In my review of Outlander 3.06 “A. Malcolm”, I wrote about having expectations of the print shop reunion. I jokingly said I missed the “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook with the longing of twenty years streaming down their faces. I got over my missing scene because after I calmed my book-loving self down, I realized what the show had given me was practically perfect in every way. After watching 3.10 “Heaven and Earth”, written by newcomer Luke Schelhaus and directed by David Moore, I thought of my missing “slobber knocker” scene again. I thought about why it had been important to me and decided it was because it was a visceral reminder of the need Jamie and Claire have of each other. True to form, the show gave me what I was missing, they just didn’t give it to me as I expected. This week they gave me that need and the somewhat frightening reality of what that kind of need can do to people.
I have written about why we needed to see the 20 years apart between these two in order to understand the reunion. I also wrote about the period of transition I thought we were going to see after the reunion. The show has taken pains to let us see that though our couple’s memories of each other remained frozen in time, they were not. They both had lives and they are both changed by the time they were apart. Claire’s fear that she would find the man she left changed came true and she is certainly not the same woman who left Jamie 20 years before. It has been more difficult than any of us could possibly have imagined. I believe they are at the core the same people they each fell in love with, but 20 years of wearing masks, suppressing feelings, and doing what you need to do to survive have covered those cores in layers of protection. It is a long way down to where they started and I’m not sure how long or what it will take to get them both back there, but I think we saw part of that journey in this episode.
Confined and Compartmentalized
I’ll admit that I watched and re watched and re re watched the initial hold scene between Jamie and Fergus. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. It seemed out of character for Jamie to be so callous and manipulative (and, I saw today that Diana agrees). It wasn’t a very flattering look for a “king of men”. I kept watching trying to figure out what exactly the writers were trying to show us. Then it hit me. I’d been there. I’d been Jamie stuck in a cell and powerless to protect someone I desperately loved. Without going in to too much detail, last December I found myself sitting in an ER with a loved one, powerless to protect them or effect change and angry, very angry. I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make it different, but there was absolutely nothing I could do and my anger grew to rage. I understood Jamie attacking Fergus unfairly. I recognized his displaced anger because I had displaced my own. I took my frustration out on someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I truly think I lost my mind for a bit or a least control of my emotions. I was being irrational and unfair, but I couldn’t stop myself. With my personal experience on my mind, I watched the scene one more time.
I think we are seeing Jamie’s past pain resurface. Claire being taken from him has brought him to a dark place, I think we see Jamie as close to madness as we have ever seen him. When he realizes his wife has been kidnapped and the captain is complicit, he reacts violently and as a result is thrown into the hold. Just before he is pushed down into the cell, we see him desperately look to the Porpoise, as it puts distance between him and Claire. He is once again confined, “I’m well acquainted with the inside of a cell.” I couldn’t help, but give this statement more meaning than the literal. Jamie has spent the better part of 20 years without personal agency. He has been confined in more ways than one. His being once again behind bars has to be bringing it all back, the loss of Claire and the desolate life he lived without her. The thought of losing her again is now made more cruel by her miraculous return and their tenuous bond. He truly can’t lose her again. He is desperate.
It isn’t just the plague that concerns him, “There is more than disease on that ship there are 300… men.” A very timely statement given the current atmosphere and the idea that women are never safe from molestation. As we see what transpires on the Porpoise, we know that Jamie’s fears are not unfounded. Claire is in danger from men. He needs to get to her. He needs to protect her. He needs her. But, he is locked up and powerless to reach her… once again.
