Outlander 3.06 recap: Perfect imperfections

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Oct 22, 2017

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

Greetings, sassenachs! It’s me, your faithful Outlander recapper. This episode has been a long time coming, and we’ve had to wait a hot minute - granted, the wait between this ep and the last wasn’t quite as long as the wait between seasons, but we’re here. We made it. Last week, Claire decided it was finally time to make her journey through the stones and back to Jamie, having located him working in a print shop under yet another one of his thousand aliases in Edinburgh. She shows up to give him the surprise of his life… and he promptly faints.

This week: Jamie and Claire finally have their long-promised reunion (that teaser poster from Starz was straight fire, huh?), but Jamie’s slightly illegal activities in the interim of Claire’s absence might have caught up with him. I’m pretty sure most of us were watching for the former though, right?

The episode kicks off in a fun way: by showing Jamie in his element, going about his daily business in the city with absolutely no idea that his life is suddenly about to change for the better. He walks down the street in his tricorn hat looking like a man about town, and then wipes a little schmutz off his printshop sign. Once inside, Jamie realizes two of his Scottish bros were crashing at the shop overnight. Methinks they might have been from Ardsmuir Prison, since they refer to Jamie as “Mac Dubh” and there’s this whole back-and-forth about not letting anyone see them come through the front door. Some guy named Geordie shows up too, and over the next few minutes of ribbing we learn that he a) works for Jamie, though probably with extreme reservations and b) has a giant goiter on his neck that he hides with a scarf. Maybe he could get a certain surgeon to take a look at that…?

Jamie eventually sends off both his Scottish compatriots (with illegal Papist pamphlets) and Geordie (to procure some ash for the presses). He’s left alone to quietly work a printing press, which looks like long and laborious business. No wonder he mistakes Claire for Geordie when the bell over the door chimes again. I’m pretty sure he’s only printed about five pages between then and now, and they all go scattering across the floor when he faints at the first sight of Claire after all their time apart. After the opening credits, Jamie finally comes to - and at first thinks he’s peed his pants but then realizes he’s only spilled something on them. The logical next step is for him to take off his trousers so he can change into a clean pair, at which point he asks Claire to look away. After all their hot sexing over the last two seasons you’d think Jamie wouldn’t be so modest, and Claire gently reminds him that they’re still technically married.

There’s something equally tender and hilarious about this moment, because Jamie decides to shuck his pants off and then lean in to kiss Claire - but both Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan sell the hell out of the scene. I couldn’t decide whether to chuckle or tear up at first and then eventually settled on the latter. Claire and Jamie are practically sobbing with happiness when they finally surge into each other’s arms for that first kiss after a lifetime away from one another. Not only that, but Jamie asks for Claire’s permission to kiss her before he does. It’s pretty perfect and romantic and it feels like we’ve been waiting as long as the two of them have for this reunion. Jamie confesses he’s summoned the thought of Claire many times over the years - “Whenever I needed you, I would see you.” - but he was never able to touch her in those visions.

The beautiful swelling music is abruptly interrupted by Geordie, who is entirely horrified at returning to find his employer sans pants and kissing a woman - before noon, no less! After Geordie storms out, Jamie starts to head off on the search for pants but looks back at Claire, almost as if he’s afraid she’ll disappear if he leaves her behind. He takes her through the shop and into the room he sometimes bunks down in when he’s working long nights, and they take advantage of the alone time to catch up on one or two big things that have happened in the meantime - like their daughter. Claire’s smuggled in some photographs of Brianna inside the pockets of her coat, and Jamie doesn’t seem at all fazed by this form of modern sorcery - though he is very paternally scandalized by the sight of a teenaged Brianna in a bikini at the beach with a boy!

The conversation inevitably shifts to the reveal that Brianna has a half-brother - and Jamie pulls out his own form of a photo, showing Claire a painting of Willie. It’s kind of impossible for the show to rehash everything that happened for Claire’s sake, but it turns out that she only really wants to know if Jamie loved William’s mother. Jamie confesses he’s to blame for Geneva’s death, but more than that - he didn’t love her either. Claire gets it; she tells Jamie that she stayed with Frank for Brianna’s sake, and was with him until he died. The whole scene mostly serves to emphasize that Jamie and Claire were pretty much miserable in their lives without one another, even while they were with other people in the meantime.

In all their catching up, Jamie’s lost track of time. He’s got to meet someone in the city - and obviously Claire tags along. (They’re probably going to be glued at the hip from now on.) Walking through town they bump into a tall, dashing Frenchman - it’s Fergus! He’s astonished by the miracle of Claire’s return, not to mention sporting a pretty impressive wooden hand. The way Fergus tells it, he lost it fighting the Redcoats - which isn’t necessarily a lie. Claire spins her own half-truth, saying that she fled to America for her own safety after the battle at Culloden. (The only part she leaves out is that it was America hundreds of years in the future.)

Fergus fills Jamie in: apparently, one of their associates named “Mr. Willoughby” has gotten himself into a bit of trouble in a nearby tavern. When Jamie and Claire show up, Willoughby is getting chewed out by a woman for licking her elbow. (From what I remember in the books, this is a notable upgrade from his fixation on a different part of the female anatomy. Blech.) Jamie’s overdue for his meeting, which leaves Claire to sit and talk with Willoughby. The good news is that the show appears committed to getting rid of some of the more offensive stereotypes surrounding Willoughby as an Asian character, and he has a surprisingly pleasant conversation with Claire. We learn that his real name is Yi Tien Cho (meaning “leans against Heaven”), though apparently this sounds like a coarse Gaelic word - hence, Willoughby. While this is all going on, Jamie’s “meeting” turns out to be with a British man who he’s not only paying off for some reason, but is being expected to pay more to in the future.

Jamie takes Claire back to his humble abode, but she is less than thrilled when she realizes he keeps a room inside a brothel. Similarly, the madam of said brothel is not entirely pleased at Jamie bringing his wife around - I’m getting the impression she’d been hoping to get her hooks in him eventually. Once Claire and Jamie are alone, she doesn’t waste any time in asking him if he’s taken advantage of the brothel’s “offerings” given his close proximity. He promises her that’s not the case; he keeps lodgings at the brothel because the madam is a “good customer” (I’m guessing of whatever side business he’s got going on).

All of these questions are super awkward for Jamie and Claire, but they also represent something else: the fact that these two people know each other less now than they did when they first got married. They’ve lived separate lives for years and acquired some physical consequences of age, and so it all winds up becoming more like a second wedding night of sorts rather than a joyful reunion. There are a ton of parallels between this episode and “The Wedding” in season one. Both Claire and Jamie slowly take turns undressing each other, and Jamie’s reaction to finding a zipper at the front of Claire’s corset is one of the best comedic beats in the whole sequence. That’s nothing compared to the moment they actually make it to the bed - and Jamie promptly headbutts Claire. Eventually, they get to it - and boy oh boy, do they get to it.

In between their rounds of naked funtimes and tracking the signs of aging on each other’s bodies, Jamie fills in Claire on what he’s been up to in terms of his side business. Claire incorrectly guesses highway robbery, kidnapping for ransom and treason before Jamie admits he’s printing seditious pamphlets. He’s been arrested several times, but released due to lack of evidence. More than that, he’s smuggling liquor on the side, which gets stored beneath the brothel once it arrives in the city. None of that is enough to scare Claire away from Jamie’s smoking hot bod and they tumble into bed again. They do this a few more times until morning and then Jamie finally gets up to take care of some business.

While Jamie’s gone, there’s an unexpected knock at the door - it’s his nephew, Ian Murray, who was just a wee babe the last time Claire saw him before she went back through the stones. He’s entirely adorable and refers to Claire as “Uncle Jamie’s wife” and then takes his leave, though not before asking Claire to inform Jamie he’s looking for him.

Later, Claire ends up sharing a meal with the ladies of the brothel, who mistakenly confuse her for one of their own at first and offer her friendly tips on how to avoid getting knocked up. Claire has her own “modern” remedies for birth control that they all collectively scoff at - but then the madam walks in and curtly informs Claire that they’ll have a tray brought to her room instead, thank you very much, so she doesn’t have to eat with the girls. It’s another callback to one of the themes on this show, which is basically Claire ignoring cultural norms and nonsensical stigmas and doing whatever the hell she pleases - much to the confusion of everyone around her.

When Claire gets back upstairs, however, she gets a surprise: there’s a man inside and he’s in the process of ransacking Jamie’s room. He demands to know where Jamie is and Claire insists she has no idea. When he threatens to do something particularly nasty to her to jog her memory, Claire demands he leave - but the man comes at her and grabs her before a smash cut to the credits. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure dude is gonna get his ass handed to him for even laying a hand on Claire.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:
- After all of Geordie’s bitching and complaining about having to run errands for Jamie, I was relieved on everyone’s behalf when he decided to quit after finding Jamie and Claire together in the print shop. (Though something tells me he’ll be coming back around. No one can stay away from Jamie.)
- Jamie’s wearing glasses now because of failing eyesight, and his line about looking like an old man made me laugh because putting glasses on Sam Heughan is the Outlander equivalent of putting glasses on a hot girl in a rom-com.
- I have a longer piece in the works about this, but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that both this and the wedding night episode were both directed by women. They’re two of the sexiest eps in the show’s history.
- Aside from Jamie’s wheeling and alcohol dealing, I get the impression there’s something else he’s not filling Claire in on if his side convo with Fergus is any indication. Either way, it’s something he’s going to need Ned Gowan for - from a legal perspective?

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 three, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. I’m assuming Claire will be alright, so just how much pain is that guy going to be in for touching her? What do you think Brianna and Roger are up to back home? And what’s Jamie still keeping from his prodigal wife? We’ll find out soon!