Outlander season 3, episode 1 finally aired and “Droughtlander” is over. In a post Battle of Culloden world, Jamie, Claire, and Frank have to literally and figuratively pick up the pieces of their lives.
Fans of the Outlander novels saw Diana Gabaldon’s universe expand in the season 3 debut. Although some dialogue in the farmhouse was directly from her novels, other moments elaborated on things that have only been hinted at in the eight Outlander novels that are currently published.
In the Outlander novels, Jamie (Sam Heughan) barely remembers specifics from the Battle of Culloden. Eventually, he mentions some details as they come back to him over the years to Claire (Caitriona Balfe). In response to a fan’s question on Twitter concerning how showrunner Ron Moore handled the details of exactly what happened to Jamie, Gabaldon was pleased.
I showed them my version (from book 9). Theirs is pretty close. https://t.co/GRLdqzJcIw
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) September 10, 2017
In case anyone is actually nervous, there’s not going to be an issue with the series overtaking the books as is the case with George R.R. Martin and Game of Thrones. Gabaldon is well into writing the ninth Outlander novel that has the working title, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone. On the whole, she writes faster than Martin, publishing Outlander novels every three years or so, and a few short stories in between.
The Battle of Culloden
While holding the dragonfly in amber that Hugh Monroe had given him and Claire as a wedding present, a critically wounded Jamie fades in and out of consciousnesses among the dead and dying on the battlefield. Interspersed with flashbacks to the battle, Jamie sees visions of Claire.
Historically, the battle lasted about 15 minutes, and is one of history’s biggest military disasters. The forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie were half starved, needlessly delayed, and forced to give a Highland charge in a swamp. The only wonder is that Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower), dressed as if he walked off the cover of a box of shortbread cookies, wasn’t immediately captured and hanged.
During the battle, Jamie ends up in hand-to-hand combat with Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). The two are equally matched, and fight with a fury intensified by the hatred of their previous meetings. Randall strikes Jamie a critical saber gash across his thigh, but Jamie manages to give a life-ending blow to Randall. He stabs Randall in the stomach with his dirk and turns it. There is no coming back from a wound like that in the 18th century or in the present.
Claire’s prediction/historical knowledge of season 1 comes true: Randall dies at Culloden. In a bizarre twist of fate, Randall falls on top of an unconscious Jamie. The pressure of Randall’s body, lying across Jamie like a lover, is likely what stops Jamie from bleeding out due to the saber wound.
Meanwhile in America
Frank and Claire restart their lives in Boston, where Frank has accepted the opportunity to teach history at Harvard. Essentially they end up playing house. Claire cooks, cleans and wears maternity clothes that look like they came off the set of I Love Lucy. Meanwhile, Frank works and cracks jokes, including a groan-worthy attempt at an American accent and “rustling up vittles” comment. It’s only superficial lightheartedness, there is no real affection between them.
There is always something to remind Claire of her past, whether it’s her skills at cooking over an open fire when the stove doesn’t work, or if it’s a bird outside her window whose tweeting reminds her of the Scottish countryside.
On top of that, there’s the lovely helping of misogyny from Dean Jackson, Frank’s boss, who clearly doesn’t like women with opinions regardless if they are well read, and taking an interest the current presidential election in the Boston Globe.
Dean Jackson sneers at Claire’s suggestion that women should be at Harvard Law as they are already at Harvard Medical School. Despite discovering that Claire was a WWII nurse, Jackson retorts how comforted a very pregnant Claire must be that she’s about to “resume more important and fitting domestic duties.”
In the farmhouse
Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) finds Jamie on the battlefield, and brings him to a farmhouse where some of the survivors have taken refuge. Running would be futile as the British are everywhere. All that remains is a few hours with comrades until they are discovered and shot as traitors. Perhaps death in the initial battle would have been a kinder fate. Rupert lets Jamie know that he hasn’t quite forgiven him for killing Dougal, but he bears him no ill will in as much as they are all going to die soon anyway.
The farmhouse is eventually discovered by the Duke of Pardloe/Earl of Melton, who also happens to be John Grey’s (Oscar Kennedy) brother. He can’t shoot Jamie as Jamie saved his brother’s life, and a debt of honor is at hand. Jamie isn’t exactly grateful for being spared. He has lost everything: Claire, his friends, his lands. In his mind, he has nothing left. He’d rather die, but Melton will not give him satisfaction.
Instead, Melton ends up packing Jamie in a wagon in the dead of night to send him back to Lallybroch. Melton doesn’t suspect that Jamie will survive the journey, but at least Jamie’s death will not be directly at his own hand. The Grey family debt of honor is repaid.
Claire and Frank’s difficulties come to a head. Claire, once again, shrugging off Frank’s touch and claiming she wants to be an American citizen because she has no affection for England is too much for Frank. He has reached his breaking point as a husband and war veteran. He snaps that Claire has not lived up to her end of their bargain because she’s still constantly distant and living in the past.
Claire counters that she’s left everything behind, and though Frank can reminisce about the old country she can’t. She let’s him know if it’s just a lack of sex there are plenty of willing women in Boston who can fix that situation for him, and she ends up throwing an ashtray at his head.
They end up at a stalemate with Frank leaving for work, telling Claire if she wants to stay than she should truly commit and stay, but if not she should go. Things are still unresolved as he spends that night the couch. Unable to sleep, Frank starts to write a letter to the Reverand Wakefield to find out more about Jamie Fraser. He doesn’t get very far as Claire comes down the stairs and announces her waters have broken.
Frank and Claire end up at the hospital. They attempt to put their disagreement behind them and try to focus on what’s important: the birth of Claire’s child. They reconcile as Claire is wheeled off with a doctor who would rather talk to Frank than to Claire. After one more experience with misogyny at its best, Claire is put to sleep against her will and wakes up not knowing if her baby is dead or alive.
Frank comes in holding Brianna, and he and Claire have a tearful reunion. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try to start fresh, there’s always something. The nurse remarks, “Where did she get that red hair?” They are doomed. How many more times over the years will “the ghost” of Jamie Fraser come between them?