Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) may be a “free” woman living in Boston in the mid-1950s with her growing and glowing daughter, Brianna, but she is emotionally trapped by her love and passion for a man who lived 200 years before. Despite the high hopes that she and 20th century husband Frank had held in the glowing after birth of “their” daughter, they have not been able to make a successful “fresh start” as a family.Claire has to take a big portion of the blame for this. She just can’t forget Jamie and Frank knows it 100 percent. It affects both their sex life and emotional life. It’s driving Frank crazy that Claire can’t fully commit to him, even though she’s sexually faithful.
Claire isn’t just ‘married’ still to Jamie (Sam Heughan). She’s ‘married’ to her medical career. Aside from the joy that she takes in her beautiful, bright-eyed daughter, who was fathered by Jamie, she gets her soul-nourishing fulfillment from her training to be a surgeon. She had desperately wanted to be part of something bigger than herself, and now she is doing just that. Frank, however, is finding his own fulfillment in the arms of other women. Pretty young women.
It turns out that aside from separate beds, Claire and Frank have agreed to lead “separate” lives, except when it comes to parenting daughter, Brianna. And they are both happily all in on that. Frank, as it turns out, has learned that he’s infertile, so he knows Brianna is a gift. She is the only child he’ll ever have and he’s thrown himself into being an involved dad — something that he will throw back in Claire’s face later.
Now, while Frank has agreed with Claire to go along with their ‘separate lives’ arrangement, he is hurting enough to publicly humiliate her. When she at long last triumphs by graduating from medical school, he refuses to go to her celebration dinner party and sticks the knife in her back, by having his side-chick arrive right at the Randall’s front door for their date, while the cocktails are in full swing. “You invited her here, where your daughter lives. You really dislike me that much to humiliate me in front of my colleagues?” Claire cries. “Do you actually believe that anyone at Harvard thinks we’re happily married?” Frank fires back. “Did you f**k her in our bedroom?” Claire sobs, and then gets practical. “Let’s stop with the pretense, you can file for divorce and then you’ll have your freedom.” But here’s the catch, Frank will not risk losing his access to Brianna. He will not divorce Claire and take the chance that he won’t see his beloved Brianna all the time. He will stick with his charade of a marriage with Claire.
Back in Scotland, in the 1750s, Jamie is having a far rougher time, sharing a prison pen with a group of about 30 other Jacobite Scottish prisoners and acting as their informal leader. He’s filthy, has been held in chains for three years, BUT he’s respected by both his fellow Scots and the British governor of the jail. Now, the new governor happens to be a certain young and very handsome, Lord John William Grey (Oscar Kennedy). The very same John William Grey whose life Jamie had saved when he was captured by the Scots as a 16-year-old soldier. Also, the same John Grey whose older brother, Hal, had refused to execute him years earlier because he owed him a debt of family honor for not killing his bro during the Scottish wars. An “understanding” begins between Fraser and Grey. Grey wants Jamie to continue as the prisoner’s spokesman and that understanding turns into weekly dinners, chess matches and conversations.
It’s through trust-building with Grey, that Jamie is able to get some blankets, medicine and doctoring for his men, as well as permission for them to gather watercress to eat and fend off scurvy and set snares to catch animals to eat. Jamie negotiates to get these perks for his men when Grey needs him to interpret the rantings of a local Scot talking about gold in Gaelic and French — both of which Jamie speaks. But, it’s the man’s talk about a “White Witch,” something Claire was called because she was a healer, that incentivizes him to escape for 3 days, so he can go on a hunt for his lost wife.
His confrontation when he voluntarily returns and surrenders himself to Grey, who he ambushes when he is alone, turns out to be the next step in building their “understanding.” Jamie offers himself up for execution, but Grey refuses. “I am not a murderer of unarmed men,” he tells the incredulous Fraser, who spills the beans to Grey: “My wife was a ‘white lady’ or ‘witch.’ I thought the man’s words referred to my wife so I had to see for myself. But she’s truly gone.”
That outpouring of honesty from Jamie sets the scene for Grey to feel comfortable enough to reveal a giant secret to Jamie at one of their next dinners. “I lost a particular friend at Culloden. He inspired me. I found him dying but my brother Hal dragged me away. He was embarrassed to see me. He said I’d overcome my grief. But he was wrong, some people you grieve forever.” It was an honest attempt to connect with Jamie, who he could see was a soulmate – someone also grieving forever. But boom, he was also admitting that he was a homosexual. A huge confession in that era. And one that made Jamie highly uncomfortable because he put his hand on Jamie’s arm.
This only served to bring back memories of Jack Randall rape horror for Jamie… “Take your hand off me or I will kill you,” he snarled. Nevertheless, the bond between Jamie and Lord John has been made. And that awkward moment isn’t enough to break it. When Ardsmuir Prison is shuttered by the British and the rest of the Scottish prisoners are sent to America where eventually, they will be freed. Grey marches Jamie for 3 days to a new home.
“Your sentence hasn’t been commuted so I couldn’t give you freedom, but this is the next best thing,” he tells Jamie. He has made arrangements for him to serve at the beautiful Hellwater estate with a warning not to use his real name. Grey promises to check on him every quarter to check on his welfare. “Why did you do this for me?” Jamie asks. “You gave me my life that day (when he was 16), now I give you yours,” Grey replies. This Grey family really is honorable.
Someone less honorable is Frank Randall in the 20th century. He’s been plotting for some time it appears and now he drops a bombshell on Claire — he plans to move to Cambridge University in England and take Brianna, who is now 18, with him. Furthermore, he plans to marry his latest girlfriend. Claire, not unexpectedly, has a meltdown. “You’ve just been waiting for all this time. You’ve been waiting for the clock to run out,” she freaks. Plus, she fears that Brianna may actually go. Frank needles her. “Between medical school and the hospital, you’ve barely been here,” he points out, playing the hands-on dad card.
In a way, you can’t really blame Frank and neither can Clare in her heart of hearts. “I would love to spend the rest of my life with a wife who truly loves me. You couldn’t look at Brianna without seeing him! Without Brianna, you might have forgotten him with time.” Nope, Claire is cruelly honest — she wouldn’t have. That’s when fate intervenes and tragedy prevents Frank from following through on his threat. He walks out on Claire, who is shocked to her core, taking the car keys. She is called into surgery for an emergency and races to the hospital. It’s only when she has finished a lifesaving operation that she gets the devastating news. Frank has been killed in a car crash. She is crushed. Crushed by both guilt and love. Sitting by his corpse, which she kisses and strokes, she confesses, “If you’re still close enough to hear me, I still love you very much. You were my first love.” Sigh.
HollywoodLifers, were you as crushed as Claire by Frank’s death? Let me know.