‘Outlander’ Season 3, Episode 4: A Merciful Heart

It’s fascinating to see how the show rates Jamie’s value in the absence of Claire, and vice versa. Claire without Jamie is a wraith. At the same time, Jamie’s narrative currency is so high right now that both his employer and his employer’s wife pull him aside separately to forgive him his Jacobite past and offer help. Jamie’s narrative currency is so high that coercing him into bed means bearing him a beloved child. Jamie’s narrative currency is so high that his sexual offer to John Grey is a meta-offering that leaps off the screen: He knows he’s the most valuable thing this show has to offer.

Part of the problem here is that, once Frank is gone, there’s nobody interesting left in Claire’s sphere. So far, Brianna is lifted from an L.L. Bean ad, and Roger exists for exposition and moral support. This means Claire won’t be leaving much behind, but it also means her story line has no real stakes left. Another journey through the stones is inevitable. Until then, we’re marking time.

Thinking about this, the idea that Claire is the villain of the first act of this season gains traction. She has fought Frank and herself. With Brianna already resigning herself to the worst (“I’m afraid of losing her”), it’s fascinating to wonder what will happen when Jamie and Claire find each other. We’ve seen how he’s lived — he’s begun to heal and make new connections. Claire has a sham marriage and a distant daughter. What does love look like, after this? Jamie thinks he knows. We’ll see.

Other Gossip

• A priceless line after Jamie suggests that perhaps Geneva needn’t coerce him into having sex with her: “No. I’m doing this for myself.” (Feminism!)

• Geneva’s and Isobel’s costumes are great. Isobel’s dresses are muted but a little fussy — embroidered mitts, elaborate floral stomachers, and other marks of a lady’s trying to atone for being “plain.” Geneva’s dresses are…

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