[This is not a spoiler-free review of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]
Episode 305: Freedom & Whisky
Written by Toni Graphia, Directed by Brendan Maher
This recap/review is my first for the site for season three, and I would be slightly remiss if I didn’t start off by saying this season has my absolute favorite rendition of Bear McCreary’s “Skye Boat Song” for the opening. It is the most “atmospheric” and is just beautifully done. It may be because it slightly reminds me of the sweeping openings of the various 80’s shows my mother used to allow me to stay up and watch with her, so it’s a bit sentimental, but I love it.
The episode opens with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) rocking it out in surgery and showing that she’s the boss. She doesn’t care that the lady’s blood pressure is dropping and she is out of time, she is not being talked down to or told what to do anymore, this is HER surgery, and she is going to complete it the way she sees fit. This scene is where we get the first glimpse in the episode of how far Claire and Dr. Joe Abernathy’s friendship has come. Wil Johnson who plays Dr. Joe is one of those actors that can be super subtle and express many emotions and thoughts with a glimmer of an eye or simple statement. I am glad they had a scene that showed Claire is doing her thing and doing what she loves.
On to Brianna (Sophie Skelton) sitting in a Harvard classroom listening to a lecture on Paul Revere and how inaccurate historical records and tales can be depending on how and who they were told by, this seems to resonate with Bree even though she is doodling architecture sketches in her notebook. Her professor calls her aside after class and lets her know that she is failing out of all of her classes. This transitions into Bree coming home to a fully Christmas decorated house and reminiscing about Frank. She looks at her “Brianna’s 1St Christmas” ornament on the tree, runs her hand over Frank’s chair, opens his box of pipes, and flips through some family photos. It is all done while Frank’s theme is playing in the background lending to a more emotionally charged moment. I am not a Brianna fan, but I did like this little glimpse into her sadness and loss in remembering the father he knew as her own.
Meanwhile, Claire and Joe are in her office having a chat about her former love she had in Scotland. I thought this topic was cut short and left hanging; luckily it comes back around later in the episode. I don’t know why the Claire and Joe scenes are so “choppy” in this episode. It is possible the writers were attempting to cover many different sections of the storyline with the characters, and the only way they could make it work was to do these tiny little snippets. I REALLY like the friendship chemistry between the two and feel it could have worked with a late night in the office talking and venting over bones with whiskies in hand. (The bone scene comes up later in another snippet).
The office chat is cut off suddenly by the view of a cab rolling up with “groovy” 60s tunes playing. Out steps Roger (Richard Rankin) with his cute historian tweed suit and suitcase. He walks up the steps to the Randall house to hear the mother and daughter screaming at one another about Bree withdrawing from school and moving out of the house. He bravely goes in and stays for dinner, even though Bree leaves shortly after his arrival. Claire and Roger are having a nice meal and discussing new holiday traditions when Claire shows that she is too wise to believe Roger came to start new traditions. She gives the schoolgirl face that’s thinking “Roger and Bree sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” To change the subject to something I am sure Roger thought would be safer/more comfortable (bless his heart), he informs Claire that in being the good historian he is he continued the search for Jamie after Claire and Bree left Scotland. Roger found a pamphlet that had a Robert Burns quoted poem in it from 1765 when Burns himself would have only been six years old. He remembered Claire saying she quoted the poem with the saying “Freedom and Whisky gang together” to Jamie, and the printer of the pamphlet was Alexander Malcolm, Jamie’s middle names. He also goes on to inform her that based on their timeline that it would have meant that Jamie was in Edinburgh only a year before and so it was possible he was still there. Claire turns on Roger (because this guy can’t catch a break) to inform him that she has already gone through this heartbreak of hope and doesn’t think she can do it again. She also tells him not to say anything to Bree. I did think this was a good way for the writers to set up the how’s and why’s of Claire leaving Bree to go back.
The episode skips back into the lab with Claire and Joe over a box and table of bones. At this point is where I think most of the Claire and Joe conversations could have taken place. I could see them with some takeout, whiskies, discussing the bones of the white lady from the Caribbean (that Claire knew was murdered just by touching the skull, oooooh witchy woman, wink wink), and her long lost love from Scotland that is Bree’s birth father. I love how Joe drops the truth bomb on Claire that nobody bought her and Frank’s relationship for all those years, and that instead of continuing to live a half-life, go forth and live a life full of love. And just like that one of the scenes that means the most in future seasons is over, blink and you miss it.
