Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of Outlander Season 3, called "Of Lost Things."
Outlander Season 3 has been rough for Jamie and Claire, as they've been stuck away from each other by 200 years of history and heartache. While it's been great for fans that Jamie didn't die at the Battle of Culloden, his lot in life has been pretty unfortunate since the end of the Jacobite Rebellion. The poor guy already lost just about everything and everybody that mattered to him, including his beloved godfather. In "Of Lost Things," Jamie's life got a lot better... until he was forced to make one of the most heartbreakingly difficult decisions of his whole life. Jamie had to leave his son behind, with no hope of ever seeing him again.
Admittedly, Jamie's son Willie isn't exactly a character who has been around since the beginning of the series. In fact, Willie was conceived, born, and raised for a few years all in the span of "Of Lost Things," but a whole lot happened in "Of Lost Things" to build the story to a devastatingly sad climax by the final minutes. Of course, the story of Willie didn't exactly get off to an especially lovely start.
As a groom for the Dunsany family at their grand Helwater estate in England, Jamie was living under a different name and hiding his past as a Jacobite officer to avoid being sent back to prison by Lady Dunsany. He was minding his own business until he caught the eye of the haughty Geneva Dunsany, who decided to blackmail him into sleeping with her days before she was set to wed an elderly earl. Not wanting to be sent back to prison, Jamie agreed and paid a visit to Geneva's bedroom.
Fast-forward nine months, and Geneva was heavily pregnant and married to the Earl of Ellesmere. When she experienced difficulty in her labor, the Dunsany family with Alex MacKenzie the groom -- a.k.a. Jamie -- in tow hurried to her side. Geneva died after giving birth to a baby boy, but it turned out that she and the earl never actually consummated their marriage. Furious at the turn of events, the Earl of Ellesmere drew a knife on the infant and was about to harm him when Jamie stepped in an shot him, saving the baby and earning the trust of even the antagonistic Lady Dunsany.
The Dunsany family named the boy Willie and took him back to Helwater, where Lady Dunsany offered Jamie the chance to return to Scotland. Jamie chose to stay at Helwater to be near his son. He stayed for several years, and became quite close to young Willie, even though he was only in the boy's life as Alex MacKenzie the groom. They were happy for a time.
Since this is Jamie Fraser we're talking about and nothing ever stays too good for Jamie Fraser for too long, however, the unlucky man only got a handful of years around his son before he realized he had to leave Willie and Helwater behind. People were starting to get suspicious about how Willie resembled Jamie much more than the late Earl of Ellesmere, and even young Willie had clearly heard whispers that he was a bastard. If Jamie stayed any longer, the resemblance would be obvious to just about everybody, and Willie would lose everything.
Before Jamie could leave, he had one more moment with his son when Willie walked in on him as he was lighting a candle like "a stinking papist." Jamie amiably owned up to being a Catholic, and young Willie declared that he too wanted to be "a stinking papist." So, Jamie sprinkled water on his secret son and -- as if the story wasn't already heartbreaking enough -- baptized him as William James. Then, in one final gesture, Jamie gave Willie a small carved snake, just like the one his own brother William had given him as a boy. Jamie kept his composure in front of the boy, but his eyes made it clear that he was dying inside. As was a whole lot of the audience, I imagine. Poor Jamie!
The good news is that Lord John Grey was set to marry Geneva Dunsany's sister, and they would be able to look after young Willie after Jamie's departure. The bad news is that "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" was playing as Jamie rode away from Helwater, even as young Willie tried to run after him and beg him not to leave. I don't want to say that I was crying at Sam Heughan's face when Jamie left, but I definitely won't be listening to "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" with a stiff upper lip any time soon.
Jamie leaving Willie behind isn't exactly the most horrifying thing that has happened over the years on Outlander, given that Black Jack Randall wasn't involved. Still, it was difficult to watch as Jamie had to walk away from the one good thing in his life. Jamie has always been good with children. Never planning on marrying again after Claire, his hopes for a child were seemingly dashed until he accidentally made a baby with Geneva. And it was a boy! Jamie always wanted a son. Now, he's headed back to Scotland with no son, no wife, and no prospects, as Lallybroch doesn't belong to him anymore. Claire even gave up hope on finding him from her place in the 1960s. All in all, "Of Lost Things" was not a great episode for Jamie.
Hopefully Jamie's life will get a bit easier in the not-too-distant future. We do know that he'll reunite with Claire at some point, so at least he has that going for him. Tune in to Starz on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET to see more of Jamie and Claire on Outlander, and be sure to check out our fall TV premiere schedule for your other viewing options.