This Outlander Recap contains spoilers for S03E5 “Freedom & Whisky”
All through this season, there has been a bit of a dissonance between Claire and Jamie. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “No shit, María, they were in different centuries”. The dissonance has been more in regards to their storylines. The showrunners decided that they were going to do the 20-year separation via parallel narratives. While in theory, I think this is a great approach, when we actually get to the story it doesn’t work as well. Claire and Jamie’s journeys are far too different types of stories for this to actually work out. Jamie’s story is far easier to adapt: His 20 years are pretty eventful, and specific events in his life contain a lot of information. Claire’s life in Boston, while definitely not uneventful, has stories that are a little less intense, and a bit more subtle.
This is where the dissonance had been going on: while the actual parallels between the two work, the stories are waaay too different for the episodes to feel like a unit. And I think the negative side effect of this has been that Claire has sort of been getting the short end of the stick. Most of her stories have been about her marriage to Frank. And while these scenes have been amazing (God knows I could watch a show that consists entirely of Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies being combative and antagonistic towards each other) there’s so many aspects of her life that have been ignored so far: Her life as a Doctor, her friendship with Joe, her relationship with her daughter. And if Claire has been getting the short end of the stick, Bree has pretty much been reduced to a background character.
But, “Freedom and Whisky” has come to save the day! I was very happy to see that the episode opens with Claire Fraser, M.D. One of the things I’d been dying to see this season is Claire dressed in her scrubs being the badass surgeon that she is: having the confidence to take risks, knowing that while taking them she might save someone’s life.
We also finally get to spend more time with Bree. She has returned to her life as History major at (cough Radcliffe cough) Harvard, but she seems distracted and disconnected. The only thing that manages to get her attention in class is when her lecturer, Professor Brown, does what all college History Professors do best:
Tell you how your school education and mainstream history and culture lied to you about History.
Professor Brown dismisses the class, telling them that after Christmas break they’ll continue with the lesson (because who needs semesters?).
I personally have a lot of questions about this class. The content of the lecture seems to be about American history, but the assignments are more dedicated towards historiography and its flaws. And if it’s the second case, why isn’t this an advanced seminar?
After class ends, Professor Brown calls Bree forward and informs her that she is failing, not only his course but all the other courses. Professor Brown’s was a friend of Frank’s, and his investment in Bree is a little bit more paternal than your average Professor.
Bree then returns to her Christmas-decorated home and begins rummaging through Frank’s things. It’s a very moving scene, the first time we interact with Brianna by herself on screen. We can see how much Brianna still misses Frank, how she yearns for his physical presence, while also understanding how muddled and complicated her missing of him must have become now.
We skip to (finally, finally, finally) a scene between Claire and Joe. The battle of the BFFs (Abernathy vs. Grey) continues, and Joe is finally able of getting some points in his favor. First of all, the fact that Claire and Joe share an office gives them 45% more BFF level. Add another 10% about the fact that they keep alcohol in said office, and probably spent quite a lot of time drinking after work.
Joe begins prodding her a bit about what happened in Scotland, and Claire finally begins to open up about Jamie.
She doesn’t tell him much, partially because of magic time-traveling stones. But Claire has also been living a lie and suppressing everything about Jamie for two decades, and I can imagine how difficult it must be to make that switch and to finally start opening up. Claire, indirectly, tells him that she had been hoping to reunite with Jamie but that fate hadn’t worked to her favor. Joe, bless him, tells her to “Fuck fate”.
After this scene, we meet a very giddy Roger Wakefield who has come to Boston and is about to visit Claire and Bree. He seems a bit reluctant that perhaps his decision was a bit foolish, and he wasn’t wrong. When he comes in, Bree and Claire are having an argument. Bree is having a very understandable existential crisis and has decided to drop out of Harvard and move out of her childhood home. As any mother in the world would be, Claire is not happy with this situation. The two women continue their fight about it, while Roger is silently begging for the earth to swallow him. Eventually, somebody comes pick Bree up, and she leaves Roger and Claire behind.
The two have dinner together. Claire points out that this is Roger’s first Christmas without his father, and he tells her that was one of the reasons he took this trip was to see if he could experience “an American Christmas”. However, Claire knows that they were more reasons behind Roger’s trip than that.
By virtue of being a historian, and with a little bit more time to do research, Roger had been able to find more evidence on Jamie: a text with a couple of verses from Robert Burn’s The Author’s Earnest Cry And Prayer, a poem that Claire mentioned she had quoted to Jamie. The trick? The poem was written in 1786, and the text Roger has was published in 1765 by the printer Alexander Malcolm. Roger is certain that this is Jamie. And if Roger’s guess about both Jamie and standing stones are correct, then that document places Jamie in Edinburgh only one time-travel parallel year before.
