Welcome! In case you’re not caught up, last season’s finale saw our heroes Claire and Jamie aboard a ship and on their way to France, after Jamie’s partial recovery from Black Jack Randall’s attack upon him. Ready to die, Jamie very nearly shut down entirely, but Claire’s nursing him back to health both physically and emotionally pulls him back from the brink of despair just in time. Now on the mend, they board a ship to France with Murtagh and decide that since Claire knows the future, why not change it? They leave determined to stop the Jacobite Rebellion before it ultimately fails and destroys Highland culture forever.
If you’re new to the story of Outlander, here’s the nutshelliest version ever: It’s based on a book series by Diana Gabaldon, and each season of the show covers the span of one book. Claire is a spunky World War II nurse, who is married to Frank. Claire and Frank are on a second honeymoon in Scotland after the war, when Claire falls through a magical portal and is instantly transported 200 years into the past. She must rely on her cunning to get by, and eventually marries Jamie, a smoking hot Highlander, for protection. Thanks to Frank’s obsession with history and her uncle’s tutelage, Claire knows a lot about the future of Scotland, and becomes torn between her life in 1945 and her life with Jamie, as she falls deeply in love with him.
“Hello, I’m back…“
Season Two opens with Claire waking up in 1948 at the standing stones at Craigh Na Dun. She’s disoriented and heartbroken to have left Jamie behind, but she reluctantly starts walking towards town. When a stranger pulls up in his car to ask if she’s all right, Claire says nothing, then blurts, “What year is it?” The stranger, taken aback, answers. She grabs him and demands, “Who won the Battle of Culloden?” Smooth, Claire. Smooth. The stranger answers that the British won, and Claire collapses. It hits her all at once that their mission must have ultimately failed and that Jamie is dead. Of course, he’s been dead for 200 years at this point, but no matter. The stranger quite rightly deposits her at a mental hospital and Frank is contacted. Surprisingly, Frank hasn’t moved on in Claire’s two-year absence.
Frank arrives to collect Claire from Dr. Edwards in Inverness, and is just so delighted to have her back that he doesn’t ask many questions. He arranges for them to convalesce nearby with their old friend, Reverend Wakefield, and his housemaid, Mrs. Graham. Claire is grumpy about all of the noise in “modern-day” Scotland, and flinches from poor Frank, who can’t possibly understand that he looks exactly like his ancestor, Black Jack, who has been terrorizing Claire for the past two years, and Jamie for much longer than that. Frank allows her some space to recover from her ordeal, but does inspect her strange clothes, which he secretly has appraised. Surprise! They’re incredibly old and valuable.
“Kidnapped by the fairies.”
Claire’s ordeal has captured the attention of the press, which annoys Frank.
Frank: Devil take the press!
Reverend Wakefield: Unlikely. The devil has standards.
Meanwhile, Claire has confided her entire story to Mrs. Graham, who has no trouble at all believing her. Claire cries over Jamie and Mrs. Graham basically tells her to suck it up. Jamie’s been gone for 200 years and Frank is a real, flesh-and-blood man right here, who also loves her.
“I’ve gone mad.”
Claire finally comes clean to Frank with the whole story. Because he wants so badly to put this behind them, he assures her that he believes every word. Logically, Claire knows Frank well enough to know that this can’t possibly be true–he’s too much of an academic to believe in fairies and magic and time-travel. Poor Claire feels so guilty about Jamie that she tries to goad Frank into being angry with her, but he refuses. Damn, Frank, why do you have to be so supportive?! It makes it that much harder for me to be Team Hot Scot.
“It’s quite a leap of faith,” Frank says, but he loves her so desperately that he buys her story. Claire gets angry and refers to herself as his “ex-wife,” revealing much about where her heart is. Frank still won’t have a bar of being angry. Then, Claire drops the bombshell: “I’m pregnant.” The revelation proves to be a bit much for Frank and he has a “Mr. Hyde” moment. He stops himself just before hitting her and storms out, smashing everything in sight. Perhaps he has a bit more Black Jack in him than we anticipated!
