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‘Outlander’ Review: A Hero Loses Himself In The Aftermath of War

In Season 3, Episode 2, “Surrender,” The Dunbonnet haunts Lallybroch as the Red Coats make their mark.

Outlander Season 3 2017

Starz

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 3 Episode 2, “Surrender.”]

Unrequited Love

Of the two lives lived by the infamous couple following their separation pre-Culloden, Jamie’s was a richer one story-wise, as it involved living though a time of Red Coats, jail and infinite adventure. Basically all of the things Claire escaped when she returned to the rocks and slipped back to the 1940s, where her relatively simple existence with Frank was much easier, if not just as hollow as Jamie’s. So it makes sense that the narrative focused the majority of the second episode on Jamie’s return to Lallybroch and what it meant for Jenny, Ian and the rest of the tenants as they struggled to hide the “Dunbonnet” from British officers.

The Dunbonnet

With the new captain intent on finding Red Jamie and bringing him to justice for his crimes, a very soiled and hairy Jamie haunted the grounds of Lallybroch while living in a cave and hunting food for his people. To hide his red hair he wore a dusty brown cap, leading to the Dunbonnet nickname, but the new moniker was also symbolic of the changed man who returned to his home following the war. As Jenny and Fergus remarked at separate points in the episode, this Jamie was changed and much more hollow than when he left. Losing Claire and his unborn child were reasons for that, to be sure, but surviving a war in which all of your comrades fell is also haunting. The fight went out of Jamie the day he asked to be shot with the rest of his men and was denied his request, and that lack of strength had the rest of his family tip-toeing around him as they tried to figure out how to help him.

A Lending Hand

Of all the residents, it seemed as though young Fergus was the one affected most by the change in Jamie, accustomed as he was to fighting the good fight with his master. So his rebellion was in part to make up for Jamie’s lack of spark, but it was also in part because he’s just a kid who at this point doesn’t know any better. As soon as he and young Jamie found Ian’s gun you knew things were going to get out of hand, but whether those who haven’t read the books knew the kid was going to lose an actual hand was another matter. The shrewd move was clearly uncalled for and played heartlessly to further establish the Red Coats as traitors with no regard to anyone even potentially related to the rebellion, but it also served to give Jamie his groove back. Well, that, and establishing Fergus as a newfound man of leisure, thanks to the oath Jamie made to him back in France.

Avoiding An Old TV Trope

Given that earlier in the episode Jenny gave birth to another child, it’s a wonder the series allowed Fergus to escape with only losing one hand and still allowed all of the other major characters to live. With birth comes death is a tired TV trope that we were half expecting here, so to avoid it altogether was a pleasant surprise.

Playing House

Meanwhile in 1948 Boston, Claire was still pining for Jamie and having some pretty lusty dreams about him (and his clean-shaven face). Whether out of survival or a need to reclaim her memories, she began throwing herself at Frank in a sexual way, trying to fulfill her duties as a wife and make it work. Of course Frank quickly caught on to the fact that Claire was mentally with Jamie the whole time and called off the newfound courtship, inevitably disappointed that his wife couldn’t just be with him. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Frank given the situation; while he obviously expects certain things from Claire that she just can’t give him, up until this point he has been trying to live up to his responsibilities and to be a good husband and father. Unfortunately, Claire just wasn’t cut out for hosting dinner parties and being a stay-at-home mother, which became obvious by the end of the episode.

Outlander Season 3 2017

Is There a Doctor In the House?

Realizing her destiny as set forth last week, Claire finally enrolled in medical school by the episode’s end, becoming the only female in the class. While her enthusiasm was apparent, the lack thereof of her classmates and professor was fairly obvious. Claire’s one saving grace was the “negro” student Joe, who also stood out like a sore thumb among the privileged white men in the group. These two striking up a friendship seems inevitable given their situation alone, but as we’ve learned Claire is the type who would have been welcoming to Joe even if she hadn’t been shunned by the others. Meanwhile, this newfound medical knowledge will have tons of benefits when Claire does travel back in time again—those herbs will have nothing on her acquired surgical skills to be sure. Although, with a lack of modern medicine we’re sure they’ll do in a pinch.

Self-Sacrifice

Back in the 18th century, Jamie’s newfound will to live also caused him to make his biggest sacrifice yet; turning himself in for his family and lands so that they could take advantage of the reward on his head and the Red Coats would leave those associated with him alone. Fergus “only” lost a hand, but Jamie knew it could get much, much worse as they continued pursuing him. And so he conspired with his sister and brother-in-law to “return” home and be arrested, kicking off his next Claire-less (and facial hair-less) adventure. As Ian pointed out, the British were no longer hanging rebels at that point so there was some comfort in the arrest, but it was a gamble nonetheless from the man of many names. No spoilers for those who haven’t read ahead, but living in a cave may be a cakewalk compared to what’s to come. They don’t allow conjugal visits in jail, for one, a fact that Jenny and Mary MacNab surely knew.

By the Book

“Surrender” remained fairly faithful to Diana Gabaldon’s third novel, “Voyager,” despite some small deviances. In the novel it was Jamie, not Fergus, who shot down the raven during Jenny’s birth, a situation the Red Coats were slightly more sympathetic towards in the novel as well. And speaking of the Red Coats, they only chopped off Fergus’s hand when he refused to hand over the ale he had been carrying for Jamie; although the kid was still innocent the show made the Red Coats out to be much, much worse than the novel.
Indeed, in the book they only stumbled upon Fergus, as they weren’t yet onto the “Dunbonnet” roaming the woods rumors. Furthermore, the famine that had settled in at Lallybroch and the rest of Scotland was a huge theme and reason as to why Jamie turned himself in — that money was supposed to go towards helping his people survive through the worst of it as they began dying of hunger. With so much else to cover in the episode, that fell to the wayside, but the story wasn’t exactly compromised. And isn’t that always the sign of a good adaptation? We think so, anyways.
Now off to prison we go.

Grade: B+

Next week: Jamie runs into an old foe as Claire and Frank’s differences come to light. “Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.

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