It’s a rough homecoming as Jamie (Sam Heughan) receives a chilly reception when he returns to his childhood home of Lallybroch.
Let’s bitch it out…
‘Lallybroch’ is a significant episode of Outlander because it offers much needed insight into Jamie. So far the series has spent the majority of its time developing Claire (Caitriona Balfe), which makes sense since she is both our protagonist and a stranger in a strange land. Even the mid-season premiere, which was narrated by Jamie, was less about him than it was about his feelings for Claire.
Things get off to a rough start almost immediately after the newlyweds arrive. To suggest that Jamie is haunted by the flashbacks of his flogging by Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) is an understatement; we see repeated flashbacks of the painful incident throughout the episode that suggests Lallybroch is as much synonymous with home as it is with his scars. The lingering issues around the flogging and his father Brian’s (Andrew Whipp) death inform his actions around Lallybroch and, more specifically, his interactions with his equally stubborn and feisty sister, Jenny Fraser (Laura Donnelly).
Turns out the siblings are cut from the same cloth. One of the better aspects of the episode is watching brother and sister try to work out their issues. Jenny blames Jamie for his role in their father’s death and she resents his return to claim ownership of the family lands, which leads to several cold & passive-aggressive interactions. Admittedly Jamie doesn’t fare much better: his first interaction with Jenny in four years involves accusations of bearing Jack’s bastard child and getting pregnant out of wedlock. It is immediately clear that these two have issues that need to be worked out and even if things are resolved in a rather pat, simplistic way by the end of the episode, it is nonetheless fascinating to get a better glimpse into Jamie’s psyche.
Some of that insight is courtesy of a series of flashbacks that fill in the gaps around the initial incident at Lallybroch and the second flogging that nearly killed him. One of the episode’s biggest shocks occurs when Jamie recounts to Claire what occurred between the first and second flogging when Jamie was brought before Jack. We learn that Jamie could have avoided his near death experience had he submitted himself to Jack, who is revealed to be gay or bisexual* (his inability to get erect around Jenny suggests he may only be interested in men).
*With this reveal Jack becomes the series’ only queer character. I’m mildly concerned about conflating Jack’s queerness with sadism, however (there is a suggestion that he gets off on beating Jamie when he can’t get off with Jamie). This is, obviously, mildly problematic. I’m confident, however, that showrunner Ronald D. Moore and author Diana Gabaldon will complicate and add depth to this characterization.
Interspersed throughout the family squabbles we get a glimpse of what a normal life for Jamie and Claire could look like. There’s upkeep on the estate (issues with the mill), the collection of rent (Quarter Days) and community issues to be negotiated (the abusive father who publicly beats his son for disobedience). It’s all a bit skewed since Jamie handles these day to day responsibilities in a way he assumes his father would rather than being his own man, but it’s a hint nonetheless of what a quiet life would look like for the pair.
Of course, that’s before the episode’s cliffhanger, which finds Jamie staring down a group of mysterious armed men. In a way ‘Lallybroch’ is kind of like an alternative reality episode of Outlander: what Jamie and Claire could have in another life. But that’s not Outlander. No, Outlander is violence and drama and intrigue. We’ve had our respite and now it’s time to get back to it!
- Another great scene is Claire and Ian Murray’s (Steven Cree) late night chat about being married to a Fraser. Ian isn’t given a great deal to do since the focus is principally on Jenny’s troubled relationship with her brother, but in his small amount of screen time Cree manages to make Ian a kind and memorable addition to the show. His description of Jenny paints a portrait of a different character and helps anticipates her apology to her brother at their father’s gravesite.
- I may have some apprehension about Black Jack’s sexuality, but I will admit that the term “buggery” amuses me greatly, especially hearing Jamie say it in his Scottish brogue.
- This week on “Claire needs to adjust to the times better”: her self-righteous approach to the handling of children lands the Frasers a new ward after the abusive father bristles at her disapproval (and Jamie’s fists). I semi-cheered when Jenny questions Claire and Jamie if they think life started with their arrival; there were already plans afoot to have the child moved and even if Jenny later admits that it probably wouldn’t have been a long term solution, she’s right that both Claire and Jamie frequently barge into situations without considering all of the angles. It’s why they’re a good pair, but also frequently seems to be their downfall.
- Jamie’s admission that he loved Claire from the start is as sweet as it is sexist. She’s more than tits and ass, you big lug!
- One of the defining visual characteristics of Lallybroch are its regal wallpapers, particularly the blue ferns in the bedroom and the red trees of the dining room. They really help to elevate the castle appearance to something more significant than a simple cottage.
- This week in Outlander helping Scotland’s tourism industry: Lallybroch! The beautiful fields and hills with a smattering of sheep are incredibly picturesque.
- Red Coat (after their Commander asks how a shirt got stuck in the mill): “It’s Scotland, sir”
- Jamie (stuck in the water by the mill): “Jenny, will you please turn around while I try to get out before my cock snaps off”
- Ian (when Claire asks if he married Jenny because she took care of him): “You think I had any choice in the matter?”
Your turn: what did you think of these new insights into Jamie Fraser? Did you enjoy seeing Jamie and Claire settle into domestic life (however briefly)? Are you surprised to learn that Jack fancies Jamie? Do you hope we see more of Jenny and Ian? And who are those men in the cliffhanger? Sound off below.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on STARZ. Please note that next week’s review will be up very late Sunday or early Monday.