MY Outlander Review – A. Malcolm

Yes after THAT wait it’s THAT reunion. And boy is it good to have Claire and Jamie back together again. Contains SPOILERS.

This being Outlander this long-awaited episode doesn’t start where we think it will but goes back in time to give us Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) point of view before Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie meet up. And to everyone’s horror (at least to those like me who haven’t read the book) Jamie seems ensconced with some French floosy (Cyrielle Debreuil) who is seeing him off to work. Though by the looks of it she might be holding a flame for Jamie (who doesn’t?); however it’s not quite certain the feeling is mutual.

In the process we get an insight into Jamie’s life. He may, to all extents and purposes, be leading the mundane life of a printer but he’s a man that still carries a concealed knife. Whether that was de rigueur back in 18th century Edinburgh, I’m not sure, but we soon get the idea that Jamie’s sense of adventure hasn’t muted any in middle age.

For starters, he’s in league with two rather dodgy characters Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk) and Lesley (Keith Fleming) – a new Angus and Rupert duo possibly in the making, and is also involved in the printing and distribution of treasonous pamphlets. One also suspects Jamie has a side line in something else. It’s not made clear at this stage but it seems a pretty safe bet it’s not legal.

And before we get to THE storyline let’s have a big shout out for Lorn MacDonald who is hysterical as the free kirker Geordie, soon exiting in a huff of moral outrage. Hopefully not for good. His “Oh God’s tooth, it’s not even noon,” line had me laughing out loud. The true mark of a great comedic performance is not to play it for laughs but to play the truth of the scene which MacDonald does to great comic effect.

Then it’s here – the long-awaited (and thanks to the producers later than we thought) reunion, whereupon Jamie faints and as soon as he comes round it’s clear that these two love each other just as much as they did 20 years ago. Both Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan excel at conveying their love for each other just through looks alone. This is immediately self-evident to the viewer but as with most human beings it’s not to our heroes, Claire and Jamie, whose own insecurities and self-doubts get in the way of the patently obvious; and soon an awkwardness arises between them, exacerbated when Jamie realises he’s sat in some ale and has to take his trousers off. (Yes, that old chestnut).

Then our lovers kiss and Jamie proves why he’s such a fantasy male for your average female viewer. He is full of passion for Claire, is desperate to kiss her but given their long estrangement asks permission first, thus combining that mix of passion and tenderness that is so damn intoxicating.

Now comes a rather glaring sticking point. In the following scene both Claire and Jamie worry about how they’ve aged. They need to do this as part of the storyline. It feeds into their awkwardness and estrangement around each other. When you get older and your body ages, it’s not unusual for insecurities to set in, particularly when meeting the ex-love of your life who you haven’t seen for two decades. The trouble is the actors haven’t aged. Moreover, they are two extremely attractive people so you have to buy into middle-aged Jamie and Claire worrying about bodies and looks that the average 20 year old would be grateful for.

Talking of ageing,  a definitely older Fergus (helped by the fact he’s now played by César Domboy) appears on the scene. Both Claire and Fergus are overjoyed to see each other though Fergus is understandably rather taken aback by Claire’s sudden appearance after all these years. Claire proves she’s still the Claire of old by immediately coming up with a backstory which seems to have Fergus convinced.

However it seems Claire isn’t the only one who is holding back. Fergus soon takes Jamie aside and asks Jamie: “What about?” Jamie replies: “I haven’t had time to think it through”. Annoyingly that’s all we get so us viewers are also in the dark. But if Jamie, who has by this point told Claire about his bastard son, is keeping something else back from Claire it must be a biggie, particularly, if he needs to consult Ned Gowan. One thing’s for sure: whatever it is, Claire won’t be happy about it.

Moreover, Jamie’s life proves even more suspect when we meet Mr Willoughby (Gary Young) a Chinese “associate” of Jamie with a penchant for licking prostitutes’ elbows. Next, Jamie surreptitiously meets some posh English bloke (Paul Brightwell) in the tavern’s cellars and by the looks of it Jamie is involved in an alcohol smuggling ring. Said posh bloke then demands more money from Jamie and threatens him. I don’t know who this guy is but he’s evidently a bad judge of character, presumably with a rather short life expectancy. Lastly, Jamie can speak some Chinese which begs the question why? Mind you, as someone who is currently trying to get to grips with the joys of Gaelic grammar and pronunciation, I’m guessing if you’re a native Gaelic speaker, as Jamie is, then the complexities of learning another language, even Chinese, must seem like child’s play.

Jamie’s dodgy connections are underlined when he takes Claire to spend their first night together in a brothel where he has his own room. Re-enter the French floosy who turns out to be the Madame of the joint and definitely not happy at the news of Jamie having a wife in tow.

Mind you, Claire is not that elated that Jamie is living in a brothel, wondering just how good a customer you must be to have your very own room. Jamie reassures her he’s not a customer of the establishment but rather Madame Jeanne is a good customer of his and keeps a room for him because he’s “often abroad late tending to business”. This seems rather unusual working hours and modus operandi for a supposed printer. Presumably (and understandably) Claire has other things on her mind to pick up on this at the time.

