Outlander Review: 3×02 “Surrender”

Outlander fans, we are back this Sunday with another all new episode, aptly titled “Surrender”. The word surrender tends to imply that we were faced with a conflict, that we couldn’t “beat” and were forced to give up fighting. In other cases, and especially with Jamie and Claire in this episode, it was lent an altogether different meaning. Now be warned, I do write this with the knowledge of having read Voyager, so if you aren’t a book reader, beware of spoilers.

Jamie

James Fraser has, over the first number of years, been transformed into a shadow of his former self. He is now infamously known as Red Jamie, or the Dunbonnet, framed by his shoulder length red hair and fully grown beard. The toll of hiding in a literal cave from the English Redcoats (one with a traitorous Scot in their ranks), is portrayed with a kind of subtlety that Sam Heughan is a master of in nearly every scene. Like when he is walking up to Lallybroch, his kill slung over his shoulder, as Claire turns around and — for one glorious second we hope against hope she’s actually there — before reality sets in for Jamie, and Jenny is the one actually standing there.

Some might say he’s a first class brooder, but that would be a disservice to everything Jamie has been through up to this point. His sister — God bless Jenny, truly — wants his happiness, even if everything about him screams he has completely given up on the idea. She knows and says it flat out that “James Fraser hasn’t been here for a long, long time.”

Despite everything though, an encounter with Redcoats hands a spark of life back to him. He’s been able to find the will to exist, to help his family as much as he can as an outlaw, but it’s Fergus who is able to remind him to what he’s still willing to fight for.

Watching a boy call him out, and smartly lead the English away from him, and consequently lose his hand, is the kind of wake up call you can’t easily ignore. My heart broke for him when he fell to the ground sobbing, letting Jenny comfort him after holding up the equivalent of a stone wall for years.

It’s clear the danger has grown especially with the vindictive officer, who mercilessly chopped off Fergus’ hand, because a grown man couldn’t handle the truth of a young man’s taunting. Jenny, with a heart that would never give up on her brother, fights against it, but at the end of the day it is Jamie’s choice to give himself up and eliminate the threat to his family as a result.

The night before with Mary was unexpected, but something I believe he surrendered to because of how she presented herself to him. She knows of his past with Claire, and would never dream to match that, but he’s still a breathing human, who deserves companionship for at least one night. His hesitance is a mirror of the kind Claire shares two centuries forward, but his path is chosen when he’s carted off the next day by the Redcoats.

Jamie might have surrendered to the English, but in truth it’s a greater surrender to what may happen next and to not hide from the life he has now.

Claire

My dear Claire, even though you’re two centuries ahead, it’s not any easier for you in the present. During the day, it’s easy to fall into a routine, but at night when you’re all alone with your thoughts, hers drift to Jamie, missing the passion that accompanied the love she left behind. She attempts to reignite it in the present with Frank once again, and while they are not short of chemistry, intimacy has turned into a ghost of the past. Their interaction is easy during the day, when they can embrace the routine of adulthood and, their mutual interest to lead a life together — especially when it comes to Brianna.

Brianna, as a baby, is as sweet and easily lovable for both of them. Their delight at her turning over by herself a month early tugged at my heartstrings as parenthood is clearly a role they enjoy in equal measure. Put them in a backdrop without that lovely girl, though, and you’re left with a fractured husband and wife, who for all their effort cannot bridge the chasm Frank lays out after a dinner with friends: “Claire, when I’m with you I’m with you, but you’re with him.”

The truth is a hard thing to face, and no matter how hard she tries, (which, by my account, is with everything she’s got) it’s not something you can hide from. Admitting to that is the first step she takes into her own forged path, her desire to be a “part of something greater” — as she was with Jamie, attempting to change history. Now that means a greater ambition to become a doctor, and while she’s still typically dealing with the sexist attitude of that time, a friend comes down and sits next to her and introduces himself as Joe Abernathy.

Looking to the greater cause she can be a part of is a motivation Claire finds, and is portrayed by Caitriona Balfe with the greatest precision of facial expressions I think I’ve rarely found matched on television. The pleasantness may be restored with Frank in their routine, but at night, the chasm once again opens up, when you see they are now in separate beds.

Taking a step forward past the bagpipe player, is as hard as it seems to surrender to her newfound path in life, but like the man she left behind they both find a way to live inside their choices.

Final Thoughts

There really isn’t a single word I can use to uniquely describe the talents of every actor on Outlander, especially Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies. Every second they are on screen, it’s captivating to witness their ability to bring out their character’s struggles.

I will admit, even though it was hard for me to see Claire with Frank, I couldn’t blame her for trying to put her heart in the present, instead of leaving it in the past. The pace of the episode was slow, as if the story is taking its time to portray the struggles both Claire and Jamie experienced during those twenty years.

As much as I look forward to their reunion, the writer’s choice to bring about it and make it worth the wait, is one I fully respect. Outlander you play your cards right, and I can’t wait to see how captivating you are next week.

Outlander airs on Sundays at 8pm on Starz.

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