Outlander: ‘Freedom and Whiskey’

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(Original post at The National Student)

In Freedom and Whiskey, the hunt for Jamie is revitalised and Claire and Brianna repair their relationship.

Having resolved to avoid chasing Jamie’s ghost, Claire is back in Boston and busies herself being hyper-competent at the hospital. Her new recklessness fits the classic archetype of TV surgeons. I, for one, would definitely watch a drama about Claire’s 1960s medical adventures, but that’s a pitch for another day.

Meanwhile, a dejected Brianna finds her grades are suffering at Harvard. The history degree she’s aiming for doesn’t seem to hold her attention, and consequently Brianna is subject to patronising advice by paternalistic friends of her father. She arrives home to an empty house, with only her father’s possessions to comfort her.

Claire’s colleague Joe shows her the 200-year-old remains of a woman found in a cave in the Caribbean. That’s what friends do, I guess. Joe deduces that it’s the body of a white woman in her forties, and that she was brutally murdered.

The scene would feel jarring, if it weren’t so obviously foreshadowing for later events in the series. I suspect Claire will learn who exactly those bones belong to in due time. Joe’s bone project masks a cunning plan to get information from Claire, because he’s smart enough to realise that something happened to her in Scotland.

Piece by piece, Joe coaxes half the truth from Claire, who reveals that Frank isn’t Brianna’s real father. It’s surprising that she doesn’t reveal the whole truth to Joe, simply because everyone else she’s told has been remarkably ready to just roll with her story. Joe’s also a persistent man and a useful friend to have around.

He brought you murder bones, Claire. This is a man who could dispense valuable advice regarding your time-travelling antics.

Roger, the secondary handsome Scotsman that all good TV shows should have, arrives in Boston for a surprise Christmas visit. Unfortunately, he interrupts an argument between Claire and Brianna, the latter of whom has just dropped out of university.

It’s clear that Claire and Brianna aren’t the only ones who are still hung up on the search for Jamie. Roger’s loneliness has driven him across the Atlantic to see Brianna, and to bring Claire the news that he may have found Jamie’s whereabouts.

In a local newspaper, a printshop owner named Alexander Malcolm (two of Jamie’s middle names) has quoted Robert Burns, 21 years before the poem was written. Turns out writing articles for an erstwhile publication can have unexpected benefits (hint, write for The National Student, it may reunite you with a long-lost lover someday).

Claire is startled by Roger’s news and asks him not to tell Brianna, as she’s not sure she could leave her daughter whilst she’s struggling. Claire and Brianna’s relationship is finally getting the attention it deserves this week – for the first time, the audience is shown their affection and similar qualities, whilst also realising how a rift could have formed between them in the first place.

Roger and Brianna spend their time flirting and watching trashy soap operas, a wry reference to the pulpy romance genre that Outlander owes some allegiance to.

Whilst the two explore Harvard’s architecture, it becomes clear that Brianna’s true passions lie in civil engineering, and that a devotion to Frank’s memory may have led her down the wrong road.

At a memorial service for Frank, Claire runs into his former mistress Sandy, who tells her that she was selfish to never let Frank go. It’s a misinterpretation of events, but one that prompts Claire into realising how valuable her chance at love is.

Claire reveals to Brianna that Roger located Jamie, and Brianna assures her mother that she’s a grown adult who’s capable of looking after herself. With their relationship repaired, Brianna gives Claire her blessing to return to Jamie.

If I were Brianna I would definitely want to head back and meet my biological highlander dad, but each to their own, I suppose.’

Claire prepares for her journey back in time, adding some modern practicality to a period dress by adding tons of pockets to hide things in. I suspect that scene will resonate with anyone who’s tried to buy women’s clothing before. Claire worries whether Jamie will find her unattractive and dyes the grey from her hair, which is a human impulse, if entirely unlikely.

At the family Christmas, Roger and Brianna give Claire some helpful gifts, like a gemstone to get through Craigh Na Dun and a book of Scottish history. Claire says a tearful goodbye to Brianna and Roger, who have settled into a cosy domestic life in the old family home, and heads back to Scotland.

Freedom and Whiskey revolves around the issue of historical misinterpretation. The past mistakes of Claire and Brianna are largely due to miscommunication, conflicts born out of secrets and their headstrong natures. With Claire’s secrets out in the open, and both mother and daughter finally trusting each other, it feels as though the characters are back on track.

Likewise, with Claire’s return to the 18th century, the season finally feels like Outlander again. The show doesn’t waste time documenting Claire’s journey, using the final few minutes of the episode to portray Claire’s arrival at Jamie’s printshop in Edinburgh.

In a beautifully tense scene, Claire enters the shop and reveals herself to Jamie, who promptly faints at the sight of her. It’s a pitch-perfect sequence, comic and touching all at once. I confess, I had to watch that moment several times just to calm myself down.

We know who Jamie and Claire have become over twenty years apart, and now the couple are finally reunited, it’s hard to get past that initial feeling of elation. Next week, there are sure to be some difficult questions that the Frasers will have to ask one another. For now, however, Outlander fans can rejoice in the fact that Claire and Jamie are back together again.

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