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.
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 308: “First Wife”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Claire returns to Lallybroch with Jamie, where she does not receive quite the reception she was expecting. Unbeknownst to her, Jamie’s made some choices in their time apart which come back to haunt them with a vengeance.
For once, I may actually get an “Insta-Reaction” post up on the same day the episode airs… because I happened to be up late enough on Saturday to be able to stream the episode online instead of waiting to watch it when it aired on Sunday. The joys of being early! Onward…
Major plot points:
- Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian arrive back at Lallybroch.
- Claire is delighted to see Jenny and tries to reach out to her, but gets a very cold reception.
- Jamie tells Claire that he’s been keeping something from her, but before he can get any further, two girls walk in and call him “Daddy.”
- Uh oh! Turns out Jamie married Laoghaire two years earlier! Claire is horrified and feels betrayed.
- Jamie explains that his marriage to Laoghaire wasn’t successful and that they’d been living apart.
- Claire prepares to leave, but Laoghaire shows up again with a pistol and shoots Jamie.
- Claire removes the birdshot pellets from Jamie, then gives him an injection of penicillin when he begins to become feverish from infection.
- Lawyer Ned Gowan comes to Lallybroch to work out the dissolution of Jamie’s marriage to Laoghaire. The marriage itself is invalid, but Laoghaire wants to sue Jamie for distress.
- To resolve the situation, Jamie agrees to pay Laoghaire a very high settlement and ongoing payments, which he can only manage by retrieving a box of jewels from an island, which he discovered during his escape from Ardsmuir prison years earlier.
- Since Jamie’s arm is wounded, he can’t swim out to the island, so Young Ian goes instead. He finds the jewels, but is then kidnapped and taken aboard a sailing ship that arrives at the island.
- Jamie and Claire can only watch helplessly from shore as the ship leaves with Ian.
Whew. What a homecoming.
Inlaws – amiright?
It’s understandable that Jenny would feel so betrayed by Claire and treat her so coldly. The truth — that Claire traveled through time — simply wouldn’t be believed. (Okay, we can quibble about this. It’s a superstitious time. People believe in fairies and witches. Why wouldn’t Jenny believe that Claire traveled to a different time? It would explain so much!) Anyway, Jamie and Claire believe that they can’t share the truth with Jenny, which means they’re stuck with the lame story that Claire believed Jamie was dead, sailed off to the colonies, and has been there ever since. As Jenny points out later in the episode, she could have written! Jenny makes it very clear that life at Lallybroch has moved on without Claire and that’s she’s no longer a part of the family. Ouch.
As Claire and Jamie prepare for bed, Jamie’s on the verge of sharing with Claire what he’s been hiding… when we have the “Daddy!” moment. Not good. Claire is freaking out over the two girls — one of whom has very red hair — when it goes from bad to worse, as their mother walks in. It’s Laoghaire, right back to ranting about the “Sassenach witch”. It’s like twenty years never happened.
Jamie obviously has a bond with the girls, and Claire is heartbroken that he not only married the woman who once tried to have her killed, but that he apparently has a life and has children. How could he have let her think that she still fit into his life? Jamie and Claire have a very ugly fight, with broken things and face slaps and the beginning of angry sex, until Jenny literally throws cold water on them, since the whole house can hear what they’re up to.
Once Laoghaire shows up again the next day and shoots Jamie, Claire has cooling off time as she picks the pellets out of Jamie’s shoulders and chest. Young Ian makes an adorable surgeon’s assistant, even picking up a bit of Claire’s medical jargon. As he’s recovering, Jamie shares more with Claire — about his loneliness when he returned to Lallybroch from Helwater, after leaving his son behind and knowing that he’ll likely never see him again. He was rootless and disconnected, until Laoghaire’s daughters made him laugh again. He wanted to be a father, and he wanted to be a husband, and Jenny encouraged the match — but it just never worked. Laoghaire was twice widowed, and at least one of her late husbands was presumably unkind and harsh to her in bed, because things just never clicked her for her and Jamie. He didn’t love her, but thought he could make a life with her and her daughters — but in the end had to leave rather than live with a woman who was afraid to have him touch her.
Claire was relieved to find out that the girls weren’t Jamie’s daughters, but rather his stepdaughters. Jamie had a great line about there being other red-headed men in Scotland — little Joanie’s red hair doesn’t automatically mean Jamie’s the father. The older daughter, Marsali, looks so much like Laoghaire! Great casting, show.
Claire finally sits and talks with Jenny. Turns out Jenny is responsible for Laoghaire showing up at Lallybroch — Jenny sent her daughter to fetch her. Not cool, Jenny. Jenny didn’t trust Claire and thought her return would only end up hurting Jamie. Without telling Jenny the whole truth, Claire gives her a partial truth that helps Jenny start to thaw a bit. Claire tells her that she married another man when she arrived in the colonies and tried to build a life with him, thinking Jamie dead. It was only after her husband died that Claire decided to return to Scotland to visit Jamie’s grave, and that’s when she discovered he was alive. Jenny admits to having loved Claire as a sister, and Claire says she loved her too. Baby steps, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope that Jenny can start to accept Claire again.
It was great to see Ned Gowan! He credits his longevity with never having married — such a scamp! (Who can argue, given that Jamie’s marriages just led to him being shot.) Lovely to see the affection between Ned and Claire — it was one of the few times this episode when Claire’s smile looked genuine, without the shadow of hurt hiding behind it.
