“So I believe in the little flame between us. For me now, it’s the only thing in the world. I’ve got no friends, not inward friends. Only you. And now the little flame is all I care about in my life. There’s the baby, but that is a side issue. It’s my Pentecost, the forked flame between me and you.”
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), Chapter 19
As I repeatedly viewed Outlander’s second episode, “Surrender,” I couldn’t help but think that this was a Lawrencian episode if there ever was one, with its themes of the natural versus civilized self and examination of the physical, emotional, and spiritual connections between men and women. I don’t set out to begin every article with a quotation, but Lawrence's quote about the flame always reminded me of the unspoken thing between Jamie and Claire that set them apart from most couples. At this point in their separation, the pervasive absence of the other in his or her life pushes both to a breaking point of sorts, a promontory on which each stood alone and looked downward at the abyss below or out towards the horizon - neither an easy choice but the latter at least providing some hope.
What happened in Surrender
At the beginning of the episode, we see a few clips from previous episodes, including when Jamie signed over Lallybroch to young nephew and namesake, Jenny and Ian’s son, Jamie Murray. “It is worth more than my life,” Jamie tells Fergus as he sends him away from the battlefield to deliver the deed of sasine to his sister. It is one of many pieces of Jamie’s identity being stripped away but one of only a few that he does willingly in order to protect his family and land from being taken by the British. Jamie’s and Claire’s timelines are not matched day-to-day in their respective scenes, as six years may go by in Scotland while months tick on in Boston. It is now 1752 in Jamie's time, and though their patrols have dwindled, bands of redcoat officers still scour the countryside for symbols of rebellion that may incite the locals to hope beyond the dark days of the Clearances. Namely, they are looking for either Red Jamie or the Dunbonnet, one an alleged traitor and one a rumored brigand, or perhaps they are both facets of the same legend? At any rate, both are tied to Lallybroch, and so the Murrays must endure the harassment and intrusion of the occupying force that acknowledges no formal boundary of property or propriety. Ian Murray (Steven Cree) is repeatedly taken to prison as a lesson to his family and neighbors against harboring fugitives, real or imagined, though the inhabitants of Lallybroch insist that they haven’t seen James Fraser since the Rebellion.
There is a figure throughout the first act watching from the surrounding trees, alert to every detail and yet unable to intervene in the events. Jamie has grown gaunt in the face and yet broader in the upper body, and Sam Heughan adopts an almost beastlike, hunched stance as he lives and hunts covertly in the forest. After six years, his hair and beard has grown wild, his eyes hawkish, but he still retains the carriage of a gentleman. His home is a cave deep in the forest, lined with books and candles and a few dishes. He can only come to Lallybroch sporadically with spoils of his hunts when he is sure it is safe, but he is always aware of the goings-on even if he cannot participate, an awful incarceration for a man used to being a leader. As a result, Jamie has turned inward both physically and emotionally, stymied by his own renown and helpless to prevent its affect on his family. Heughan shows such frustration by hunching his shoulders and wrapping his arms around his chest, looking downward or through people instead of at them, unable to connect with the present. He moves as if no longer comfortable in his clothes, as if he would burst through them at any moment and assume animal form, renouncing any semblance of civilized humanity. Young Fergus (Romann Berrux, adorably feisty as ever), now a gangly adolescent and full of piss and vinegar, interprets this as cowardice and longs to use a weapon and display strength and romantic chivalry. Jamie forbids him from using a pistol belonging to Robbie MacNab's late father, but he also knows it is pointless to convince a teenager that he isn’t immortal.
The very last shot of last week’s episode was of the Fraser seal above the entrance to Lallybroch, where a badly injured Jamie had been returned and upon which he had gazed in a resigned peace, assuming he would soon die. After all he had endured and lost, Lallybroch was at least a tiny womb of safety and comfort. In the years since, those qualities had dissipated as the British could come and go at will, and their desecration of the sanctity of home and family is deeply felt by a man haunted by his inability to protect the helpless. When Jenny delivers a child, Fergus shoots a raven that Robbie and young Jamie said was bad luck, which attracts a group of redcoats on patrol. The officers barge in and search the house while Jamie hides with the baby, and their violation into the heart of the home (pulling the covers off a bedridden Jenny is especially shocking) is agonizing for him to endure.
Conversely, Claire cannot get away from the very urgency that her present - late 40s/early 50s Boston - is affording her. As Jamie appeared ill at ease inside his clothing, so Claire seems to cast off her outward persona as often as possible. One of her housedresses has a pattern of clovers, but they are shades of brown, as if the garden was wilting. Even more conspicuous is that she is often seen barefoot (or at least I noticed), not so much out of comfort at home but to throw off the proper attire of the “lady of the house” and return to a more natural state. Once she enters more positive surroundings, her appearance becomes more formal and composed.
Anne Kenney has written a very sensual episode, from the smell of animal droppings on the forest floor to the sharp thwack of a cleaver into a deer's torso, from a hand delicately placed on a man's wet chest to a single tear running down a cheek. As so many characters see their emotions stymied in one way or another, their senses remain acute towards the slightest stimulation. While Kenney shows Jamie seeing a vision of Claire picking herbs in Jenny's garden, signifying his need for her in a nurturing sense, so Claire also fantasizes about Jamie in a more erotic way, his naked form walking slowly across a room for her admiration, then turning slowly to come towards her in bed. She dreams of him turning on his pillow to gaze lovingly upon her, and responds physically before jolting awake to find Frank asleep next to her. Her natural sexuality is also being stymied in this considerably more comfortable and modern cave, unable to attain that spiritual connection that she had with Jamie. Director Jennifer Getzinger does an amazing job of closeups and overhead shots to show both Jamie’s and Claire’s isolation and gnawing loneliness, even amongst others. When Claire finally succumbs to her need for sexual contact, she touches the sleeping Frank first, delicately running her finger along the creases in his face and the lines of his body; after he awakes, she tells him she “misses her husband” (sneaky) and assumes the top position. She controls their joining as he looks up at her in a mixture of awe and gratitude after so much time apart, while her eyes remain closed and focused on an invisible partner.
