What do you do when someone reaches out their hand to you? What emotions/gut feelings surround your decision to take (or not) their hand in return? It’s a simple gesture, but there’s a lot that happens in the moments/seconds leading to whatever it is that you do next. Outlander has some interesting examples to explore – all involving Claire.
A great place is start is Season One (Sassenach) and Murtagh. Claire is being accosted by Captain Jack Randall, and Murtagh comes to her aid (of course he would!). He knocks Randall unconscious, then turns and reaches out his hand to Claire. “Trobhad (Come)!” he calls to her.
Claire has a choice to make, but she doesn’t have much time. She can go with the Highlander, take her chances on her own, or face Randall when he regains consciousness. She decides to trust Murtagh even though she has no idea who he is and can’t understand what he’s saying to her. Murtagh defended her against Randall – perhaps Claire feels that if he defended her, then he means her no harm. Murtagh can get her out of immediate danger, give her time to get her bearings, and figure out what to do next.
What about Murtagh’s motivation? He has no love for the British, Randall in particular. He knows no good can come of leaving Claire anywhere near him. Murtagh has the Highlander code of ethics that includes the rescue of this woman who obviously needs his help. He’ll have to answer to Dougal for his decision, but for now his honorable traits rule his actions.
This time it’s Claire who reaches out her hand. She’s bandaged Jamie’s gunshot wound she discovered after he passed out and fell off his horse. Dougal says it’s time to leave, so Claire reaches out her hand to Jamie, and helps him to his feet.
Why? Perhaps it’s because he’s been injured, and she has a calling to help those in need. Maybe it’s as simple as giving someone a “hands up” when they need it. She’s under no obligation to help Jamie – she’s already tended to him twice – she could have just waited for him to manage on his own. But she doesn’t. Jamie thanks her, “truly.” Her reply? “Alright. Well, on your horse, soldier.” She’s still on her guard, unsure of the Highlanders, but she has a genuine sense of decency and good will that shines through the darkness of a damp, Scottish night.
What’s on Jamie’s mind? It’s pretty simple, really. Sure, he’s a virgin, but he’s not a monk. He’s already smitten with Claire. We can see it (and he reveals that he was, then and there, later on in their relationship). If he has a chance to take her hand and hold it for a bit, why wouldn’t he? Anything to get him back on that horse, with that round arse tucked tight between his thighs.
Here’s a spot where things get interesting and contradictory. In The Garrison Commander, Captain Randall has been interrogating Claire at the inn at Brockton, and it appears that they have come to an agreement (at least that’s what he’s led Claire to believe). BJR calls Corporal Hawkins into the room, saying, “Mrs. Beauchamp and I require your assistance.”
Claire makes the mistake of trusting Randall, assuming he is going to honor her request to return to Inverness that very afternoon. She needs to get back to Inverness, to the stones (and Frank), and if Randall is the one to get her there, so be it. She takes his hand, begins to express her gratitude, but is stopped mid-sentence when Randall punches her in the stomach. She trusted Randall when she reached out her hand to take his. Big mistake.
Randall’s motive? He’s convinced Claire knows about Dougal’s efforts to support the Jacobite rebellion, and he’s ready to use any means necessary to get her to confess. But Claire is stronger than he thinks, and remains silent, despite his and Corporal Hawkins’ best efforts. Reaching out his hand, he fools her into thinking he’s going to help her with her desire to return to Inverness. Turns out, it’s a means to get her on her feet so that he can place a blow where it will do the most good. Plus, there’s that sick pleasure he gets from inflicting pain upon others.
Well, then. Let’s push that visual from our mind and move on to – the wedding! Claire and Jamie have been talking for hours, and it’s finally time to consummate the marriage (per the contract drawn up by Ned Gowan). They’re both nervous, but Jamie finds a kind, gentle way to get things started. He reaches out to her, knowing she won’t sleep in her corset. “I’ll help you with the laces and such.”
This is a pivotal moment in their relationship. Jamie is reaching out to Claire (literally), asking her to trust him and their new relationship as husband and wife. They’re about to bare more than their bodies – they’re going to bare at least a bit of their souls. What is about to happen puts them both in a position of not just intimacy, but vulnerability. His gesture is an invitation, a gentle request, to help him be the husband he wants to be without damaging his ego or feelings of masculinity.
