Outlander Rewatch: Episode 110, “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 10: “By the Pricking of my Thumbs”

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The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

Jamie hopes the newly arrived Duke of Sandringham will help lift the price from his head, while Claire attempts to save an abandoned child.

My synopsis:

The episode opens on a private moment. A very private moment. Claire and Jamie are in bed, and let’s just say that Murtagh’s unrelenting pounding on the door is not at all welcome. Jamie, ever diligent, opts to ignore the door until he finishes the task in front of him, with apparent great success. Whew… is it getting hot in here?

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The news from Murtagh is important, though. The Duke of Sandringham has arrived. He’s always been fond of Jamie (hinting that he was *wink, wink* very fond of some of Jamie’s attributes), and perhaps he’s be willing to help get the price lifted from Jamie’s head. Claire warns Jamie not to trust the Duke blindly — she knows from her time with Frank that the Duke was suspected of being a secret Jacobite supporter, and also of being a protector of Black Jack Randall’s. Jamie promises to be cautious, but he’s also puppy-dog excited at the idea that he could be free and could finally take Claire home with him to Lallybroch, where they could have a good life and be happy.

Ned Gowan considers the best way to proceed. Even with the Duke’s backing, it would be next to impossible to prove that BJR is the one guilty of the murder Jamie’s wanted for. But perhaps there’s a different approach. If Jamie and Claire swear to a complaint again BJR, itemizing his cruelty and abuse, and have it presented by the Duke, BJR would be disgraced and would likely be recalled from the Highlands, perhaps even court-martialed or sent somewhere far, far away. And if BJR is disgraced, a general pardon for Jamie would be possible. This seems like the best chance they have for finally clearing Jamie’s name.

In the kitchen at Leoch, Mrs. Fitz is ecstatic over a new apron given to her by her granddaughter Laoghaire. Claire arrives and asks to speak with Laoghaire alone, then accuses her of leaving the ill-wish under her bed. Laoghaire denies it. Claire tries to be nice to the girl at first, telling her that she was misguided in thinking that Jamie had feelings for her, but Laoghaire insists otherwise:

“The truth is, he was never yours to begin with.”

“That’s a lie. Jamie Fraser was, and is, mine. And you did us both a wrong past bearing when you stole him away.”

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Their confontation ends with a big slap right across Laoghaire’s face, and Claire apologizes with a very not-sorry “sorry”. Laoghaire is well and truly pissed now, and tells Claire that yes, she was the one who placed the ill-wish, and furthermore, she got it from Geillis Duncan, supposedly Claire’s friend. Claire warns Laoghaire:

“Stay away from me and my husband.”

Claire goes to visit Geillis to find out the truth, arriving to find Geillis out, but Arthur Duncan rummaging about looking for a treatment for his usual gastric yuckiness. The serving girl tells Claire that she’ll find Geillis in the woods at night while the moon is full. And so Claire does, spying on Geillis as she lights fires and chants a prayer to the Earth Mother, dancing and rolling on the ground in a sort of religious ecstasy, clad only in the overshawl and brooch she’d worn at the gathering. Claire watches in shock, especially as Geillis’s near-nakedness reveals a distinct baby bump.

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Geillis acknowledges that she knows Claire is there, and tells Claire that she has a lover — Dougal MacKenzie. It’s his baby that she’s carrying, and she’s prayed to Mother Nature to ask for freedom for herself and Dougal so they can be together. Geillis admits selling the ill-wish to Laoghaire, but claims that she didn’t know who it was for.

The two women continue to walk through the woods, and Claire asks more about Dougal. It turns out that Dougal is married, but he keeps his wife back home at his estate while he lives at Castle Leoch. As they walk, Claire hears a baby’s cries. Geillis warns her to ignore it: They’re near a fairy hill, and that must be a changeling, not a human child. Claire insists on looking for the baby, and Geillis takes off. Claire finally finds the baby, but it’s dead already from exposure, having been left out all night. Jamie finds Claire cradling the dead baby and makes her put it back in its hiding place, explaining the superstitious nature of the local people, and making it clear that it could be dangerous to ignore these superstitions, even knowing that they’re ridiculous.

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Claire and Jamie sign the document outlining BJR’s crimes. Later, unbeknownst to Jamie, Claire pays a visit to the Duke of Sandringham, during which she insinuates that that the Duke’s reputation could be harmed if his support and connection to BJR were revealed. He calls Claire’s statements “libelous falsities”, but after the two exchange some veiled and not-so-veiled threats, it seems that the Duke will help Jamie after all.

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Claire returns to the castle to find everyone in a tizzy. Dougal has just received word that his wife has died of a sudden illness, and he’s going nuts, raging with grief and guilt, highly drunk, and flinging his sword about whenever anyone gets near. Colum wants Claire to do something to calm him down, so she slips a sedative into some wine which Dougal guzzles, sending him into a heap on the floor.

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Geillis acts as though all this is great news. “Can you believe it?” she asks Claire. It’s like her prayers have been answered, and now she and Dougal can be together. Claire reminds Geillis that she has a husband, but Geillis basically shrugs that off. No big deal.

Now it’s Jamie’s turn to visit the Duke. He’s always delighted to see Jamie (he apparently has an eye for pretty young boys), and would be happy to help Jamie out… in exchange for a wee favor. It seems that the Duke has a debt he owes to the MacDonalds, who’ve demanded satisfaction in a duel. It’s just for show, the Duke hastens to reassure Jamie. They’ll fire pistols off to the side, everyone’s honor will be satisfied, and that’ll be that. In exchange for helping Jamie in his case against BJR, Jamie must act as second to the Duke in the duel.

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That evening, there’s a banquet at the castle in the Duke’s honor. Everyone is dressed up and fancy, and it’s quite an evening… until Arthur Duncan begins to choke and then collapses on the floor, foaming at the mouth. He’s dead, and Claire catches a whiff of bitter almonds, the tell-tale scent of cyanide. While everyone else is focused on the dead man, Claire spots Geillis and Dougal exchanging a meaningful glance.

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Back to the Duke’s duel. It’s a simple and straightforward formality, but afterwards, the MacDonald lads get rude and insulting. When Jamie responds to their taunts with a diss against their mother, the swords come out. The Duke scampers off (a duel is one thing, but a common brawl quite another), and it’s three against one. Jamie holds his own until the fight is over, but he comes out of it with a nasty wound on his side.

Claire must stitch Jamie up once again, and she’s pissed. Jamie is summoned to Colum’s chamber, where Colum reams out Dougal for his stupidity in carrying on with Geillis Duncan. Colum exiles Dougal back to his own estate until the scandal blows over, and orders Jamie to go with Dougal, along with Rupert and Angus. And just to make sure that Jamie is doing Colum’s bidding and keeping Dougal out of trouble, Colum insists that Claire remain behind at Castle Leoch.

After a loving and tender good-bye, Jamie rides off, but not before warning Claire to stay away from Geillis Duncan. There’s a good chance that Colum will go after Geillis, and Jamie doesn’t want Claire anywhere near when or if this happens.

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So, naturally, Claire goes rushing off to Geillis’s house after receiving a note summoning her — only the note is a forgery, not from Geillis. Claire begs Geillis to pack up her belongings and leave. She’s in danger — but Geillis dreamily replies that “Dougal will never allow anything to happen to me. To us.”

A banging on the door — it’s the warden. Geillis is arrested for witchcraft, and so is Claire. As they’re shoved into a barred wagon to be taken away, Claire catches sight of Laoghaire peering around the corner with a very satisfied little smirk on her face.

Steam factor:

The opening scene is intimate and explicit, showing a lot without showing anything that can’t be shown on TV. It’s an intense, passionate moment, and shows the deepening connection and trust between Jamie and Claire.

Fashion statements:

Claire looks amazing with her fur cowls and cloaks, but Geillis really takes the cake in this episode. From her filmy shawl in her woodland ritual to the point-hooded cloak in the woods to her black-and-white dress at the end, Geillis continues to have one of the most unique looks on the show.

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Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • Laoghaire is out to hurt Claire, even to the point of endangering Claire’s life.
  • The Duke is slippery, and it’s impossible to know where his loyalties lie or whether his pledges of help can be believed.
  • Dougal gives into his passions despite the consequences, and Colum can’t stand it.
  • Jamie dreams of taking Claire home to Lallybroch, where he’ll once more be Laird and Claire his lady.

Memorable lines:

The Duke, to Claire:

“Has anyone ever told you you have the most gorgeous neck? It holds your head so prettily. I’d hate to see them parted.

Dougal, watching Jamie and Claire having a looooong kiss good-bye:

“I said kiss her. Dinna swallow her.”

Jamie, as Claire silently glares while she stitches his wound:

“Ye’re not normally a closed-mouth woman, Claire. I expected noisier displeasure. But, quiet anger can be very effective.”

Character impressions:

The differences between Colum and Dougal are very clear in this episode. Dougal thinks with his heart and his… um… other head, but Colum always takes the rational, logical approach. Emotions be damned — it’s the well-being of the clan that always comes first.

Geillis seems foolishly indifferent to consequences here. She’s usually so aware of actions and reactions and how to take advantage of any situation, but she seems to let her reliance on Dougal and her hopes for their future blind her to the real risk, not just of murdering her own husband but of making Colum angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Claire seems much more settled into her marriage to Jamie. They’re happy together, and she wants him.

Takeaway:

While the situation with the Duke of Sandringham may bring either safety or greater danger to Jamie, the ultimate threat in this episode is against Claire. Jamie is now conveniently out of the way, while Claire’s been arrested and accused of witchcraft. Claire lacks a protector, and unless Jamie returns in a hurry, she may not last.

 

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 109, “The Reckoning”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 9: “The Reckoning”

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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.

My synopsis:

“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:

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… 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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?”

He understands.

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.

Steam factor:

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%.

Fashion statements:

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!

Key points:

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.

Memorable lines:

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.”

Character impressions:

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.

Takeaway:

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.

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 108, “Both Sides Now”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 8: “Both Sides Now”

OL rewatch

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.

My synopsis:

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?

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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.

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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:

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It’s wee Roger! Watch for him in season 2, when he’ll look a bit different:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The window bursts open, and there’s Jamie! Pistol in hand, he states:

“I’ll thank ye to take your hands off my wife.”

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BJR reacts with glee, as he realizes that Claire’s husband is none other than Jamie Fraser, the Highlander he flogged almost to death.

And… scene!

Episode 108 was Outlander’s mid-season finale, so Jamie was left in the window for six long months before viewers learned his fate.

Steam factor:

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!

Fashion statements:

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:

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Key points:

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.

Memorable lines:

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.”

Character impressions:

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.

Takeaway:

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?

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Outlander Rewatch: Episode 107, “The Wedding”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 7: “The Wedding”

OL rewatch

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

Claire and Jamie are thrown together in marriage, but as their emotional and physical relationship unfolds, deeper feelings arise. Claire is ultimately torn between two men in two very different times.

My synopsis:

The episode that fans were drooling in anticipation over!

But surprise! It doesn’t start where we think it should — we open with Claire and Frank, looking very sharp indeed, sashaying down a London street holding hands. They’re on their way to meet Frank’s parents, but he has a sudden inspiration. They’re right outside the marriage bureau office — hey, let’s get married! Right now! Claire seems a bit stunned, but agrees…

… and as we hear a voice proclaiming “I now pronounce you…”, the scene cuts to a candle-lit church as Jamie and Claire have their first kiss as man and wife.

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What?

If you’re like me, upon first viewing of this episode, you were pretty shocked and maybe even felt a little cheated. No ceremony? We don’t get to see the build-up? But no worries, it’s just a very clever approach to the framing of the episode.

Next scene, we’re in the large upstairs room of an inn, while a raucous party takes place below. Claire sits alone in her shift and corset, and then Jamie enters in his shirt and kilt. The fancy wedding attire is gone. Now it’s just the two of them, alone for the first time, with a job to do. As Jamie points out, everyone is downstairs waiting for them to make it “official”.

It’s awkward, to put it mildly. Claire is unhappy. Jamie is nervous (and sweet, and kind of shy). He drinks to “my wife, Claire Fraser” — and Claire starts to guzzle, glass after glass. It’s going to take a LOT of alcohol for her to loosen up.

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Claire has questions for Jamie, starting with “Why did you agree to marry me?” Dougal forced her into it, but why did Jamie agree to go along with the scheme? Jamie’s response is classic Jamie: “I didna see I had much choice either.”

