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On Outlander: The Two Identities of Jamie Fraser

“The Watch” is about Jamie’s vision of his future and his own identity. He sees himself as laird and farmer, running the estate, and having a passel of children with Claire. This episode is constructed to tear down these hopes one by one.

Spoilers ahead...

Just as Jamie is getting settled in as laird, the Watch arrives at Lallybroch, bringing with them our favorite Irish Redcoat deserter and extortionist, Horrocks. The Watch is no picnic - taking the good tobacco and being generally disrespectful - but Jenny and Ian clearly know how to handle the Watch’s visits, serving them meals and helping to repair and restock their supplies. It’s an uneasy peace, and one Jamie objects to wholeheartedly. But Jamie must play nice so the Watch doesn’t find out who he is and how much he’s worth to the English.

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And so begins the deconstruction of Jamie Fraser.

First, Jamie must forgo his true name and place as laird as soon as the Watch arrives. He’s immediately back to being Jamie MacTavish, in his own home no less. He must play the compliant farmer and do whatever the Watch needs without complaint while Ian sits at the head of the table.

Jamie and Claire both struggle to bury their indignation at the Watch’s behavior, while Ian and Jenny take it in stride. (They’ve been doing it for two years, after all.) While Jamie is tending to one of the Watch’s horses, he can’t help provoking the Watch into a fight, and then taking them all down - and feeling a sense of accomplishment in doing so. Afterward, when Taran offers Jamie a position, Jamie declines, saying “I’ve done enough fighting in my life. I’m settled now.” (Jamie, there’s a river in Egypt I’d like to acquaint you with.)

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Next, who should stroll into the dooryard but Horrocks, here to further remind Jamie that he can’t escape his past. The actions at Fort William will always be there, haunting him if not outright threatening the safety of all he holds dear. Horrocks has joined Taran’s group with the prospect of a raid in the future. He knows when and where to ambush another clan’s rent party, and he and Taran’s group will be going there in a few days’ time.

Jamie is reluctant to reveal himself to the Watch, so Horrocks seizes the opportunity and blackmails him. Horrocks wants to travel to Boston and set up a nice respectable shop, see, and gee wouldn’t it be great if Jamie gave him a little boost to get things going. But Horrocks, finding Jamie compliant, gets greedy - he wants ongoing financial support from Jamie in exchange for his silence.

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His previous blackmail subject: L’Oreal.

Just when it seems that Jamie will have to silence Horrocks forever...Ian silences Horrocks forever. (I’d cheer for you, Ian, but you look a little shaken.) The brothers-in-law bury the man and return to the house. Taran smells something fishy, though.

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It’s now more than ever that we see how Taran and Ian are used as foils for Jamie, each representing different paths, different identities for him.

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Door Number One: Ian the Farmer. Ian represents the life that Jamie wants. Peaceful farmer, free of fear of imprisonment, loving wife bearing him children... Not tainted by death nor accustomed to it. Amiable and happy.

Door Number Two: Taran the Warrior. Taran represents Jamie’s true self. Taran lives for battles and is happy roaming the countryside, raiding and plundering under an open sky. Roughened but honorable.

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Taran himself sees a kindred spirit in Jamie, and attempts to draw out the warrior in him. Jamie resists, though even Ian himself recognizes how alike Taran and Jamie are. Jamie is unwilling to give up his vision of himself - he wants to walk through Door Number One.

Claire tears down another aspect of Jamie’s ideal future, though it’s not her fault. She reveals to Jamie that she doesn’t think she can have children. She tried with Frank, but they were never successful. Though he tries to spin it positively for Claire, Jamie is clearly stricken by this information. Further destruction of the identity he wants; he sees Door Number One closing on him.

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So, he turns to Door Number Two. Really, he’s already walked through that door, it’s just that he doesn’t realize it until Horrocks’ death. Ian kills the man, but he’s so shaken he can’t properly sheath his sword, while Jamie is already calling for a shovel and calculating his next move. And the next morning, when Taran confronts the two men about Horrocks, Jamie finally acknowledges (to himself, Taran, and Ian) that he is the Warrior, not the Farmer. He takes the blame for Horrocks’ death - it’s like he’s actually trying to protect Ian’s Farmer identity, knowing that it’s one he can never assume.

Taran recruits Jamie to fill the spot on the team recently vacated by Horrocks for a raid. Ian of course insists on accompanying him, despite Jamie’s protests. (See above re: protecting his identity.) Horrocks had information on another clan’s traveling rent party, and even found a good place to ambush them. Taran still wants to complete the raid, so he asks Jamie to tag along. Jamie and Ian bid farewell to the women and head out with Taran.

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This is about the time when the ominous slo-mo farewell scene occurs.

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It turns out the raid location is a great place for an ambush - and the Redcoats get there first. The raiding party is ambushed and fired upon by Redcoats. Finally, three days later, Ian and one of the Watch come hobbling back to Lallybroch to report that many of the men were killed, and Jamie was taken by the Redcoats.

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Throughout the episode, while the men are all out arguing and fighting and killing and whatnot, Jenny and Claire are dealing with the lady business. (First the laundry, and then the childbirth.) Jenny goes into labor, and no midwife is available, so it’s up to Claire to bring the (breech) baby safely into the world. We get the famous Jenny pregnancy scene from the books, slightly modified. (This was allegedly the first passage Gabaldon wrote for the novels.) Laura Donnelly again plays Jenny beautifully, showing us Jenny’s fear underneath the brave face she puts on for Claire and Ian.

Claire seems worried but competent. I kind of wish Claire had taken a little more control in the childbirth scenes. I know Jenny is experienced, but I suspect Claire would have earned her respect more if she took charge and acted a little more...bossy, maybe. Oh well; the point is, Claire got Jenny and wee Maggie through the birth, and Jenny has softened toward Claire as a result.

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Next week, Claire goes looking for her husband, presumably to drag him back to Lallybroch by his thick red curls. But from the previews, it doesn’t look that easy. (On the bright side...Murtagh! Rupert! Angus! Maybe Dougal? And that badass shot of Claire pointing a pistol at an English soldier.)

PS - This episode is a great example of why I love the adaptation so much. They unpack and distill so much from the source material to find the heart of the characters and draw them out.

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Creative Sidenote:

The lighting in this episode was really great. The stark daylight during Jamie’s confession to Taran; the silhouette of Jenny’s pregnant belly as she talks about bearing a child; the use of sunlight to reveal Ian and his companion when they return from the ambush. It all adds another layer of visual interest to the episode. The lighting was most stark on Jamie’s face when he was in conversation with Taran or doing something that provoked his true warrior self.

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Memorable Quotes:

“Here’s to a long life, and a merry one; a quick death, and an easy one; a pretty girl, and an honest one; a stiff whiskey, and another one.” - Taran MacQuarrie

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“He’s determined to land on his feet.” - Jenny Murray

“That’s what they want sometimes, you know. They want to come back.” - Jenny Murray

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“I can bear pain myself, but I couldna bear yours. It would take more strength than I have.” - Jamie Fraser

“An Irishman’s never drunk. As long as he can hold on to one blade of grass, he’ll not fall off the face of the earth.” - Horrocks

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“Well you’re going to Hell; I might as well go too. God knows you’ll never manage alone.” - Ian Murray

“Pale death visits with impartial foot the cottages of the poor and the castles of the rich.” - Jamie Fraser (quoting Horace)

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Obligatory Beautiful Shot of Scotland:

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