Title: Freedom and Whisky
Written by: Toni Graphia
Directed by: Brendan Maher
This recap includes information from both the official script and Starz podcasts by the executive producers and will include things changed or edited for television.
The podcast was hosted by Executive producers Toni Graphia (TG) and Maril Davis (MD). The title card was 0f Claire painting a Christmas ornament for Brianna’s first Christmas. This shows that the very busy medical student and then surgeon still had time for a mom’s personal touches.
Episode 304 was a Jamie-focused episode with arguably one of the most important times in his 20-year gap from Claire. This episode serves the same purpose for Claire. They had discussed making 304 and 305 one episode but it was far too long.
TG noted that she and Maril discussed this episode at length with a focus on the mother/daughter relationship. They debated questions about what it would take for a mother to leave a daughter she loves and at what point in a child’s life does the mother have a right to her own life. Is it selfish or do you have the right to pursue your own happiness? All good questions that they explore in this episode.
We open with doctors performing surgery and when the lead surgeon speaks, it is clearly Claire’s voice. The script notes say they originally wanted to make the patient be the Harry mentioned by Joe Abernathy when he called Claire in Scotland. There was even a backstory created for him but this was dropped in favor of an unknown patient once the story timeline was shifted to late December. This was already done when they were prepping sets and TG had to call fellow executive producer Matt Roberts to request (beg) them to shift the sets. This added three days to the prep schedule.
Claire shows her usual combination of courage and recklessness in keeping the patient under sedation with a dropping blood pressure in order to make sure she completes the necrosis removal. The show used their medical consultant (also named Claire!) to help with the authentic look of the surgery. TG notes that Cait had to practice a lot but picked up the surgical technique very quickly.
The scene shifts to a Harvard history class where Professor David Brown is lecturing on Paul Revere. TG commented that all the historical facts on the white board were researched by their assistant (a PhD candidate in history). The professor was named for a show producer! TG’s inspiration was a story told to her by Matt Roberts about the truth behind Paul Revere’s ride. It’s also a bit of foreshadowing in future books.
The professor has a private chat with Brianna about her failing grades in all her classes after a strong previous semester. Bree is struggling with all that she has learned in the past two years between losing the man who raised her and finding out that not only is her real father another man but that time travel actually exists. She was focused on the hunt for Jamie in Scotland but now, the enormity of this hits her and she is not into school at the moment. Sketches of the University cloisters also hint at an interest in subject matters other than history. She shrugs it off since she cannot tell the professor what is really bothering her.
Back at the hospital, we see that Joe and Claire share an office and are trusted friends. Maril commented that the network was interested in whether there would be any indication of a romantic involvement between Joe and Claire but she pushed back. (Not only is this not in the book, I am glad Maril stood her ground since the Joe/Claire dynamic is excellent as it is.) This scene is one of three important scenes between Joe and Claire as she slowly reveals her love of another man. In the book this is one big scene but Maril felt it was better to show this in line with Claire’s mental progression and decision making process about whether she should go back through the stones.
A taxi pulls up outside the Boston apartment and it is Roger Wakefield wondering if he’s lost his mind. In the book, Claire and Bree go back to Scotland but they decided not to do that for production reasons (including they lost their location in Scotland and then moved to South Africa). This way, Roger gets to experience his first American Christmas and it is explained both by his discovery and the fact that he did not want to have this first Christmas without the Reverend all alone.
Roger is excited but realizes his timing is not good as he hears Claire and Bree shouting in the house. While they are both happy to see him, it is clear they are fighting over her decision to both drop out and move out. She leaves with a box (why not a suitcase?) and Claire invites him to stay. Maril loves the Claire and Roger relationship and I wonder if seeing how good Roger is with Bree helped Claire to ultimately make her decision.
Fun Fact #1: O Come All ye Faithful is rumored to be a coded Jacobite song for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Mark Me, I’ll never listen to that the same way again.
The books mention Claire telling Jamie about reading A Christmas Carol so they decided to introduce that here. I really didn’t get the implication that an American Christmas is lobster rolls and Boston Cream Pie until TG said that was her family Christmas. Sorry, Toni. I don’t know anybody who had that, it is usually turkey or ham and Apple pie.
TG also joked that if you notice a lot of whisky in this episode, it was deliberate.
Roger is excited to tell Claire that he thinks he found Jamie. He shows her a printed piece from the 18th century quoting the Robert Burns poem they heard in the Scotland pub. Claire had told Jamie that line of Freedom and whisky go together and since Burns was only six years old then, it had to be known by someone with knowledge of the future. He points out that the piece was written and printed by an Alexander Malcolm. He assumes this is Jamie and is very proud of his find.
Claire’s reaction stuns him. She is not happy at all and fears that she had finally accepted Jamie was dead and does not want to risk her heartache again. In the book she never gave up hope but the show writer’s wanted to make it more of an agonizing decision. She now feels she must close the door on that part of her life and protect Bree, who is obviously having a hard time.
She invites Roger to stay and later ponders what all of this means and if she really wants to even think about it any more.
