‘Outlander’ episode 5 ends with the cruelest cliffhanger, and we’re mad as hell

This was pretty mean.
Image: starz

This recap contains spoilers for Outlander Season 3, episode 5, titled “Freedom and Whisky.” If you need to refresh your memory with where we left off, check out our recap of episode 4.

After five episodes of build-up, the moment is finally here — Claire and Jamie have reunited! 

Okay, so Jamie’s unconscious, but nobody’s perfect.

The emotional hour culminates in possibly the cruelest cliffhanger imaginable, as Claire finally returns to the past, arriving in 1766 Edinburgh to track down the print shop of one “Alexander Malcolm.” When she gets there and finally lays eyes on her soulmate after two decades, a world of emotion passes between the two of them, until the shock and awe overtakes our dashing hero and he faints before he can even say a word, clearly overwhelmed at the reality of seeing Claire after years of imagining her.

The moment is lifted pretty faithfully from Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, but the choice to place the scene at the end of the episode without letting them even touch was deliberate mischief-making from executive producers Toni Graphia (who wrote episode 5) and Matt Roberts (who penned episode 6).

We won’t spoil what Roberts has in store for the next episode, but he promises that while fans will be “horribly mad at us the week between… they will be paid off” once episode 6 airs. 

Do you feel horribly mad, Outlander fans? You may be even more upset to learn that the gap isn’t just one week, but two: Episode 6, “A. Malcolm,” won’t air until Oct. 22 (next week, Starz will reair episodes 1-5) — but in Graphia and Roberts’ defense, they didn’t know that when they were writing the episodes.

Claire goes through an emotional rollercoaster over the course of episode 5: She’s forced to confront some of her own shortcomings in her troubled marriage when she encounters Frank’s mistress, and then has to somehow come to terms with the idea of leaving her daughter, Brianna, with no guarantee that they’ll ever see each other again.

Sophie Skelton, who plays Brianna, admits that she particularly appreciated the way Graphia’s script explored the similarities between Bree and Jamie, even though they’ve never met.

“There was kind of that parallel of, Jamie gave up Claire for Brianna and Bree’s now doing the same. It’s nice to see that kind of selflessness,” she says. “And I think, because it follows that really nice scene of Claire and Brianna on the sofa in the Boston home, there’s a beautiful role-reversal, where Claire’s kind of a little bit anxious, a little bit worried that actually this 20-year wait for a relationship puts so much pressure to rekindle that. And Bree kind of becomes the mother to Claire, and says, ‘you know what, you’ll be okay and I have to let you go.'”

That sacrifice is particularly impressive (and heartbreaking) considering that Brianna is essentially being orphaned by Claire’s departure.

“She has so much to come to terms with, and she and Claire have finally rebuilt this relationship, then actually there’s gonna be an even bigger wedge between them because of the distance,” Skelton notes. “She’s still reeling from Frank’s death, and now she’s kind of losing her mother, too. And it’s just that moment at the window where it’s really nice, because you see that very Fraser, stoic, calmly held element of Bree where like she’s putting on such a brave face with Claire and then as soon as Claire’s gone out of frame, she’s crying.”

Speaking of Claire’s anxiousness at the prospect of seeing Jamie again after all these years, Caitriona Balfe shares what’s going through Claire’s mind in those final minutes.

“When she goes back, this is a woman who’s sort of put her entire romantic and sexual life on hold for the best part of 20 years. That gives you I think a slight rigidity, I think,” Balfe tells us. “Obviously there’s a lot of trepidation with Claire going back. We play that a little bit when she dyes her hair right before she goes, because there’s this slight insecurity and she wants him to remember her as she used to be.”

Balfe also reveals that she initially struggled with the idea of Claire dyeing her hair, since it seems so counter to the practical woman that we’ve come to know and love.

“It’s funny, the Clairol moment was something that I was actually resistant to in the beginning, because I was like, ‘Why would you make Claire insecure about her features? That’s not how I see her.’ But actually, I think it ends up being quite a sweet thing to do,” Balfe admits. 

“It’s boring to just play somebody as strong and positive all the time. It really gives her a vulnerability that I think ends up playing really well. At the end of the day, we all worry on some level about how we look and how somebody sees us. And she’s worried about meeting the man that she loved so much again after 20 years. It’s not just, ‘Is he gonna love me again?’ But, ‘Will he actually find me attractive again?’ I think that that’s a valid point to play, which I thought was actually really nice.”

As for what Jamie thinks of Claire’s reappearance, dyed hair and all, we’ll have to wait two weeks to find out, but this steamy sneak peek at episode 6 should give you a clue…

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.

Watch: ‘Outlander’ Season 3 will make you believe in love again.

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