Up until now the season has primarily focused on Jamie and his struggles for the past 20 years, and with good reason. The life of an outlaw and prisoner makes better TV than the comparatively tame storylines of parenthood and medical school. All that shifts, however, in the fifth episode, “Freedom and Whisky”
It’s well established by now that Claire has a gift for healing, but we get to see it in action now as she performs some surgical badassery in the opening scenes, while at the same time giving Joe a minor heart attack. Personally, I’m all too happy to be living in the age of SUPER modern medicine, though, Claire’s skills notwithstanding. I can’t imagine the healing and medicine from the 18th century practices we’ll hopefully get to see more of later this season, but I’m happy to stay in the here and now. Unlike Claire, Bree seems less able to snap back into her old life after the revelations of the summer, and her professors have noticed. She is failing out of Harvard, and we get the distinct impression that the only reason she’s not been kicked out is the memory of Frank. I can’t really say I blame her for being distracted, and the lecture we see her in is about the idea that history is nothing more than the stories we perceive.
After receiving the news of her precarious academic status, Bree goes home and looks through what seems to be a memory box of her dad’s. She looks through photos and smells his pipe. The longing palpable and I ache for her.
Claire may be coping, but she is not unaffected by her trip, as Joe notices (YAY WE GET SO MUCH MORE JOE THIS EP!). After the risky surgery, the two friends talk, and Joe asks her point blank about what happened in Scotland. Claire skirts around the issue of Jamie, saying that they were serious, but unable to reconnect, and we can tell Joe is reading deeper than the surface of what Claire is telling him. He tells Claire “fuck fate” before she manages to escape the well meant prying, and Joe lets Claire know she’s not off the hook. Most of what we have seen of these two has been glimpses and a few lines, but this is the first real conversation the two have had face to face. Even before, their friendship was portrayed as comfortable and deep, and this episode only enhances that feeling.
Later, there is some much peppy-er music and Roger himself pops out of a cab and onto the Randall doorstep. He’s so cute and I just want to snuggle him, especially after it’s made clear that Roger has come at a bad time. Bree and Claire are fighting about Bree’s decision to not only drop out of school, but move out, as well. Ahhhh the 60’s… when you didn’t need a degree for a job or a job for an apartment. It’s completely not awkward at all as Bree tells Claire that she needs a break. She can’t just go through all the things she did over the summer and then just pick up her life where she left off. Bree leaves and Claire insists that Roger stay with her (I mean, she has that extra room now, right?). That evening, over whisky (because of course), Roger tells Claire that he wanted to have an American Christmas, since there isn’t anything really left for him in Scotland anymore. Claire sees through the thin excuse, but lets it lie. After talking about Christmas traditions and whatnot, Roger finally works his way around to the real point of his visit. He’s a historian. It’s a bit like a detective in that, once on a trail, he can’t stop. Roger then shows Claire a pamphlet written in 1765 by Alexander Malcolm in which “Freedom and Whisky” is quoted. This wouldn’t be a big deal, save for the fact that Robert Burns was six years old at the time, and had yet to write it. Claire’s reaction isn’t exactly what would be expected upon learning the love of her life is alive and found. She gets upset and tells Roger she could have lived her whole life not knowing. Because now she has to make a choice. Her daughter is at a crossroads in her life, but Claire’s been half empty since returning through the stones 20 years ago. She tells Roger she can’t go, her daughter needs her, and now she has to live knowing what she is missing out on. Roger apologizes, and Claire makes him promise not to tell Bree. Because that “no secrets” thing was for Scotland only, I guess.
The next day, Claire plays forensic anthropologist with Joe when a colleague (an actual anthropologist) sends them remains asking for cause of death. Now, it’s not CSI or Bones or some shit, so there isn’t some techno music playing while they look at samples, but it’s clear that Claire gets a weird and uncomfortable feeling from the bones. She guesses they’re about 150 years old, w
hich isn’t too far off. Joe tells her that they’re 200 years old and the bones of a murder victim found in a secret burial site in Jamaica. Someone tried to cut the lady’s head off with a dull blade and bury her with a bunch of slaves. Except she was white. That is all the CSI:The Past Joe is willing to play, though, and he again asks Claire about her Scottish hunk. She tells him that he’s Bree’s real father and she’s never stopped loving him. Joe tries to convince her to take a chance on love after years of living a half life and I am 100% on board.
Back at the house, Roger and Bree are hanging out while Roger watches Dark Shadows. If you have not seen this show, check it out. Now. I’ll wait.
