Outlander season 3, episode 6 recap and review: A. Malcolm


Outlander makes a fine return to form as Claire and Jamie redeclare their love and season 3’s non-romantic storyline is introduced.

Oh, thank Murtagh the two-week Outlander hiatus is finally over. I appreciate dramatic tension as much as the next person but I don’t think I could have waited another minute for “A. Malcolm.” When Jamie awoke from his fainting spell, I was on the verge of crying tears of joy right along with him and Claire.

The previous episode of Outlander ended from Claire’s perspective. The cold open of “A. Malcolm” pulls a Rashomon, rewinding a bit to show us the same events from Jamie’s POV. Set to the jauntiest music used thus far in season 3, Jamie and his nifty tricorn hat make their way through the bustling streets of Edinburgh to the print-shop. Once he’s at work, he gives a treacherous assignment to a couple of his old Ardsmuir cohorts (or, at least, I assume they know each other from prison — they do call Jamie Mac Dubh) and endures some back-talk from his assistant, Geordie.

Once he has the shop to himself, Jamie prints some pamphlets and occasionally pulls out a pair of reading glasses to check his work. He doesn’t even look up when he hears the door open. It’s not until Claire announces herself that he stops what he’s doing. Obviously wondering if he’s lost his mind, Jamie looks up at his long-lost wife in bewilderment and then passes out, knocking over a mountain of papers and spilling ale on his pants in the process.

I have to commend this show on its ability to continuously surprise me. I didn’t think I needed to see the Claire finding the print-shop/Jamie fainting scene again, but it turns out I did. “A. Malcolm’s” opening is so sweet I can’t even stand it.

Let’s talk about the episode’s other developments. Note: In honor of the vast amount of quotable lines this week, I fashioned my section headings from “A. Malcolm” dialogue.

“Time doesn’t matter, Sassenach”

Normally I automatically go into eye-roll mode when an objectively gorgeous person makes self-deprecating remarks about their appearance. But Claire and Jamie’s insecurities are not only touching, they’re thematically compelling. These two spent decades believing that they would never see each other again and, understandably, built each other up in their minds. They idealized each other. Which is all well and good until the fantasy version of a person has to compete with their real-life counterpart.

So, when Jamie asks Claire to look away as he changes his pants and Claire covers her naked body awkwardly, they’re not just worried that they’re no longer attractive — they’re terrified that they won’t measure up to what the other has imagined.

Of course, real-life Claire is exactly what Jamie wants and vice-versa. But, man, is it almost overwhelmingly romantic when they, Bridget Jones-style, say that they love each other just as they are. “You look as dashing as ever,” Claire says as Jamie sheepishly puts on his glasses to look at pictures of Brianna. To make him feel better, she adds that she dyed the gray out of her hair. “I wanted to look, well, the same as when you last saw me,” she confesses. “Time doesn’t matter, Sassenach,” Jamie replies. “You will always be beautiful to me.”

I’ll be straight with you: my heart just about broke when I heard that last line, and it’s all due to Sam Heughan’s performance. His infusion of earnestness, matter-of-factness, and genuine love makes that quasi-cliché sound brand new.

“What an awful name for a wee lass”

Much of “A. Malcolm” sees Claire and Jamie catching each other up on what they’ve been up to the past 20 years. Jamie hits the nail on the head when he observes, “We know each other less than when we were first wed.” (And Claire didn’t even know Jamie’s last name when they got married.) While they agree that they don’t have to tell each other everything right off the bat, Claire does ask point-blank if Jamie has ever loved anyone else. As I predicted, she doesn’t fool herself into thinking Jamie has been living like a monk, but Claire is sincerely worried that his love for her isn’t as strong as it once was. Obviously, Jamie only has (and had) eyes for Claire.

