This Outlander Recap contains spoilers for S03E01 “The Battle Joined”
Now that Game of Thrones is over and won’t return for another millennium, avid TV-fans need another show to fill their Sunday nights. And, as luck would have it, another addictive show has returned to TV screens this week. It’s an amazing show, with just as much, sex, politics, and drama (and a bit more romance). And the best part about it? THERE IS TIME TRAVEL.
I am talking, of course, about the Starz original series Outlander that is now returning after a very long #Droughtlander. And just in case you were worried this was gonna be cute and romantic, this first episode has enough angst to fill our hearts for the next year or so.
“The Battle Joined” picks up where Season 2 left off.
However, for the first time in the show’s history, the story doesn’t begin with time-travelling combat nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (this show has a thing for long names, for those that are new to the bandwagon), but with her husband Jamie as he lies half-dead in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.
When we last saw Jamie, he had resigned himself to his destiny: dying with his men at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746. Before this, Jamie made sure to send Claire and their unborn child to the XXth century. And, just in case you had forgotten just how painful that was, the show gifted us with some shots of Jamie smelling Claire’s shawl and staring angrily at Craig Na Dun (aka time travel central).
We all knew that Jamie already believed his destiny was made for him, and as we see in different flashes he has of the battle, he was totally ready to die fighting for it. However, as it often happens with the Frasers, things don’t exactly go as planned…
The episode begins with Jamie waking up amongst his fellow Scotsmen, with the corpse of none-other than Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall lying on top of him. As promised, Jamie was indeed the one that ended the life of Black Jack Randall.
And I’ve got to say, I think the way this was presented in the is amazing. We all knew that the body was Black Jack’s, but the camera only shows you that it’s Randall’s body until after you’ve already seen the two of them fighting each other in Jamie’s flashbacks. I also love the way their fight plays out: it’s not overly dramatic, but it is still given the importance it deserves.
After they see each other, the different ‘causes’ for which they are fighting for don’t seem to matter. Instead, it becomes about Jamie taking his revenge, and Randall’s desire to finish what he has started with Jamie. In a way, it is sort of grotesque the way these two men dance around each other on the battlefield — rapist and victim, avenger and perpetrator.
In the end, I love the way Jack Randall looks at Jamie just before collapsing. Even though Jamie is half-wounded and about to pass out, Jack is looking at him with a pleading look — a weird combination of awe and sorrow. To me, in that small second it is almost as if he knew that no matter what, he was never going to be able to destroy Jamie and that despite everything he had done to him, Jamie was still standing in front of him, paying him the death he owed him.
After all the flashbacks to Culloden are over, Jamie has a vision of Claire asking him if he is alive. It is quickly revealed that the person asking this is, in fact, Rupert who notices that Jamie is badly wounded and tries to take him to safety.
At this point, we transition to Boston, where Claire and Frank are moving into their new house, and are trying to be positive about their “new lives”. Of course, when we start to read between the lines, we see that this simply means that both Claire and Frank are dealing with their marital issues by ignoring them and not talking about them.
Frank is trying to sell the image of postwar domesticity that all other couples like them would have been expected to have, and Claire is trying to go along with it: Frank is getting a new studio, and Claire has a brand new kitchen where she will make delicious meals for her husband. Or, as Americans apparently say “rustling up some vittles.”
Claire is, of course, a bit reluctant, since back in the 1740s she had either lived off the land or from the food prepared by cooks in the multiple houses and castles she lived in (shout out to Mrs. Fitz for being awesome). However, she is still trying to be positive (cough —- fool herself—cough) so she goes along with him.
The show does a time-jump via pregnancy belly where we see a far more pregnant Claire struggling with a stove. Frustrated, she runs out of the kitchen and into the living room, where she realizes she can still make an exquisite 18th-century dish with the modern convenience of a fireplace. As she heads home with some firewood, she makes the acquaintance of her neighbor Millie Nelson.
Millie is quite shocked when she sees Claire’s unconventional cooking technique, and even more so when she finds out that this is something her husband might not necessarily approve of. Millie is kind enough to remind Claire that she should be happy she’s found a husband that is progressive enough to allow her to cook in a fireplace.
After another time jump, a far more pregnant Claire struggles with another case of 20th-century patriarchy and sexism when she meets Frank’s new boss, presumably the Dean of Assholes at Harvard. They seem to be some sort of reunion where politics are being discussed. Claire decides to speak up, sharing some information she got from The Boston Globe. The Dean of Assholes was horrified because:
- Claire speaks up in a table full of men (and in a conversation about politics)
- Claire reads the Boston Globe (under Frank’s supervision)
- Claire is very much for the possibility of women being allowed into Harvard.
This conversation comes with a complete side-eying older couple that are worthy of internet fame.
I find this scene really interesting because it’s a huge culture shock for Claire. Of course, Claire is no stranger to sexism, particularly after her experiences living in Castle Leoch and when she joined the MacKenzie rent party. During her travels through time, she went through everything from being called “a witch who sucks the cock of the Devil” to being assaulted and nearly raped on multiple occasions.
