This Outlander Recap contains spoilers for S03E03 “All Debts Paid”
What’s the most ironic thing to start an episode called “All Debts Paid” with? Of course, a medical student. This episode of Outlander opens in the Randall home, in 1956. Claire is reading for one of her classes and discovers that Frank is making a full English breakfast for his family. The reason? Well, their daughter Brianna had recently gotten back from school day requesting Eggo toaster waffles. Poor Frank did not know that Eggos are simply what girls in successful television shows always eat, and took her request as an insult to his Englishness. As she studies for a test, Claire delights in the deliciousness of her breakfast. She’s so cheered up that she asks Frank if maybe he wanted to go to the movies with her.
Frank ruins the moment though, by informing her that he had already seen both those movies she’d suggested. In a second, realization hits Claire. Of course, they never stop talking about the movies, but there is a shift in the conversation. We begin to understand that there is something more about these movies than what we’re seeing. All of this is, of course, interrupted when Bree walks into the room.
Roughly 200 years into the past, we travel to Ardsmuir Prison, where one Major John William Gray is taking over as governor of the prison. For those who don’t remember, John William Gray is the same boy that tried to attack Jamie in Season 2 (Je Suis Prest ), and the reason Jamie’s life was spared two episodes ago.
As the prison’s ex-governor is telling him, this place is kind of the worst: it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, and the only other ‘society’ he’s going encounter there are other soldiers and the notorious Red Jamie Fraser. As the only Jacobite officer in the prison, Jamie had become the spokesman for all the other Highlanders. The other prisoners refer to him as Mac Dubh (a sign of respect, as the governor, assumes it). He was the only one that was kept in chains, but as the old governor tells John, having Jamie on his side will be essential for the handling of the prisoners.
I do have to say that this was a great way to handle exposition. A lot of what is going on in Jamie’s story requires background information and this scene is a fantastic framing device for both Jamie and John and it feels very natural.
Jamie retires to his prison cell where, all of the sudden, a very familiar voice speaks to him.
I REPEAT: A VERY FAMILIAR VOICE SPEAKS TO HIM.
(And yes, I was also spoiled this by Ron Moore. But honestly, spoilers or not, the way this scene played out still made it really amazing and shocking)
However, Murtagh’s return is bittersweet He’s no longer able to be this permanent shadow behind Jamie’s shoulder: he is imprisoned, and the events of Culloden have left him as defeated as his godson. He’s ill and constantly getting bitten by rats. When we first see him, he is carrying in his hand an old piece of tartan, kind of like a token. Jamie tells him to put it away, again an excellent way of explaining to the audience that tartan is forbidden. Jamie almost immediately begins prescribing him natural remedies for both the bite and his cold. In a very Murtagh fashion, he is having none of it. However, we learn that this sudden interest in medicine is not simply an extension of Jamie’s leadership role, but a way in which he’s keeping Claire’s presence in his life.
Jamie gets called to officially meet the new governor. It seems that neither men remember the other, or at least they do not let on of this fact here. As they are speaking, one of the prison rats made a special appearance, just as John Grey’s supper was arriving.
He immediately orders for a cat to be brought up and asks Jamie if the prison cells have many rats. The answer is obviously yes, to which John replies “YES CATS FOR EVERYBODY”. Jamie kindly informs him that cats are no fun when they’re trying to steal your food. John Grey is, of course, horrified by the fact that for his prisoners, rats are supper.
And because after that we need a palate cleanser, we skip to the year 1958 where there’s a party going on at the Randall household. And with good reason: Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser has just made her long name even longer, since she is now ‘Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser, MD ’ or ‘Dr. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser’.
(Guys, if JAMMF is a thing, why can’t CEBFMD be a thing. We can cut the Randall.)
The party seems to include all of Claire’s graduating class, and it is to be followed by a dinner at a restaurant. Claire and BFF Joe are already pre-gaming with some Martini’s (aka, Dr. Joe’s salvation elixir).
