MY Outlander Review – First Wife

Claire finally finds out Jamie’s secret & it’s safe to say she’s not happy.
Contains SPOILERS.

Even Ian Senior (Steven Cree), usually the calmest of all the Frasers & Murrays, looks mightily annoyed at the arrival of Claire (Caitriona Balfe), Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Young Ian (John Bell) at Lallybroch.

Ian Senior’s mood doesn’t improve when he learns that Jamie knew about his son’s whereabouts all along. The situation is exacerbated when Ian Junior blithely informs his parents that whilst in Edinburgh he’s been involved in a criminal enterprise; Jamie’s print shop and livelihood have gone up in smoke; and his Auntie Claire has murdered an official of the Crown.

It would seem that young Ian has become a surrogate son for Jamie. And given Jamie’s backstory as Red Jamie, the Dunbonnet and MacDubh, you can see why a lad like Ian is in such awe of his uncle and why his father, whose fighting days were many moons ago and is now a crippled farmer, pales in comparison. However the anger between Ian and Jamie seems to abate rather quickly.

Not so for Jenny (Laura Donnelly) and Claire. Jenny makes no bones about the fact she’s angry Claire disappeared out of their lives for 20 years. Understandably so, given she saw how broken her brother was following Claire’s absence. But underneath the tough exterior is also the hurt she feels by what she sees as Claire’s betrayal of their friendship. Jenny’s also no fool and though Jamie, thinking on his feet as always, comes up with a story to explain Claire’s absence, Jenny isn’t buying it. She knows how determined and stubborn Claire is and can’t believe she’d have left for the Colonies before finding out what exactly had happened to him. And to be fair, it’s a pretty accurate assessment of Claire’s personality.

As for Jamie, he still fears that Claire may leave him again, and we know his fears aren’t entirely groundless given he has failed to tell Claire about the small matter of him having another wife. But Jamie isn’t a skilled chess player for nothing, and realising he needs to tell her, he first tells her about his break out from Ardsmuir Prison, instigated solely by the hope that Kerr’s ramblings means she has returned. He knows she can’t fail to see it as a testament of his great love for her in that he was willing to desert his men, evade capture by the British and risk possible drowning, based on the mere rantings of a dying man, so desperate was he to have her back in his life. And just as he sums up the courage to finally tell her the truth, having adroitly laid out the groundwork, the truth decides to tell it for him, in the form of two young girls who barge into the bedroom calling him daddy. (That’s something else he’s kept quiet about).

But worse is to follow when it turns out their mother is none other than Claire’s arch-enemy, the woman who tried to have her burnt at the stake, Laoghaire (Nell Hudson). No wonder Jamie kept that particular snippet of information quiet. Jamie may be fearless but he evidently no longer has a death wish. Laoghaire is understandably angry that her husband has returned home behind her back with his first wife in tow. And like many a woman scorned, she seems hell-bent to vent most of her anger at the other woman rather than the real culprit – her husband.

Now on the back foot, Jamie admits to Claire he hadn’t told her about Laoghaire because he was a coward, fearing if he did, he’d lose her again. As it takes a lot for Jamie to be scared of anything, it’s indicative of how much Claire’s return means to him and how much the fear of losing her terrifies him. And while passionately explaining he would be willing to sacrifice everything to be with her, he accuses Claire once more of leaving him. Such an accusation justifiably hurts Claire, given that it was Jamie who had forced her to leave.

Tempers flare even further when Jamie angrily asks Claire if she has any idea what it’s like to live 20 years without a heart, whereupon Claire just as passionately points out that she has a bloody good idea of what it’s like. And here we glimpse the anger and jealously that Jamie has been feeling ever since Claire left and which has been bubbling under the surface ever since her return. Anger that she left him (yes I know it was his idea but emotions and logic very rarely meet, even in a fantasy male it seems) and jealously of Frank enjoying the life with the woman he loved and with his child that he so wanted for himself.

We haven’t seen Jamie this angry with Claire since their fight after their escape from Fort William. No doubt some of this anger is fuelled by the suspicion that his worst fears are about to materialise and Claire is about to leave him. Claire, as usual, gives as good as she gets and when Jamie leaves no room for doubt that he would do anything to keep her, their passions get the better of them and the best make-up sex/don’t-leave-me sex in the history of television looks as if it’s on the cards until sister Jenny dampens down their passions by throwing an ewer of water over them.

It turns out Jenny’s put a spanner in the works in more ways than one, as it was Jenny that ensured Laoghaire found out about Claire, presumably worried that Claire will hurt her brother again. But for someone who seems so invested in her brother’s happiness, it seems an odd way of going about things. A viewpoint her more level-headed husband shares with her and, for once, Jenny looks chastened.

She’s even more chastened the next morning when Laoghaire accidentally shoots Jamie in the arm as he begs Claire not to leave him. Fortunately for Jamie, Claire’s doctoring skills come in handy once more along with some penicillin she’s wisely brought with her, though as an 18th century Highlander, Jamie can’t figure out why being poked in the bum with a sharp needle will help his wounded arm.

However his convalescence does allow Jamie to explain to Claire the reasons behind his marriage; and it would seem a mixture of being a stranger in his own home and among his own family after all those years away, aching loneliness and a desire to finally be a husband and a father (turns out the two kids aren’t his but came as part of the package) were the deciding factors. I suspect another factor was that Jamie knew he would never love Laoghaire. Whereas Jamie could grow – if not to love – at least to feel genuine affection for someone like Mary MacNabb, with Laoghaire, he could safely be a loving father to the two children while knowing there was no danger of him ever falling in love with the mother.

However Laoghaire is refusing to bow out without getting Jamie paying her a sizeable amount of money first. In order to raise the necessary funds, Jamie’s only option seems to be to get his hands on the treasure he found during his escape from Ardsmuir.

Promising to take good care of Ian Junior, Jamie takes the lad with them. Despite this promise, Jamie promptly gets young Ian to swim to the island, despite the possibility that the freezing water might drag him out to sea. Considering Ian almost died in a fire while under Jamie’s care just a few days previously, perhaps it’s a blessing that Jamie never did get the chance to raise his own children. It also begs the question why didn’t they simply hire a boat? Moreover, how in hell’s name was Ian supposed to swim back with the treasure? Which again begs the question: why didn’t they simply hire a boat?

So while Ian swims in the freezing sea, Jamie and Claire watch from a clifftop, where, if anything, the atmosphere is even colder. Claire is regretting her decision to come back and admits they probably shouldn’t be together after all. She seems to be in earnest, so much so, she can’t look Jamie in the eye. True to form, Jamie is adamant they are meant to be together.

And then as usual with these two, just as they tentatively start to patch things up, fate steps in when a ship sails into view, from which a boat is launched and lands on the island, capturing Young Ian and the treasure and taking both on board, while a helpless Jamie and Claire watch from the shore.

All in all, the Laoghaire plot line was a great twist even if it felt rather unbelievable, given how much Jamie hated her in Season 2 and the small fact she tried to kill the great love of his life, but perhaps that’s what several years of living in a cave, prison and working as a groom for the English will do to a person.

However, the episode goes to great pains to highlight Jamie’s desire to be a father as a prime motivation for the marriage and, as a result, there’s a very touching scene between Jamie and his daughter Joan (Layla Burns) which shows what a loving father Jamie could have been. And although I appreciate Jamie desperately wants to be a father, it’s still hard to believe for a man like Jamie Fraser that Laoghaire was his only option.

However the episode did flesh out the Ardsmuir escape which I didn’t quite understand at the time and why, having had his hopes of being reunited with Claire dashed once more, Jamie wanted Lord John Grey to kill him on his return.

We also get an insight into the inner turmoil which has made Jamie act like such a twat over his “second” wife, and is a prime example of how our very insecurities can sometimes lead to the very thing we fear most happening. Jamie’s fear of losing Claire made him act in such a way that was more likely than any other to lead her to question her return, their being together and her wanting to leave him. The mainstay of their relationship has been their ability to trust each other and Claire feels this is no longer  the case. I’m guessing with Young Ian’s kidnap our redoubtable heroes will put their personal gripes on the backburner. They know they need to get young Ian back. These two may be brave and resourceful but neither is foolhardy enough to admit to Jenny they’ve lost her son.

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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