The next day Claire and Joe are reviewing a set of bones sent by a friend looking for cause of death. Claire holds the skull and immediately feels sadness. She guesses right that this woman was from more than 100 years ago and that she was murdered. Another Easter Egg for book readers.
Claire discusses her dilemma with Joe again and she confesses that her man from Scotland is Bree’s real father and Bree is struggling. There was a longer conversation in the script about how Joe’s son Lenny changed his name and was also being difficult. This was important for a later scene in Voyager so I wonder if they will leave that out as well. Joe tells Claire that everyone knew she and Frank had problems and that Bree will come around. I love how Joe is always putting Claire first.
Bree returns to the house and finds Roger engrossed in an episode of Dark Shadows. (My mother used to love this show.) Fun Fact #2: A very cool coincidence is that this episode of Dark Shadows actually aired on the exact date that it was supposed to be in the show (It’s Season 11, episode 651 if you’re interested) AND the plot is about a woman who goes back in time to the 18th century. Bree invites Roger to a reception at Harvard in honor of Frank Randall.
Bree and Roger walk into Harvard under the famous cloisters (which don’t exist but the ones at University of Glasgow do). They observe the structures differently, Roger from a historian’s perspective and Bree from an engineer’s perspective despite her history major and grooming up with a history professor. This is another foreshadow of how Bree finds her true calling and not one she chose to please Frank. They talk about being the daughter of a historian or a highlander. Roger tells her a story about his own father which was actually pulled forward from Book 4.
The reception celebrates a fellowship in honor of Professor Randall. In awkward moment 101, the Dean introduces Claire to Sandy. Frank’s Sandy/Candy. Sandy confronts Claire about how she loved him and Claire was selfish and wanted it all but threw away 20 years. Roger and Bree are watching in the background, seeing that something isn’t quite right.
I had so many problems with this scene. First, the Dean had to suspect that something was going on between Frank and Sandy for 20 years! Second, TG thought it was interesting to show what it cost Frank to stay. So, in the book Frank has many mistresses but somehow it is supposed to make it all better that he only cheated with one? TG felt Frank was a hero for staying and raising Bree and that it was important to “call Claire on her shit”. That sentence makes me very angry. I’ll bet if Frank could have children, he would have been gone in a heartbeat. And they left out racist Frank too. Or the fact that Frank tended to date his students (Claire, Sandy and who knows how many more. It’s all about power.) TG and Ron D. Moore have slowly tried to change the Frank character to be a sympathetic one and not only am I not buying it, I’m kind of offended by it. I got the sense that Maril wasn’t buying it either although she said that this scene actually showed a stronger Jamie and Claire bond. Sorry, the more you have to explain it, the less water it holds for me.
A script aside is that Sandy’s real name was going to be Mandy but they had to change that for future book reasons. TG does not read ahead in the books.
Claire and Bree walk through the fake Harvard cloisters (where did Roger go?). Bree is dressed like the daughter of a Highlander (perhaps unconsciously). Bree recognized Sandy and in keeping their promise of no more lies, Claire tells her exactly who Sandy was. Bree feels divorced child guilt and wonders if one or both of her parents hated her because she looks like Jamie. In the book, Claire tells her she hated her a bit until she held her but they softened that in the script.
Bree tells Claire she can go back but Claire resists. Bree tells her she loves her but she doesn’t need her, even though she’s struggling right now. She wants her to go back.
At the hospital, Claire, Joe and their colleagues are watching Astronaut Jim Lovell and Apollo 8 orbiting the moon. (Fun fact #3, this is the same Jim Lovell who was portrayed in the Apollo 13 movie by Tom Hanks.) Joe comments that it must be hard to make a trip like that and come back the same. He unknowingly gives Claire a parallel food for thought and she thinks about what she must do.
Later that evening she and Bree discuss the possibility of her going back to Jamie and never being able to see each other again. Bree wants her to tell Jamie all about her, that he deserves to know. Claire confesses her insecurities that Jamie will have forgotten her or fallen out of love with her but Bree reassures her. Bree tells her that Claire gave up Jamie for Bree and now Bree is giving up Claire to give Jamie back to her. (I kind of like the book version better where she says Jamie gave up Claire for Bree.)
Claire is now seriously considering returning but her insecurities (an unusual trait for Claire) are still there. She confronts Joe and asks if she is sexually attractive. He recognizes where this is coming from and ensures her that her man will be in heaven when he sees her. That gives Claire the final boost she needs. We all need a friend like Joe.
It’s Christmas morning in the Boston house. It’s clear Claire has shared that she’s leaving for the stones as they have purchased 18th century UK money for her. (This was more believable in the book when they actually were in the UK.) Roger gives her a history of Scotland so she can anticipate any other challenges. Bree notes that she wanted to give her a flashlight but was afraid of another witch trial. (Her knowledge of this witch trial will be important in S4.) In one final gesture, Bree gives her a necklace with a Topaz so that she can have the required gemstone to get through the stones. (TG joked that the UK pronunciation of Topaz is actually ToPAZ which makes me think that’s how Cait pronounced it at first.)
