‘Outlander’ episode 9 review: Jamie Fraser’s past, present, and future

In many ways, the midseason premiere of “Outlander” on Starz Saturday night was an outlier, especially when you relate its story to that of the installments that came before it. There was no narration from Caitriona Balfe through the minutes of the episode, just as there was no sighting of Frank Randall or the time period in which Claire actually came from in the first place.

What we had instead was an episode distinct in tone, presentation, and story. For those who started to see Jamie and Claire as an idealized romance that was star-crossed beyond all semblance of time, you were almost most likely blown back a few feet by what took place here. (Warning: Obviously, spoilers ahead from tonight’s episode.)

For Jamie, this was a story mostly about learning, as he had to discover that Claire is not a woman of his ways. Regardless of his own upbringing on his clan, she is not a product of his beliefs. Beating her ruthlessly for her failure to follow orders was not the right move to ensure that she stayed loyal and true to him. He had to learn that with her, this was not the way to go. Instead, it would take devotion, and a different form of communication. Jamie should be blamed for the narrow-minded feeling that his past should always influence the present, though it also is very clear that he was facing pressure from almost everyone to commit this action. After separating herself and forcing a rescue mission, Claire found herself on the receiving end of more than a few dirty looks throughout the episode.

While the two lovers were on sturdier ground by episode’s end, this did not stop another wrinkle — as in a curse — from being thrown into their relationship. What was this, entirely? We see this as a token of heartbreak from a woman convinced that she was Jamie’s betrothed, who still tried to claim him as her own after he arrived back at Castle Leoch. It is easy to dismiss such a curse, but remember here that this is a world that contains time-traveling women. Ruling out something of this variety seems to be an impetuous move.

As for the other main story of the episode, we really could not find ourselves diving much into clan politics. While the idea to unify seems to be the smarter one, strategy session in this world is not so engrossing when this has not been the show to date. This has been set up more as an adventurous romance than Scottish “House of Cards,” so we spent most of this portion of the episode wondering when Claire would turn up again.

Applause to Sam Heughan for the stellar narration this week, and for anchoring an episode that proved that Jamie has inner layers of darkness and moral ambiguity within him. We do feel him to be a well-intentioned man, but his reliance upon the past, if he is not careful, could be his undoing. Let us just be thrilled for now that he has at least more progressive leanings than most. Grade: B.

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