The article centers on Season 3, Episode 2 of Outlander: “Surrender.” If you’re not, get caught up with the show, be warned: Spoilers abound.
The third season of Outlander is painfully disinterested in instant gratification. This week’s episode is all tease and foreplay. To be fair, there is some sex in this episode but it is not at all the sex we are yearning to witness. Instead, there is awkward sex with eyes wide shut as the show continues filling us in on what happened with Jamie and Claire Fraser during the two decades they were apart, also known as the longest tease in the history of romance novels.
As the second episode opens, we’re in Scotland in 1752. Fergus, Jamie’s nephew Ian, and the housekeeper Mary’s son Rabbie MacNab find a gun that belonged to Rabbie’s dead father and argue over who gets to shoot it first when the damn redcoats appear. Among them is a Corporal MacGregor—a Scotsman serving in the English army, and he’s exactly the asshole you would expect him to be.
The redcoats remain hell-bent on finding Red Jamie, a.k.a. “the Dunbonnet,” a.k.a. the sexiest man on the highlands. After volleying a few threats at Jamie’s family, the redcoats arrest Ian simply because they can.
Where is Jamie? He’s living in a cave in the woods, regressing to his primordial form—hair down to his shoulders, a thick beard, and a demonstrable aversion to bathing. As he’s gallivanting through the woods, smelling what I hope is dirt but is probably feces, Jamie spies a buck, kills it, and brings the spoils of his hunt to Lallybroch tossed over his shoulder, as one does. He sees his sister, Jenny, tending to the garden and for a moment, Jamie imagines she is Claire, which is… incredibly awkward and veering into Game of Thrones territory if you think too hard about it.
Jamie spends most of this episode silent and brooding—living that emo life, 18th century style. When he does talk, he sounds like Christian Bale channeling Batman, hoarse and growly. We get it; he’s miserable. Outlander has never really been subtle and this episode works overtime to make it clear that Jamie has lost all the fire and fight he once had.
When Jamie stops by Lallybroch to handle the ledgers, Jenny just happens to be in labor. Fergus, Rabbie, and Jamie see a raven as they are doing their chores, and apparently it’s bad luck to spot one while a child is being born. These three musketeers grab the gun they found and kill the raven. As good luck would have it, the bird dies with a single shot. As bad luck would have it, the Redcoats in the vicinity hear the gunshot.
Jamie scolds the boys but Mary MacNab intervenes and takes the gun. Jamie goes to see his sister who has just delivered a baby boy. Even though she just birthed a baby without an epidural, Jenny tries to set Jamie up with Mary and get him laid. Jenny is the most Ride-or-Die sibling in the game. Jamie is having none of it and who can blame him? We saw how incredible the sex was between him and Claire. Accept no substitutes.
Suddenly, Redcoats are all over Lallybroch, looking for the gun they heard. Jenny plays dumb and Jamie hides in a nearby hall holding the newborn baby, trying to keep him quiet. When the Redcoats realize Jenny just had a baby, they demand to know where the baby is. She lies, saying the baby was stillborn. The captain doesn’t believe the story but Mary saves the day by claiming the pistol was hers, that she killed the raven because of superstition.
Ian is eventually released from jail and Corporal MacGregor smarms and makes threats while eyeballing young Fergus. A little later, Fergus sets off into the woods, but danger lurks. The Redcoats are hiding behind some bushes and before long they are following Fergus, thinking he will lead them to Red Jamie. Fergus is a bright boy—too bright for his own good. His stroll becomes a jog and the Redcoats’ stalking turns to full-on chase, with Fergus talking a whole lot of shit to the Redcoats. Reader: this doesn’t end well.
Jamie overhears Fergus and the Redcoats, and watches helplessly as they grab Fergus, pinning him against a log. MacGregor raises his sword and chops Fergus’s left hand off. It is truly one of those “that sure escalated quickly” moments. And to tie it all with a bow, the last shot of the scene is poor Fergus’s hand lying on the forest floor. (Side note: Another Game of Thrones moment? What is it with these hit fantasy shows and hand-chopping? Freud would have some thoughts.)
Jamie runs to the fallen boy, channels Nurse Claire, and applies a tourniquet before bringing Fergus back to Lallybroch. Though Fergus is going to live, Jamie is beside himself. Years of silence overwhelm him and he falls to his knees, sobbing in Jenny’s arms. I believe Dr. Phil would call it “a breakthrough.” When Jamie checks in on Fergus, they have a sweet little chat, all things considered, and Jamie reaffirms his promise to always look after him. Fergus tells Jamie he’s finally acting like himself. All it took was a brutal amputation!
As they stare into a crackling fire, Jamie and Ian have a chat about phantom limb pain and Ian says what we all know—that Claire was Jamie’s heart and without her, he is lost, living with the pain of something that is gone. Jamie decides he can no longer risk his family’s lives and tells Jenny and Ian they need to turn him in so at least they can get the reward money. Jamie is back, indeed, and ready to run right back into the fire.
Later, Mary MacNab shows up at Jamie’s cave for a visit, bow chicka wow wow. She gives him a good shave, cuts his hair, and finally, Jamie has his sexy back. After Jamie washes himself in the creek, thank God, Mary offers herself to Jamie in an exquisitely vulnerable moment where she says she isn’t trying to betray what he had with Claire. Jamie, who hasn’t had sex in like seven years, succumbs and who can blame him? His eyes are closed and he’s crying but Jamie explains that’s just how he does sex. Mary is gonna get hers so they get down—sweetly, tenderly, like two people who haven’t been laid in forever. At least that’s what I am guessing because we don’t see any of it. I choose to imagine the cave walls were quaking.
When he returns to Lallybroch, freshly groomed, Jamie pretends it is his first homecoming. Everyone puts on a really good show and the Redcoats actually believe Jenny would betray her brother because the Redcoats are not very smart. It looks like Jamie is, once again, going to be behind bars and who knows for how long. Outlander is not a show that is afraid of subjecting its characters to an infinite amount of drama or suffering. Every time you think Jamie has been through the worst, the show asks us to hold its beer.
In mid-century Boston, Claire can’t sleep because she is having sexy fantasies about sexy Jamie, all naked and thick with muscles and giving her that “come fuck me” look she clearly craves. Alas, she is actually in bed with boring Frank and that, my friends, is the very definition of tragedy. On one particular night, Claire is in need of some loving. She tentatively reaches for Frank and before he can ruin anything by jabbering, she strips off her nightgown, straddles him and gets hers. It’s all very depressing because while Claire can close her eyes and make pretend, we can’t.
After having Millie Nelson and her husband, Jerry, over for dinner, Frank and Claire are feeling a bit amorous as they share a nightcap in front of the fireplace. Claire, never shy about taking the initiative, steps out of her underwear and pulls Frank’s hand between her thighs. It’s almost a sexy moment, but as they’re fucking, Frank keeps asking Claire to open her eyes and it’s like, Dude, first of all, most people have sex with their eyes closed, and second of all, just enjoy the ride and let the woman think of Jamie as you bone her! But no, Frank can’t let Claire do Claire. “When I’m with you, I’m with you, but you’re with him,” Frank says. Just like that, the moment is over.
After her wild adventures in the 18th century, Claire is not satisfied by being a wife and mother, so she decides to do something more—enroll in Harvard Medical School. She’s not the only anomaly; there’s also a black man in the class. As everyone takes their seats, the men are openly hostile because they know Claire is about to put their mediocrity on blast. She handles it with aplomb and when the black student, Joe Abernathy, enters, he sits right next to Claire. It’s a page right out of the Grey’s Anatomy episode when Richard Weber and Ellis Grey became pals because no one in their medical school cohort respected them for daring to not be white men.
In another bedroom scene at the Randall home, Claire and Frank now sleep in separate twin beds, which is just … sad. Throughout the episode, it’s clear that Claire and Frank are trying their damndest to make their marriage work, but Jamie Fraser is always between them.
If there is one thing that Jamie, Claire, and Frank have in common, it’s that they all desperately want the very things they cannot have. Frank is yearning to be the only man in Claire’s heart; Jamie is yearning to have Claire by his side in all things; Claire is yearning to be by Jamie’s side in all things, and, as she explains in a voiceover, to be part of something bigger than herself. The thing is—no one is yearning for Frank. He is, as he has been since Season 1, the odd man out. Given how Season 2 ended, it seems like that’s what Frank is always going to be.