Flashback! Cut to a stable, with Jamie, Murtagh, Dougal, and Ned discussing the plan. Ned points out the legality of the matter. The marriage must be consummated right away, with witnesses (in the building, if not in the room) to say that it really happened. Jamie questions whether Claire knows about this part, and Murtagh points out that Dougal has said that he doesn’t support rape. “Not rape. Persuasion.” is Dougal’s reply. Dougal warns Jamie that he’d better not make any deals with Claire to say that it happened when it really didn’t, then goes on to say rather crudely how he himself thinks Claire would be great to, um, consummate with. Jamie takes offense and warns Dougal not to talk about his wife-to-be that way.

Dougal reminds Jamie what’s at stake. Claire took a punch from Black Jack Randall and still kept silent about the clan’s illegal Jacobite activities — but if she actually fell into BJR’s hands for prolonged questioning, there’s little chance she’d be able to withstand the interrogation. Jamie has to marry Claire to keep them all safe.

Back to the wedding chamber, where Jamie’s devotion and gallantry know no bounds:

“You have my name, my clan, my family, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well.”

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Claire is moved, and there’s almost a first kiss — until Claire breaks off with only an inch between their lips to ask Jamie to “tell me about your family”. Jamie giggles, and they’re both just so cute and nervous. It’s a marvelous moment, followed by (according to the voice-over) several hours in which they exchange stories and drink, getting to know one another and breaking the tension.

After a rude but funny interruption by Rupert and Angus, who are dismayed to see that they both still have their clothes on, the two are alone again, and the awkwardness returns. Claire declares that it’s late, and they should probably go to bed.

“To bed, or to sleep?” inquires Jamie.

Jamie helps Claire undress, peeling off the layers of overskirt and hip pads, then unlacing (forever, it seems) her corset until she stands before him in just a plain shift. Her turn next — she undoes the buckles of his kilt and it falls to the ground. They kiss, and the passion builds. They fall to the bed, still in their shirts, and have a very quick first go at lovemaking. It’s over in a moment, clearly good for Jamie but not so much for Claire.

Awkwardness threatens to return, until Jamie chuckles and shyly reveals that he did not realize that it was done face to face like that — he thought it must be done from behind, like horses. Claire cracks up, and the ice is broken.

Jamie asks Claire whether she liked it, and she’s silent for a moment. Ah, he says, then Murtagh was right. He’d warned Jamie that women do not generally care for it.

A significant pause… and Claire tells him:

“I did like it, Jamie.”

Oh, the look on Jamie’s face! He looks so young, and so sweet, and so innocent.

Another humorous break of tension, as Claire decides to go get food, and the entire inn full of drunken clansmen cheers as the newlyweds step out of their room wearing just their nightclothes. Jamie sends Claire back inside and goes downstairs in his shirt (and apparently still has his boots on!), to much good-natured ribbing and some slightly less good-natured advice from Dougal, who commands Jamie to keep Claire waiting, as it’s no good to let a woman think she’s in control. Jamie wisely ignores Dougal’s instructions and rushes back to Claire, and the two enjoy some relaxed conversation over a snack.

Claire notices the Fraser tartan of Jamie’s kilt, lying in a heap on the floor, and wonders where he got it. More flashbacks! First, we see Jamie and Murtagh in a stable, where Murtagh has just arrived after traveling to a nearby village to find a Fraser widow who was willing to lend the kilt for a day. Murtagh thinks Jamie is daft to wear it, seeing how there’s a price on his head, but Jamie insists that he’ll get married under his own name and wearing the colors of his own clan. There follows a sweet conversation about Jamie’s mother, and it’s clear that Murtagh was sweet on her.

Jamie tells Claire that he had three conditions before agreeing to marry her, and we then get another series of terrific flashbacks:

FB #1: Jamie informs Dougal that he’ll marry Claire, but they must be “wed properly, in a church, before a priest.” The scene cuts to Dougal and Willy dragging a sick priest out of bed and threatening him at knife-point, finally bribing him into agreeing to perform the ceremony with the promise of new windows for his cold, falling-down church.

FB #2: Jamie wants a ring. The two stooges, Rupert and Angus, find a blacksmith to make a ring out of a key that Jamie has given them. The key to what? Jamie seems not to want to tell Claire right then.