Claire starts freaking out. The good thing about giving up her search is that if she didn’t find Jamie, she would have never had to make the decision to go back. After all, it would mean leaving her daughter forever, uprooting her entire life for a man who might have forgotten her. It would also mean having to reopen the door for all those emotions she had shut down for the last twenty years. And it’s so understandable that her initial reaction is to shut down the entire idea.
The following day, Claire goes into her shared office with Joe to find him studying an old skeleton. Upon touching it, Claire is able to predict it’s a 150-year-old murder victim. Upon examining the bones, Joe is able to tell that this is indeed, a murder victim, who’d had a traditional slave burial. However, Joe also determines that this woman was white.
WELL, GEE. I WONDER IF THIS WILL BE RELEVANT TO THE PLOT LATER THIS SEASON.
Now, Joe isn’t going to let some dead bones get in his way of his BFF duties, and begins to ask Claire about is it about her “man in Scotland” that she hasn’t told him. She confesses to him that he’s Bree’s biological father.
And it’s so sad to think that this is the first time Claire says this to anyone other than Roger and Bree. She also tells Joe that during her trip she had told Bree about Jamie, and that had been the reason behind her existential crisis. Joe then asks the important question: Did she still love him? Claire’s answer is that she had never stopped. Joe accordingly responds by telling her she should take this chance at love again.
Meanwhile, Brianna walks into her home to find Roger Wakefield, Ph.D. watching daytime TV on her couch and thoroughly enjoying himself.
Roger also tells her about how he came to have an American Christmas and to have lobster rolls and Boston cream pies (aaaand no clam chowder????? Also, lobster is more of a Maine thing. And also, definitely not a Christmas/December thing). The two tease and give each other flirty eyes like the cute nerds they are, but Bree also invites him to a special event that will be held at ‘Harvard’ in honor of her father. (We can now be happy that this is the last time they’ll show us exteriors of buildings that are VERY clearly not in Harvard.The editor of this post is a New Englander; she wanted to die a little)
Bree continues to deal with the news of her parentage by wearing a lot of plaids, including to a Harvard event intended to honor Frank. While they’re walking through the halls of ‘Harvard’, Bree and Roger have a discussion about the architecture of the building. For Roger, the history of the place is fascinating, but Bree tells him that she has always been enamored by the science of it. And for someone who has just realized her entire life was a lie, it’s easy to understand why she’s comforted by numbers and facts.
Roger understands a bit of what Bree’s going through, having also had an unknown biological father and an adoptive one. However, his advice does little to comfort her. Bree’s incredibly frustrated by how ever-changing histories and stories can be, and how much an author can change them. Almost how, in one tale, her mother was able to change her entire life and identity.
The event at Harvard was to announce fellowship created in Frank’s honor. No, the title of the fellowship wasn’t “Shit historian who asks his time-traveling wife to not talk about the past and burned historical artifacts”, but at least we all know it should have been.
This event was attended by Frank’s girlfriend, Sandy. After an introduction by the dean, the two women are left alone, and they begin to talk about Frank. As a nice continuation of Bree’s rant, both women seem to have a very different understanding of both Frank, and Frank’s relationship with Claire. Sandy believes Frank would have hated the fuss, Claire is certain that he would have liked it. As Sandy sees it, Claire had been selfish in not wanting to let Frank go. Considering how Claire and Frank’s last conversation went, it’s pretty clear to both Claire and the audience that Sandy’s version is not exactly what was going on.
And as unfair as she’s being to Claire in this entire situation, I really like the fact that they brought her in. Yes, sure, she probably had a completely flawed perception of Frank, and Frank and Claire’s marriage. However, she still loved him (loved him enough to stay with him for many years while he was married to someone else), and as she says, would give anything to have one more day with him. We know Claire can identify with what Sandy is saying because she has felt that way for the last 20 years. But unlike Sandy, she can have another day; she could even have the rest of her days.
Bree notices Sandy and Claire speaking, and later questions her mother about who Sandy was. Claire tells her she had been a student of Frank’s, but having already guessed part of the truth, Bree asks her to tell her who Sandy really is. Claire tells her who Sandy really is, and also reassures Bree that despite the emotional hot mess that was her parenting and birth, she and Frank had always loved Bree, regardless of Jamie Fraser. Claire also opens up to Bree about something else: she shows her the document Roger had found.
After this scene, we see Claire seriously thinking about going back through the stones. Her biggest concern is leaving Bree behind. After all, she would be losing all contact with her daughter forever. Bree tries to reassure her that she will be fine, but what I feel ultimately convinces Claire is the following line.
(Have your hearts been broken by Jamie Fraser being separated from his children yet?)