Claire’s not a virgin, so she knows what’s coming. But perhaps there are a couple of things she hadn’t counted on. First, the unexpected feelings she has for Jamie. On paper, she’s marrying Jamie to stay out of BJR’s clutches, but she didn’t factor in the possibility of falling in love with him. Second, being the more experienced in all things sexual, she has the power to lift up or destroy Jamie’s confidence/ego surrounding his ability to perform sexually. She takes his hand, knowing they need to consummate the marriage in order to fulfill the marriage contract and to move their relationship forward. She accepts Jamie’s vulnerability, falters a bit as she struggles with her own situation, but in the end she gets it right.
After the witch trial at Cranesmuir, Claire reveals to Jamie that she’s from the future, and the reason she ran when he left her with Willie was because she was trying to get to the stones, to her own time, and Frank. Enroute to Lallybroch, Jamie secretly takes a route that leads them to the stones at Craigh na dun. Despite loving her (and their marriage), he feels duty-bound to return her to her own time.
Claire reaches the top of the hill and realizes where Jamie’s brought her. The last time she saw the stones, she hurried to them as quickly as she could. Now she seems rooted in place. Jamie holds out his hand to her, but hers is still at her side. She’s reluctant, torn between two worlds. In the end, she takes his hand, knowing the reason he brought her here was to say goodbye, to send her back to her own time. She takes his hand and lets him lead her to the stones as the battle to stay/go begins.
Jamie struggled with this decision from the moment he learned Claire was from the future and married to Frank. He loves Claire – she’s his wife. And yet, his Highlander sense of doing the right thing has led him to this moment. She was Frank’s wife first, and she’s from another time. He has to find enough strength for both of them. He follows her up the hill – when she reaches the top he moves in front of her and says, “It’s what you’ve always wanted – to go home.” “Yes,” she answers. With all that he can muster, he reaches out his hand to her, to help her leave him forever.
Season Two (Through a Glass, Darkly) reveals that Claire has returned to her own time. She’s pregnant with Jamie’s baby and does her best to put distance (physical and emotional) between her and Frank. After an all-night conversation, the two finally come to terms with what has happened, and Claire agrees to his conditions moving forward with their lives together in the 20th century.
Claire promised Jamie she’d put the past behind and do what she must for their unborn baby. “It’s all that will be left of me,” he said before bringing her to the stones at Craigh na dun and sending her back to her own time. She doesn’t love Frank the way she did before and can never love him the way she loved Jamie. To honor Jamie’s wish and to treasure the love they shared, she agrees to Frank’s condition to put Jamie in the past. Tearfully, Claire agrees and accepts Frank’s outstretched hand, which looks like more of a gentleman’s agreement than a token of affection.
Frank is an emotional wreck. He loves Claire and is desperate to pick up their lives where they left off. When he finally realizes it can never be, his need to control reveals itself when he sets conditions for their moving forward together. The baby will be raised as their own, and while he draws breath, Claire will not utter Jamie’s name or search for any news of what happened to him. Out of sight, out of mind, he hopes. The hand he reaches out to her is asking her to accept his conditions, his terms, rather than his reaching out to her in understanding and love. If he cannot have Claire the way she was, he’ll have her any way he can. She’s back, and she’ll play by his rules.
At the end of Faith, Claire and Jamie visit Faith’s grave before departing for Lallybroch. It’s been a time of lies, deceit, pain, and suffering. Jamie has finally been released from the Bastille, and they’ve talked about what happened – Jamie’s reason for not waiting a year to kill Jack Randall and the trauma of Claire losing the baby. Kneeling in front of Faith’s grave, Claire reaches out her hand to Jamie.
Claire hated Jamie. In Jared’s apartment, she tells him in no uncertain terms, “I hated you.” But as she goes on, she explains to him that it’s not his fault she lost the baby. It’s hers. At the foot of Faith’s grave, she reaches out her hand to Jamie, asking for his forgiveness, his love, and his help as they move on without their baby, into an uncertain future.
Jamie accepts her hand, echoing the words he said to her at Jared’s apartment. He already forgave her for that and anything else she could have done. There’s nothing to forgive, and now he must help her, help them both, move forward with their lives. When you love as deeply as Jamie, forgiving comes as easily as taking Claire’s hand.
Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.