Move over Casablanca. If Outlander has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes a kiss isn’t just a kiss. Here’s our look at the ways kissing in Outlander reflects Jamie’s growth as a man.
As we journeyed our way through Outlander Season 3 and the ultimate reunion of Jamie and Claire, we made a few pit stops along the way that involved Jamie kissing other women (gasp). As difficult as they were to watch, those kisses signaled something that all of us already knew; Jamie and Claire’s kisses are pretty close to magical and everything else is a bit ho-hum in comparison. When Mary McNabb and Jamie kissed in Jamie’s cave version of a walk-up studio, the moment was emotional but not sensual. Jamie’s kisses with Geneva were lusty but they were also cringe-worthy and made many of us turn away, at least until Jamie encouraged her to “move with me,” at which point we probably started paying attention once more. As we careened toward the reunion and waited for Claire to once again slip the bonds of time and space, the words from “As Time Goes By” began to play on a loop in my head. “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…” No offense Dooley Wilson, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, but I couldn’t disagree more. There are times when a kiss is just a kiss and then there are times when a kiss is more than the the sum of the two lives that have come together to share it.
Here are a few of my favorite instances in which Outlander reminded us of that important distinction.
Jamie and Laoghaire
I know. I know. I don’t want to talk about it either, but this is the first time that we see Jamie kiss anyone and it gives us a peek into Jamie’s head. In Season 1’s “Castle Leoch,” Jamie takes Laoghaire’s punishment for “loose behavior” and it lands him with a variety of contusions and lacerations meted out by Rupert. The next time we see Laoghaire and Jamie together in “In the Way Out,” she is pulling him through a doorway while giggling and kissing him. Jamie pauses for a moment. He catches Claire’s eye as he continues to kiss Laoghaire and then allows himself to be pulled out of the frame by the little vixen. Let me say that again. He makes eye contact with Claire while kissing Laoghaire. The object of his desire is clear and she is not the woman with her arms wrapped around him.
This moment could be a thousand things, but it isn’t just a kiss. It might be Laoghaire’s thank you to Jamie for taking her punishment. Maybe it is Jamie’s attempt at making Claire jealous. It could be a little bit of both. We do know that it roused Claire’s jealousy; she said as much in a voice-over. In the moment, we think this might be a castle tryst for Jamie, perhaps one of many that could be had for a handsome, young bachelor. We learn later that this couldn’t have been more than a bit of fun for him as he tells Claire before their wedding that he’s a virgin. This is proof that his moment with Laoghaire went no further than kissing. Jamie then tells Claire on the evening of their marriage that he isn’t a monk. That tells us that Jamie likes kissing and probably does it a lot. Jamie has an interesting way of describing his internal conflicts and Ashley was rightly confused in our Season 3, Episode 6 recap. We find out further into Season 1 that Jamie has loved Claire from the moment that she wept and let him comfort her when they arrived at Castle Leoch. We also know that Jamie has a fine mind for chess. When I think about a man in love who also has the ability to think three moves ahead of his current situation, I tend to believe that this kiss had more to do with Jamie’s longing to be with Claire than with Laoghaire’s scheming and that it is anything but just a kiss.
The Wedding Kiss
With the moment of Jamie kissing Laoghaire still in your head, fast forward to Jamie and Claire’s wedding kiss, and the wedding scenes, in general. At the ceremony, Jamie only takes his eyes off of Claire when looking down at the ring and at their hands while they repeat the blood vow. His sole focus (I know what I did there) is on Claire. As mentioned previously, Jamie has been in love with Claire since their arrival at Leoch. With that in mind, the wedding kiss becomes part confession and part call and response. Jamie kisses Claire in the way that he has wanted to since they first met. He confesses in his kiss what he could not tell her until this moment. Claire responds with an emotion that she has not be willing to admit that she possessed. The book gives us Claire’s perspective on this moment: “It was clear that he intended only a brief and ceremonial touching of lips, but his mouth was soft and warm and I moved instinctively toward him. I was vaguely conscious of noises, Scottish whoops of enthusiasm and encouragement from the spectators, but really noticed nothing beyond the enfolding warm solidness. Sanctuary.” In the midst of the legality of the ceremony and the confession of the kiss, a sanctuary is built, a place where both Jamie’s and Claire’s hearts could rest and beat quietly, if even for just awhile. And we all sighed and watched the episode ten more times.
At the conclusion of the wedding, Jamie and Claire are sequestered in a room to consummate the marriage and finalize Claire’s transformation into a Scot. As they talk away their nervousness, their hearts grow roots and begin to reach beyond their owners’ bodies to permanently knit themselves together. When they finally do kiss, it is one for the ages. If the wedding kiss is a confession, the wedding night kiss is the creation of a covenant—the linking of two hearts and souls for all time. It is not, however, just a kiss.
Jamie and Mary McNabb
Prior to Jamie’s staged hand-over to the British and his eventual imprisonment, Mary McNabb visits Jamie in the cave for a meal and no small amount of barbering. When Mary makes her intentions known, Jamie tries to send her away and even threatens to leave. Mary stops him in his tracks with one of the most bittersweet moments of dialogue in Season 3. “I ken well enough what ye’re thinking for I saw your lady and how it was between the two of ye. And it’s not in my mind to make ye feel ye’ve betrayed that. What I want is to share something different. Something less, mayhap…but something we both need. Something to keep us whole, as we move forward in this life.” That single tear on Jamie’s face proves that this isn’t just a kiss. It is two humans, facing the brutality and uncertainty of life, and taking pleasure where it can be found… if only for a few fleeting moments.
Jamie and Geneva
It’s difficult to write about this because Jamie and Geneva’s encounter is borne of blackmail and coercion and was, altogether, terrible. With that said, there is a kiss and a moment of respite from lives that were neither Jamie’s nor Geneva’s to control. No matter the circumstances that bring Jamie to Geneva’s room, the fact remains that it has been years since he has touched a woman. And in between that moment and this one had been prison, ongoing grief for Claire, loss of his family at Lallybroch, and the loss of Murtagh—all with no reason to believe that he would see any of them again. When Jamie explains to Geneva the difference between lust and love, I don’t believe his words are only for her benefit. Despite what has just transpired between them, Jamie knows that this is merely an act and seems to resign himself to the fact that he will not know love again as the one he has given his heart and soul to is gone and will never return. This wasn’t just a kiss. It is the fulfillment of a contract, a business transaction. It is an assurance that Jamie’s family will remain safe. It also serves as a reminder to Jamie that he will never again be whole.
Jamie and Claire in the Print Shop
There are so many reasons to love this kiss, but I’ll focus on my favorite. The Jamie that we see in “The Wedding” is full of youthful bravado. He tells Claire confidently that he will ask if he needs guidance. When Jamie suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Claire after their 20 years of separation, his bravado is gone. Left in its place is a man shaking with fear and uncertainty who can barely even find the words to ask Claire if he can kiss her. This from the man who, 20 years before, had demanded that Claire acknowledge that he was her master. Right before the kiss that we are all waiting for, Jamie declares softly, “I havena done this in a very long time.” This could have been a signal to Claire that she need not worry about a jealous wife bursting through the door (not just yet anyway) or it may have been a head’s up not to expect a repeat of the magic that happened during their wedding night. It is a moment in direct conflict with the opening scene of this episode where we watch Jamie walk to the Print Shop looking every bit like a man who has everything under control. This kiss, then, is not just a kiss but instead a soul-baring confessional for both Jamie and Claire. Neither has kissed anyone for a long time, neither has ever experienced a kiss as they did with each other, and both are frightened by the tidal wave of emotions that might be released the moments their lips touch.
I began this post because I like kissing (true story) and I am fascinated with the way that the show writers delivered Jamie’s and Claire’s kisses to us, by turns chaste and full of lust, and quite frequently with lots of tongue. The kiss is integral to their intimacy and we see the differences in their kisses as they deal with a host of external forces (war, sickness, grief, etc.). What I didn’t realize until much later is that this timeline of kisses chronicles the life and growth of Jamie. He starts off, as we all do, young and full of himself and full of confidence that he has no reason to possess. He finds love, he loses love, he grieves for love and just when he believes that he is meant to live out his days without love, it finds him once again and fills his life with chaos and confusion and contentment.
Do you agree or disagree that sometimes a kiss more than just a kiss?
Do you have other favorite Outlander kisses? I want to hear from you!