Outlander 3.3: On Debt and Duty


SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. We’re talking about Outlander season three, episode three, as well as the book Voyager in this article. Ye be warned.

So first off…

#MurtaghsStillAlive fans say “Whaaa! Whaaa!”


Yes, but they were wrong, weren’t they?!

All right, lovelies. So last week, I sounded off a little bit about the pace of this season so far. Yes, it’s true, I would have moved things along a bit (and in fact, did so in my mock episodes).

But I will concede that this slower pace, as many of you pointed out in the comments, is really allowing us to feel the weight of separation on our two protagonists, and giving us a fuller sense of just how friggin’ LONG 20 years is. Claire is about 30 when Jamie sends her back through the stones, pregnant with Brianna, and close to 50 when she returns.



So, yes, allowing us to experience all the ups and downs (or in Jamie’s case, basically just downs) that they go through is making that separation all the more painful.

As to how they’re going to get to all the PLOT of this book when they’re moving this slowly… well, I’ll let Ron Moore worry about that, I guess.

For now, let’s talk about episode three.

First off, MURTAGH’S ALIVE, babies! Yes, he does seem to be in the process of being sent to the Colonies (AKA America) for, oh I don’t know, 15 more years or so. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Ron Moore (and Matt Roberts, the simply divine writer who gave us this particularly good episode) wouldn’t have kept him alive just to ship him off again. So look for a swimming Scotsman escaping the SS New World sometime in the next episode, I should say.

In my first article on Voyager, I talked about the challenges this book poses, as it takes away some of the defining tropes of television, such as milieu and consistent characters. So the decision to keep Murtagh alive (and I’m assuming bringing him along on this book’s adventure) was a very smart one. For a story that will bring us a lot of new faces, it’ll be a nice tie-in to previous seasons to have this significant character around.

Now the meat of this episode was basically my MOCK ONE, in which Jamie heads off to Ardsmuir and forms a friendship with Lord John Grey (fantastic casting there of David Berry, by the way), while Claire and Frank find their marriage dissolving as she pursues her medical career.

And Matt Roberts gave us a BEAUTIFUL episode, full of epic longing and emotion.


That’s true. They really do.

Still, every character was given significant time to express the toll of the years. It’s a tough narrative arc for Claire, in particular, who’s wrestling with the part she’s been playing for 18 years, and the true nature she’s been suppressing.

You could argue, I suppose, that she has no right to be angry with Frank when he says he wants a divorce (the second time, when Brianna is 18). After all, they’ve been living separate lives for over a decade, and both were very much on the same page that their marriage had persisted up to that point for the sole purpose of giving Brianna a loving home throughout her childhood. In other words, they stayed together for the sake of the kid.

So now that Brianna is 18, what’s the problem? Yes, Frank is saying that he’ll take Brianna to England for college, but she was probably going to leave home anyway, right? And yet, Claire’s anger and frustration here are clearly about more than what’s on the surface.


Both Claire and Frank have lived lives of somewhat unendurable sacrifice since she returned. It’s nobody’s fault and everybody’s fault, I guess. The fact is, Frank is absolutely right—she could never stop loving Jamie more than anything that Frank could have offered. Is that Frank’s fault? No. Can she really blame him for falling in love with another woman, when he deserves to be loved as much as anybody? Of course not.

But the blame is there, because the heartbreak is there, and there’s no one else around to receive it. If this were a different kind of TV show, based on a different kind of book, the pain of this broken marriage would very much take center stage for the rest of the series.

Thankfully, this is a Diana Gabaldon book, so instead of doing that, Frank gets hit by a bus and we get to go back to this:


And speaking of this hottie—seriously, did anyone else think it was funny that no matter how much “soot” makeup they put on Sam Heughan, they can’t seem to make him not hot?—let’s talk about Ardsmuir for a second.

This was really an extraordinary job of condensation on the part of Matt Roberts. He had one episode—half of an episode, really, since the other half is about Claire—to not only get Jamie to prison and introduce Lord Grey, but also bring in the Duncan Kerr stuff, have Jamie escape to explore the island, have Jamie return and remember who Lord Grey is, have them form a crucial friendship (hinting at more, perhaps, on the part of John), let us know Murtagh’s there, get the prison closed, get Jamie to Helwater… oh my God, my head is spinning.

This could have been a hot mess in the hands of a lesser writer, but instead it was a lovely and intriguing character study of two men with a whole bucketful of backstory and pain, finding themselves finally feeling alive again through the magic of a human connection.

Kudos to both actors (and some rid-unk-ulously beautiful cinematography) for such a gorgeous hour of television.

And while that’s all well and good, and this episode served as a lovely sendoff to Tobias Menzies (who this time I think we really won’t see again), let’s be honest, shall we? I’m DYING to get to Helwater.

It’s all getting real now, folks.

I’ll close by saying adieu to Mr. Menzies. Thank you, sir, for two simply amazing performances as two very different, but very damaged, people.


Till next week, darlings.

To keep up with season three of “Outlander” on STARZ, follow Rebecca Phelps on Twitter @DownWorldNovel, “like” us on Facebook at Novel2Screen, or just follow this blog.

To read my Voyager series in its entirety, click here. Also, be sure to check out my writing on TV Topik.

And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link:  Sassenach Jewelry


4 thoughts on “Outlander 3.3: On Debt and Duty

  1. You are so right about the beautiful cinematography! The Scottish countryside is an incredible vibrant contrast to the miserable squalor of the prison. Tobias Menzies made me feel much more sympathy for the series Frank than the book Frank. While I am sorry to see him go, I am so ready for Helwater and Wee William. Thanks for the recap. It is always wonderful to get your point of view.


  2. Really think this Episode was the best of season 3 so far. So so glad to see Murtagh ALIVE! I just love him. He has the greatest smile and eye winker. Men do wink anymore for some reason. Always makes me blush. Looking forward to seeing Claire, Jamie, and even Murtagh together again!


  3. You’re dying to get to Helwater? Funny – I kept hoping we’d just deal with that little chapter in a flashback. I cannot abide Geneva or what results….maybe if William had been written in a more appealing fashion (I’ve read all the books and he has yet to grow on me) I’d feel differently. I simply can’t buy into this set of circumstances….but in a funny way I can’t wait to see how the writers get me over this bump in the road (assuming they can)….I’ve LOVED the first three episodes so I’ll have faith!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s