Despite all those horrifying and violent encounters, no one in the 1740s had ever dismissed Claire, on an intellectual level. Of course, Claire had been an unusual woman for the 18th century, but any doubts about her gender and abilities were put aside the moment people realized she was a talented physician. I think this is particularly painful for Claire, because being a healer is such a pivotal part of her identity. It’s also incredibly sad to see the sharp-tongued Claire, who has never been afraid to give men a piece of her mind, keeping her mouth shut and smiling away.
It also doesn’t help that she went from this husband:
To this husband:
While Claire continues to deal with that BS, Jamie takes shelter with other survivors of Culloden. They are wounded, and with the redcoats roaming about, they’re probably better off staying where they are. While he is there, Jamie asks if anyone knows what happened to his godfather Murtagh. Last time we saw Murtagh he was in Culloden kicking some British ass.
Now, anyone that has read the Outlander books will tell you that (SPOILER ALERT)
Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser dies at Culloden. And although Murtagh is an important character for both Book!Jamie and Show!Jamie, something about the characters adaptation and Duncan Lacroix’s performance made Show!Murtagh is incredibly more loved than his book counterpart.
And, of course, the character’s increased popularity gave hope to many fans that Murtagh would be spared from Diana Gabaldon’s grim reaper pen. But when Jamie inquires about Murtagh to the other survivors, he is told that no one has seen him. To some, this might be a fatal sign, but I shall not give up hope for Murtagh’s salvation!
Jamie doesn’t have too much time to contemplate his godfather’s demise, because a group of British soldiers quickly find their hideout, and begin to execute them as traitors. Since Jaime’s leg is wounded, he is being kept amongst the prisoners that are unable to walk. Jamie has no choice but to lie down as all of his fellow soldiers walk towards their deaths.
Perhaps the roughest of these deaths is Rupert’s. By this point, Rupert is the last of the MacKenzie guys from season 1, and seeing him go is almost like seeing the entire world of castle Leoch go as well. And Jaime has no other choice but to lie and wait for his turn, while he bleeds himself to death and sees his other peers go.
While Jamie waits for his turn to be executed, things begin to go south in the Randall household. Claire tells Frank that she would like to apply for an American citizenship since she never really felt that close of a tie with England. Frank gets super offended to this and sees it as a sort of treason to the fact that he (and Claire) fought a war in order to defend England.
This rapidly turns into a fight over the real issue: their relationship. Frank is frustrated because no matter how hard he tries, Claire is still being distant from him. Meanwhile, Claire is dealing with all this grief that she’s expected to just push away. Their fight gets explosive pretty quickly, and it ends with Frank throwing some accusations and Claire throwing an ashtray.
Frank dodges like a pro, and starts to leave the room, but doesn’t do so without reminding Claire that he never forced her to come with him to Boston. Claire replies that she had never been under that impression. It’s a really interesting scene. In a way, Frank is trying to say that like Jamie did before, he is still giving Claire a choice about her life. But the entire set of intentions is completely different: Jamie’s selflessness and love for Claire are what made him giver her the choice; Frank is giving her a choice because he is too selfish to not have all of Claire, in the exact way that he wants her.
After Claire and Frank’s fight, we go back to Jamie who has finally about to be shot. However, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is perhaps the luckiest man in the world, even when he doesn’t want to be. When he reveals his name to Lord Melton, the officer in charge of the executions, Jamie’s life gets spared by a pure coincidence.
Remember that kid, John William Gray, that try to kill Jamie in season 2, and then Claire helped Jamie trick the boy into giving out key information about the British army? Remember how, as he left, he dramatically told Jamie that he owed him a ‘debt of honor’? Well, as it turns out, Lord Melton is the brother of John Gray. And since his brother’s honor had been compromised by Jamie’s saving of him, Lord Melton has no choice but to NOT kill Jamie and sends him home to his sister and brother-in-law.
Back in the future, Frank has been exiled to the couch and cannot seem to fall asleep. He begins to write a letter to Reverend Wakefield asking his help in researching a certain James Fraser when he is interrupted by Claire informing him that her water has broken.
At the hospital, Claire and Frank are visited by her obstetrician, who gets an award for simultaneously being the creepiest and most sexist Doctor you’ve ever seen on TV (drugging patients without their consent kind of creepy; talking to Frank over Claire as if she wasn’t the pregnant nurse that was about to give birth kinda sexist).
When she wakes up, Claire’s only concern was the same she’d had the last time she gave birth: “Where is my baby?” And if that didn’t break your heart into a million pieces, then her question of “Is it dead?” to the first nurse that comes to see her certainly will.
Luckily, in that exact moment, Frank is rushed in, carrying little baby Bree in his arms. And it’s so nice to see that after two years, Claire can finally hold a healthy daughter in her arms. And she’s so happy and ecstatic that she begins to make amends with Frank, apologizing for being “horrid”. They’re both incredibly happy and giddy, and begin to toy with the possibility that maybe this could be a new beginning for them, in a new country, and with a new daughter.
And then of course, this happens: