Episode 306: A. Malcolm

“‘Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy:
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end,
Ne’er settled equally, but high or low,
That all love’s pleasure shall not match his woe.”- William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (1593)

Venus loved Adonis and, grieving upon his death, cursed love and lovers with doubt, jealousy, fear, and sorrow. So, here we are. We have two lovers, separated by twenty years, carefully navigating their way back into each other’s lives.

Did you love his mother? Were you happy? Why did you come back? Why do you live here? Do you want me to go? Am I still beautiful? Did you love anyone else? Is there something you’re not telling me?

Love, fear, doubt, jealousy. And who is presiding (in the form of a Baroque painting) over Claire and Jaime as they guide their way back?

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Venus and Adonis.

(Cracks knuckles)

Ready?

Warning: Contains spoilers from Outlander, Episode 306: A. Malcolm.

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YOU MADE US WAIT 48 WHOLE MINUTES, STARZ.

No real nudity in the recap, but may be NSFW (sexy faces and the like).

The episode begins on the morning of the day we left off in Freedom & Whisky, told from Jamie’s perspective. We open with a mystery woman helping Jamie with his stock and outerwear. And, make no mistake, these are very intimate gestures. A woman simply does not fuss with a man’s appearance unless she feels some propriety over him. Even picking lint off someone else denotes a certain level of closeness. Since the audience is really meant to empathize with Claire, having lived through her POV for so long, we can already begin ticking off those feelings of jealousy and doubt. Who is this woman? And why does she look like the proverbial canary-eating feline in that last shot?

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Dear God, has a tricorne hat ever looked so good? I might have done far better in American History had our Founding Fathers looked like this.

Jamie leaves the mystery woman and saunters through the streets of Edinburgh looking very dashing, indeed. We can assume from the lively Scottish fiddle background music that he is mostly contented.

Edited to add: a reader has informed me that this tune is “Comin’ Through The Rye”- thank you! See the comment below. It’s also playing in the tavern scene.

Jamie goes to his printshop and we see that he takes a certain level of pride in this work. He enters the building, which is amazingly well-lit (seriously, there are way too many candles and fires going in a space that is full of flammable materials; I have some concerns), and immediately draws his dirk after hearing voices. Why would a printer need to have a weapon ready at a moment’s notice? Well, because he is Jamie Fraser (er, Alexander Malcolm), and he basically spends his life avoiding death.

But, not to worry, it is only Hayes and Lesley, whom we last saw at Ardsmuir Prison:

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Evidently freed from their indentured service they are here to deliver seditious materials for MacDubh. And also to taunt Geordie about his goiter:

Geordie has a goiter. For some reason that sentence was stuck in my head like a little earworm all weekend. Geordie has a goiter. Geordie does NOT have a goiter in the book. In fact, we don’t really know much about Geordie beyond one or two sentences. Here he is is fleshed out as a rather uptight employee who must be really good at his job for Jamie to put up with so much sass (although, judging by how long it takes him to go get the ash, I’m guessing he is both impertinent and incompetent).

So why did the writers give him a goiter? What’s interesting is that necks and neck imagery play a rather large role in this episode. Our first shot of this whole episode is of Jamie’s neck and his neck stock. Both Claire and Jamie are wearing an almost ludicrous amount of clothing around their necks. Jamie also makes multiple mentions of being hanged.

I interpret this a few ways. First, Jamie and Claire are, figuratively, sticking their necks out with this relationship. Additionally, we interpret a TON of body language through our necks– think of how people subconsciously touch or rub their neck (or play with a necklace) when nervous. Our carotid pulse, Adam’s apple, and swallowing are also visible signs of anxiety. Finally, from a biblical imagery perspective, the breaking of yokes is symbolic of freedom and independence; when Claire and Jamie lose their neckware it may be emblematic of their growing liberties with each other.

And that’s all she wrote about necks.

Also, Geordie, that goiter is probably due to iodine deficiency. Maybe go hang out with Hayes and Leslie down by the docks and eat some kelp and seafood.

Ah, to be that printing press. Also, we’re meant to know that Jamie is older now because he is wearing glasses.

Enter Claire, from Jamie’s perspective. Is it any wonder that he fainted? Claire, backlit with candles, almost appears as a religious apparition.

There are quite a few Shakespearean motifs in this episode– mistaken or false identities, order giving way to chaos, appearance vs. reality, ghosts, etc– and one could argue that this high-low imagery is perhaps a reference to Romeo and Juliet.

Jamie comes to and they are both suddenly struck by shyness, especially when Jamie realizes he has spilled ale down his pants and needs to take them off. Claire very tentatively reminds Jamie that they are married and there is no need for self-consciousness.

