SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Freedom & Whisky,” the fifth episode of the third season of “Outlander.”
The fifth episode of “Outlander’s” third season focuses on Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and her daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in December of 1968. The passage of time hasn’t eased Claire’s longing for Jamie (Sam Heughan), and as time passes without seeing him, it’s even easier for the audience to understand exactly how she feels.
But Claire isn’t just pining, she’s actively taking steps to get back to her long lost love. And by episode’s end, she has found a way. But how will the real Jamie, in the flesh, compare to her memories of him? That is a question the show will set out to answer soon enough.
But first, in 1968 Claire is working alongside her now good friend, Joe (Wil Johnson). Joe asks Claire what really happened in Scotland and if she met a man. She says, “Not really” but adds she’d hoped she would have been able to reconnect with someone from her past (leaving out the part about time travel, of course). “Fate had other plans,” she says, to which Joe replies, “F–k fate!”
Meanwhile, Brianna is in class at Harvard where her history professor warns her that if she doesn’t turn her grades around, her future may be in jeopardy. At home, Brianna looks at Frank’s chair, his pipe and old photos and starts to tear up. She misses him.
But then, surprise! Roger (Richard Rankin) shows up unannounced but very welcome as he arrives as Claire and Brianna are arguing because Bri told Claire she wants to quit Harvard and move out of the house. Bri says a quick hello to Roger then exits with a box of her stuff. Claire tells Roger to forget about staying at a hotel; he’ll stay with them. Claire observes that this is Roger’s first Christmas without Reverend Wakefield, and Roger tells her he wanted to try an American Christmas in Boston with lobster rolls and Boston cream pie. Claire tells him she’s glad he’s there because Bri needs someone to talk to. The two chat more over a whisky and Roger shows Claire an article from 1765 that contains the “Freedom and Whisky gang” line, and the printer’s name is “Alexander Malcolm” – Jamie’s middle names! Claire has mixed feelings: she thought she had shut the door on finding Jamie years ago and can’t leave Brianna to do it again. She asks Roger not to show the article to Bri, and Roger says he won’t. Later that night, Claire is wistful as she holds her wedding pearls and thinks of Jamie.
At work, Claire and Joe examine bones found at an archeological site, and upon seeing one specific skull, Claire declares that the woman had been murdered. Joe asks Claire again about her man in Scotland, and Claire explains that while there, she told Brianna that the man in Scotland is her real father and that’s why Brianna has been so upset. Joe tells Claire he knew she and Frank hadn’t been getting along for many years and that he watched Claire have a half-life for 15 years so if she has a second chance at love, she should take it and Bri will understand.
Back at the house, Roger is enjoying the TV goodness that is “Dark Shadows.” Bri invites him to attend a ceremony at Harvard honoring Frank’s work. There, she gives him a tour, during which he asks if she ever thinks about the great minds that walked the halls there before her. She says she never thought about that but wonders how the buildings were built. He says, “That doesn’t sound like the daughter of a historian.” She replies, “Well, I’m not, I’m the daughter of an 18th century Highlander.” Roger says Rev. Wakefield told him about his father and that knowing the story about his father helped him know himself better. Bri balks at this idea saying, “What is history? History can’t be trusted.” (That sound you hear is historian Frank Randall rolling over in his grave.)
At the ceremony announcing Harvard’s new Frank Randall Fellowship, Claire thanks the dean for the honor. She’s shocked to see Sandy Travers (Sarah MacRae), aka Frank’s girlfriend. Sandy is teaching at Harvard now and when the dean steps away, Sandy chastises Claire by saying, “You should have let him (Frank) go. You were selfish. You had to have it all. You wasted 20 years with him. I’d give anything for one more day with him – he was the love of my life.” Claire doesn’t respond, but they’re leaving the campus, Bri asks Claire about Sandy, recalling running into her with Frank in the past. Bri reminds her mother that she promised she wouldn’t lie about such things anymore, so Claire tells Bri that Frank loved Sandy and was planning to marry her. Bri says, “You told me I look like Jamie. Daddy must have hated me when he looked at me and saw another man.” Claire firmly tells Bri, “Raising you was his greatest joy.” She also reassures Bri that the day she was born, Claire felt a love unlike anything else she’s ever felt and the only thing she felt bad about was leaving Jamie. Then Claire shows her the article by Jamie. Bri realizes this is a big deal and says, “You can go back. I can live on my own. I love you, but I don’t need you.”
