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Review of Outlander Episode 308, “First Wife”

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Another review by Lenny.  Thanks, Lenny, for allowing us to post your review.  https://lenny9987.tumblr.com/post/167194262109/outlander-03×08-first-wife

Outlander 03×08 First Wife

I think I might have been looking forward to this episode almost as much as print shop. As much as I love the initial joy of Jamie and Claire’s reunion, it’s the emotional baggage they have to deal with that I love most about Voyager and the show has done an even better job of making me FEEL the changes of twenty years (where the book, being in Claire’s perspective, feels more like it’s telling me that those changes are there).

Now, because I was looking forward to this episode so much, I tried really hard not to build up my expectations of it too much. Well, I don’t know how much that actually factored into things but I LOVED this episode (as I do pretty much everything that takes place at Lallybroch). Everything flowed beautifully and it was such a character-driven episode (which are generally speaking, my favorites). In this case, so much of the episode was reliant upon one-on-one discussions and examining personal relationships broken by time and distance so that’s how I’m going to break down my analysis this week –– the relationships.

Jamie and Ian

Despite Jamie lying to Ian’s face about Young Ian in last week’s episode, these two old friends are quickly able to get past their differences, in large part because Ian is someone who’s quick to forgive. He lectures Jamie and Young Ian when they arrive and moves to punish both by having Jamie administer Young Ian’s thrashing. However, he is willing to not only listen to Jamie’s alternative punishment, but go along with it and then admit to Jamie that his punishment is probably the better of the two for the situation. Because of his gentle and level-headed approach to everything, his son has learned a lesson and Jamie is willing to admit he was wrong about lying to Ian concerning the lad and apologizes sincerely (HUGE for a Fraser, especially in this episode).

Claire and Young Ian

This is more of a developing relationship than one that needs repairing but it’s so adorable and sweet. Young Ian is thrilled with his new Auntie Claire. Seeing him boast and brag about Claire killing the man who attacked her and then standing at her side and helping as she removes the pellets from Jamie’s wound, it’s clear that he can see what it is between her and Jamie and that he supports it whole-heartedly. Given everything Claire goes through in the episode emotionally, she desperately needed the kind of support and encouragement Young Ian was giving her. Jenny, whom Claire has missed tremendously, doesn’t trust her anymore and makes her feel anything but welcome. Young Jamie doesn’t remember/recognize her (which I find a little hard to believe; he’d have been old enough to at least know about Auntie Claire, even if he doesn’t really remember her and what she looked like). Jenny and Ian’s other children don’t know her. And then there’s the Laoghaire of it all frustrating her relationship with Jamie. She knows what he says about wanting her to stay and how he’s missed her and loves her, but with her anger and hurt at his hands running high, Claire is feeling more the outsider than she did the first time she came to Lallybroch. It’s reassuring and comforting to have Young Ian so clearly happy to have her there.

Jenny and Ian

The relationship between Jenny and Ian is still one of my all time favorites in the series. They balance each other so well with Jenny lending some of her fire to Ian and Ian being the voice of reason that Jenny will listen to when she’s being stubborn and passive aggressive. They’re on the same page for so much of the episode, it’s just amazing to watch them. Whether it’s the two of them standing there as relieved and pissed parents, scolding Jamie and Claire right along with Young Ian, or in the flashbacks as they dance and share their glass, Jenny and Ian are in sync. Claire’s return has shifted things beneath their feet but for the most part they’ve grabbed onto each other and they haven’t fallen over. Jenny feels especially betrayed and confused by Claire’s sudden return and Ian lets her be until he sees Jenny overstepping. As is his way, he gently steps in and calls her out on her role in Laoghaire’s disruptive appearance and how it throws Jamie and Claire’s relationship into turmoil. “If there’s a pot of shite on to boil ye stir like it’s God’s work,” he tells her (easily my favorite line of the episode). He points out how badly she says she wants Jamie to be happy after everything he’s been through but that she’s not letting him have it. I love the way Ian approaches this with Jenny because while she falls back on Jamie being a disgrace by having two living wives, he isn’t really the one she’s aiming to punish with her actions; it’s Claire. Jenny gets the last word in, “Does this look like happiness?” and Ian leaves the room but it’s clear Ian’s words have left their mark and Jenny’s going to be thinking on what he said for a while. There’s such guilt on Jenny’s face when she learns it was Laoghaire who shot Jamie, that her interference exacerbated a situation that was already going to be awkward and difficult; it’s akin to Jenny’s sudden wave of guilt when she sees Jamie’s back at the mill in 1×12. Being talked to about things by Ian will get her a lot of the way there, but she also (occasionally) needs a more visceral kick. Ian doesn’t gloat or rub things in her face when he’s right and when she’s come around, she supports and reinforces him when he has his own doubts, like when it comes to Young Ian helping with the cache and accompanying Jamie and Claire to France.