Heartbroken, Frank confesses to Reverend Wakefield that he and Claire had tried and failed to start a family, and in the two years that she was gone, he has confirmed with a doctor that he is indeed sterile. Frank sobs that he had an initial surge of excitement about the baby, but he’s also painfully jealous of Jamie. Reverend Wakefield points out that Joseph had to put up with Mary being pregnant by another man. Frank is quick to scoff that Jamie, as he puts it, “isn’t a ghost, or a God. He is a man who fucked my wife.” Whoa, Frank. Watch your language in front of the Reverend.
“I have two conditions…”
Frank gets himself together and proposes to Claire that they move on, together, under two conditions: One, that they raise the baby as a family, with him as its father. Two, that she let go of Jamie. Claire agrees and they embrace for the first time since her return. Claire watches from the window as Frank symbolically burns her Highlander clothes, but when she goes to remove her wedding ring from Jamie, he sees the look on her face and tells her “when you’re ready.” Dang, Frank, again with that “world’s most supportive husband” schtick.
“You tell me, Sassenach.”
A discussion with Frank about a job offer he has in Boston sends Claire flashing back to Jamie’s and her arrival in Le Havre, France, in 1745, discussing a visit to Boston. Jamie jokes about seasickness, and we can see that he’s still not 100 percent emotionally or physically. They speak again of the Jacobite Rebellion, only now that Jamie has given some thought to changing the future, he doesn’t want to stop the Rebellion and therefore the fatal battle–he wants to win it. Claire protests that she doesn’t know enough about how the battles go in order to be a help, and suggests that they try to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from ever leaving France. Jamie thinks that’s the coward’s way to go about things.
Conveniently, Jamie’s cousin Jared is a Jacobite living in France, and Claire convinces Jamie to lie to him about his interest in joining the rebellion so that they can stop it from the inside. It’s almost comically easy. Not so fast, though–Jared shrewdly questions Jamie’s sudden interest in politics. Despite Jamie hating when his Uncle Dougal shows off his scars to drum up support for the rebellion, Jamie removes his shirt without hesitation to display Randall’s handiwork. “Courtesy of the British Army.” Jared is convinced, but tells Jamie that he’s been putting off a trip to the West Indies and proposes a deal: Jamie will take over Jared’s wine business while he’s traveling, in exchange for 25 percent of the profits and the run of his house in Paris. Jamie replies, “35 percent and your help,” meaning Jared’s help meeting the Jacobite muckety-mucks. Jared says he’ll think about it.
Claire and Jamie tell Murtagh a few of the necessary details of their plan, explaining that Claire knows the future and he is, of course, skeptical. Jamie vows to one day tell him the whole story, when the time is right. Claire jokes, “And what time would that be?” Jamie smirks. “You tell me, Sassenach; you’re the one from the future.”
A powerful enemy
Meanwhile, Claire’s penchant for getting into trouble rears its ugly head on the docks, when she sees sick and dying men being unloaded from a ship. Ever the nurse, she rushes in and declares that it’s smallpox. “If it’s what I think it is, I can’t get it,” she remarks to Jamie in front of the ship’s crew. She’s referring to her modern smallpox vaccine; an admission that’s sure to arouse suspicion in the future, once the furor dies down. Le Comte de St. Germain arrives on the scene, begging them to keep news of the outbreak quiet, but thanks to Claire’s big mouth, the news is all over the docks already. By law, his ship and all its cargo must be destroyed for safety purposes. The Count is understandably none too pleased, and threatens Claire and Jamie. “You will pay the price for this.”
Jamie, despite having begged her to leave the situation alone, is characteristically adorable and unsurprised by Claire’s meddling ways. “I wouldn’t change you to save the world, Sassenach.”
Stray observations (to borrow a phrase from the A.V. Club):
- We see Claire sipping a whiskey while she comes clean to Frank, even though she’s pregnant. I know that it was the forties and they didn’t know anything back then, but it still makes me cringe!
- Keen-eared viewers might have picked up on the fact that the theme song is slightly different this season. It’s still the Skye Boat Song, but with more violins! Also, the second half of it is now in French, likely owing to the fact that this entire season will take place in France.
- Tobias Menzies deserves a shout-out for his incredible acting skills. I hate him so much as Black Jack that I can barely look at his face, but as Frank, he was breaking my heart this week.
- How gorgeous were the scenes set in France!? They were almost incongruously beautiful when compared to the 1940s Scotland sets, but somehow, it was just right.
Join me next week for Episode 2, “Not In Scotland Anymore,” where we’ll see Jamie and Claire get introduced around the French court.