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‘Outlander’ Season 3, Episode 6: Time Doesn’t Matter

The sex on “Outlander” has been the subject of much discussion. In one sense, “Outlander” is part of a trend: Sex is everywhere on prestige TV. But on other shows, sex is often used as wallpaper or an implied extension of male power, and on “Outlander,” sex between Jamie and Claire usually comes from, and carries, emotional impact. There’s some tension beneath the sex that the show hasn’t quite addressed — the disproportionate trauma of sexual violence on Claire and Jamie, for one. But this reunion is a fantasy of true romance: ecstasy, devotion, connection. The suspense in this episode comes from Claire’s anxiety that Jamie might not be the lover of her dreams anymore. The payoff comes when Jamie lies awake in Caravaggio lighting just to watch her sleep. A night in bed has healed almost everything. While this seems a little too easy, isn’t that what fantasy is about?

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But much of the discussion about “Outlander” and sexuality centers on the idea that the show is feminist because it offers a female gaze on its sex scenes. At first glance, this is the female gaze all over: great sex with a besotted partner whose heart has always been yours, and whose abs are still so chiseled you can tell he’s a smuggler on the side. And there’s certainly a gender parity to the nudity that would suggest a feminist approach to the sex.

For the show as a whole, though, that’s a tougher claim to make, because if there is a female gaze driving this show, it’s not Claire’s. The amount of sexual violence she’s gone through is significant, even though the show tends to treat it casually, and promptly enough we’re back to business as usual: She gets the latest of many rape threats almost as soon as Jamie leaves the room. Welcome back to the 18th century, Claire.

Other Gossip:

• I expect the veteran actor Gary Young will make the most of the scenes he’s given, but I can’t say I’m bowled over by how Mr. Willoughby is handled. Introducing a rare character of color as a pitiful sexual weirdo is generally not a sterling beginning for a narrative arc.

• Great set design here. The printing office in particular offers plenty of opportunities for the camera to linger on drying pages and beautifully practical set dressing.

• Geordie, apprentice and human embodiment of an email from an executive assistant asking a question for the third time, is a delight.

• It was really satisfying to hear Claire admit, “It was hard for him,” about Frank. A distinct understatement, but I’m still glad to hear it.

• It’s both hilarious and genuinely amazing that Claire knows Jamie has an under-the-table profession because his abs are too good for a printmaker.

• If Claire gets tried as a witch or confronted by the brothel workers for having a zip-front corset, then I accept it. Otherwise, this is my formal complaint.

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