James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser: King of Men, ovary exploder, giver of smoldering looks, and the one responsible for the shortness of breath among so many Outlander fans. I get it. Book Jamie is hot. Screen Jamie is hot. The man is like a greatest hits reel of women’s dreams around the world. But what about Claire?
If I’m being honest here (and I am, because I’m among friends), I have as much of a crush on Claire as I do on Jamie. She is equal parts damsel in distress, action hero, lover, mother, and healer/surgeon (depending on which century she’s living in). As much as Jamie is the embodiment of the perfect man, Claire, for me, is the embodiment of every woman trying to balance life, love, career, family and doing so with a wicked tongue. Like all of us modern ladies, she doesn’t always get it right and she occasionally mucks it up terribly. And like us, she wakes up every day and tries once again. What follows are my favorite examples of Claire being the ultimate badass. Let’s see if you agree.
Setting Jamie’s Shoulder and Bossing Around the Boys
Minutes after going through the stones and arriving in 1743, Claire is nearly raped by Black Jack Randall and then “rescued” by Murtagh, who knocks her over the head to silence her. It wasn’t the best of days. Murtagh takes her to a cottage where she finds the men of Clan MacKenzie gathered around Jamie, who is in pain with a nastily dislocated shoulder. Even though she’s still trying to convince herself that she hasn’t fallen through time, Claire puts her personal crisis aside and tends to Jamie’s shoulder. Her training and experience as a combat nurse take over and she immediately begins shouting orders to the MacKenzie clansmen. If Claire had not intervened, it’s likely that Angus would have broken Jamie’s arm with whatever barbaric technique he was about to employ. No matter what was going on in her own life, Claire couldn’t let this stranger be maimed for the rest of his. Later on the road, when Claire tends to Jamie’s gunshot wound, she rips her own barely-there dress when she realizes that there are no bandages.
I love these moments because they exemplify what we ladies do every day. We’re stressed, we’re juggling ten different personal and professional crises at the same time and then, in a moment of clarity, we know exactly what we need to do next and we handle it. We don’t wait for permission; we don’t wait for a more opportune time. We do it right then because it’s what matters most at that moment. We take care of business and then get on with our day. Fortunately for us, that typically does not include trying to locate the husband we left in the future.
Choosing Not to Go Through the Stones
Once Jamie found out the truth about Claire and where she came from, he decided to take her back to the stones so that she could return to the relative safety of her own time. Standing in front of the stone, alone, Claire only had to reach out and touch it and she would have been transported back to her own time — back to Frank, the husband who loved her and who was searching desperately for her. Yet, she didn’t.
Claire traded her life of relative ease with a husband who loved her for a life of certain hardship with the husband who loved her but also brought her to life in ways that she did not previously know were possible. Claire chose to live with the man who ignited her passions.
How many times have we been afraid to make the leap, to let go of a mediocre thing for a great thing? Claire’s story is a reminder that it’s not only okay to choose something better, but sometimes we have more fulfilling lives because we take the chance.
I’m not going to recap the wedding night scene.You know exactly what happens because you’ve watched it more than once five (okay, fine) ten times. I have, too. Maybe I’m watching it as I type this. Who knows? I am. I am actually watching it as I type.
I’m a fan of all the sex scenes in Outlander for all the reasons that blogging colleague Janet Reynolds has already covered. We are of the same mind on this topic. The wedding scene is something special though, and here’s why. Jamie and Claire spend the night talking, drinking, and building sexual tension. As Janet says, we watch them fall in love. This is familiar territory to Claire, but it’s all new to Jamie and, in typical rookie fashion, he fumbles his way through it the first time. And, like a boss, Claire lets him. She lets him do what he needs to do to make the marriage legal, to stop the nosing about of the clansmen, and to release 23 years of sexual frustration. And then, she gives him the gift of an older, more experienced woman. Claire is in complete control. She asks Jamie to undress, she takes her time admiring his body (she’s not the only one), she demonstrates that the act is something that they can both enjoy, and then she does the thing that makes him feel like his heart is going to explode.
