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.
Let’s start by following Claire’s storyline–yes, I’m going to make you wait for news of the hot Highlander.
Cast your mind waaaaaaay back to the first episode of season one and you’ll remember that Claire and Frank had moved to Boston to get a fresh start after Claire’s disappearance and reappearance. We catch up with them checking out their new digs in America. Frank has gone all-out finding a place for them to live and raise their child, so much so that Claire asks if they can afford it. Frank admits it will make things a little tight, but that he knows that she wants a real home. Frank, you are too sweet for words. (Speaking of words, Tobias Menzies as Frank gets to bust out an American drawl that makes me want to see him star in the new Kingsmen movie, but I digress.) It is so obvious that he still adores Claire and wants to make things work–I want to hug him and pretend that everything is going to be okay.
Flash forward a few months and Claire is most definitely sporting a baby bump… well, more like a baby beach ball. The woman who patched up wounded men and traveled with an eighteenth century army camp is now reduced to trying to get a gas stove to light. Oh, how far we have fallen. But wait!… Claire has a bright idea to cook dinner in the fireplace, and to heck with the stove! She goes out for firewood, and upon returning meets her neighbor, Millie. This lady seems a little empty-headed, but basically decent–throwback to the ladies she hung out with in Paris? Perhaps.
Claire also goes with Frank to a faculty party and meets his boss, who is stunned to discover that Claire has a brain and expresses political opinions! How gauche! He suggests that Frank police his wife’s reading, lest she start thinking that women can go to school, and, you know, not be dependent on men. Give Frank some credit, he stands up for Claire by pointing out that she was a combat nurse, but all this gets is the smug assertion that Claire must be glad to get back to cleaning house and making babies. We actually see her swallow down about fifteen different responses before she finally answers “Yes” with a big, bright, I’m-humoring-you-for-my-husband’s-sake smile.
Forward a bit more and Claire and Frank are having breakfast and actually talking like normal human beings. Yay, some progress! Except that when Frank goes to touch her belly, she shies away from him. A vicious argument ensues, one which includes thrown ashtrays, and it ends with Frank telling Claire that she can stay or go, but to make sure she’s doing what she wants to do. The shot of the two of them separated by a wall as he hesitates at the front door is heartbreaking. But you have to wonder: how much has Claire told him about his ancestor Jack Randall? She obviously told him some of the terrible things Jack did, as last season Roger and Brianna found a letter from Frank saying that Jack “wasn’t the man he thought he was”. Does he really understand what it would be like for Claire to see love in the face of a sadist? Granted, she’s also grieving for Jamie, but I bet Frank’s resemblance to Jack is just eating her up as well.
Later that night, Frank’s exile to the couch leads to nothing but noting every little noise in his house, so he gets up to write a letter. It’s to the Reverend back in Inverness, and he asks him to find info on Jamie. Starting to believe a bit, are we, Frank? However, he is interrupted by the imminent appearance of a baby. Claire’s in labor! At the hospital, the doctor on call is a real jackass, talking over Claire and telling her not to worry her “pretty little head” and knocking her out over her objections. Sheesh, those women, thinking they can dictate what happens to their bodies. When she wakes up, she is sans beach ball and starts panic, but a besotted Frank walks in with little Brianna. The two actually kiss and promise to make a new start together… and then the nurse, with the world’s worst sense of timing, asks where the baby got her red hair. You can literally see the walls slam closed behind Frank’s eyes.
And now, back to Scotland, April 16, 1746. The Battle of Culloden is over and the Highland army has been almost entirely wiped out. Bodies litter the field, and British soldiers wander around looting the bodies and delivering a death blow to anyone still living. In the middle of one of those piles lies Jamie, pinned under the body of a British soldier. He’s gravely wounded, and as he drifts in and out of consciousness, bits and pieces of the battle come back to him. He remembers the moments at Craig na Dun after Claire vanishes through the stones. He returns to the army and urges Prince Charles to order a charge immediately “while there’s still a chance”. The Highlanders charge as cannon blasts land in their ranks, red-coated British infantrymen fire indiscriminately, and bayonets are leveled at them. At one point, Jamie smothers a British soldier with a clump of turf–the Highlands themselves are fighting back! At another point, Jamie encounters Murtagh, still up and fighting with a crazed grin on his face, assuring Jamie that the Lallybroch men are safe before returning to the fighting. And can I just say how brutal this whole sequence was? This battle wasn’t noble or heroic. It was slaughter, butchery, desperate hand to hand struggle, plain and simple. Of all the battle scenes in this show, I think this one caught the terrible savagery of bladed combat the best.
And then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Jamie and Black Jack Randall lock eyes across a crowded battlefield… okay, I’ll be serious now. The pair launch themselves at each other with all the power of their mutual history behind them. Jack slashes Jamie’s leg (so THAT’S how he got that scar!), and in return, Jamie stabs him in the gut. The two continue to struggle until, at last, they’re the only ones left on their feet and they’re blindly swiping at each other with the last of their strength. In the end, Jack reaches out to Jamie, a look almost of grief on his face, before the two collapse together… and we realize that it’s Jack’s body that’s on top of Jamie. Kudos to Tobias Menzies for his final portrayal as Black Jack. The showrunners said that Menzies ad-libbed the gesture towards Jamie at the very end of their fight, and they left it in because it summed up their relationship so very well. Hard on the heels of this memory is a vision of Claire walking to Jamie across the battlefield. She asks if he’s alive, but he rouses enough to realize that it’s actually Rupert who has found him and who then drags him into a nearby farmhouse with a group of wounded Jacobites hoping to escape the notice of the British. Jamie asks what happened to Murtagh, but no one knows if he survived. In the books, Jamie remembers holding Murtagh as he died, so the fact that we didn’t see his fate gives me hope that he’ll be back. GIVE ME BACK MY CRANKY OTTER. Ahem. I am somewhat fond of Murtagh. #AlwaysTakeAMurtagh.
The next day, the small group is found by a group of British soldiers under the command of Lord Melton. He informs the Highlanders that they are all to be executed, although he will give them an hour to prepare themselves and write letters to their families. It’s a weird way of giving the Highlanders honor as soldiers, but he says they will be shot instead of hanged. You take what you can get, I guess. Rupert tries to argue for the lives of two teenage boys but is told no exceptions can be made. As each man goes to his doom, his name is taken down for the official records. Rupert takes his final leave of Jamie, telling him that he may not forgive him for killing Dougal, but he won’t go to his grave hating him for it. He marches off, secure in the knowledge that he is about to see Angus again. And we all weep uncontrollably at the thought.
When Jamie’s turn comes and he says his full name, Lord Melton does the proper British equivalent of a tea-less spit take. Remember the kid whose life Jamie spared back in season two? John Gray? Turns out Lord Melton is his older brother! Since John Gray told his brother that he owes Jamie his life, Lord Melton can’t allow Jamie to be executed without completely destroying his family’s honor. He decides to send Jamie home to Lallybroch on a cart, reasoning that if he doesn’t survive, at least Jamie’s death won’t be on his hands (or his honor). Jamie jounces along in the cart for a few days before opening his eyes to see Jenny and Ian looking down at him. The war is over, and Jamie has come home. But to what? Tune in next time to find out!