Considering Voyager — Diana Gabaldon’s third novel, upon which this season of Outlander is based — comes in at a doorstop-worthy 1,059 pages, a considerable number of plot points often have to be crammed into a single episode. Such was the case with tonight’s “First Wife,” which boasts a reunion, a shooting, and a kidnapping.
Narrowly surviving last week’s print shop fire, Young Ian is returned home safely to Lallybroch by Jamie and Claire. But neither he nor his auntie get a warm reception upon arrival.
“I never thought I’d see you grace my front step again,” Jenny tells Claire, clearly distrusting of Jamie’s long-lost bride. And it doesn’t help Claire’s cause that Young Ian tells his mom that Claire shot a man dead just days after reuniting with Jamie. (Claire helpfully assures that she didn’t do it, like, in front of Young Ian.)
Meanwhile, Ian informs Jamie that he must be the one to whip Young Ian as punishment for running away. After all, if Jamie considers Young Ian something of a son, he must also help with the less savory tasks. But, in a clever subversion of the book, Jamie tells Ian that “a thrashing isn’t the only way to teach a lesson” and suggests Young Ian work in the muck instead. (Which he does.) Jenny, on the other hand, doesn’t take too kindly to Jamie’s parenting advice: “Listen to you telling me what I should do. You must ken it’s a mortal sin to take another wife while the first still walks the Earth!” (If only Jenny had been born in the 20th century, she could have been the Scottish Diane Lockhart.)
Of course, Jamie says that he wouldn’t have taken a second wife had he known Claire was still alive. Jenny asks what happened to Claire and is given the practiced half-truths about Claire fleeing to the colonies when she thought Jamie had died. No-BS Jenny smells a lie — she knows Claire would have never stopped looking for Jamie.
In their room later that night, Claire and Jamie contemplate their future. Jamie suggests building a cottage on the outskirts of the Lallybroch estate; Claire hesitates seeing as Jenny can’t stand the sight of her. Jamie then recalls the one time he went searching for Claire during their two decades apart — when he escaped Ardsmuir Prison after the dying man told him of a lost treasure guarded by a White Witch. He, of course, did not find Claire on the island, but he did find a sort of treasure: a box of ancient coins and gems. He took a single sapphire and left the rest.
His melancholy story complete, Jamie begins to tell Claire something of great import. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, Sassenach…” But before he can finish his thought, two girls barge in yelling, “Daddy!” They are quickly followed by none other than Laoghaire! Who, I might add, is none too pleased to see Claire. (Her insults are not EW approved and shall not be reprinted…) Claire’s jaw drops at the sight of her old rival, and Laoghaire gets the pleasure of revealing her hand: “He didn’t tell you?” Laoghaire asks. “He’s my husband now.” Laoghaire runs out of the room with Jamie on her heels.
Claire, near-hyperventilating, stays upstairs and begins packing her belongings. Jamie soon returns to explain himself, but Claire isn’t much for listening. Jamie explains that he and Laoghaire have only been married a couple years and that the lasses aren’t his, but that’s quite missing the point.
“It’s Laoghaire,” Claire hisses. “She tried to have me killed!”
“You’re the one who told me to be kind to the lass,” Jamie retorts.
“I told you to thank her, not marry her!”
And then Claire asks the question we’ve all been thinking: Why did he tell her about his son William but not about his wife Laoghaire?
“Because I am a coward,” Jamie says. “That’s why. I couldn’t tell you for fear I’d lose you.”
They continue to argue until Jamie puts his hands on Claire. She initially tells him to get off, but eventually, she is overcome with passion too. “I love you and only you,” Jamie tells her. They’re on the ground, frantically ripping at each other’s clothing when Jenny storms into the room and throws a bucket of cold water on them. (The whole house can hear their goings-on, after all!)
It’s Claire’s turn to leave the room, and downstairs she’s met by Janet, who offers her a whisky and her apologies. She was the one who told Laoghaire about Claire (at her mother’s orders). When Claire confronts Jenny about this, Jenny throws Claire’s suspicious colonies story right back at her. Claire tells her of her other husband in America and how she had to forget her previous life in order to survive. And that, yes, Jamie knows all of it. Jenny, although seeming to understand a bit, says her relationship with Claire will never fully heal.
The next day, with her medicine bag packed, Claire tries to leave Lallybroch, but Jamie is blocking the gates. He attempts to reason with her, but before he gets too far, Laoghaire arrives at the scene brandishing a pistol.
“I have come to protect what’s mine,” she declares. “Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but you were mine!”
At that, her gun accidentally discharges, hitting Jamie square in the arm. She flees as Claire comes to Jamie’s rescue. Once inside, Claire begins using her 20th-century medical instruments to retrieve the pellets in his arm. Finally bandaged and reclining in a chair, Jamie explains himself, why he married Laoghaire. He returned from prison to a home that no longer recognized him. “I was a ghost,” he says. (A feeling Claire can surely recognize.) He reconnected with Laoghaire at a Lallybroch holiday party, but their marriage wasn’t easy. She had been hurt by another man and often flinched at Jamie’s touch. There were days, weeks even, when she wouldn’t talk to him. With the marriage a mess, he left for Edinburgh. Sympathizing with his story, Claire grabs Jamie’s hand, only to feel it burning up. Thank Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ she had the forethought to pack penicillin!
With Jamie now squared away, Claire finds Jenny sitting outside. Jenny tells her that she never questioned Claire’s word in the past, even if it involved planting potatoes for an untold reason. But this, this she needs some explanation for.
“What I can tell you,” Claire says, “is that I love your brother very much. I never forgot him, or any of you. I never stopped wearing his wedding ring.”
“You were a sister to me,” Jenny says.
“I loved you too, Jenny,” Claire replies. “I still do. I’m only asking for a second chance.”
We’re left wondering whether Jenny will, indeed, give Claire that second chance.
Someone who’s not getting a second chance is Laoghaire. Jamie dispatches trusty lawyer Ned Gowan to see what can be done about his unfortunate union. Thankfully, given that Jamie’s marriage to Claire is still binding, his second marriage to Laoghaire isn’t legal. But that doesn’t mean she’s not going to try to weasel alimony out of him. Twenty pounds, to be exact, plus 10 pounds a year until the girls are wed. With Jamie no longer able to make money through smuggling and printing, he needs to come up with a way to pay her. Come to think of it, there is that box of treasure he left behind…
And so, Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian set a course for the island. Young Ian will do the swimming, as Jamie’s arm is still healing. Afterward, the three will go to France to have Jamie’s cousin swap the trove for pounds sterling. While Claire and Jamie wait atop an overlooking cliff for Young Ian, Claire makes known her reservations about the couple’s future.
“I’m afraid this is all a mistake,” she says. “I’m just not sure if we belong together anymore.”
“How can you say that?” Jamie asks.
“I had a life. We both had lives and families. It wasn’t the plan, but I didn’t hate Boston. I had a career, a home, friends, and you had your print shop in Edinburgh. It wasn’t really so bad, was it?”
“Being a printer was naught compared to being your husband.”
“Ever since I’ve arrived back, it’s been so much harder than I could ever imagine.”
“When has it ever been easy? But I apologized for it. I’ve done all I can to make it right. You belong with me. We’re mated for life, Sassenach. Will you risk the man I am for the sake of the one you once knew?”
Before Claire can give her answer, she notices a ship off in the distance — headed straight for the island Young Ian is on. Despite their screams of warning (I’m not sure how that would have really helped anyway), Young Ian is intercepted by the sailors, who steal him away unto their ship.
So much for “You can trust us.”
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