Are we all surviving this little mini Droughtlander? Fortunately for us, nearly every episode of Outlander is an hour of exquisite television to be savored again and again. Shall we take a trip down Sassenach Memory Lane, to the beginning of Jamie and Claire’s marriage? Outlander writers and directors have sneaky ways of tying themes in between episodes, so I have a hunch we may be seeing similar imagery and dialogue next week.
As with last week, there are too many differences between the novel and the series for this episode and I’m going to focus solely on the series for this post. Also, there are no explicit sex screencaps in the recap but there is some mild nudity so, depending on your employer, it may be NSFW.
Let’s get this wedding party started.
Warning: Contains spoilers for Outlander Episode 107: The Wedding (although, really, we’ve all seen it like ten times at least, right?). Also contains some references and spoilers for Season 3.
The episode opens with Claire remembering her wedding day with Frank, which happens to be the same day he proposed. Frank, quite adorably, spontaneously asks her to be his wife in front of the Register Office. He asks without the input of his family (without her ever meeting his family) and assures her that he does not need a church or much fanfare. It feels very modern and quite in contrast to the ideal wedding Jamie envisions, complete with family heirlooms, kinmen present, a church, a ring, and a dress.
It’s endearing to rewatch these earlier episodes and see how truly in love Claire and Frank actually were. Sadly, time (travel) and tide wait for no man.
See the feathers in Claire’s fedora? Those are guineafowl feathers and the VERY interesting thing about guineafowl is that they are monogamous for life EXCEPT for certain species that are polyandrous. YEP, they take multiple male partners. Pretty sneaky, eh? I’ve listened to the podcast for this episode and Terry Dresbach doesn’t mention this (although she does say they made the hat especially for this episode), so it’s either an amazing coincidence or she’s a humble genius. I believe the latter.
This building is supposed to be the City of Westminster Register Office, but they filmed this scene in Glasgow and that is not the current address of the Register’s office in Westminster (it may have been pre-war if any UK readers want to chime in). But my guess is that they added the “45” digitally in post-production like a little foreshadowing time-stamp on the marriage.
What is noteworthy about both of Claire’s marriages is that there are multiple periods of getting to know one’s spouse after the wedding and/or a time apart. For Claire and Frank, they were married spur-of-the-moment and then separated by five years of war; in the series premiere they are trying to re-establish their relationship and getting to know the people they have become in their years apart. Claire and Frank do it again when she returns to the twentieth century. Claire and Jamie really only get to know each other the night of their wedding. Next week they will be forced to re-establish their marriage after twenty years apart. It’s all very cyclical, much like time travel.
We see the cut from Claire kissing Frank on their wedding day to Claire kissing Jamie on theirs, and then we see Claire and Jamie upstairs in the inn post-wedding. Like last week, Claire does quite a bit of self-reflection in front of an actual mirror. Let’s let her voiceover give us a peek at her thoughts:
“You forget your life after a while. The life you had before, things you cherish and hold dear, are like pearls on a string. Cut the knot and they scatter across the floor, rolling into dark corners, never to be found again. So, you move on. And, eventually, you forget what the pearls even looked like. At least you try.”
She’ll be doing this again, no? Except now the “pearls” she will be forgetting are in the twentieth century with Brianna, the pearls being symbolic of her daughter, her career as a surgeon, her friends, and the actual string of pearls she left behind.
Claire needs a bit of liquid courage to get this night started. Quite a bit, actually, which Jamie interprets as fear of him. But we know that Claire is actually afraid of herself and what she might feel for this man. She loves Frank but, let’s face it, there are far worse things than being married to and sharing a wedding bed with one Jamie Fraser. And she knows it.
Claire asks Jamie why he agreed to marry her, so we back up for some exposition while Ned explains to Jamie (and us) why all of this is happening. So, in case you also need a refresher about how this whole glorious thing came to be contrived: Captain Jonathan Randall, aka Rapist of the Royal Army, has determined Claire must be a spy and has ordered her to Fort William within a day. Dougal can refuse to turn her over if he makes her a Scot, and the only way this can happen is if she marries one. Dougal then decides the best thing for everyone is for Claire to marry Jamie.
So why does Dougal care so much? Why doesn’t he just turn her over and be done with this sassy Sassenach forever? He’d be free to focus on Jacobite machinations and life could probably return to normal at Castle Leoch.
Well, for one thing (and probably the most significant reason) Dougal wants Claire for himself, and this is a good way to keep her close. Also she’s a healer and good for Colum, blah blah. And he knows if it’s Jamie she will probably say yes. Because, I mean, c’mon.
Claire is touched that Jamie agreed to marry her in order to keep her safe from Randall, but she’s still not ready to take the plunge (so to speak). To buy some more time Claire asks Jamie about his family and, because nothing is more important to Jamie than family, he gladly and animatedly tells her the whole MacKenzie and Fraser saga. His family’s history is a deep and important part of his identity, a theme we saw reflected in last week’s episode with Roger and Brianna.
Gah, these two knuckleheads. Angus and Rupert come upstairs to check up on consummation activities, which have not yet happened. This is when I realized that this whole situation is like the eighteenth century version of a frat house, complete with fist-bumping bros downstairs. On with it, you two!
So then it’s finally time for the real-deal. Jamie is a virgin. Claire, obviously, is not. Not too surprisingly, their first time is a bit awkward and uncomfortable and over fairly quickly. Afterwards Jamie confesses that he thought intercourse was performed from behind, like with horses (which, actually, is a totally reasonable assumption if you grew up on a farm) and Claire finds this hilarious.
Jamie asks Claire, quite vulnerably, whether or not she enjoyed their first time. And this small scene is really pivotal for their relationship. At some point in our lives most of us will be handed a situation in which we hold another person’s happiness in our hands, and this is that moment for Claire. So, here she has a choice: answer honestly (that, yes, she did) and save Jamie, or lie and save herself.
Because Claire is inherently a good and honest person she tells Jamie the truth and we see her start to emotionally turn a page. Realizing the gravity of her admission, Claire attempts to escape downstairs for some food but is stopped by the embarrassing audience waiting to cheer and jeer the married couple:
See? Frat house.
So, instead, Jamie goes downstairs for her where he gets a variety of fairly predictable responses from the group. Affectionate ribbing from some, a loving and supportive shoulder punch from Murtagh (aside: aw, Murtagh, you are THE BEST), and some scowling and jealous pettiness from Broody McBrooderson Dougal MacKenzie.
And Dougal says something very interesting and spiteful to Jamie: You never thanked me. He wants (and expects) thanks for essentially forcing Claire and Jamie into marriage. This is actually a pretty weird thing to say, especially to someone on their wedding day, but it ties into an overarching theme of possession in this episode. This hour deals heavily on all matters of possession– who we belong to, what names we take (the writers take pains to have both Claire’s husbands say her new last name), to whom we owe gratitude, etc. Possession shows up in the wedding planning, too: The Fraser tartan belongs to someone else, the key (ring) belongs to Jamie’s home, the dress is on its third owner. It’s not a totally unreasonable theme for an episode dealing with marriage, but in the hands of Dougal it takes on a sinister tone.
Jamie and Claire do a bit more bonding over snacks but Claire still rebuffs Jamie a bit. So, more storytelling is in order. Jamie begins to recount his version of their wedding day, beginning with how he came to be wearing the Fraser plaid (instead of the MacKenzie colors). As Jamie tells us, wearing the Fraser colors was one of his conditions to agreeing to this marriage.
Turns out Murtagh made a special trip and borrowed the plaid from a Fraser widow living nearby. Jamie asks Murtagh for some god-fatherly reassurance, and Murtagh lovingly tells Jamie that Claire has the same sweet smile as Jamie’s mother. Aw, Murtagh, you huge softie. There are things you pick up on when re-watching these earlier episodes. We know now that Murtagh was in love with Ellen Fraser and so this wedding, and this advice, has some sweet and sentimental double-meaning.