Here’s to Claire for reminding us that sometimes we need to refocus some of our control issues into the bedroom. Our guys will thank us for it and maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll fall asleep with that adorable smile on their faces.
The Slap Heard Around the Highlands
When Claire finds herself married to the most eligible bachelor in Castle Leoch (sorry Angus!), she wasn’t quite prepared for the backlash from the woman who desperately wanted Jamie’s love and attention. On her mission to prove that hell, indeed, hath no fury like a woman scorned, Laoghaire goes to the local witch and orders up an ill-wish that would bring death and/or pestilence to Claire.
Upon finding the ill-wish, Claire confronts Laoghaire and, much to her credit, tries to reason with her. Laoghaire isn’t having it though, and reasserts her claim on Jamie. Claire reaches a point where she can no longer deal with the nonsense and she does what we have all been waiting for (you know you were) – she slaps Laoghaire across the face leaving the little vixen speechless. When I saw this the first time, I literally laughed out loud, which is not something I do very often when I’m watching television by myself. I still laugh every time I watch the scene.
How many times have you just wanted to smack some sense into someone? We don’t do it because battery and assault are real things and punishable by law but, seriously, how satisfying was it to see Laoghaire get what she deserved?
Getting Jamie Out of Prison by Sleeping with the King
After his duel with Black Jack Randall, Jamie is taken to the Bastille. Claire is taken to the hospital where she delivers Faith, stillborn. After recuperating from the delivery, Claire returns to cousin Jared’s house where she awaits Jamie’s return, simmering in that self-righteous stew that we all plunge ourselves into from time to time. The man had one simple job – don’t kill Black Jack Randall for one year (and within that the assumption that he would not render him unable to father a child) and he couldn’t even restrain himself for a few weeks! Then one night Fergus has a nightmare and, in comforting him, Claire learns the awful truth about the moments preceding the duel. The knowledge that Jamie was acting in defense of Wee Fergus breaks Claire’s heart anew and she knows that she must actively petition for his release.
As ever, Claire devises a plan and this one ain’t pretty. Mother Hildegard tells Claire that the king sometimes grants petitions such as Claire’s, but that he might expect to lie with her in return. Gathering up her wits and her voluminous skirts, Claire makes a call on King Louis. After drinking chocolate and light conversation, Claire indicates that she would be most grateful (wink) if the king would arrange for Jamie’s release. The king agrees to the request if Claire will grant him a favor. Not in a position to make counter-offers, Claire agrees. The favor turns out to involve a trial of sorts, which leads to the death of the Comte St. Germain. Trial over, the king ushers Claire back to his chamber where Claire “pays” for Jamie’s release in a sexual encounter that closely resembles a business transaction. The king releases Claire and assures her that he will free Jamie from the Bastille.
Yes, Claire had to do a couple of pretty unseemly things here, but she went to the king knowing what would happen. Ok, she didn’t realize that she would have to kill the Comte; that was just a terrible bonus. The bottom line is that Claire, being her badass self, sacrifices her body in order to save Jamie. I really don’t want to think about modern-day equivalents on this scenario so I’ll just let this one lie, as it were.
Am I not Lady Broch Tuarach?
The Bonnie Prince sends the Lallybroch men to Inverness to secure winter quarters for the army. On their way, they come under attack by the British and Rupert takes a musket ball to the eye. The Highlanders take refuge in a church so that Claire can remove the ball and save Rupert’s life. The British troops find them and threaten to burn down the church if the group doesn’t surrender. Jamie, being Jamie, wants to give himself up to save the group, but Dougal reminds him that if he goes with the British they will certainly kill him.
