Outlander: A. Malcolm

"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

A practically perfect reunion episode, except for the last two minutes. Jamie was so shocked to see Claire that he passed out. I loved that so much; I could have watched it over and over again. (Okay, I'll admit it – I have watched it over and over again.)

An episode like this one, so romantic and filled with strong emotion, could have easily gotten melodramatic. Instead, there were delicious bits of silliness interspersed throughout, like Jamie's initial fear that he had pissed himself, his embarrassed expression as he put on his spectacles, Geordie's interruption as he loudly complained about orgies in the print shop. "And it's not even noon!"

Carefully prepared for this reunion, Claire had a significant emotional advantage, while Jamie had to weather one major shock after another. Like the existence of his grown daughter. Overwhelmed by the photographs, Jamie didn't hide his initial dislike of Brianna's name, and freaked about seeing her in a bikini. ("That rrrrrrigging!" Maybe Claire shouldn't have included that particular photo.)

Jamie kept looking at Claire as if he expected her to vanish in a puff of smoke at any moment. Every time he said something he thought might disturb her, his eyes went directly to her face to gauge her reaction – when he told Claire about his son Willie, when he skirted around any discussion of his current activities. He kept asking her why she had come back. Duty? To tell him about Brianna? Claire's gently probing questions about his occupation and current sex life showed that she had picked up on the fact that he wasn't telling her something important. And of course, they were both understandably afraid of getting hurt.



But really, Jamie. A brothel? I like to think that if he hadn't been so profoundly shocked, he would have had second thoughts about the venue. And yet, nearly every moment when they were finally alone together was incredibly romantic, with numerous callbacks of their wedding night: the simple meal as they talked, the smiles and laughter, the almost painfully slow mutual removal of all of those layers of eighteenth century clothing. Again, I have to give Outlander credit for doing the sex exactly right, especially the bits of awkward: Claire nervously covering her breasts, Jamie whacking Claire on the nose, the anachronistic zipper. And again, the female gaze; Jamie's nudity was usually the focus of the camera, not Claire's. They became a lot more comfortable afterward, after assuring themselves and each other that their strong emotional and physical connection from twenty years ago still existed.

The sweetness of such a long-anticipated reunion was followed by some unexpected and surprisingly fun vulgarity. In the morning, after Jamie left reluctantly to "take care of business" and in another deliberate echo of their wedding night, Claire went downstairs for food. This time it was all women waiting below instead of men, prostitutes with lots of questions for a woman they thought was their new, slightly elderly co-worker who'd had an exhausting first night at work. It was very like Claire to blush over the details but to be so open and friendly with them, sharing birth control information and snorting with amusement at their crass sexual advice.

How I wish they had ended the episode there, and not with the introduction of yet another threat. But I got the point. Jamie's current lifestyle is way too complicated and dangerous. He's not just printing seditious pamphlets; he's an active criminal, a smuggler and a traitor. Claire knew Jamie was an outlaw when she married him twenty-three years ago, but it's an awful lot for her to take. Maybe it's time to find a quieter way to make a living that won't get you hanged, Jamie.



Early on, Claire and Jamie ran into the adult Fergus in a very sweet scene in the street. Thrilled to see Claire, Fergus privately discussed a legal problem with Jamie concerning her return, a real "uh oh" moment. Did Jamie remarry? Is that why he jumped when Claire mentioned immorality? If so, where is his wife? Why isn't he living with her?

We also met Ian, Jenny's youngest son, who was floored that Claire had returned after twenty years of living with the fairies. And "Mr. Willoughby," Jamie's associate. While Jamie's friendship with Yi Tien Cho demonstrated a laudable compassion for someone so alien to eighteenth century Scotland, the tavern scene with the drunken elbow-licking made me uncomfortable. I also had zero interest in the smuggling itself, and Sir Percival.

Bits:

— The producers were smart to cast two lead actors in their thirties who could play Claire and Jamie in both their twenties and forties. There are now lines on their faces and Claire had dyed her hair, but of course, they are both still visions of hotliness.

— This episode began with the same scene that ended the previous episode, shifting from Claire's point of view to Jamie's.

