The Jamie of the Ridge … a reflection on Outlander 5.01 “The Fiery Cross”

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First, let me say that 5.01 “The Fiery Cross” was a masterful mix of old and new.  It was recognizably based on the book but told with enough new and yet plausible surprises to keep me glued to my screen. It totally could have happened that way.  And, although I love Diana Gabaldon, and her gathering, I’m relieved they didn’t feel the need to replicate it in this episode. Instead, they gave us the wedding of Roger and Bree. It was a wonderful and joyous reunion filled with the people I have missed during this long drought.  As each face was shown on the screen, I found myself smiling somewhat tearfully.  I really do love this story and these characters.

As usual, when I sit down to write after an episode, a blow by blow recap of what happened isn’t on my mind.  There are lots of talented bloggers out there who do a great job looking at EVERTHING! I admire their ability to do so, but that just isn’t how my brain works.  I find myself thinking about one or two things that stood out for me or an overall mood or theme for each episode.  This week I couldn’t stop thinking about Jamie.  The Jamie I saw on my screen this week was the charming, complicated, yet simple man I have been longing to see.  As he stood before Claire wearing his plaid and his father’s coat, it felt like he had finally come into his own; laird, proud Scot, husband, father, grandfather.  He is a man and “that is no small thing”.  His tear-filled eyes throughout this episode revealed his soul and I found myself proud to “know” such a man.

Jamie and Bree

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Matt Roberts writes with such love for this story and its characters.  He holds all the previous episodes in mind when he creates and tends to the small and endearing details.  In this episode, he called us back to the three conditions Jamie made when he agrees to marry Claire; a dress, a priest, and a ring.   We are treated to Jamie trying his best to make sure his daughter’s wedding day is the best he can make it, just like he tried for her mother. I was charmed by Jamie making sure Bree had her “modern” wedding tradition of something old, something new (fairly raw whiskey, ouch), something borrowed and something blue and even a sixpence for her shoe. His obvious fatherly concern is compounded by the fact that their relationship is still so new.  He just got her back and now he has to give her away.

As he turns the corner and sees Bree in her wedding dress, you can chase the emotions across his face; awe, pride, gratefulness, and finally a need to hold it all in check for this beloved and found daughter.  He could never have dreamed of placing his mother’s pearls on his daughter’s neck. He is able to pass on a family heirloom to his own flesh and blood. She is his blessing.  She is the embodiment of the fact that his sacrifices were not in vain.  He is moved to tears by her confession that she needs him and will always be his wee girl and the gift of her knowing and repeating the Fraser clan motto, “Je Suis Prest”.

Jamie and Claire

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Throughout the episode, we are reminded of Jamie and Claire’s deep, passionate, and abiding love for one another.  The looks that pass between each, the unspoken language of couples who are so close they know what the other thinks and feels, added so much to this episode. Once again, the writers or actors took care to be consistent in how this couple interacts with each other like the “let’s do this” nod when Jamie goes off to do something dangerous.  But, Lord the looks between Jamie and Claire at the wedding.  He looks around at all he has wrought, the family he is surrounded by, and then back to Claire. Who knows.  He is overwhelmed by all he has that he thought he had lost forever.  He is a laird, a father, a…husband.  I am constantly reminded of all they had been denied and wonder if Jamie feels like Job who was blessed in his latter days and given twice as much as had been taken from him.

Jamie and the Governor

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I teach literature. When I help students analyze Shakespeare, we talk about foils.  Governor Tyron was perfectly menacing and a perfect foil for Jamie. You couldn’t help but compare the two.  Their motivations, their values, couldn’t be more opposite.  The Governor has the care of a land and its people.  Jamie has the care of a land and its people. The Governor is motivated by power and his own importance.  Murtaugh has made him look a fool and must be punished publicly to restore Tyron’s pride and preserve the perception of his power.  Jamie is motivated by love, honor, and duty.  The knowledge of the future lays heavy on him.  He knows who wins the war, but first, you must survive the battle.  Instinctively he knows the best way to protect his men and their families is to assure their loyalty to him.  He creates a clan from the remnants of their memories and Scottish pride.  When he called Roger “the son of my house” and Fergus “the son of his heart”, he gave them a public affirmation of his acceptance and his love. Pledging their loyalty to him on bended knee with holy iron was one of the most moving callbacks of the whole series.  I loved Roger’s initial confusion then Jamie’s surprise as the scholar moved from academic to real with alacrity.

Jamie and Murtagh

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We began and ended the episode with these two.  Murtagh pledges an oath to Jamie, a promise he gave his mother to always follow him and have his back.  He gently reaches out and takes wee Jamie’s hand in reassurance. Men in this time are definitely defined by their word and once given it is a serious and binding commitment. Murtagh pledged his life to Jamie.  We have seen him keep that oath.  We saw Jamie’s joy at being reunited with his godfather last season. However, the real depth of feeling Jamie has for Murtagh could only be guessed at… until this moment.  How much that oath meant to Jamie and his love for his godfather was revealed in this final scene. To save him, Jamie must release Murtagh from his oath and send him away.   In true Jamie and Murtagh fashion, no gushy words are spoken in their final goodbye. Jamie is tearful when he tells him to go and attempts to smile as he tells him to make himself scarce.  Murtagh’s response is to gently reach out and touch Jamie reassuringly, thinking first of Jamie’s feelings and needs always.  He leaves and Jamie then collapses in grief emitting gut-wrenching sobs. I think having loved and lost is painful, but to gain that love back and have to let it go again is unbearable.  Jamie is feeling fear as he never has before and that is saying a lot.  He has a lot to lose and will fight to the death to preserve all that he loves.

This episode and Jamie’s tears caused me to reflect on my own life. I thought of how much more easily my husband and I are moved to tears.  I believe, like Jamie, our age is a factor.  We have a lifetime of painful memories and struggles, things that we have overcome to get where we are now.  And, I often find I am now moved to tears by the simplest of things like watching our youngest granddaughters ride a pony or their obvious pride in catching a fish all by themselves, or watching the teens in all of their various sports and activities.or their inexplicable joy in a pair of gifted footed pajamas!  Sometimes watching the looks of pride on our own children’s faces as they look upon their children moves me to tears and I will look at my husband and find that he too is tearful. Like Jamie and Claire, understanding, gratitude, and love will wordlessly pass between us and end in a brief kiss and a tremulous smile.