Outlander is back on our screens for a third season, and it’s a little bit different to the ones that have gone before. Unlike the first two seasons, which kept Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) together in the past, this third season launches with them in different times.

The first two episodes have been slowly revealing the lives of these two star-crossed lovers during their time apart, speeding over years where little happens as each mourns the loss of the other. This separation is set to continue for the entire first half of the season, too, bringing the audience slowly up to the point that the last season wrapped up: with Claire and Jamie’s adult daughter back in the Highlands. Eventually, Claire and Jamie will be reunited, but how is this possible? Jamie should have died at Culloden (and Claire certainly believes that he did), so how is it that he is alive and hiding in a cave near Lallybroch?

The Road So Far

 Outlander: Why Jamies Life Was Spared in the Season 3 Premiere

Claire has good reason to believe that Jamie would die at Culloden – and he nearly did. Jamie himself believed that he would die at the famous battle, after he and Claire failed in their attempts to stop the Jacobite rebellion from coming to this bloody end.

At the end of the second season, after being dragged back into the rebellion and away from a peaceful existence at Lallybroch, Jamie decided to accept his fate. Believing that he would die in battle, he sent Claire back through the stones, where she (and their child) would be safer than if she remained in the Highlands of the past. He went into battle ready to die, and it is only after her daughter is grown that Claire discovers that this wasn’t the case. Initially, she believed that he was one of five Scottish Captains executed after the battle, and assuming Jamie to be dead, she doesn’t look further into it until many years later.

Season 3 Premiere And Jamie’s Lucky Escape

sam heughan outlander jamie Outlander: Why Jamies Life Was Spared in the Season 3 Premiere

The season premiere focused primarily on Claire, but was interspersed with some intense (if mostly wordless) scenes of Jamie after the battle. Lying on the battlefield, he appears nearly dead from his wounds, but is found by Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) and dragged away to hide in an outpost with other survivors. Quickly, they are discovered by the English, and given only an hour to prepare themselves for execution.

It is at this point that Jamie believes, again, that he is about to die. However, when he gives his name to Lord Melton (the leader of the English men), Melton (Sam Hoare) stops and asks him if he knows John Grey. When Jamie confirms that he does, Melton is clearly upset, revealing that John Grey is Lord Melton’s younger brother. He explains to another of the RedCoats that he is unable to execute Red Jamie due to a family debt of honor, instead sprirting him away onto a wagon headed for Lallybroch.

John Grey And A Debt Of Honor

outlander john grey Outlander: Why Jamies Life Was Spared in the Season 3 Premiere

Fans of the books will know, of course, that the name John Grey is going to mean a whole lot more to Jamie in the coming years, but for now, he’s just a teenager that Jamie didn’t kill when he had the chance. Earlier in the series, Jamie came across the sixteen-year-old John (when he attempted to take on Red Jamie and save an Englishwoman being held hostage… of course, that Englishwoman was Claire, in absolutely no need of rescuing, and John was left shamed and furious, promising to kill Jamie if they ever met again.

While John has no love for Jamie, he does owe him a debt, as Jamie has spared his life. This puts Lord Melton in a quandry when he discovers Jamie in the outpost after the battle; if he kills him, he dishonors his family. If he does not kill him, of course, he will be freeing one of the most famous Jacobites, and betraying his own side. In the end, he chooses to honor the debt and set Jamie free – sending him to Lallybroch and pretending that he was never discovered. His actions are based in that particular sense of honor that allows him to save a man who should be killed for his beliefs, only to allow his brother to try and kill him later… and that requires men too wounded to stand to be helped outside to be shot properly, of course.

Dunbonnet And ‘Surrender’

jamie dunbonnet outlander Outlander: Why Jamies Life Was Spared in the Season 3 Premiere

The second episode ‘Surrender’ picks up several years after Jamie’s lucky escape from the firing squad at Culloden, living in a cave near Lallybroch. Despite being set free by Lord Melton, Jamie is still a wanted man and cannot come out of hiding to live a normal life at Lallybroch. Instead, he hides in a cave, keeping his hair (somewhat) out of sight under a brown cap which earns him the nickname Dunbonnet, and mourning while he lives off the land.

In the next few episodes, though, things are about to get interesting for Jamie. The mutilation of Fergus at the hands of the RedCoats have reminded Jamie of who he is and what he used to fight for, and Dunbonnet is about to come out of hiding once more. He’s also not quite done with that debt of honor, and John Grey is going to reappear once more as Jamie’s story continues…

Outlander season 3 continues next Sunday with ‘All Debts Paid’ @8pm on Starz.

Next: The Outlander Premiere Sets Up A Very Different Kind Of Season

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