Taking matters into her own hands, Claire calls out to the British soldiers and says that she is being held captive. She offers to give herself up to save the men. Jamie protests but Murtagh agrees that it is the only way. The British troops won’t harm Claire and they can eventually find and free her. Jamie says that he will not let Claire give herself up to the British. Clearly fed up with the “stubborn Scot” Claire causes all the men’s jaws to drop open when she exclaims, “Am I not Lady Broch Tuarach? Are these men not my responsibility too?” Jamie, looking defeated, agrees that it is the only way and begins to prepare for Claire’s departure. As Claire leaves Jamie’s arms she says to him, “We will find each other. Trust in that.”
I love this scene because while the British troops think they are saving the damsel in distress, the distressed damsel has actually outsmarted them and saved the lives of her clansmen. But that’s not all. Claire’s declaration is an acknowledgement of her title and position and her willingness to share its weighty mantle with Jamie. In this moment, she demands equality and the men are helpless to do anything other than grant it. But wait, there’s more! Claire’s reassurance to Jamie as she leaves the cottage shows us a Claire who is, in that moment, far stronger than Jamie. She becomes the warrior offering up reassurance before departing for the battlefield.
If I had to pick one single scene from both seasons as a favorite this would be the one because so much changes with those eight little words.
What’s your favorite Claire badass moment? Do you have a crush on Claire, too?
Oh yes MayPer that was a great scene…the confused look on Jamie's face was priceless!
What a great read! Bravo indeed! What I love about Claire, is that she is not afraid to putting Jaime or any man, past or future, in check. An example of this was when they were at Lallybroch, Jaime gets drunk, and she pulls the sheets so hard while he's still sleeping that he falls on the floor. When he starts to say that he's Lord Broch Tuarach, she replies by saying – paraphrasing here – I don't care who you are, I married a guy named Jaime. Luv her!
Great story, and I loved you included the "Am I not Lady Broch Tuarach?" moment. I'd also include her rescuing Jamie at WP. But my favorite scene is in "Prestonpans" (or is it "Je Suis Priest"?), when she tells off Dougal. She was speaking for every woman who has ever been mansplained.
Jessica, I definitely agree with rescuing Jamie from WP. It really was difficult to choose just five! Wasn't it great to see her tell off Dougal? That was two seasons worth of frustration that Claire got off her chest in that scene.
Come on now, my eyes started to leak just reading that. Oh, the feels!! I had never see Caitriona before Outlander and I only started reading the books after watching the first couple of episodes. After finishing the first book and moving back to the show I couldn't help think that she is PERFECT for the role. She perfectly embodies Claire.
Wonderful article and very much appreciated. I would only add that having a great beauty and wonderful actress , like Caitriona Balfe, in this role drew many non book readers into the Outlander fandom. I cannot imagine any other actress more perfectly cast to exemplify all the myriad qualities this article documents so well. Most of my favs were mentioned but my favorite Clair moment is a small one but moves me to sobs with each viewing. It is in the 1st episode of Season 2 when Clair begins describing Jamie to Reverend's housekeeper: " He is ( long pause) …was
The catch in Balfe's voice kills me every time!
I do admire & like Claire's character,being so intelligent,knowing what she really is and wants to be (a healer),but I admire her love for Jamie the most,going back through the stones in Voyager takes so much courage,I don't think I have that courage,saying all this,my favourite is Claire getting Jamie out of WP!Saying all this I do find her bluntness & at times meddling trublesome,as trouble does follow them of course,but so love Outlander & waiting so much for season 3!Thank You for the great post Nikki.
I should have added Caitriona Balfe is just perfect as Claire,just a brilliant job by all lead actors!
Those are all great moments, but my fav scene (hopefully) will appear this season, when Claire has to admit that the same actions that allowed her to pursue her career and have Briana in a healthy environment, were the same actions that her Jamie had showed to some one who also needed support.
