by Crystal Fann
Sometimes as a writer – at least for me – it’s easier to write about episodes that people are up in arms about, debating the scenes vs the book and trying to find the soul that is Outlander in a mish-mash of anything but. Then we get a show like First Wife, one that is utterly perfect television and we are left with nothing more to do than bask in the glory of sight and sound.
As viewers – and readers – we knew what was coming thanks to that little comment from Fergus last week. Claire rides up on horseback, trepidation in her very bones as she talks about a place of love and home that seems very different to her now. Foreshadowing much?
Then we see Jenny…Jenny from the Broch as she is monikered by some fans and at no time does she deserve it more than last night. Quite frankly as an older sister myself, I can relate to Jenny. Remember this is a woman who watched her brother survive years as little more than animal due to the anguish of losing a woman – a woman who has just popped back up. She’s shocked, she’s angry and she’s worried…because if Claire abandoned Jamie once, she could do it again. Jenny’s reaction to Claire is more than just concern for her brother – there’s something else niggling at her – Jamie wasn’t the only one who loved and grieved the loss of the Sassenach.
Jenny’s emotions toward Claire are side-stepped to deal with her wayward son Ian who once again proves he listens to his balls more than his brains before speaking.
“Auntie Claire killed him, she killed him good!”
This little gem of a comment brings forth both Jenny & Ian’s contempt at Jamie’s way of life and I was glad he reminded them rather quickly that it was his life of crime that kept Lallybroch afloat. That does little to assuage the parent’s anger and the elder Ian challenges Jamie to prove his words. Jamie says he loves young Ian like a son – it’s time to prove it and do the fatherly thing which is often not a fun thing to do as Ian hands over his belt.
This was my only regret in First Wife. In the book, Jamie does give young Ian a thrashing and in turn, gives the belt to the boy to administer the same to Jamie himself. In the book, the scene is both funny and poignant, but I respect the decision of the writers to show that Jamie’s promise to Claire in The Reckoning has stayed with him all this time. Jamie does dole out punishment and quite frankly, I like Ian would have rather had the thrashing than an afternoon of making “dung patties”. YUCK!
If Jamie and elder Ian’s scenes show us the unconditional affection and forgiveness inherent in a long-term friendship, Jamie’s scenes with Jenny show us that with fierce love can come fierce anger. And Jenny is angry. Jamie’s tale of Claire’s departure twenty years past seems believable on the surface but not to a woman who rode beside Claire on the search for her brother years before.
“The Claire I kent would never have stopped looking for you!” Jenny insists. She’s right and she knows it – and Jamie knows it too.
Jenny’s forced politeness is as sad as it is hurtful as Claire recalls the past in faces of the future. Young Jamie who is now as braw as his namesake and a mention of baby Margaret, whom Claire helped bring into this world are reminders of a sisterhood that may never be again.
When night falls on Lallybroch we find Jamie and Claire in the bedchamber they shared as husband and wife years before. They are tentative and affectionate with each other but the worry that Jenny will never forgive haunts as good as any ghost. Claire wants to tell her the truth just as they did Murtaugh, but Jamie knows it will do more harm than good.
Then it’s zero hour – and while Jamie positions himself to deliver a truth he fears will cost him his newfound happiness, it is all in vain. The talk of always searching for each other comparing their bond with the mating of geese ends with the soft, surprised utterance of one word…
Laoghaire doesn’t disappoint, bitchy and hateful as always. It was really never about Jamie for Laoghaire, but more a competition with Claire that Laoghaire feels she has won now and she doesn’t want to give up the trophy. But it isn’t the wife that destroys Claire, it’s the faces of the children – especially the one with bright red hair. The emotions of shock, horror, and heartbreak that play out on Claire’s face are heartwrenching, but not as much as the moments between Jamie and the little girl that he has come to love. He explains Claire’s presence and promises to care for her always, but Jamie knows deep down this is goodbye to yet another child, this time done willingly for love of Claire.
Claire, however, isn’t having any of that. Gathering her clothes all she can think of is escape, but Jamie has other ideas. He tries to explain, but the only thing Claire can see is a little girl with red hair and the knowledge that her little girl with red hair will never know her father as this one has. Jamie reminds Claire that there are other red-headed men in Scotland and I give kudos to the writing team for the fake-out that had many a non-book reader in a panic.
Claire reminds Jamie that Laoghaire tried to have her killed, Jamie reminds Claire that she told him to be kind to the lass – leading to my second favorite line from the episode.
“I told you to thank her not marry her!”
