Can you believe it? T minus nine days until the Season 4 premiere!
While we’re on the subject of countdowns, shall we continue our list of Outlander’s Top 100 Moments? As a reminder, my criteria for picking a scene are as follows: its memorability, how much it advances story or character development, and if it is important or noteworthy for the genre of television in general.
50. Jamie tells Murtagh (Episode 206: Best Laid Schemes)
This all played out pretty great. Never does Murtagh question the story; he believes it simply because it is Jamie- that’s the depth of his love and faith in his godson. And I’m going to opine that Jamie totally deserved the punch at the end for keeping it a secret in the first place.
49. Frank takes Claire back (Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly)
I discussed the meaning of the title of this episode in my last post and I think it also very much applies to Frank. How many emotions this man must feel upon Claire’s return— relief, apprehension, joy, anger, and acceptance, just to name a few. Like Claire in this episode, Frank likely cannot see life clearly through his emotions. He sees it through a glass, but darkly. Enlightenment about his higher purpose in all this (to protect and warn Bree about the Fraser prophecy, perhaps?) will come later.
Consider, also, Frank allowing Claire a future without the stigma of single motherhood in a time when such things mattered. Was burning her eighteenth century clothes kinda a dick move? Probably. But, to be honest, I’m not sure I would have done better in his shoes. Frank is flawed but he continually strives to do right by Claire, and that earns him a fairly high spot on this list.
48. Ian is kidnapped (Episode 308: First Wife)
Someone please put a leash on that kid. What are the chances that a pirate ship just happens upon this deserted island at the same day and hour as our favorite hapless Murray? Pretty slim. Then again, the chances of time travel are also pretty slim and where would we be in our story without some amazing coincidences? In any case, we have Ian’s abduction to thank for everyone eventually making it to the New World. And who exactly is behind all this evil shenanigary? Funny you should ask…
47.We learn the truth about Geillis (Episode 111: The Devil’s Mark)
Geillis has popped up on each of these lists thus far and (spoiler alert) this isn’t the last we see of her. The drama in this moment is unparalleled- the simple “1968,” and then our dawning realization that Geillis’s smallpox vaccination scar can only mean one thing. Suddenly, so much about Geillis make total sense. We’ll see you in twenty years, Geillis, when you will be both younger and older than you are now.
46. Murtagh lives! (Episode 303: All Debts Paid)
This had been leaked a bit prior to Season 3, but it was still a wonderful surprise to hear that familiar voice emerge from the Ardsmuir darkness. The way Murtagh remembers Claire in this episode is very sweet— you can tell how much he truly loved her as a surrogate daughter-in-law.
Keeping Murtagh alive post-Culloden was a rather polarizing choice for some fans, but I personally loved this deviation from the novels. Where Murtagh will pop up in Season 4 is still a mystery (it is my understanding that he does not appear in Episode 401), but I eagerly anticipate his return wherever and whenever it may be.
p.s. For my speculations on Murtagh in Season 4 click here.
45. Brianna is born (Episode 301: The Battle Joined)
Novel readers know this played out a bit differently in the book, but I’m glad the series writers chose to portray the hospital and birth scenes the way they did- a dismissive doctor, a woman whose wishes are ignored, and an expectant father shuffled out of the room. We fortunately live in a time where parents have more input on their birth plan, but it’s good to remember this wasn’t always the case. This whole episode did a pretty great job of illustrating the limitations imposed on women in mid-century America, raising the question of whether Claire was ironically afforded more freedom in the eighteenth century.
All of the actors here knocked it out of the park. Rewatch Tobias Menzies when Claire tells the doctor about Faith- shock and grief flicker so briefly over his face and then he composes himself. Brilliant.
Welcome to the world, baby Brianna. You have a time-traveling mother, an eighteenth century Highlander for a biological father, and an adoptive father who may or may not still be a spy. That outburst you have coming up in a few episodes? Totally deserved.
44. Claire travels to 1743 (Episode 101: Sassenach)
Most eventful flower collecting mission EVER. This whole initial time-travel sequence was so beautiful in its simplicity. As much as I love a DeLorean and a good catchphrase, we don’t need cheesy special effects to convey what has happened here- gorgeous cinematography and extraordinary acting are enough.
43. Dramtic beach running…and kissing (Episode 311: Uncharted)
As others have pointed out, it likely took Jamie quite awhile to row to the beach— at least enough time to allow Claire to actually meet him wherever he came ashore. But these are minor quibbles. I’ll gladly take romantic running and passionate kissing over pragmatic realism. This is Outlander, after all.
42. Jamie guards Claire (Episode 105: Rent)
Speaking of romantic, this was pretty darn cute. Ladies, find yourself a man who will sleep in a cold hallway to protect you from lecherous drunken bros. Claire gave him a warm blanket but I think she secretly meant “please take my warm body.” Soon, Jamie, soon.
41. Roger finds Jamie (Episode 305: Freedom and Whisky)
He’s like a dog with a bone…an adorable hound who is admittedly more invested than your average historian. I’m not sure finding evidence that will send a woman’s mother back into a different century is a surefire way to her heart, but it seemed to eventually work out in this case. By the end of this episode Claire is gone, Roger’s eating a lobster roll, and Brianna is going in for more kissing. Good job, Roger, for your eighteenth century sleuthing. Hang on to those good feelings— you’re going to need them to get you through Season 4.
40. Reveal of the second wife (Episode 308: First Wife)
This was a HUGE shock when I read Voyager. Obviously it was much less of a surprise seeing it onscreen, but the tension was ramped up in all the minutes leading up to it because I knew what was about to go down. And then it happens! Laoghaire bursts in, adorable children in tow, disrupting Jamie and Claire’s recent (and arguably tenuous) reunion. Caitriona Balfe’s face of horror and betrayal was truly heartbreaking, as was the performance by the wee actor playing little Joan MacKimmie (Layla Burns). We can say a lot of things about Laoghaire, but at least she’s consistent…she never stops fucking things up.
39. Claire and Frank: The Final Battle (Episode 303: All Debts Paid)
Everything about this was pure heartbreak, as we realize these two people have been mostly unhappy in their long marriage. Frank grieves for the love they shared twenty years ago, Claire similarly grieves for the love she lost at Culloden. Clearly, at least on some small level, they still love each other…there is no passion without it, after all…but the rage here nearly explodes out of the screen.
While it’s maybe not entirely fair to say that Frank’s death frees Claire from the prison of her marriage, there is some nice parallelism as we see Jamie released from Ardsmuir back in his time. They both have suffered their dues and now move on to their next chapters, all debts paid.
38. Roger and Brianna’s first kiss (Episode 304: Of Lost Things)
Let the records show that Brianna makes the first and second move on Roger…attagirl. Sophie Skelton captures a lot of familiar feelings in this episode: the early adult fears of losing loved ones, finding out who and what you love, discovering your own identity, and the realization that independence and maturity often come with a steep learning curve. I can’t relate to the whole mother-is-a-time-traveler thing (at least not that I know of), but everything else about Brianna in this episode is very relatable.
In any case, these two are adorable and I can’t wait to see their relationship- in all its beautiful but messy glory- come to fruition this season.
p.p.s I previously wrote about why we are going to love Brianna and Roger here.
37. Jamie duels Blackjack Randall (Episode 206: Best Laid Schemes)
The title of this episode is taken from Scottish poet Robert Burns’s poem To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley,” meaning life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, no matter how well we plan for it. But lost sometimes in this poem is the last stanza, in which a farmer tells a mouse that the mouse is luckier than he; the mouse does not concern himself with worries of the past or future and instead lives solely in the present. And, as Claire watches Jamie and distresses for his life and Frank’s future existence, she is tormented like the farmer by the past and the future. And “torment” is a perfect way to describe how all of this ends.
36. Claire revisits Lallybroch and Culloden (Episode 213: Dragonfly in Amber)
I’ve revisited this episode quite a bit while putting together this list, and I’m convinced it’s easily in the top five of the series to date. Caitriona Balfe’s grief here is so palpable…knowing that even if Jamie survived he is still very much gone in her present time. And that shot of Jamie in the Lallybroch archway?
Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye…
35. Fergus marries Marsali and takes Jamie’s name (Episode 311: Uncharted)
For a man with a thousand aliases, Jamie takes his real name very seriously. What better honor to his foster son than to give him the Fraser name? I find there is nothing like somebody else’s wedding to make you reflect on your own marriage, and I think the Outlander writers must feel the same way given how sweetly romantic this whole scene played out. Lauren Lyle and César Domboy have wonderful chemistry together and I wouldn’t be surprised if they run off with everyone’s hearts during Season 4.
