Outlander, Season 1, Episode 2: “Castle Leoch”
The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:
Claire is taken to meet the Laird. As suspicions about her grow, Claire befriends the mysterious Geillis Duncan. When the clan discover her medical skills, Claire goes from guest to prisoner.
Our gang of Highlanders arrive at Castle Leoch with Claire in tow. It’s not clear how long they’ve been away, but they get a joyous greeting, especially from Mrs. Fitz, the head of the household of the seat of the MacKenzie. After goofily greeting the guys (and telling Murtagh how bad he smells), Mrs. Fitz gets a good look at Claire, who appears somewhat like a drowned kitty with her bedraggled hair and dirty shift ripped to well above her knees. Mrs. Fitz wants to drag Claire off to get presentable, but Claire insists that she must tend to Jamie’s wounds first. Although Mrs. F initially seems suspicious, once she discovers that Claire is a “charmer”, something like a “Beaton” (i.e., a healer), she readily assists with getting Claire the herbs and dressings she needs to take care of the dear boy.
Alone together in front of a fire, Jamie tells Claire how he came by the horrific scars on his back, which Claire sees as she tends his injuries. Conveniently (for the viewers), Jamie is shirtless, wearing just his kilt. Jamie tells the story of being imprisoned at Ft. William and flogged twice in the space of a week, and explains how he was imprisoned in the first place after trying to defend his sister Jenny from being raped by the scum of the earth, Black Jack Randall. Sadly, as far as Jamie knows, Jenny was unable to escape being assaulted, as Jamie was knocked out and taken away, leaving her in redcoat hands.
After Jamie compliments Claire’s skills and says that her husband is a lucky man, Claire breaks down and sobs over thoughts of Frank, and confesses to Jamie that her husband is not alive. (Quite true — he hadn’t been born yet as of the 18th century.) Jamie takes Claire in his arms to comfort her, but the moment of comfort becomes awkward. Is that a wee spark we see igniting between the two of them? Jamie assures Claire that no one will hurt her, so long as he’s around to protect her — but that she should be cautious as well, being an Englishwoman in a place where the English are decidedly unpopular.
After some much needed sleep, Mrs. Fitz yanks Claire out of bed and (finally) out of her torn, dirty clothes and into a proper Scottish lady outfit, corset and all. Claire is then taken to see the Laird of Castle Leoch, Colum MacKenzie, Dougal’s brother and head of the clan. Colum bids Claire welcome, questions her closely on how she came to be wandering in the woods. She claims to be an English widow who was traveling to family in France and beset by highwaymen, robbed of all possessions, and then nearly raped by Captain Randall before being rescued by Dougal and the gang. Everyone who meets Claire suspects her of something, it would seem. Claire is able to at least confirm when she is — she spots a letter on Colum’s desk dated 1743. Claire requests transport back to Inverness, believing she can find her way from there to Craigh na Dun and attempt to return to her own time through the standing stones. Colum tells her that she can accompany a traveling tinker in five days’ time.
With five days to kill, Claire attempts to fit in, keep her head down, and just get by. She is not very good at being unobtrusive. At dinner in the great hall, she overdoes it with the wine, playing straight into Colum and Dougal’s hands and having a hard time keeping her story straight. She also screws up big time by assuming that Colum’s son is Dougal’s son. Do we detect a big secret here?
Claire once again goes to take care of Jamie’s wounds, finding him out at the stables working with a young horse. They have a picnic lunch, during which Jamie shares more of his past with Claire, including the fact that he’s living under an alias as there’s a price on his head. Claire is highly irritated to be followed everywhere by Rupert, upon Dougal’s orders, but there’s no shaking him.
Still trying to keep busy, Claire heads out to pick plants and meets the mysterious but friendly Geillis Duncan, who seems to know more than she should about plants and their uses, including which are poisonous and which can cause a woman to abort an unwanted pregnancy. The notion of being suspected of being a witch comes up, which Claire doesn’t take seriously. Take it seriously, Claire!
Still, Geillis seems to be the closest thing Claire has found to a friend at the castle, and later Geillis acts as translator as various townsfolk bring their complaints in front of the Laird for judgment. A father brings his teen-aged daughter for punishment, accusing her of looseness and disobedience. Just when things look bad for the girl, up jumps our noble hero Jamie, who offers to take the girl’s punishment for her. Dougal and Colum take advantage of the moment to have their nephew beaten into a bloody mess. Claire takes care of Jamie yet again (what, is that the 5th time already?), and the two say good-bye, as she expects to leave the next day. The girl, Laoghaire (who turns out to be Mrs. Fitz’s granddaughter) seems to be lurking around to thank Jamie for his heroics, and Claire leaves them alone.
Alas for Claire, she’s stopped from leaving with the tinker at the very last moment. The brothers MacKenzie have decided to keep her at the castle and put her to work as the official resident healer until they can figure out what her true story is. They suspect her of being a spy for the English, and meanwhile intend to keep her. Claire is pissed, and accuses them of holding her prisoner. Only if she tries to escape, replies Colum.
We leave Claire, in despair, in the very castle cellar where she’d had such fun with Frank only days ago. Now she’s stuck in a place and time she doesn’t want to be, but at least she has the herbs, potions, and medical books to make the surgery her own.
As Claire enters Castle Leoch, we see her walking through the hallways of the 18th century castle, interpersed with flashes from her visit there with Frank from the previous episode, allowing us to experience her displacement and the sense of unreality from having been in the very same place at two very different times.
There are some gorgeous shots of the countryside around the castle, and we get to enjoy a brief respite from worry as Claire acknowledges that some things, like boys playing in the yard with grown-ups who love them, are timeless.
Nothing blatant, but when Claire tends Jamie’s wounds (again!), the chemistry between the two seems to ignite. She runs a hand over his scarred back and lingers for a minute. He seems to be painfully aware that he’s half-naked in front of this Sassenach woman. And when he holds her as she cries, the mood changes from comfort to something that both seem to recognize at the same moment as a physical spark between the two.
And hey, it’s our first glimpse of shirtless Jamie!
Mrs. Fitz transforms Claire from ragged wild woman in a torn shift to a proper 18th century lady in a terrific scene that shows all the various layers and steps required to dress from the skin out — shift, corset, bum roll, and more. From Claire’s bed-head:
to finished product, it’s a wonderful little vignette that captures being transformed from one type of woman to something else entirely.
We also get our first peeks at the stylish knitwear — mitts, cowls, capelets, and more — that give the day-to-day clothing of the characters such a distinctive (and cozy) look:
Major facts that the episode gets on the table:
- The MacKenzie brothers are not to be trifled with. They’re master manipulators, and they’ve got their eyes on Claire.
- Little Hamish’s parentage is a sore spot.
- Mrs. Fitz is a formidable woman, but once she’s on your side, I think she’ll stay there.
- Jamie is a protector, of anyone who needs it. He puts his own body at risk again and again to save people. Oh, Jamie…
- Geillis Duncan is different from the other women Claire has met. She might be friendly toward Claire, but should not be trusted.
- Laoghaire. Ugh. I can’t even.
- Claire may be out of her depths for the first time in her life, but she’s not giving up without a fight.
A few classics from Mrs. Fitz:
“We’ll find ye something to eat. Something to wear that’s a bit more… well, a bit more.”
“What kind of corset is that?” “It’s a brassiere. Well, it’s from France.” “Ohhhhh.”
Jamie gallantry (be still, my heart!):
“Ye need not be scairt of me, nor anyone else here, so long as I’m with ye.”
Claire’s startling recognition about Frank, under questioning from Jamie:
“Is he not alive?” “No, actually. He’s not alive.”
And Rupert’s line to Claire:
“For a woman, ye do ask a fair amount of questions.”
Jamie’s heroic nature becomes more pronounced in this episode, as he volunteers to take a beating for Laoghaire, a girl he barely knows, in order to spare her the shame of public punishment. Jamie shows a kindness and tenderness toward Claire when she breaks down in tears, and his bravery and vulnerability is evident as he lets her see both his physical scars as well as the shadow that’s stayed with him in remembering Jenny and Black Jack Randall.
This episode shows us the closeness of Colum and Dougal, who seem to understand one another without even needing words, the power struggles within Clan MacKenzie, and the suspicions that they all feel toward this strange Englishwoman who has the flimsiest of cover stories.
We get hints of relationships that will become more fleshed out, such as Murtagh’s support of Jamie, Laoghaire’s growing feelings for Jamie, and the odd sense of commonality between Claire and Geillis.
Claire is certainly in a pickle, isn’t she? She may have ended up with the MacKenzie clan purely by accident, but now it looks like she’s there to stay. By dress and daily habit, Claire is starting to learn what it will take to fit in, and even more importantly, she’s starting to learn who’s on her side… and who’s not.