Oooh, you guys, this episode was SO GOOD! But first, in Outlander news…
Podcasts for Season 3 are now available and I listened to the podcasts for episodes 301 and 302. Some interesting nuggets:
- Ron Moore originally wanted to show the Culloden battle in its entirety and have it take place in real time, which would have been about twenty minutes long. They scrapped that idea due to production costs and difficulty. Artistically I think they made the right decision; how they ultimately showed the scenes from Jamie’s flashbacks was more personal. I know they were concerned about my approval.
- They filmed Claire’s first day of medical school at a veterinary teaching hospital in Scotland! No wonder the scenes resonated so strongly with me (Kidding. Sort of).
- Millie and Jerry (Claire and Frank’s handsy and slightly annoying neighbors) are named after the neighbors in The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- While they are apart this season Claire and Jamie are never shown in the same frame together.
I haven’t listened to the podcast for 303 yet but in the future I plan to listen to the podcasts after I recap each episode.
Ron Moore gave a Twitter Q&A last week where he explained a bit more about filming choices and deviations from the novel.
As with last week, it’s easier to focus on Claire and Jamie’s stories separately. Also, Terry Dresbach did a ton of work telling this week’s story through costume design. Like I said last week, Tom and Lorenzo really are the pros at costume design and set direction but a lot of it this week was so obvious that even a novice like me could read between the lines. Let’s begin!
Warning: Contains spoilers from Outlander, Episode 303: All Debts Paid
The opening credits show a little Easter egg from the novel and those who have read Voyager know where this Newfoundland comes up later. I tried to look into if there was any significance with this breed and Scotland but I came up short. Newfies, as their name suggests, originate from the island of Newfoundland and Labrador and not Nova Scotia, so there goes that theory. I digress.
So, just to set the scene: Brianna is eight, Claire is in medical school, and Frank has taken up some household duties. This is a really lovely domestic scene…until it’s not. Claire and Frank are in good moods, dressed alike (showing some sort of connection), reminiscing about England, and almost making a movie date until Frank casually mentions that he’s already seen the movies Claire suggests…with another woman. Exposition tells us that they’ve agreed to a form of open marriage but Claire still looks gobsmacked. And then little redheaded Bree waltzes in to breakfast wearing a cute tartan dress, like a bit of Scottish Jamie Fraser wedged in between them. Also note their plaid tartan cream pitcher, also situated between Claire and Frank in this shot:
Flash forward two years and Claire is celebrating her graduation from medical school when…
Miss PhD Fellowship in Historical Linguistics (aka Sandy, aka Frank’s girlfriend) accidently crashes the party and, ho boy, Claire and Frank have a whopper of a fight.
Frank tells Claire that their bedroom is a bit too crowded with the three of them in it (zing!) and also drunkenly tells Claire that green isn’t her color.
But…the thing is…green IS her color. And Jamie’s color. And Scotland’s color. And sometimes Bree’s color. And it’s EVERYWHERE in this episode. Once you start seeing it, it’s really hard not to see it:
Claire’s house is mostly green- the walls, the furniture, the plants, the glassware in the graduation and bar scenes. The medical school and high school graduation guests are wearing green. Claire is wearing green surgical scrubs. Her hospital is green. The shift Claire is wearing at her graduation appears to be ivory or white but it is actually a very, very pale mint green. Jamie’s wrap in the prison is very dirty but also green. Jamie makes numerous mentions of eating green plants and each time the shot of plants in the scene is like a bright green reminder of Claire (since she’s the one who taught him about scurvy prevention). Green is their color.
And it’s ALWAYS been their color. Jamie and Claire wore green at their wedding. The Fraser hunting tartan Jamie wears in Season One is green:
Side note: don’t they look so young and beautiful? Awww…
So, while I think there is a case to be made in some of these scenes that green denotes jealousy, I also think Terry Dresbach is trying to show a clear connection between all three Frasers.
Back to Boston…
During the aforementioned fight Claire offers to give Frank a divorce but he refuses out of fear of losing Bree. We also find out that Jerry and Millie divorced last year and I hope Millie has found herself a new man who isn’t such a dillweed.
Moving along to 1966. Brianna is eighteen and we see her graduate from high school. Claire is an experienced surgeon. And Frank is DONE. All debts paid. He finally asks for a divorce and wants to move to England with Bree and Historical Linguistics. And Claire Is. Not. Having. It. Hurling insults at Frank she reminds him that Bree is HER daughter (implication: not his) and there is no amount of time that would ever make her forget Jamie. In the words of one Cher Horowitz: That was way harsh, Tai.
