One of my treasured memes created by ConnieBV
Last week I read Connie BV’s “Deep Thoughts” on Outlander’s episode 3.07 “Creme De Menthe”. I laughed, per usual, but one line she focused on stuck with me, “Balriggan is miles from Lallybroch”. It was uttered by Jamie the “King of …rationalization”. I laughed out loud and told her I was making it my new catch phrase for times when I KNOW shite is about to hit the fan! We facetiously wondered what could possibly go wrong? Connie made me some memes in honor of all those who try to reassure themselves with “logic”. I’m pretty sure Jamie’s next thought was “And, Jenny’s cool, so I got that going for me”.
I laughed then, but we all know things really are about to hit the fan and Jamie is hoping against hope, and it won’t be funny. In this latest Outlander episode, “First Wife”, written by Joy Blake and directed Jennifer Getzinger, Jamie gets caught between his desperate attempt to keep Claire and the reality of the twenty years he has lived without her. And, Claire seriously considers whether perhaps, …she made a mistake in coming back through the stones. The show makes sure we understand that very little time has passed since Claire rang that shop bell, but that a lot has happened in that short period of time. No one has had time to think this whole thing through, as they are carried away on the tide of current events.
I have said that the series is often able to enrich my understanding of this story. This time what they have enriched for me is how truly bizarre this situation is. Claire has literally dropped back into Jamie’s life after twenty years. That wasn’t a hard sentence to type, but the reality those words represent should make it hard to comprehend. How could anyone know what to do in this situation? Who in the world has ever had to deal with a situation like this? In my post on episode 3.06 “A. Malcolm”, I wrote that Claire had been “resurrected” from the dead. The shock Steven Cree’s Ian displayed on seeing Claire in 3.07 was what I would expect from someone who has just seen a ghost, but Laura Donnelly’s Jenny brought shock to a whole new level. Jenny tried to play it cool, but just couldn’t manage. With a shaky voice, shallow breaths, involuntary swallows, and body language that felt to me something very akin to fear, Laura let us see that Jenny had believed Claire was dead, “and, here ye are”. Claire’s “I know it must be a shock” was the understatement of the century and her cheery “you look well” almost seemed a ludicrous thing to say, but it effectively served to emphasize that Claire really had, as Jenny later asserts, believed they “were all just frozen in time” waiting for her to return.
Claire is a woman out of time, out of her element, and maybe less prepared for life in the 1700’s than she was before. Her memories of Lallybroch and the past most certainly were frozen, and perhaps, idealized. The reality that time here has marched on without her is suddenly becoming real, little boys grow up and have children of their own, babes are bewildered by strange faces, and husbands lie to their family. Everything looks the same, but it doesn’t feel the same. She has once again become an outlander, a stranger in a strange land, instead being welcomed back as a lost love one, she is being held at arms’ length by people who see her as the woman who abandoned and hurt Jamie. They are suspicious and no one seems to be rejoicing in her return. Except perhaps Young Ian, who seems to recognize how important she is to Jamie, “he is lucky you are here”. Her welcome home to Lallybroch is not what she hoped for or expected, I think. I loved that Jenny is calling Claire on her shit and as Ian proclaimed, stirring it like it’s God’s own work. Her reaction is believable, it has been 20 years and Claire couldn’t even write a letter? Yeah, …right…she flat out calls Claire a liar. I kept yelling at the TV tell her the TRUTH! Jenny can handle it!
A couple of reviews I read last week commented on how they were relieved that Ian seemed to doubt Claire’s story because they were having a tough time dealing with everyone just accepting the explanation at face value. I chuckled when I read this because in the books the excuse is even more implausible. The show let us know right away that at least Jenny and Ian aren’t buying it and within the first couple of minutes of the episode, I was sure that they were going to tell them the whole story. It sure would have made sense to try because they took pains to let us know that everyone suspects Claire of being more than she appears, from Young Ian’s “Do you live in a dun?” to Jenny saying she doesn’t know who or “what” Claire is. I was left wondering what Jamie’s real reason was for not telling them because hmmm, Jamie, you have images painted with light and wrapped in thin flexible glass for proof. Claire’s insistence that if she doesn’t tell the truth a wall will always exist between her and Jenny becomes the catalyst for Jamie trying to tell Claire the secret he fears above all things to tell her. Despite appearances, Jamie is an honorable man and he cannot stand lying to her or having a wall between them.
I’ve always sort of taken the time-travel element of this story in stride. I guess I just saw it as a plot vehicle to get Claire where Diana needed her to go. It was always there in the background, but I guess I never really focused on it much. However, this episode reminded me that it is actually more important to understanding this couple than I first thought. Jamie’s statement that sometimes it is hard for him “to believe she is actually here” might be the second biggest understatement of the century. I have to wonder how unearthly Claire must seem to Jamie, his own personal miracle. He escaped from prison because he thought she might have returned and was living on an island guarding a treasure with the selkies? I had to remember that he saw her disappear through the stones and the possibility of her magical return had to have lingered. When he doesn’t find her, I saw the parallel to Claire giving up on the search when they couldn’t find the manifests. It hurts too much to hope. Jamie had to finally accept she was lost and move on and accustom himself to live in the bit that was left to him. The irony that it is his moving on that may cause him to lose her again is life at its most unfair.
I have been wondering how they were going to handle Jamie marrying Loaghaire since they allowed him to know she tried to have Claire killed. No matter how many times Claire assures her self and us that she knew when she made the decision to come back Jamie would have had a life, there is NO way to truly understand the enormity of those 20 years apart, to know what you would face or what things would actually be like. Abstractly knowing Jamie had a life and actually coming face to face with his wife and family are two vastly different things. I laughed out-loud when Claire said “I told you to thank her not marry her!” The writers didn’t even try to justify it. I couldn’t help but wonder if they knew they had dug a hole they couldn’t get out of and just let it be what it was, a choice that has let all feel betrayed. I could have come up with some plausible excuses, he wasn’t actually there to see “Leery’s” bad behavior at the trial, she was sixteen at the time, a young jealous girl who might not have truly understood what she was doing (I’m not even buying this one), he was attracted to her at one time, he believes that she had feelings for him, and they need him. But ultimately, Claire cannot understand how he could marry THIS woman of all people.
The fight between our beloved two was glorious and all that I hoped it would be. All of their feelings came to the surface, his anger that she left him, his jealousy of Frank and his grief over Brianna, and her anger that he forced her to go and to live a life she no longer wanted. Jamie is desperate, to find her and then lose her again is more than he can bear. He needs her to listen with all her heart. But, Claire is more than disillusioned, hurt, and confused. He lied to her and given all that has happened, she has to be wondering if he truly is the man she once loved. I got the feeling that Claire is struggling to be the woman Jamie loved, as well. Old habits are hard to break. After the almost angry sex, I could literally see her donning her defenses, trying to hold it all together, trying to keep her heart from breaking. She had to feel her sacrifice was in vain and that she had made a horrible mistake.
Even though he admits to his jealousy, his cowardice, his need of her, I’m sure there will be fans who don’t blame Claire for being angry and those that won’t forgive him for marrying Loaghaire. But, if you couldn’t understand Jamie reaching out for something to fill the lonely void in his life, after watching the first five episodes and Hogmanay at Lallybroch, then you aren’t human. That he still didn’t get what he needed, to be a father, a husband, and had married a woman who was afraid of his touch, tore at my heart. It also makes the night he spent with Claire that much more poignant. He had nothing but the print shop to call his own and suddenly… Claire, his one and only love, his true wife, his heart. This episode helped me understand that his lying about his marriage wasn’t a defect in his character, it was an act of a truly desperate man, “I canna tell you how it felt when I touched you today and knew you to be real”. Her coming back has changed everything. Claire’s existence without Jamie was sad and she does understand when Jamie says he was a ghost, she was a ghost too. She was as haunted by his memory as he was of hers and she lived in the shadows in the bit that was left to her too, but it was different. Claire had a life, a daughter, a career, things to look forward to even if they didn’t include a love like Jamie. But, Jamie was robbed of everything. All that he had lost, the soul deep deprivation, his need of her became very real this week and his casually delivered, “if you aren’t going to stay, I’d rather die and be done with it” was the truth. He will not survive losing her again. He will grieve himself to death calling for his lost one against the skies. I needed Claire to forgive him. I needed her to listen with all her heart. It wasn’t quite what I got and I was disappointed despite all the wonderful this episode truly was.
There are movies that I have only watched once. It isn’t because they weren’t good movies it was because they were emotionally exhausting. It is usually the type of movie were circumstances intervene to keep people apart that should be together and two people together that should be apart. And, usually you care for everyone involved to the point that you feel all of their pain. For some reason, A River Runs Through It comes to mind. There is a wonderfully sad human story being told, but it is just too much. I need Claire to come to understand that nothing else matters because they love one another. I need the moment when she understands that Jamie is the key that unlocks her true self and knows she cannot live without him. Maybe that moment will come soon. I sure hope so because I don’t think this couple can take much more and neither can I. They deserve some happiness before they have to face next shite storm, but I’m afraid the time for that moment passed when Claire’s anger lived beyond that hearth and on to that cliff. I know she is still there and her running to the shore with him spoke of her devotion and I know she loves him, but I’m so ready for some of this strain to be gone. Please hurry up and let us see the joy in their being together because right now, “we are mated for life” is feeling like a sad resignation rather than an epiphany. Jenny is right, this doesn’t look like happiness to me, either. Fingers-crossed that next week Claire says yes to Jamie’s question and they can begin again and forever, loving each other with all their hearts. Jamie is right it has never been easy for them nor will it ever be, but I never doubt that they will face it together.
PS: It was so hard to write about this episode, I chose to focus on Jamie and Claire, but there was so much I could have written about, the acting, the sets, the costumes, the writing, directing, the overall feel, the attention to detail, Jamie’s finger tapping, his tell that he is nervous, Jenny calling us back to her “trollop” comment the first time Jamie brought Claire home by calling her a “stray”, giving us the lovely gray lag scene and then ripping it away from us with the shock of Loaghaire, the lovely nods to the book lovers, and Lalleybroch full of laughter. What a joy it is to watch a show that surprises you every week, that lets us see a real human story wrapped in the guise of a sci-fi fantasy. Bravo.