In the books, Jamie confesses to Claire that he had not been afraid for a very long time and that with her return he began to feel fear again because he had something to lose once more. I think the show has shown us that reality, in Ardsmuir Jamie tells John Grey to do what he will, there is nothing they can do to him that hasn’t been done. He had lost everything that truly mattered to him. And, even though he cares for his men, his family, Willie, Murtaugh, and Fergus, it is his loss of Claire that changed him forever. He is not complete without her and having found her once more he, “…would do more than lie to keep her.” He would in fact move Heaven and Earth and risk Hell, as easily as the prick of a pin. I can remember sitting in that emergency room my thoughts spinning from one possibility to another, looking for a way out, looking for a way to fix things, looking for a way out of my fear. Jamie is doing the same. His fear and desperation have made him irrational, he is grasping at straws and ignoring the facts of their situation as described by Fergus. When Fergus doesn’t buy into Jamie’s irrational and desperate plans, Jamie’s impotent fear and anger become displaced and Fergus becomes the unfortunate target. In the mist of his despair and displaced anger, Jamie says he was right to deny his blessing on the marriage to Marsali because Fergus doesn’t know what love is. Saying this out loud brings a last desperate idea to mind. He will do more than lie to keep Claire, he will in fact, use Fergus’ love for Marsali. The darkness he has inhabited to survive without Claire has made this possible, but we all cringe at the cruelty and manipulation and we know it will not come without a cost to his relationship with Fergus.
Luckily for Jamie, he has good will on account. He has lived a life of honor, been there for those God has given him charge of, and sacrificed his own interest for others over and over. “You can trust me to keep my word” says Jamie,”I have always trusted you Milord” says a newly maimed Fergus. Fergus is in the unique position of knowing what Claire means to Jamie and what he was like after losing her. And, after hearing the sailors discussing Jamie, himself and Marsali, he realizes what it is Jamie is feeling. He tells Jamie he will not bring him the keys and place them all at risk. He tells Jamie he is willing to move Heaven and Earth to keep the woman he loves safe even if that means he cannot marry her. Marsali understands that it is not only love of her, but love of Jamie that makes Fergus tell him, no. He will move Heaven and Earth to keep Jamie safe, as well as Marsali. And, God, I love Marsali for telling him if he doesn’t understand that then he “doesn’t deserve” to be set loose. They love him and so, they do what is best for him and risk his anger and…forgive him because sometimes we forgive those we love even when they do not deserve it. Fergus is indeed like Jamie and proves himself to be his son by his noble actions. To Jamie’s credit, he gets it right in the end and gives them his blessing.
Despite my need to see Jamie forgiven and he and Claire together forever and all well between them, Claire stubbornly refuses to reassure Jamie that all is well and that she is there forever. The specter of those 20 years apart continues to haunt them. There have been moments where she seems to come close and she has never denied her love of him, but just when it seems they are finding a way back to each other something conspires to keep them apart. I loved the moment in the “Doldrums” when Jamie realizes that he must let Claire be who she has become and lets her go despite his need to keep her by his side. He takes her into the hall, but when he sees her standing there with her arms crossed, a look of challenge on her face, he resigns himself to the reality that she will go whether he says no or not. He touches their wedding ring as he says he has taken an oath or two himself and taken them all seriously. He is devoted to her and trying hard to be the man she needs him to be. Through out this episode we are reminded that a word given is a bond, Claire, Jamie, Fergus, the Captain all are bound by their oath.
On the English ship, we see Claire slip into her familiar role as surgeon. She knows exactly who she is when she is healing the sick and it serves to emphasis how unsure she is when she is not. Watching her deal with the plague was a glorious celebration of the woman who is Claire and I have to wonder if anyone could have done this job besides her. Her sense of self and her authority in the face of so many men was honed in another time when women in medicine were just as rare and looked upon with suspicion. Having her abilities, knowledge, authority questioned by men is nothing new. She handles what ever they throw her way with the aplomb of a woman who has been there and done that. There is no doubt who is in charge. I loved the irony of authority being given to the youth of the captain and Mr. Pound. I believe the unusual circumstances that led a third lieutenant to become captain and a 14 year.old to be addressed as sir were actually in her favor. The band of unlikely save the day.
