This Outlander Recap contains spoilers for S03E8 “First Wife”.
Reading the title of this episode alone will give you a pretty straight-forward summary of this episode: Shit goes dooooowwn. The episode begins when Jamie, Ian, and Claire arrive at Lallybroch. The episode begins with another voiceover, and I will say that it’s the first time this season that the voiceovers did not feel out of place for me (with the exception of the “Freedom & Whisky” voiceovers).
Nothing much has changed since the last episode, only Jamie has let his hair down + curled it, and moisturized it. You have to maintain those luscious locks. Part of me would like to think this is Jamie trying to resemble his younger self, much in the same way Claire colored her gray hairs. Another part of me is just grateful that the hairdo from the last couple of episodes was ditched.
We then skip to Jenny and Claire meeting each other again in 20 years. And, following the steps of her on-screen husband, Laura Donnelly does an amazing job of giving us all the emotions of this moment. The two ladies share some small talk until Claire asks Jenny how her kids are. Jenny then remembers that she has to go into Mom!Mode, and that Ian needs to be disciplined. And Ian is not the only one that’s going to get yelled at: you can tell Jamie’s anxious because he’s tapping his finger faster than he’s ever done on screen.
Young Ian is trying to defend his decision to run away, proudly telling his parents that he was learning a trade and that he was very good at it, and if it only hadn’t been for that fire. Now, if you have parents, you can imagine what Ian and Jenny’s reaction was:
- You were smuggling???!!!!
- WHAT FIRE?!
- Jamie Fraser IS THIS WHAT YOU’RE TEACHING MY CHILD?
Jamie tries to act like it’s not a big deal, but Jenny obviously doesn’t believe him. It’s also clear in this scene that Jenny isn’t exactly too happy to have Claire back. Jamie and Ian try to make things better, but they only succeeded in making Jenny and Ian more worried, and Jenny more upset about Claire being back.
Ian tells Jamie that if he thinks he can act like he’s Ian father, then he can be the one to punish him too. And in case anyone’s forgotten, Highlanders punish their kids and spouses by hitting them with a belt.
As what I think was a sign of respect to the vow he made to Claire in season 1, Jamie tries to suggest an alternative form of punishment: he can clean shit instead.
Ian Senior gives Jamie some credit for the efficiency of shit cleaning as a punishment. Meanwhile, Claire meets some of Jenny and Ian’s grandchildren and re-meets Wee Jamie.
Spoiler alert: He’s not as cute.
So much time that Wee Jamie also has a wee one. Jenny gets placed on grandma duty and Claire asks if she can help. Jenny tells her that she doesn’t wanna scare the baby since Claire would be a strange face. This is kinda wtf because it’s a baby. You know, a person in that age that EVERYONE wants to look at. Also:
Ian Jr. is carrying out his punishment, and Ian Sr. tells Jamie that he might have been right about the (shit) punishment being the best option.
Later, Jamie and Jenny are talking and he suggests that she gives Ian a little bit more freedom “while he still thinks it’s hers to give”. Jenny’s response is that she’s not gonna take any advice from her child-less, bigamist brother.
Now say it with me folks:
Jamie also improvises a story about how he had arranged for Claire to go to the colonies after Culloden, but that he had believed she had died before she could have left, and believing that Jamie had, she actually went ahead on the trip. Jenny tells him that the Claire she had known would have never just left and assumed him for dead (which, guess what is true).
That night, Claire and Jamie are getting ready for bed. It’s now Jamie’s turn to start suggesting plans for the future. He’s suggesting that they build a cottage on the western side of the Lallybroch lands. Claire is a bit reluctant because Jenny very obviously hates her now. And a hateful Jenny is most definitely not a nice Jenny to live with. Claire suggests that they tell Jenny the truth, but Jamie doesn’t believe that Jenny would believe it.
Jamie switches the conversation because he suddenly became overcome by the fact that he couldn’t believe Claire was actually there with her. He then begins to tell her the story about Duncan Kerr’s ramblings during “All Debts Paid”. He tells Claire about how he escaped prison and swam to Silkie island searching for her.
I like this scene, mostly because that track I really loved in “All Debts Paid” is playing as Jamie swims. That’s how easy it is to please me: A clip of the ocean and dramatic music.
When Jamie arrived on the island, it was obvious that Claire wasn’t there. However, he did find something that he did not inform John about: there was a treasure filled with jewels and ancient coins. Claire asks why he returned to prison, after having his freedom. Jamie tells him that he had to return for his men (and that one guy who just happens to be alive that he still hasn’t told Claire he’s alive….what was his name again….MURTAGH FITZGIBBONS FRASER. There better be some big payoff because COME ON).
