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TV Review: Outlander (Season 3, Episode 4)

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A triumphant return to form for Outlander, this week’s episode Of Lost Things provides the pathos that the season has been lacking so far and fixes the pacing issues from previous instalments.

Thankfully, we’re finally back in 1968 and watching Operation: Save Jamie unfold. The previous three episodes have given us some compelling moments, but the show hasn’t quite felt like Outlander until now.

Roger, the adopted son of the late Reverend Wakefield, deduces that Claire’s and Jamie’s timelines are unfolding at the same rate. Claire rejoices in the fact that no Narnian time shenanigans are about to scupper their chances of a reunion, and so she, Brianna and Roger attempt to track down Jamie’s whereabouts in 1766.

The main task in Of Lost Things is bringing the two timelines up to date, and so much of this week’s episode is dedicated to Jamie’s life at Helwater, working as a groomsman under the false name Alexander MacKenzie. It might seem dangerous to put so much emphasis on only one of the show’s leads, but luckily the scandals of the genteel Dunsany family are the kind of soapy melodrama that Outlander excels at.

Lord Dunsany agrees to conceal Jamie’s rebellious past, but is still yet to learn that his new servant is Red Jamie, the man who orchestrated the successful battle in which his son Gordon was killed. Dunsany has two daughters, Isobel and Geneva, the former of whom is likeable and the latter of whom is decidedly not.

Geneva is quickly betrothed to a cruel old aristocrat, the Earl of Ellesmere. She’s not too happy about this arrangement, and contrives a plan to seduce Jamie whilst riding in the estate. Geneva feigns a fall from her horse and Jamie comes to her aid, until he realises what she’s plotting and promptly drops her in a puddle.

Lord John Grey continues to visit Jamie, ostensibly to protect his wellbeing, but in reality to stare lovingly into his eyes over a chessboard. Colonel Melton’s reaction to Jamie makes Geneva suspicious, and after plying the soldier with wine, she learns Jamie’s identity.

Geneva visits Jamie and asks him to take her virginity, desperate for her first sexual experience to be with him rather than Ellesmere. Jamie refuses, and so Geneva threatens to uncover his past, implicating Jenny and all those at Lallybroch in the process.

In that moment, Geneva stops being entertainingly stuck-up and starts being genuinely terrible. Jamie is a rare example in the TV landscape, because it’s unusual to see a male lead that’s routinely put through sexual exploitation. Geneva’s use of her position and knowledge to force Jamie into sex is undoubtedly assault.

In a prolonged scene, one that eerily mirrors Jamie’s wedding night at times, Jamie and Geneva have sex. Jamie once asked Claire whether their connection was typical of all sexual relationships or something more; he’s now older and able to explain the distinction between the two states to Geneva when she claims she loves him.

Every man in the Outlander universe is either infertile or has highly potent sperm, so naturally Jamie’s night with Geneva results in pregnancy. Geneva dies giving birth to Jamie’s son, and since she never actually slept with Ellesmere, he figures out the child can’t be his. Jamie is forced to step in and shoot Ellesmere, who’s threatening the baby at knifepoint.

Ellesmere’s death is quickly swept under the rug and ruled “death by misadventure”, misadventure presumably implying “foolish attempt to fight Jamie Fraser.” Lady Dunsany is grateful for Jamie’s intervention, and having learned his true identity, offers to get him pardoned so he may return to Scotland. Although tempted, Jamie asks to stay for a while to help raise his new son, who’s been christened William.

Back in the 20th century, Brianna’s characterisation takes a positive step forward.  It’s pleasantly surprising how cavalier Brianna has become, throwing herself into the pursuit of Jamie and flirting up a storm with Roger. She gently teases Roger about Fiona, who may or may not have a crush on the young historian. Her methods are pretty effective, and the two share a kiss after Brianna confesses she’s scared of losing Claire to the past.

Meanwhile, Claire is teetering somewhere between hope and despair. In a nice, understated moment, Fiona returns Jamie’s freshwater pearls that Claire gave to Mrs. Graham many years ago. The search for Jamie has given Claire a new sense of purpose, but it’s clear that she wants to avoid disappointment if her husband is truly lost. Although a call from Joe (who remains sadly underused) signals Claire may be preparing to travel back in time, her restraint implies she fears the worst.

In Jamie’s timeline, Willie eventually grows up into a truly adorable child, who is supposedly beginning to look like his real father. This would be more convincing if the young actor cast as Willie looked anything like Sam Heughan, but he’s so cute I’ll suspend my disbelief.

Realising that he must leave Helwater to prevent questions about Willie’s legitimacy, Jamie asks Lord Grey to act as a surrogate father to Willie in his absence. In return, Jamie offers his body, a sad sign of how deeply he’s internalised the sexual abuse he’s suffered. Grey is a good enough man to decline this offer, and agrees that he and Isobel, to whom he will soon be married, will raise Willie.

Willie comes to visit Jamie and catches him lighting a candle to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. Jamie explains how he prays for his lost family members - his brother, Jenny, Claire - and baptises Willie as a Catholic with a new middle name, James. As a parting gift, Jamie carves Willie a wooden snake like his brother once gave him.

The scenes between Willie and Jamie are more moving than any other moments so far in season three. One unintended consequence of this, however, is that the dynamic between Claire and Brianna seems even more forced. Considering their relationship should form a key theme of season three, the lack of scenes between Caitriona Balfe and Sophie Skelton seems like a serious miscalculation.

Despite this, the episode’s final scenes are agonising. Claire loses hope after a setback in their research, and resolves to return to Boston with Brianna. Meanwhile, Jamie says goodbye to his son, who begs him not to leave. It’s easy to forget that Jamie and Claire’s reunion is essentially inevitable when the leads’ performances are so strong.

Unlike last week, where the two halves of Outlander’s story felt incoherent, the closing moments in Of Lost Things tie the episode together beautifully. Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall was an inspired musical choice, and epitomises the episode’s bold approach.

Of Lost Things is Outlander as it should be, by turns heart-breaking and romantic. We can only hope that more episodes like this are to come.

Outlander: Season 3 is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes arriving weekly.




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