Episode 304: Of Lost Things

Tons of plot development in a beautiful episode this week so, in the words of Lady Isobel, let’s make haste.

Warning: Contains spoilers from Outlander, Episode 304: Of Lost Things

“A cage is still a cage,” Lady Isobel opines to Jamie and in this episode nearly everyone is trapped in their own sort of prison. As the title suggests, this week deals heavily with loss but it shows those losses through the lens of people confined by their circumstances.

Jamie’s story gets the most screentime and plot development this week so I’ll focus mostly on him and the supporting characters at Helwater. But first let’s check in on Claire.

Claire

Scotland, 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve affectionately dubbed these three The Scooby Gang since I feel that the Venn diagram of People Who Watched Buffy and People Who Watch Outlander probably overlaps quite a bit (perhaps completely?). They spend almost all of this episode trying to piece together Jamie’s life and timeline following Culloden. Their investigations have them digging through Reverend Wakefield’s documents and seeking out the original ship manifests stored in the Scotland National Archives. I…have some questions about the plausibility of this? Would they actually be allowed to touch and handle original documents from the 17th and 18th centuries? Perhaps European history is so vast and deep that they’re like, meh, go ahead and get your oily fingerprints on these…we got TONS.

Anyway, they run into some frustrating and figurative dead ends and I think if Claire lives long enough to see the advent of Ancestry.com she is maybe going to feel a tad bitter.

Her colleague Joe Abernathy phones her in Scotland to discuss a patient’s case.  As a tie-in to last week (when Claire was studying about gallbladders) she and Joe discuss a patient with a positive Murphy’s sign. Joe gently reminds her that she has a life and career waiting for her in Boston, to which Claire is dismissive but also feels a bit guilty.

Brianna and Roger have their own romantic subplot developing but I’m going to discuss Brianna later in the recap as I feel she provides a nice foil and counter-commentary to Ladies Isobel and Geneva. But I will inject that I like Richard Rankin’s portrayal of Roger quite a lot; the character is more good-humored and less man-splainy than he is in the novel.

This flag features prominently in this episode with both Claire and Brianna getting long, sustained scenes in front of it. It is the Scottish flag with the motto Nemo me impune lacessit, which is the Latin motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty and is associated with the Scottish Order of the Thistle. It translates to “no one puts Baby in a corner attacks me with impunity.” Since very little in Outlander is included without purpose (I’m looking at you, Robert Burns references) I’m wondering if there is a significance beyond serving as a call-back to Jamie and the Battle of Culloden. Time will tell, pun intended.

So where is the cage in 1968? It’s at a pub where the Scoobies go to drown their sorrows and Claire and Brianna are overtly unwelcome female patrons. The male pub-goers are quite literally caging them in here. We are reminded (again) that, for all the freedoms women could enjoy in 1968, there was still widespread gender discrimination (the Sex Discrimination Act would not pass until 1975 in the U.K.). Caitriona Balfe is very convincing in Claire’s utter contempt for the situation; as a wartime nurse, eighteenth century bad-ass, and pioneering female surgeon she simply has no shits left to give for men with small *minds*.

 

At the bar Claire is also reminded of advice Mrs. Graham gave to her twenty years ago about chasing ghosts. She tells Brianna it’s time to go home and be in the company of the living. Of Lost Things: Jamie is again lost to Claire, a father is again lost to Brianna, and Brianna is lost to Roger.

Jamie

Helwater, England 1756

Jamie’s story is running about ten years behind Claire’s for most of this episode. By the end we have them almost in parallel but still behind by two years (Since Claire originally travelled 202 years back in time they are trying to establish Jamie’s presence in 1766). Just to keep track, by the end of this episode (1764 and 1968) Jamie is 43 and Claire is 50. When they are in the same time and same place Claire is five years older than Jamie. I think I have that right? Feel free to correct me.

Moving on. Jamie has entered the Downton Abbey stage of his life, serving as a groomsman to the Helwater Estate and the Dunsany family. Gosford House in Scotland stood in as the Helwater Estate and it’s…not so shabby.

