Outlander Season 4 has seen the seemingly unlikely returns of certain characters, including one whose book counterpart died a long time ago. In the latest episode, Lord John Grey himself turned up on Fraser's Ridge in a (significant) detour on his and young Willie's journey to Virginia. Tragically for John, he's as much in love with Jamie as ever, with no hope of Jamie ever reciprocating the way he desires.
While suffering from a high fever due to the measles, he confessed to Claire that Jamie had offered himself in exchange for John taking care of Willie. An honorable man, John of course refused, but it was still a bombshell for Claire, who never imagined Jamie doing such a thing. Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire, weighed in on Lord John Grey's plight, saying this:
For me, her heart was breaking at the sadness of it, all the sadness that Jamie would be willing to do that for his son, but also the sadness that this man [Grey] is obviously so in love, and has carried this unrequited love with him for years, and she understands that. She understands what it's like to love this man, and not be able to have him. I think she's just in a place of compassion and sadness at this horrible, horrible situation.
Claire doesn't always have the greatest reactions when other people show interest in Jamie, and she didn't have the friendliest reaction to John Grey when they crossed paths back in Season 3. Taking care of him while Jamie and Willie were gone and he was desperately ill with the measles meant spending a lot of time together, and she came to understand him in ways she didn't before. Claire didn't seem to know how to process John's reveal about Jamie's offer, and Caitriona Balfe's comments to Elle indicate that her heart was breaking.
As if Claire hasn't already dealt with enough heartbreak during her time! I particularly enjoyed the scene when John was feverishly confessing that he simply couldn't love his late wife the way she deserved, and he still burns with love for Jamie. Despite coming from different times, living under different circumstances, and leading different lives, this was one area in which Claire could relate to John. Even if Frank doesn't appear in Season 4 in the flesh (as once seemed very possible), he's still on Claire's mind (and his ring on her hand).
Once Brianna joins the action in the past with Roger left behind, perhaps Frank will influence the plot in some bigger ways, even though he's quite dead. Although Jamie may be Brianna's father as much as he's Willie's father, she was raised by another man she considers her dad. Given that Jamie and Bree are almost certainly going to have some issues with each other -- or at least, one will with the other -- maybe Frank's influence will be felt significantly.
Interestingly, if Outlander continues to follow the books (and slows down its crazy pace a bit), we can expect John Grey to return for an arc few non-readers could see coming. If that goes well, could that potential John Grey-centric spinoff finally be ordered? I know I'd be on board for an Outlander universe show that might air between seasons of Outlander. Those hiatuses never really get any easier.
Only time will tell. I can only hope for his sake that his visit to Fraser's Ridge granted Lord John Grey a little bit of closure, and at least he has Willie with him. Tune in to Outlander on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz to see what happens next for the Frasers and Co. If you need something to watch once all the major fall shows head into their winter breaks, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule.