This recap contains spoilers for Outlander Season 3, episode 3, “All Debts Paid.”
Episode 3 of Outlander Season 3 is a pretty big deal for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s novels: Not only does it reintroduce a pivotal character in Lord John William Grey (all grown up and decidedly more dashing than the last time we saw him in Season 2), but also closes the chapter on Claire and Frank’s tumultuous relationship in surprisingly poignant fashion.
While the show has to omit or streamline countless plot points from the novels in the adaptation process (including cutting Jamie’s trip to seals’ isle — although perhaps we’ll see it later in flashback — and the many conflicting layers of his relationship with Lord John), for the most part, Outlander’s writers do an admirable job of staying faithful to the emotional arcs that drive Gabaldon’s novels, taking our heroes on a believable and equally effective journey, even if the signposts are a little different along the way.
But “All Debts Paid” also featured one major change from Gabaldon’s Voyager — one that will have ripple effects across the series — and we couldn’t be happier about it.
In the books, Murtagh FitzGibbons Fraser, Jamie’s godfather and right-hand-man, is killed at the Battle of Culloden, but episode 3 reveals him to be alive (if not well) at Ardsmuir. When the prison is closed, the fan-favorite character, played by the indispensible Duncan Lacroix, is shipped off to the American Colonies with the rest of the prisoners, while Jamie is taken to an estate called Helwater to serve Lord Dunsany.
Showrunner Ron Moore tells Mashable why he decided to keep the beloved character alive: “Murtagh’s development in the series is different than the books basically from the beginning. We made him much more of a key player in the story, much closer to Jamie, and then he got in on [Claire’s] secret in Paris. He became part of the family in a different way than in the books. And I just wasn’t ready to let him go in Culloden. He is going to survive and we will catch up with him later, we will just keep him going.”
Fans who’ve read book four might have some idea how Murtagh might come back into Jamie’s life, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Back in the future, we see Claire’s relationship with Frank fracture beyond repair. The episode’s early moments reveal that Frank has been seeing other people, since Claire can no longer love him the way she did before, and while their agreement seems amicable at first, over the years, the connection between them deteriorates to the point where Frank decides he wants to take Brianna back to England without Claire, to start a new life with his mistress — a suggestion that naturally incenses Claire. Unfortunately, Frank never gets the chance to start a new life, because he’s killed in a car accident following the fight.
According to Caitriona Balfe, Claire manages to be content in a marriage of convenience because she experienced true love with Jamie — but things aren’t quite so simple for Frank.
“She’s sort of decided within herself that once was enough for her, and that the memory of that love is enough to carry her through the rest of her life. Her marriage with Frank, yes, it’s a marriage of convenience, but I think it’s a marriage of friendship in some ways,” she tells Mashable. “They come to an agreement where she won’t ask any questions, he can do what he wants. She’s going to focus on her career and being a good mother, and he’s going to be a good father. It works for them, and it works for 20 years. And really the tragic victim in that marriage is Frank, because he’s somebody who really wants Claire and still is in love with Claire and still desires her, but she just can’t reciprocate it.”
She adds, “Everyone gives Frank such a bad rap, but if you’re in that marriage, I think he can’t help but try and find the things that he needs outside of it. Claire still has Jamie’s love inside her heart, so she’s good.”
As emotional as Claire’s farewell to Frank is, Balfe reveals that filming the hospital scene was unexpectedly hilarious, too.
“Our first take, I look down and realize that sound had stuck a microphone to Tobias’ bare chest. That was not very emotional. I was like, ‘Um, does the dead guy need a microphone?'”
Despite the technical difficulties, Balfe adds that the scene was incredibly important for Claire as a character.
“At that point they were so emotionally far apart from each other, and the intimacy had been gone for so many years, but it’s like you don’t realize how much you love somebody until they’ve been taken away from you,” she notes. “They’ve been so used to living in this side by side world, but taking each other for granted, in a way, that at that moment she just realized that, there’s always been this huge love for [him]… It’s an apology.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.