Outlander 3.03 recap: Strange allies with warring hearts

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Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 3 episode “All Debts Paid.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch the episode yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.

Greetings, sassenachs! We have been reunited once again for another fantastic episode of Outlander, and so far this season has not been pulling any punches. Last week Claire and Frank officially took steps in their decision to consciously uncouple, while Jamie gave himself up to the British in order to spare his family -- but not before Fergus lost a hand. Oh, and Jenny popped out another baby, but that’s pretty much par for the course there.

This week: Jamie acquires yet another name while under heavy guard at Ardsmuir Prison, but encounters someone who might prove to be more of an ally than an enemy. Flash-forward centuries into the future and Claire has achieved some measure of success in her medical career, though not without further straining her marriage. And Brianna graduates from high school! I’m so proud.

Jamie (1755)

Three years after Jamie’s initial arrest by the Redcoats, he’s still in prison -- and surprise surprise, has added yet another nom de guerre to his growing list of titles. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This man has more names than Daenerys Targaryen.) As the de facto chief among the Highlanders, Jamie (or “Mac Dubh,” as he’s known)  is a prisoner of some notoriety as far as the Crown is concerned, so he’s kept in irons at all times. He’s also kept fairly close to the vest by the senior British officers in command of the prison, some of whom remain convinced that he knows of the whereabouts of the French gold given to the Bonnie Prince Charles Stuart and hidden somewhere by Jacobite rebels.

When John Grey arrives at Ardsmuir as the new governor of the prison, Jamie is immediately pointed out to him as someone to keep an eye on -- especially since he’s also the designated spokesperson to advocate on behalf of the other prisoners’ welfare. Grey immediately balks at the suggestion by the departing officer that he have dinner with Jamie once a week, but something tells me he’ll come around to the idea.

Meanwhile, Jamie has looked a lot better than he does these days, but within the walls of Ardsmuir he has a lot of friends and allies -- including Murtagh! Yes, Murtagh survived Culloden after all, but he isn't the picture of health right now. Either way, it’s incredibly heartwarming to see Jamie use the knowledge of local plants (that he learned from Claire, no less) to tend to his cousin and friend as best he can -- but interestingly, Jamie also can’t quite bring himself to utter his wife’s name yet.

When the British stumble across an old man wandering down the road near the prison, babbling incoherently in three languages, Grey calls on Jamie as an interpreter -- because jumbled up in all that word salad is the mention of gold. Jamie initially refuses, but Grey then offers to have his irons struck off, so Jamie agrees to help on one condition: that Grey secure blankets and medicine for all of the sick prisoners. Even without Claire around, it’s nice to see Jamie speaking out for those who need healing.

Jamie finally gets the opportunity to speak with the old man, but for the most part everything he’s saying is a rambling mess. We do pick out one or two interesting tidbits: namely, that the “white witch” (I’m assuming Claire) will eventually come for Jamie. Since we know that Claire is destined to try and go back through the stones eventually, this moment almost holds a touch of prophecy in it. Later, Jamie convinces Grey to let the prisoners trap rabbits and pick plants on the moors, but manages to escape while under guard. A manhunt ensues, but Jamie chooses to take advantage of the opportunity to have a little one-on-one with Grey instead -- and gives him the jewel he’d actually pilfered from the empty chest of gold.

Jamie and Grey might have come closer to something resembling trust, but a shared meal and a chess game lead to a bit of a misunderstanding on Grey’s part. Jamie opens up to him a bit more about Claire (and actually speaks her name!), while Grey recounts a story about a dear “friend” of his who had died on the battlefield. I think you know where this is going. When Grey reaches over to touch Jamie’s hand, Jamie instantly recoils and threatens to kill Grey for making a move on him. They’re both shaken by it, and things remain somewhat frosty after that up until the day that all of the prisoners at Ardsmuir are hauled out in preparation to be transported to the colonies -- with the exception of Jamie. Instead, Grey takes him to be quartered at an estate called Helwater, thereby fulfilling the debt of honor between them. Basically, Jamie gets to be the hot stable boy while Murtagh and the others are going to party in the U.S.A. We’ll see how this goes.

