“For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It is appropriate, my friends, that we reach the end of our mock journey through the novel Voyager, and the third season of Outlander that it will become, in this turbulent time where America has come face to face with ourselves— many of us aghast at the sight of our own reflections in the mirror.
For the end of Claire and Jamie’s story, in this book anyway, is the beginning of our own. “America never was a place to me; it was an idea,” said Daily Show host Trevor Noah recently. (Echoes of Langston Hughes: “America never was America to me.”) And it is that idea with which Diana Gabaldon caps Voyager: freedom is an idea, yes. But sometimes freedom is a place.
We’ve talked a lot about the theme of freedom in these mock episodes, of course, starting with my FIRST ARTICLE on Voyager. The struggle of our protagonists in this book—the struggle to escape the enslavements of the body and of the mind, the enslavement of time, the enslavement of unfulfilled desire—and its culmination in freedom, could be expressed in no better way than Diana bringing her star-crossed couple to the place that has represented freedom to millions of people since Columbus accidentally landed here.
They called it the New World, verdant and vast, a place of new hope, where one could begin again. And it was always a mirage, of course. Stolen from the Indians; built on the backs of slaves. But still, hope. But still, the dream of freedom prevailed. Because it is a delicious dream, that our belief in ourselves is, ultimately, our last, best tool. The great aspiration of America—to create our own identity, whole cloth, without the burden of the past to remind us of the lives we would just as soon escape. As Lawrence Stern says to Claire, “Faith is as powerful a force as science… but far more dangerous.”
Claire and Jamie have spent three books trying to escape the past. Trying to forge a future that doesn’t rob them of the very lives they set out to create. Can they begin again, once the past has slipped away? Or will it come back to haunt them?
I guess we’ll all have to tune in next time, when we get to Drums of Autumn, to start answering that question.
In the meantime, let’s finish this story. We catch up with Claire and Jamie now, fresh from the horror of watching Margaret Campbell channel the dead, as they make their ultimate voyage.
TITLE: THE NEW WORLD
THEME: Rebirth. The turbulent sea journey will serve as metaphor for the “birth” process, through which Jamie and Claire will be free to begin anew.
BOOK CHAPTERS INCLUDED:
PART NINE (WORLDS UNKNOWN) STARTING WITH CHAPTER 62
Including: The culmination of the Geillis storyline; the sea chase with the Porpoise into the mouth of a hurricane which eventually shipwrecks the Porpoise and nearly kills Claire a couple times; then Jamie and Claire swimming for a distant shore.
RIVER’S EDGE, ROSE HALL PLANTATION
Standing near the burning wreckage of the plantation, Jamie makes a deal with his old friend Lord John Grey that he will “steal” John’s boat to pursue Ian Jr. in Abandawe.
Claire and Jamie silently agree not to mention some other news to John: they saw the Bruja sail by earlier that night, as the drums continued to reverberate into the hills. (PS: How cool will this whole set be, huh?)
All right, so they’re sailing out of Kingston Bay—Claire, Jamie, Stern, and some of Jamie’s crew from his “McDubh” days– and Claire gets caught up in a conversation with Lawrence Stern about science and weather and supernatural phenomenon like fish falls. And while that’s all well and good, let’s be honest, shall we? None of this stuff is going to make it into the final cut. I mean, come on, they’re literally talking about the weather when we’ve got a kidnapped boy to steal back from a madwoman!
In fact, let’s just skip ahead a bit. What do you say?
THE BAY OFF THE COAST OF HISPANIOLA
Jamie orders his crew to stay with the boat and, much to their apprehension, orders them to leave if the Royal Navy comes looking for their usurped ship. Then he sets off with only Claire and Lawrence over the craggy rocks. After days of travel, they get to the standing stones—the megaliths—of Abandawe. Claire has a momentary freak-out; she had no idea these stones would be here. Jamie forbids her to touch them.
But who are we kidding? This is Claire. She reaches out to touch one and swoons, having a vision of Geillis. She knows her old rival is near, in a cave somewhere. She also knows that Geillis knows they’ve come. Lawrence leads them to…
As soon as they enter, Claire feels uneasy. This whole cave, she begins to realize, has some of the magical powers that transport her through time. There is a humming, like at Craigh na Dun. She feels faint. Jamie implores her to stay with him.
Traveling together through the cave, Jamie makes Claire promise that if one of them should have to die, it will be him and not her. After all, she could always follow Geillis through the stones to be with Bree again. But Jamie could not.