The scene with Ned was quite interesting. Yes, the marriage to Laoghaire is invalid since Jamie’s “first wife” was alive the whole time. Laoghaire is threatening to sue Jamie, which could get ugly — but at the same time, pistols are illegal at that time, and Claire is all for turning Laoghaire over the British, which could result in transportation to the colonies for her, most likely to Virgina. (Gotta love Claire’s snide comment about Richmond being lovely that time of year.) Jamie won’t hear of it — he has the girls to think of. In the end, the amount of “alimony” he agrees to pay Laoghaire seems extortionary; not just a settlement amount, but ongoing yearly payments until both girls are settled in marriage. This decision on Jamie’s part will have an impact on his life with Claire for years to come. Interesting to see Jamie’s compassion here contrasted with Claire’s desire for vengeance against Laoghaire. Some wounds never heal. (She tried to have Claire killed! It’s not a forgive and forget situation.)
And then the episode ends with Jamie and Claire on the cliffside, watching Young Ian swimming out to the island to retrieve the cache of jewels. Claire’s still not sure she belongs with Jamie. Maybe it’s all a mistake. She had a career and a home and friends back in Boston. Does she still fit into Jamie’s life? Can they be happy? Jamie tells her yet again that he loves her and wants her, and asks her if she can take a chance on who he is now, for the sake of the man he once was.
Their moment of romantic reconciliation is interrupted by the arrival of the ship, and they’re helpless to save Ian from being kidnapped. Disaster strikes again, because Jamie and Claire just can never catch a break.
Another strong episode, although with some key departures from the book.
Laoghaire and the girls show up in Jamie and Claire’s bedroom — but unlike in the book, they don’t walk in while they’re having sex. That’s a relief. Those girls do NOT need to see that.
The biggest change, I think, is that Claire doesn’t leave. In the book, she takes off (with Jenny’s encouragement), grabbing a horse and riding (slowly) back to Craigh na Dun, both determined to go back through the stones and hoping that Jamie will catch her before she does. He doesn’t come after her, though — Young Ian does, because Jamie’s been shot, has an infection, and is likely dying. Claire goes back to treat Jamie and save his life, but whether or not she’ll stay is up in the air. (Book spoiler: She stays.)
The changes work, although having Claire leave would certainly have been more dramatic. The action in the episode felt a bit rushed, but I guess it’s understandable, given how much ground the show still needs to cover.
The fight between Claire and Jamie was brutal, and Jamie says some things that border on unforgiveable. As she’s lashing out at him for marrying Laoghaire, he yells back at her that she left him! This is a devastating charge — she didn’t want to leave him; he forced her to go. It’s painful and awful, but also feels pretty real. Couples don’t always fight fair. Jamie knows that the facts don’t support what he’s saying, but at the same time, he’s saying what’s in his heart. She did leave, willingly or not, and he was left behind, and never got over the hurt.
One thing the show does very well, in some ways better than the books, is show the difficulty of Jamie and Claire’s situation. They can’t just pick up where they left off. It’s not all sunshine and roses. If they’re going to stay together and rebuild a marriage and a life, it’ll take real work, and it’ll take time. They knew each other heart and soul once, but they don’t really know each other at this point. They need to learn to be together all over again.
The Hogmany scene was excellent. It strongly conveyed how alienated Jamie felt, outside of the family and all the happiness right in front of him. It’s easy to see how the laughter of the girls and their affection and openness could charm him. Here are two girls who need a father, and here’s a man with two children whom he’ll never see or raise himself. Seems like a perfect fit, and even Laoghaire looked lovely at the party. We really can’t blame him for trying to fit himself into the role he’d spent so many years longing for. (Even though — ew — Laoghaire.)
The end of the episode represents the crucial turning point of the entire series. In the books, Ian’s kidnapping sets everything that follows in motion. If not for this event, Claire and Jamie would never have gone to America or built a life there. I suppose for viewers who didn’t know it was coming, this was probably a pretty jarring end to the episode. But it’s necessary for the next stages of the story, so off we go.
Wrapping it all up…
It’s definitely funny to see the ship at the end, and also to see more ships in the preview for next week’s episode. The production moved to South Africa for the filming of the seafaring part of the story, using the sets from Black Sails. It’ll be hard to watch the next episode and not be waiting for Captain Flint to show up! (Ah, wouldn’t that be amazing?)
All of a sudden (or so it seems to me), we’re 8 episodes into the season, with only five left. There is so much more that needs to happen to get through the rest of Voyager! Man, this is going to be a jam-packed rest of the season. Episode 308 felt rushed to me, and I’m afraid that the fast pace will only increase for the next several episodes. Which is fine – there’s a lot of story to cover — but I hope they do manage to slow things down enough for us to get more of the personal moments that we need. We really do need to see Jamie and Claire come together and start rebuilding their relationship. They still love each other, but they’re starting over again, and the show needs to give them a bit of breathing space to explore their relationship and rebuild the trust and the bond that has always connected them.
Still, terrific acting once again in this episode from the outstanding cast. They’ve breathed such life into these characters, so we really feel their pain, their anger, and their fears. Now let’s let the love back in a bit, shall we?