Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 312: “The Bakra”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
The Artemis finally reaches Jamaica bringing Jamie and Claire much closer to their goal. During a ball on the island, the Frasers encounter old allies, as well as former adversaries who threaten to derail their mission.
Major plot points:
- We learn more about Ian’s fate: After his kidnapping from Selkie Island, Ian is held captive on board the Bruja, then thrown into a prison cell in Jamaica.
- He’s brought to see “the Bakra” — who turns out to be Geillis Duncan, alive and well and seemingly a wee bit deranged.
- Claire and Jamie arrive in Jamaica and begin their search for Ian.
- They go to the Governor’s reception in hope of getting more information, and discover that the Governor is Lord John Grey.
- Captain Leonard from the Porpoise arrives, and although Jamie and Claire flee, the captain and his soldiers catch up and arrest Jamie for murder and sedition.
Well, Outlander is certainly putting its South African sets to good use! We spend the entire episode on the (artificial) Jamaica created on the Starz sets in South Africa, and it definitely looks lush and tropical. Kudos, Outlander!
The opening scenes with Ian are disturbing, to say the least. Ian is kidnapped, forcibly taken across the sea, and thrown into a cell with other young male prisoners, who report that other boys had been there too, but then were taken to the Bakra and never seen again.
Finally, it’s Ian’s turn. He’s taken to an island plantation and shown into a beautiful room — where we see first a leg and then the rest of a naked woman’s body emerge from a bath of blood. It’s Geillis Duncan, alive and well! She says that bathing in blood (don’t worry, it’s not human, she assures Ian) keeps her skin young and fresh. Way to explain not aging your actress, show!
Geillis drugs Ian’s tea with truth serum. Apparently, the chest of jewels from Selkie Island was supposed to contain three sapphires, but when Geillis got it, there were only two. Geillis demands that Ian tell her where the 3rd is. Ian blurts out that maybe his uncle, James Fraser, has it. Geillis is VERY interested to hear that Jamie could be involved.
Apparently she needs the jewels for a mystical purpose. She’s hired Margaret and Archibald Campbell, the fortune-tellers we met several episodes ago, to find the truth behind a prophecy given by the Brahan Seer regarding the future king of Scotland, and the prophecy will only work with all three sapphires. (How does Geillis know this? Why these particular sapphires? No idea.)
Geillis also has need of young male virgins. She’s quite scary and creepy as she rubs her feet and other body parts all over poor young Ian, who doesn’t know whether to be terrified or turned on. He’s not a virgin, he tells Geillis… but she doesn’t appear to mind after all.
Okay, all that, and that’s only the before-the-credits stuff!
Jamie and Claire arrive in Jamaica and go searching for Ian. Claire, being Claire, pretty much immediately causes a public scene in the slave market. Way to stay incognito, Claire. Anyway, Jamie has to make amends to the slave owners, and he does this by buying the slave whose treatment caused Claire to snap. Claire is now a slave owner, and she is not pleased. (Later, we get a brief history lesson, as she lets Jamie know how many more years slavery will last in the British Empire and in America.)
The Frasers, along with the younger Fraser couple, Fergus and Marsali, attend a reception for the new governor in hopes of continuing their quest for Ian, planning to ask around and see if they can pick up any clues. Fergus and Marsali are giddy and adorable, and can’t seem to keep their hands off one another. As Jamie and Claire reach the front of the receiving line, Jamie is shocked to discover that John is the governor! John is flabbergasted and delighted and so totally awkward when he sees Jamie. Not exactly playing it cool, this guy. He takes Jamie and Claire into a private room, where he gives Jamie a quick update on Willie’s well-being. Claire keeps eyeing John in a knowing sort of way. The guy really is not hiding his delight over Jamie one tiny bit.
Later, Claire sees a familiar face and rushes after her, finding Geillis out in the garden. Geillis explains that she avoided her own execution (after the witch trial in season 1) with Dougal’s help, and eventually ended up marrying a plantation owner, now deceased, and moving to Jamaica. She is now known as Mrs. Abernathy.
Geillis manages to get hold of the 3rd sapphire (John is wearing it — a token to remind him of Jamie!), and has Margaret Campbell do a reading. Margaret’s words sound like gobbledy-gook, but seem to say that a baby that is born already 200 years old will have something to do with the future of Scottish independence. Hmmm, 200 years? Very interesting!
Claire and Jamie make a hasty exit when they see Captain Leonard arrive with armed men. As they flee, they learn that the slaves at the governor’s estate report seeing a young Scottish boy being taken to Rose Hall — the home of Mrs. Abernathy, aka Geillis! Captain Leonard catches up to them, and Jamie is dragged away, shouting instructions to Claire to go find Iam.
Huh. I’m not usually a stickler for faithfulness to the text, but this episode had some major departures from the book, and I’m not sure I like all of them. First of all, Geillis. It’s kind of too early for Claire to discover Geillis, and in the books by the time they meet, Claire already knows that Mrs. Abernathy is responsible for Ian (and other boys) being kidnapped. Also, Geillis has definitely aged and is suffering from syphilis, so there’s that as well.
The blood bath scene is dramatic and very impressive visually… but, well, I guess I’ll just leave it there. Was it necessary? Not really. But it sure does show a bit of Geillis’s crazy (and lets the show get away with yet another character being 20 years older than when last seen, but looking fresh as a daisy.)
Also, the John business. How much did Jamie tell Claire about John? Apparently he’s filled her in on Geneva and Willie, and how John married Geneva’s sister and raised Willie all these years. But did Jamie tell Claire that John was (is) in love with him? If he didn’t, she certainly picked up on something here. John was not exactly subtle. I’m actually fine with this version, since in the book Claire sees John and Jamie together and assumes (crazily) that Jamie has feelings for John, or perhaps was in a relationship with him. Anyway, as for the episode — I don’t know, it just felt like something was a bit off in the John/Jamie/Claire scenes. I can’t quite put my finger on why I felt this way, but it’s like the show is straddling two different stories. Either Claire knows everything (which is implied here), or she doesn’t, but it felt a bit muddled to me.
I did like the use of costuming to show the passage of time. Claire and Jamie are both wearing their old clothes from Paris, altered slightly and looking a bit less fresh. It makes sense — where would these people suddenly get fancy clothes from after sailing across the ocean for months? Luckily, Fergus brought them the clothes they’d stored at Lallybroch, so there’s some good continuity here. I like that Marsali was dressed up in one of Claire’s old gowns as well. It’s a nice touch, and seems to imply more of a warming up between Claire and Marsali. (Plus, Marsali and Fergus are quite adorable together, all dressed up and giddy with the excitement of it all.) Even Mr. Willoughby gets some fancy clothes to wear and looks smashing.
Wrapping it all up…
I thought this episode was just okay. Visually, it was quite impressive, from the Geillis-covered-with-blood scene to the tropical setting to the fancy party clothes (and Jamie in a wig!). Still, something about the pacing and the plot felt a bit off to me. I know there’s still a lot of ground to cover, but there was perhaps a bit too much exposition in this episode for my taste.
And suddenly, we’re only a week away from the season finale! Overall, I do feel that this has been a stellar season. It’s strange to think back and see how far we’ve come — from the battlefield at Culloden and Claire’s 20th century life in Boston, all the way to this moment of high drama in Jamaica! It feels more like several seasons worth of plot, rather than simply 12 consecutive episodes with one to go.
Cast and crew are doing a phenomenal job, and I’ve loved the show so much this season.
Trying not to cry when I think of saying good-bye after next week… it’ll be a long Droughtlander again until season 4!