Phantom hearts and Purgatory…a reflection on Outlander 3.02 “Surrender”


This move to Sunday night programming is throwing a definite wrench into my reflection and writing.  My real life is full of grandchildren’s athletic events, activities, and my own school work. There is rarely a day that I don’t have something to attend or something to grade.  My old Outlander viewing/writing schedule found me watching the show either lying in bed at midnight with headphones and an iPad or viewing early Saturday morning with two mini doxies on my lap and sipping several cups of coffee with cream. I would write a few notes and watch again and write a few more notes.  I would then watch the show on the big screen Saturday night with my husband, let my thoughts percolate until Sunday morning,  spend a few hours writing, revising, and proofreading and then hit the publish button around noon. Soon, I would find myself frantically correcting the proofreading errors I saw after I hit publish…sigh.

My time to write and reflect has been shortened by half and I am finding myself jealous of those folks who have access to “screeners” and time to sit with their thoughts. These episodes are so full of meaning, I could write pages.  I could write about how young men continue to dream of the glory of war and guns that become as rare and as mythical as unicorns. I could write of how hard life is and how quickly hardship can age and change us all. I could write of the cost of war and the destruction of the highland way of life, of sacrifice, and family.  I need time to think and so, I’m hoping my readers will wait until I find my focus and voice.

Jamie Grieves

Yesterday, I opened Twitter to find someone tweeting about episode 3.2 , “It looks like Jamie is missing Claire a lot more than she misses him”.  I quickly shut my feed, not wanting to be influenced before I had a chance to form my own opinions, but now I think that tweet might have help me find my focus…grief. Did Jamie miss Claire more?

Ian put it perfectly when he explained how a missing hand can still hurt even when it is no longer there and that, he reminded Jamie, was just a hand…”Claire was your heart”. The overwhelming sadness I felt watching Sam Heughan’s portrayal of Jamie cannot be overstated. His portrait of a man who has lost everything, including his heart, was visceral. I felt him.  I felt his absolute and abject loneliness. I felt his pain.  His heart has been ripped from his chest and yet, he lives. I marked his body language. He reminded me of a dog that has been beaten too many times. It was if he expected the next blow to happen at any moment and as a result, shies away from as much human interaction as possible. He walks as if he always has the deadweight of the deer on his shoulders.  He is never without the heavy weight of burden and grief. He is awkward and slow to respond and you wondered how often he ever spoke. It was almost as if he had to go find his words. He is emotionally exhausted.

It is true that the mind and soul can only take so much before they shut down and It appears as if he has stopped caring.  He just gives a slight nod when he hears Ian has been arrested, again, and Fergus cannot provoke him to a reaction even when he calls him a coward.  As I watched, I kept thinking it isn’t that he doesn’t feel, it’s that he feels too much.  He can’t escape his loss, it is all around him. Lallybroch has always been his dream, his place of refuge, but even it is now a reminder of all that has been lost. He cannot even live in the open without causing them all danger and so literally and figuratively exists in shadow. He has no where he can go, he has lost both of his homes, Lallybroch and…Claire.

Claire Grieves

“My mother. My mother lives in another world.”  says Bree.

Our glass faced Claire cannot completely hide her feelings even when she tries.  And,…she tries. If Jamie feels too much in his grief, it seems Claire feels too little. Jamie wakes from Culloden to another nightmare, living instead of dying.  Claire didn’t have to wake up to the nightmare of living without Jamie.  She has been forced from the beginning to walk into hers.  She believes that Jamie died at Culloden and believes herself to be a widow. As a result, her grief is different. Her grief is about trying to find a new normal, a new self without Jamie.  She suppresses and moves on because she promised Jamie she would. She suppresses and moves on because she promised Frank she would.  She suppresses and moves on because she has a daughter who needs a mother.  She can’t afford to lose herself in her grief.  She has to let go of the past because she has a future. Feelings, however, cannot stay suppressed inside the skin forever.  Caitriona Balfe’s subtle performance let’s us see how hard she is trying. Her feelings come to the surface and escape through a crack in her facade in the form of a flinch, a comment, a look of longing, displaced anger, and emotional distance.  Claire needs to be in the present, but she cannot truly come back from the past.  She too is trying to find a way to live without her heart and the phantom hurts and burns and keeps her up at night.

