For those of you hoping to see breeches drop within the first 30 seconds of “A. Malcolm,” you were in for a torrential cold shower of delayed gratification. Because despite Claire and Jamie finally reuniting at the Scot’s print shop — after two decades apart! — in the closing moments of last week’s episode, the star-crossed lovers felt the need to run errands before throwing themselves at each other.
In fact, the episode took us back in time (just a bit) to the beginning of the day, in order to retell the events from Jamie’s perspective. We watch as a French woman helps Jamie tie on his cravat and then make his way to his shop, where he finds a couple of Highlanders taking refuge for the night and puts them to work delivering treasonous papers to a papist. Geordie comes and goes on his own errands, and we get a nice little scene of Jamie working the press (a real one, mind you) and using his middle-aged spectacles to check the type. It’s then that Claire enters and the reunion scene from last week unfolds once again.
“You’re real,” Jamie marvels, recovering from his fainting spell.
“So are you,” Claire replies.
Jamie starts, worried he’s had a wee accident, but it turns out to only be some spilled printing fluid. But it does necessitate him taking off his pants. (Just not for the purpose we may have wanted.)
“Do you mind?” he says to Claire.
“It’s all right,” she answers. “We are married. At least, I suppose we are.”
“Aye, we are,” he says, eyeing her ring. The ring he gave her on their wedding day that she never took off. “I would very much like to kiss you,” he says. “May I?”
She acquiesces and the two share their first kiss in 20 years.
Geordie picks that very moment, with Jamie sans pants, to return.
“Orgies in the shop! And before noon!” he exclaims, proffering his resignation and storming out.
Jamie will sort things with Geordie later, but first he needs to know about the couple’s child. Claire has not returned to the 18th century empty-handed, it seems, slipping a bit of anachronistic contraband into her belongings. They’re photos of Brianna. Jamie is moved by the images (except for the bikini one, of course), but not so much the choice of name. “What an awful name for a wee lass,” he tells Claire, who reminds him that she was sworn to name their child after Jamie’s father, Brian. So there.
Thoughts of their child provoke Jamie to tell Claire about his own son, William, whom he conceived with the now-deceased Geneva Dunsany.
Claire is understanding: “I knew when I decided to come back you would have had a life,” she assures him.
Their heart-to-heart is cut short when Jamie realizes he forgot something at the tavern. He asks Claire to accompany him, and along the way they run into a familiar face. Well, not so much a familiar face since it’s aged some 20 years, but nonetheless, it’s Fergus. And he’s incredulous at the sight of Claire. She explains that, after Culloden, she set sail for the colonies as she thought everyone she knew and loved was dead. He accepts that explanation and pulls Jamie aside to talk about their acquaintance Mr. Willoughby, and of course to inquire after Claire.
“Is milady staying with you?” Fergus asks.
“I don’t ken yet,” says Jamie. “I hope so.”
“What about …?”
Jamie replies that he needs to consult with Ned Gowan regarding “the law.” Had a life, indeed.
At the World’s End (a pub, not the apocalypse) we meet one Mr. Willoughby, a Chinese man Jamie found starving at the docks. Mr. Willoughby explains to Claire — while Jamie is downstairs doing some business — that his real name is Yi Tien Cho (meaning “leans against heaven”), which sounds too similar to a Gaelic curse word, hence his nickname. (For what it’s worth, this portrayal of Mr. Willoughby felt far less problematic than the caricature from the book.)
With Jamie’s business dispatched, he takes Claire to a brothel. Yes, a brothel, run by none other than the aforementioned French woman, Madame Jeanne. This is where Jamie and Claire are to lay their heads for the night.
“It’s not much, but it’s convenient,” he tells Claire, explaining that with his frequent travels, the brothel provides convenient lodging and a hot meal. Claire can’t help but wonder whether Jamie is a customer, to which he explains that it’s actually the other way around: Madame Jeanne is a customer of his.
As they make themselves comfortable, Jamie presses Claire about why she has returned. Simply to relay word of their daughter? Or to truly be with him?
“I came back now because before I thought you were dead,” she tells him.
“I have burned for you,” he tells her, adding, though, that neither one is the person they were before.
“Whoever you are, James Fraser, yes, I do want you,” Claire tells him. He feels the same, and the two kiss — only to be once again interrupted, this time by their meal being delivered to their room.
The couple catch up over dinner (a nice use of voiceover here to avoid retelling the events we’ve already witnessed), and when forks and knives are finally down, Jamie cuts to the chase: “Will you come to bed with me then?” Claire says yes.
And thus begins probably one of the longest stripteases in television history. (Okay, maybe not, but they do take their time shyly removing all those layers!)
Finally disrobed, they fall into bed … and bang heads. (Not a euphemism.) Claire is afraid she’s broken her nose, but Jamie — you know, the one who is not a physician — assures her that she’s fine. And that seems to be all the foreplay Claire needs as she hungrily instructs Jamie, “Do it now and don’t be gentle!”
Dear reader, it was not gentle.
Afterward, their pillow talk is sweet and playful. Claire begins to guess what Jamie actually does for a living, as printing seditious papers doesn’t really pay the bills (or give you a bod like that). She cycles through highway robber, kidnapper, and petty thief, before Jamie finally reveals where the bulk of his funds come from: smuggling whiskey, cognac, brandy, rum, and French wine. Which, Claire realizes, explains his working relationship with Madame Jeanne.
Their chatter then turns serious: “I only have one question,” Claire says. “Did you ever fall in love with anyone else after I left?”
“No, Sassenach, I never loved anyone but you.”
Jamie explains that he must run another errand (is he paying a visit to Ned Gowan, perhaps?), and instructs her not to leave the brothel. He’s not gone for long before a figure barges into Claire’s room — it’s none other than young Ian Murray, who mistakes Claire for a sex worker. Sorry, laddie, that lady of ill repute is actually your aunt! He’s dumbfounded by the revelation. He had assumed Claire, being the white lady that she is, had gone to live with the faeries. She reuses her colonies explanation, and Ian seems satisfied with that and departs.
And then, seeing as no one has brought up breakfast, Claire wanders downstairs to find some victuals and takes a seat with the women of the brothel, who mistake her for the newest recruit (despite her age). They dispense many a secret of the trade (put your finger there!), until Madame Jeanne walks in horrified to find Jamie’s wife with the women. She tells her to go back upstairs, and Claire returns to a strange man in her room. He wants to know where Jamie’s ledgers are. She says she has no idea. He says maybe he’ll f— her to jog her memory. She tells him to get out. He grabs her by the neck and … cut to black.
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