Spoilers ensue about both the show and the book. Watch Outlander 3.8 before reading.
So this episode, “First Wife,” (the eighth out of thirteen) pretty much combines my Mock Episode Four, which I called “Home”—not too different from the “Home Sweet Home” that writer Matt Roberts considered for it—and my Mock Episode Five, which I called “Paying the Piper.”
Now, part of the reason it took me two mock episodes to cover this section of the book is because I included flashbacks to Jamie’s time in the cave in the first one, which we didn’t need here because we saw him in the cave in episode two, comme ça:
Everybody got that? Great. Let’s talk about this episode.
I’m going to be perfectly honest: I found myself zoning out a bit for parts of it. In fairness to writer Joy Blake (her first for this series) and director Jennifer Getzinger—hey, both women!—this part of the book is kind of the Basil Exposition of “Voyager.” Part of the reason I broke it up with so many flashbacks and action sequences in my mock episodes was just because otherwise it’s a talkfest.
And talk they sure did. I will now illustrate this point, using dialogue from “Mean Girls”:
Jenny talks to Claire:
Jamie talks to Jenny:
Claire talks to these cute kids:
This upsets Jenny, so she talks to Jamie again:
Also, not for nothing, I seem to recall the introduction of our favorite hard-to-spell antagonist Laoghaire’s children in the book coming during a fabulously en flagrante moment which involves Jamie burrowing between Claire’s thighs.
Here, we get them doing, what else? Talking. Voilà:
And then Laoghaire shoots Jamie in the arm, which I realize is not a good thing, but, hey, at least Claire got to break into doctor mode again, which always puts her in a better mood. Lemons, meet lemonade.
Now, all kidding aside, the episode did include some lovely moments and some much-needed explanation of how this whole two-wife mess came to be in the first place.
I especially liked the addition of the moment between Jamie and his younger stepdaughter, which beautifully illustrated a recurring theme of the season. Namely, Jamie has had three children of his own now, and hasn’t gotten to raise any of them. The promise of being a father to these lovely girls was surely what compelled him to try to make it work with Laoghaire.
So what did we lose in this condensed version of the Broch Tuarach part of the book? We lost the part that I never really liked anyway, which is Claire running away only to turn around and come right back. We lost the setup of Fergus and Marsali being together (spoiler alert, by the way), so I suppose next week we’ll get that with no preamble.
So far, no biggie, but the next change seemed a bit odd to me.
In the book (and in my Mock Four), Claire decides that she absolutely wants to recommit to her life with Jamie no matter what, and returns to save Jamie’s life with the penicillin. From that moment on, any transgressions the two many have committed in their 20 years of separation are forgiven, and they’re once again inseparable.
It’s such an important moment that I made it the button at the end of Mock Four in order to really highlight it.
Here, however, the writers have decided to prolong her indecision about this life, even as they escort Ian, Jr., to Silkies’ Island (a section which is considerably shorter here than I had it in my mock episodes, btw). They even go so far as to move Jamie’s fabulous “Will you take me for the man I am” speech to this crucial moment, rather than leaving it earlier, as in the book.
The fact that Claire doesn’t get a chance to answer, however, makes me worry that we are risking her coming off as rather cold, and frankly, a bit hypocritical, since, as Jamie points out, she just spent 20 years raising their baby with another guy. This is the second episode in a row where she’s pretty much done nothing but pick fights with Jamie. And while some of them may be justified, nobody forced her to come here.
And even though all this fighting does allow them to start some pretty hot and heavy angry sex sessions (seriously, I think we all needed Jenny to douse us with water after that one), it does make me worry for our fearless duo.
And yet, I will say this: I got the feeling, both from the writing and from Caitriona’s performance, that there’s more at play here than simple resentment that her husband married her mortal enemy. There’s an anger in Claire now, an anger about the missing years. You can feel the weight of it hanging over these two characters, over the incessant questions asked by Jenny about why Claire didn’t write, why she didn’t look for Jamie:
They screwed up. They lost 20 years, when there was no reason for it. Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. Claire didn’t have to leave. They made a horrible mistake. And there’s nothing they can do to fix that. You could almost argue that Claire isn’t mad at Jamie, so much as she’s mad at time.
I’ve talked a lot about the theme of faith in “Voyager” and the “Outlander” books. It’s interesting to see how it’s playing out this season.
I’ll leave us with this thought, as we look forward to next week’s seafaring adventures: at some point, and in some way, Claire is going to have to have a definitive moment of coming to terms with this anger. Otherwise, why get on the boat at all?
Till then, let’s just rewatch that angry sex scene a couple more times, shall we?
And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link: Sassenach Jewelry