This article centers on Season 3, Episode 11 of Outlander, “Uncharted.” If you’re not yet caught up with the show, be warned: Spoilers abound.
It has been quite the season in time travel, wildly implausible adventure, and overly opportune coincidences, but what a time we’ve had. When this season began, Claire was unhappily married in Boston with dreary Frank. Jamie was languishing, injured, on the battlefield of Culloden. We poor viewers had to endure nearly half the season without Claire and Jamie having the hot sex we watch the show for. Claire and Jamie suffered through some things too—but mostly Jamie, because this show loves for him to endure trauma whenever possible. He does bear his burden well: still brawny, brash, and bold where a lesser man would have been broken. Claire raised their daughter Brianna and Jamie went and had a son with a woman who basically coerced him into having sex by manipulating her power and position over him. (We call this rape where I come from.) Lord John Grey fell in love with Jamie and they became besties despite the circumstances of their meeting, and then Grey did Jamie a solid by raising Jamie’s son, Willie, because it was in Willie’s supposed best interests to be raised as nobility. Jamie finally returned to his beloved Scotland and tried to move on with his life, and Claire decided she was tired of being a mother once Frank died and went back through the stones to find Jamie with no trouble at all. There were a few stumbles as Jamie and Claire got reacquainted, as well as an accidental murder and another wife and some booze smuggling and some treason and a kidnapping, but other than that, everything was fine and they were still very good at sex.
Now, here we are at the season finale.
The finale begins with a voiceover and Claire rhapsodizing about death and being at peace while sinking in a body of water. Before we can work out what’s going on there, we are back in Jamaica, with Claire in her carriage racing to Rose Hall to find Young Ian. When she arrives, she just starts wandering around calling for young Ian. Before she can find her nephew, a man grabs her.
Geillis, meanwhile, is interrogating young Ian, wanting to know why he didn’t tell her about Claire and what Claire really wanted with her treasure. Ian is telling her the truth, but for whatever reason, she doesn’t believe him. Ian, for his part, is fed up with Geillis and tells her to either believe him or kill him because he is tired of her “blathering.” We are too, young Ian.
Claire is brought to Geillis and the two women circle each other warily. Claire explains that Jamie has been arrested and she needs shelter but makes no mention of her nephew. Geillis is happy to accommodate, if only to learn more about why Claire is in Jamaica.
Jamie, the luckiest and unluckiest man alive, is being led to the Porpoise by that baselessly arrogant “Captain” Leonard when the governor’s soldiers intervene. Of course they do. John Grey was not going to let the love of his life be swept away to Scotland to face certain death. Fergus basically saved the day by alerting John Grey of this development.
In the governor’s office, John Grey comes to the rescue once more in one of the strongest scenes of the season—well written, well acted, simply wonderful. John Grey demands that Leonard offer proof of some kind—a warrant, an affidavit—before he takes Jamie into custody but the lieutenant cannot. The most delicious moments are when John Grey insists on calling Leonard a lieutenant and talking shit about how Leonard did not really earn his present title of captain. Leonard protests mightily but he is outranked and outmatched by John Grey and leaves, pouting. Basically, the scene is a dick-measuring contest and we know who is bigger by the end. “Seems I’m indebted to you yet again for saving my life,” Jamie tells Grey once the matter is resolved. The men bid each other goodbye but sadly, they do not kiss passionately and we are all the lesser for it.
Back at Rose Hall, Claire is telling Geillis how she ended up in Jamaica but Geillis is convinced there is some detail Claire is omitting. She has it in her head that Claire has been chasing Geillis and trying to prevent the prophecy foretelling a Scotsman sitting on the Scottish throne from coming true. Claire explains that she actually went back to the future (heh) to raise her child but Geillis is reluctant to believe Claire would ever leave Jamie. Geillis remains unconvinced until Claire shows Geillis pictures of Brianna, whom Geillis instantly recognizes. Of course she does. Claire explains that Geillis met her daughter in 1968 and the two of them also watched Geillis go back through the stones as Claire tried to warn her frenemy about the witch hunts.
Finally satisfied, Geillis surreptitiously swipes one of Brianna’s pictures, apologizes profusely, and offers her home to Claire for as long as she needs. In her room, Claire realizes she is locked in and sees Ian, bound and gagged, being dragged away. She tries, in vain, to get out of her room, when suddenly the door opens. It’s Jamie, of course. So much of course. They head off in the direction of drumming and when they reach it, they find a group of Jamaicans performing some kind of religious ritual and dance. Claire recognizes the dance as similar to the one the women were doing at the stones of Craigh Na Dun in the first season. Willoughby, who just happens to be hanging out with new friends, tells the Jamaicans Claire and Jamie are with him and the Frasers are welcomed without further fuss.
The Frasers aren’t the only couple in love. Willoughby and Margaret have, indeed, made a love connection. They are headed to Martinique where they can live out their lives in love. “She is the first woman to truly see me, the man that I am, and I see her,” Willoughby says. That’s sweet, but Jamie just wants to know if Willoughby has seen Ian. Willoughby asks Margaret to use her powers so she does. She reads Jamie and Claire and makes them both mighty uncomfortable. “Abandawe,” Margaret says at the end, which Claire remembers from their previous conversation.
