Outlander, Season 1, Episode 9: “The Reckoning”
The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:
Jamie and the Highlanders rescue Claire from Black Jack Randall. Back at the castle, politics threaten to tear Clan MacKenzie apart and Jamie’s scorned lover, Laoghaire, attempts to win him back.
“Strange, the things you remember.”
We open the episode with a voice-over reciting the same line that we heard at the start of the very first episode — but this time, it’s Jamie’s voice we hear. For the first and only time this season, all events are seen through Jamie’s eyes as he ponders the choices made throughout his life that have led up to this moment.
From a peaceful and contemplative view of Jamie by a beautiful stream:
… we jump right back into the action, seeing the other side of the events that ended episode 108 for the mid-season finale. Jamie had left Claire behind when he went to meet the deserter Horrocks, after which Claire made a run for the stones of Craigh na Dun and ended up in the hands of the evil Black Jack Randall. But where was Jamie while all this was happening?
Jamie and the MacKenzies have met up with Horrocks, who is not a trustworthy guy. He demands gold before he’ll tell Jamie the name of the person he saw kill the man that Jamie is accusing of murdering. There’s no choice — Jamie has to know, so he tells Dougal to pay Horrocks. Horrocks takes the money, then provides the name: Captain Jonathan Randall. Jamie is distraught, as this does him no good whatsoever. Even assuming it’s true, there’s no way he can use an accusation against BJR as a means to clear his own name. Just then, Willy rides up with the news that Claire has been captured by redcoats, and Jamie goes charging off to the rescue.
At nightfall, Jamie, Murtagh, Rupert, and Angus steal into Ft. William. Jamie engages in some thrilling heroics, rappelling down the side of the fort to get to BJR’s lair. He hears Claire scream, and bursts in the window. BJR is delighted — tormenting Claire will be so much more fun with his favorite victim as a witness. Jamie has a gun in his hand, but BJR is holding a large knife to Claire’s throat and threatens to kill her.
Claire screams for Jamie to go. BJR is creepy and perverse, asking Claire if she wants her husband to join them… or would he prefer to watch? Jamie finally manages to disarm BJR and knock him unconscious, then he and Claire make a hazardous escape, jumping from the fort’s walls into the surf below.
Of course, Jamie should have just killed BJR, but it’s against his nature to kill a helpless man. Sometimes Jamie’s conscience is too much of a good thing, in my humble opinion.
The brave rescue party rides off with Claire, but Jamie calls for a halt so they can water their horses… and really, so he and Claire can have a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred fight. Jamie yells at Claire for putting herself and all of them in danger, and blames her for being the cause of it all. If she’d obeyed his orders and stayed put, none of this would have happened.
Claire’s not having it:
“I don’t have to do what you tell me to!”
But Jamie’s not wrong, given the time and place:
“Aye, you do. You’re my wife.”
They say horrible things to one another, and it gets heated and ugly. Claire calls Jamie a “fucking bastard”. Jamie calls Claire a “foul-mouthed bitch”. But the anger and shouting are simply a cover, and Jamie finally collapses in tears. The fear he felt at almost losing her was almost more than he could bear. They both realize that they’ve gone too far.
“You’re tearing my guts out, Claire.”
“I’m sorry. Jamie, forgive me.”
Although they’ve reconciled, there’s still tension amongst the travelers. The men ignore Claire, and it’s clear that she’s crossed a line with her behavior. As Jamie knows, if a man had put the group in danger the way Claire had, there would be harsh punishment. As Murtagh points out to Jamie, “She doesna understand what she nearly cost us.”
Jamie goes to join Claire in their room upstairs at the tavern, where she’s waiting for him in bed — but he tells her there’s still a reckoning due. It’s his duty as her husband to punish her. Claire is freaked out, and swears that she’ll never do such a thing again. But no, it’s not enough to say she gets it — she must really feel it in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Claire tries to flee and to fight Jamie off, but to no avail. He finally pins her down and gives her a whacking with his belt, accompanied by her screams. Downstairs in the tavern, the men are amused and seem satisfied that justice has been done.
It may have been justice, but it’s shattered the peace between Claire and Jamie, and she is pissed. Upon the group’s return to Castle Leoch, they’re cheered by Mrs. Fitz in celebration of their marriage, but Colum’s words of congratulations are lukewarm at best. Later, he meets with Jamie, Dougal, and Ned and chastises them for their Jacobite plotting. It looks like there will be a serious rift between Dougal and Colum, which could tear the whole clan apart. Fortunately, Jamie is later able to smooth things over by advising Colum to tolerate Dougal’s political scheming for now, as there’s no immediate chance that Bonnie Prince Charlie will show up in Scotland any time soon. Time enough to worry about it when it actually happens, and meanwhile, the MacKenzies can go about their clan business with unity between brothers.