But with the primary concern of Bree (sort of) being resolved, we see the other part of Claire’s insecurities coming through. She’s worried that, after 20 years, Jamie might have gotten over her. Bree tells her that she has to trust that Jamie’s love for her was just as strong and powerful as the one she felt for him.
However, her insecurities over Jamie extend to the same insecurities any 47-year-old woman would have about reuniting with a lost lover: Will he still think I’m beautiful/sexy? In order to ease her mind, Claire goes to Joe for answers about her sex appeal. Joe politely informs Claire that she is pretty darn hot.
Bree, Roger, and Claire begin to prepare everything for Claire’s journey. Bree and Roger get her coins, as well as a small volume on Scottish history as Christmas presents. Claire had also ‘borrowed’ scalpels and penicillin. I’m honestly surprised she didn’t include anesthesia and every vaccine she could get her hands on.
Bree also gives her a Topaz necklace (Bree’s birthstone). The gem isn’t just a souvenir; as per Geilis/Gillian’s notebooks, although they will get ruined in the journey, gemstones are a useful time-traveling tour.
They tried to explain what had happened to Claire’s (gorgeous) wristwatch in season 1 if it weren’t for the fact that she is clearly wearing it immediately after she passes through the stones.
But then they jump onto the topic of clothing, and Claire tells them she’s going to be designing her outfit for when she goes back to the past.
Roger is all like: YOU COULD HAVE AN UTILITY BELT LIKE BATMAN.
And guys, I kid you not, THE BATMAN THEME SONGS PLAYS AS CLAIRE WORKS ON HER CLOTHES.
I hadn’t realized how much I needed to see Claire Fraser sewing clothes to the Batman theme song. And yes, there is a big loud chorus of “BATMAN” that plays when we see Claire’s completed outfit. Claire also begins examining her face, and we see her nitpick at all the ways in which she has aged. Most of this ‘aging’ is, of course, non-existent, but Caitriona still makes this scene work incredibly well. The scene ends with Claire examining the white streaks of her hair. Next time we see her, she has dyed her white hairs black. All of Claire’s preparations have finished and it’s time for mother and daughter to say goodbye.
I know that there’s been an overall disappointment over Sophie Skelton as Bree. I think the accent is a very clear struggle for her, and in a couple of her first scenes in season 2, she felt a bit robotic. I think the writing (or lack thereof) of her character this season also did her no favors. In this episode, we see Sophie sink into the character on screen. And, to me, this culminates with this scene where she says goodbye to her mother. She’s certain of this, she even seems a bit happy for her mother. But she still falls apart the moment her mother leaves. I also love the small moment with her in the kitchen as she wipes the tears off her face so she could humor Roger, and provide him with an American Christmas (Lobster roll, Boston cream pie included).
Who knew this episode would end up being sort of like a Christmas special?
After she says goodbye, we follow Claire in her taxi on her way to the airport. Using a quote from the book’s prologue as a transition, we see Claire go out of her car in the twentieth century, and into a puddle in the eighteenth century. She steps into the street and asks a boy on the street where she could find a printer by the name of Alexander Malcolm.
Now, kudos to anyone that had it together by this point of the episode. But even if you did, I’m sure you lost it at some point because this scene was SO AMAZING.
The amount of build-up was amazing, to the point that I felt as anxious as Claire when she walked into the shop. I love that she doesn’t immediately see him, but that she first hears him speak, only to then see him facing the other way. It’s almost like it’s too much for Claire to take all of him in all at once. And the way her face is showcasing so many emotions at the same time is incredible.
And then, there’s the way Jamie’s body immediately reacts to the sound of her voice, and how he also turns slowly to face it because it is too much for him to take all at once.
And how his frown turns into genuine surprise when he sees that she’s actually there. AND HOW HE TRIES TO STEADY HIMSELF WHEN HE SEES HER BECAUSE HE KNOWS HE’S TOTALLY GONNA PASS OUT BUT HE ALSO PROBABLY DOESN’T WANT TO STOP LOOKING AT HER.
AND PLEASE GIVE ME CLAIRE BEING THIS HAPPY ALWAYS.
But, poor Jamie could really not handle this, and he passed out on the floor. Yup, that’s how the episode ends. (Aka my new favorite reaction GIF)
And yup, there’s two more weeks until the next one.
*passes out until October 22nd*
“Freedom and Whisky” Episode Vitals:
MVP: Everyone telling Claire to go back to Jamie. So Joe, Bree, Roger…. And Sandy?
Favorite Moment: I MEAN DO I EVEN HAVE TO ANSWER THIS.
Biggest Annoyance: Lobster rolls in December
Best Line: “You’re a skinny white broad with too much hair but a great ass. He’ll be in heaven when he sees you, Lady Jane.”
But also: “It isn’t Geordie. It’s me, Claire.”