The real elephant in the room isn’t a former lover: it’s the children Claire and Jamie have left behind. Claire tells Jamie about Brianna (“What an awful name for a wee lass”), whom she named in honor of Jamie’s father, Brian. Jamie, in turn, wastes no time and shows her a miniature of his son. There’s a palpable sadness when Claire gives Jamie the pictures of the daughter he’s never met (or will ever meet?) and when Jamie pulls out the portrait of Willie. Even if Jamie does get to meet Bree, he’ll never get back the time he missed with her as a baby and child. And, under her curiosity and genuine interest, there’s a jealousy Claire feels towards Willie, or rather the idea of Willie. Claire probably considers Willie the son she could have had with Jamie if she hadn’t gone back to her own time.

And, of course, hanging over this scene is the specter of Faith, the baby they lost last season. Jamie mentions that Bree has the same hair as her sister and he and Claire share a small, sad smile. As much as I appreciate the romance, this wistful scene is the best part of “A. Malcolm.” Claire and Jamie are finally back together, where they belong, but that doesn’t erase the pain they’ve both encountered along the way.

“So, uh, you live in a brothel?”

This episode also sets up the major arc of Outlander season 3. Ever the rebel, Jamie has been printing Scottish nationalist pamphlets at the shop and smuggling liquor on the side. Claire weirdly laughs this off during their pillow talk, but Jamie’s actions are deadly serious: he’s been arrested six times in two years, has had property confiscated, and will likely be hanged if he’s ever convicted. This is the man who had a bounty on his head for two seasons and change, but I’m still surprised Claire is so cavalier about her husband’s illegal dealings. She just found him again — why isn’t she more freaked out when he mentions potential execution?

Anyways, one of Jamie’s illegal booze customers is Madame Jeanne, the madam at the brothel where Jamie lives. He’s not a patron, he tells Claire, he has just worked out a deal where he can show up at any time and find a comfortable room and hot meal waiting for him. Jamie’s honest with his wife, so I believe him when he says he and Jeanne don’t have a thing going on — but Jeanne obviously wants something to happen and is none too happy when Claire shows up.

Jamie seems fairly self-assured in his illegitimate business, but by episode’s end it’s clear that the walls are closing in. The man he’s bribing to look the other way on the smuggling is demanding an increase in payment. Another man — possibly in cahoots with the bribed dude and/or Jeanne — is breaking into Jamie’s room and assaulting Claire in order to find his business ledger.

In other words, welcome back to classic Outlander, kids, where the violence and plot twists are never far behind the romance.

Next: Outlander S3E5 recap: ‘Freedom & Whisky’


  • Alias Watch: In order to protect Jamie’s real identity, Claire agrees to go by Madame Malcolm in Edinburgh.
  • This week in Jamie Is the Male Feminist of My Dreams:
    • On Claire becoming a surgeon: “Oh, you always were one. Now you have the title to go with it.”
    • On one of the many reasons he loves Claire: “You’re the mother of my child, and for that alone, I owe you my soul.”
  • Geordie, Jamie’s eternally put-upon print-shop assistant, might be my new favorite character. “God’s tooth! It’s not even noon,” he exclaims after he walks in on Claire and a pants-less Jamie kissing.
  • Adult Fergus is just as adorable as Young Fergus. I hope to see many adventures featuring him, Young Ian, and Mr. Willoughby.
  • So, do you think Madame Jeanne is the one who sicced Bald Burly Dude on Claire? She’s the one who answered the door to him and then seemed awfully adamant that Claire go back upstairs.
  • Speaking of which, poor Claire. As soon as she gets the love of her life back she’s attacked and threatened with abuse by a stranger.
  • Non-18th century items that confuse Jamie: photographs, bikinis, zippers, bicycles, and Jell-O.
  • I’m glad the writers lampshaded Jamie’s still impossibly hot body via Claire’s comment. She’s right: there’s no way he stays that buff by printmaking alone.
  • Most Swoon-Worthy Line: “It’s still there,” Jamie says of the undefinable connection he shares with Claire.