Filling in the Cracks With What Mortar Comes Handy

Jamie and Claire are only human. Jamie so closely relates sex to love that he cannot bring himself to seek the comfort of laying with anyone but Claire. Jamie longs for tenderness, for the gentleness of a woman’s touch, for intimacy to take away the sting of his loneliness. Mary’s acknowledgement of his love for Claire and her offer of something less than, but something they both need to keep them whole, is just too sweet to resist.  And, so he closes his eyes and faces his need with a single tear. Claire misses her husband…Jamie. She misses how he completes her and makes her feel alive and whole. And, so in her loneliness she reaches for her husband Frank, across their bed, closes her eyes and faces her need.

Finding a New Normal

They can never truly be the same again, but come to the realization that they have to find a way to live. For Jamie, it took the loss of Fergus’ hand to wake him up to the realization that he does have something to live for and for the first time in six years, he looks to the future and takes action.  He is trying to find a new normal, a way to live without his heart.  He has so few options, but he takes advantage of the one he has been given by the redcoats. He sends himself to prison to provide for Lallybroch and his family.  He keeps them safe the only way he can by exchanging one type of prison for another.  In truth, I had the feeling that this is Jamie’s purgatory for the sins he believes he has earned and he is enduring, “even 200 years” without Claire, until he can find her again in death.  In the book, Jamie understands that his life will hold little happiness and he accepts that is his lot.

Claire suffers her own type of purgatory, living in neither heaven nor hell, in her marriage of convenience. Like Jamie, she has surrendered to her circumstances.  She has accepted the things she cannot change and has come to the realization, that for her, finding a new normal must include the element of living for more than just herself.

“I once believed I was whole. But, the man I loved was Jamie.  I was part of something bigger than myself”.

She misses her calling as a healer and making a difference.  We see them both surrender to a new future, a new normal, and watch them move away from the past to the sound of bagpipes playing Scotland the Brave.


I was moved by both Jamie’s and Claire’s visions of each other. I felt sorry for them both, he for seeing her and realizing once again that she is gone, and her for her loneliness, for the intimacy she craves.  But, both scenes left me with a vague sense of unease.  Their images of each other have been frozen in time. Jamie sees Claire in her 1700’s clothing with her wee herb basket on her arm, smiling gently at him, all womanly grace and beauty.  The reality of who Claire is becoming is more warrior than woman.  She is going into battle and it will change her.  Claire’s vision of Jamie glowing in firelight, forever young and virile and smiling, is a far cry from the feral bedraggled and imprisoned man he continues to be.  Jamie is no longer the warrior he once was and struggles to find agency. His struggles will affect who he becomes, as well.  I am once again afraid that when they do finally reunite, they may not find the man and woman they once loved.  But, I trust in the power of love to overcome and who Jamie and Claire are when they are together…something bigger than themselves.





88 thoughts on “Phantom hearts and Purgatory…a reflection on Outlander 3.02 “Surrender”

  1. Absolutely spot on as usual. I was so glad to see this after getting upset with a post with several poor Frank comments about he should have left her and how they can’t stand Claire, she is self centered….. ugh. It’s like they just don’t see the story we saw. Thank you and looking forward to your next blog. We appreciate your dedication to us Outlander fans.

  2. MaryL

    My son lost his wife when their bairn was 9 months old. The performances of both Sam and Caitlin ring very true, as I think back to how he had to function through those dark days. He didn’t live. He functioned for the sake of their baby.

  3. LOL I don’t care when you post your blogs Beth as long as you keep posting them. Lovely summation (as always). My heart went out to both Jamie and Claire as they struggled to carry on living without each other.
    Sam did an amazing job of showing how broken, empty and desolate Jamie was. Cait was equally as good at showing Claire’s pretense of moving on. I liked the way Tobias showed Frank trying to cope with a non responsive Claire. Still can’t feel too much empathy for Frank. I have “book” Frank stenciled in my brain who is very different from Tobia’s portrayal of him. Awful to be in a loveless relationship and awful to feel your broken heart will never mend. I believe Season 3 will amaze us!

  4. Laura Kaplan

    Very nice summary. I think Jamie will continue to have visions of Claire. I think this is in part to set up the print shop scene. When she walks in, he thinks he is having another vision. FYI, I wanted to let you know that Lallybroch doesn’t have an “e”.

  5. iris giger

    As others mentioned, as long as you’re writing the way you do, we don’t care when you are able to write it.
    Totally agree with Kmcherrett in so many things. I like the way how the tv series covers the book and Sam’s, Tobias’ and Cait’s performances and interpretations a lot.
    Besides the actual tv series during Droughtlander I missed your texts the most.