We now realize that it’s not that Jamie’s married, it’s not even that he’s married to Laoghaire – it’s that he lied. Jamie does not shirk from this accusation, instead, he revels in the chance to express how lying is the least that he would do to hold on to Claire – and he utters the one thing that brings Claire out of her daze and into the fight.
“You left me.”
You see this fight wasn’t about Laoghaire at all. This fight was about the pain and grief of separation. It was about the longing and heartbreak and loneliness that plagued those twenty years apart. It was about the jealousy, the desire, and the downright fury at lives lived with others that should have been shared together. It’s about passion – passion of spirit, passion of feeling and yes, passion of body that blazed all over that room until doused by a splash of cold water and words by Jenny.
Claire retreats – doesn’t she always in some way or form – only to learn that the one person whose trust she desires most is the one that betrayed her. Jenny sent for Laoghaire – she’s his wife, Jenny tells Claire. “I am his wife!” Claire retorts despite her anger and through Claire’s words, Jenny finally realizes that perhaps her brother wasn’t the only one who lived with half a heart for twenty years.
Jenny, while moved, isn’t ready to give in just yet, even though Ian is disgusted by her actions “If there’s a pot of shite onto boil, you stir like it’s God’s work” – my favorite line of the night.
The next morning Claire is still intent on escape reminding Jamie of his words on their wedding night, vows he has broken – there’s room for secrets, but not for lies. Jamie has a reminder of his own – that no matter what – Claire is his only love. Not such a great statement for Laoghaire to overhear, especially since she’s got a gun. I loved this scene – not because I thought Jamie needed to be shot – but because at that moment, reacting on heart rather than thought Claire staked her claim to Jamie and sent Laoghaire running.
We all know what happens next and despite the rather gory depiction of Claire digging birdshot out of Jamie’s swiss cheese of an arm, the scene is special due to the bonding between young Ian and his Auntie Claire. “You’re the only one that calls me that,” Clare says in gratitude. Ian just smiles because as young as he is, he’s wise enough to know that with Claire lies his Uncle Jamie’s heart.
Patched up and recovering Jamie’s knows Claire’s presence at his side isn’t simply because she’s a doctor. She’s angry still – but she wants to know why Laoghaire. Don’t we all? Through words and flashback, we learn the truth. It wasn’t about Laoghaire at all, but her daughters that stole Jamie’s heart. Joanie and Marsali filled the void in Jamie’s heart and assuaged his longing for fatherhood. Did he sometimes see Faith and Brianna when he looked at them? I wonder.
For the girls, Jamie withstood their mother as long as he could, finally deciding he could not live with a woman who feared his touch. Claire, who more than anyone else could understand Jamie’s feelings of living as a ghost, gently laid her hand on his – not as a doctor, but as a wife and woman who would never feel fear at the touch of those hands. Jamie’s fever wasn’t the heat of shame as he thought, and just as germs are no match for penicillin – anger is no match against love.
Jenny knows what her actions caused – and this time when Claire appeals Jenny thaws despite the unanswered questions that still remain. The women are still estranged, but this time in Jenny’s tearful gaze, we see hope of the renewal of sisterhood.
I squealed aloud at the appearance of Ned Gowan, his presence interjecting some much-needed lightness into the episode. Yes, Claire, Richmond is very nice this time of year but Jamie’s love for the girls won out – as did Laoghaire’s greed.
Twenty pounds and ten pounds a year until Marsali and Joanie are married. It’s a king’s ransom back in those days – luckily Jamie knows where he can find a king’s fortune. Jamie’s injured though and won’t be able to retrieve it – but young Ian is a very good swimmer. Jenny relents not only to the young man’s freedom but also to the idea that perhaps her brother does know something about being a parent after all.
The scene on the cliff between Jamie and Claire is the one that I’ve seen the most comments about. Is Claire still angry? Does she have regrets about coming back? Has she not forgiven Jamie? No, what’s wrong with Claire is that she’s afraid. There’s a scene in the book just after young Ian is kidnapped when Jamie wonders if God is punishing him because he wants Claire above all else. This scene to me is Claire’s version of that worry.
Their lives weren’t so bad before…hers in Boston, his in Edinburgh. Claire has dreamed of him for twenty years, but her dreams never factored in the harsh realities of the eighteenth century and the truth of the life Jamie had without her. It’s been so hard. Do they belong together? Is it worth it?
For Jamie, there is no question. “Will you take the man I am for the sake of the man I once was?” For Claire, there is no other answer than yes – although she doesn’t get to verbalize it thanks to a bunch of pirates. Yet when the camera pulls away, as the pirates pull away with young Ian and the treasure, Claire is by Jamie’s side – where she belongs and where she will stay.