Even though Outlander has been jerking us around for almost the entirety of season 3, they really outdo themselves with this episode, titled “First Wife.” I had my doubts about the execution of the secret wife storyline, thinking they’re going to continue to find ways to keep the two time-traveling lovers apart, but they come through like gangbusters. We meet Claire’s placeholder and finally get the whole (juicy) story about how she came to be.
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A Chill at Lallybroch
After the dead bad guy, print shop fire and exposure for treason in “Creme de Menthe,” it makes sense that Jamie and Claire would head for safer parts to return young Ian but also to hide out, reunite with their family and sort out their next moves.
The reception at Lallybroch is far chillier than Claire expected, and Jenny is hostile to her resurrected sister-in-law. Twenty years has turned Jenny into a real jerk, and she doesn’t let Claire forget how much time and space has lapsed. She keeps Claire at arm’s length, worried for her brother’s heart and safety. Jenny proclaims that Claire is a bad luck totem for Jamie (and the entire Fraser clan, for that matter). And now that I think about it, she’s probably right. I can’t unknow what a jinx she is now.
After Jenny calls Claire a stray that Jamie has dragged home, introduces her to the dozens of children running around and accosts her with open suspicion and doubt, Claire wants to tell Jenny the truth. (For the record, I agree with Claire, wholeheartedly). Jamie thinks Jenny is too simple-minded and sheltered to believe such things, and (not for the last time this episode) I’m shouting, “Shut up, Jamie!”
The Second Mrs. Fraser
While Jamie and Claire sit beside a cozy fire, talk about islands and treasure, and mull over their new life, the new wife is marching up the stairs. She breaks up the sweet little scene between Jamie and Claire, shouting profanities, with a red-headed little girl calling Jamie ‘daddy.’ It’s a (first) wife’s nightmare, and all Claire can do is sit and watch while the second wife screams and makes an incredible scene.
The new wife, as luck would have it, is a familiar face. Fans will remember Laoghaire (henceforth called Leary) from earlier episodes, in which she tried to enact her crush on Jamie, cast a bad luck spell on Claire and then have Claire carted off by authorities, likely to be hanged.
It seems Jamie took up with her and two orphaned children after he returned from Hell Water and her second husband died (though those two events are probably unrelated). He was searching for some kind of purpose and wanted to feel less lonely, and he thought marrying this awful wretch would do the trick.
He was soon relieved of any such notion about Leary, and they began to spend more and more time apart. Although they are definitely, absolutely married, they mostly don’t have much to do with each other. However, Leary is still pretty angry at Claire’s return.
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The Best of Jamie and Claire
When I say the scene following Leary’s entrance is the best of the best, I don’t exaggerate. Once Jamie has made nice with the crying red-headed little girl, and Jenny ushers the screaming Leary someplace else, the real meat of the episode gets underway.
In one of the best performances of the series, Jamie and Claire go at each other in a scene that highlights what makes fans love this couple unyieldingly. They argue with all the passion that’s been pent up for the 20 years they’ve been apart. All the hurt feelings, the disappointments, the fear and hope comes pouring out of these two. They yell, slap, grab, kiss and then wind up on the floor, furiously trying to have their way with each other.
In true Outlander humor, Jenny comes in to literally throw cold water on their attempts. She tosses a bucket of water on them for rutting on the floor, and it only adds to the best moment of the night. Jenny just can’t with their nonsense, and she isn’t having any of it.
The next morning, Jenny’s daughter, Janet, confesses that she told Leary about Claire’s presence at Lollybrach at the urging of her mother, and tensions build between Claire and Jenny. They have a heart-to-heart, in which Claire tries to make her understand her absence and tells her about Frank. She reassures Jenny that she loves Jamie and she’s here for it all now.
Jamie and Claire have their own making up to do, and he stops her as she pretends to leave Lollybrach. He reassures her that he’s only known one love, and this is about the time Leary turns up in the yard with a gun. She recites every line you would expect from a woman scorned, and the gun goes off unexpectedly, filling Jamie with birdshot. Thankfully, Claire is a doctor from the future, and she digs the pellets out of him and fills him with penicillin. Crises (momentarily) averted.
Before they can exhale from that upset, the lawyer turns up with good news and bad news. The good news is that Jamie’s marriage to Leary isn’t legal, but the bad news is that it’s also illegal to own a gun in 18th century Scotland. This means Leary could be charged and possibly go to prison. While Claire is all for it, Jamie doesn’t want her children to go motherless and agrees to pay this woman alimony. She wants 20 pounds up front, which is a full two years of wages, and then 10 pounds a year after that. That’s an insane amount of money, and nobody can fathom how they’ll be able to pay it.
Luckily, Jamie has a plan that includes an island and box of treasure. When he escaped from prison, he swam to the island thinking he’d find Claire there (at the prodding of a dying man’s last words), but instead he found all sorts of jewels and ancient coins. This will be more than enough to pay the second wife’s alimony and keep her out of their hair.
The situation becomes more complicated when young Ian volunteers to swim to the island for Jamie. The injured Jamie and Claire watch from the bluff as Ian swims to the island and even retrieves the box. Unfortunately, their emotional conversation about the validity of their destiny keeps them from noticing a ship sneaking up from the sea. Men disembark, ostensibly looking for the same treasure box, and kidnap young Ian.
Can you relate to Jenny’s anger with Claire? Do you think she has a right to be so hurt and aloof? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Outlander season 3 airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz. Want more news? Like BuddyTV’s Facebook page.
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Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
I am a freelance writer and critic, blogging about pop culture, and how it effects our shared identities. I absolutely love TV and will watch anything once, and I love to talk about TV. So, it makes sense that I am also an University professor teaching courses in, popular culture and mass media.