Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 4

Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 304: “Of Lost Things”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

While serving as a groomsman at Helwater, Jamie is pulled into the intrigue of a British family. In 1968, Claire, Brianna and Roger struggle to trace Jamie’s whereabouts, leaving Claire to wonder if they will ever find him.

My take:

Major plot points:

Since Claire and Jamie are still apart (spoiler alert — not much longer now!!), this episode follows two separate timelines.

In Claire’s world:

  • We’ve now caught up to where Claire’s story left off at the end of season 2. Claire, Brianna, and Roger are determined to find Jamie.
  • They realize that time moves equally in both time periods. Since it’s been 20 years since Claire came back through the stones, they begin searching historical records to try to find out where Jamie was 20 years after Culloden.
  • They’re able to trace Jamie through his time at Ardsmuir, but the trail runs cold once the prison closes.
  • Out of options, Claire gives up and heads back to America with Brianna.
  • Brianna and Roger share a kiss before she leaves.

In Jamie’s world:

  • Jamie is a groom at Helwater, serving the household of the Dunsany family. Lord Dunsany knows that Jamie was a Jacobite, but advises him to keep this a secret, as Lady Dunsany hates all Jacobites, having lost her son at Prestonpans. Jamie goes by the name Alexander MacKenzie while at Helwater.
  • The Dunsanys have two daughters, Isobel and Geneva, and Geneva is a pistol.
  • John checks in on Jamie regularly, as promised, and the two have resumed their chess games and their friendship. Things turn awkward when John’s brother Hal shows up, since he knows who Jamie really is.
  • Geneva is promised in marriage to the Earl of Ellesmere, a man old enough to be her grandfather. She’s pissed.
  • Geneva blackmails Jamie into sleeping with her. She wants to lose her virginity to someone young and desirable, unlike her husband-to-be.
  • Geneva is soon married, pregnant (with Jamie’s child), and then dies in childbirth. Ellesmere knows the baby isn’t his (they never consummated the marriage), and threatens to kill the baby, but Jamie kills him instead, earning the eternal gratitude of the Dunsanys.
  • Lady Dunsany is so grateful that she offers Jamie his freedom, but he declines so he can remain near William, his (secret) son.
  • After many years, the resemblance beween Jamie and Willie is becoming obvious, and he realizes it’s time to leave. Willie is heartbroken, and so is Jamie.
  • John marries Isobel, who is Willie’s guardian. John will raise Jamie’s son.

Insta-reaction:

Oh, this season. This show. It’s just so ON. Killing me here.

Jamie’s story is the dominant one in this episode, with good reason. What happens to him in the years shown is just way more important and dramatic than the month Claire et al spend doing research. I mean, I’m glad they’re doing it, but let’s be real — how exciting is it to watch three character sift through papers and take notes?

Therefore, onward with the Jamie side of things.

Kudos to the show on the marvelous casting choice for Geneva. Sadly, we’ll only see her this one episode. Actress Hannah James was fabulous in PBS’s Mercy Street (watch it if you haven’t yet!) — and it’s funny, but when I watched Mercy Street, there were certain scenes where she reminded me of Claire, so it feels appropriate to have her playing against Jamie in this episode. She did a wonderful job of capturing Geneva’s strong will and high spirits, yet also captured the vulnerability behind the bravado in the crucial scene with Jamie.

Speaking of which…

I was glad that the show made some changes from the book in terms of the sex scene between Jamie and Geneva. In the book, there’s a moment that has generated endless (really, I do mean endless) debate among readers — namely, at the moment of penetration, Geneva tells Jamie to stop because she’s changed her mind, and he says no, and goes right ahead. I’m not getting into it here — was it rape? If he didn’t live up to his side of the bargain, would she take revenge? Look, book readers have been talking about that scene for AGES. I’m just happy the TV series didn’t go there.

Instead, we see Jamie in an impossible position. He hates what Geneva is demanding of him and has no intention of complying — but she’s got him by the you-know-whats. She’s making threats not only affecting his parole, but also making clear that even his family back at Lallybroch could be endangered. So Jamie is very much coerced into having sex with Geneva. But Jamie is Jamie, so even though he’s there against his will, once he shows up in Geneva’s room, he’s kind to her. He knows she’s scared, but she makes clear that she’s determined to go ahead with it. Jamie gives her permission to watch him undress, and asks permission before touching her. He tries to guide her through the process so that she’ll take pleasure from it, which she clearly does. She even declares her love for Jamie, but he (kindly) points out that what she feels isn’t love, just the aftermath of really good sex. (Well, he didn’t say it quite that way, but that’s the point.)

The confrontation with Ellesmere is a little confusing (although highly dramatic). If Ellesmere and Geneva never had sex, why did he wait until she gave birth to freak out so completely? It’s not like he couldn’t tell that she was pregnant.

