It’s 1968, and Claire has aged gracefully into an extremely foxy surgeon with a striking gray streak in her hair. Her daughter, Brianna, has grown into a supremely self-confident history major at Harvard. And their relationship is complicated.
You see, Brianna apparently turned out to be a bit of a daddy’s girl. (Frank, who has died, is “Daddy”; Claire is “Mother.”) She has an air of perpetual exasperation vis a vis her mother and a habit of saying things like, “My mother lives in another word.” It gradually becomes clear that she’s a little affronted on Frank’s behalf—at one point, she asks Claire whether she misses him, or if she even loved him at all. She’s also gotten wind of the fact that something went down in Scotland between her parents, and it wasn’t good, and so while Claire mournfully drifts around the landmarks from her life with Jamie, Brianna and Roger Wakefield begin digging. They sure do find something!
Granted, Brianna is 20, a fraught time for your relationship with your parents, and she’s not wrong that something was always off about Frank and Claire’s dynamic. She just never had any way of knowing that her mother time-traveled to the 1740s and fell madly in love with another man but had to come back to her present because it was the morning of the Battle of Culloden and she was pregnant, and because Frank couldn’t have kids, he chose to raise Brianna as his own but under the condition she was never told about Jamie. Finding the newspaper coverage of Claire’s reappearance and realizing that Frank wasn’t her biological father was bound to yank the rug out from under her.
But if you found out your mom had gone missing for three years and turned up dazedly wandering the wilderness in rags, would you jump to, “You cheated on Daddy because you were a bored housewife”? I would not! And as a viewer, knowing everything that Claire has been through, it was difficult to respond any other way than periodically yelling “UUUGHHHHHH BRIANNA SHUT UP.” Even though it was funny to see somebody finally respond to Claire’s highly unlikely truth with “Mmm, doubt it.”
Then again it’s not Brianna’s fault that her meltdown is interspersed with the tick-tock leading up to the Battle of Culloden and her parents’ heart-wrenching goodbye, which makes it hard to take her personal crisis seriously.
We knew from the moment Claire arrived back in 1948 that things had gone to shit back in 1746, but the flashbacks make clear just how badly. In a last-ditch effort to avert disaster, Claire suggests poisoning Charles. Unfortunately, Dougal overhears, flies into a rage, and Jamie and Claire have to kill him in a struggle that, by the end, started to remind me of this scene from the Hitchcock movie Torn Curtain where it takes Paul Newman ages to kill a man. Pour one out for a maddening character very well played by Graham McTavish.
To make matters worse, Rupert stumbles upon the scene. (Rupert’s had a rough year.) Jamie begs two hours to straight his affairs before he says anything, then quickly ditches the idea of poisoning Charles Stuart, dispatches Fergus to Lallybroch with a document transferring the property to his nephew, and asks Murtagh to set the Lallybroch Frasers on the road home.
Jamie then takes Claire to the stones at Craigh na Dun because he knows damn good and well she’s pregnant, having noticed that she hasn’t gotten her period lately. Which he keeps track of, but not in a “I’m afraid of PMS” way. He’s just that attentive. They passionately say their farewells, he slowly walks her backward toward 1948, planning to turn back to join Murtagh and the doomed Jacobites. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe continue to have the best chemistry on television.
I would also like to note that it seems totally shitty that, after everything Claire’s been through, she had to live through the American 1950s, too. It’s so disconcerting seeing this character in stereotypical midcentury nylon nightwear.
But it’s hard to beat the image of a baby Brianna losing an ice-cream cone off the side of Fort Ticonderoga while Frank went on about the Green Mountain Boys. Frank went full dad, apparently.
Anyway, Brianna tries to drink her troubles with the quite cute Roger Wakefield. Do you think he got a rabbit-run-over-my-grave feeling whenever they bump into Gillian Edgars? Because Brianna bumps into our old friend Geillis Duncan stumping for the Scottish nationalist cause, and she’s conveniently just about to dip out for the 1700s in hopes of fomenting a successful Jacobite Rising. (Good luck with that, pal.)
Claire announces she’s got to try to stop Gillian/Geillis; Roger and Brianna agree on the principle that it’ll probably jerk Claire out of her delusions. Brianna’s response when they watch her new friend disappear through that center standing stone was tremendously satisfying.
The final scenes between Jamie and Claire before he finally sends her back through the stones are, of course, devastating, right down to the one lone tear on his face.
But cutie Roger Wakefield has an important piece of information, which is that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. He survived. Sorry, Brianna, but you’re all grown up now and your mom’s ready to retire to
Florida 18th century Scotland.
See you in Season 3!
Lead image courtesy Starz; others via screencap.