Guess who’s back, back again? John Grey’s back. Tell a friend.
You guys, Lord John Grey comes traipsing through the backcountry of North Carolina as if we’re all just supposed to be cool with his “I was in the neighborhood on my way to Virginia” explanation. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a little Lord John pop-in to up the drama, but it is incredibly enjoyable to watch multiple characters point out that Virginia is nowhere close to Fraser’s Ridge. Come on, Lord John, your crush is showing.
Do you think when Lord John rolled up to the Ridge (that’s what all the cool kids are calling it) and the first thing he saw was Jamie sawing some wood with his hair down he was like “totally worth it”? I mean, he’s not wrong. And his reunion with Jamie is a very sweet one. The Highlander is excited to see his old friend — but not everyone is. Young Ian is away with the Cherokee, so he doesn’t get to weigh in on the English visitors, but obviously, Claire doesn’t love the fact that the man who is in love with her husband has showed up unannounced. And Murtagh, another Ardsmuir Prison Alum, isn’t too happy to see his old warden, either. Things get especially awkward when John makes it clear that he’s very friendly with Governor Tryon and he thinks the Regulators fighting taxes are complete savages. Things are very tense on the idyllic Fraser’s Ridge until Jamie and Murtagh have a private conversation and Murtagh figures out that Jamie owes a lot to John Grey — he’s raising Jamie’s son.
That’s right, you guys! Lord John Grey has not travelled to the backcountry alone: he’s brought Willie — excuse me — Master William with him. John warns Jamie that the kid probably won’t remember him since it’s been a hot minute, and Jamie replies that it’s actually for the best, but every time Jamie gets a look at his secret son he starts to get misty-eyed — and not just because of William’s awful haircut. But probably a little bit because of the haircut.
The Frasers’ guests make themselves at home. William reveals himself to be extremely high-maintenance and bit of a priss (although he does begin to remember the groom from Helwater when he gets a minute alone with Jamie), while John reconnects with his buddy over their game of choice, chess, and some moonshine. Jamie repeatedly notes how happy he is with his life, although it’s hard for him to hide being once again reminded that he has two children, neither of whom he got to raise himself. Meanwhile, Claire is counting down the minutes until her guests leave — the lady is hella horny. That’s right, it’s just a lovely time on Fraser’s Ridge, but like all lovely times, this one must end.
Until Lord John Grey comes down with the measles. The measles are no joke on this show! What is Claire to do but tend to an extremely ill John Grey? She’s had the measles vaccine in her time and Jamie had the measles as a child, but William could easily get infected. She’ll attempt to nurse John back to health, but Jamie needs to take William away from the cabin for a few days.
No one is thrilled about this setup, except for maybe Jamie — although once he has to physically put a protesting William on his horse, he might be rethinking his father-secret-son bonding time in the forest. But then they’re off, and Jamie finally gets a few days to teach William all the things he would have if he had been allowed to raise him, like how to respect property lines, how to not be a little baby when it comes to gutting a deer, and how to catch a fish with your bare hands. Thank goodness Claire isn’t around for the last lesson otherwise I fear she would collapse from all the pent up sexual energy. A fish with his bare hands, you guys!
The whole excursion is bittersweet since you can tell Jamie is loving every minute of it, but William hates it, and would just like to get back to his father. Terrible haircut aside, you do feel for the kid who just recently lost his mother and then was trotted out to the middle of nowhere to see that horse-dude from childhood that he barely remembers.
As complicated as things are out in the wilderness, the really interesting stuff is happening back at the cabin. John is not doing so hot (by which I mean he is extremely hot — with a fever, get it?). Apparently, you give a British aristocrat the measles and he starts spouting off truths like a drunk sorority girl. John and Claire get real about his sham marriage and Claire calls him out on the real reason he’s come to visit, which is so obviously Jamie. John is both terrified of and impressed with Claire’s brutal honesty. Claire came to win, John. STEP OFF.
Later, he admits that after his platonic wife died he felt nothing, so he came to find Jamie and see if he truly was dead inside. Like, come on, John. We’re all dead inside, that doesn’t mean we’re risking our teenage son’s lives by walking them through Measles Town and then leaving them in the woods just to see if our forbidden crush is still a thing. OR ARE WE? Anyway, that whole admission is pretty sad, but just as Claire is starting to feel for the guy, he lays down the hammer: He could’ve had Jamie if he wanted him — Jamie offered himself to John in exchange for John raising William as his own. Finally, Claire cuts him off. He’s really going to regret that in the morning.
And he does! He apologizes and he and Claire bond over the fact that, like John and Isobel, Claire was unable to make her other husband Frank happy. She also reminds him that in William he has a piece of Jamie with him always, and that he deserves real love. It’s all very sweet. He’s a pretty big of Claire, especially after he spent a whole night telling her that she’s totally jealous of the time John and Jamie and William spent together. Anyway, thanks to Claire, Lord John survives the measles and they part on decent terms.
The adventure in the woods ends on good terms too. William reveals that he clearly did not listen to Jamie’s Colonial Zoning lecture and goes fishing on Cherokee land — and the Cherokee aren’t very happy about it. There’s this whole thing in which Jamie yells out that he’s William’s father, they have the same blood, the Cherokee can have him instead, and William’s like, no he’s not my dad, take me. It’s all very confusing for William but in the end, the Cherokee let them go with a mere scratch and Jamie is very proud of his son’s bravery. William lets on that he remembers much more about Jamie than he said previously, and he’s always wondered why, on the day Jamie left, he never looked back at him one last time. Jamie didn’t want to give him false hope — he never thought he’d see the boy again. You can see some wheels turning under that terrible wig, and although William may not realize the truth just yet, he knows something is up. When William and John depart Fraser’s Ridge, William makes sure to turn back and look at Jamie one last time.
As nice as it is to have visitors, especially when it offers some well-deserved character development for our girl Claire, I’m so glad those dummies are gone and now Jamie and Claire can have some steamy bath time together! We all deserve this! Especially Claire! And us! Jamie says some very sensual things about being jealous of the water and wanting to bathe his wife in kisses and then he ups the romance by giving her that ring he had Murtagh make from his mother’s candlestick, inscribed with “give me a thousand kisses and I’ll give you a thousand more.” He carries Claire off to bed to start on the 1,000 kisses owed. Here’s hoping that the rest of the season is much more of this and much less of discussions on fair tax practices in 18th-century America. A girl can dream.