Claire (1956 - 1966)

If you’re having trouble keeping track with all this fast-forwarding, we pick up back in Boston eight years after Claire and Frank decided to start sleeping in separate beds. Surprisingly, they’re still exchanging pleasantries over the breakfast table, but that all changes when Claire asks Frank on something like a date. She’s got a night off from the hospital and she wants to go see a movie. (The Searchers and Carousel get casually name-dropped as options.) Turns out Frank has seen both of them already on dates with another woman, and while my first instinct is to side-eye him, we soon learn that the Randalls have previously agreed to have an open marriage -- or, at least, as open as you can be in the 1950s. Frank promises he’s being discreet with his new lady, but Claire looks a bit rankled as she sips her tea.

Two years later, Claire has finally graduated from medical school -- right along with her good friend Joe Abernathy. Looking around at all the guests at her graduation party, it seems as if some of the dudes in her class who initially scoffed at the idea of a woman in medical school are actually here to celebrate with her now. Claire’s partaking in one of her favorite afternoon activities -- enjoying cocktails -- when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Frank’s mistress, or girlfriend, or side piece. Whoever she is, she’s not expecting for Claire to be standing there and sputters awkwardly. The look Claire shoots Frank in the moment could be described as absolutely venomous before she shuttles Brianna, Joe, and the rest of the party guests out the door to their dinner reservation. (For the record, I’m on Claire’s side here because come on, Frank: asking your girlfriend to pick you up at your house on your wife’s graduation day? Dick move.)

When Frank finally gets back from his date, Claire is waiting up for him -- and she is raring for a fight. She’s hurt and embarrassed by the whole scene. Frank’s defense is that their pretense of a happy marriage isn’t fooling anyone, so Claire tells him he should file for divorce then. If he does that, Frank says, he’ll barely get to see Brianna. In the eyes of the courts, a child needs its mother more than its father -- and Frank can’t stand the thought of not seeing his daughter. This entire scene is a master class in acting. Claire and Frank spit insults at each other, bare all their fears, and are then left completely defeated and worn down by the exchange. Whatever this marriage used to be, it’s entirely dissolved now. The image of Claire silently crying while sipping her drink is beautiful and devastating at the same time. “There is a reason we are so terribly bad at charades, my darling.”

Fast-forward another eight years. It’s Brianna’s graduation day, and both Claire and Frank are looking slightly more weathered. Back at the house, Frank informs Claire that he’s been offered a position at Cambridge in England -- and he wants Brianna to come with him. Claire’s got a thriving medical career in Boston and a ton of patients to see to, but Frank isn’t interested in making this a group move. He’s ready for a divorce now so he can start a new family, and since Brianna’s 18 she can live where she wants. Frank’s spent several years establishing himself as the Favorite Parent thanks to Claire working long hours at the hospital, but Claire strongly objects to the idea of him taking her daughter -- the one thing she has left of Jamie -- elsewhere. Frank grabs the car keys and storms out as the phone rings with a call from the hospital; Claire’s needed in surgery.

She’s just finished operating and updating a family member on the status of their loved one, but then Claire sees Joe walking down the hallway towards her. She knows that look on his face. It’s the look she’s had to wear when she’s preparing to give bad news, when someone’s been lost despite all best efforts. This time, she’s the one on the receiving end of the bad news -- because Frank’s been in a car accident, and now he’s gone. Frank’s fate was probably sealed all along, and it’s so sad to know that his last words to Claire were in the heat of a fight. Still in her scrubs, Claire kneels down beside the body of her husband and whispers the truths she never really said to him when he was alive: She truly did love him, and he was in fact her first love B.J. (Before Jamie).

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

- Conditions in Ardsmuir are poor, to say the least, but it’s when Jamie nixes the suggestion of cats in the prison cells that we truly understand just how dire things are: “I don’t think the men would care to have a cat taking all their rats.” BLEGH.
- Caitriona Balfe has mastered the art of the stinkeye to an insane degree, and I could watch her shoot daggers at Frank all. day. long. “Your work, I presume?”
- The episode touches on the celebration of Brianna’s 16th birthday, wherein she gets a car from Frank. I’m not judging, but someone may be trying to buy love.
- Murtagh is holding out hope that Claire is safe and sound, and frankly it’s adorable. I have a feeling he’ll be waiting for Jamie and Claire in the colonies. He’s a tough dude.
- John Grey has officially joined the ranks of those who are in love with Jamie Fraser. Can’t say I blame him.
- RIP, Frank Randall. You weren’t the greatest in the books, but you were kind of a better human on the show, and you will be missed.

That’s it for now, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, as well as your predictions for Season 3, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. Were you as unexpectedly sad about Frank’s death as I was? Will Jamie acquire some more crushes next episode? And how will Claire deal with losing not one but two husbands? Can’t wait for next week!

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