Archibald Campbell shows up, interrupting things, demanding that Margaret go with him so he can continue exploiting and mistreating his sister for profit. For some reason, she is not at all interested, preferring to stay with the man she loves. Archibald mentions Mistress Abernathy, a.k.a. Geillis, and Jamie demands to know more. Archibald talks about a prophecy that will only come true upon the death of a 200-year-old baby. As he is talking, Claire realizes he is talking about Brianna. Now, the Frasers need to find Geillis before she kills their daughter conceived in the past but living in the future. Archibald tries to force Margaret to go with him, but Willoughby isn’t having it. He is Yi Tien Cho, and he is going to protect the woman he loves. Archibald tries to strike Margaret with a stick, but Yi Tien Cho comes between them. Before long, Archibald is dead and the Jamaicans are, I guess, using him as ritual sacrifice. It’s all very colonial fever dream, not so vaguely racist, and I honestly forced myself to let it go so I could continue with the episode.
The Frasers run through the jungle to Abandawe cave, which they find with no trouble at all. They are the world’s best navigators. In the cave, young Ian is bound and gagged, to be sacrificed, but Claire and Jamie can’t get to him because Geillis’s manservant Hercules points a gun at them. Geillis is basically raving mad at this point, talking about how Claire owes her Brianna’s life “for the greater good.” Claire realizes the shimmering pool of water in the cave is the portal through time. Geillis continues to rant and rave, and then all hell breaks loose. Jamie fights with Hercules while Claire, using a machete, basically chops Geillis’s head off. Pretty much all’s well that ends well. Jamie lets Hercules go but Claire is hypnotized by the portal and keeps stepping toward it until Jamie pulls her back and they leave the cave.
As I said last week, everything on this show comes full circle. While Jamie and young Ian reunite and Ian crows about how he knew Jamie would come after him, Claire is a bit traumatized. She recalls the 200-year-old body she and her pal Joe examined in future Boston. No matter, though. Jamie gives her a long strong hug, and she’s fine after that. As an aside, Claire has worn only one dress for half of the season, and I cannot stop thinking about it. There’s no way that dress would look as structurally sound as it does given everything it has been through.
It’s time for the Frasers and friends to return to Scotland, so they get back on the Artemis. Even though Yi Tien Cho isn’t aboard, Jamie, mysteriously, is no longer suffering from seasickness because what is story continuity? Jamie and Claire are alone in their cabin and Jamie is about to shave his beard when Claire asks him not to. It’s always a good time for the Frasers to get down, so Jamie starts sexy talking and Claire is very receptive. It’s a charming scene, with chemistry, warmth and humor—the kind of scene this series would do very well to include more of as a balance to the constant drama trauma. Before long, the Frasers are making love, but we see very little of it for some, incredibly disappointing reason.
As the couple is enjoying the afterglow, a storm is coming. What starts out as a cool breeze and the comforting sound of rain is soon a terrible storm the Artemis cannot withstand. There’s lots of gale-force wind, pouring rain, shouting, and drama as the storm tosses the poor Artemis about the ocean. And then Claire disappears overboard in the storm and we are back where this episode began. Fret not, though. Jamie dives into the water, finds his beloved wife with no trouble at all, and kisses her as they float to the surface where, conveniently, the storm has largely subsided. Claire is unconscious and maybe dead and Jamie is bereft, but they cling to a piece of flotsam. When Jamie comes to, he is on a sandy beach, on a bright sunny day. He sees Claire and crawls to her and kisses her and his kiss brings her back to life! His lips are magic and so is the rest of him. The couple clings to each other and Claire says, “I told you I’d never leave you again.” As they make sense of their surroundings, a family comes upon them. The Frasers inquire as to the Artemis which, conveniently, ran aground just four miles away. The survivors are being cared for, and the Frasers are visibly relieved. Despite having company, they are still gazing at each other passionately. “What island is this?” Claire eventually asks and we learn the Frasers are on the “mainland, the colony of Georgia.” Yup, Outlander is headed to America for its fourth season. In a teaser trailer at the end of the episode, we see Claire talking about the American dream and who knows what will happen for the Frasers now. Hopefully, they will have a lot more sex. In 2018, we will find out.
Overall, this season has been a mess—a watchable mess, to be fair, but a mess nonetheless. The first half of the season was so slow, then the second half of the season moved at a breakneck pace rushing toward tonight’s ending. Because of that rush, the season, as a whole, felt unbalanced. The production remains beautiful—the costumes, the acting, the scenery, everything is well done. The weakness here is in the story itself. I have no problem with time travel, passionate romance, and global adventure. I am willing to suspend my disbelief for all manner of incredible things. But at times this show demands not just the suspension of disbelief but the complete eradication. I want to be intrigued and surprised by a show, but I don’t want to find myself rolling my eyes more often than not. This season, there was a lot of eye rolling. I really do enjoy this show, and I will certainly be watching the fourth season and probably recapping it too, but my goodness, I hope the writing finds a bit more discipline regardless of the source material. My eyes don’t have much roll left in them.
Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and most recently, Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.