Outlander season 3 premiere recap and review: ‘The Battle Joined’


Claire adjusts to life without Jamie and Jamie adjusts to being alive in Outlander’s season 3 premiere, “The Battle Joined.”

Kudos, Outlander. What a way to kick off the third season.

“The Battle Joined” opens with an extended sequence that sees a severely wounded Jamie lying in a heap of dead soldiers after the fight at Culloden. As he waits to die, we see flashbacks to what exactly went to down on the battlefield. We see that Charles Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie) was an idiot right up until the end of the Jacobites’ uprising–he was drinking in victory before the battle had even started. We see that the Jacobite Army was effectively mowed down by the British. (The Scottish soldiers are talented, but their swords were no match for the British Army’s muskets.) And we see Jamie and Black Jack Randall engage in what appears to be their final showdown.

That’s a lot to open an episode of television with, but we’re really only privy to snippets. Most of the action takes place on Sam Heughan’s face as Jamie considers what’s happened to him and his countrymen and accepts that he will not be leaving the battlefield.

It’s the quietest start to any Outlander premiere I can recall — and probably the best.

Here are some other thoughts on the season premiere:

Jamie’s journey

Of course, Jamie does leave the battlefield. This wouldn’t be Outlander unless he miraculously cheated death. He hallucinates that an angelic Claire is visiting him at Culloden but suddenly comes to and realizes it’s Rupert who is asking if he’s alive. Despite Jamie’s protests, Rupert drags him off the field and into shelter.

But it’s not long before the British soldiers find them. The leader, Lord Melton, tells Jamie, Rupert, and the other survivors that they all will be executed as traitors. What follows is a very disturbing few scenes where the remaining Jacobites are shot one by one. When all of the able-bodied men — including Rupert — are killed, Jamie is the first of the wounded to volunteer to face his death.

But when Jamie states his name, Melton realizes he is the same Jamie who spared his younger brother’s life last season. Melton refuses to execute Jamie because he and his brother owe him a “debt of honor.” So, instead, Melton arranges for a wagon to take Jamie — who is in extreme pain, by the way — back home to Lallybroch via the bumpiest road in Scotland. Obviously, I’m happy to see Jamie fight another day but, really, Melton? I don’t think shrugging off a soldier’s slow, painful death is anymore honorable than shooting him and ending his misery. I guess I just don’t understand chivalry.

The gauntlet has been thrown

And by gauntlet, I mean ashtray. Claire didn’t end up throwing a teapot at Frank, but otherwise I totally called it.

The other half of “The Battle Joined” follows a pregnant Claire as she settles into her life with Frank in 1948 Boston. For the most part, things are civil but you can practically cut the tension with a knife. Claire and Poor Frank talk and joke, but their smiles are a bit too wide. And Frank fills the silence by going on about the difference between Americans and Britons. (Hint: Americans are too obsessed with new, shiny things, which is … fair.) But their playacting as a happy couple comes to a screeching halt when Claire reveals that she wants to become a U.S. citizen. She’s lived all over and has no real attachment to England, she says.

Frank rightfully calls her out on that one. Whatever her reasons for wanting to become a citizen, it’s not because she feels nothing for England. It’s clear that Claire’s ambivalence about her homeland is actually about grief over Jamie.

So they have a pretty nasty fight. He tells her she is icing him out and living in the past. She replies that if he needs sex that badly he can go find an undergrad at Radcliffe. Frank reminds Claire that he’s not the one who had a relationship with someone else. Then the ashtray is thrown.

As the two retreat to their separate corners, Frank tells Claire that she is not a prisoner; she is free to do as she pleases. “Go or stay,” he says before he leaves for work. “But please do it because it’s what you really want to do.”

Misogyny, like history, repeats itself

It’s not just the unusual situation with Frank that’s getting Claire down — she’s also realizing that sexism is alive and well in the 20th century. This is especially evident from her interactions with Dean Jackson, Frank’s boss, and Dr. Thorne, the physician who delivers her baby. At one of Frank’s work functions, Dean Jackson belittles Claire for voicing an opinion about politics. He also mentions how useless women are as physicians and congratulates Claire for giving up nursing to embrace her true purpose in life: motherhood.

Dr. Thorne, meanwhile, is infuriatingly patronizing. He asks Frank about Claire’s medical history and barely glances at Claire when she speaks. When Claire says that she doesn’t want to be put under, Dr. Thorne literally tells her not to worry her “pretty little head” about doctors’ business. “Please don’t tell me what I need,” she manages to get out before being anesthetized against her will.

Scotland in the 1700s wasn’t exactly a feminist paradise, but after a solid season of being a respected Jacobite leader, it is startling to see how Claire is treated in 1948. I’m guessing that the exploration of post-WWII gender dynamics will continue this season. We do know that Claire eventually becomes a surgeon, so she’s bound to have another confrontation about whether women should be allowed in Harvard Medical with Dean Jackson fairly soon.

Related Story: Let’s speculate about the new Outlander S3 photos


  • Black Jack Randall appears to really be dead this time. I haven’t read Diana Gabaldon’s books, so I don’t know if he somehow miraculously survives like he did back in season 1. If he did meet his end, it was a fairly anti-climactic scene. I’m guessing we’ll get more of that story in the coming weeks.
  • Has anyone ever referred to Jamie as “Red Jamie” before? I feel like that came out of nowhere. Also, what a terrible nickname.
  • It’s unclear what happened Murtagh during the battle but Duncan Lacroix is still in the main credits, so I have a good feeling about the character’s fate.
  • There were a few moments of levity in an otherwise very somber episode. I especially liked Frank’s opinions on teabags: “It doesn’t even smell like tea after weeks of sitting in these little paper diapers.”
  • Jamie inhaling the scent from Claire’s cloak after she goes back through the stones is very sweet. So is his clutching the dragonfly in amber, which he eventually drops in the fields of Culloden. I bet that it will come back in one way or another before the season is done.
  • Poor Jamie. He obviously never expected he would make it through the battle — and I really doubt he would have sent Claire home if he knew he had any chance of surviving. No wonder he’s sporting a sadness beard in the next episode.