As they’re taking pictures, Frank reminds Claire that she and her group should start heading out so they don’t miss their reservation. Frank is not going because “he has some work he needs to finish”. Claire tells him not to worry because the reservation is for a later hour than what he thought. Of course, this is all a sign that shit’s about to go down.
Someone rings the bell, and since it’s her party at her house Claire goes to answer the door only to encounter a woman she doesn’t know. This is all fine until we see the woman make eye contact with Frank, and all the pieces start to come together. Claire’s face goes through a sort spiral as she realizes that this is Frank’s mistress (aka the ‘work’ he had to ‘do’ during her graduation party.)
To me, the most annoying part of this scene is not even the infidelity, because Claire herself seems to at least be aware and accepting of this, but just how fucked up Frank ditching her party to be with his girlfriend is. I get it, have an affair. I get it. But do you really need to have an affair and go out with your girlfriend on the day of your wife’s graduation? Couldn’t you at least show up so that at the very least you could seem like you’re being supportive? It’s also really sad when we contrast the veneration we see Jamie give Claire’s medical abilities in this episode to this BS that Frank is pulling on the where her medical talents should be celebrated.
But, everyone please check out the evil look Joe is giving Frank.
Claire is so utterly humiliated that she asks everyone to head out of the restaurant with the exact same faux enthusiasm Emma Thompson had during Christmas day in Love Actually.
Back in Jamie’s time, the Ardsmuir redcoats find a man named Kerr, who is roaming about speaking in French and Gaelic about a mythical French gold that King Louis had sent to the Jacobites. Jamie is commanded by Major Grey to ask him for more information, and in return, he would have his shackles taken off. Jamie agrees, with the condition that blankets and medicine be provided to the ill. Grey informs him that this is impossible, but Jamie settles for one man.
Also, just in case you were wondering, this is probably the moment when the show makers wanted you to start suspecting John is queer.
We then return to the ‘50s, where Claire welcomes Frank back from his date. Logically, this turns into a fight, where both parties throw a lot of accusations. The really disgusting thing about this scene is that Frank refuses to be held accountable for any of his wrongdoings because they are all things Claire has also done herself. His logic is that Claire technically cheated, so it’s ok for him to cheat. When Claire calls him out on feeling humiliated by outing his infidelity, his response is that she’s always humiliated him because no one at Harvard believes their marriage is a happy one. All these things might be true, but they don’t automatically justify Frank in his wrongdoings. For a moment it seems like he’s only cheating on her as some emotional payback, but he actually does seem to care about his girlfriend Sandy.
Also, a small note to Sandy:
GIRL, YOU’RE GETTING YOUR Ph.D. IN HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS, PRESUMABLY, FROM HARVARD, YOU DON’T NEED A MAN. LET ALONE ONE THAT’S SELFISH AS FUCK AND WHO IS MARRIED WITH A KID.
I do appreciate that Frank has apparently gotten sassy with age. Of course, he’s being horrible, but holy shit so many burns.
Claire then brings up the obvious: getting a divorce. Frank, however, refuses her because he doesn’t want to lose Bree. Claire, of course, promises her she would never do such a thing, but Frank claims that he’s not gonna trust Claire’s word because she has been so bad at keeping it.
After this, Frank totally dismisses the entire conversation, and all Claire is left with is her drink and the tears that she is trying incredibly hard to keep from falling.
We then return to Jamie’s translation duties, but Kerr is not really saying much — at least not much that is of interest to John: he starts speaking of the MacKenzie, who is dead. And if that wasn’t enough to freak Jamie out, he begins naming his family members one by one and talking about the marriage of his father. And if that wasn’t enough, he begins speaking of a white witch that is looking for a MacKenzie man, who will come for Jamie. Then, of course, Kerr dies.
Jamie tells John that the man was mostly speaking gibberish, something that John is really not buying. He tries to intimidate Jamie into telling him more, and he threatens him with forcing him to speak. Jamie then looks him directly into his eyes and says the following.
