Outlander S03E06 “A. Malcolm” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video
Writer: Matthew B Roberts
Director: Norma Bailey
Essential Plot Points:
- Jamie and Claire make love.
- No, honestly. There’s not lot else.
Come on, do your job!
- Oh, alright
- Recovering up from the faint he fell into after the shock of seeing Claire again, Jamie learns about what Claire’s been up to in the past two decades.
- She tells him all about Brianna and shows him photos of her. He’s never seen photos before but he’s more shocked at seeing his daughter in a bikini for the first time. He teases Claire about Brianna’s name until she tells him that she’s named after his father. He looks touched.
- Jamie tells Claire about Willie, but assures her that he has never loved any woman other than her, and feels guilty for sleeping with Geneva Dunsany, and inadvertently causing her death by childbirth.
- Jamie admits to Claire that he is not merely a printer who secretly produces illegal pro-Catholic literature; he’s also been making money by smuggling alcohol.
- She’s surprised when he takes her “home” and home turns out to be a room in a brothel.
- She suspects Jamie has been sleeping the brothel’s Madame Jeanne, but he says they have a different kind of relationship: a business one. He supplies her with his illicit alcohol.
- Claire and Jamie make love. It starts off adorably fumbly and bashful and awkward before the old animal instincts kick in. Then it becomes epic. And, by implication, repeated quite a few times (the whores the next moment can tell by the way Claire’s walking).
- So after two decades apart, they’re back together and neither is in any doubt that the other is ecstatically happy that this is the case; it appears neither have any skeletons in the closet that may derail the reunion.
- Claire also meets:
• The grown-up Fergus.
• (Young) Ian Fraser Murray, the teenage son of Jenny and Ian Murray, and Jamie’s nephew.
• Yi Tien Cho, aka, Mr Willoughby, a Chinese exile who can’t take his drink, whom Jamie has taken under his wing and renamed because he Chinese name sounds like a rude word in Gaelic.
• Geordie, Jamie’s rather puritan employee.
- Claire doesn’t meet (because Jamie goes for a secret meeting with him):
• Sir Percival Turner, the Superintending Customs Officer for Edinburgh district, who seems to have some dodgy deal going with Jamie as regards his smuggling business, and suspects Jamie is expanding his smuggling without telling him.
- With Jamie out on business, Claire breakfasts with the brothel’s workforce (much to Madame Jeanne’s annoyance). When Claire returns to Jamie’s room, there’s a man ransacking the place, looking for Jamie’s bookkeeping. He turns on Claire…
So, after two decades apart, Claire and Jamie reunite, and he’s got his trousers off within the first five minutes…
Sorry, couldn’t resist that. But to be honest, it barely takes much longer before the all the kit’s off for real…
This episode is shameless. But in a good way. Fans have been waiting for the big reunion with patience for five episodes and this is their reward. An extended-length episode in which all that those extra minutes and a good few more besides are given over to an epic sex scene.
But it’s not gratuitous. It feels totally earned.
A few weeks back we moaned that the Jamie/Geneva sex scene was dull, for which we were taken to task by some Sam fans, for whom a bit of bare Jamie skin clearly made the episode. But we’re sticking to our guns. Sex scenes, like action scenes, are far more powerful when the viewer has some emotional investment in them; when the sex (or the action) manages to say something – or reveal something – about the characters involved, rather than being mere spectacle.
You certainly get the spectacle here. But the sex scene also goes through several movements, like a symphony of sensuality, that give it its own internal story, complete with endearing moments of humour to keep things grounded. Claire and Jamie move from being unsure, awkward and bashful, then swiftly into a more carnal state where instincts take over, before finally settling in a place similar to where they left off 20 years earlier – two lovers completely at ease in each other’s arms. Sure, it’s fan-service, but it’s exquisitely made fan service, which makes it good drama as well.\. This is emotion-porn as much as it is sexual porn.
The episode also cheerily sets up the next chapter in the Outlander saga with a conveyor belt of new (or newly grown-up) characters popping up for hello wave. The details of Jamie’s new life as a smuggler are sketchy so far, but intriguing. Mr Willoughby – Jamie’s Chinese pal – already looks like he’s going to be a handful, and a blast. The cheery prostitutes are hilarious. Sir Percival Turner is suitably odious in his first scene.
Add to this some glorious production values (it looks like they’ve actually filmed in 18th century Edinburgh via some time machine), rich lighting and wonderfully lush incidental music and you’ve got an episode that looks and sounds amazing. (Though the foley artist did go a bit OTT during the unbuttoning scene – when have button ever been that noisy?).
There’s also a little bit a fairy-tale wish-fulfilment aspect to the episode; Jamie and Claire are such star-crossed lovers, nothing is allowed to get in the way of their happiness. But sometimes, it’s nice to watch a TV show where the central relationship isn’t challenged by the threat of derailment every other scene.
- Jamie and Claire are back together and making up for lost time in a big way.
- A sex scene that’s actually sexy, entertaining and dramatically justifiable!
- The slightly awkward and fumbling start to the sex is adorable.
- Jamie looks great in glasses, and his bashfulness about them is only going to make him more fans.
- The scene with the chatty whores giving Claire some friendly advice about contraception and satisfying clients is priceless.
- There are yet more gorgeous shots of 18th century Edinburgh.
- We loved the way the writing and directing credits were on-theme.
- It’s too soon to judge the new Fergus, César Domboy – especially based on such a short scene – but first impressions are: where’s all the cheeky charisma gone?
- You’d think that Jamie might grill Claire a bit more about leaving Brianna behind. Or that Claire might be a bit more curious about Geneva. But the episode seems at pains not to throw anything in the way of the glorious reunion, so we can put that down to an artistic choice.
And The Random:
- Outlander author Diana Gabaldon admitted on an online writers’ forum back in 2006 that she didn’t have a specific Gaelic word in mind when she wrote that Jamie had changed Yi Tien Cho’s name because it sounded like a rude word in Gaelic. She wrote: “I’ll have to take Jamie’s word for it, since my own Gaelic is limited to the three phrases I use to sign books with, plus ‘Merry Christmas!’”
- Smoky the Newfoundland is mentioned in the books, similarly briefly.
- The set for A Malcolm’s printing shop was actually based on the set for Master Raymond’s apothecary from season two, significantly redressed.
- That’s a fine Hobbit impression Sam Heughan’s doing there.
- Sam Heughan actually learned how to use the printing presses used in this episode and printed out some of the leaflets seen in the episode himself.
- Is it just us, or does Willie look cross-eyed in this portrait?
Review by Dave Golder
Read our other reviews of Outlander