I’ve never much liked the term “Surrender”. The word is in line with language like “quitting” and “giving up”, other phrases of which I’m not too fond. However, last night’s episode of Outlander – aptly titled “Surrender” – showed me that Surrender can be a word of heartbreaking acceptance and even heroism.
As the episode opens, the first person we see surrender is Ian – taken into custody even though lying very convincingly about Red Jamie the “Dunbonnet”. Through this, we learn that even years after Culloden, the Scottish Highlanders still must yield to the cruel whims of the Redcoats. Who didn’t love the faint smug grin on Ian’s lips as the British soldiers loaded him into the cart for what we learn is not the first time?
Jamie is almost unrecognizable in his surrender to grief, with long hair, unkempt beard and a limp to remind both us and him of the horrors endured at Culloden. Completely engulfed in melancholy, he moves about Lallybroch more ghost than human, the mere utterance of words too much for him to bear. When he does speak, its low and guttural as though it is agony to do the simple task of interacting with the those about him, reminding himself that he is alive. Jenny tells Jamie at one point, that she doesn’t lie to the British, she hasn’t seen Jamie Fraser since he left to fight at Culloden and she’s right, the Jamie we all know and love is gone – along with his beloved Claire – leaving only the skin and bones of the man he once was.
The next surrender we see is that of Claire, surrendering to the desires of the flesh. Always a sexual being, Claire tries to hold on to that part of herself – if only in fantasy. If anyone doesn’t think she was talking about Jamie when she turned to Frank and said, “I miss my husband” I suggest you watch again. With eyes closed, she relives her time with Jamie – using Frank to fill the void. Claire shutting her eyes is in opposition to her wedding night with Jamie when she wanted to look at him and she is still looking at Jamie, if only in her mind. Claire’s surrender isn’t only of fleshly desire, it is part of her soul as well. Trying to adapt herself to the life of a housewife is selling a part of her soul.
The next surrender is, to me, one of the most heartbreaking. Jenny, resting after childbirth when the British soldiers intrude surrenders her fear and superstition to save her brother. For people of that time to say a person was dead before their time was to curse that person, but Jenny, her lip trembling did just that, saving her brother and we see the creation of the bond between Jamie and the babe Ian that will last a lifetime. Mary McNabb’s courageous surrender of the pistol to the British troops shows a woman of loyalty and worth. I liked the way they fleshed out her character in the episode.
We then see the distressing sacrifice of wee Fergus – seriously how much are we going to miss that adorable Roman Berrux. From his foolish abundance of courage to the second he is held down and maimed, his surrender serves the higher purpose of bringing the only father he has ever known back to the land of the living. “I’ve watched milady do this before,” Jamie tells Fergus as he tends to him as though invoking the memory of Claire will comfort and heal. When Jamie falls to his knees in grief it is not only about Fergus, the feelings – the life – he has kept buried for so long bubble forth crippling him. “You remind me I have something to fight for,” he tells Fergus and that something is Jamie himself, fighting back the debilitating grief and loss to find some semblance of a life. Ian understands, likening the loss of Claire to a physical loss of part of Jamie’s heart and able to feel again and Jamie makes the fateful decision to give himself up to save those he has left to love.
Mary McNabb surrenders too, she gives her body to give Jamie comfort before he turns himself over to the English troops. He jumps at the touch of her hand as though he’s forgotten the feel of gentle touch. Jamie’s single tear and closed eyes tell us that just like Claire he will use the gift of Mary McNabb to find comfort, even if it resides in fantasy.
The penultimate sacrifice of the episode comes at the end and is two-fold. The first is Jamie giving himself up to the British in a ruse of sibling betrayal. Who didn’t shed a tear at Jenny screaming the words of unforgiveness we know are true, but for a reason other than what the simpleminded British soldiers can grasp.
We see the other surrender – that of Clare and Frank’s marriage. The scenes juxtapose to show them in separate beds and Claire surrenders her sexual self for something more – medical school and the birth of a friendship I can’t wait to see unfold. But even in pursuit of a new life, we are reminded that Jamie remains foremost in her heart and mind by the mournful sounds of a bagpipe as she walks to class.
It was a masterful episode – one of those times when an hour of TV leaves me exhausted and shaken as though I’ve been running from the British myself. Speaking of the British, the only complaint I have is that Jamie didn’t get to gut that sniveling weasel-turd of a corporal who took Fergus’s hand. Maybe he’ll show up at Ardsmuir and Jamie can take care of it then- one can only hope!