This article centers on Season 3, Episode 6 of Outlander, “Malcolm.” If you’re not yet caught up with the show, be warned: Spoilers abound.
This is the episode we’ve been waiting all season for and friends, I assure you, it does not disappoint. Our beloved Jamie and Claire reunite after twenty years apart, and yes, there is plenty of rousing sex, so let’s get right to it.
The episode opens with the same scene Episode 5 closed on—except this round, we see things from Jamie’s perspective. Jamie looks dapper and colonial, walking through Edinburgh on his way to work, tricorne and all. When he gets to his print shop, he hears men whispering and pulls out a blade before realizing it’s just two of his kinsmen who were sleeping a hard night off. Jamie gives them some treasonous pamphlets to deliver. As they leave, Geordie, Jamie’s apprentice, arrives for the workday. He’s the cranky sort and has a goiter, which can’t be pleasant in the 18th century. Jamie dispatches Geordie to get something for the press and look, I’m pretending to be interested in all this, but I’m not, and you’re not because it doesn’t involve Jamie and Claire, naked.
There Jamie is, wearing his cute little spectacles, preparing to print something—omg who cares—and he calls out to Geordie when he hears the door open. (We know who it really is.) A lady’s delicate voice says, “It isn’t Geordie. It’s me, Claire.” Slowly, Jamie turns around, looks up at his long lost wife beaming down on him, and does what you might expect—passes out!
When he comes to, Jamie still can’t believe it’s really Claire. They gaze at each other and then Jamie is on his feet because his pants are wet (worry not; he did not “piss himself”). He starts to take off his pants and is suddenly modest, but Claire reminds him that they are, you know, married. After he takes off his pants and they say words at each other, Jamie says, “I would very much like to kiss you. May I?” Claire breathes, “Yes,” because of course, and Jamie says, “I have not done this in a very long time,” and finally their lips lock and it’s a moment. (We know it’s a moment, because the score rises loudly and unnecessarily—we were already deep in our feelings. Thanks, composer!)
Sadly, they do not continue disrobing to have sex right then and there. There is so much sadness in the world.
Their kiss is interrupted by Geordie returning from his errand. When he sees his boss and Claire in the throes of tongue wrestling, Geordie, disgusted, declares that he quits. Jamie needs a new pair of pants, and I certainly disagree with that. Jamie needs no pants, ever, but fine, whatever. He heads to the back room but insists Claire go with him. It’s as if he can’t really believe she’s there, with him, in the flesh. Believe it, Jamie! It’s all about to go down.
Like a good father, Jamie asks about Brianna and seems glad that his daughter knows who he is. Claire shows him pictures, quickly explaining that photographs aren’t the devil’s work, just the product of a thing called a camera. They talk about their child, and I suppose it’s all very sweet and tender. Claire tells Jamie she’s a surgeon, and he says, “You always were one. Now you have the title to go with it.”
Jamie shares that he has a son, “Willie,” and all Claire needs to know is, “Did you love his mother?” to which Jamie says no. They discuss Frank, very briefly because he’s dead and no one but his sidepiece likes Frank. All of the talk is shy and tentative; really what they are trying to gauge is if there will be anyone in the way of their reunion. GREEN MEANS GO, JAMIE & CLAIRE! GREEN MEANS GO! THE LIGHT IS GREEN!
Suddenly, Jamie remembers he has an appointment, and he and Claire head to a tavern. On the way, they run into Fergus, who is delighted to see Claire. He’s quite grown up and handsome now. Fergus needs to talk to Jamie about a Mr. Willoughby. They step aside and Fergus says, “What about?” implying that there’s something we do not yet know. We’re not going to figure it out in this episode, though, so let’s just worry about all that later.
At the tavern, Mr. Willoughby is in a bit of trouble because he licked a barmaid’s elbow without paying her. Things were not so different in the 1800s, I guess. While Claire and Willoughby get to know one another, Jamie goes off to a dark cellar to talk to Sir Percival, an Englishman who thinks none too highly of Jamie and to whom Jamie pays some kind of tax for selling something on “High Street.” Jamie is obviously up to some kind of illegal hustle, and the show is setting up the next major plotline, so I reckon we’ll have to keep an eye on this.
