It’s been a very long 14 months, but Outlander is back! Seriously- it’s been far too long since Sam Heughan’s face graced our screens. (Related- this is why Outlander fans are not stressing over the current Game of Thrones drought. There are 67 GOT episodes to rewatch between now and the premiere. Outlander had 29. And we’ve seen them all seventeen times by now.) But finally our favorite Scottish addiction has returned and all is right with the world. Well, almost. It turns out that even a triumphant return does not come without a fair amount of heartbreak. Let’s break down episode 301, “The Battle Joined,” via our battle-tested Swords vs Skins Rating Scale! (Patent-most-definitely-not-pending.)
For those new to the Fan Fest Outlander recaps, here’s how it works. Each episode gets two scores: a Swords score and a Skins score. The Swords score is pretty self-explanatory: it’s all about how much action each episode packs into its 60-ish minute runtime. The Skins score encompasses pretty much everything else with a special focus on how hard each episode yanks on our heartstrings. Sometimes the two get a little fuzzy (like Claire hurling that ashtray at Frank’s head), but then again so does life and what is Outlander anyway but a portrayal of life across multiple centuries? Right? Right. Moving on.
*Spoiler Warning! Do not read further if you have not seen the Season 3 Premiere!*
Let’s start with the Swords score this time. We’re giving this one a solid 7/10. There are vivid flashbacks to the Battle of Culloden, a good amount of blood, explosions, and bayonettes, and a soundtrack of steel meeting steel and battle cries to match. Despite this, it still feels like so much exposition. We as viewers are being caught up on what happened after the season 2 finale ended, but the most important part is practically glossed over. Jamie and Jack Randall finally have their meeting on the battlefield. Jamie comes out victorious as expected, but it’s slightly disappointing. There’s no battle of wits, no larger strategy, and no timeline to protect. It’s just two enemies and their swords. Two seasons of waiting for the confrontation, and it’s over in less than a minute. There are still many loose ends to wrap up from the battle, though, so perhaps the resolution we all crave is still to come.
The Skins score comes in higher at a 9/10. The mental anguish in this episode is overpowering on all sides. Jamie spends most of the episode literally lying in a pool of his his own blood, forced to listen to his friends and brothers-in-arms be shot one-by-one by the British. Rupert’s goodbye speech to Jamie is particularly heart-wrenching. It’s almost a good thing that Murtagh is missing, as that’s a scene that no one is prepared for. When it’s finally Jamie’s turn in front of the firing squad, it’s his name that provides the unexpected save. The Redcoat Captain turns out to be John Grey’s older brother, the same John Grey that Jamie spared from death in season 2. In order to repay his brother’s debt of honor, the Captain sends Jamie home to Lallybroch under the cover of night to be cared for by his sister, Jenny.
Across the centuries and the pond, Claire is struggling to adapt to life with Frank. It’s 1948 in Boston, and Claire’s fierce independence puts her at odds with her husband, not to mention all the other men she encounters. She cannot move past Jamie and let Frank back into her heart, and she cannot conform to the societal norms all around her. There’s also the fact that she’s carrying Jamie’s child. The tension between her and Frank reaches a boiling point one morning near the end of Claire’s pregnancy (this is where the ashtray reference in the first paragraph comes from) and Frank demands that Claire either commit fully to him or leave once and for all. It’s unclear if Claire makes a decision or if the baby makes it for her, but when her water breaks that evening, it’s Frank at the bedside to welcome red-headed Brianna into the world. Claire and Frank promise each other that this is the new start they’ve been searching for. The question now is, is it really?
Outlander airs Sunday nights at 9 pm Eastern/ 8 pm Central on Starz. Catch up anytime on Starz.com or the mobile app, and be sure to check back to FanFest.com for weekly previews and full episode recaps. Join the conversation below and let us know whose fate you most need to know in next week’s episode.