Outlander: Through a Glass, Darkly

Catriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in season 2 episode 1 of OutlanderPreviously on Outlander: Claire Randall touched some very old stones in the Middle of Nowhere, Scotland and was hurled back to the 18th century where, for somewhat insane and complicated reasons, she had to marry the hunkiest man available. Poor girl. There were some adventures and shenanigans and sex, and then things got truly horrifying when the ultimate Big Bad, Captain Jack Randall (an ancestor of Claire’s 20th century husband!) took a shine to Jamie and raped and tortured him while he was in prison. Claire was able to spring Jamie from the horrorshow and slapped him out of being suicidal, and then the two of them and their unborn child hopped on a ship for France to maybe try to prevent the Jacobite Rebellion.

Claire wakes in the middle of the standing stones, seeming confused, and realises she’s lost something. She searches desperately for it, finds an old ring, then begins to wail. She VOs that ‘he’ was gone—and so was everyone else. The world she’d just left was now dust. So, looks like she’s back in the 20th century.

She makes her way to the road and a car comes upon her. She seems startled and uncertain at the sound of the horn. The driver steps out and asks if she’s ok, because she looks a bit bewildered and like she’s on her way to the Renaissance fair or something. Claire just looks at him blankly, then asks him what year it is, while advancing on the poor guy with some seriously crazy eyes. He tells her it’s 1948. She then asks who won the Battle of Cullodon, completely flipping out on the poor man, who tells her the British won, of course. She collapses into the road, weeping.

New(ish) credits with more French-looking people, sex, and one guy actually just standing around with a huge knife held behind his back. Like you do.

Frank has been summoned to the hospital. The doctor informs him that Claire’s resting comfortably and seems to be in good health, though she needed a sedative to calm her down.

Frank is shown to her room, where a radio is playing some Billie Holliday. Without looking to see who’s come into the room, she rudely asks him to turn the radio off and complains about how noisy the modern world is. Frank turns off the radio and approaches. She sees his reflection in the window and clearly has to tell herself that this is Frank, her husband, and not Jack Randall. She greets him politely—too politely—and he tells her how overjoyed he is that she’s back. He moves closer to her and she flashes back to Jack Randall and flinches. Poor Frank doesn’t know what to do. He soothingly tells her that they’re going to stay with Reverend Wakefield for a little while. She asks if Mrs Graham still works for him, because she needs to talk to her. Frank notices the clothes piled on a chair nearby and examines the corset, puzzled.

At Wakefield’s, the reverend watches Claire, who’s out in the garden frantically paging through books, and asks if she’s said anything about, you know, what the hell happened to her and where she’s been the past two years. Frank briskly says she hasn’t, but he had her clothes looked at by some friend of his who said they’re excellent examples of 18th century Scottish garb and quite valuable and where the heck did Frank get them? Frank realises there’s something crazy here, because this isn’t the sort of outfit you just pick up at H&M. Wakefield wonders why she’s suddenly so obsessed with the Jacobite rebellion. Frank has no idea, since she had no interest in Scottish history before she disappeared. Wakefield suggests Frank start looking for answers but Frank, being super patient and supportive, says he’ll just wait until she’s ready. Good man, but I find it hard to believe that any normal person wouldn’t have made, ‘So glad you’re back! What the heck happened?’ pretty much their first query after their spouse resurfaced after just a few days, let alone years.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]I find it hard to believe that any normal person wouldn’t have made, ‘So glad you’re back! What the heck happened?’ pretty much their first query after their spouse resurfaced after just a few days, let alone years.[/cryout-pullquote]

Claire can’t seem to find any information on Jamie in the books, which frustrates her. She’s also upset by the noise of jets flying overhead. Mrs G says everyone thinks there’ll be a war with Russia soon, and Claire snaps about the fact there’s always another war to be fought. She then starts fondly remembering Jamie and Mrs G comments on how Claire always talks about his humour and his smile and his hair. Claire starts to get upset at the thought that he’s dead and has been for about two centuries and she can’t find any answers about what happened to him on the battlefield. Mrs G takes Claire’s hands and tells her she had an extraordinary adventure and should treasure that, but not spend the rest of her life chasing a ghost when there’s a living man who loves her dearly. They both look at Frank, standing at the window, and he’s got such a very sad look on his face it really breaks my heart a little. Aww, Tobias Menzies, I’ve missed you!