All is not well between Claire and Jamie. Although they talk and share a room, Claire will not allow Jamie back into her bed. He wanders the grounds and ends up back at the stream we saw in the opening moments of the episode. As he ponders his future with Claire and what path to take, Laoghaire shows up and tells Jamie how she’s always wanted him. She waited for him to come back, after their passionate kiss in the kitchen weeks earlier, and understands that he was gallant to marry Claire in order to save her. Laoghaire basically propositions Jamie on the spot, dropping her cloak to reveal some slutty corset-wear underneath. He can still have her, if he wants. She’s a virgin, and she wants Jamie to be her first.
Jamie seems tempted, especially after she places his hand on her breast. As their lips near, he pulls back. He’s married. He made a vow, and will not break it. He knows this is a moment of choice for himself: Make things right with Claire and make their marriage one of trust and love, or accept it as a duty that he’s fulfilled and now seek pleasure elsewhere?
Jamie goes back to Claire, and goes down on his knees in front of her to declare an oath of loyalty, swearing on his dirk that he will never raise a hand to her again. He begs her:
“Is it not enough, Claire? Do ye not want me anymore? Do you wish to live separately?”
Claire responds, “That’s would I should want” — but it’s clear that that’s actually the last thing that she does want.
They reach for each other, after Jamie finally explains that the wedding ring he gave her is made from the key to Lallybroch, his home. Claire is his home now, he tells her, and the two fall into a passionate embrace that ends with a hot and heavy lovemaking session on the floor — interrupted momentarily by Claire holding Jamie’s dirk to his throat and threatening him:
“If you ever raise a hand to me again, James Fraser, I will cut your heart out and have it for breakfast. Do you understand?”
Afterward, curled up in loving satisfaction in front of the fireplace, it’s clear that the emotional bridge between the two has been rebuilt and their passion and desire is as strong as ever. Their happy moment lasts until Claire spies something odd under the bed, a bundle of sticks and leaves tied together with a bone. It’s an ill-wish, Jamie informs her — a magical charm meant to cause them harm. Who could have placed something like that in their room? Who wishes them ill? wonders Claire.
Laoghaire, of course.
Oh my, the scene on the floor by the fire is ultra steamy and sexy. What’s more, like other love scenes in Outlander, it feels real, not prettified as so many such scenes are in movies. The sex is gritty and realistic, and Claire continues to make her physical needs and enjoyment plain. Jamie and Claire seem as well matched physically as they are emotionally. Claire holding the knife to Jamie’s throat in the middle of the action is a bit funny, but it fits with their characters and their full-out style of fighting from earlier. Whatever they do together, whether it fighting or making love, they thrown themselves into it 100%.
In the post-credits scene, we see Jamie putting on his kilt, which is pretty amazing. Alas, I could not find a video clip! But it involves spreading the kilt out on the floor, lying down on top of it, and then rolling it on and fastening it. Like I said, amazing!
Major facts that the episode gets on the table:
- BJR now knows that Jamie is with the MacKenzies, and will be looking for him.
- Colum is much more concerned with the well-being of the clan that with the Jacobite cause.
- Colum had envisioned Jamie as his successor, but now that he’s married an Englishwoman, the clan would never accept him as laird.
- Laoghaire may have seemed sweet to begin with, but that girl is trouble.
The best lines are all Jamie’s, of course:
“Every day, every man has a choice, between right and wrong, between love and hate, sometimes between life and death… and the sum of those choices becomes your life.”
“She asked forgiveness, and I gave it. But the truth is, I’d forgiven everything she’d done, and everything she could do, long before that day. For me, that was no choice. That was falling in love.”
“I am your master, and you are mine. It seem I cannot possess your soul without losing my own.”
Having Jamie provide the voice-overs and perspective in this episode gives us a look inside his soul — and of course, he’s just as loyal and brave as we’d suspected. Jamie has clearly fallen madly in love with Claire. We see the aftermath of her attempt to return to Frank and her capture by BJR, as Claire deals with her anger and disappointment. Both characters have choices to make here, and both have compelling reasons to pull away from their marriage, but neither one can. Even though Claire is far from being ready to say it explicitly, it’s plain to see that her feelings for Jamie are much stronger than she’d thought, and that this is quickly becoming a marriage of mutual love.
This episode had a lot going on in just an hour — from the daring rescue at Ft. William, to BJR’s perversity, to Jamie and Claire’s fight, reconciliation, and reckoning, and then back again to Castle Leoch! The action was pretty intense, but so were the emotions. This episode moves Claire and Jamie several steps further into their marriage. They’re no longer in the afterglow of the wedding night — now they have to deal with the start of life as a married couple. Whatever happens next will happen to them together, and they end the episode firmly united and on the same side.