Outlander, Season 1, Episode 8: “Both Sides Now”
The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:
Frank desperately searches for his missing wife, while Claire tries to come to terms with her new marriage. Claire is faced with an emotional quandary as a life-altering opportunity presents itself.
The episode opens with the ringing of a telephone.
What? A telephone? In 1743?
Nope, it’s 1945, and we’re catching up with Frank, the husband Claire left behind. It’s been weeks since Claire’s disappearance, and Frank is not giving up. In fact, he’s been hounding the police so relentlessly that the detective is fed up, and finally confronts Frank with the cold hard truth as he sees it: His wife has obviously left him for another man.
Rather hilariously, the “missing” posters on the police station wall are of Claire and of the mysterious Highlander whom Frank saw outside the inn back in the first episode. Hmm, look familiar much?
Cut to the 18th century, and Claire and Jamie seem like a pair of blissful newlyweds, having a rather damp picnic on a misty, drizzly hillside. Jamie wants to know if what they have is typical — are these intense feelings and connections between the two par for the course for a man and a woman? Claire assures him that what they have isn’t typical at all.
The lovebirds are interrupted by an arrow landing nearby, and after a startled moment, Jamie recognizes an old friend, Hugh Munro. Hugh Munro is a mute, but is able to converse with Jamie through gestures and a basic sign language. He has news: There’s a man named Horrocks who witnessed the murder that Jamie is accused of, and can clear Jamie’s name. The catch is that the man is a British deserter, and might not be trustworthy. Hugh gives Claire a wedding gift — a chunk of amber with a dragonfly inside.
It’s a DRAGONFLY IN AMBER!!! Book two, yo.
Back we go to the 20th century. Frank has been staying at the manse with Reverend Wakefield, who seems just full of theories about Claire’s disappearance, including the idea that perhaps she fell in the river, washed up on a deserted island, and has been living on frogs ever since. Um, okay Reverend, whatever you say. A charming lad makes an entrance bearing biscuits:
It’s wee Roger! Watch for him in season 2, when he’ll look a bit different:
Frank is fed up with doubts and theories, and goes off to the local pub to get plastered. A mysterious blonde approaches him, says she knows where the Highlander from the missing poster can be found, and tells him to meet her in an alley after midnight and she’ll take him to meet the man. Oh, and bring the reward. And come alone. And don’t alert the police.
That’s not suspicious in the slightest.
Back to the 18th century (this episode does a lot of century-hopping). Jamie and Claire are at a mountain campside with the MacKenzie men, listening to Rupert telling stories by the campfire. Claire and Jamie are cozy and cuddly and smoochy, and very, very cute. The horses are restless, which alerts the men that trouble is near. They subtly move into defensive positions and get their weapons ready, and then they’re attacked by a band of men from the Grant clan, who make off with a horse and some grain.
20th C: Frank shows up in the alley as the rain pours down, and of course, it’s a set-up. The blonde’s two thuggish friends assault him and demand the reward money, but Frank is not having it. He pulls a blackjack (a BLACKJACK!) from his coat pocket and begins to beat the men senseless. Basically, he goes berserk. Back at the Reverend’s house, Frank realizes he’s slipped too close to the dark side, and that this has to end. The Reverend advises Frank to return to Oxford and start over, to let Claire go, as she has so clearly let Frank go.
18th C: The next morning, the men decide that Claire had better learn to defend herself, and she gets some stabbing lessons from Angus, who demonstrates the best way to kill a man with a sgian-dubh, a small blade often hidden in one’s socks. Claire gets the knack pretty quickly.
20th C: Frank packs to leave, and leaves Claire’s suitcase — with their wedding photo — behind.
18th C: Jamie and Claire still can’t keep their hands off each other.
They sneak off for a quickie in the grass, quite passionate but also full of laughter, but are rudely interrupted by a gun held to Jamie’s head right when they’re in the middle of the act. It’s two redcoat deserters, who pull Jamie off Claire, then decide it would be fun to have Claire themselves and make Jamie watch. As one of the deserters attempts to rape Claire, she stabs him in the kidney just like Angus taught her, and Jamie kills the other man. Claire is in shock, shaking and staring at the blood on her hands.
20th C: Mrs. Graham insists on telling Frank what she thinks really happened to Claire. She didn’t abandon him, Mrs. Graham declares — she’s gone through the circle of standing stones at Craigh na Dun, known to have magical powers. There are stories of this throughout the legends and songs of the Highlands… and the travelers often come back! Frank scoffs. Mrs. Graham tries to persuade Frank, but it’s no use. He’s officially done, and he leaves.
Dougal tells Jamie that they’ll all go with him to meet Horrocks, since they’ve just seen how dangerous deserters can be. Jamie tells Claire to stay put in a hiding place in the woods, and Claire is upset and defiant. She seems very angry with Jamie for not protecting her, but promises to be there when he returns. After Jamie rides off, Claire realizes that it’s not Jamie she’s mad at — she’s angry at herself for allowing herself to become distracted by happiness with Jamie rather than keeping to her vow to find a way to return to Frank. Talk about convenient timing — at that moment she looks up and sees the hill of Craigh na Dun in the distance, just across the valley.
She realizes she must choose who she wants to be — Jamie’s wife, or Frank’s? Claire takes off at a run for Craigh na Dun, calling out Frank’s name.
20th C: Frank is driving away from Inverness when he sees a sign for the turn-off to Craigh na Dun. He goes there one last time, looking for some sign of Claire.
We cut back and forth between Claire and Frank as each climbs the hill, desperate to find one another across time, calling each other’s names. Claire finally reaches the top and is about to place her hands on the stone… when she is yanked backward by a troop of redcoats, who pull her away.
Frank is left alone on the 20th century hilltop, and has no choice but to realize that Claire is gone for good.
The rest of the action is set firmly in the 18th century.
Claire is tied up and taken away in the back of a cart, and she’s knows with certainty that she’s being taken to Ft. William to be handed over to Black Jack Randall. She has only the length of the journey to try to come up with a plan.
Brought to BJR in his fortress room, she’s terrified but looks for an opening. BJR is ultra creepy as he congratulates her on her marriage. He doesn’t know, of course, who her husband is, other than being the nephew of the Laird of the MacKenzies. He threatens Claire, without subtlety:
“I fully intend, by any means necessary, to discover both your true nature and the secrets you hold.”
Claire bluffs her way forward for a time by asserting that she’s an agent of the Duke of Sandringham, just like him, and that the Duke wouldn’t appreciate BJR’s interference with her mission. It almost works, but BJR catches her in a factual error, and Claire is once again tied up and at his mercy. BJR is done with preliminaries — he slices open her bodice and throws her onto his desk, intending to rape and torture her.
The window bursts open, and there’s Jamie! Pistol in hand, he states:
“I’ll thank ye to take your hands off my wife.”
BJR reacts with glee, as he realizes that Claire’s husband is none other than Jamie Fraser, the Highlander he flogged almost to death.
Episode 108 was Outlander’s mid-season finale, so Jamie was left in the window for six long months before viewers learned his fate.
The chemistry between Jamie and Claire is so strong. They spend the first half of the episode never out of reach of one another, constantly touching hands or smiling or simply looking at each other. Sparks galore!
Claire’s traveling cloak and clothes are sturdy yet lovely. Although I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Claire as she ran toward Craigh na Dun — running in all those heavy layers looks exhausting!
Beautiful shot of Claire’s two rings — I love the visual representation of Claire’s dilemma:
Major facts that the episode gets on the table:
- Claire acknowledges to herself that she’s allowed herself to develop dangerously strong feelings for Jamie. She doesn’t call it love just yet, but recognizes it as something powerful and real.
- Claire seems to have proven herself as a member of the MacKenzies and has earned herself a place among them.
- No matter what has happened up to now with Jamie, Claire can’t put aside her yearning to return to Frank.
- Frank held onto hope for a long time, but seems to have finally given up on Claire.
- Black Jack Randall is bad, bad news… and now he knows that Jamie is within reach, making his torment of Claire that much sweeter.
Jamie’s question to Claire:
“Is it usual, what it is between us, when I touch you, when you lie with me? Is it always so, between a man and a woman?”
Finding the right knife for Claire:
Claire: “It’s too long and heavy for me.”
Rupert: “Lassies say that to me all the time.”
While watching Claire’s training with Angus:
Murtagh: “I still say, the only good weapon for a woman is poison.”
Dougal: “Perhaps. But it has certain deficiencies in combat.”
Frank definitely has a dark side. He holds himself back, but I think part of the reason he ultimately gives up the search is because he’s afraid of what his desperation may drive him to.
Jamie is, as always, a prince of a guy — clearly already madly in love with Claire, a lover and a protector who feels terrible when Claire must defend herself against the redcoat wannabe rapists. He sees it as his duty to keep Claire safe, and feels that he’s failed her. He swore to her on their wedding day that she’d have the protection of his body, and he proves it to her over and over again… such as climbing in the window of Ft. William to rescue her.
I have to admit that I was irritated no end by Claire’s running off to Craigh na Dun, so desperate to reach Frank… but I know that my reaction is based on my love for Jamie. Really, Claire’s attempt to get back to Frank makes sense. She’s only been married to Jamie for two days at this point, and she still thinks of Frank as her real husband. The scene is built with a great deal of artistry, cutting back and forth between Claire and Frank, and I was cringing watching Claire get closer and closer to the stone — even though I knew full well from reading the book that she wouldn’t get there.
For people watching the show when it first aired, this episode marked the beginning of Droughtlander… the long six month wait for a new episode. Fortunately for re-watchers, no wait is required! I’ll be back shortly with the next episode. After all, we wouldn’t want to leave Jamie in that window any longer than necessary, would we?