This week, the gang takes steps to protect Claire from Black Jack Randall, and almost everyone is surprised by the outcome in one way or another.
Given the choice between being delivered into the lady-punchy arms of Fort William's resident sadistic bastard Black Jack Randall, and being delivered into the fireside-comforting arms of resident kilted outlaw Jamie Not-MacTavish, Claire chooses Jamie (and bigamy, and infidelity, in her view). This episode covers the day and night of the wedding. We begin in medias res with a juxtaposition between Claire's weddings. (Claire is thinking of her wedding to Frank as she stands at the altar with Jamie.)
Reason #263 why I love Caitriona Balfe: Her little slide across the floor going into the register office.
Claire's wedding to Frank is a choice to build a life with him, a decision made out of love, but there's not a lot of pomp and circumstance. Her wedding to Jamie comes from necessity, not love, but (thanks to Jamie) it's more of an event - they're in a church, wearing finery, saying Catholic vows and mingling their blood. Both weddings come about rather quickly, though she certainly knows one groom better than the other. Claire finally learns Jamie's name as they are about to enter the church: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. #JAMMF as they say on the Twitters.
The episode takes us through the wedding night, with flashbacks to the wedding preparations earlier in the day. First, Ned Gowan tees things up nicely by emphasizing that everything has to look proper on paper, and there can be no doubt as to whether or not the marriage was consummated. Jamie and Claire have to have sex; everyone clear on that? Ok, moving on, then...
Aside from the paperwork, Jamie has a list of demands to make this more than just a signature and a bedding. First: They must be married in a church, by a priest. Second: Jamie must have a ring to give Claire. Third: Claire must have a proper gown to wear. Dougal and Willie take care of #1 through bribery (after threats don't work on the local priest). Rupert and Angus take care of #2 by hiring a blacksmith to take bits out of a skeleton key provided by Jamie. (What is this mysterious key? It clearly has meaning for Jamie but he won't say what. And this is a change from the books.) Ned Gowan takes it on himself to handle #3 by asking around in the local brothel for a spare gown.
Murtaugh, meanwhile, picks up some garments for Jamie to wear, in his Fraser colors. It's a risk for him to be out and about so obviously a Fraser, but Jamie is willing to take the risk. Murtaugh has a bit of a weak spot for Jamie's mother, we see.
Let's also take a moment to talk about Dougal. Dougal seems keen to accomplish this marriage, which seems nice and benevolent, but once drunk Dougal makes an appearance, we realize his motivations are selfish. (Drunk Dougal, stop making me hate Quippy Badass Dougal!) He wants Claire, so he wants her to stick around and maybe "sample" from other dishes, not just Jamie's. Rupert's timely arrival saves Claire from having to knock some sense into Dougal with whatever furniture is handy, but we see that Dougal is still a threat to Claire.
Caitriona Balfe portrays Claire beautifully in this episode. Claire's whole trouble is that she can't just get down to business with Jamie, and treat this as a transaction. She tries to drink up the courage to do what must be done, but that doesn't work. At first she struggles because she doesn't view sex as just business to be getting on with. But as the night goes on, she finds herself genuinely attracted to Jamie, and that unnerves her more than anything. She spends a lot of time trying to keep Jamie and those feelings at bay. It's not until she and Jamie relive the wedding, that Claire finally opens herself up to Jamie, and gives more of herself to him. And you get the sense that this surrender opens a connection between them that won't easily close.
Jamie, for his part, never intends to treat this as a transaction. His struggle in this episode is more trying not to overwhelm or pressure Claire; he is sensitive to her anxiety and wants to be respectful. He doesn't push things, but instead allows her to indicate when she wants to take the next step. But when she does, he is there, giving freely of himself, earnestly reveling in all of this marital sharing of flesh.
The couple's sexual evolution is pretty interesting to see. (Not just in that way, you perv! Though, also in that way. I mean, let's face it - the sex is steamy.) As they open themselves up to each other physically (after opening up to each other verbally), and as Claire is willing to welcome what he is offering, it definitely becomes more than just sex. Until finally, Claire wearing nothing but his mother's pearls, they make love tenderly as she wraps them both in his plaid, in a lovely echo of their initial meeting.
Ok, now, a couple of book reader nitpicks. If you don't want MINOR BOOK SPOILERS, skip to the next paragraph. There are a couple of beats missing here that I think are important. (They may come up next week; we'll have to see.) First, in the book, Jamie accepts that Claire can't tell him things, and suggests that their marriage "has room for secrets, but not lies." So they make an agreement to be honest to each other, and not to press each other for things the other doesn't wish to reveal. Second, Jamie brings up Frank, and accepts that Claire is probably thinking of him, which a) shows that Jamie understands Claire and b) frees Claire from having to hide her thoughts about it. (In the show this is telegraphed by the way he takes a step back anytime she balks at his touch, but I liked how they sort of confronted the issue in the book.) I will say that I like they way they're keeping Jamie a bit cryptic (like with the mysterious key), and Heughan is doing a bang up job of suggesting that he was motivated by more than just protecting Claire from Black Jack, without actually talking about it (unlike in the book, where he says he has other reasons for marrying Claire but that he can't tell her). This last sentence is padding so anyone skipping the paragraph doesn't see what I wrote at the end by accident.
Next week, in the mid-season finale, we'll see if Claire and Jamie's connection can last outside the bridal suite, now that she has her gold ring back on. Will Claire resume her attempts to get to Craigh na Dun? Plus, non-book Frank scenes! Who is the mysterious blond woman? Why does someone attack Frank? So many questions!
"To bed...or to sleep?" - Jamie
"Blood of my blood, and bone of my bone, I give you my body, that we two might be one, I give you my spirit, til my life shall be done." - Jamie and Claire
"I thought you did it the back way, like horses." - Jamie
Jamie: "I didn't know that women...does it happen every time?" Claire: "Only if the man is a very good lover."
Obligatory Beautiful Picture of Scotland:
(Sorry, couldn't help myself. But I was *this* close to using a picture of Heughan's admirable rear end, so you should be admiring my restraint.)