Honestly, this episode has so many great lines, but this is without a doubt one of the best. Not just because of the actual content of the line, but Sam’s delivery is simply fantastic: he’s so tired, he has been so hurt and has lost so much hope, but somehow through all of that pain he has almost become incredibly strong . We can feel all of Jamie’s pain in that line but also get a sense of his resilience, and honestly, give Sam Heughan all of the awards in the world.
This scene is followed the lamest birthday party ever, aka Bree’s sixteenth birthday with only her parents as guests. She’s about to ask for a wish and Claire is all like “Don’t even think about asking for a car.” Frank pulls a classic move from the ‘Be the favorite parent’ guidebook and tells her to wish away because you never know.
The story goes back to Ardsmuir, where Murtagh is asking Jamie about the encounter with Kerr. He tells him about Kerr mentioning of a white witch that had been connected to the gold, and Murtagh immediately catches on. And I honestly want to say that anyone out there who didn’t tear up a little bit with Murtagh talking about Claire has no heart. I mean come on…
As they’re talking, Jamie gets called into John’s office where he has been invited for supper. When he’s there, he asks John to give the prisoners permission to set traps as they work and to collect watercresses. John is confused about Watercress, but Jamie is all like “Yeah my, wife’s a doctor. A time-traveling doctor from the XXth century. I know all about the vitamins and the germs.”.
See Claire, one of your husbands appreciates your call.
They then sit down to eat, and Jamie looks like he’s going to cry from happiness when he realizes that their meal was cooked with wine from Bourgogne. John is super amused by this, and he gives Jamie the most adorable smile this show has seen.
However, it wasn’t just the prisoner’s immune systems that Jamie had in mind when making that request; the moment everybody went to check their snares, Jamie takes the opportunity to make a run.
John is understandably pissed. After three days have passed, it’s already looking like Jamie’s either dead or successfully escaped the prison. However, as John is relieving his bladder, he’s attacked by one James Fraser. And, indeed, both men remember the other. Jamie was waiting for the right time to reveal this, and John had felt ashamed by “his boyish behavior” in believing Claire and Jamie’s ruse. Jamie reminds John of the vow he had made to kill him and proceeds to release his weapon and kneel before John so he can fulfill it. John, however, refuses.Brief note: the track that plays during this scene is AMAZING. You can hear it in other moments of the episode, and I’m hoping it will soon be available in a Spotify account near you.
This interaction with John and Jamie is really what turns their relationship into being a genuine friendship. By this point, John did not think of Jamie as a prisoner, or otherwise, he probably would have killed him for escaping. Jamie also trusts him enough to tell him that although Kerr did not actually say anything about the gold, he had spoken of someone that was possibly his wife. His escape was not to find the gold but to find Claire. But whatever it was he had encountered, it had only confirmed to him that Claire was truly gone.
The show briefly pops back to the XXth century, where Bree is graduating from the class of 1966! Isn’t it sad that, because she has Frank’s last name and not Claire nor Jamie’s last name, Bree is one of the last people to graduate instead of one of the first? (These are the things I thought about when I watched this episode at midnight)
It turns out that being besties with the prison governor pays off: a doctor visits Murtagh in Ardsmuir, and Jamie now has a new chess buddy. As they are speaking, they begin to talk about Culloden. John confesses that he had also lost someone he cared about during Culloden. A special friend, who John had clearly loved very much. Their conversation then becomes about grief and caring about others. John is even able to get Jamie to open up about Claire. Jamie also tells John that the lady whose honor he had tried to save when he first met Jamie, was, in fact, Jamie’s wife. And the look on his face is just so priceless.
However, Jamie quickly turns this into praise: he confesses that he had admired that of John. Even though Jamie knew that Claire was not in danger, he admired John’s willingness to protect Claire’s honor. John tries to be supportive and takes a hold of Jamie’s hand. However, he takes it a step too far by caressing Jamie’s hand. A younger Jamie Fraser might have easily dismissed this as a misunderstanding on John’s part, but Jamie has already been in the office of a redcoat officer who had made a pass at him, and the entire turn was simply too much for him.