Jamie and Jenny

This is a far cry from where Jamie and Jenny were back in Season 1. Jenny is confused and angry but she isn’t lashing out at Jamie (except over his role in Young Ian’s malfeasance), she’s reaching out. She asks him why he couldn’t share his grief when he believed Claire was dead and when the explanation he gives isn’t satisfying, she tells him exactly where things fail to add up for her. From Jamie, as with Claire later, Jenny knows that he’s holding things back and is hurt by it. She understands more of why Jamie keeps things back, having witnessed first hand the devastation he felt in the wake of Claire’s loss, but it doesn’t mean she’s ready to let the matter drop. Sending Janet to tell Laoghaire is very much about Claire but it’s also a way for Jenny to push Jamie to do something. It’s as though on some level she thinks that once Claire knows, he’ll open up more to her too. It’s like she can see the row of dominoes and goes to push the first one over but when it falls it turns out it wasn’t close enough to hit the next one, so she goes ahead and pushes the next one until the chain reaction happens; she isn’t willing to wait for someone to finish setting the dominoes up so that the initial domino does it’s job when pushed over the first time. Jenny and Jamie don’t come to have a yelling match the way they have in the past. The closest is when Jenny throws water on Jamie and Claire and makes her snide comments about their behavior. For Jamie, dealing with Claire is more important so Jenny’s disapproval takes such a back seat, it’s in a different vehicle. Jenny comes around through other events (and Ian calling her out). While they don’t reconcile directly, Jamie knows that he and Jenny have reached a point of amends when she repeats the point he had made to her earlier about Young Ian.

On Jamie’s side, until the Laoghaire debacle takes over his attention completely, what he feels worst about is Young Ian’s having been endangered and his own undermining her and Ian’s wishes with regard to his nephew. He doesn’t like that he’s had to lie to Jenny about Claire and where she’s been but the pain of having lost Claire far outweighs any guilt. The shade she throws at him over his judgment from a parental angle is what hurts the most. He has lost all of his children (even Joanie and Marsali, to a large extent). We find out later just how much being a father means to him so to have that called into question and be ridiculed about by someone who has had far fewer issues in terms of just having children is like having salt rubbed into the wound. But he doesn’t snap at Jenny (because he knows he’s done wrong). He approaches her with a different perspective. Instead of coming at Young Ian’s punishment from a parental angle, he reminds her of his experience as a teenage boy and what would have been most mortifying to him then. His line to her about giving Young Ian a little freedom while he still thinks its hers to give seems to resonate with her in a way that makes me think it’s something they heard Brian say at some point. And when he makes his request to bring Young Ian to France with him and Claire, he does so respectfully and eloquently. He’s not going behind her back (anymore).

Jamie and Laoghaire Joanie

How they framed Jamie’s marrying Laoghaire is something I was… wary about after 2×08 but they set it up in pretty much the only way I could think of that made any sense –– by making it about Jamie and the girls. I never pictured Joanie to be so young when reading the books, but damn that little girl is adorable and I can TOTALLY buy Jamie falling for her like that at Hogmanay and putting up with marrying Laoghaire to have a chance to make that little girl happy. She’s appears to be very close in age to William and that Hogmanay would be only a few short months after Jamie had to leave his son behind at Helwater so his yearning for anyone to care for in that protective and guiding way would have been incredibly high. He’s off in that little corner at Hogmanay with everyone willing to leave him alone until Joanie comes barreling in looking to cheer him up, despite the fact she has no idea who he is; he’s just someone who’s alone and looks like he could use a fig. Marsali is very clearly there for her little sister, going along with what makes her happy. I also LOVE that we don’t see him dancing or whatever with Laoghaire, that she’s not the one who made him laugh again because one of my FAVORITE scenes from the series is BOOK SPOILERS from Echo when they’ve gone back to Scotland and he and Laoghaire have it out and Claire asks, “She never made you laugh, did she?” It makes SO much more sense that Jamie married her for the sake of the girls and that it falls apart because he and Laoghaire just don’t work, never have and never will.

