Synopsis of 3×01: After living through the Battle of Culloden, Jamie finds himself at the mercy of unforgiving British victors, until a connection from his past provides his only hope of survival. Meanwhile, a pregnant Claire attempts to adjust to life in the modern world of 1940s Boston – and life with Frank.
Well, guys, Droughtlander is officially over and boy, do we start off with a doozy of an episode. After the big leap forward with “Dragonfly in Amber” from the season two finale, wherein we meet Jamie and Claire’s grown up daughter Brianna and an adult Roger Wakefield, we’re thrown right back in time to 1948 when Claire and Frank first start their lives in Boston. This show does not make it easy for us recappers and timelines.
It’s a rocky start, to say the least. Although the two of them seem to be trying to get past “the incident,” nothing seems to go perfectly smoothly. Their relationship, while calm on the surface, is tense and threatening to boil over at any moment should they inch near the topic of Jamie and her time in Scotland. As we know from the finale, Claire spent all of her life after returning from 1746 believing that Jamie had died at Culloden, so she has effectively been grieving that entire time. This episode serves as proof to that grief. There are glimpses of the Claire and Frank pre-Jamie, but not many.
Boston is hardly the ideal place for the Randalls. Their neighbors are nosey, Claire is stuck at home playing housewife, and 1940’s America is hardly progressive enough for a woman like Claire. The episode reminds us over and over again that Claire is not just a woman out of time in 1746, but also two hundred years later in 1948. Her childhood spent with Uncle Lamb gave her a confidence and independence that most women, like her neighbor, don’t have. Her time spent as a nurse on the battlefield has given her perspective. Her intelligence, wit, experience, and personality are in stark contrast to the world she lives in now, and it almost feels as if she was more at home 200 years in the past than in the present.
There are moments in the episode that essentially slap us in the face with this fact. Her interactions with Frank’s boss and her doctor showcase how easily men want to push her to the background and disregard her as an equal. Frank’s boss tells Frank to mind what Claire reads and basically tells her to know her place while her doctor addresses Frank about her own pregnancy while willfully ignoring her comments, and later ignore’s Claire’s wishes to stay conscious during her childbirth and instead sedates her. Claire’s independence and agency that she gained in the war reflects the story of many women after World War II. Women who learned to eat, sleep, work, and survive without the men in their lives gained freedom that was somehow wiped away after the war was over. But, as we know from most things in life, you can’t turn back the clock and you things can’t go back to what they were.
In 1746, Jamie wakes up on the battlefield after Culloden. We see snippets of his memory fighting on the battlefield alongside his clansmen. There are a couple of scenes during the battle that is noteworthy, the first is that he is reunited with Murtagh, who later finds him after the battle and presumably gets him out of there, and the second is that he meets Black Jack Randall on the field. The two face off, one-on-one, in fair combat and ultimately Jamie defeats him. Despite the grandiosity of the battle, this almost feels like a whimper instead of a bang. A villain like Black Jack seems to deserve something worse than just a fair fight. But regardless, the blackguard is dead.
After suffering a near fatal cut from Jack’s sword, Jamie awakens in jail where the redcoats are executing Scottish rebels. Lord Melton is there as the commanding officer and to oversee the executions. He gives the men a chance to write farewell letters and say their goodbyes before being lead off to be shot. For all intents and purposes, Melton seems like an honorable guy. When Rupert tries to reason with him about sparing the young soldiers, Melton does seems to show some remorse, but ultimately follows the orders that he’s given. It’s only when he realizes who Jamie is that he chooses honor over duty. As the rebels are shot one by one, Rupert makes his peace with Jamie, having sworn to get revenge for Dougal’s death before Culloden.
When it comes time for Jamie to face his maker, his name gets Melton’s attention. Knowing him as the notorious Red Jamie, but also as the man who spared his brother, Melton accepts that he must keep his family and his brother’s honor and protect Jamie. Melton’s brother, John Grey, aka William Grey, was the Redcoat that originally thought Claire was an Englishwoman having been captured by Highlanders and ultimately Jamie spared his life instead of killing him last season. Instead of giving Red Jamie to the authorities, Melton arranges to have a near-death Jamie spirited away under an alias on a wagon. He awakens to Jenny speaking to him and realizes that he’s arrived at home, in Lallybroch.
Meanwhile, back in 1948, Claire and Frank’s relationship teeters over the edge as the two of them seem to almost tip toe around each other. Claire mentions that she wants to apply for citizenship in America, having never really felt at home anywhere else and wanting something for her child. Frank initially seems to warm to the idea, but when he goes to touch her stomach after she calls the baby “our child” Claire shirks away from his touch and he bristles. The two of them have barely had any physical contact after her return and Frank accuses Claire of using the pregnancy to keep him at a distance. The start screaming at each other and Claire lobs an ashtray at his head.
It’s difficult to really pick sides in the fight. They’re both struggling to make a relationship work that has been irrevocably changed. It’s almost painful watching Frank continuously try to reach out to a woman that he’s still in love with and realize that she’s no longer in love with him, at least not in the same way. Claire made it clean and simple for Brianna in the finale, Jamie is the love of her life. Frank, while still someone she loved and cares about, can’t measure up. The argument culminates in Frank telling her he’s not forcing her to stay with him and telling her to do what she really wants to do, whether that’s leaving or staying with him.
When she finally goes into labor, Frank takes Claire to the hospital and are met with the douchebag of a doctor. Claire reveals that she had a miscarriage, something she never revealed to Frank, who seems shaken but deals with the bomb drop in stride given the situation. After being forcibly sedated during labor, Claire wakes up terrified, looking for her child, afraid that they lost the baby. But Frank comes in and reveals that she’s given birth to a baby girl. The two of them share a tender moment, having seemingly reached a better place than before. Well, that is, until the nurse decides to mention the baby’s red hair.
Damn, they can’t catch a break.
Personally, I’m just glad Jamie is safe and that the baby is born safely. I’m desperate for more scenes of Brianna as an adult and seeing more of that part of the story, but it will be interesting to see how Frank and Claire manage as the years go by, and how Jamie’s story plays out now that he’s at Lallybroch.