Then the moment we’ve been waiting for since – well what seems a bloody eternity – Claire and Jamie get down to business but in a way that Outlander excels at: from the female gaze. In other words, there’s a hell of a lot of foreplay. In addition, the scene is peppered with several references to that iconic episode from Season 1 – The Wedding (which every Outlander fan presumably knows frame by frame).

Thus it kicks off with Jamie pointing out they probably know less about each other than they did when they got married, and, just as before, Claire and Jamie spend a lot of time eating and drinking and getting to know each other first. Likewise, there’s an undressing scene where both seem as nervous of each other as they were first time round.

What is new is Claire’s lack of confidence about her own body which will resonate with many a middle-aged woman. Naked again for the first time in front of Jamie she feels embarrassed despite the fact Jamie is completely enthralled looking at her and she begs for reassurance. It’s in striking contrast to the sexually confident woman of their wedding night when Claire takes of her shift, saunters naked towards Jamie and initiates sex.

Then in another reference to the Wedding Night, Claire tells Jamie “I want to see you,” and fortunately for Claire (and possibly for quite a few viewers) Jamie happily complies. Then as they are about to get it on, Jamie accidentally head butts Claire. I’m not recommending such a move but that and them missing the pillow grounds what is obviously a very romantic scene in some sense of reality in that their lovemaking isn’t entirely plain sailing.

In The Wedding episode Jamie and Claire had sex three times. The first time was Jamie’s first awkward shag. And although Jamie now seems to be living the life of a bachelor, he clearly won’t have forgotten what to do. Therefore that scene can’t be mirrored here. What can be mirrored is the second time they had sex when they shag like crazy. So after all that build up our lovers do precisely that. Nevertheless, despite the intense passion you never doubt the love and intimacy between these two that underpins it all.

Then as in The Wedding episode Claire and Jamie follow the shagathon by slowly making love; and in a nod to the well-remembered opening shot of Episode 10, Jamie also enthusiastically starts to go down on Claire. Time may have affected his eyesight but clearly not Jamie’s enthusiasm for giving oral sex. Did I mention Jamie was a fantasy male par excellence?

What is also apparent is how insecure these two are about each other. Jamie can’t quite seem to believe that Claire has come back for him (were there no mirrors in 18th century Scotland?) and seems terrified she might leave him again; whereas Claire’s main concern seems to be if Jamie has loved someone else in the meantime. It’s a question she asks him outright and her main concern upon hearing Jamie has a son is whether he loved the mother or not. She also can’t quite believe he’s not sampling the wares so readily on offer at his abode.

The episode ends with an absent Jamie and with Claire re-entering their room after an informative chat with some of the working girls when she is threatened with being raped by a menacing stranger, ransacking the room looking for Jamie’s ledgers. Yet again, Claire is threatened with sexual violence – a seemingly recurring plot point in her 18th century life. Although it does also seem to indicate that Jamie’s activities may be more nefarious than he’s led Claire to believe.

As for Claire and Jamie it’s great to see them back together again. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have such great chemistry it’s just a joy to see them bounce off each other – literally and metaphorically. After all, the reason this show is so damn addictive is the Claire-and-Jamie relationship. The idea that two people can love each other so much is a very attractive one, particularly if your own love life may be somewhat lacking.

Of course Jamie Fraser is a fantasy male. We all know that. Firstly, he’s sublimely gorgeous to look at. Secondly, he manages to combine manliness, courage and a moral backbone while being sensitive and in tune with his woman’s needs more than a Shoreditch vegan hipster who includes feminist in his Twitter handle. But the real reason I suspect women are so attracted to the character is his deep and abiding love for Claire. Who wouldn’t want to be loved like that? Particularly in an age when you’re tempted to think you’ve got a keeper if he texts you back within three days and refrains from attaching a photo of his cock.

So well done to Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe for finding so many moments of light and shade to bring to THAT scene. It’s great to see them together and to see them both back in Scotland. Well done to Outlander for allowing what’s almost a screen no-no in that the foreplay lasted more than 30 seconds. As I’ve mentioned before, it has always bugged me that in love scenes foreplay tends to last about 10 seconds max and then the guy whacks his cock in and somehow the woman doesn’t scream out in pain. (No matter how young the heroine, it still begs the question how naturally lubricated can these women be?) Obviously with Claire now well in her 40s you haven’t got a hope in hell of that being a realistic scenario even with Jamie!

Mind you, I am looking forward to when Jamie finally tells Claire his big secret. Even more, I can’t wait for Claire’s reaction. I have a feeling he may wish, at least for a moment or two, she hadn’t come back through the stones.

Special thanks to @SarSketches for her illustration accompanying this post.

For further Outlander articles and posts, check out the following links or you can always listen to mine & Jen Brister’s podcasts on the subject!

Outlander’s Jamie Fraser: a new kind of romantic hero?

Outlanderish sex: Why going back in time makes for better nookie

Outlander Season Two – A Romance for Grown Ups

How to survive Droughtlander – Outlander vs Dragonfly in Amber

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  1. Great well written review as ever Maureen but as a reader of the books I have to stop myself telling you what Jamie’s secret matter is! It’s good!

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