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FB #3: Jamie wants Claire to have a real wedding dress. In a rather hilarious scene, Ned visits the local brothel to see if he can find something suitable. Really, Ned? You’re shopping for a wedding dress in a whorehouse? The ladies fawn all over Ned, especially once they see how full his coin-purse is. The madam offers a dress that was left in the brothel by a gentleman as barter, never worn, then sends one of the girls to entertain Ned while she wraps it up for him.

How did Claire spend her day, Jamie wants to know. In response, Claire holds up a bottle. Yup, she drank the day away, and only remembers bits and pieces, other than being extremely hungover.

Finally, we come to the memories of the wedding itself. Claire and Jamie are stunning. Jamie tells Claire that seeing her was “as if I stepped ouside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out.” Swoon.

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He introduces himself formally to Claire, finally sharing his real name: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. As they enter the church, Claire removes Frank’s gold wedding ring from her finger and places it in the bodice of her dress. The ceremony takes place — first the traditional vows, then the Gaelic vows, and then a kiss.

Back in their room once more, Claire tells Jamie to remove his shirt.

“I want to look at you.”

She circles him, admiring his body, and then undresses as well. They make love again, and this time Claire is verra into it. As Claire cries out, Jamie stops, worries that he’s hurt her, and Claire explains that no, that’s not what those noises mean. Jamie is immensely gratified to learn about female orgasm! Especially once Claire explains that it doesn’t always work that way — only if the man is a very good lover. Further intimate explorations ensue. These two are having a marvelous time, and sweet Jamie is very appreciative.

During a break in the action, as Jamie sleeps peacefully, Claire slips downstairs to the now deserted inn in search of more booze, and runs into Dougal. He’s just come back from seeing BJR and informing him of the marriage. BJR was quite pissed, but Dougal is sure he’ll leave them alone now. After all, he wouldn’t dare kidnap the wife of Colum’s nephew from Colum’s own lands. Claire turns to go, but Dougal stops her. He commends her for doing her duty, but suggests that now that that’s done, she can feel free to sample other pleasures. He finds her a most “singular” woman… but propositioning a new bride on her wedding night may not be Dougal’s most shining moment. She declines and heads back upstairs, and Dougal vents his frustration by punching a drunken Rupert for no good reason.

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As Claire sits deep in thought, Jamie wakes up and comes to her, placing a long strand of pearls around her neck. They were his mother’s pearls, and now they’re for his wife. The two make love once again, and this time it’s clear that their emotions are involved. It’s tender and passionate, and we see the blossoming love on both of their faces.

The next morning, the two are cheerful as Jamie heads down for breakfast. Claire says she’ll be right there once she dresses and straightens up a bit. But as she shakes out her wedding dress, the gold ring tumbles out and rolls across the floor. Claire retrieves it, and places it back on her finger.

We close with Claire staring at her hands, each bearing a wedding ring from a different man. What has Claire done? What does this mean? How can she be married to both Frank and Jamie?

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It’s a startling, profound moment at the close of a powerful, passionate episode.

 

Steam factor:

Yes! This episode is full of steam, passion, sparks, and fireworks. The three interludes of lovemaking show the progression of Claire and Jamie’s relationship, both from the physical and the emotional perspectives.

The first time, it’s sex. It’s Jamie’s first time ever, and it’s artless and fast.

The second time, it’s sexy and erotic, as both truly take pleasure in exploring one another and learning each other’s bodies. There’s a growing tenderness, as they’ve talked, shared secrets and laughter. Claire is more emotionally involved, having now spent a few hours learning more about Jamie and the care he took to make sure she was not just married, but married in a way that was meaningful and respectful and proper.

And the third time, it’s love. Claire is overwhelmed by the meaning behind the gift of the pearls. She’s opened herself emotionally to Jamie as well, and it’s clear now that the feelings are not one-sided. There’s a lovely moment this time around as Claire takes the fallen kilt and wraps it around both of them. It’s reminiscent of the very first episode, as Jamie wrapped his kilt around Claire as they rode on his horse. It symbolizes protection and caring, and by enfolding Jamie this way, Claire is demonstrating her desire to love and protect him, just as he’s done for her.