(PS: In the book, this is all in the dark, but it might have to happen outside in the TV show. Darkness + big emotional scenes doesn’t really work.)
So now there’s good news and bad news. Good news first: They find Geillis and Ian Jr.! Bad news: Ian Jr. is bound and gagged on the floor next to a pentacle made of diamond dust as Geillis, holding everyone at gunpoint, seems to be in the middle of her spell.
Geillis pours brandy over Ian Jr., clearly intending to light him on fire as she did to her late husband. Geillis, remember, believes a sacrifice is needed to time travel. And now Geillis reveals her true evil plan: to go to the future and destroy Brianna, “the last of the Lovat line.” Jamie charges her and she fires the pistol, wounding him at the hairline.
Claire doesn’t take time to assess the situation any further. A mad flare of rage overcomes her. She leaps for the ax on the ground which Geillis had been using in her ritual, and swings. Blood spurts out, black in the darkness. Geillis’s eyes go wide, then her body falls limp. She collapses to the ground, dead.
And now, bear with me as I take some creative liberties:
BOSTON, 1966, JOE ABERNATHY’S OFFICE
A close-up on a skull.
“It’s a woman,” Joe Abernathy says. “And she was murdered.”
They are examining the remains of the skeleton found in a cave a couple hundred years before.
“How do you know?” Claire asks.
Joe points out signs of trauma on the bones. Claire stares at the skull, peering into its empty eyes. “Somebody hated her,” she says. “I can feel it. Somebody hated her with their entire being.”
“Perhaps,” Joe says.
BACK IN THE CAVE
Claire, overcome with memories and the whooshing wind that has picked up in the tunnel, hears voices come and go.
Brianna’s voice as a baby, crying in her crib. The fight she had with Frank the night he died. Promises she made to Jamie.
It is dark. The pentacle on the floor grows black as the blood streams over it.
Brianna saying goodbye at Cragh na Dunh.
Claire’s wedding vows to Jamie, haltingly repeated in a language she didn’t know.
And now darkness.
Claire opens her eyes. And for a moment—just a moment—she sees Brianna hovering over her. Her red hair draping her face. Her eyes, just like her father’s. Claire is overcome with emotion. She reaches for her daughter. Is this the end?
“Brianna,” Claire whispers.
But Brianna shakes her head.
OUTSIDE THE CAVE
Brianna’s face becomes Jamie’s. Claire was not dragged through time in the cave. She is still here, with Jamie. Meanwhille, Ian Jr., traumatized but otherwise sound, is by his side.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jamie says, helping her to her feet as a storm begins to swirl the world around them and whistle through the trees.
PS: I’m assuming the finale of the season will be an hour and a half, like it was last season, because we have a lot of story to get through. If it’s not, um… well… that’s Ron Moore’s problem, I guess!
So the gang make their way as far from the cave as they can get. Claire cuts the bullet from Geillis’s gun out of Jamie’s skull, where it thankfully caused very little damage. And late that night, Ian Jr. tells them the story of his captivity, including his and the other boys’ rape at the hands of Geillis. It seems she spared his life because he wasn’t a virgin, but some of the other boys—the ones that were virgins—were sent to her room and never returned.
Okay, Jamie makes a plan: They will sail for Eleuthera, which is Dutch-owned and neutral. (Remember, Jamie is a wanted man in Scotland, and people in Jamaica might turn him in.) He’ll send Innes back to Jamaica, returning John’s boat and alerting Fergus and Marsali to join them. Meanwhile, Ian Jr. will be sent back to his mother on the first ship bound for Scotland. And Yi Tien Cho (Willoughby), forgiven by Jamie for betraying him, will be left to make his own way to Martinique, where there is a community of Chinese traders.
Sounds like a great plan, right? What could possibly go wrong? I’m kidding.
But for tonight, everything seems good. Claire gives Ian Jr. the last of the penicillin to ward off the syphilis she’s pretty sure Geillis gave him, and Jamie, tucked in sweetly with Claire, Ian Jr., and Brianna’s and young Willie’s pictures surrounding him, drifts off to sleep.
Without further ado, our team heads for the beach. They immediately see the escaped slaves have taken over the Bruja, which is beached and battered. But approaching them is the British man-o-war, the Porpoise. They have been spotted, and so they run for their own boat, Lord John’s pinnacle.
And we’re off to sea!
Jamie and Claire (and the rest of their crew) head for the nearby island of Eleuthera, but are unable to dock as they are still pursued by the Porpoise, which will destroy them will its long guns if they allow it to get too close. So they sail on.