34. The Wentworth Prison escape (Episode 116: To Ransom A Man’s Soul)
If you can’t send an actual Highland regiment in to bust someone out of prison, sending an army of Highland cattle might be the next best thing. I’m here for any livestock-related storyline, although why someone doesn’t stop to double check that BJR is actually dead is beyond me…it is one of the first rules of zombie slaying, after all. But then where would we be for all of Season 2 if we didn’t have to grapple with the complications and ramifications of of time travel? (p.p.p.s- I also previously wrote about that here)
33. The shoulder proposal (Episode 101: Sassenach)
Leave it to Claire to manage to be indignant and strong-willed when she’s lost in a different century…and I mean that in the best way possible. Not much to say about this scene except Jamie looks remarkably good covered in mud and blood and the sexual tension is already so thick you could cut it with a knife. Just so you know, Jamie, you can throw me over your shoulder any time.
32. Claire nurses Jamie’s shoulder (Episode 102: Castle Leoch)
Speaking of sexual tension…who knew an injured shoulder could offer up so much foreplay? Thank you, Mrs. Fitz, for conveniently leaving these two attractive and almost-naked people alone with a crackling fire. Despite the rather grim recalling of BJR’s attack on Lallybroch, the eye-banging here is off the charts— they practically kiss! If you didn’t already know the eventual plot of Outlander, you could sure as hell guess after this scene.
31. Jamie takes Laoghaire’s beating (Episode 102: Castle Leoch)
We could arguably point to this one moment as the most defining in the Outlander canon. If not for Jamie stepping up here who knows if all that eventually transpired with Laoghaire and because of Laoghaire (the alimony, the gemstones, the kidnapping) would have come to pass? It’s not higher on the list because there are many other moments that I feel are more beloved and/or emblematic of Outlander, but I’d be wrong to deny the importance of this scene.
30. The death of Dougal (Episode 213: Dragonfly in Amber)
This all played out very much like an act of Shakespeare…Dougal descending into madness like King Lear, a nephew against uncle à la Hamlet. Like Collum’s death, the death of Castle Leoch’s war chief is symbolic of the decline of Highland culture and strength (at least as it had previously been known). Pro tip to Claire and Jamie: next time you’re debating whether or not to kill a member of royalty you might not want to be so loud about it, m’kay?
29. The printshop pass out (Episode 305: Freedom & Whisky)
Like his character in the novel, Sam Heughan does indeed fall “rather gracefully for such a large man.” As I wrote previously, it’s a huge credit to the actors, writers, and production team that, although I had read this scene so many times, this moment still left my heart racing in anticipation. It’s also very representative of the way Diana writes— just when you think life couldn’t get any more romantic and fantastical, reality comes back in to (quite literally) knock you off your feet.
28. The Prestonpans victory and reunion (Episode 210: Prestonpans)
“The day is ours.” This moment is bittersweet knowing that the war would eventually be lost. Still, a kiss between two lovers in victory celebration will never not be romantic.
27. The Gathering (Episode 104: The Gathering)
To borrow a phrase from The Four Seasons, Oh What A Night. We have Claire slipping Angus the eighteenth century equivalent of a roofie, a cameo by Diana Gabaldon, Jamie navigating the politics of two murderous uncles, and Geillis pretty openly declaring her support for Charles Stuart.
In the end it all (mostly) works out. Everyone looks beautiful, Jamie survives, and Angus learns the word “sedative.” Claire doesn’t escape, but we know how that all eventually turns out. Rumor has it a few gatherings may be featured in Season 4…time will tell if they’re as eventful as this one.
26. The dance of the druids (Episode 101: Sassenach)
This is the moment I fell in love with this television show. The music, the choreography, the mysticism…it all comes together here for a few minutes of pure television magic. “They should have been ridiculous,” Claire says. And perhaps all of this should be ridiculous- the time travel, the fantasy, the cosplay, the conventions, the blogs, the fandom- but it’s not. Like Claire, we are voyeurs into this beautiful world of Outlander and we most definitely belong.
And that’s it for now! I should have the Top 25 post up in a few days (warning: there’s lots of sex!), plus a thought piece on Lord John that I’ve been promising for quite awhile (sorry!). And then…it will be time for the premiere! Stay tuned.