  6. Judy Dougherty-Neal

    Thank You! I so enjoyed your viewpoints and writing. Take as long as you need and I will continue reading.
    Will you also be writing a novel yourself? Thank you again!

  7. Rita Wood

    As always you go right to the heart of matters, Beth. You perfectly describe the grief and despair of both Jamie and Claire and the desperate situation they find themselves in without each other. It always feels as though you’ve climbed into my thoughts and expressed exactly what I am feeling! I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

  8. Nancy C.

    Don’t ever fret about getting your thoughts written down “in time” for us, dear Beth. We’ll always be here.

    I knew I would need several episodes to guide me through Voyager. #2 was so perfect for me in trying to get into the mindsets of both Claire and Jamie. And Frank. You can see the desperation in his eyes. It is almost equal to the pain in Claire and Jamie’s (although their eyes are closed with painful memory).

    My moment of the episode was Jenny – as she turned and gave her brother up to the Redcoats. Her emotion, her tears, her heartbreak and yes, her exclamation that she would never forgive him felt very, very real. That’s when I cried.

    I needed these episodes to feel how sad and lonely Claire and Jamie are. How they are trying to cope. With death of a beloved one. Like anyone of us, I guess. With memories that are long dead but brought very much alive by a simple touch, a turn of the head, a phrase, a smile. Somewhere down the line, they both must reach a point of acceptance. Do they? It’s a beautiful story.

    Thanks Beth. I’m glad you’re here for us.

  9. DH87

    A very helpful and moving analysis, Beth. In the midst of the personal and political desolation we see in this episode, there is a small, but very welcome, note of sweetness—Ron Moore said last night that he believed Jenny (Laura Donnelly) was nursing her own real-life babe in this episode: the bond seemed very convincing, and no wonder!

  10. Judy Glasson

    You have summed up this episode very well. It is beautifully acted by the 3 of them, actually everybody. I too feel completely lost since my husband died. Jamie and Claire did not have very much time together, only 3yrs I think. To find your soulmate and then lose them so soon would be heartbreaking. I was lucky in that respect. We had a long and very happy marriage. Of course that makes it very hard for the one left behind. They are both dead to each other whether they are alive or dead in their own time. If this show doesn’t get some big awards soon, well I’ll never believe in award shows again.

  11. Susannah

    This is the best commentary I have read concerning the second episode so thank you so much for your insight and compassion. We need to see the depth of their loneliness and despair so that, when the reunion occurs, it is all that more real and compelling. Jamie and Claire are handling the separation in different ways but it’s still the same…they are only allowing only part of themselves to live, to go on. The other part, the heart, is only barely hanging on. The acting by Sam and Cait is so outstanding that I’m ever feeling grateful to them for bringing all these emotions to life so touchingly for us. (Keep on writing, Beth, it is your gift and I always love reading your thoughts and insights!)

  12. Oh, Beth! As often happens, you seem to speak my words. Most valuable things need time to evolve and find its true form (nine months for a child, a few years for good spirits, centuries from carbon to diamond and so forth) so it would be foolish to begrudge you the time to think before you publish.
    The first time I saw 302, I kept finding things to distract me: reading my twitter feed, taking a call, playing with my cats… it was too painful for me. As you might recall my husband passed away 2 years ago and for the first time since, I saw myself on the screen: Sam’s Dunbonnet and Cait’s Claire in Boston were reflections of ME, of my life those terrible first months, year (don’t know exactly) when the only reason to throw myself (literally) out of bed and let the inertia of the fall take me forward was the obligation of feeding my cats (we never had children). I lived inside my house wearing only my nightgown and bathed and clothed when I had to leave the house (to go to the doctor, or bank or groceries) and even then, timed my ‘outings’ to do as much as possible so I wouldn’t need to get out again until next week or so.
    With all that happened in the episode, it was Ian’s line about the pain in his lost leg and Claire being Jamie’s heart that broke me. Perhaps it was the one that hit closer to home. Jenny’s cry: “I’ll never forgive you, brother!” also gutted me. She wasn’t talking about the rebelion, as the red coats might think; she was talking about him forcing her to give him away and thus, go on living without him… There is loss and grief for her, too.
    Thank you, Beth. Like a good single malt, your words are always worth the time…

    • Judith McParland

      This is my life and has been for the past 8 years when my husband of 46 years passed away. We too had no children and filling my time has been like a job of work. Until Outlander came into my sphere of vision. Now I pray only to live long enough to see the series come to a conclusion and, of course, to read the last two books that Diana has promised. I have made studying Scottish history and Gaelic a way to fill the sometimes empty hours, and have gone to Scotland to see the places the series was filmed in. I understand Claire’s sense of loss simply because I’m a woman, and we women seem to be able to cope better than men, but the way the series portrays Jamie’s sense of loss, not just of Claire, but the life he has known, the McKenzies, Murtagh, the Scottish way of life, as well as Lollybrach as a safe haven moves me deeply. Thank you for your insight, and for making me feel that being so involved with this story can be a way to explore the human condition so that I don’t feel I am so much outside the flow of life around me.

      • Oh, Judith, I empathize with you. My husband was 44 so it feels like a life struck down too soon, in the middle of its course. We all have to find ways to reconect with ourselves and with the world around us. For me, it has been an outside-in job. I began with the “easy” material things at hand: I joined a gym, then the local Outlander group and Sam’s MPC -just to feel connected to other people, and then did as Claire: I went back to university, to continue the studies I had to put on hold for 15 years when life took me on unexpected turns. I do therapy and mindfulness meditation and all of it has helped me. Each of us has to find our own unique way, every bit helps and above all, life is worth living. Breath deep and go on!

  13. Margie W

    One thing I love about your posts, Beth, is that you always come from a place of appreciation as well as insight. I am so tired of the “fans” who still complain about any deviation from the books, who drool over and objectify Sam, and can find no empathy for Frank. Who knows what else they will criticize this season. Truthfully I don’t think some people will stop complaining unless the series becomes episode after episode of soft porn. Ok: rant over! See why I appreciate you?!

  14. donnakaylc

    Loved this episode and agree with your thoughts and others–I think Jenny’s emotion was the hardest one to see for me too. I lost my mother when my first-born was four months old, and I will say their needs are so pressing and immediate, they take up some of that emptiness just by existing. My baby brought much joy as well, so I think Claire has that helping her through and Jamie does not. He also had to heal from a devastating wound in his leg, which changes one as well, since he thought it would have to be amputated, in the book. The first two episodes have been very strong. Love your writing whenever you share it!

  15. Laurie

    Beautifully written and right on point. I particularly love these two lines from the episode. “I miss my husband.” We all know that Claire means Jamie. And “Claire was your heart.” Their sense of loss is so strong.

  16. Christine Finklein

    Dear Beth!

    Your insights and expressions as well as explanations from your heart are so beautifully composed. I swallow your every thought as it adds so much to my love of this show and the books. I hope you sense a small idea how your words affect those of us who also feel deeply about anything Outlander. In our world of confusion, division and heartache, this entire story is a comfort even in its face of tragedy.

    Thank you for persisting to write even if you are in demand on a host of levels. I appreciate the fact you can delve into the why’s and wherefores with some of the methods used to convey what we book readers understand and define it so well. No one I know watches any of this like I do; consequently, l have no one to share my thoughts with. You offer this. Thank you, kind friend, for opening your depths and explaining the layers of love within.

    200 months ago I lost my beloved 26 year old daughter. I watch the portrayal of grief by Jamie & Claire with immediate identification. How many times have I too thought I see my Dianne’s face in a crowd or want her to visit me in my dreams. When Claire lost Faith my heart shattered and every time there’s a reference to Faith another tug yanks at my loss. What I wouldn’t give to be able to time travel back to my precious girl like Claire will eventually do with Jamie. The vibrations of love linger so vividly.

    Thanks, Beth! I am grateful you are a writer and that we share our love of Outlander like best friends!!!!