Okay, now that you’re caught up on THAT, Roger feeds Bree the same “American Christmas” line he gave Claire, and this time it almost seems to work. Bree invites him to the Fellowship dedication ceremony Harvard is having in Frank’s honor, and Roger happily agrees. While there, we get a brief glimpse into their minds. Of the two, Roger is the more romantic by far. He talks to her about the people who have must have walked the same corridors the two of them are walking. the world leaders and such, while Bree’s analytical mind is much more fascinated by how the building was made. Of the two, I’m much more like Roger. I feel the weight of forbearers when walking the same paths, but I also like how the two of them see both the same and different things. One is admiring how the building made the men, while the other appreciates the men who made the building. Before heading into the ceremony, they talk about Bree’s father and dad, and how she can’t trust history anymore. It’s heartbreaking, but Roger tells her that is doesn’t matter if the story you’re told as a child is true, so long as the message is there. They head to the reception and mingle while we get to see Frank’s girlfriend Sandy again. She confronts Claire, calling her selfish and blaming Claire for Frank not divorcing her. It’s an interesting illustration of Bree’s point. Claire offered to divorce Frank, but he chose not to, for Bree’s sake. The story for Sandy, however, is one in which Claire is the villain, keeping a man she doesn’t love so he can’t be happy. History is all about perception and this confrontation shows it well.
After the reception, Bree asks Claire about Sandy, and Claire tells her the truth: Frank was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Brianna then goes to the spot all kids go to when they realize that the illusions of happy family they had aren’t true. She blames herself. Claire is quick to reassure her that Bree was the highlight and love of Frank’s life, and that neither of them resented her in the least. She was and is the best part of their lives. Claire tells Bree that she was her dad’s “Life’s Work” and I try not to cry. This is what Brianna has been struggling with. This is the pain. The idea that her very existence is what drove all her parents apart. This is the first episode that I’ve been able to see Brianna in Sophie Skelton, and I’m so glad for it. On the heels of this momentous conversation, Claire confesses to Bree that Jamie is alive. Bree doesn’t hesitate when she tells her mom to go back. I love the moment where she says “I love you, but I don’t need you,” because it’s the moment every parent hopes for and dreads all at once. Later, when Claire is expressing some more vain doubts and self consciousness about whether Jamie would love her or even remember her, Bree again tells her to take the leap of faith. Yes, she may not be able to come back, and she may miss big things in Brianna’s future, but Brianna reminds Claire that she owes it to Jamie to go back and tell him about his child. Bree will be fine. She has grown up a lot in the past few months.
After getting reassurances from Joe that she’s still hot (I loved this scene so much), Claire decides she is going to go back. She, Bree, and Roger spend Christmas together, and Claire is gifted with antique coins, a necklace with Bree’s birthstone, and a book of Scotland’s history. Claire also admits that she stole some scalpels and penicillin from the hospital because of course you want some antibiotics. I’d bring the whole goddamn pharmacy, to be honest. After the gifts, Claire gets to work making her very own batsuit. Can i just say that I loved this whole thing? She is sewing a dress out of raincoats, to the Batman theme song, and, like every single dress ever, Claire’s favorite part is that it has pockets. This speaks to me on the deepest levels. I won’t even buy a dress without pockets.
At last, the time has come to say goodbye. Claire gives Bree her resignation letter, the deed to the house, and the pearls Jamie gave her on their wedding night. It’s a bittersweet moment for them and when Bree asks to go with her to Scotland, at least, Claire refuses, saying if her daughter was there, she might never go. Roger brings them all a dram, and they share a final toast before Claire’s cab arrives. Once her mother leaves, Brianna cries for a bit, then collects herself and gets to the business of starting new Christmas traditions with Roger. He gives her a copy of A Christmas Carol, the book her parents read to her when she was a child, and the way they look at each other, the way they kiss, tells us that Brianna really will be okay.
In the cab, Claire thinks about how when she was a child, she didn’t like puddles. She didn’t trust them to not just fall through to another world. It’s fitting, then, that when she steps out of the cab, Claire is, in fact, in another world. It’s a beautiful cut to take us back in time, and very reminiscent of the beginning of season two, when Claire stepped off a plane into the past. After making it through the stones and to Edinburgh, Claire has merely steps to go before reuniting with Jamie. She gets directions to his print shop, and upon walking in, hears Jamie’s voice, talking with his back turned, assuming she’s someone else. When she finally speaks, Claire’s voice shakes Jamie, and he stills. He turns around, sees her… and promptly faints.
Whew! So, compared to the last episode, this one was downright leisurely! Outlander doesn’t come back until the 22nd, but to compensate, the big reunion episode is getting an extra 15 minutes!!
So, what did you think? Do you think this is the last we see of Bree and Roger? Does Jamie remember Claire (ha!). Were you happy to get back to Claire’s storyline, or would you have liked it more peppered throughout other episodes? Remember, no spoilers if you’ve read the books! I’m always happy to chat Outlander, though, on twitter @wisconsennach!