Claire tells him that although she hadn’t been on that tower, she had still constantly been looking for him and that whenever she would hear a birdsong, she would think that it was him.
Jamie begins to tell her about the greylag, a bird that mates for life. The Claire and Jamie shipper in me is all like:
YES, YOU BET YOUR ASS YOU TWO MATE FOR LIFE LIKE THOSE BIRD THINGS.
But also, this sounds like the sadder more dramatic version of
“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” which is too entertaining for the seriousness of this scene.
Now everybody, who is ready for D R A M A.
After this declaration , Jamie decides it’s finally time he tells Claire the truth. Just as this is going on, two girls walk into the room, and are all like “ Daddy! Who’s this woman?”.
And after this beautiful introduction, none other than Laoghaire MacKenzie walks into the room, cursing out Claire for being a Sassenach witch, and how dare Jamie do that to her. Laoghaire and Jamie start fighting away. Joanie, the youngest of the two girls, looks pretty upset by this and starts yelling at her mother and father to please stop fighting. Jamie takes Laoghaire away but asks Claire to stay there. I don’t think she’s really listening cause her face is sort of just like
In the next scene, we see Jamie explain to Joanie that Claire was his first wife, whom he loved very much. He also explains to her that his marriage with her mother was not a happy one.
And my heart breaks Joanie as she starts to put together that this means that Jamie is not going to be her dad anymore.
Jamie promises that he won’t do that and that he cares very much for her and Marsali.
Jamie then goes back to his room, and find that Claire is taking the batsuit out of the closet and is getting ready to leave. Jamie attempts to explain: he and Laoghaire had only been married for two years, but he did not live with her. The girls were not Jamie’s daughters but were from Laoghaire’s previous marriage. Claire is still upset about the deceit, and over the fact that Jamie married a woman that tried to kill her. Jamie tells her that he had been a coward who was willing to do anything to keep Claire from leaving. The fight quickly goes down the blaming avenue: Jamie tells Claire that she left him. Her reaction is, appropriately:
“Bitch, did you really just say that????”
Jamie then asks if she has any idea what it was like for him to live those 20 years as half- a man: Claire’s reaction is, appropriately:
“BITCH DID YOU REALLY JUST SAY THAT?????? LIKE FOR EFFING REAL???”.
The fight quickly becomes about how jealous Claire and Jamie are of each other’s respective second spouse (and yes, I count Frank as the second spouse, because if we wanna get technical she did marry Jamie 200 years before Frank). Tables are broken, faces are slapped, but Claire and Jamie settle on a more traditional form of conflict resolution: angry sex.
At least, this is what they’re attempting to do, when Jenny throws a bucket of water at them for being super loud.
After their fight, Claire is downstairs sitting by the fire. Janet, one of Jenny’s children, offers Claire a whiskey and apologizes for everything she’s done. Janet had been the one sent by Jenny to find Laoghaire. Claire confronts Jenny about this, and Jenny continues to not be very happy about Claire being back.
I said this in the last recap about Ian, but I do really love the way the story takes Claire’s return and makes it super bumpy. It’s obviously different for Jamie since he knows the truth. But all that Jenny is getting is that this person whom she loved very much had led everyone and her brother to believe she was dead (albeit not intentionally), did not even think of writing her a letter in two decades, and then suddenly comes back and is all like “Hey I wanna be part of your family again”. Meanwhile, Jenny and Ian had to live with the pain of Claire being dead, in addition to Jamie’s pain over her being gone. And honestly, if a friend of mine came back after decades of being dead, my reaction would probably be: “You (insert insult here) do you know how much I mourned you???”
Claire tries to tell her bits of her truth: she had remarried in England, and that specific marriage had required that she leave behind her past. After her husband died she returned to England to visit Jamie’s grave but found out that he had actually survived.
Jenny believes Claire, but she can also still sense that there’s something that they’re not telling her.
I mean she did raise a small classroom of children, so she’s probably really great at smelling BS.
Ian Sr. tells Jenny that she should calm down because she has been praying for Jamie’s happiness, and that she’s the one that’s been making things more complicated.
Next morning, Claire is getting ready to leave. Jamie tries to stop her, but also realizes that there’s no hope he can convince her to stay. Jamie has violated the one basic fundament of their marriage, and what had separated this marriage to the one with Frank: honesty.
Jamie reassures her that he’s only ever known love with her. And then Laoghaire comes in holding a gun. All the awards to Nell Hudson, who probably walked into the Outlander set thinking:
“I have two scenes, my makeup looks like shit, and my character has gone even more wacko-insane than before. So guess what, I’m gonna be as wacko-insane as I fucking can.”