Meanwhile, a TERRIBLE storm begins to blow in, causing horrific waves the rock the boat to and fro. (Seriously, if there’s any budget left at this point in the filming, it’s all going to have to go to the CGI team. Because the way Diana describes this storm is insane.)
They head out to sea to try to lose the rival ship, but she continues to pursue them, even risking a few shots.
The storm worsens. 40-foot waves lift the small pinnacle up into the air, then drop it like a lead weight. Jamie’s face has gone white. The sailors can be heard praying for their immortal souls. Jamie ties a rope around Claire’s waist and anchors it to the rail of the ship.
Finally, after days of pursuit, Jamie and Claire watch from their deck as the Porpoise, tilting dangerously from the waves, has the top 15 feet of its mast crack off from the pressure. The mast pitches into the sea. The Porpoise spins around erratically, and finally, after being battered by more waves, it sinks.
Now at this point in the book, Claire is thrown overboard by a giant wave, but we’re going to skip that, for reasons I will explain in a second. Let’s just have everybody watch in awe as the Porpoise goes down.
Days pass, the sun goes up and down, and eventually land is seen in the distance. “I think we’re back at Eleuthera,” says one of the sailors.
But just then—wham! The mast of their ship collapses, smashing down on Claire and whacking her like a tennis ball into the cold turbulent water.
Chaos as Claire furiously bats her arms and legs, watching her air bubbles heading in the wrong direction… she is upside-down. She scrambles to swim, her head eventually bobbing up into an oncoming wave, only to be plowed down again.
Her head clonks against a surface. Her eyes begin to close. She is momentarily pulled by the rope around her waist, but then it snaps. She watches it drift away from her. Her arms float by her sides.
Joe Abernathy’s voice:
Oh, de headbone connected to de… neckbone. And de neckbone connected to de… backbone.
And then Jamie is there, suddenly, swimming up to her. (PS: Yes, this is all different from the book. In the book, Claire falls into the ocean TWICE and Jamie saves her the second time. This always seemed redundant to me, however. So I’m creating an amalgam scene. Because I’m a writer, and I always like to find excuses to use the word “amalgam” in conversation.)
Okay, where we were?
Claire is in the water and Jamie comes to rescue her. He gets her up to the surface, where she clings to a piece of floating debris, but her leg is being dragged down by something. Jamie swims below and untangles her leg from a piece of the broken mast. While down there, he sees a piece of bone protruding from her mangled leg.
They are safe and floating, though her leg is killing her. But now…
Where is the ship?
They are caught up in the tide, bobbing up and down, sometimes seeing the distant shore and sometimes seeing nothing but ocean. Claire grows calm, as the icy cold of the water overtakes her.
“Damn you, Sassenach!” Jamie screams. “I swear if ye die on me, I’ll kill you!”
Claire and Brianna (7) swim in the ocean. Brianna, not the most confident swimmer, clings to her mother as the waves approach.
“Can I show you a trick?” Claire asks. She stands and faces the approaching wave, then takes her daughter’s hand. “When the wave comes, we’re going to dive into it.”
“I can’t,” Brianna says. “I’m scared.”
“Don’t be scared,” Claire says. “Just pretend you’re a seal. We’re both seals. You ready? Here comes the wave. We’re going to dive right into it.”
“You won’t drown,” Claire promises. “Because I’ll be holding your hand. You ready? Here comes the wave. Hold your breath. One, two, thr–”
1767, IN THE WATER
A wave splashes Claire’s face. But it is a small wave. Jamie picks her up and carries her. They are on the shore. Claire, through her blurry state, acknowledging trees, blue sky, yellow sand… she closes her eyes and passes out.
IN A BEDROOM
Claire wakes up, surreally lying in a nice bed in a warmly lit bedroom. Jamie is attending to her. Her leg is bandaged.
A woman comes in, greeting her new guests. She confirms that the rest of their crew have been rescued and are eating lunch in the kitchen. She introduces herself as Miss Patsy Olivier.
They ask her what island they have landed on.
And she says, “You are not on an island at all. You are on the mainland; in the Colony of Georgia.”
“America,” Claire says softly. “The New World.”
And, after 900 pages, half a dozen assumed identities, several brushes with death, their enslavements, both literal and mental, the loss of everyone they know and the abandonment of the world they left behind, we get this glorious ending:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
To read my Voyager series in its entirety, click here.
And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link: Sassenach Jewelry