Outlander has trapped itself in a bit of a pacing pickle. “Surrender” takes place a few years after the season premiere, but Claire and Jamie are very much so in the same emotional place as they were last week. It seems little has happened despite the time jump that takes place outside of Jamie growing out his beard and hair and Claire’s baby Brianna being able to roll over on her own now. But Outlander has to keep the timeline moving along briskly, because the sooner we get to the late 1960s, the sooner we get to Claire learning that Jamie survived Culloden (as seen last season). Presumably once that happens, Jamie and Claire will finally reunite in some way. And that day better not be too far off, because even though Outlander still taps into a lot of its strengths in these episodes that unfold in completely different times and places for Jamie and Claire, it’s tough to feel the full impact of the show when its greatest asset is missing from the equation.
At least that problem manages to be thematically relevant in “Surrender,” which is all about feeling what is missing. Jamie’s hiding out in a cave near Lallybroch, and Jenny and Ian are forced to cover for him when the Redcoats keep turning up looking for Red Jamie, also now known as the Dunbonnet thanks to a rather ugly brown cap Jamie is sporting these days. Two years have passed since Culloden, and while they are no longer hanging Jacobites, the British forces are still rounding up Jacobites. Fergus is alive and as menacing as ever, taunting the Redcoats every time they show up, especially a Corporal McGregor, a Scotsman-turned-British-soldier. But his shenanigans get him in trouble when he leads two of the soldiers in circles to prevent them from finding Jamie’s cave and pushes them too far. Jamie watches on in horror as McGregor ruthlessly cuts off Fergus’ hand. While Fergus recovers, Jenny’s husband Ian, who is missing a leg, talks to Jamie about the concept of a phantom limb. Ian feels pain in his missing leg, and he knows Fergus will feel the same in his severed hand. Then Ian acknowledges that Claire was Jamie’s heart. His heart is gone, but he still feels its pain. It’s a beautifully tender moment between two men who aren’t afraid to acknowledge their pain or their feelings. Outlander doesn’t box its male characters into rigid ideas of masculinity. The scene with Ian is followed by another sweet and emotional scene between Fergus and Jamie, who promises the young lad that he’ll always be there for him.
Claire and Jamie’s connection remains the most palpable force on the show even when they aren’t physically together. The little ways in which they’re tethered to each other are powerful. Jenny remarks that it’s easy to lie to the Redcoats about not having seen Jamie because it isn’t really a lie. He hasn’t been himself ever since he returned, without Claire, to Lallybroch. Jamie’s memories of Claire come in handy after Fergus’ hand is cut off; he bandages it and stops the bleeding, remarking that he remembers how Claire used to do it.
In Claire’s first scene of the episode, we hear and see her masturbating. Then Outlander lets us all the way into her fantasy. We see her mind playing and replaying images of Jamie, naked, smiling, the light of a fire dancing off of his skin. Later in the episode, she wakes Frank in the middle of the night, wanting sex, saying she misses her husband. Given that first scene, we know what she really means in saying that, but Frank remains either clueless or in denial...at least until later, when they’re having sex again after just having had a dinner party with Claire’s new housewife friend. Frank wants her to look at him, but she won’t open her eyes. “When I’m with you, I’m with you, but you’re with him,” Frank says. It’s true. Claire might no longer be in the same time nor place as Jamie, but she hasn’t let go of him. And he hasn’t let go of her. Despite Jenny’s push for Jamie to remarry, he has no interest in it. Toward the end of the episode, Jenny’s maid goes to Jamie in the cave intending to sleep with him. At first, he rejects her, but she explains that she saw what he had with Claire and knows that she could never replicate that but that they both need this. It’s for her as much as it is for him, and once again Outlander centers female desire.
Both Jamie and Claire make bold moves to change the course of their new lives. Jamie, convinced that the Redcoats will never stop hunting him down, insists that Jenny turn him in and receive the reward as well as innocence from treason. She puts up a fight but ultimately agrees, and she doesn’t have to act this time either. As she screams at Jamie that she’ll never forgive him, she isn’t just saying what the Redcoats need to hear. She’s speaking the truth, angry at her brother for his wild plan but also knowing there isn’t really an alternative. Jamie’s taken away, but as he put it, he’s already living in a prison.
Though the stakes are much different, Claire still feels trapped, too, which we see throughout the episode but then learn explicitly from the return of Claire’s voiceover. I didn’t really miss the voiceover device. In fact, I didn’t really notice it was gone until its return during the final act of the episode. I always go back and forth on whether the voiceover is needed or not, usually leaning toward not. But the timing of its return works well, suggesting that Claire is finding her voice again after having it deliberately stifled by her new surroundings. In addition to missing Jamie, Claire misses being a part of something bigger than herself, so she enrolled in medical school. She’s the only woman in the class, and she befriends the only Black student, a man named Joe Abernathy whose introduction suggests he’ll continue to be a part of the show. After two long episodes of relative stasis for both Jamie and Claire, it’s nice to see their arcs thrust forward, even if Jamie’s fate isn’t looking good. If Outlander is going to continue jumping through time so rapidly, it has to keep the momentum going for the characters and their journeys. Jamie heading to prison and Claire enrolling in medical school add new stakes to the season as it finds its footing.
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- Fergus is given whiskey for his hand, but he prefers French wine.
- Jamie’s still having visions of Claire. This time, he sees his sister as Claire, which is a little off-putting.
- Baby Brianna is big and strong like her father.
- I’ve always enjoyed Jenny’s pragmatism.