We learn a great deal about this family in fairly short order. Lord and Lady Dunsany are decent-minded aristocrats who mourn the loss of their only son, Gordon, who died at Prestonpans. Lady Isobel, the younger sister, is friendly and generous and a fairly astute judge of character. Lady Geneva is beautiful, demanding, manipulative, and a general pain in the ass to the estate’s groomsmen.

 

But she’s ALSO very similar, both is looks and temperament, to Claire. Claire is older now and more reserved from years of grief but the Claire of Season One was just as fiery and shrewd as Lady Geneva. Born into a different time and of similar societal constraints, this is what Claire could have become. Geneva, although born into enormous wealth (and married into an even larger fortune), is caged by her position and gender. Like Helwater’s prized horses, she is a beautiful commodity to be sold without consent.

And the writers show a further contrast between Geneva and Brianna, who we can assume are roughly the same age in this episode. Brianna is free to love whom she chooses, if she chooses. She has a higher education, she can evidently fix a car better than some men, she can wear pants (which she does nearly throughout this episode), etc. Like Claire and Geneva she is also outspoken and bold but she is even less constrained by society (douchey pub patrons notwithstanding).

Lady Isobel is well aware of Geneva’s “difficult” personality, as she tactfully puts it. Whether or not she’s aware of John Grey’s sexuality is up for debate. It’s written here rather ambiguously and the actress plays it like it could go either way. I sort of think she does know? We have established she is very astute and has known Grey since childhood, so it reasons that she would probably at least be suspicious.

Some exposition tells us that Jamie and John Grey have developed a believable and warm friendship with some unrequited love from John’s end. Hal arrives for a visit and threatens to give the whole jig up for everyone in this very tense and loaded scene. “I am not my brother,” he quips, suggesting that he knows the real reason Grey has gone to lengths to aid and befriend a Jacobite traitor and prisoner.

 

Geneva, no fool, readily deduces there is more to the story and blackmails Jamie into sleeping with her on the eve of her wedding to the old and creepy and impotent Earl of Ellesmere. I have to say that I found this scene VERY problematic in the novel as there is a definite lack of consent (Geneva asks Jamie to stop mid-coitus and he does not) and I am relieved the writers remedied the date-rapey vibes put forth by the book. They take pains to show that Geneva gives consent at least three times– (“We can stop if you want,” “May I touch you,” “I’m doing this for myself”) and overall Geneva comes off as very sympathetic; I thought it was beautifully shot and choreographed. There were several call-backs in this episode to Jamie and Claire’s wedding night (including Fiona giving Claire back her pearls) and I found the monologue Jamie gives about not conflating sex with love especially sad and poignant.

Jamie and Geneva’s night together results in pregnancy and the birth of a son, William. Costuming note: Geneva is shown in blue throughout the episode, signifying a Madonna figure. She does not survive childbirth and a tense scene unfolds at Ellesmere where a deranged and angry Earl nearly murders the newborn child, knowing it isn’t his. Jamie shoots and kills him in order to save the child and we are treated to some beautiful acting by Sam Heughan as Jamie meets the only child of his he has ever seen:

Jamie is promised freedom from his parole by Lady Dunsany but he chooses to stay at Helwater to be close to William. When it’s clear that he can no longer stay without risking the reputation of everyone involved (William begins to resemble Jamie in looks and mannerisms), he finally decides to return to Scotland.

He asks John Grey to watch over William and offers him his body in return as a way to show gratitude. Grey is lovely here, as he is shocked by the offer but also open and honest about his love for Jamie. As Jamie had told Geneva, John reminds Jamie that love and sex cannot be conflated here and he would rather have love; he declines Jamie’s offer and informs him he plans to marry Isobel and adopt William.

