And here comes your spoiler alert: We’re discussing Outlander season three, episode four in this article, as well as the book Voyager. So now you know that.
Okay, first and foremost, I’d like to tip my hat the extraordinary Toni Graphia, who wrote this episode, because this is a crazy amount of plot to try to fit into one hour of television without losing your audience, and I really think she pulled it off.
Helwater is one of the sequences of Voyager that I relegated to flashback in my mock episodes—Mock 10, to be exact. I did this partly for practical reasons: I needed to condense the plot into 13 manageable chunks!
But I also suggested incorporating this story into the later scene at the Governor’s Ball in Jamaica for another reason. It allows Claire to learn about Willie at the same time as us, the audience, and also ties in the theme of deception (Jamie pretending he’s not a Jacobite, and pretending he’s not Willie’s father) with the deception they’re perpetrating at the ball (Jamie pretending to be a Frenchman).
Okay, whatever, that’s not what they did.
Instead, we get this hotness:
I will say this, while we’re on the subject. Outlander has become known for its sex scenes, but this one may have actually been the most graphic, while simultaneously the least sexy, one we’ve had. So kudos to director Brendan Maher for that, because that is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
Now a lot of this episode was taken pretty directly from the book: the somewhat convoluted story of Jamie fathering Willie and then killing Geneva’s husband to protect the baby, sticking around for a few years to “raise” the baby, handing the child off to Will and Grace—I mean John and Isobel—and making his way back to Scotland. (PS: That’ll be a fun wedding night.) Not a lot of deviations from the text for Jamie, but still, a masterful job of condensation.
Mmm, I love it when naked men use big words.
Now as far as Claire’s story goes, I have to say, I feel like they were reaching a bit to find some plot for her. We’ve seen her poring over old documents since last season at this point, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think I can do another “Where is the captain’s log?” bit.
You can almost hear the conversation in the writer’s room: “Claire needs more to do. Let’s have her managing her medical practice from afar, to prove that she’s a modern woman. Let’s send her and Brianna to a bar that’s just for men to prove that they’re modern women. Let’s show Brianna fix a carburetor to prove that she’s, you know, a modern woman. It’ll tie in with the theme of Geneva being a… oh, never mind.”
Yes, Caitriona, sorry. Let’s move on.
On a more serious note, I did love this tiny little moment from Isobel, in which she quite eloquently states the theme of the episode, and, for that matter, the whole show:
As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m a sucker for those lines that “tie the room together,” theme-wise.
The part that really intrigued me as a writer, though, was the very ending: the anachronistic choice to play that haunting version of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall (Blue Eyed Son)” over the intercutting shots of Jamie leaving his son and Claire giving up on finding Jamie.
We don’t get a lot of anachronisms in Outlander, a show that has become known for its incredible attention to period detail as much as for Sam Heughan’s pec muscles, and so this choice was a bit of a risk. People might not like it, they might be jarred by it.
But for me, it was probably the first moment this season when I felt like Claire and Jamie were in the same TV show, and that they were destined to find each other. The producers of this show took the leap that they could spend four whole episodes (four and a half, I’m guessing) with their leads separated from each other by 200 years and a lifetime of disparate experiences over a 20-year gap, and that people would stick with this show and still root for them to get together.
That we would still remember this:
The fantastic ending to this episode, with that great song playing out our heroes’ departures, taking us through the end credits, was a declaration that their lives have never ceased to be inextricably linked.
And you know what that means, my friends:
Till next time.
And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link: Sassenach Jewelry