This includes reciting some amazing lines about how she’s gonna put an end to Claire so she can leave them alone. However, mid-rant she accidentally shoots Jamie, and Claire pretty much tackles her (?) and forces her to leave.
Claire immediately goes into Doctor mode and begins an impromptu-bullet removal procedure, this time with Young Ian as her assistant. Dr. and assistant share a very sweet moment after the procedure is done, when Ian hands his ‘Auntie’ a whiskey, and Claire notes he’s the only one that calls her that.
When Claire is checking in on Jamie, they begin to talk about Laoghaire once again. Claire wants to know how it was that happened. Jamie begins to explain how, after his return from Helwater, he had felt incredibly alone. That first Hogmanay, everyone was having fun at the party while Jamie was the Grinch. Marsali and Joanie had invited him to dance, making him be truly happy for the first time since Claire had left.
This is a departure from what happens in the books, and one that I really like. It frames Jamie’s willingness to do it as a desire to be a parent, over wanting to be married to Laoghaire, and it just makes the whole match make more sense, especially considering how the show has framed Jamie knowing exactly what Laoghaire did to Claire.
Jamie explains that this plan sort of bit him in the butt. While he is fond of Joan and Marsali, the marriage to Laoghaire was a hot mess. Not only did the pair fight a lot, but Laoghaire seemed to be suffering from some form of trauma since she had apparently been abused by one of her two previous spouses.
- Makes me feel even more sorry for young Joan being scared while Jamie and Laoghaire fought because I’m assuming she might have witnessed some form of domestic abuse.
- Makes Laoghaire’s reaction make even less sense. I feel like 16-year-old Laoghaire would have definitely brought a gun to this fight, but from Jamie tells us it doesn’t sound like 46-year-old Laoghaire even wants to be with Jamie.
I think this resonates with Claire, because although the specific details are different. This sound a hell lot like her marriage with Frank. She grabs his hand and notices that he’s having a fever. This then gives us the scene I had been looking forward to the most this episode: Jamie getting a shot of penicillin in the bum.
Jenny and Claire have one final conversation. Jenny pretty much tells her that she knows there are things about Claire that are perhaps supernatural or not of this world, and that she had never questioned any of it. With everything that had just happened, not knowing was not enough for Jenny. Claire doesn’t tell her the truth but reassures her that she still loved Jamie and that she didn’t forget nor stop loving him or any of them.
This is not enough to completely fix the drift, but Jenny seems willing to try to forgive Claire. I love the shot of Jenny looking at her at the end of this scene. It’s a nice contrast to the first shot we see of Jenny, where she’s standing and you can see the tension on her face. In this moment, her posture is relaxed and her eyes are down. It reads to me as Jenny not only letting go of some of her anger but toying with the possibility that she could have a new friendship with Claire.
And after two episodes of teasing and taunting… NED GOWAN finally shows up.
He’s of course super happy to see Claire. Eventually, he sits down with the Frasers and begins to discuss their legal options. Claire and Jamie could easily take legal action against her, and for her crimes, she would likely be transported to Virginia. Jamie doesn’t want to do that and leave Marsali and Joan essentially without a mother. Instead, he’s going to give her what she’s requesting. And as in most nasty divorces, Laoghaire wants money. It’s a large amount, one that will be tricky for Jamie to procure with no printing press or smuggling. The answer is simple: he can go back to the chest in Silkie island, re-sell the coins and gems, and use that money to pay back.
Claire immediately is all like: YOU’RE INJURED YOU CAN’T SWIM, and so it is decided that Young Ian will be the swimmer, and then will travel with Jamie (and ostensibly Claire) with his parents’ blessing.
In the next scene, Jamie and Claire are waiting on a cliff, as Young Ian swims across to the island. In this moment, Jamie is noticing that Claire cannot look her in the eye. She tells her about her second thoughts about having come back.
Now, I particularly like this scene: You can see Claire trying to convince herself that she wasn’t as miserable in Boston as she actually had been, mostly because of how disappointing these entire reunion shenanigans had been. It’s nice to hear that, despite all, Jamie is actually committed to her, but it’s incredibly frustrating how, when he asks her if she’s willing to be with him again, we don’t get to hear her answer. I understand that the show is trying to give us a cliff-hanger of sorts, but I think with emotional issues like these, this type of trope is not very helpful. I hope that whatever conversation these two have started to continue in the next episode.
And what, might you ask, interrupted our mated-for-life-love-birds? Young Ian getting carried away by pirates. Yup, you read that correctly.