Jamie says goodbye to Willie in this enormously touching scene, giving him a carved snake similar to Jamie’s Sawny (made for Jamie by his brother Willie who died in childhood). As Walk Off the Earth’s cover of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” plays over the end scenes we watch all our characters grapple with loss and the grief of saying goodbye.

 

David Berry’s face as he watches Jamie ride away is one of the saddest and most riveting moments of acting I have ever seen. I know this ending was fairly polarizing for some fans but I absolutely loved it. It was a beautiful anachronism, tying Jamie to the 1960’s with Claire. Of lost things: Geneva to her family, Willie to Jamie, Jamie to John.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Bob Dylan’s words feel especially relevant this week in the United States as we grapple with the grief of yet another mass shooting. Outlander provides some necessary escapism but it’s also a reminder of some hard truths about our nation. At the time our Constitution was being drafted, in the same life as Jamie Fraser, a musket could fire off only two or three rounds per minute. The Las Vegas gunman was able to fire up to 400 rounds per minute. These weapons have no place in our society and our “leaders” are long past due in passing lasting and effective gun control legislation. When being an American means rolling the dice with our lives when we go to music concerts, or night clubs, or movies, or work, or political meetings, or church, or college, OR A FIRST GRADE CLASSROOM we have lost sight of what truly constitutes freedom.

Slàinte, my dear friends.

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12 thoughts on “Episode 304: Of Lost Things”

  1. Great commentary, until you decided to mix in your personal feelings about guns. The 2nd Amendment protects the 1st. After Culloden, Scots were banned from any and all weaponry by a tyrannical government, thus in part making the Scottish Clans slaves-not citizens. I think if you could ask Jamie Fraser what he thought about gun control, he would tell you to use both hands.
    The 2nd Amendment was put in place by very wise men (many of which had experienced the restrictions placed on freedoms by an Oligarch first hand) to protect us from Tyranny. Do you really believe the Founding Fathers didn’t know that technology would evolve? Evil will always find a way to do evil. Free men will remain free as long as they don’t trade it for a false sense of security. Leave your personal views out of what was otherwise a well-written recap.

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  2. Love your analysis. I found this episode to be incredibly emotional and touching, especially the ending with Dylan’s haunting lyrics and music. I was also brought to tears by the faces of Jamie as he leaves his son and John as the man he loves leaves after trusting him with the care and enrichment of Willie.

    I disagree with the previous comment. I am happy that you injected your own opinion here. I agree and I think you have every right to express it. The idea that you should feel silenced on this issue is ridiculous and that your expression of your point of view would take away from your review is silly. From what I understand (as a Canadian), gun control advocates would like regulation, not a ban of all weapons. I disagree that the founding Fathers had any idea to what extent guns and weaponry would evolve; but whether they did or not, would they have agreed that every citizen could own a bazooka or a cannon or a Hellfire missile or an automatic weapon? And, can I say it, even if they did, and they believed every citizen had the right to own a weapon that could kill hundreds, maybe they were wrong? They were politicians like those of today, not gods; they weren’t perfect and they weren’t blameless. Perhaps it is time for a re-think.

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  3. I think the writer’s point went right over their head. A musket does not even compare to a modern hand gun. The founding fathers created a living document, that would evolve as the people evolved. Which is evident in their own writings if people cared to read them instead of putting their own words in their mouths. Ability to protect your homestead, and a weapon that can kill masses of people, don’t even compare. We have the technology for nuclear and atomic weapons too, are those unregulated? The argument falls flat.

    To think Jamie, who lived through the slaughter of war, would think semi-automatic guns are a great idea is laughable. The banning of weapons wasn’t the crush of the Highlands, which used more broadsword than pistol, it was the suppression of clan and culture.

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  4. Love your recap. This is a good opportunity to remember that just as our Constitution has evolved to include rights for all citizens, it should also evolve on the subject of gun rights. Our founding fathers created a document that they must have known would need to change with the passing of time (i.e., voting rights for all). Just because ‘an idea’ was politically correct in the 1700’s doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable by today’s technological advancements. With so much division in our country it is important to remember that all people have the right to express an opinion with civility whether it is something we agree with or not. Asking a writer to “leave out your personal views” goes against what our founding fathers were striving for. When we, as a nation, lose our ability to listen to the opinions from all sides, we also lose the inner core of what created this wonderful country.

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  5. Something bugged me about this episode. When did Claire leave her pearls with Granny Whosit? Did she bring them back with her through the stones and give them to Granny before she and Frank left Inverness?

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    1. So I actually just listened to the podcast for Episode 213 (last year’s finale) yesterday and they addressed this. They originally showed Jamie giving Claire the pearls before she went back through the stones but they cut it because they felt like the scene was getting overwhelmed. I’m not sure we ever saw Claire give Mrs. Graham the pearls; I’d have to go back and rewatch 201. Maybe this was their way of exposition in his episode. But yeah, I was a little confused too.

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  6. LOL – where did the author say to ban ownership of guns? She didn’t. All she is saying is that we do not need to have guns that can shoot 400 rounds a minute. And I think Jamie Fraser would say that he didn’t need a rifle that can shoot 400 rounds/minute to kill a deer or protect his home. Also, the NRA came out today and said they are ok at looking at restricting “bump stocks” with new federal regulations due to the Las Vegas Massacre.

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  7. Lovely and astute review. I hadn’t considered the juxtaposition of Geneva and Brianna, or the extent of the similarities between Geneva and Claire. I now have even more sympathy for Geneva.

    So true about the escapism this show offers in the midst of this dark time for our country. I’m trying very hard to hold onto some hope and not sink into despair at all the ugliness we’re seeing around us.

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  8. The United States will go the way of ancient Rome after gun battles have killed most of the population. Other countries are waiting for that day to pick up the pieces of a society that values the right to carry and use something whose sole purpose is to take life. Domestic and external terrorism have their grips on the heartbeat of America. The best thing to do is leave it. I knew this country was doomed when no new gun legislation was passed after bullets ripped apart first graders’ bodies. OK, I’ve had my say on the topic.
    In regards to this episode, I shed too many tears when I saw Jaime’s newborn son look up at his father’s face for the first time. A newborn so close to death but seconds later safe in his father’s arms. The actor playing John Grey should get an emmy in a supporting role hands down. The look on face regarding Jaime’s offer was priceless and the look as Jaime rode away was heart wrenching. Both Willie and John were extremely heart broken. I’m sure John wanted to run after his love as Willie did. The character of John Grey is what makes him as beautiful inside as he is out. John is truly a good person which is why Jaimie’s offer was so extraordinary and made sense. I don’t believe Jaime would offer to sleep with any other man. A love scene between these two characters would break the internet.

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  9. I just found your blog today, while looking for Outlander related writings, as I patiently await season 4. First, I applaud your position on gun regulation and after all it is your blog. Why would anyone read this and condemn you for writing your opinion. Isn’t that what a blog is about? Second, I like the way you interject bits from other shows, ie; Clueless, that keeps me on my toes while reading your analysis. Third, although I love the scene between Jamie and Lord John when Jamie offers himself as done in the series, but no one has mentioned that in the book, Jamie meant it to be a test of Lord John, to see if he was honourable enough to rear his son. In the book, if Lord John had taken Jamie up on his offer, Jamie intended to kill him. It’s been quite awhile since I read that book, but I don’t believe I have that wrong. Book Jamie was more fierce and of his time in many ways, more than series Jamie. Mind you, I love both. So glad I found your blog to binge on.

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    1. Thank you so much and thank you for reading! I’m glad you’re here!

      I agree- I think show Jamie is a bit more…sensitive? Not sure that’s the right word. I do remember the conversation in one of the later novels about how that exchange with LJG was more of a test, but I like how it was portrayed more sincerely in the show.

      And I appreciate your comments re:gun regulation. I do try to keep modern politics out of most of my posts, some things are just too important to leave unsaid in the wake of tragedy.

      Thanks again! 🙂

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