Outlander season 3, episode 3 recap: ‘All Debts Paid’


An episode chock-full of marital strife, prison drama, and long-term grief brings us into the final phase of The Separation of Claire and Jamie.

Whelp, Sassenachs, only one episode stands between us and the epic Claire-Jamie reunion. Which is a relief because things have been fairly dour for our heroes on both sides of the standing stones of late. Don’t get me wrong — Outlander has been churning out some great stories these past few episodes. I’m just at the point where I’m ready for something good to happen to Claire or Jamie with no strings attached.

It does make sense that “All Debts Paid” as well as the past two installments have felt like a series of one step forward and two steps back. Claire and Jamie have been stuck in a sort of no man’s land; one of them seems poised to make a breakthrough and then something comes along and ruins whatever progress was made. Jamie escapes a death sentence only to land in prison a few years later. Claire is ready to revive her sex life with Frank only to realize that sex alone isn’t enough for him. Jamie gets to leave Ardsmuir but is taken away from Murtagh. So on and so forth.

Take Claire at the end of this week’s installment. After years of tension, compromises, and resentment, she and Frank finally take steps towards a divorce after Brianna graduates from high school. With the bitter conversation still hanging in the air, Claire is approached by her friend and colleague, Joe, and told that Frank has died in a car accident. Neither she nor Frank will ever be able to fully move on from the unsuccessful marriage now. Frank won’t be able to be married to a woman who loves him and Claire will probably feel guilty about it for the rest of her life.

So, yeah, season 3 of Outlander has been great TV but I think everyone — characters and fans alike — could stand for some good news and soon.

Here are some of the other highlights from “All Debts Paid”:

Scenes from a marriage

In a somewhat rushed manner, this episode tracks the years-long disintegration of Claire and Poor Frank’s marriage. We find out in the first scene that, along with investing in twin beds, Mr. and Mrs. Randall have agreed upon an arrangement to “lead separate lives.” This is a very polite, British way of saying they are free to sleep with other people as long as they are respectful and discreet. I hesitate to call it an open marriage because Claire and Frank seem more like friendly roommates than anything else. They are married only in the eyes of the law.

Next time we see them, it’s at a party celebrating Claire’s graduation from medical school. Frank mixes up the time of the party’s dinner reservation and his mistress, Sandy, shows up while Joe, Brianna, and Claire’s new colleagues are still at the house. Claire quickly ushers everyone out, saying that they can entertain themselves at the bar until the restaurant seats them but she’s obviously shaken and hurt. Claire suggests divorce later that evening, but Frank says he wants to stay together for Brianna’s sake.

He changes his mind once Brianna graduates, however. In 1966 Frank tells Claire he wants to take Brianna to England. He has been offered a position at Cambridge and could put in a good word for Bri at Oxford. When Claire argues that she doesn’t want to be separated from her daughter, Frank suggests Bri won’t even notice her absence: “Between med school and the hospital, you’ve barely been here.” Ouch, Frank. That’s way below the belt.

Grey is the new black

How many names will Jamie collect before season 3 is over? Last week he was The Dunbonnet and this week he’s Mac Dubh, top dog at Ardsmuir Prison. So, now instead of being quietly, consistently decent on the battlefield or at Lallybroch, he is quietly, consistently decent on behalf of his fellow mistreated prisoners. There’s a lot that I love about Outlander, but the series’ refusal to push Jamie into anti-hero territory might be my favorite thing. Not even the horrors of prison can turn him into a jerk.

Jamie is so charming that a mutual respect eventually grows between him and the prison’s governor, Major John William Grey, aka the kid Jamie spared in season 2 and the brother of the redcoat who stayed Jamie’s execution in “The Battle Joined.” Grey even manages to grant Jamie some sort of freedom by episode’s end. After the prison closes and Murtagh and the other inmates are shipped off to the colonies for 14 years of indentured servitude, Grey brings Jamie to Helwater, where he will work as a servant.

A quick digression about Grey: He’s the season’s most interesting new character. Once he and Jamie clear the air about their long-ago conflict and Jamie’s escape attempt (we’ll get to that), they become chess buddies. Jamie tells Grey about Claire, and Grey tells him about “a particular friend” he lost at Culloden. “He inspired me,” Grey remembers. “Some people you grieve over forever.” He never utters the words, but it’s obvious that Grey was in love with the man who died in battle. And it’s possible that other soldiers found out about Grey’s sexual orientation and assigned him the Ardsmuir post as punishment. During their first meeting at the prison, Jamie does say: “God knows what you did to be sent here, but for your sake I hope you deserved it.” Hopefully we’ll learn more about Grey in the episodes to come.

La Dame Blanche returns

Jamie and Grey initially bond when Grey tasks Jamie with pumping a sick, senile old man for information on The Frenchman’s Gold, treasure that King Louis supposedly sent to Charles Stuart in support of the Jacobite cause. Jamie doesn’t get much from the man’s story except that the gold is cursed and that the White Lady, or ban-druidh, “seeks a brave man, a MacKenzie.” “She will come for you,” the man tells Jamie before he dies.

Of course Jamie’s ears (and ours) prick up when anyone mentions white witches or La Dame Blanche. Suspicious of the man’s tale but intrigued nonetheless, Jamie manages to escape the prison for three days. He hunts down the rumored treasure — which turns out to be nothing more than an empty chest with a single jewel — but finds no sign of Claire. Obviously this is heartbreaking for Jamie. As irrational and impossible as it seemed, there was a part of him that really believed that Claire was waiting for him on the nearby island.

She’s not there yet, Jamie, but hold on. Claire is on her way.

Next: Outlander S3E2 recap: “Surrender”


  • There were two deaths in this episode but possibly the saddest moment in “All Debts Paid” came at the chess match when Grey took Jamie’s hand. “Take your hand off me,” Jamie says, “or I will kill you.” Despite being a product of the 18th century, Jamie is not a bigot nor a homophobe. I think Jamie was truly frightened. It would make sense considering Jamie’s experiences at Wentworth with Black Jack Randall. The first time I saw this scene, I read it as Jamie being uncharacteristically mean. The second time, I saw it as him mistaking Grey’s genuine affection as a threat.
  • According to this, “Mac Dubh” translates to “Son of the Black.” Not sure why that’s a term of respect, but it’s Jamie’s best nickname thus far.
  • Black Jack and Frank are both dead and Murtagh is en route to the colonies, so is this the last we’ll see of Tobias Menzies and Duncan Lacroix? I hope not. Murtagh’s “Get on with it before I die of old age” killed me.
  • Drunk Frank is my favorite Frank: “Oh, are you jealous now? Green ain’t your color, Claire.” Burn!
  • Petty Claire is also fun. I like the moment when she pretends she can’t remember the name of Frank’s mistress (“What about Candy?”).
  • This week in swoon-worthy lines: When Frank asks Claire if she would have forgotten Jamie with time, if not for Brianna, she replies, “That amount of time doesn’t exist.” Sure, it’s sad for Frank but that’s life.
  • I wish they gave Claire’s friend Joe more to do but Wil Johnson kills the few scenes he does have. His look of understanding when Sandy shows up at the grad party is perfect.
  • The Randall family gets a dog at some point between 1956 and 1964. Now I’ll be wondering who is taking care of the dog and if it’s alright for the rest of the season. Thanks for the extra worry, Outlander!