The turning point for both Jamie and Claire is when, as Jamie says, they are individually reminded that they “still have something to fight for,” even if that means leaving a part of them behind. For Jamie, it came when Fergus, knowing the redcoats were tailing him in hopes of finding the Dunbonnet, leads them in a circle and mouths off, getting his hand cut off as punishment while Jamie can only watch in silence from a distance. Using a tourniquet method that Claire had taught him, Jamie is able to get to the boy after the soldiers leave and carry him back to the house. Though his life is saved, Jamie is tortured by the sound of the steel cutting through flesh and wood as much as his silence and the boy’s screams in the forest, and his collapse into his tiny sister’s arms is heartbreaking, as if he were being eaten from the inside out. His conversation at Fergus’s bedside is reminiscent of the boy speaking to Claire after she returns from the Hôpital des Anges after losing Faith, and again, the boy’s intuition and outlook prove he is wise beyond his years. Fergus sees his injury as an entry towards becoming a man of leisure, with Jamie agreeing to support him for the rest of his life. In essence, Jamie agrees to live on for Fergus. It is a poignant scene between a father and adopted son and I will miss the young French actor from here on out.
While Jamie found something to fight for in others, Claire realizes she must fight for herself at the cost of her connection with Frank. After a dinner with the neighbors, Claire again asserts herself sexually in front of the living-room hearth, inviting Frank to take her body on the floor. This time, he notices she has her eyes closed, and he realizes what that means. This says a lot about Frank Randall’s character: he could have easily taken advantage of her detachment to fulfill his own desires and leave it at that. Claire had reduced her sexuality to physical sensation, detaching it from emotional or spiritual connection, and he could have met her in kind. “It doesn’t mean anything,” she says when he tells her to open her eyes and look at him, “I’m enjoying this.” Not him. This. She’s enjoying the sensation of sex without the burden of making love, and he can’t mirror her behavior. “I’m with you,” he says, “but you’re with him.” Once it is said out loud, there can be no reversal. Soon after, we see their double bed has been replaced with twin beds, the bedside tables and lamps and paintings shot in perfect symmetry, balanced and severe and cold.
Both Claire and Jamie had to get out of their respective houses, albeit one more literally than the other. Claire recognizes that the life she had with Jamie cannot be replicated in the 20th century with Frank and that she needs to be “part of something greater than myself,” so she joins a medical-school cohort, where she meets Joe Abernathy (Wil Johnson) who will become a trusted friend and colleague. If severing her sexuality from Frank was necessary, Claire refocuses her voluminous store of potential energy into her studies, defying the presumptions of Frank’s colleagues towards women at university and as working professionals at large. On the other hand, Jamie knows that his family will never stopped being harassed unless he gives himself up to be arrested, and if Jenny will pretend to turn him over to the redcoats, she will receive a substantial reward which will help run the household. It is a terrible decision for all involved, but as Jamie admits, jail is “little difference to the prison I live in now.”
I have to recognize Laura Donnelly for her portrayal of Jenny Fraser Murray, especially in this episode. There is an unsung grace to her character who for years had to keep the home fires burning while her brother is off at war or her husband is repeatedly arrested. In the frequent absence of men, she runs a household, takes care of the tenants of Lallybroch, bears and raises children, takes care of the animals, and ensures that there is still a feeling of home to which they can return. If she appears hard, it is a defense mechanism against the stress and pressure of postwar life; if she meddles a bit much, it is because she is used to managing everything. Donnelly portrays Jenny as assertive and stubborn but caring and protective, and her character is the rock upon which her bigger and stronger loved ones often lean.
The day before the agreed upon surrender of Jamie to the redcoats, Mary McNabb (Emma Campbell-Jones) visits Jamie in his cave - the only person in six years to enter besides Fergus. Kudos to Kenney (who also wrote “The Wedding” episode in the first season) for showing Jamie’s pride in his appearance; he may be going to prison, but he is the laird of Broch Tuarach and representative of the Fraser family, and he will present himself accordingly in defiance of their ill treatment of the Scottish people. As a gesture of kindness, Mary offers herself to him, and though he protests at first, he recognizes her loneliness and need for physical connection. The restraint he had displayed for so long, expunged only in his hunts in the forest, is released by a single tear as she gently touches him, longing for mutual peace. This is contrasted with the coldness of Claire and Frank’s last sexual encounter as well as the following scene where Jamie walks into the planned “trap.” The despair on Jenny’s face as he is shackled and led away is torturous enough before she runs inside, and her brother can hear the piping of “Scotland the Brave” within the confines of the prison wagon. On a paved street in 1950s Boston, Claire walks alone towards campus as a lone bagpiper plays the same tune, reminding both that though their current journeys may be solitary, they are not alone in the world.
Okay, here's another quote
“We really trust in the little flame, and in the unnamed god that shields it from being blown out. There’s so much of you here with me, really, that it’s a pity you aren’t all here.”