Fashion statements:

It’s all about the wedding clothes, really, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning how dapper Claire and Frank looked in the opening scene. I especially loved Claire’s jaunty little hat:

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But, really and truly, the fashion in this episode is all about the wedding. Claire and Jamie both look magnificent. A thousand kudos to the design team for their outstanding work here.

claire Outlander 2014 Outlander 2014

 

Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • The marriage might have been arranged for legal purposes, but for Jamie, it’s real.
  • Claire feels conflicted, but she’s also developing strong feelings for Jamie.
  • Dougal lusts after Claire.
  • Jamie is quite serious when he vows to protect Claire by any means necessary.
  • The chemistry between Jamie and Claire is unexpected, but quite real.

Memorable lines:

After the first kiss in the wedding chamber:

Claire: “Where did you learn to kiss like that?”
Jamie: “I said I was a virgin. Not a monk.”

Claire’s voice-over, after making love with Jamie:

“There it was. Not only was I a bigamist and an adulteress, but I’d enjoyed it.”

The Gaelic wedding vows:

You are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone.
I give you my body that we two might be one.
I give you my spirit til our life shall be done.

Jamie, on presenting the pearls to Claire:

“They’re very precious to me — as are you, Claire.”

Character impressions:

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. He’s on display in full splendour — not just his good looks, but his kind and protective soul. This episode solidifies all the various impressions that have been shown in bits and pieces so far: Jamie’s gallantry, bravery, devotion to family, honor, and willingness to lay down his life, if needed, for the sake of those he loves.

When Claire tells Jamie “I did like it, Jamie”, it’s a key character moment for Claire, and a turning point for their relationship. If she’d stayed silent, Jamie would have accepted that sex, for Claire, is a duty and would have been unlikely to press for more. They might have moved forward with their marriage as a business arrangement, in which they’ve both sealed the deal, and can now continue with their lives. But by telling him she liked it, Claire in essence is declaring that she’s in this relationship with Jamie, and that she cares, and feels. It’s a breakout, dramatic moment — a small line, but one that makes a huge difference in how they move forward together.

We see so deeply into Jamie and Claire’s souls here, and get new insights into their beliefs, their fears, and what makes them tick. They learn about each other on a whole new level, and make a connection that is rare and special.

Takeaway:

Wow. Just wow. Passion, love, loyalty, devotion. Steamy sexytimes. An arranged marriage that may just be a match made in heaven for the two people involved. And yet, danger. Conflict. Confusion.

This episode captures all of the highs and lows, and does it with grace and dignity. The sex isn’t hidden or prettied up — the first time feels like a first time, and it’s a rare thing for a TV show to offer a view of a developing sexual relationship, rather than instant fireworks with no work or effort involved. Jamie and Claire come together with nervousness and hesitation, but over the course of one long night, find a surprisingly strong connection that I don’t believe either expected.

Claire ends the episode in conflict, having almost lost sight of her first husband in the giddy rush of finding love and joy with her new husband. It all comes rushing back to her as she gazes upon the silver and gold of her two wedding rings.

Claire is at a crossroads, with two paths — one to the man in her past (which is the future), and one with the man before her in her present. With this episode, we get a strong, clear picture of what might hold Claire in the 18th century, even if the opportunity to leave becomes available.

 

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 106, “The Garrison Commander”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 6: “The Garrison Commander”

OL rewatch

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

Claire’s unexpected meeting with a British general turns tense when Captain Jack Randall arrives. Claire finds herself alone with Randall — a dangerous man determined to uncover her secrets.

My synopsis:

I am firmly convinced that this is one of the most powerful episodes of the series, and the first episode that really goes all-out to create a mood that builds and builds from start to finish. And in case I forget to say it later — this episode should have earned Caitriona Balfe an Emmy. Period.

Now then, the synopsis:

We open exactly where we ended the previous episode, with Dougal and Claire at a stream, surrounded by redcoats. Claire faces a moment of truth — ask for rescue by the British officers, and thereby bring violence and punishment upon the men she’s been traveling with, or deny that anything is wrong, and possibly miss out on her best chance for escape and an ultimate return to her own time?

After a tense moment, Claire smiles and thanks Lt. Foster for his concern, but reassures him that she’s a guest of Clan MacKenzie. He doesn’t seem terribly convinced, and states that his commanding officer would like to meet her. It’s less of an invitation that a non-optional order for her to accompany him, and Dougal insists on coming too:

“Well, if the lady goes, I go.”

