Look, I don't know what to say. This was the episode that the audience who came to this show for the romance was waiting for. We all knew this was coming, so I don't really know what there is to say other than: Yeah, there be sexing in this episode.
Beyond that, this episode is framed in a way that makes it the inverse of last week's episode. Both of them center around two people in a room revealing things about themselves. But last week's was a power struggle between two people trying to outmaneuver each other. Where Black Jack feigned vulnerability, this week we get real vulnerability from Jamie. And where Dougal was in many ways a hero last week, he swings right back to being an asshole this week.
After the bombshell of last week's finale, and the general slow build of the season as a whole, you'd think we'd spend more time getting ready for the wedding. We don't. In the first fifteen minutes, we get the end of the wedding, fast-forward through the awkward getting-to-know-you-before-we-have-sex phase, and see the first (very quick) sex scene. Which left me wondering about the 45 minutes we had left.
Also, before they disrobe, Claire and Jamie share a drink. Jamie gives a lovely toast, which Claire seems to miss as she downs drink after drink. She basically does three shots in a row. (We later learn that she spent the time between last week's episode and the wedding drinking. I think we've discovered Claire's coping method.) Claire stalls the consummation by asking Jamie about his family. Which would be interesting to learn about, but we get a montage and a voiceover instead. I will also admit to being distracted during this whole bit by how uncomfortable Claire's breasts looked.
So uncomfortable. Ow. Ow.
So after they have sex, we get the first giant sign post that this episode's going to be a much more lighthearted affair than last week's: Jamie's confession that he thought that people had sex from behind like horses. Even though she promised not to, I in no way blame Claire for laughing. I did and I felt bad about it.
And even this lighter moment had a pall on it by Claire's realization,, triggered by her admitting she enjoyed it, that she's a bigamist and an adulteress. Which is emotionally true, but I'm going to argue that not doing either the marriage or the sex contemporaneously with her husband even being alive means it's not literally true.
The other 45 minutes is taken up with flashbacks to how the wedding happened, which Claire seems to ask more about every time Jamie reaches for her. So there's more comedy peppered with devastating bits of honesty. Jamie wants to wear a kilt with the Fraser tartan, so he has to stall the wedding while Murtagh procures one.
(Murtagh, being a relative of Jamie's, also delivers the devastating line that Claire smiles just like his mother did. Moments of devastation in the middle of comedy, see?)
In order to stall, Jamie has three requests of Dougal:
He wants to be married by a priest, in a church. This is procured by rousing the sick priest from his bed and bribing him. Also a moment where they threaten him with knives.
He also asks that a wedding ring be made from the bar part of a key. Jamie dances around answering Claire's question about what the key is. Another important thing hidden in the comedy of the explanation to the blacksmith.
And he asks for a wedding dress for Claire. Which Ned procures from a whorehouse. 100 points to Bill Paterson for every facial expression he makes in this scene. He's deeply uncomfortable at every moment. He procures both a dress and a date to the wedding.
Claire's aforementioned drinking means she has a much less romantic memory of the wedding than Jamie. Claire remembers taking off her wedding ring from Frank and tucking it into her dress. And she remembers saying she can't marry Jamie because she doesn't even know his real name. It's the Scrabble-destroying James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.
Jamie's memory shows that he, at this point in the show, is too good for this world. His description of seeing Claire is "It was as if I stepped outside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out," and is paired with a literal interpretation of that line on the screen.
A) She's framed so that she literally glows. B) Ow with the breasts again
So while Claire's been pulling away from Jamie by getting him to talk, but now she reaches for him. And also has him take off his shirt (he's spent most of this episode with his kilt on the floor. Prompting a renaming from "Abs and Kilts" to "No Abs and No Kilts" for the duration.) And the first time, for whatever reason, Claire let the virgin guide the sexing. Now, Claire takes control and we get the full naked sexing we've been expecting. There is some very judicious framing of Sam Heughan, so we see everything except his wang.
Wang? Carefully blocked out.
Claire heads down to get some food (hungry from the sexing, I expect), and runs into Dougal. He's back from telling Black Jacks that Claire's Scottish now and won't be turned over to him. Dougal says that Black Jack's response would test even Claire's tolerance for swearing. Sigh, I want to like Dougal. But here he tells Claire that she's a "singular" woman and touches her face. She tells him he's Jamie's wife and Rupert comes in to save her from being alone with him. He also takes a punch to the face from Dougal after saying that Claire looks "well ridden." This is going to be a problem.
Jamie gives Claire his mother's pearl necklace, and there's another tender love scene. It really felt like the trajectory of this episode was to get Claire to a point where she's comfortable with her marriage and with Jamie. And not just comfortable, but with some kind of happiness.
But this show's not into that kind of neatness. Instead, Claire rediscovers Frank wedding ring and nearly loses it in a crack in the floorboards. She puts it on her other ring finger and holds up her hands with both wedding rings, for the obvious allegorical shot.
Ending with Frank parallels the beginning of the episode, which showed us Frank and Claire's impulsive marriage. Their haste was borne of love, while Jamie and Claire's was borne of necessity. Frank's appearance casts a shadow over this entire episode: He shows up at the start, during the wedding, and at the end.
I get what they're going for, and I even applaud it in a way. This show consistently refuses to be a simple love story. And yet, we've spent far more time with Jamie and with Black Jack (wearing Frank's face), that it's actually kind of hard to get into Claire's conflict. And while this episode felt like it was addressing that, the last scene made everything ambiguous again. It doesn't look like Claire's going to be done angsting (or drinking) come next week's mid-season finale.