At home, Claire and Brianna talk about Claire traveling through the stones again to find Jamie. Claire tells her she may never be able to come back and asks if Bri can live with that. Claire says she doesn’t know if she can live with that because she wants to see Bri get married and become a mother. Brianna sweetly tells her mother, “I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m more Randall or Fraser, but I’m more you, and if I can be half the woman you are, I’ll be fine. Jamie doesn’t know me. I want you to go back and tell him everything.” Bri senses there’s more troubling Claire, and Claire confesses her worries, “What if he’s forgotten me? What if he doesn’t love me anymore?” Brianna reminds Claire that when she met Jamie, it was the most powerful feeling she’s ever felt. Bri tells her to trust that it’s the same way for Jamie. “You gave up Jamie for me. Now I have to give him back to you,” she says. They hug, but it’s not quite yet goodbye.
An anxious Claire gets a pep talk from Joe when she asks him if she’s attractive. She tells him she hasn’t seen the Scotland man in twenty years. In a good-natured way, Joe tells her she’s “a skinny broad with too much hair and a great a–.” This makes Claire feel better.
Christmas comes to Claire and Brianna’s house. Claire, Roger and Brianna are exchanging gifts. Roger and Bri gift Claire with coins from an antique store that she can use in Edinburgh. Roger also gives her a book about Scotland. Claire tells them she’s also taking penicillin and modern syringes with her. Brianna gives Claire a topaz necklace, explaining that she read that gemstones are important while traveling through the stones. She asks how Claire is going to take all the stuff with her, and Claire explains she’s going to make a garment with room to carry it all. Roger says, “Like a superhero.” The “Batman” theme plays over a montage of Claire assembling a dress and cape out of water-repellent material for rainy Edinburgh. As Claire examines herself in the mirror, we see her looking worried.
When it comes time to say goodbye, Roger goes downstairs to give Claire and Bri privacy. Claire takes one of Bri’s blouses with her and gives Bri a resignation letter to give to Joe. She also turns over the deed to the house and all the bank account info. Bri wants to go to the stones with Claire to see her off, but Claire rejects that idea, saying, “The first time I went through the stones, I was terrified. The second time, heartbroken. This time, I want it to be peaceful.” Claire gives Bri her wedding pearls. Mother and daughter hug. Roger re-enters with whisky. Claire thanks him for his persistence, “for being a dog with a bone.” The three toast “To freedom and whisky.” Claire leaves, looking back at Bri and Roger in the window before getting in a taxi.
Bri cries on Roger’s shoulder then goes into the kitchen and pulls herself together. She dons a Santa hat and brings Roger a tray of lobster rolls and Boston cream pie, just like he said he wanted. He gives her a copy of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” They kiss, and she reads aloud as he enjoys the American treats.
In the taxi, Claire’s voiceover talks about how she always feared stepping in puddles because she was afraid she’d never stop falling. When the door opens, Claire is stepping out of a carriage, and she’s in Edinburgh in 1776. She asks a local where she can find Alexander Malcolm’s print shop and he directs her. She walks to it, touches the sign and walks into the shop, but it looks empty. A man calls out from downstairs, thinking she’s someone else. She recognizes Jamie’s voice and walks further into the store and sees his back. She says, “It’s me, Claire.” Jamie turns around, and seeing her, his eyes widen and he stumbles and faints.
New episodes of “Outlander” are on Starz Sundays at 8 p.m.