In case you have shock-induced amnesia, last week's episode ended with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) saying goodbye to Frank (Tobias Menzies), lying dead in the hospital morgue after a car accident. It was very distressing, and I'm still not over it. Meanwhile, Jamie (Sam Heughan) has been languishing in prison, only to find some sort of freedom courtesy of the man who tries to make a pass at him. How's that for drama?
This week, we fast forward to 1968 Scotland, where we left off with Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Claire in season 2. Welcome back Roger (Richard Rankin)! In true historian fashion, he has compiled a very handy timeline to track where (or when) Jamie would be alive now. Somehow, time passes at the same rate in the 18th century and the 20th, so they need to establish that Jamie is alive in 1766, exactly 20 years after Claire left through the stones before the Battle of Culloden.
To do that, Brianna, Roger, and Claire have been scouring old prison registries to find his name, but no such luck. Until, wow! Claire picks up a document and there it is: "James Fraser." Well, that was easy, right? It's actually not, because there's no record of Jamie after Ardsmuir closes in 1756. Foiled again!
We know where Jamie is though: Helwater, the English estate where he now works as a groom. Basically, this whole storyline is an 18th-century Downton Abbey spinoff — Lady Geneva (Hannah James) is giving me serious Lady Mary Crawley vibes. Jamie, it seems, goes by Alexander Mackenzie now. Lord Dunsany is surprisingly nice to him, given that he lost a son at the Battle of Prestonpans, but warns Jamie to hide his true identity from Lady Dunsany.
[Flash forward: Brianna and Roger just need to get it on, already. I see the way he looks at her as she's fixing his car.]
I was totally right about Lady Geneva. The grooms have to draw straws to figure out who goes riding with her because she's like the worst version of Lady Mary. Lady Isobel (Tanya Reynolds), on the other hand, is totally an Edith. She is 100% in love with John Grey (David Berry), despite Jamie's clumsy attempt to warn her against him ( "The major's passion lies in soldiering." Riiiight.)
[Flash forward: Back in 1968, Claire gets a call from Joe Abernathy (Wil Johnson), who wants to know when she's coming home. She's not ready to answer that yet. This lady's got an 18th century hunk to find!]
Turns out, Lady Geneva is engaged to a man who could be her grandfather, a prospect she's less than pleased about. She requests that Jamie accompany her on her ride, but if she was hoping for a romantic trot through the woods, she's sadly mistaken. When she pretends to have fallen off her horse to get his attention, Jamie drops her in the mud, and leaves her to find her way home. Doesn't look like she's done with him, though. (If she doesn't watch out, she might end up with a dead Turkish diplomat in her bed.)
Meanwhile, John Grey has been true to his word: he visits, and he and Jamie play chess. Lord Melton is with him, and he recognises the man he once let live after Culloden. When he finds out his brother recommended Jamie for the job, he's shocked, which, in British, translates to "gets drunk on Port and tells Lady Geneva all about it."
Later, Geneva comes to see Jamie with a peculiar request: she wants him to come to her bed. He refuses, and she threatens him. If he doesn't come, she'll make things difficult for his family. She knows his real name, and all about Lallybroch, courtesy of Lord Melton. Gotta hand it to her, this girl is good. And she gets what she wants — Jamie sneaks in that same night.
Now, a word about this scene. In Voyager, the book this season is based on, Jamie comes to Geneva's room at her request. But just as he's about to penetrate her, she says "Stop." He ignores her, and the lack of consent is kind of glossed over as a young girl's fear of losing her virginity. It's s controversial moment that the show has wisely, in my opinion, chosen to skip.
This time, Jamie comes to Geneva's room, and despite her twisted means of getting him there, the scene is actually sweet. In fact, consent almost seems exaggerated, perhaps to make up for the ambiguous moment in the book. Jamie asks: "May I touch you, my Lady?", and even assures her that she can change her mind if she wants to. We get to see a softer side to Geneva, who's really just a victim of her circumstances, and NAKED JAMIE. FINALLY.
After, she professes her love for Jamie, and he gently shuts her down. This is just lust, not love. "Love is when you give your heart and soul to another, and they give you theirs in return," he says. All Jamie has given Geneva is a very pregnant belly.
[Flash forward: Fiona (Iona Claire) gives Claire back her pearls, the wedding gift from Jamie that she had given to Mrs. Graham for safekeeping before leaving for Boston. Brianna and Roger finally kiss while sharing a romantic moment on a fire-lit couch.]
The birth does not go well. Isobel summons Jamie in a panic to drive to Lord Ellesmere's estate, but it's too late. Geneva dies childbirth, and her husband, realising that the child is not his own, threatens to dispose of the baby.
Thankfully, Jamie steps between Lord Dunsany, who is threatening to shoot his son-in-law, and Ellesmere, who is holding a knife to his son. Ellesmere makes a wrong move, and Jamie shoots, killing the old grump, and saving the baby, who is named William — Willie, for short. (Incidentally, it's the same name as Jamie's dead older brother, which is nice)
Lady Dunsany reveals she's known about Jamie's identity all along, and offers him his freedom. He refuses, preferring to watch over his son for the time being.
A couple of years go by, and Willie is growing into a cute, if capricious — seriously, what a diva — little toddler. Jamie, on the other hand, doesn't look like he's aged since Culloden, but fine, I'll take it. The only problem is, people have started to notice that the two look awfully alike. That means it's time for Jamie to hit the road.
Roger, Claire, and Brianna hit a dead end at National Archives in Edinburgh — the dates are all wrong. This is Scotland though, so they head to a pub to drown their sorrows in whiskey. Modern sexism is alive and well, and all the men stare down Claire and Brianna, who aren't technically supposed to be sitting at the bar. Claire is not having any of this patriarchy bullshit right now: "This is 1968, and we've as much right to sit here as any man." Amen sister!
Brianna is ready to keep searching for her father, but Claire is worried that she's getting sucked into chasing a ghost. She's finally ready to head back to Boston. Roger looks like he is not on board with this Brianna-less plan.
Jamie's also ready to go home, but asks a favour of John Grey before he leaves. He offers a trade: if the Major looks after Willie, Jamie will let him have his way. Grey declines – after briefly looking like a toad someone has squeezed too tight — but promises Jamie he'll look after Willie anyway. He's marrying Isobel, so Willie will effectively be his stepson. The two part as friends, and Outlander proves once again that it's a show that nails the art of bromance.
On his last night at Helwater, Willie sneaks into Jamie's room to say goodbye, and finds him lighting candles to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost things. He demands to be baptised as Catholic so they can share a secret — told you he's a diva. Jamie christens him William James, his special "Papist" name. Now they share a secret and a name.
Finally, Brianna and Claire leave Scotland, and Jamie leaves Helwater. All brood silently as "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" plays in the background.
Still no Jamie/Claire reunion — maybe next week?
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