When the shit hits the fan and everyone suddenly knows the whole truth, the first person Jamie goes to check on is Joanie. She’s the one who has the least chance of understanding what’s happening and perhaps the greatest chance of misunderstanding in such a way that she would wind up blaming herself. The level of affection, trust, and respect between Jamie and Joanie is heartbreaking. He’s so careful in how he talks about Laoghaire to her, knowing that her mother is all she’ll have left now that Claire’s back and understanding that Joanie would take the rejection of her mother as a rejection of her and her sister too. It’s such a contrast to how he talks about Laoghaire the rest of the time. Just as touching is listening to Jamie tell Joanie about Claire and what it is he feels for her. We’ve seen Jamie explain love to several characters so far this season, and he always falls back to his relationship with Claire when describing it, no matter how messy or painful it is. Whatever else is happening, Jamie is always sure of the love he feels for Claire and its permanence. This is one of those scenes where I can’t help but wish that Claire inadvertently saw like when she found and watched Jamie with Kitty back in 2×08; to have her overhear him talking about her when she’s not around, when he’s not trying to convince her of anything.

Jamie and Claire

It was a lovely touch to have Jamie talk about how they could build a little cottage for themselves on the western edge of the Lallybroch estate. It echoed Claire’s suggestions about how they could move out of the brothel and she could open her own little medical practice out of the print shop back in the last episode. They’re both trying to figure out what their new life together will look like, pulling in elements of what they had in the 20 years apart (Claire with her medical practice) or what they wanted all those years ago (Jamie with a life at Lallybroch). Yet even as they offer these suggestions, there’s a hesitation and push back from the other cause they’re still negotiating treacherous waters. They are slowly working through the pain and disappointment of that time apart, rebuilding their senses of each other through stories. Jamie shares the disappointment he felt when he discovered she wasn’t at the island and then Claire letting him know of one way she kept herself feeling connected to him. Just when he’s built himself up to tell her about Laoghaire, Joanie and Marsali burst in and everyone gets a shock, which of course makes everyone’s reactions worse than they otherwise might have been.

After Jamie has chased Laoghaire off and comforted Joanie, he returns and finds Claire packing her things. While the misunderstanding about Jamie’s relationship with Joanie and Marsali is quickly cleared up, the shock and fear have broken the emotional dam for both Jamie and Claire. Twenty years of pain, anger, frustration, and guilt flood both of them out as they struggle not to be swamped by their own emotions, let alone what the other person is feeling. Logic and reason have no place in that room at that moment. Jamie, as the nominally offending party, takes the lead in trying to justify himself only to be met with Claire’s rage that he’s overlooking the fact that she was in the exact same position having lost him. He wasn’t expecting to survive Culloden so he wasn’t expecting to have to live with the pain; the moment he told her to go and she relented and agreed, Claire knew she was going to have to live the rest of her life with the pain of Jamie’s loss but that doesn’t mean it was any easier for her. With how little Claire has talked about her marriage to Frank, it’s hardly surprising that Jamie has fears (and anger) about just how happy that marriage might have made Claire. Knowing that she might have that when he was dead is far more comforting than believing that’s what she has while he’s still alive and aching for her.

On Claire’s side, she likely doesn’t want to burden Jamie with just how miserable it was for her in her marriage to Frank. It was supposed to be a comfort to him and what was best for Brianna and she doesn’t want Jamie to feel guilty about pressuring her into a situation like that. Which is why when he accuses her of having left him in a way that sounds like he’s implying it was voluntary or even her idea, a switch is flipped and Claire stops being careful about choosing her words. They’ve both been so careful and aware of what the other might think or misconstrue that they’ve been giving incomplete (if not entirely dishonest) depictions of their current selves. Claire calls Jamie out on it (and deservedly so given the extent of his lies of omission) and harkens back to their vows of honesty after Cranesmuir. The links between honesty and trust run deep in their conversation (and the episode as a whole) and it’s only when they stop thinking too hard about what the other might think that they let themselves tell the whole truth and stake their own emotional ground. While they’re interrupted by Jenny and her bucket of water, they’re not done fighting.

I loved seeing Jamie fighting for Claire and their relationship as he stops her from slipping away in the morning. Jamie’s fought for so many things over the years but so few of them were solely for him and what would make him happy. Once again, Claire’s been the same for much of her life since losing Jamie. Both of them have had to settle for what would keep them going. Jamie’s always been sure of his feelings for Claire but Claire has had incredibly different experiences because of Frank. She thought she was sure about Frank when she married him and then everything changed when she met Jamie. She went back to Frank to find both of them too changed to be able to make that relationship work in a way that allowed either of them to be truly happy. Having taken a chance on Jamie, she’s seeing that once again, both of them are incredibly changed people. With how much she idealized Jamie in those twenty years, it’s natural for her to want to retreat and avoid the hurt and disappointment of a relationship too altered to work, again. But her feelings for Jamie are still so much stronger than anything she felt for Frank. The moment the gun goes off and it’s clear Jamie’s been hit, Claire acts on instinct and doesn’t just protect Jamie in a defensive manner, she goes on the offensive and attacks. The fear of losing Jamie to death –– having spent twenty years in that headspace –– is enough to push Claire to listen to what he has to say (even if she hasn’t stopped being angry). Even though Jamie has had a few people to open up to over the years, there hasn’t been anyone he was able to completely share his feelings with (even Murtagh at Ardmsuir; the pain and grief were too close to freely voice). Once again, we see Claire assuring him that she understands everything he was feeling having suffered from it too in his absence.