I liked Isobel very much. She’s the meeker of the two sisters, but has her own thoughts, and I enjoyed her interactions with Jamie, from her confessions of feelings for John to her sorrow and anger over Geneva’s death to gratitude toward Jamie, and acknowledgement of his role as William’s father. Knowing the book, I think I know what’s next for Isobel, but it would be nice to see her down the road too.

Okay, and then there’s the moment when Jamie offers his body to John, as a payment for his request to John to take care of William after Jamie’s departure. Seemed a bit out of the blue to me. It’s been 7 or 8 years since Ardsmuir, and the two men have reestablished a friendship based on respect. Why would Jamie feel the need to offer himself in this way? Clearly, John would do anything for Jamie, no sexual bribes needed. Jamie has some very screwed up notions about sex, methinks… although who can really blame him, after everything he’s been through. John, bless him, expresses gratitude as he turns down Jamie’s offer. They’ve cemented their friendship for sure, and John is set to be Willie’s stepfather.

I did like the little moment when John tells Jamie that he’s getting married, and Jamie asks “to a woman?” Yes, Jamie, to a woman. Unless John can figure out how to time travel to the 21st century, he really doesn’t have too many choices, does he?

So sad to see Jamie leave poor Willie behind. I would have liked to have seen more of the two of them together, but the scenes we did see were enough to establish the strong bond between them. Jamie’s hand-carved snake is a wonderful, personal gift for Willie, as is the secret baptism Jamie gives him when Willie declares that he wants to be a “stinking Papist” too.

Back to Claire for a moment — it’s hard to see her giving up, but I suppose she feels that they’ve reached a dead end and that there’s no hope left for finding Jamie. I was surprised to see Fiona giving Claire the pearls. It’s hard to believe that Claire would have given the pearls to Mrs. Graham, but I suppose this was part of her letting go of the past (just like allowing Frank to burn her 18th century clothing — that still makes me mad!). Perhaps the pearls here are meant as a foreshadowing of sorts, although Claire doesn’t know it yet. They’re a piece of her past that she thought was long gone, but they’ve now come back into her life. What else from her past will she find? (Hint: Jamie.)

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I feel like this showing is coming together in a smooth and seamless way that’s hard to define. Maybe it’s just that I wasn’t thrilled by the Paris plotline last season (note: I thought the acting and production were fabulous, but the storyline itself was problematic in several ways). Trying to change history and stop a rebellion is big and outrageous, and in some ways takes the emphasis away from the personal. So far, in season 3, the stories are intensely personal. It’s all about the characters and their journeys — maybe that’s why I’m loving it so much.

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the 3rd book in the series, Voyager. The first third or so, showing Jamie and Claire’s time apart, just blows me away, most especially Jamie’s 20-year struggle post-Culloden and all that he’s suffered and experienced. Later on, the book starts feeling kitchen-sink-y to me. I’ve warmed to it over the course of subsequent rereads, but the fact remains that certain plot elements hinge entirely on the unlikeliest of coincidences, and there’s just so much thrown in (voodoo, slave uprisings, and pirates, to name but a few) that it’s a difficult book for me to fully swallow.

Given all that, I’d say the show is doing a remarkable job. They have a tremendous amount of ground to cover this season. Voyager is a big book (870 pages in the paperback edition!), and there’s just SO MUCH PLOT. With 13 episodes in the season, a lot will have to be condensed in order to fit. So yes, book fans may complain about details being omitted at Ardsmuir or Helwater, but ultimately, the show has a story to tell and has to put all these story threads together in the best way possible to create a beautiful TV show — even if characters or actions end up on the cutting room floor or have details swapped out.

Episode 304 covers crucial years in Jamie’s life. After the sorrow of losing two children, as he mentions to Lord Dunsany — baby Faith, stillborn during season 2, and Brianna, who while alive is lost to Jamie nonetheless — Jamie finally has a child of his own. And while he can’t claim Willie, he can love him with all his heart, and that, I think, makes all the difference. Jamie now has meaning in his life, after all those empty years after losing Claire. And even though he’s forced to leave Willie behind by the end of the episode, he’ll always hold Willie close in his heart. Jamie Fraser is no longer alone, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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6 thoughts on “Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 4

  1. I had the same problem with Voyager the first time I read it. It took me ten years to reread the first three. I am not in love with everything they have done but I really enjoyed Isobel Dunsany. Loved her sensitivity and rare perspective.

    • Yes, it was nice to see her as an actual person, with her own feelings and desires. I liked the TV version of Isobel quite a lot — I don’t think we really saw much of her in the book.

  2. I just binged all four episodes last night. I’m loving this season so far and I’m quite pleased with the filming compared to the book. So much emotion this season too. Great post and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! ❤

    • Thank you! I think we’re on the same page — there’s something about this season that is hitting me emotionally in a way that season 2 (especially the first handful of episodes) did not.

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