Compare this Claire to the woman we saw at the beginning of last week’s episode. This Claire is suddenly unsure of herself, wringing her hands in anxiety (pay attention and you’ll see Caitriona Balfe spends nearly the entire episode nervously twisting her hands). Gone (hopefully temporarily) is the confident doctor leading a surgical team. Doubt and fear are driving this initial reunion.

Jamie sort of comes to his senses a bit and then gets right to the business of kissing Claire, lest she suddenly disappear again for another twenty years. Their first kiss is quite tender but slightly withheld, and then interrupted by Goiter Geordie:

Leave, Geordie! You and your goiter are ruining everything!

Once Geordie and his goiter are gone Jamie almost immediately asks about their child and Claire produces some photographs of Brianna. She beautifully describes photography– “like painting with light”– and I’ve decided that I’m going to use that from now on when my family complains I’m taking too many pictures. I’M PAINTING WITH LIGHT!

I sort of love how Jamie takes in all her futuristic anachronisms so matter-of-factly and with humor. Photographs? Plastic baggy? Jello? Bicycles? Cool, cool, cool, cool. He’s always done this, too (elephants, airplanes, vaccines), which is probably one of the main reasons their relationship endures.

Claire also tells Jamie that Brianna was a good sleeper as a baby, which is so hilarious to me. As parents we never really get over the new parenthood zombie phase.

Jamie shares that he fathered a son in Claire’s absence and Caitriona Balfe plays this so wonderfully. A wave of heartache and anxiety briefly washes over her face but she is accepting and understanding. She’s a parent, too, so she understands the crazy mix of love and exasperation Jamie describes for Willie. Her chief concern is whether Jamie loved (or loves) Willie’s mother and Jamie quickly dispels those thoughts, although the admission that Geneva died and Jamie did not love her is a bit sad for them both.

The writing, direction, and acting here do an amazing job of conveying the myriad of emotions these two people must be experiencing. I think the feelings here ring very true for anyone who has ever been in any sort of long-distance relationship– a state of stepping into someone else’s life as it is happening. A life you are part of, or should be part of, but a life that very much happens without you.

As Claire fills Jamie in on the crappy life Charles Stuart is living on the continent (alcoholism, an estranged wife, a girlfriend who was a spy, death of a child, etc), they run into Fergus on the street. How adorable is adult Fergus? His joy and exuberance for seeing Claire are unconditional and totally endearing. Casting is really knocking it out of the park this season; César Domboy is a very believable grown-up version of Romann Berrux. 

Fergus gets Jamie alone to discuss matters at hand, both business and personal. He asks, What about…?? 

Yes, what ABOUT “??” Fergus goes off to fetch Ned Gowan (!!), so something is up. Novel readers- NO SPOILERS, please! Jamie’s “oh crap” face here is pretty great. In the words of my favorite Great Dane: ruh roh.

Onto the tavern, where we meet Mr. Willoughby, Jamie’s “associate.” We discover that Jamie speaks passable Chinese (I think Mandarin? Someone can help me out with that) and he introduces Claire as his wife, which brings her a noticeable rush of joy. Things to know about Mr. Willoughby: Jamie rescued him from the docks, he can’t really hold his liquor, and he uses an English name because his Chinese name sounds like a Gaelic slang.

Downstairs we meet Sir Percival Turner, who’s on the take for Jamie’s liquor smuggling. We know that he’s unhappy with Jamie’s distribution and insufficient bribing and thus we’ve set up potential plot conflict for the next few episodes.

Jamie takes Claire to a brothel, where he has his own room, to spend the night. Claire is totally skeptical of this whole setup, especially when Madame Jeanne (the mystery woman from the opening shots) conveys a sense of intimacy with Jamie. Both women do nothing to hide their suspicion and jealousy, especially when Jamie again introduces Claire as his wife.

Claire literally comes between this woman and Jamie, stepping in front of her as she walks toward the stairs. Caitriona Balfe’s face here is everything- yes, I do speak French, I have better teeth, and this is my husband. Boom. Mic drops haven’t been invented yet but the sentiment is there.

Finally, the tough questions come out. Claire has banked everything on this reunion working. She has given up her career, her child, and the relative safety of the twentieth century to be with this man. It is almost unbearable to think that he could reject her. Thankfully for her (and for us) he doesn’t. Another passionate kiss is interrupted, this time by the maid.

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…and then they eat dinner. YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME.

These faces say, these grapes are delicious but they would taste even better naked. 

Come to bed with me, Jamie asks? YES, PLEASE.

OMG, these two are wearing a ridiculous amount of clothing. This took forever.

A few notes: throughout the scenes in this room Claire and Jamie match each others’ level of dress– when he’s in his cloak, she’s in hers; when he’s in his vest, she’s in her’s, etc. From a costuming perspective it helps show that they’re moving toward being on the same level. Also, Claire’s self-fashioned eighteenth century undergarments are pretty great. From her 1960s corset, complete with bra hooks and a zipper, to her homemade bustle (from a pillow? I can’t tell) it’s all pretty amazing.