This sounds and looks so minor, but it is Claire accepting of Frank's safekeeping as she is of Jamie giving his safekeeping to another. Laoghaire is an anguished little trouble-maker who never get her full due (till later in the books…finally). But this is also the last time that Claire even thinks, much less threatens to leave Jamie. She has come to be with him – forever. Although when they were at the stones together, she choose to stay, he extracted from her the promise that she would go if there were no other alternative, with Claire agreeing thinking that would never be the case…..and then matters turn for the worse, and she goes. When she comes back the final time, and after this "Penicillin Scene" she realizes that she will never leave again which is her commitment to the relationship and Jamie.
With that commitment comes another benefit that Jamie did not expect, nor foresee. He's allowed to live out his full potential. But Jamie doesn't stifle Claire or live out his live at the expense of Claire. Claire in return, does not live out her full life at the expense of Jamie. They find they can both live out the full potential without having to be at the expense of each other. To the contrary, they find that not only do they live not at the expense of each other, but as support for the other. Claire allows Jamie to talk out what he would like to do, needs to do, has to do and can do; while Jamie allows Claire to talk out the same.
This is what the Penicillin Scene represents and starts in the book. At the end of DIA where they are separating and promise to find each other later is the precursor to the "finding" each other which will occur this upcoming season, but the reconciliation after Jamie tells of why he married Laoghaire and Claire accepting it for what it was….at the time (Jamie lonely and dying day-by-day, Laoghaire in a bad way with no father for her children, the pain Jamie's family suffered watching him so forelorn), is the "beginning of a beautiful friendship"….errr ….ummmm, I mean romance!
Claire is a treasure of a mentor. There are so many times I would so like to be just exactly like her. Her continued bravery and focus on the now and here when the future looks so bleak. And she freely admits lots that she's scared, but nothing else to do but do what she knows and only live now. Things don't always turn out….Murtaugh dies, the Highland Culture disintegrates, famine, war, pestilence and disease all overtake the Highlands, and there is more in the future. But Jamie and Claire live through the scars and it doesn't prevent them from loving each other and others even though they will be hurt again, and they know it.
Claire, I'm so looking forward to these scenes in the next season too. Yes, the "penicillin scene" is a turning point in the marriage that has just been tenuously resumed after a 20 year hiatus. I'm pretty sure I cried my through those passages in the book.
I'd like to think that we've all got a bit of Claire in us but we don't realize until it we're in a tight spot.
The themes of resilience and redemption run heavy through these books and it sounds like they are as meaningful to you as they are to me. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Claire!
Thanks! Claire's bluntness and meddling are absolutely infuriating but I also find them a bit endearing as well. One of my grandmothers is forever saying "leave well enough alone". Claire, for the life of her, just can't seem to do this. And sometimes neither can I and maybe that's why I like her so much?!
I said in a previous comment that I had never seen Caitriona before Outlander but I think she embodies Claire perfectly as does Sam with Jamie. At this point can you imagine any other actors in those roles?
I've already professed my love for Claire and extolled her many virtues, many of which you have eloquently described. I would add her intelligence and quick wit are qualities I admire greatly.
Thanks for the review … I've fallen in love all over again.
I'm looking forward to seeing their playful sides in S3. I really missed their banter back and forth. Claire is so intelligent and biting with her comments and Jamie is so genuine with his. They both equal each other out so nicely. Just read the scene in Voyager "again"where Jamie is shaving and teasing her about the little noises she makes when they are "together". He describes each noise and she denies it. He then says he'll take his breaks down and then….we'll see what kind of noises you don't make. One of my favorites I hope they keep in S3. I admire Claire bc she doesn't think twice about the lack of medicine or health care. For someone who has migraines etc I don't think I could do it. Plus colds flu bacterial infections. If not for that I would be thinking of ways to go through the stones. I have never been this attached with a show, characters, location etc before. I find the whole thing very interesting in that it has taken such a hold of many of us. And I do have a real life.????
Thank you! Sassy is one thing but smart and sassy is another altogether and that's what Claire is to me.
