see the writers showing that they’re on a similar path again. They seem to find some measure of comfort in each other physically, but not much else.
Or do they? Claire appears to be a bit, um, distracted in realms fleshly. Dreams of Jamie haunt her (and my God, does Jamie have some smolder–even my husband Scott said that Jamie’s look over his shoulder at Claire in her dream was sexy). So much so that she awakens from a dream and decides to take matters into her own hands. Yes, Claire, we see where your hands are.
But you can’t say that Claire isn’t trying to make it work. She and Frank do seem to be bonding over Brianna, with whom Frank is clearly completely smitten. When Bree turns over by herself for the first time, Frank has just jumped out of the shower and is walking through with nothing on but a towel when he detours to cuddle the baby. And is anybody going to deny that he looked adorable holding little Bree? Claire and Frank share a moment as she realizes that he’s wet and almost naked and… ahem. Off goes Frank to fix the hot water heater, and I’m pretty sure all he’ll have to do is smile at the thing to get some steam a-goin’. That night, Claire reaches out to him and whispers “I miss my husband” before jumping his bones. WE SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING THERE, LADY.
Next up is a dinner party, with Neighbor Millie and her husband. The two are flirting heavily with each other (how much wine was involved in this dinner, anyway?) and it really underlines what Claire and Frank are missing in their relationship. After the lovebirds leave, Claire and Frank share a nightcap in front of the fireplace, and then Claire offers to share more than that. They end up having sex on the floor by the fire, but Frank can’t help but notice that Claire’s eyes are closed… and he knows what that probably means. He pulls away from her, saying “When I’m with you, I’m with you… but you’re with him.”
Claire realizes that her new life is a prison of a different kind than the one that Jamie will soon be enduring, but it’s a prison nonetheless. Reaching for a purpose in her life, she enrolls in medical school, the only woman in her class. This is something that the professor (and what IS it with white men in Boston???) can’t resist pointing out, also noting that the class contains their first black student. And thus does Claire meet Joe Abernathy, one of her closest friends in years to come. Readers didn’t get to see this meeting in the book, but the showrunners included it here to give viewers the beginning of their friendship.
Our last glimpse of our strained pair is at bedtime one night, in which the camera pulls out to reveal that Frank and Claire now sleep in separate twin beds. Ouch.
Back in the early 1750s, the family at Lallybroch has been living with regular invasions of British soldiers, hunting for the elusive outlaw Red Jamie, whom they believe is the same person as a figure who’s cropped up called the Dunbonnet. Jenny and Ian deny harboring a Jacobite traitor, and they’re not lying–Jamie isn’t at the estate. He’s lurking around in the hills above Lallybroch, feral and hollow-eyed and sporting a truly awe-inspiring beard. He watches from the shadows as Fergus taunts the British soldiers (especially a Scot who sided with the Crown and is now viewed as a traitor himself among the Highlanders) and as the soldiers drag Ian away to prison (mostly just because they can). Jenny, hugely pregnant, is confident Ian will be back soon, just like all the other times.
Later, Jamie takes down a deer and hauls it back to Lallybroch. It’s not made really clear in the show, but in the book readers are made well aware of the fact that Jamie’s hunting is helping keep his family from starvation. Tromping into the courtyard with his load of fast food (heh), his imagination shows him Claire waiting for him and smiling at him. Alas for our hearts, it’s actually Jenny standing there. Gotta wait longer for that reunion scene. In the kitchen, Jamie silently butchers the deer and seems content to communicate in expressive glares. Joking aside, Sam is doing a great job at portraying how lost Jamie is without Claire. The blank looks, the silence, the hoarse voice when he does eventually talk–they all hint at a man who never really came back from that battlefield, as Jenny succinctly notes later in the episdoe.
Fergus has distinctly mixed feelings about his beloved Milord by this point. After finding a pistol hidden in the dovecote, Jamie growls at him to put it back, because weapons are now forbidden in the Highlands. Fergus wants to learn to shoot and fight, so that he’s ready for the next time it comes to war, but Jamie refuses to give in to his demands. Fergus lashes out at Jamie calling him a coward. Jamie barely reacts.
The next time Jamie shows up (scaring Mary McNab this time), he finds out that Jenny is giving birth! While he paces upstairs, Fergus, Rabbie McNab and young Jamie see a raven on the roof and, fetching the pistol, shoot the bird. Ravens are bad luck, and they don’t want any harm to come to the baby. (The showrunners said that this is a callback to Fergus’s reaction to the death of baby Faith.) And it’s bad luck, all right–a Redcoat patrol is nearby and hears the shot.
Upstairs, Jamie cradles his new nephew, who is to be named after his father (HELLO WEE IAN!), while Jenny quizzes Jamie on when he last had sex. Um, nosy much, Jenny? Yes, she’s worried about Jamie’s state of mind, but wow. This tender scene of sibling companionship is interrupted by the arrival of the British patrol, who demand to know who has the gun. Jenny dissembles like a pro, playing on her condition as having recently given birth and lying through her teeth that the infant died, hoping the soldiers will leave. Instead, they demand to see the body. WHAT THE HELL, SOLDIER BOYS. Meanwhile, Jamie is hiding in an antechamber with the baby, trying desperately to keep it from crying. Just when all seems lost, Mary McNab comes in with the pistol, saying she shot it to kill the raven in an effort to save the baby. The soldiers are disgusted with the superstition, but do no more than confiscate the gun and leave.
But our wily limeys haven’t actually gone anywhere–the Scottish corporal has stuck around hoping that someone will lead him to Jamie, and he think he’s hit the jackpot when he sees Fergus head into the woods. But the boy is leading them in circles, and soon starts taunting the Redcoats with both language and gestures. Fergus, where did you hear such things?… oh yeah, you were raised in a brothel. Carry on, then. Jamie watches the goings-on with grumpy disbelief, and no small measure of fear. Well-founded fear, as more soldiers show up and Fergus is cornered and grabbed. In a fit of rage, the Scottish soldier draws his sword, and with one stroke, he severs Fergus’s left hand. The soldiers quickly decamp after this, leaving Fergus to bleed out. Lucky that Jamie was nearby, because he’s able to carry Fergus to Lallybroch in time to staunch the bleeding.
It finally sinks in to Jamie’s stubborn Scottish skull that others are suffering on his behalf and that he does still have things to fight for. With that in mind, he hatches a plan: Jenny will turn Jamie in to the soldiers, thus earning the reward (which will feed the family) and proving the Frasers to be loyal to the Crown. To say that Jenny isn’t happy with this idea is an understatement, but Jamie out-stubborns her. That night, in his cave, Jamie gets a visit from Mary McNab, who not only cuts his hair and shaves his beard off, but offers the complete spa treatment in the form of, well… her. Jamie initially demurs, but Mary says she knows what he had with Claire and is only offering comfort before he goes to somewhere that will have nothing of the kind. Crying, eyes closed, he kisses her.
The next day, a clean-shaven Jamie shows up at the front gate of Lallybroch only to be grabbed by British soldiers. Jenny, playing her part, screams at him “You forced me to do this, and I’ll never forgive you!” Methinks this is more than just playing the part here…
Our episode ends with Claire walking through the streets of Boston and hearing a bagpiper playing “Scotland the Brave”. She puts some money in his hat and continues on her way.
Next time, one of the characters we’ve all been waiting to see makes his appearance: Lord John Gray, a man who will eventually become one of Jamie’s best friends, but for now, their relationship can best be described as “fraught’. Fraught with what? We’ll see next week!