Imagine you are an accidental time traveler. Whilst on your honeymoon where you enjoyed lessons in Scottish history and oral sex in an abandoned church, you were hurled backwards in time to the 18th century where, to save your life, you became a bigamist and had sex in the out of doors. You decided to stay in the past (despite your husband’s oral prowess) and, in a bid to create true intimacy, you confessed your mysterious origins to your husband. To his credit, he believes you and does not have you burned for witchcraft. Now the two of you spend a week or two alone together getting to really know each other.
Unless you are Claire and Jamie Fraser. If that’s the case, what happens is that he decides to immediately take you to his family manor and throw you into the heart of the trauma and dysfunction that is his family unit. It’s not the smartest thing the guy has ever done, but hey, he looks good in a kilt, so there’s that.
The Fraser family — Jamie sister Jenny and his brother-in-law Ian Murray — are important characters in the Outlander literary saga. The series has introduced them with the respect and consideration they deserve. Unfortunately, in the process, Jamie’s character took a hit — and it’s not exactly like it’s one he can afford given his recent ass-beating of his wife. Sure, his willingness to believe Claire’s story and his excellent and floppy red hair work in his favor, but they can only temper so many sins. Let’s get Claire and Jamie back to being a solid unit! The writers seemed to sense this and gave us the gift of the duo actually stating their love for each other, but it felt like a throwaway, an acknowledgement that all was not right.
This week’s episode relied heavily on flashbacks, something the show has handled masterfully from episode one on (unlike the voiceovers). We’re gradually getting down to the marrow of Jamie’s history with Black Jack Randall and it’s a gnarly one. We learned that Jamie believe Black Jack raped his sister, and that he blames himself for his father’s death as his father was forced to watch his public flogging and passed away “from a broken heart” not long thereafter.
These are all nuggets that should make Jamie more sympathetic, but they don’t play out that way. Instead we witness him essentially being a giant ass for an hour, accusing his sister of bearing Black Jack’s son, messing up the rents of his tenants, and in general being difficult to live around. Thankfully, Claire calls him out on this, but it feels like the second time in a row she’s had to be all “dude, slow your roll.” I find Claire and Jamie’s dynamic much more interesting when they are subverting 18th century gender roles, not subscribing to them.