Despite both having aired so many grievances and voiced long suppressed emotions, there remains an uneasiness between Jamie and Claire as the episode draws to its conclusion. Jamie was the one who actively raised many of the emotional issues he’d been having while Claire was in the position of assuring him that she’d felt that way too. I think, because of this dynamic, Jamie feels more heard and understood than Claire does. Which is why I love the scene at the cliff and Claire’s continued hesitation. She FINALLY gets to be the one actively explaining herself while Jamie listens; her side of the conversation isn’t as reactionary as it has been so much of the time since she arrived in Edinburgh. Jamie’s been benefiting from home-field advantage almost. Jenny’s been distant with Claire for personal reasons but also because she sees Claire as someone who hurt her brother (intentionally or not doesn’t matter). Claire’s been in the dark about so much of what Jamie’s been up to and how everyone’s lives have changed in her absence that she’s constantly playing catch up. But on that cliffside she gets to remind and tell Jamie about all that she’s given up just to find him, let alone be with him. She voices her fears and disappointments. I specifically loved her line about how she never imagined it would be so hard, even knowing that he would have had a life without her. It’s something that I just don’t feel the same way in the books; Claire learning the truth and leaving in a huff only to start regretting and rethinking her decision on the road doesn’t carry quite the same weight that the television adaptation does.

Luckily, Jamie knows exactly what to say and how to say it. I do wish there was a little less ambiguity before Claire spots the ship that kidnaps Young Ian; just a little kiss or a hug or even a nod. But I think instead we’ll either revisit it one last time next episode with Jamie presenting her with the choice to come with him to find Ian or go back to the stones and Brianna, or it’ll be drawn out longer with Claire realizing she wants Jamie after her kidnapping at the hands of the British navy and then the final resolution being when she and Jamie find each other again. I mean, I can’t be too surprised because this is a drama after all.

Jenny and Claire

*I do still have plans to get a deep Claire/Jenny textual analysis written up one of these days. For now, this is a preview of sorts.

This relationship was the most painful to watch go through the wringer in this episode. The disbelief on Jenny’s face when Claire first arrives is incredible. She’s heard from Ian that Claire is alive but seeing her with her own eyes is a whole other thing. The relief and joy of learning a loved one is alive after all is quickly followed by the anger and betrayal of having been deceived, forgotten, or disregarded for all those years of absence. Whatever the reason for Claire’s silence, it feels to Jenny like the love of the relationship was unbalanced with Jenny feeling more than Claire did and it’s an imbalance that pushes Jenny to force a correction, to prevent herself from getting hurt again by refusing to let herself care that much a second time. As far as she’s concerned, Claire fooled her once but won’t fool her again. And what’s worse, Claire played Jamie for a fool too and if there’s one thing Jenny can’t abide it’s seeing those she loves hurt by the carelessness of others.

Claire understands Jenny’s disappointment and feels guilty about her role. If she had stayed away, Jenny and Ian would have continued under the belief that she was dead; it’s only in returning that Jenny’s love for Claire can turn to such disgust because it screws with Jenny’s understanding of Claire as a person. I LOVED the way Jenny pointed out to Jamie that the explanation they’re giving about what happened to Claire is inconsistent with Claire’s character as she experienced it. She knows that something isn’t right and she’s not going to stand for it. She feels she’s earned the right to the whole truth, whatever it may be, and is hurt all over again by the fact that they don’t seem to trust her with that truth. I think hearing that Claire killed a man underscores this question for Jenny. When she and Claire went out looking for Jamie, Jenny was bristling under what she felt was Claire judging her for things like torturing the Red Coat soldier they abducted. She had her doubts about what Claire would do when pressed and now Claire has either changed drastically and will kill without qualm or she’s every bit the fighter she was before and yet still didn’t bother to look for Jamie to be sure. While Murtagh was willing to bide his time and grumble back in Paris last season, Jenny is a bit more active in showing her displeasure.

