After last episode’s cliffhanger we finally get payoff from the five episodes / twenty years that have gone by. Say hello to A. Malcolm!
We haven’t seen much of Jamie since he left Helwater, so we get the reveal alongside Claire of what his life is like as a free Alexander Malcolm in Edinburgh. Printer, yes, but that’s just the start of it. The episode is called A. Malcolm for a reason - we have a lot to learn about this persona Jamie inhabits. He prints seditious publications, plus he smuggles booze into Scotland. We get a glimpse of his tangled web of shop workers, madams, and bribed officials before getting whisked away for reunion sex, and then dumped back into the version of the 1700s where everyone thinks you’re a hooker. Happy day!
Claire has come back to 1766 (ish?) Edinburgh to find Jamie. She has prepared for weeks/months for this reunion, meanwhile Jamie has been puttering along clueless, so it’s no surprise he faints at the sight of her. But once he recovers, and they kiss - much to the shock of his crotchety Free Churchian assistant Geordie - they get on with just starting to fill each other in on the happenings of the past twenty years. Claire shows Jamie photos of Brianna (handy Batsuit pocket #18) and tells him about Frank’s death. Jamie tells Claire about Willie (I think this is a positive change from the book, wherein Claire finds out about Jamie’s son much later), and Claire takes it pretty well. Jamie reveals he needs glasses, and Claire tells him she’s got some grey. (They’re cute in their aging insecurities - the way Jamie looks up at Claire over those glasses, like, “that’s sweet but I know I look like an old man”.)
We are taken out of reunion mode when Jamie realizes he’s late for an appointment, because you know, his life and stuff. So he takes Claire along to a tavern where they come across Mr. Willoughby (or Yi Tien Cho), an Asian man with strange proclivities but overall nice and loyal to Jamie, it would seem. Jamie leaves Claire in his company while he has a secret meeting with an Englishman. Jamie has a standing arrangement with him, payment in return for looking the other way during Jamie’s business dealings.
That detail attended to, Jamie takes Claire to a brothel, of all places. The madam is part of his smuggling enterprise, and she often provides him with lodging and food, so he knows he can take Claire there and at least have a real bed. For sleeping and such, you see. There’s a bit of awkwardness between the madam and Claire...they seem to be suggesting that the woman has a thing for Jamie. Anyhoo, Jamie and Claire eat some dinner, have a heart to heart, and get to the sexy times.
This episode pulled quite a bit from the books, especially between Claire and Jamie in the bedroom. They are nervous and apprehensive, then finally Claire forces the issue and they do the deed. In this scene, Balfe plays Claire as almost surprised at her own orgasm, her own response to Jamie, which I think is entertaining - good for you, Claire! - but also sells the dialogue later, about how they’ve still “got it”. It’s like she has a sexual reawakening.
What I love about this episode is the subtle nods they give to Claire and Jamie’s connection, even as they each are trying to gauge the others’ intentions, and afterwards while Claire gets a crash course in A. Malcolm-land. They interleave these seemingly contradictory notions well- they each are with the person who knows them the best, and the least. Jamie leans in instinctively to kiss Claire at first, then hesitates and asks her permission. They don’t want to assume, but then again they kind of do.
Much like last season when Brianna learned the truth, and Claire finally got to tell her things she had been holding back for 20 years, we see a mix of relief and excitement when they get the chance to say things they haven’t shared with anyone else. Like Jamie telling Claire about Willie, or Claire sharing small details about Brianna that only a father would care about. Or when Claire says she’s a surgeon, Jamie almost brushes it off. (If only he could have been at that office party at Harvard in the 1940s...)
It’s not just about the sex, though they clearly have that going for them too; it’s about reclaiming an intimacy that they haven’t had with anyone in 20 years. Can they accept each other, find their soulmate within the stranger standing opposite them?
So far, all signs point to yes!
However, it’s not all riding off into the sunset with our heroes. Claire is back in Jamie’s life, for better or worse, and that means dealing with shady characters who come sneaking into his room looking for ledgers or some such. Claire comes back from breakfast to find this guy snooping around, and when she claims not to know where the ledgers are, he goes after her. I kinda feel like jumping back into a rape threat plot for Claire less than a day after she returns to the past, true to the books though it may be, was not the best choice for this series, but it makes for a compelling cliffhanger I guess.
Oh, and let’s not forget the other two characters we meet - grown up Fergus, and teenager Ian Murray! (Ian Jr.) Fergus is so cute, calling Claire Milady and hugging her; he also has a vague sidebar with Jamie about some legal matter. (Ohhhhh snap, book readers!) Ian takes the adorableness crown though by asking if Claire has been off living with the fairies.
I found the pacing to be a little off from time to time, mostly in the bedroom scenes (how many dissolve scene transitions can there be?), but overall I liked the dialogue and it was nice to see our heroes back together. It brought to mind the wedding episode, though I think that episode had a more effective arc for the characters through the night. (There they went from verbal intimacy to physical intimacy to love; here it was almost backwards, coming from a place of love, dealing with the physical, and then going into more discussion to learn about each other again.) And I’ll admit, the swelling Claire and Jamie theme when they first kissed got me right in the ol’ ticker.
So what did you think? Was it a satisfying reunion after so much buildup? What were your favorite parts? Is Claire going to get in over her head with all of these illegal activities?