Next condition? Jamie wishes to be married in a church, before a priest. Unfortunately, the local priest is sick and being a huge man-baby with his cold and refuses to perform the ceremony under the excuse of illegality by church doctrine (the reading of the banns of marriage would normally take three weeks). What ensues is a sort of hilarious Scripture dance-off where Dougal and Willie try to convince the priest to bend the rules. The priest finally gives in when Dougal flashes the purse strings.
Jamie sets Rupert and Angus to the task of fashioning a wedding ring from a key, which we will later learn is the key to Lallybroch. Aw, you know? I miss these two characters. There was quite a bit of comedic relief in this first season that we haven’t really seen too much of in the past couple of years.
Lastly, the dress. Ned procures a fancy dress from a brothel, left behind by an aristocrat that couldn’t pay his tab. So, again, for contrast: Claire’s marriage to Frank was done with very little forethought without much regard for dress, witnesses or family, Church, or a ring. Jamie takes pains to ensure all of these, which really speaks of the differences in personality and time periods of these two men. What unites them both is their love for Claire.
Finally, the wedding ceremony. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? Like the print shop scene last week, this is one of those moments I can watch again and again. Jamie, will you do us the honors?
“I remember every moment, every second. I’ll never forget, when I came out of the church and saw you for the first time. It was as if I stepped outside on a cloudy day and, suddenly, the sun came out.”
All the feels. They show this scene with Claire illuminated in a bath of light, almost with some religious tone. Claire’s name derives from the Latin clarus, meaning bright or clear. Pay attention to the expressions on the faces of the wedding guests in the background- they are all in awe of someone and something so stunning. Again, almost like a religious experience.
Let’s talk about this dress. Terry Dresbach has said it is the most beautiful thing she has ever created, and I happen to agree. She talks about it in some detail in the podcast and it’s worth listening to. As she discusses, the acorn and oak leaf imagery are meant to convey strength and longevity. But, interestingly, the word druid also derives from the Celtic “dru”- oak- and “wid”- to know; literally, “someone who knows oaks”. Remember when Murtagh calls Claire a druid in the first episode? Again, this is something Terry Dresbach didn’t mention in the podcast but I suspect was part of the design. Those costume designers are pretty crafty, in more ways than one.
We see Claire remove her wedding ring from Frank and tuck it into her bodice for safe-keeping. Out of sight, out of mind.
“And when you kissed me like that, well, maybe you weren’t so sorry to be marrying me after all.”
Hearing Jamie recount the wedding day and ceremony with so much love and attention to detail is the final release for Claire, and we see them make love in a more purposeful and sensuous way. Much has been said of Outlander and its female gaze and it’s really evident here. This is a scene shot by a female director, seen through the eyes of Claire (who is mostly in charge in this scene), and aimed toward a mostly female audience.
Claire finally has a chance to wander downstairs, where Dougal interrupts her and suggests she is free to stray outside her marriage. Ugh. Like many men in positions of power, Dougal is used to getting his way (pretty relevant this week, no? #metoo, Claire). Again, as the heavy hand that arranged this marriage, he assumes he has some possession of its inhabitants. I have to hand it to Dougal, though. He has a thing for ladies from the future, which perhaps speaks to some degree of progressiveness.
Upstairs Jamie awakens and gives Claire a string of pearls that belonged to his mother. These are the same pearls that Claire gifted to Brianna in last week’s episode– a family heirloom that transcends centuries faster than most. Claire wraps herself and Jamie in the Fraser plaid in this scene- she is folding herself into this family.
Notice the lighting in this scene– the literal harsh light of day. We see that Claire and Jamie are very bonded and rapidly falling in love. Claire gets a jolt back to reality when she nearly loses Frank’s ring after shaking out the bodice of her dress. Fortunately, unlike the scattered pearls of her analogy, she saves the ring.
Claire wears both of her rings throughout both of her marriages, and this is one of the ways we know she is pretty kick-ass and the men she married are pretty awesome, too. She has the confidence to demand this condition in her marriages, and Frank and Jamie do not suffer from small egos.
As Claire stares at her two wedding rings notice the supplication and prayer-like position of her hands. Heaven help her for this beautiful mess she’s in.
Okay, everyone. Less than a week to go. Hang strong. Stock up the pantry with some rosé and Oreos, because next weekend will be a barn-burner.