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Outlander: An impassioned defense of Team Frank

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I get it. You’re all on board the Jamie train.

Sure, Outlander‘s Jamie (Sam Heughan) is handsome, with shoulder-length red hair and a body out of Greek mythology. And yes, he’s brave and gallant and one-half of a love story spanning two centuries, soul mates brought together by fate or magic or both. Outlander has spent two seasons giving us steamy love scenes between everyone’s favorite Scotsman and his Sassenach bride. Jamie is the platonic ideal of the guy who should be on the cover of a romance novel.

But the real romantic hero of Outlander should be Frank.

Claire’s first husband, 1945-era Frank (Tobias Menzies), is a great person. He’s a brilliant historian and professor who matches Claire (Caitriona Balfe) on an intellectual level. What is Jamie? A landlord slash soldier? Frank was also a soldier in World War II, except wait, he was actually an officer and wait, he actually worked for the highly selective and secretive MI6. Frank is James Bond plus Indiana Jones. Jamie is a glorified farmer. Frank has a PhD. Jamie would probably freak out if he saw an algebra problem and call it witchcraft.

Starz

Claire is an insightful, observant, and brilliant nurse. The fact that she managed to keep her head and handle herself in an inexplicable time travel disaster and establish herself in a world with only 1745-era medicinal technology is nothing short of genius. She deserves a partner equally intelligent, and Jamie, for all of his sexy horseback riding and kilt-wearing, has never established himself as the sharpest sword in the holster. Defend his battlefield prowess and strategic ability all you like — yes, he has street smarts. But objectively, when Claire met him, he was a 23-year-old virgin who was probably iffy on the whole “theory of gravity” thing Newton had come up with a few decades earlier and probably never read a book in his life. Did I mention Frank was a goddamn professor who moonlighted as a spy?

Frank is also an incredible husband. When Claire disappears, he searches for her tirelessly for two years, refusing to believe that she would have left him for another man on their second honeymoon. (He took her on a second honeymoon! How romantic is that? Did Jamie even take her on a first honeymoon?)

And then, when she returns with the most improbable excuse in the entire world, he trusts her and is still so in love with her that he wants to work to repair their marriage. Oh, and did I mention that she’s pregnant with another man’s child? Frank, the most understanding man in the known universe, agrees to raise that baby and do whatever he can to make their marriage work. Claire is moody and clearly still in love with Jamie, and Frank is nothing but patient and loving towards her and their child — the child he raises as if it was his own. Meanwhile, Claire is a little flippant about their marriage. Frank’s one request is that she stop spending all of her time and energy on the man she cheated on him with, who’s been dead for over 100 years, and she can barely manage that. And for whatever reason, this anti-Frank biased television show makes it seem like Frank is asking a lot. “Hey, could you stop spending all of your mental resources dwelling on the guy you married while you were also married to me so we can focus on repairing our tattered marriage? Because I still really love you and want to make this work” is not a villainous position. It is the mature, level-headed, generous proposal of an adult man committed to marriage with a woman he loves.

Jamie was a virgin forced into marrying a hot stranger he barely knew. Of course he loves Claire; their sex is amazing and Balfe is a literal Victoria’s Secret model. Their relationship would never work in the real world. It’s not just that they come from different centuries or that they come from entirely different types of communities, even though both of those factors are major red flags when it comes to genuine long-term compatibility. It’s because Jamie is the hot pool boy. Claire was on vacation and thrust into a strange and terrifying environment through an inexplicable series of events, and his rugged arms reached out to catch her. Their relationship has been entirely forged through situations of danger and intrigue and adrenaline. What would it look like if they just tried to have a normal, quiet life together? I’ll tell you what it would look like: that episode in season 2 when Claire started volunteering at a French hospital and she came home so excited about her work and Jamie snapped at her because she wasn’t there when he came home to listen to him talk about his day. However progressive he seems, Jamie is still an 18th-century dude who has very clear ideas about what a woman’s role in the relationship should be. Claire’s fun, flirty banter will never undo a lifetime of cultural indoctrination.

And don’t pretend Jamie is the only one with sex appeal. If you don’t think Frank is sexy, I beseech you to go back to the pilot and watch the recently reunited married couple try to make a baby.

In conclusion: a sexy professor historian spy who also happens to be the most generous and understanding husband in the world versus a dumb jock who has never taken a shower in his life because showers don’t exist? Yeah, Team Frank all the way.

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.