It’s Claire’s turn to feel betrayed when she learns that it was Jenny who was pulling the strings that led to Laoghaire bursting in. The way they’ve reframed Jamie’s marriage to Laoghaire takes the burden of arranging the match off of Jenny though it’s clear she still supported it wholeheartedly. As Claire does her best to call out Jenny for going overboard in punishing her for the twenty years with no word thing, she is once again pushing for someone to see things from her perspective and give her the benefit of the doubt. And some of what she says gets through to Jenny. There’s still enough understanding between them for Jenny to feel the sincerity and truth of Claire’s feeling even if Jenny quickly shuts down again and lets her head and logic override her heart on the subject. From that point on though, Jenny’s shell begins to crack toward Claire and the truth of her hurt seeps out. She stops hiding behind Jamie as an excuse for her own pain and the passive aggressive retaliation begins to fade (more after Ian steps in and calls her on it). Seeing Claire taking care of Jamie following the shooting and seeing that familiar care and drive helps reassure Jenny that Claire wasn’t deceiving them all before but that only leaves Jenny more confused in terms of what to make of Claire’s absence and what it might be she’s keeping secret now.

Ultimately, Jenny and Claire’s relationship ends still strained but with an olive branch extended. Claire apologizes sincerely again and this time Jenny at least listens and acknowledges it. She is also more honest about her feelings and the betrayal she feels, no longer hiding behind snark, sarcasm, and passive aggression to communicate. I really wish that Claire had given in and told Jenny the whole truth right then and there on the steps of Lallybroch. That lost opportunity is probably my only real disappointment with the episode. At the same time, I can completely understand why they kept it in line with the book and it fits the episode thematically too. Jenny has trusted Claire before and she must trust her again regardless of whether she has the whole story. That’s what trust is; it’s not a lack of honesty at that point because she and Claire are both acknowledging that there is something Claire isn’t telling Jenny. But that doesn’t mean that Claire has to tell Jenny or that Jenny is entitled to the truth; it’s Claire’s choice and Jenny has to either trust her and respect it or truly put the horse down. Supporting Jamie’s wish to take Young Ian with them to France –– to me –– feels as much like it’s about her and Claire as it is about her and Jamie (especially given the way Young Ian already so clearly adores and admires Claire; it’s reminiscent of Ian’s comment early on about how his son follows Jamie’s lead like a puppy). She is giving Claire an opportunity to prove herself trustworthy again.

Ned and Bachelorhood

I did a literal fist pump when I saw Bill Patterson’s name in the opening credit sequence for this episode. NED GOWAN!!! His reunion with Claire was a thing of beauty. The way he teared up upon seeing her after so long was soooo moving. All I could think of was how many people Ned lost in the Rising. Colum died. Dougal died. Angus and Rupert died. And he thought Claire had died too. Not only that, but she’d been right about it all from the start. I wonder how often when thinking about her and the other Highlanders Ned recalled her warnings and his own reply of “history be damned.” To see her alive and well after believing her long lost must have been SUCH a relief.

And of course, given all the unrest in various relationships throughout the episode, I LOVED his line about how his secret to aging so well was that he had never married (my second favorite line of the episode, I think)

Other Thoughts and Musings:

– Seriously, what’s their deal with not having kid actors in 2×08 and then 3×02 to play Jenny and Ian’s children when in this episode WE SEE AT LEAST FIVE WEE BAIRNS RUNNING AROUND AS THEIR GRANDCHILDREN! And again, we only see Wee Jamie all grown, Young Ian cause he’s a prominent character, and then ONE of Jenny and Ian’s other children (Janet). We get a mention of Maggie and WE STILL HAVEN’T SEEN HER SINCE SHE WAS A NEWBORN BAIRN IN 1×14. This whole thing will never not bug me on some level, haha

– I would have loved if we got a little glimpse of Marsali and Fergus noticing each other at Hogmanay

– I desperately want Marsali to take Joanie with her when she and Fergus elope

– I think that part of why Ned seems delighted by the idea of turning Laoghaire over to the British for shooting Jamie is because of the role she played in Claire’s trial at Cranesmuir. More than just her being a horrible person for what she did, I think he took it as a personal affront that she was going out of her way to make his job harder

– In addition to Claire very carefully NOT telling Jenny about Brianna (which I can only think is because Jenny would never let Claire hear the end of it; she’s already mad Claire didn’t even so much as bother to write but to keep her from her only niece…), I’m wondering if there’s a reason we haven’t seen Jamie openly tell Claire that Murtagh’s alive. It seemed like he would have mentioned it when telling her about why he went back to Ardsmuir when he found the cache but not her. “The men needed me. I was their leader,” but no “well, Murtagh was sick and I couldn’t very well just abandon him.” Interesting…

– So many more but this is already way longer than I meant it to be.

 

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