Outlander review: Guess who’s coming to visit in ‘Blood of My Blood’


Jamie finally gets some long-overdue father-son bonding time with Willie, while Claire and John Grey size one another up.

One of the many reasons I love Outlander is its ability to upend expectations. (That’s actually sort of its raison d’être, since the story as a whole deconstructs romance tropes.) This week’s episode, “Blood of My Blood,” was no exception and this is why: Claire is shamelessly jealous of John Grey (David Berry).

In case you’ve forgotten, Grey was Jamie’s warden during his prison sentence. Grey is the one who found him work at Helwater. And Grey is the one who took in Jamie’s illegitimate son, Willie, after the mother died. Grey is married to the woman’s sister, and Willie, of course, doesn’t know his true paternity. All the while, the closeted Grey has been in love and lust with Jamie. Needless to say, there’s a loaded history between them.

And that drives Claire insane. Instead of being jealous of Willie’s mother and her tryst with Jamie, Claire feels threatened by the bond between Jamie and Grey. He unsettles her in a way no female rival could, in spite of the fact that Jamie has never shown any sexual interest in men. As she admits while treating Grey’s measles in “Blood of My Blood,” this could be due to the years Grey had with Jamie — time she didn’t have. For two decades Jamie had a life in which she played no part. That must hurt. Claire’s envy could also come down to a different sort of competition: Grey will never win Jamie’s love or desire, but he is a trusted confidante.

Sure, it’s obvious to us that Claire will always be the first person Jamie goes to in times of need or joy. But, in the throes of jealousy, she’s having a hard time remembering that herself.

While Claire helps Grey get through the worst of his measles, Jamie takes Willie — who now prefers to be called William (Oliver Finnegan) — on a hunting trip/tour through Fraser’s Ridge. This is the first time the two have seen each other since Jamie left Helwater in last season’s “Of Lost Things.” Willie doesn’t need any prompt to remember “Mac,” the estate’s former groom and the person who taught him about horses.

Not much happens in the way of plot development during Jamie and Willie’s excursion. Even the conflict with the Cherokee the episode promo promised isn’t that dramatic. Willie, who is still the entitled brat he was back at age six, ignores Jamie’s warnings about Cherokee land and trespasses on it to fish. Jamie finds him shortly before the Cherokee do, and they demand blood as retribution for the theft. Jamie begs them to take him instead because he’s the boy’s father — his blood is Willie’s blood. Willie assumes Jamie is just being gallant and confesses to his transgression. The Cherokee scratch his hand as punishment and that’s that.

(Well, I suppose the scene does sound dramatic when it’s written down… But when you watch “Blood of My Blood,” it’s really not that big of a deal.)

In any case, Outlander spends most of the father-son trip showing Jamie and Willie getting to know each other again. Jamie’s just about bursting with pride throughout each scene, and his enthusiasm for teaching Willie to catch a fish with his bare hands or to dress a stag is so sweet, it’s heartbreaking. Although Jamie is a father of sorts to Fergus and Marsali, he never had the chance to raise a child, to teach them the things his parents taught him. Watching “Blood of My Blood,” the injustice of his being separated from Brianna and Willie feels brand new. He’s a great father; he should have been able to see his kids grow up.

While most of the episode is devoted to Claire & Grey and Jamie & Willie, it also sets up another conflict for the season. I predicted last week that Jamie would eventually have to decide to ally himself with either the British or the rebels during the revolution. He refrained from joining Murtagh’s crew of tax protestors, and in “Blood of My Blood” finds out Grey is firmly in the pocket of Governor Tryon. So, not only is Jamie torn between two ideologies, he’s caught between two close friends: Murtagh and Grey. Murtagh wants Jamie to pump Grey for information on Tryon, while Claire suspects Grey is spying on Jamie for the governor.

The revolution hasn’t officially started, but it’s already at the Frasers’ door. Everyone is skeptical about everyone else, dinners are sites of political warfare and friendships on the line. Poor Jamie. I’m willing to bet his life’s gonna get a lot more complicated before the season is over.

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  • Outlander opens with John Grey finding Jamie sawing wood — and looking real attractive. It’s another example of the show playing with a well-worn romantic trope.
  • RIP, Isobel. You were given too little to do and died off-screen. I wish the show would have further explored what a marriage between a closeted gay man and his unaware wife would have looked like in the 18th century.
  • Everyone deserves a friend like Murtagh: “I’ve kept [your secrets], each and every one.”
  • What was with all the bowing and scraping around Grey and Willie? That was new, right?
  • I appreciate the show bending over backwards to show its tolerance of homosexuality, but no, Claire, being born outspoken is not equivalent to being born gay.
  • However, Claire’s personal understanding of Grey’s marriage — the fact that he and Isobel just weren’t right for each other — worked much better.
  • You can take the kid out of Helwater, but you can’t take Helwater out of the kid: “You, sir, are a lout!”
  • Jamie took one of his mother’s silver candlesticks and had a new wedding ring made for Claire. Guess the search for the one Stephen Bonnet stole won’t be a season-long arc after all.