I’m going to start this week’s blog with a warning. Those of you who know me might want to sit down, in fact, some of you might want to lie down with some smelling salts or whiskey nearby.
I cried when Frank Randall died.
Now I’m not talking about the one single tear that I have seen described as “Outlander Napalm”. I’m talking full-blown ugly cry with copious tears, snot and the use of five or more Kleenex.
It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Frank Randall. In the book, I always saw him as intentionally cruel and selfish. Then Tobias Menzies got ahold of Frank and while I’m not one of those people who root for Frank to be the winner in the Frank/Jamie/Claire triangle, I at least understand him better.
Here is a man who put ego aside to care for a woman whose love was stolen from him, and the child of that thief. By all accounts despite living in a fractured marriage, Frank was an excellent father. I keep thinking of how Frank must feel about Jamie. On the one hand, Jamie had given him the gift of a precious child but at the cost of the woman Frank loved. Did Frank thank Jamie every time he looked at Bree’s red hair and her Viking features? Or did he curse him every time he looked at Claire sleeping in that twin bed three feet away when he so wanted her to lust for his embrace?
I do think he resented her independence, portrayed so splendidly by Frank’s refusal to celebrate Claire’s graduation and the appearance of his mistress, effectively dampening the festivities. I also think he resented Claire’s ability to let go and move on, something which he – despite everything – could not easily do. Frank didn’t want to go to England to punish Claire – he wanted to go in search of release, something he could never have in her presence. Even in that last moment so fraught with anger Frank still searched for an inkling of affection from the woman he still loved – only to find that time was no barrier to her love for Jamie. In was only in those last moments, when Claire pressed her lips to Frank’s cold flesh, did he get what he had longed for, an admission of Claire’s love.
Claire accused Frank of biding his time, sentenced to a loveless marriage for devotion to a daughter. (Seriously, who didn’t chuckle to find out Millie and Jerry had divorced?) Pardon came for both due to an icy road and we are left to ponder which is greater – a prison of emotion or one of stone.
While Claire’s story illustrated the emotional price of their separation, Jamie’s showed us the physical cost. Yet even dirty, dressed in rags and chained, Jamie exerts such a presence that the prisoners dub him “Mac Dubh” and the guards cower, unable to meet his gaze. In a situation where a fricasseed rat is a delicacy, Jamie holds to his dignity and it makes him a caring leader. My heart broke as he recounted the details of a meal, tasted only in memory by the men who surround him.
The touch of Claire on Jamie’s life is evident in the way he cares for his men although he cannot bring himself to speak her name. He tries to forget, yet when the hope of her existence is raised, even in delirium, Jamie cannot stop himself from searching, even though the unbearable reminder that Claire is truly gone has him begging for death at the hand of an old foe who becomes a friend.
Lord John’s view of Jamie is colored by the past, yet it takes only a few conversations for camaraderie to blossom. Both are soldiers. Both have suffered a devastating loss. Jamie finds such comfort in this friendship that he is finally able to utter the name so precious it was held under lock and key in the safety of his heart. Claire. The touch of comfort changes however with the rub of a finger and the friendship is fractured, seemingly beyond repair. Jamie walks away as a single tear borne of desire and regret rolls down Lord John’s cheek. There is no greater example of the chasm between the two men as Lord John leads Jamie away, tied to his horse. Yet at the arrival at Helwater friendship is rekindled, fragile but sure as Jamie looks down on his future, his freedom tenuous but unquestionably felt with the thud of shackles hitting the ground.
Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – that elephant being Murtagh Fitzgibbons Frazer. I was truly surprised that Ron reprieved him from Culloden but, definitely delighted. From the moment we hear that distinctive voice, broken with sickness we know that Jamie has not been alone, even in his grief. My Outlander napalm moment came as Murtaugh spoke of tartan and heritage, Claire and the bairn, even though Jamie could not bring himself to utter her name. When they are separated by the closing of Ardsmuir, a proper goodbye cannot be had. There is only a longing look between the two that spoke of blessing and goodbye. I’m not worried. I feel sure we’ll see Murtaugh again.
Matthew Roberts call this episode “All Debts Paid”. Personally, I would have called it “Freedom for Prisons” since that is what he showed us, masterfully juxtaposed between Claire’s and Frank’s prison of a dysfunctional marriage and Jamie, captive by wood and stone. At the end all were pardoned, one by death the other by friendship and we await the steps each must take as they move forward in creating a life without each other.
Our last glimpse of Jamie sees him overlooking the estate of Helwater and book readers know of his adventures yet to come. I expect most of us will be crying during the next episode too – but for a completely different reason.