— The math doesn't work for Young Ian. He was born in 1752 and it's now 1766, so he'd be fourteen, not sixteen. That would make his presence in a brothel, um, sort of bad. Although now that I'm thinking about it, Fergus grew up in a brothel.

— The actual printing was done accurately. (I've taken graduate classes on rare books.) Apparently, Sam Heughan was taught how, and it showed. I also noticed that Jamie had ink all over his fingers and embedded in his nails. They always think of the dirt on this show.

— I have to praise Lorn Macdonald as Jamie's disgruntled employee Geordie, because he was a total hoot. Given only five minutes on screen, he made me snicker twice.

— Lesley and Hayes, who work for Jamie, were in Ardsmuir Prison with him.

— Claire has been Claire Randall, Claire Beauchamp, Claire Fraser. And now she's Claire Malcolm. I've honestly lost track of how many nicknames and aliases Jamie has had. Let's see. McTavish? Mac Dubh? Alex MacKenzie?

— Madame Jeanne was very warm for Jamie, and shocked to meet Claire.

Outlander has made an art out of filming by candlelight. It was never better than in this episode.



— I'm very aware that sex and nudity is difficult for the actors and a challenge to film believably, but it's also a significant part of this particular story. Gold acting stars to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who always make me believe it.

Quotes:

Jamie: "I thought I'd lost hold altogether and pissed myself, but it's all right. Just spilled the alepot again."

Jamie: "I saw you so many times. You came to me so often. When I dream sometimes, when I was in a fever. I was so afraid and so lonely, I knew I must die. Whenever I needed you, I would see you, smiling, your hair curled around your face. You never touched me."
Claire: "I can touch you now. Do not be afraid."
Jamie: "There's the two of us now."
Which is what they said on their wedding night.

Geordie: "I quit! I'm Free Church. Working for a papist is one thing, but working for an immoral papist is another. Do as you like with your own soul, man, but if it's come to orgies in the shop, it's come too far. God's tooth, it's not even noon!"

Jamie: "For years I had the eyes of a hawk, but my sight is no what it once was."
Claire: "You look as dashing as ever."
Jamie: "I don't look like an old man?"

Jamie: "What an awful name for a wee lass."

Jamie: "You'll come with me?"
Claire: "Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

Claire: "Let me look at you! Oh, you've grown into such a handsome young man."
Fergus: "Aye. I have."
He is. Good casting, people. He immediately felt like Fergus to me.

Jamie: "You told the truth of it. You did go to America."
Claire: "I thought it might be wise to leave out the whole two hundred years in the future part."
Jamie: "Wee transgression."
Claire: "Where are we going now?"
Jamie: "The World's End."
So Claire really did follow Jamie to the ends of the earth. According to the internet, that pub still exists today.

Jamie: "I should have taken you to a tavern."
Claire: "It's all right. Although, I must say, of all the places I imagined being with you again, I never thought of a brothel."
Jamie: "I'm not a saint, Sassenach. But I'm not a pimp, either."
Claire: "Good to hear. So do you want to tell me what it is that you do, or shall I just run down a list of disreputable possibilities until I come close?"

Claire: (touching the large scar on his leg) "How?"
Jamie: "Culloden."
Claire: "I will never leave you again."

Claire: "A long time ago, you asked me what it was between us."
Jamie: "I remember. What it is when I touch you and you lie with me."
Claire: "I said I didn't know."
Jamie: "I dinna ken, either."
Claire: "I still don't."
Jamie: "Well, it's still there."

Jamie: "You'll stay here till I return?"
Claire: "I'm not likely to go anywhere. My legs are like Jell-O."
Jamie: "Jell-O?"

I knew this episode was coming, and I really, really loved it. Jamie and Claire are together again, but it's been a long time; they're now intimate strangers who need to learn about each other again. Can't wait.

Four out of four broadsheets,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

Shari said...

I'm with you. I had been waiting for them to reunite and dreading that it wouldn't live up to the insane expectations of my imagination. With the exception of the very end, they nailed it!

Anonymous said...

Excellent review!