That evening, on his way to bed, Frank is waylaid by Claire, who invites him into her room so they can have a talk. They sit by the fire and reminisce about the last night they were together, before Claire disappeared. She starts to tell him that she wants to explain herself, and he eagerly says she doesn’t have to—ever! It doesn’t matter where she’s been or why or how, all he cares about is that she’s back! Frank—are you kidding me? Seriously, I get that he loves her quite a lot, but it just doesn’t seem realistic for someone to be this willing to overlook their spouse’s prolonged disappearance. However happy you are that they’ve returned, you’d want and deserve some sort of explanation. You might let them off the hook if they were only gone for a couple of days, but years? No.

Well, he’s going to get that explanation, whether he wants it or not. Claire only asks that he save all his questions for the end. He swallows, nods, and gets ready for a long night.

And a long night it is. By the time Claire’s done it looks like it’s very early in the morning. Frank puts another log on the fire and tries to digest everything he’s just heard. Claire admits she knows it sounds crazy. He picks up the corset again, nods, rubs his forehead, and agrees that believing the story is quite the leap of faith, but it’s one he’s prepared to make, of course. Claire refuses to let him just be a good, supportive man, though, and accuses him of patronising her, adding that his academic brain must be telling him that his ex-wife is either crazy or has made up some nutsy story to drive him away. He homes in on the ‘ex-wife’ bit and she reminds him that she married another man. Right, so that would make the marriage to Jamie invalid, Claire, not your first marriage. Marrying someone else doesn’t automatically dissolve the first marriage, that’s not quite how divorce works.

Frank notes that she’s still wearing their wedding ring, so clearly she didn’t completely give up on them. He goes on to say that yes, her story is insane, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about is that she’s back.

Claire: Did you miss the part where I was having quite a lot of sex with another man for two years? Lots and lots of sex? And I loved him, seemingly far more than I love you?

Frank: Yes, thank you for saying that, which is actually kind of shitty of you when I’m trying my hardest to be helpful and believe you and give you whatever it is you want.

Actually, what does Claire want? I’m not sure even she quite knows. Does she want to drive Frank away? It kind of seems like it.

Frank roughly says that she doesn’t seem to quite understand (or even to have considered, I must say) what it was like for him, to have her just vanish. People tried to convince him that she’d run off with a lover, and he tried to believe that too, so he could go ahead and start hating her, but it just didn’t work, because he knew, deep down that she hadn’t left of her own volition. He’s willing to accept her feelings for Jamie and the fact that leaving him broke her heart. He desperately tells her how much he loves her and wants them to have a life together. She abruptly tells him she’s pregnant and a look of sheer joy comes over his face for a few moments, and then he realises who the father is. She confirms that the child is Jamie’s and that Frank needs to consider what this means for all of them. Frank lunges at her (ahh, there are those Randall genes!) and stands over her, one fist clenched, shaking, then seems to realise what he’s doing and rushes out of the room. He hurries out of the house to some junk shed on the property and immediately starts smashing things in rage. Yeah, that’s more like a normal person.

Later, his Englishness reasserted, he apologises to Wakefield for the damage. Wakefield tells him it’s fine, that they have other things to consider. Clearly Frank’s filled him in on Claire’s condition, but perhaps not the whole story. Wakefield asks if Frank ever wanted kids and Frank says they tried but she wasn’t getting pregnant, so he had himself tested and it turns out he’s sterile. He sort of forgot about that for a second, when Claire told him she was pregnant, but then it all came crashing back in. Wakefield points out that other men have faced this situation, going all the way back to Mary and Joseph.

Frank: I’m pretty sure this baby isn’t the second coming of Christ.

Wakefield’s little nephew comes in for a brief chat with his uncle that mostly serves to show that the tyke calls Wakefield ‘father’ now, giving Wakefield the opportunity to tell Frank that kids believe whatever reality they’re presented with. He sits with Frank and tells him there’s a child with no father and a man with no child in this situation, so surely this could pretty much fix itself?

Frank thinks about it, then goes to Claire and offers to pick up where they left off. He wants them to be together, to be a family. He announces he’s been offered a post at Harvard, so they can really and truly start over. He has a few conditions, though. The child will be raised as theirs—that is, Claire’s and his, there will be no telling it about its real, centuries-dead father, which is probably a good call. How would you ever begin to explain that? His other condition: Claire needs to give up her research into Jamie’s fate. She has to leave that other life, and Jamie, behind entirely. She nods and says she knows, and that she even promised Jamie she would do so. So, she agrees. He embraces her tightly and she hesitantly puts her arms around him. After a few moments, she pulls away and fetches her 18th century clothes, handing them to Frank to dispose of. She starts to take off Jamie’s wedding ring, and when Frank sees how much that upsets her, he quietly tells her to do it when she’s ready. Is he going for sainthood or what?