As on their wedding night, Claire stands naked in front of Jamie and he marvels in her beauty. But gone is the confident twenty-eight year old woman who once showed Jamie the synergistic joys of pleasure and pain. Instead we have an older (but still gorgeous) woman who is wracked with self-doubt. He assures her that she is still the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Ding, ding, ding! This was the right answer.

BONK. That was taken straight out of the book and I’m glad they left it in. It was some good humorous relief and, let’s face it, human bodies are funny and do funny things during sex.

Also, I can attest that this really hurts. My kids have accidently head-clocked me in the nose a few times and each time I have almost passed out.

At last, some happy and unguarded faces.

FINALLY.

SO worth the wait. This was sex twenty years in the making, performed with an almost desperate sense of urgency, disbelief, and possession. And totally necessary for further emotional honesty. Afterward Jamie admits he is an alcohol smuggler and he prints seditious materials. They discuss Brianna and Culloden. Claire promises never to leave again and they make love again, this time slowly and with renewal.

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There’s our girl. We haven’t seen that smile in a very long time.

We see Jamie again attempt to unburden himself of some hidden truth, but Claire gives him an out for now. To be continued.

Jamie leaves to do some business in the morning, the nature of which is unknown. I feel like the Claire Fraser of seasons past would have pressed him a bit harder about where he is going and who he is seeing. Actually, she would have likely insisted on going with him. Clearly they are still finding their footing but they are far more connected than they were the day before.

Well, hello Young Ian! Without being too spoilerish, novel readers know that Ian Murray is a character that seems to attract trouble, regardless of his good intentions. Again, this seems to be a really good fit for casting. John Bell is the actor and I think he does a great job of conveying Ian’s open congeniality while giving hints to the gravitas that the character will later develop.


Claire wanders downstairs and the ladies of the establishment mistake her for the new girl. I’ve decided the theme for my next birthday bash will be Breakfast with Whores because these gals are pretty amazing. I’ve also decided henceforth to start referring to my children as “squeakers.” Incidentally, we have a great-grandmother Dorcas in our family, although I’m pretty sure she was not a sex worker.

Madame Jeanne continues to be unamused with Claire and dismisses her back to her room, where a dark man waits with a dark purpose….

Because of course. Claire has been back with Jamie for less than twenty-four hours and already someone is trying to rape or kill her.

Buckle up, buttercups! We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Sláinte!

14 thoughts on “Episode 306: A. Malcolm”

  1. Great post, thanks! That “lively Scottish music” is the tune for an old Scots song Comin’ Through The Rye .. there are lots of versions including one by Robert Burns and some of them are extremely rude… The chorus is “Gin a body meet a body, coming’ through the rye, gin a body kiss a body, need a body cry?” (gin has a hard g and means ‘if’) A nice little hint at what’s to come and made me laugh…

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  2. What a delightful review! After I watched it the first time, I felt the acting was almost too subtle on Sam and Caitriona’s part but after the second view, I thought the points you made were perfect. I think you nailed it! Wonderful! (Especially the “ruh roh!”) 😊

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  3. Excellent review! There has been a lot of negativity about the screen version of Jamie’s apparent lack of response to the photos of Brianna, and his producing the picture of Willy, which of course does not happen in the book. I think that he must have been so desperate to share the knowledge and his love of Willy that he couldn’t help himself. It shows his total trust in Claire. After all, he really believed that he would never see his son again and it must have been torture to hold that secret, even from Jenny.
    I don’t think he was uninterested in the pictures, he was just totally overwhelmed by the whole situation.
    What do you think?

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    1. Yes, I totally agree! Twenty years is seriously such a long time– I think everyone played it as realistically as possible. And they’ve always had a hard time keeping secrets from one another; he definitely would feel a need to unburden himself.

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  4. The moment I heard Comin’ Through the Rye it immediately took me back to Season 1 with Claire at Leoch buckling down to do what needed to be done to win over trust as a healer and work on finding a way out of her predicament. Hearing the tune in this episode connotated to me both a sense of “getting to work doing what needs to be done” as well as “resignation that this is what life is for now”. Not sure if that was Bear’s intention in using that piece (as well as other pieces from S1 like Fort William Rescue during Jamie working the press and the “Leoch” background music at the tavern) but I’m super eager to get his insight on how he chose to score this episode.

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    1. I’m sure you’re right! I think everything Bear does is purposeful. I noticed he’s also given WIllie his own theme music. I’m sort of the mindset that everything about the series- set production, costuming, music, etc- is done with a great deal of intention and meaning. Thanks for reading!

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