He threatens John to kill him if he doesn’t move his hand. It’s sad because I imagine poor John could only possibly take this as pure homophobia, even though we know that it’s something a lot more complicated than that. I do appreciate the fact that although Jamie has healed those wounds, the show is not afraid to remind us of the impact the events of Wentworth will always have on his life.
We then return to the Randall home in the 1960s, where Frank is informing Claire that he has made some pretty important plans: He had been offered a position at Cambridge, and he was intending to accept it and take Bree with him. Claire immediately tells him that she can’t possibly just leave her job and her life in Boston. Frank, however, has no intention of bringing Claire along: After 18 years, he wants a divorce.
As their conversation goes on, Frank’s entire plan becomes clear. His reason for not wanting a divorce before was that he did not want to lose Brianna. By now Bree is legally an adult and is finished with school, so the custody issues would be out of the picture. She’s attached to her father enough that she might actually leave with him. Frank also sneaks in a classic comment about how Claire pursuing her career made her a bad mother. He’s even got his girlfriend ready for the altar; he intends to marry her the moment they’re divorced.
(And yes, for some godforsaken reason, Sandy with a Ph.D. in historical linguistic stuck it out for at another 8/10 years with Frank. Claire should have told her that he had burned intact historical artifacts from the 18th century. Maybe that would have done it)
Claire quickly catches on to what Frank is doing. He’d been planning this escape, with the purpose of making sure he had it all (the wife, the daughter, the job) and leaving Claire with nothing. It’s a convoluted revenge plan, one I’m not sure Frank himself is aware of how much. He’s getting back at Claire for falling through the stones, for not choosing him, for loving Jamie and for continuing to love Jamie. This, I think, is Frank’s fundamental problem. Is he validated by being upset over everything that has happened? Yes, having your wife go missing and finding out that she loves someone else are legitimate things for him to be upset about. But what Frank chooses to do is to demand Claire to repay him for all the pain, and in doing so he takes away her agency and her feelings. Without her even asking him to take her back, he had demanded that she leave James Fraser behind. He forbade her from mourning everything she’d lost, and in this scene attempted to take form her the one thing she had left: Bree.
But at this point, Claire is not going to let him get away with all this. And to add to the list of amazing lines of this episode, we get the following gems from Claire:
“You want to divorce me? Fine Use whatever grounds you like expect adultery, which you can’t prove because it doesn’t exist. If you try to take Brianna away from me, I will have a thing or two to say about adultery, Frank .”
And, of course:
All of these are purely amazing, but Caitriona’s performance in this episode is simply amazing. I could go on a very long rant about how amazing she is and how much her body language enriches her performance and makes Claire seem much older, but also incredibly sadder, but I don’t think I could do this while keeping this recap under 5k words.
Jamie’s side of the episode ends when we see Ardsmuir prison close, and all its prisoners are transported to the colonies as indentured servants. Jamie, however, is taken by John to Helwater, the best closest John could come to granting him his freedom. Jamie is confused by John’s help, particularly following his rejection.John confesses that he regretted that moment, but that he was still grateful for being able to share his grief with Jamie.
And to be honest, I see John here as a sort of antithesis to Black Jack Randall in Jamie’s life: An honorable redcoat, with an infatuation with Jamie that although not corresponded is healthy and respectful. I know that if the show follows the books, John Gray will be sticking around for a while. And from what I’ve seen in this episode, I’m very excited to get more of this character.
For Claire, the episode ends with Frank’s sudden and plot-convenient death. To be honest, I think it bloody serves him well after his comment of wanting to spend the rest of his days with a wife that loved him. Claire does tell him, when she sees his body, that she did truly love him, and that he had been her first love.
And honestly, considering how much of manipulative a-hole he had been towards the end, that comment alone was a lot more than what he deserved.
But, in the end, Frank Randall did teach us all some very valuable lessons :
- if your spouse is in love with someone else, you should probably leave them for both your sakes.
- You can be a piece of shit historian that asks his time-traveling wife never to talk about her visits to the time period that you focus on and still get tenure-track jobs at Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge.