[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 3 Episode 3, “All Debts Paid.”]
With Jamie in prison it made sense for the storyline to focus more on Claire and Frank’s struggles in the 1950s this week, with an episode that ambitiously spanned a ten-year timeframe that did nothing to improve Claire and Frank’s situation. Sometimes marriages fall apart little by little (especially when no work goes into maintaining them), so in using time to their advantage, writers were able to showcase a drastic fallout more rife with history and emotions than if they were to break it down over a smaller increment of time. And since viewers know that Jamie and Claire are the real relationship worth rooting for here, the timeframe also scratches that itch as everyone waits for the Frasers to finally reunite already.
Let’s Be Frank
It’s hard not to feel for Frank. The man sacrificed his entire life for a woman who refused to let him in or love him like a real husband. Yes, a large part of why he stuck around was for Brianna, because he knew she was his only chance at ever being a father. But he also supported Claire through med school and her career, all while trying his best to be a good husband. At a certain point he had to move on in order to find some kind of fulfillment in his own life, and Claire’s reactions to that — although agreeable at first — morphed into those of a jealous and unfulfilled wife.
Part of her hysteria at Frank’s new partner was of course because she could never find that kind of satisfaction again unless it was with Jamie, so to witness Frank having it was an unbearable reminder. The other major factor was Brianna, whom Frank wanted to bring to England. Claire couldn’t bear to lose her daughter (and her last reminder of Jamie) to Frank and his new wife, but she also knew that given a choice, Brianna might choose Frank.
In the end, that all made Frank’s car accident all the more tragic. Just when he had finally run out the clock and decided to pursue his own happiness for the first time in two decades, he died. And to be frank about it all, that really sucks.
There’s no denying that one of the fun parts of spending so much time in the 50s and 60s is seeing how the costume department deals with those eras. So while the jury is still out on Claire’s aged hair (we miss the curls), we can’t help but have a little “Mad Men” or “Masters of Sex” envy at all of the gorgeous clothes she and the other women from that time period get to wear.
Meanwhile back in Scotland, the man of many names gained another one. Jamie became known as Mac Dubh in Ardsmuir prison, where he spoke on behalf of the men and served as their leader. It looked as though his position would change when the new governor, Lord John Grey, showed up with an inherent hatred of Jamie for taunting and making a fool of him as a boy.
But the promise of gold and reward always gets the best of men — and Grey was no exception. So when a man showed up babbling about Prince Charles’ long-lost treasure and Jamie was the only one who could translate his French and Gaelic, rivalries were put aside and an uneasy friendship eventually formed. That friendship is undoubtedly how Jamie managed to pass away the remainder of his time in the prison without going mad, but it also gave hope (and health, in the case of a resurrected Murtagh) to the men he was in charge of caring for. Purpose in a place like that may be worth more than gold to a prisoner.
Packing It All In
Unfortunately, when you’re following two separate characters over a ten-year timeline, things begin to meld together and more exposition is needed in order to fill the viewers in. While it worked in the case of Claire and Frank, Jamie’s storyline became a bit murkier thanks to the quest for a treasure, a prison escape, a friendship with the new governor and inappropriate advances.
The episode still benefitted because nothing was drawn out, but it did become hard to keep track of former connections and alliances, especially when the actors are now so disheveled from injury, illness and prison life. That’s where having the book as background knowledge comes in handy, in any case. All we need to know at this point is that debts between Jamie and John were paid in full, and it was because of those debts that Jamie wasn’t shipped off to America when the prison shut down. Oh, and that there may still be a treasure out there somewhere guarded by a white witch.
By the Book
The events of “All Debts Paid” were fairly faithful to Diana Gabaldon’s third novel, “Voyager,” although given the complexity of the storylines some characters, like the young lad caught with tartan and Jamie’s subsequent whipping, needed to be trimmed. Meanwhile, Murtagh was supposed to have died on the field at Culloden, which means he wouldn’t have popped up in prison with Jamie. Being the fan-favorite character that Murtagh is though, we’re behind that change. Especially since he was shipped off with the rest of the prisoners to became an American slave, meaning he could pop back up in the near future.
As for Jamie? It looks like he’s off to become an indentured stable hand on Scottish soil, a favor called in by one John Grey. Something tells us that time won’t be spent entirely peacefully—not with Fraser’s kind of luck.
Next week: Claire traces Jamie’s history as Jamie is unwillingly pulled into family drama at his new Helwater home. “Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.