Claire has never been as open with her feelings as Jamie nor as eloquent in expressing them, but we can judge how she feels through her actions. She does share with us that she is feeling the impact of being separated from Jamie. It has been less than a day and fifty miles only that separates her from him, but she tells us it feels like 200 years. Talking about leaving Jamie and actually leaving him seem to be two totally different things. Despite her misgivings and confusion there is no doubt that she loves him and that the only comfort she finds in him not being with her is that he is safe from the typhoid. However, she seems to be able to function without him in a way he cannot without her and Elias discovers her secret for us. She tells him there is a word for what she does, compartmentalizing. She has learned how to put different parts of her life away into compartments and keep her feelings separate, so that she can do her work. We know that she has been doing this with her feelings for Jamie for 20 years and we wonder when and what it will take to make her take those feelings out of the boxes she has stored them in and incorporate them into who she is now. How long will it be before Claire can become whole once more?
We may have seen Claire come close to understanding her need of Jamie when she reads the captain’s log and discovers that Jamie has been found out and is in danger. We see what she is willing to do to keep him safe. We see Claire lie to those who trust her, threaten to cry rape, and even commit murder. I had no doubt that if Claire had believed cutting Thompkins’ throat would have kept Jamie safe, she would have done it, despite her oath to do no harm. As she listened in horror to the story of the body being found in the cask of Creme de Menthe, the charges against her husband, and the unlikelihood that the captain could be convinced to not write a report once they reach Jamaica, she understands that she may lose him again. Her eyes filling with tears were powerful evidence that she cannot lose him again and so, she jumps into the bottomless sea for Jamie’s sake. Nice metaphor that.
No matter what happens around us
The fact that these two were meant to be together is never in doubt for us, but we have to be patient while they peel back the layers and find the way down to where they began. They need to know that whatever it is between them that they cannot name is powerful enough to keep them together despite anything that goes on around them. Maybe the very real possibility that they may lose each other again will be enough to make them both accept they are mated for life and fated to be together through time and past all understanding.
Some final thoughts
Elias: How impressive was Albie Marber as Elias Pound ? ! The character was a delight and I loved his chemistry with Claire. In the time he was on-screen, Albie managed to make us care about his Elias and as result, mourn his loss. I felt his concern and love for his shipmates and his respect for Claire. His delight in her telling him he was an impressive young man was heartwarming and his cheeky smile at her cursing adorable. His concern for his men touched me, “Feel better Mr. Owens”. May we all have children of such strength and integrity. I couldn’t help, but think of the difference between the young men in this episode and the extended period of adolescence in our culture. It spoke to the fact that children will rise to what is expected of them and that we do our children no favors by taking the opportunity for self-sufficiency away from them. We need to allow our kids to make choices and mistakes. Mr. Pound was an impressive young man and if I was his mother, I too would be proud.
Typhoid Fever: Claire’s process in dealing with the plague was fascinating and gruesomely realistic. The effort that goes into this production continues to stagger. When Claire looked around the deck, I felt as overwhelmed as she must have been. I’ve of course never been around something like this, but it felt pretty real. I was pleased to see there was more to the story than just dealing with the disease. They did a wonderful job of letting us see the human side of such an event and I couldn’t help, but be reminded of all of the natural and unnatural disasters we have had this year and the stories of humanity that came out of those. We saw the frailness and preciousness of life, and the real grief over the loss of fellow human beings. The burials and Lord’s prayer were moving, in the end, we are all the same. We all want to be loved, cared for and respected.
Swabbing: On a lighter note, my husband’s favorite uncle retired from the Navy and had a little dachshund he named Swabbie. I thought Swabbie was the name given to most lower ranked sailors because they “swabbed” the decks. I got puppy fever one day and came home with two little dachshunds, I promptly named the little brown one Swabbie in an effort to endear my husband to my suprise purchase. After this episode, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at my dog in the same way again. Swabbie doesn’t sound so cute anymore!