Claire confides that he’s bringing some “borrowed” antibiotics and other surgical supplies with her. The three discuss how she can do this and Claire notes that she has to make it with pockets. Roger jokes it is like Batman’s utility belt.
The montage to follow shows Claire sewing her outfit. I thought at first that the continued Batman reference was a tip to Sam Heughan who played Batman in a touring stage production but in the post-show interview, Ron Moore gave credit to his wife and costume designer Terry and said they took to calling it the bat suit because of the multi-purpose of the outfit. I think they overdid the bat suit running joke in the show itself, especially the music. It was funny when I heard the music start but to play it through the whole sewing montage was beneath the gravitas of the show, for me.
After super-seamstress Claire finishes, she takes stock of herself for wrinkles and more gray hair. The next day Roger and Bree notice she dyed her hair overnight and Claire comments that it was thanks to Miss Clairol.
(Fun fact #4: Caitriona Balfe did an ad for Miss Clairol in her modeling years.)
Claire was clever with the use of raincoat material given the Scottish weather and she tucks the penicillin vials into one of the pockets. Roger steps out to get more whisky and Claire gives Bree a note for Joe Abernathy and the deed to the house. She gives her the Scottish pearls that were her grandmother Ellen’s. It seems to be the first time that Bree hears that was her grandmother’s name which seems odd but maybe that’s just the way Sophie Skelton played it. Mother and daughter hug now since Claire does not want them to accompany her to the stones. I loved how she explained the first time she was scared, the second time, heartbroken and that this time she wanted it to be peaceful.
That night, a taxi comes to take Claire on a risky journey back in time. Bree and Roger wave at the window, with Bree wearing the pearls. Bree nods in encouragement and then turns in tears as soon as Claire pulls away. I don’t find Sophie’s acting skills to be on par with the rest of the cast when she’s delivering lines but she did a good job with the facial expressions and body language. I believed her emotions.
Bree goes into the kitchen in tears and then steadies herself in a way that would make her parents proud. She puts on a Santa hat and brings in a tray of lobster roll and Boston cream pie that had been on the counter. She gives Roger his first American Christmas and probably ptomaine poisoning. They kiss and while I’m not convinced that she feels yet the depth of puppy dog love he feels for her, it is a new leg of their personal journey together. She tucks in with him on the couch and begins to read Dickens.
The taxi driver stops as voiceover Claire tells the story of how as a child she thought puddles were actually deep holes that could suck you in. She looks down at a puddle as steps out of the taxi and the next thing we see are her boots in an 18th century puddle. While this reminded me a bit of copying the episode 201 cross-century shift, it worked. The writers decided that the stones scenes would be a “been there/done that” scene and also the location they use for Caigh Na Dun is difficult to get to.
I liked that Claire’s outfit was a bit more colorful than the rest of 18th century Edinburgh as she is still a woman out of time. She stops and asks a young boy where she can find Mr. Malcom’s print shop and he directs her to Carfax Close. She walks with anticipation and uncertainty and comes upon the sign for the print shop. Claire’s face here is everything-pure joy. Ascending the stairs slowly, she stops at the top to check her reflection and with a big sigh, the infamous Cling of the bell is heard.
I’ll admit, I thought they would stop there or with the well known first line and was pleasantry surprised when they kept going. She notices a hat and lit candle at the desk indicating somebody is there. Then, we hear the brogue calling out ” is that you, Geordie” and we realize it isn’t just somebody. Cait did a great job with her heavy breathing as she recognizes the voice. You can feel her heart beating out of her chest.
I was surprised that the Print Shop set was two levels but it really worked. The voice keeps talking to Geordie as Claire walks over to the open balcony overlooking the press. It’s Jamie and if it is possible to just act with your spine, Sam does it here. When Claire says “It’s not Geordie”, he stiffens. He knows that voice even after 20 years. She continues “it’s me, Claire” With the eagerness of a hopeful child. He turns, almost afraid that it’s another hallucination that he hasn’t had in a while. He looks up (which is why the two levels works so well) and the candles light up her face. His body gives way before his mind does and he “falls gracefully to the floor for such a large man.” She gives an oh crap look and we cut to credits.
It was a perfect way to end the two week build up to the Print Shop episode. There were times I felt the episode was a bit jumpy but I’ve always felt Toni writes great scenes in isolation that sometimes suffer from a lack of seamless flow from one to another. But kudos to the writers, Cait, Sam and set designer Jon Gary Steele for the last five minutes. They were even better than I imagined them.
Congrats! We’ve already made it halfway through the two week break before Print Shop (aka episode 306 A. Malcolm) airs on October 22nd.
Thanks to the time and talent of the following for the images and gifs. bookboyfriendharem, lulutan-79, anoutlandishidea, balfoddlyeager, jamieclaire, the nerd daily, Terry Dresbach and Starz. If we’ve forgotten anyone, please contact us at any of our social media sites