Roger is on the couch enjoying some quality programming in the form of Dark Shadows ( I am with Roger, and if you haven’t watched Dark Shadows you should check it out), dreaming of his new Christmas traditions of lobster rolls, Boston Cream pie, and an American Christmas with Bree. Bree invites him to Harvard to an event for a fellowship in honor of Frank. At Harvard, we get a look at what the future may hold for Bree. She was doodling the arches in her notebook during the earlier history lesson, and she has a knowledge of architectural engineering that most history majors don’t have. It’s also the first time she mentions that Frank wasn’t her birth father but that she is the daughter of a 18th century Scottish Highlander, own it girl! At the fellowship honors, we meet Sandy, or Professor Travers, who was the blonde that showed up at the door during Claire’s graduation party. Sandy (Sarah MacRae) was one of Frank’s students, and ouch, this meeting was painful. If Frank had a type, it was for women that don’t hold back their thoughts and aren’t afraid to let their feelings known. Sandy rips into Claire, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Bree, Roger, and Joe. This harsh meeting does have some good come from it in that it opens up a dialogue between Bree and Claire and allows Bree to see that Frank didn’t stand on a golden pedestal, after all, he had flaws. Claire informs Bree of the news that Roger has brought and even though it is supposed to be loving, I cringed a little lot when Bree says “I’m all grown up mama, I love you but don’t need you.”
Now, I have read the books, and I am in no way a book purist and I am open minded and completely understand about adaptations, but I was more than a little sad that we didn’t get to know ANY of the Abernathy family. We met that neighbor lady TWICE but none of the other Abernathy’s, and they are supposed to be the family and support for Bree. So I was a little disappointed when the moon landing video was done in a hospital office with coworkers versus the big family gathering at the Abernathy house. It made me feel that Bree didn’t have any additional support and why she would have been so attached to Frank. I also wasn’t a fan of the moon landing scene because it brought about a dreaded “voice over.” I felt the line from Joe about “How can you take a trip like that and come back to live a life” with a close up of Claire’s face was enough to convey the sentiment that she had done something just like that, but apparently we needed a voiceover for those in the cheap seats. Question: At this point in the series why are we still getting voiceovers, and since we ARE getting them why are they always only for Claire? At this point in the story, it is about more than her. Remember the episode in season one where it was Jamie giving the voiceovers? It was a nice change of pace for something that seems not to be going anywhere. Let’s move on to Christmas morning because the other two scenes were filler and I am bummed that Claire didn’t give Joe the proper goodbye he deserved.
Christmas morning and Claire, Bree, and Roger are sitting around with Claire being gifted items to take with her on her upcoming journey. Old coins, a topaz birthstone necklace that she admits will be destroyed on her trip back (and a quick mention of Geillis/ Gillian’s journals, wink wink), and a useful book from Roger. I did find the Batman music, and sewing of her bat rain suit comical just because it seemed like an “okay if we are going to go there let’s just go there” moment. I was a little sad watching the goodbye between Claire, Bree, and Roger, but that is where it hit me that she gave everything to Bree and didn’t even say goodbye to Joe and I got a little huffy. Roger pulled me back around when he busted out the copy of A Christmas Carol for Bree showing that he is a guy who listens and is thoughtful, awwww. I have never really cared for either Bree or Roger in the stories, but I am really warming up to Roger. We are left with them cuddling over lobster rolls and pie, starting new holiday traditions.
Okay, it’s here, the moment I have been waiting for the entire episode: the stones, she’s got her bat rain suit, she has dyed her hair for her man, and she’s….. talking about puddles???? What in the world? We got transitioned back to the past with a voiceover and a PUDDLE!!!! Sigh
But, we are home. It feels like home, the gritty Royal Mile, the walk to Carfax Close, and the sign (ahhhh). The music is swelling Claire is at the door, and she opens it, and the bell rings, and I think CUT! I was sure this is where they were going to cut the episode and then have us wait a week or two for the actual reunion, but no it keeps going. She walks in, and we hear Jamie calling out from below. I think Claire in this scene, her feelings that build up are those that a lot of women want to have over/in a relationship, many over JAMMF himself. This is one of those moments that make real life sometimes seem drab and what turns people to reading these stories and watching the show. This is what they want in life. This is a feeling they long to have. When they read the books and talk about their love of the character, this is one of THOSE heart-stopping/ bursting moments. She looks down and sees him standing there, (I am not going to go into the ponytail wig because it will ruin the emotions of the moment) he turns not believing his ears, thinking he is hearing things, then thinking he is seeing things, then…. A very theatrical thud to the floor.
Okay, now go back and rewind from puddle forward 459,843 more times and enjoy the break because we have a small one before episode 306 comes back to give us the full print shop reunion.
IN TWO WEEKS, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22ND AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 306: “A. MALCOLM”
“After decades apart, Jamie and Claire finally reunite and rekindle their emotional and physical bonds. But Jamie’s new business dealings jeopardize the couples’ hopes for a simple life together.”
Clips and Photos courtesy of Starz.