Frank storms out. Claire gets called in to the hospital and then…
…we find out Frank has died in a car accident. Having read the novel I knew this was coming but this scene still packed a huge emotional punch. Caitriona Balfe acted the heck out of this and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the episode they submit for her Emmy nomination.
But, cynically, this is also slightly convenient? Because…
Ardsmuir Prison, Scotland 1755
So much to digest with Jamie in this episode. But first, MURTAGH!!!!
Ron Moore had hinted they might have kept Murtagh alive but I was still thrilled to see the camera pull away for his slow reveal. This is a MAJOR deviation from the novel and (spoilerish) I’m going to speculate that the writers might merge his character with that of Duncan Innes. Pure speculation. In any case, Murtagh is alive but barely and we mostly see him coughing and fighting off prison rats in this episode. Get well soon, Murtagh!
More exposition tells us that Jamie is known as MacDubh (son of Black [Brian]) among his fellow Scottish prisoners and he is their de facto leader. He oversees their health, making sure the sick have blankets and meat and everyone eats enough green plants to prevent scurvy.
And… introducing Major John William Grey (!!!). He has a huge role in all the novels from here on out and I was super excited to see him in this episode. He is played by a very pretty Australian actor named David Berry and he joins the long list of Outlander actors (Caitriona Balfe, Sophie Skelton, Wil Johnson, Laura Donnelly) that swallow their accents in order to adopt another. He also gives off some vibes of Brad Pitt circa Interview with a Vampire, don’t you think? Relatedly: I think the tricorne hat was very flattering and I sort of wish it was still standard. In any case, this casting is PERFECT and Berry plays Grey with a wonderful mix of honor, kindness, regret, and loneliness. He seems kinder in their series, I believe, than in the novels
And here is a chance for me to step on my soapbox for a bit. Up until now the only homosexual character in the Outlander canon was Captain Jonathan “Blackjack” Randall- a rapist, sadist, and pedophile. His representation as the sole gay man in this universe was problematic, to say the least. I know the series tries to be faithful to the novels as much as possible but, the truth is, some aspects of Diana Gabaldon’s earlier novels have not aged well. Overall the series does a good job of redeeming the flaws of the novels and I hope that John William Grey’s character provides a nice foil to Blackjack Randall’s.
Back to Ardsmuir. An aging and delusional Duncan Kerr, previously of the MacKenzie clan, is found wandering the moor and he is of special interest to the Redcoats as he is blathering on about the lost gold of Charles Stuart. Jamie is enlisted to translate Gaelic in return for the removal of his irons. Duncan is mostly incoherent but, before he dies, refers to the return of a White Witch. Over the playing of Claire and Jamie’s theme music Jamie becomes very emotional and lets himself become hopeful at the thought of seeing Claire again.
SO hopeful that he escapes Ardsmuir and swims out to an island off the Scottish coast. I feel like this was explained a bit more clearly in the novel. JWG sends out a search party but is confronted by Jamie himself outside of the prison. Through flashbacks to Je Suis Prest (Episode 209) we see that Grey was the teenage boy that tried to attack Jamie before the battle of Prestonpans. At the time Jamie let him live but only after tricking intelligence out of the boy. Grey promised to kill him one day if he ever got the chance.
So here’s his chance. Jamie gives him the opportunity- all debts paid. And Grey, because he is not an asshole, chooses not to kill an unarmed prisoner.
But you know who who would have? Captain Randall. I’m not sure if this is lavender or not, but I think the cut to purple flowers here is a direct reference to Randall.
Anyway, Jamie explains that he didn’t find Claire but he did find some Roman coins and precious gems and he gives John Grey a sapphire as evidence.
We see Jamie and John form a tenuous and believable friendship but it is pushed too far when Grey mistakes confidence for intimacy and Jamie, likely due to his history with Randall, threatens to kill Grey. The emotions on Grey’s face here are so poignant and crushing. Again, I am loving how kind and honorable the series is portraying this character.
And then Jamie’s time at Ardsmuir is over. The prison is garrisoned and the prisoners are sent to the colonies and territories as indentured servants (little better than prison). Murtagh, NO! We only just got you back! Jamie, as a traitor to the Crown, is not permitted to leave the country and so is sent, through connections by Grey, to an English estate to work as a servant. All debts paid, future to be determined. I loved these final scenes in this episode with John and Jamie. Have you noticed they have their own theme music? It is a beautiful and haunting cello melody with upnotes– suggesting hopefulness– and it plays in most scenes with the two actors in this episode.
Until next week, my fellow fans.