Outlander Recap: Claire Is the Most Selfish Person of All Time
Time is an unwieldy thing on Outlander. The show’s premise is that Claire has been thrown into the past and then chooses to stay there. But she seems to want two contradictory things: to change the immediate future so Jamie and the Scottish Highlanders survive, but also to protect her future past with her other husband, Frank. Unsurprisingly, Claire’s task is not getting any easier.
Claire also doesn’t make it easy on herself, and makes it downright hard on everybody else. Wanting it both ways is fine, but in Claire’s world that usually comes at the expense of everyone but Claire. And if Saturday’s episode, “Untimely Resurrection,” proves anything, it’s that there are few—if any—limits to how self-serving she can be.
After last week’s dinner party fiasco, the gendarmes made arrests. Jamie and Murtagh were quickly released thanks to Duverney—the blessings of friends in high places—but Alex Randall remains in the Bastille. No one seems terribly concerned.
Claire reveals that she escaped the brigands because they thought she was someone called “La Dame Blanche.” Turns out, Jamie mentioned he was married to La Dame Blanche when he was cavorting at Maison Elise—he wanted to preserve his fidelity to Claire while keeping his manhood intact. Claire is weirdly outraged, but then Jamie gives her a hug and all is right for, like, five minutes.
Murtagh, meanwhile, is distraught over what happened to Mary Hawkins and worried that he failed Jamie—even though he is the most reliable, sensible, and wonderful person the Frasers know. He vows to “lay just vengeance” at Jamie’s feet “or be damned.” (What might that look like?)
Nurse Claire pays a visit to Mary, who is recuperating from her ordeal. I questioned the necessity of more sexual violence in last week’s recap, but at least Outlander continues to address recovery with great care. Mary shares her feelings of shame, and Claire reassures the young woman that being raped was not her fault. Mary then asks Claire to deliver a letter to the Bastille on Alex’s behalf. Now that the old, gross, warty Viscount won’t marry her, she’s free to marry Alex. This sends Claire into a tailspin, of course, because if Mary and Alex Randall marry, Frank’s existence becomes doubtful.
Back at home, Claire stands pensively in front of a fire, debating what to do with Mary’s letter. Really, I can’t help but consider her temerity. She shows a degree of remorse when she plays with the lives of others, but she never seems to consider anyone’s needs but her own. It’s at once fascinating and disturbing that she makes the fate of both of her husbands the center not only of her world but of everyone else’s. Given that she’s elected to stay in the past with Jamie, will there come a time when she realizes that it might not be worth ruining Alex and Mary’s chance at love to save a man she has essentially forsaken?
The divine revolution must go on, so Charles Stuart pays a visit to Jamie and reveals that, though his mysterious benefactors have vanished (a small success for the Frasers, after all), he will come into £10,000 via a sale of wine with St. Germain. Charles asks Jamie to broker the sale, which is mighty convenient. No use asking what could go wrong, because we know everything will.
Claire does the right thing, and then she does a terrible thing—one step forward, 10 leaps back. She does, indeed, send Mary’s letter to the Bastille so Alex Randall can be freed. But when Alex goes to thank her, Claire tells him there’s no way a guy like him, sickly and now an ex-convict, will be able to provide Mary with the lifestyle she deserves. Ugh. Shut it, Claire. Alex is so in love with Mary that he thanks Claire for her “advice,” and in a voiceover, Claire says her heart broke to rob Mary and Alex of their happiness. Clearly her heart isn’t that broken, because she doesn’t try to undo the damage she has done.
Jamie goes horse shopping with Sandringham at Versailles, where there’s literally a horse mall set up on the palace grounds. Not one to be bothered with horsing around, Claire strolls through the gardens with Jamie’s former flame, Annalise, who laments that Jamie has become quite dull in manhood. Basically, Jamie was better when Annalise knew him, and she gives off some major jealousy, woman-slightly-scorned vibes.
I keep wishing this show would do more with Annalise. There’s clearly some tension worth exploring there, but Outlander continues to ignore it. And then, just as that feeling peaks, Black Jack Randall appears, smarmy as ever, though dealing with some back pain after his run-in with a herd of cattle.
While Claire and Randall are reminiscing about all the good times they’ve shared, the king strolls up with his bewigged entourage. There is some witty repartee between the king and Randall, and Jamie shows up and there is more repartee, only with more subtext and the subtle holding of sword handles by Randall and Jamie.
Finally, we come to the reason Black Jack is at Versailles: He wants to advocate on behalf of his brother Alex. The king has a bit of fun at Randall’s expense, making Black Jack get on his knees, then chastising him for doing so. There is also a good laugh at Randall’s terrible French accent, and it’s nice to see that poor excuse for a man humiliated. When they finally get a moment alone, Jamie challenges Randall to a duel, not in front of the king of course, and once again his spirits are lifted at the prospect of killing his tormentor.
While Murtagh and Jamie are working out the details of the duel, Claire interrupts and informs the men that Randall is locked in the Bastille. Ever the meddler, she went to the prison and accused Randall of attacking her and Mary Hawkins. Jamie is, of course, furious. As usual, Sam Heughan is the strongest actor on this show and outdoes himself as he expresses rage and hurt and betrayal in this tightly controlled, almost disturbing manner.
Tearfully, Claire explains that if Jamie kills Randall, Frank won’t be born—this again?!—and Jamie gives Claire an ultimatum: Randall or him. With no other options, Claire tells Jamie he owes her a life for the times she has saved his, because there are no limits to her selfishness. Jamie, rightfully, asks, “God Claire, you’d stop me taking vengeance on the man that made me play his whore? The man that lived in my nightmares and in our bed, almost drove me to take my own life.”
Claire admits she is, indeed, asking something so impossible of her husband. Jamie, as hell-bent on being honorable as Claire is on being Claire, agrees to her unfathomable proposition. In the silence after, Claire wants to comfort the very man she has just devastated, but he is not having any of it. As the episode ends, it’s clear that whether Claire realizes it or not, she may have finally pushed her need to save her future past too far. And for what? To save a man she chooses not to be with, who is pretty dreary, and whom we’ve seen for only a handful of moments over the course of two seasons. It all seems like a grand, grand plan.