As their day ends, the Frasers go to a brothel where the Madame Jeanne, the proprietress, is none too pleased to learn Jamie has a wife. Jamie lives in the brothel and Claire is quietly seething. She asks if he’s living there because he’s such a good customer but Jamie assures his wife that Madame Jeanne is his customer, and the brothel is just a comfortable place to lay his head. As one does.
If you can believe it, this couple still has more questions before getting it on. “Sassenach, why have you come back?” Jamie asks, wanting to know if Claire is just passing through to let him know about Brianna or if she is there to be his wife. They talk more, and holy hell, all of this preamble is excruciating. Sure, it’s kind of romantic and true to what a reunion after twenty years would look like, but just as we have waited for six episodes, we’re now being forced to wait still longer within the episode. Jamie and Claire continue to reassure each other that the fire still roars between them. Still no sex, though, because now it is time for dinner.
After dinner—and yet more catching up—finally, FINALLY, Jamie invites Claire to bed, and she accepts his invitation. I accept his invitation. We all accept his invitation. They stare lovingly into each other’s eyes and start undressing as a fire crackles in the background. (The score is back to reminds us that they are about to bone. Bone tones. HA!) We are also painfully reminded that in ye olde times, people wore quite a lot of layers with complicated systems of fastening and closure. My god.
When they are finally unwrapped, Claire is nervous as hell. Jamie reassures her, “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” You would think they would be getting down to it, but first they blabber a bit more about their wedding night. When they do kiss and fall onto the bed, Jamie practically breaks Claire’s nose. They try again and bump awkwardly again, and at this point the show is just being cruel but fine because once Jamie and Claire get going, it’s great. After she is revved all the way up, Claire orders, “Do it now and don’t be gentle.” Jamie does as he is told. It’s incredibly hot and breathy and grunty, and Claire and Jamie are both assured that they’ve still got it. High fives all around.
As far as I’m concerned, they should spend the rest of the episode in bed having incredible sex because that’s why I watch this show, but alas, I did not write this episode. They blabber some more during the afterglow, reaffirming their mutual admiration and sexual compatibility. Claire also tries to figure out what Jamie really does to make a living. Given the outstanding condition of his body, he is not merely working as a printer. She runs through some disreputable career options, but Jamie remains coy. He admits to being a traitor, arrested for sedition “six times in the past two years.” After a bit more cajoling, he also admits he’s a booze smuggler.
Thankfully, they stop talking and start having sex again, slower this time, now that the primal urge has been somewhat satisfied.
Then it’s time for more love talk. Claire asks Jamie, “Did you ever fall in love with anyone else, after I left?” and he says, “No, Sassenach. I never loved anyone but you.”
Reassured for the umpteenth time, Jamie and Claire start making love yet again (praises!). There’s a knock on the door because breakfast is ready, but Jamie sends the food away. Claire asks, “Don’t you want to eat?” and Jamie grins, while sliding down Claire’s body because he knows where breakfast is really at: between a woman’s thighs.
When they have finally satiated themselves, Jamie leaves Claire in bed because he has to go handle some smuggler business. While she is lounging, Ian Murray, Claire’s nephew, shows up and they have a mini-family reunion. It’s kind of hilarious how everyone handles Claire’s return with bemusement more than shock.
Claire heads downstairs to find some food and sits down to eat with some of the women working at the brothel who mistake Claire for the new girl. It’s a charming, bawdy little scene where they discuss bathing techniques, birth control methods, and how to get a customer off fast. Unfortunately, Madame Jeanne interrupts and doesn’t at all appreciate Claire dining with the women. There’s something going on with the madam—perhaps she has feelings for Jamie, who knows.
When Claire returns to her room, there’s trouble—a man waiting, threatening Claire and wanting to know where Jamie’s ledgers are. She orders him to get out but he is unmoved, grabbing her by the throat—a strange way to end such a lovely episode. This show will never stop relying on the imperiled woman as a plot device and it’s particularly infuriating to do so at the end of an episode filled with such love, passion, and overall sexiness. It’s as if the show is determined to remind viewers that women on this show are never, ever safe. There are some things, I guess, that cannot be escaped, not even in fantasy.
Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and most recently, Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.
Watch Claire and Jamie’s reunion—at last!—here: