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.
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.
“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.