Claire packs while Frank burns the clothes in a barbeque in the backyard. Frank! Those were valuable! At least donate them to a museum or something!

Claire and Frank fly to America, landing in New York. Claire hesitates at the top of the stairs leading from the plane, still seeming uncertain at the sight of modern-day places, with their skyscrapers and omnipresent noise. She slowly makes her way down the stairs to Frank, who holds out a hand to her. She smiles and reaches for him…

…And then we’re back in 1745 and Jamie’s helping her off the ship in La Havre, France. They talk a little about Jamie’s seasickness and Murtaugh complains about the smell and collects the luggage.

That evening, in their very nice rented rooms, Jamie carefully sits down, cradling his injured hand. Claire comes to see how he’s doing and he comments that it’s lovely having a bed that doesn’t roll back and forth. She sits beside him and asks what’s bothering him and he admits he still feels Jack’s touch, just as if he were right there. Claire tells him that she’s there, and then changes the subject to their highly risky plan to change the future. Jamie suggests they find a way to win the war against the British instead of stopping it altogether. Claire doesn’t know enough about the details to be of much help there, she just knows the disastrous end. She urges Jamie to try to infiltrate the Jacobite movement in France, get close to the key players, and undermine it that way. This is a very dangerous game, Claire, and I’m not entirely sure you fully realise that. There were a lot of very powerful people, including the King of France, who were in support of this rebellion and would not look kindly on anyone trying to wreck things. She suggests Jamie go talk to his cousin, Jared, who lives in Paris and is a Jacobite who could make some introductions. Jamie says this isn’t an honourable path, being paved with lies and all, but Claire reminds him they’ll be saving thousands of lives and Scotland’s future (well, the future of the Highlanders, at least), so surely that’s worth some lies? He’s finally persuaded and agrees to write to Jared. In the meantime, what are they going to tell Murtaugh?

Whatever they tell him, he’s not happy about it and he knows there’s a hell of a lot they’re concealing from him, and he doesn’t like that. Jamie promises to tell him everything one day and Murtaugh accepts that. Acceptance on faith is kind of the theme of this episode.

Jared’s come all the way to La Havre to see Jamie and asks what’s prompted this sudden interest in politics. He asks Jamie to prove that he’s serious about this, so Jamie takes his shirt off and shows the scars on his back. Jared’s sold. In fact, he’s so sold he hands Jamie his house in Paris and the running of his wine business while he heads off to the West Indies for a bit. Come again?

Jamie: You know I don’t know anything about the wine business, right? Other than the fact the stuff’s good to drink?

Jared (this is seriously what he says): I’ve seen you drink. You’ll do fine.

What the hell does that even mean? Because Jamie drinks wine he can also sell it? How did someone so obviously lacking in any sort of business sense build up a successful business?

Oh, and Jamie also gets 35% of the profits from the business while Jared’s away. That’s an incredibly sweet deal he just lucked into.

Claire goes for a walk along the docks and sees a commotion over by one of the ships. She goes to investigate, of course, and sees a man being carried off and into a nearby warehouse. She catches a glimpse of some sores on his hand and immediately knows it’s smallpox. She hurries into the warehouse, explaining in French that she’s a healer, and gets a closer look at the man. Jamie comes in but she tells him to stay back, but not to worry, because she can’t get it. The harbour master arrives, followed by the Comte Saint Germain. Claire tells the harbour master it’s smallpox, and the captain freaks out, accusing her of ruining him. Jamie steps in and tells the man to back off. Another victim is brought in, already dead. The harbour master agrees that it’s smallpox. Saint Germain whispers that this can still be hushed up, but it’s clearly too late for that. Claire orders the men to set up a quarentine, which does not make Saint Germain happy at all and forces Jamie to once again tell someone to back off his wife. Jamie quietly tells Claire they need to leave this up to the local authorities. Saint Germain still wants to try and keep this quiet, but it’s too late. The harbour master regretfully informs him he’ll have to destroy the ship and the cargo. Saint Germain demands to know Claire’s name and she gives it. He tries insulting her and Jamie, which nearly gets Jamie riled, but Jared steps in and calms things a bit. Still, Saint Germain tells Claire she’ll pay a price for the loss of his cargo, which is clearly worth far more to him than the lives of the people of La Havre. Can’t imagine why France had a bloody revolution less than 40 years on.

That night, Claire, Jamie, Jared and Murtaugh watch from a distance as the ship is burned. Jared warns Jamie that he’s made a powerful enemy. Jamie pretty much shrugs and says he’s heard that one before. Many times. He and Claire get into a carriage and head off to Paris.

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