Oh Sassenach I know how ya feel! I've never gotten sucked into a tv show or book series either so this is all pretty new to me. What a fantastic adventure though. Right?!And by the way, I LOVE that scene too!
Great article and for sure I have a girl crush on Claire and for all the reasons you stated (not to mention her natural beauty and killer model bod – Caitriona is a naturally beautiful woman). I know that all the gals are crazy over Jamie/Sam – and for good reasons, but Claire is special to me because she is a wonderful woman and yes, she is smart and sassy and can meddle (part of her charm) but it's a combination of her depth, acceptance and understanding of human nature, her compassion and how comfortable she is with herself that appeals to me the most. (and she likes cocktails – and sex).
Thanks Nancy! I'm glad that I'm not alone here. Cocktails and sex…omg…that made me laugh. Maybe those are just two more reasons to love me some Claire!
I'm a bit late in finding this wonderful article but happy I did! I have the biggest girl-crush on Catriona Balfe for all the reasons you gave. I found Gabaldon's Outlander series long ago and when I heard of the show coming to Starz, I was so very skeptical. Holy shit, if the casting of Balfe and Heughan isn't EXACTLY what was in my head all those words ago! I had never seen Caitriona before Outlander either. What a perfect choice and stellar talent. As much as I love/lust Jamie, Jamie is all he is because of Claire. Fabulous take, Nikki!
Great article Nikki. I hate to admit this but I am such a fangirl of Claire. I love her character even though at times she make me so mad … but then so does Jamie. Yeah yeah Jamie is the King of Men but without Claire he is not whole.
My favorite badass Claire TV and book moment has to be Claire rescuing Jamie and saving his life at the Abbey. For me “Ransoming a Man’s Soul” is so quintessential Claire – to go to the ends of the world to save the man you love.
The one badass moment I did not like was the TV moment of Claire slapping Laoghaire (sorry!) – that was so not something the Claire I came to admire in the books would do – Laoghaire was just a silly jealous 15 year old girl and Claire knew that, Claire in not a vengeful person. Too bad RDM more more of that character than needed be.
Thank you so much Lynda! I'm always happy to find another Claire fan. Just a few more days to wait til season 3!
Thank you so much Donna!! I didn't include the abbey scenes here because I had already written a blog post (http://outlandercastblog.blogspot.com/2016/11/into-darkness-finding-personal-light.html) based on that episode and didn't think I should rehash it. Suffice it to say, I agree with you completely girl!
It's an interesting point you make about Laoghaire. She didn't bother me so much in the book…and maybe that's because RDM played her up unnecessarily in the show? Hmm…you're making me think…
I know this is old but just found myself re-reading. I adore Jamie, but have to admit I go back and forth with Claire. I find the way she deals with her situation suddenly in the 18th century interesting. I just think her character could be developed more. It is so unrealistic that DG never has Claire deal with the lack of hygiene, bathing just the face, illness, never gets a headache and we never get her perspective on dealing with her own women's issues. Also, when she had her miscarriage she was just lying there. With the lack of medicine and the tools they were using inside her she should have been screaming her lungs out. Ok, so it's all fantasy, but still. No mention of these things. I think DG knew if she did show all that Claire had to put up with she may have had to write her going back to Frank much earlier Jamie or no.
I love the scene where Claire steps into the darkness to save Jamie from himself. She was willing to do whatever it took to bring him back from the brink. She showed unconditional love to Jamie, no matter what he may have done.
But the best part of the scene with Claire submitting to lie with the King is afterwards when she takes the orange before following the servant out of the palace…such hutzpah!!!!
Love, love, love Claire ( and Caitriona), the reason I watch Outlander and read the books! Thank you Nikki
What a great article!!
Nikki … I discovered Outlander just last year so playing catch up. LOVE, LOVE this article on Claire. I was wondering how you felt in the last few seasons as I see the writers and directors diminishing her role. Your thoughts?