    Chris Finklein

  17. When a man doesn’t think he is going to live then does, he is changed…You would think it would make him happier that he is still alive but not necessarily…My DH bled out 5 pints of blood and went through a night on the edge of passing and life…He came through it but he was quite sullen and saddened…He seemed to understand his inabilities to make everything perfect for the people he loved…I asked him one day why he felt so sad and he actually didn’t know…He said he should be happy he lived but he struggled with knowledge that he couldn’t do all things for all the ones he cared about…he felt helpless in a way…I asked him if he had seen a better world and no that had not even been in his fitful sleep…It took about a year for him to work through it and he came back to the man I knew…I tried to get him to seek help but he wouldn’t he said he had to work it out himself…I thought of that year as I watched Jamie struggle…My DH did a lot of things out in nature as well…he went hunting a lot…he would go on long drives by himself…It was like something inside of him had to be reborn…Thankfully it was and he is fine…He doesn’t talk about that year and I don’t ask…it is too personal for him to share…I had a flash of that year too when Jamie talked about trying to hide beneath a blade of grass in season 2…But this episode really brought it home…We have lived 23 years past that year and have shared some very happy times…and we still do counting each day as a gift…

  18. JKCohen

    So nice to read your sweet blog again, Beth. Isn’t it marvelous that in this age of ugliness we get to watch this amazing story…so beautifully written, crafted, scored and acted?

  19. Jacquelyn F. Kerner

    Great job, once again, Beth. You nailed it. Have you read the books? I was going to make a remark, but it would be a spoiler (or possible spoiler) if you haven’t.

  20. Carol Aisha Jones

    Hi there. I truly do appreciate your taking time to write and pull apart each Outlander! episode. I enjoy your point of view and your writing and find your point of view very similar to my own. I know what I feel and think when I watch these incredible episodes & it’s exciting to read your column that reflects my own heart & mind. I love the books and I am enjoying the heck out of the series! I think there’s room for book & series. They are related but different animals and I feel should be treated that way. I believe you do too.

    I know your life as a busy Grandmama among many other hats keeps you sprinting in all directions. And personally I thank you for taking the time to put your outlander thoughts on paper.

  21. Vickie

    As usual, you were dead on! I, too, felt the desolation from Jamie and Claire. I cringe when I read some of the comments left lying around like yesterday’s trash with no thought or form to them. Having enjoyed the books several times over as well as the show I have come to keep them somewhat separated in my mind, at least as best I can. This is one episode that I honestly feel outshines the original work. Much of this week’s material was only implied in the books, but seeing them act out what we could only imagine from the books has added new understanding and dimension to the suffering they must have felt. No, not everything was there (seriously?) but the important bits were. Comprehension comes when you take the bits that you see or read and join them with the background information you have to create understanding. This week, I was almost crushed by the understanding of their realities.
    Thanks for taking the time out of your day(s) to help us all pull it together. We know it is tough. Grannies are important people!!! Take your time-we will still be here.

  22. Dianne Kirkwood

    Thank you for your blog. You insight into each episode helps me to understand things that I miss but then see after reading your blog. I look forward after every episode to read what you have to say. Thank you very much Beth for your insight and comments.

  23. Carol Logan

    Thank you Beth, I always enjoy your blogs,we don’t get it till Mon nights here so a bit easier to watch without distractions.Love your insights to how the story unfolds,I have enjoyed these books for over 20 years,its wonderful seeing them brought to life on screen.

  24. Debra Hoover

    Thank you for your insights. I find that I have to remind myself that many are watching the series without the background of having read the books, so their observations and understandings may differ from those of us who were book fans first. As I watched this episode, I couldn’t help but think of the differences in circumstance of Claire and Jamie. Cait and Sam’s portrayals of their characters were equally moving, from my perspective. Claire knew (or thought she knew) what had happened to Jamie. She also knew she had to accept his death and move on with her life in a place that had once been familiar. She had to do it for Brianna, the only piece of Jamie that was left. But, she would never love Frank again, as she had before. The scene with the twin beds made such a powerful statement about the emotional end of their marriage. Jamie, on the other hand, had no idea what had happened to Claire and the baby. Nor was he able to return to anything “familiar” in his life. He lived in hiding, endangering everyone he loved and cared about. He was also haunted by the fact that he had sent Claire and the baby he loved so much, back to a place that was totally unknown to him. And, of course, back into the arms of another man, a man who would raise his child. And that was only if they had survived and the child was born at all. The level of grief, for him, had to be all-consuming. Add to that, the guilt of having led so many of his comrades into battle to be slaughtered, and it’s a wonder he remained sane. This episode was just gut-wrenching. Everyone involved with the series is doing an amazing job and the books are probably the best I’ve ever read.

  25. Judy11

    Always enjoy your viewpoint Beth. Your analysis is so spot on. Do not wory if youneed more tiem to gt the this posted. We -your faithful followers will be here waiting when youg et around to it. But we do always enjoy reading your views.

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