Off they ride to the town of Brockton which, despite being a Scottish village, seems to have been taken over by British troops. Claire reflects that even though it’s a different century, there’s something familiar to her about being in company once again with the British army which she, in her own time, so recently was a part of. As they reach the town, Claire realizes that the shoe is on the other foot, as it’s Dougal who is now the “outlander” and she who fits in.

In the inn’s upstairs dining room, Claire is introduced to General Thomas and a gathering of officers, all sitting down to a sumptuous meal. Claire is invited to join them, and the General fawns all over Claire, complimenting her on her beauty and exclaiming over what a treat it is for them to have an “English rose” join them. The officers are rude and insulting toward the Scots, and mock Dougal’s accent (“damned offensive to the ear”) and appearance. He takes it all for a time, standing by Claire’s side in a posture of protection, until finally he’s basically kicked out. Dougal leaves with dignity, headed downstairs for some “good Scottish ale”.

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The men seem enchanted by Claire, who tells her (make-believe) story of how she came to be stranded in the Highlands. General Thomas offers to have Claire escorted back to Inverness, and she’s delighted, so much so that she decides to have more wine. Uh oh. Claire has shown that she doesn’t hold herself together very well when she drinks. But all is well, right? Everything is set, she’s been promised an escort back on her journey, and the whole unfortunate Highland business is done. Right? Right? Oh, Claire.

Claire’s prospects take a decidedly downward turn with the sudden intrusion of Black Jack Randall, who bursts into the room full of dust and bluster, annoying the General no end. BJR is a man who is an obedient soldier while making his indifference and independence abundantly clear. He defers to the General at the same time that he makes it obvious that he has no respect for the man.

BJR and Claire recognize one another from their initial encunter, but both deny having met before. Tension mounts, particularly as BJR informs the group that a group of British soldiers has been attacked by a band of Scots. BJR dominates the room and the conversation, and skillfully plays Claire, maneuvering her emotions and subtly egging her on until she finally makes a statement that turns the room against her. He insinuates that Claire has been sleeping with Dougal, choosing “barbarians” over her own people, and Claire takes the bait, angrily denying his accusation and declaring that the Scots just want freedom:

“It is their land, and we are occupying it.”

Thud. Claire has really stepped in it. The General’s reply says it all: “I believe it is the king’s land.” He tells Claire that he finds her loyalties “extremely puzzling”. Without doing much of anything, BJR has won.

There’s a flurry from below — a man wounded in the ambush has been brought into the tavern, and Claire dashes downstairs to help. Dougal pulls Claire aside and tries to get her to leave. He saw Randall go upstairs and knows that the man is highly dangerous. Claire disregards Dougal’s attempt to take her away (foolish Claire) and insists on treating the injured man, who needs his arm amputated. Close-up on the arm. Ick.

By the time Claire makes it back upstairs, the situation has changed dramatically. All of the officers have left to deal with the recent ambush, and she walks in to find BJR sitting alone at the table with a very nervous corporal giving him a shave.

Flashback! Claire recognizes the straight-razor as the same one that she use to shave Frank. Now simply a tool belonging to BJR, it will become a 200-year-old family heirloom by the time it belongs to Frank.

Back to the dining room, where BJR scarily intimidates the young corporal before sending him out of the room, leaving Claire very much alone with a man she realizes is very dangerous to her well-being. He insists that she’s been lying to everyone, shows utter disdain for General Thomas, and informs Claire that she’s going nowhere until he gets the truth. She spins a sad story of being a woman who was a fool for love, following a lover to Scotland only to realize that what he felt was not love, but lust. Her heart has been broken, and she begs BJR to ask her no further questions, as she does not want to sink to her ex-lover’s level by exposing him to scandal and disgrace.

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BJR isn’t buying it. He leaves Claire hanging while he sketches a drawing of her, then tells her it’s called “Beautiful Lies”. BJR is weirdly scary. He never raises his voice, but the danger is so clear. Finally, we come to the crux of the matter: BJR knows that the MacKenzies have been raising funds for the Jacobite cause, and wants Claire to give him proof. She insists that she has no knowledge of his, and has never seen them doing anything of the kind. If she will not comply with his demands, BJR tells her, “I shall be forced to use methods less pleasant than talk.”

Once again, Claire falls into his trap. NOOOOOOOO. Claire rises to the bait and says that she knows all about his “methods”, and that while at Castle Leoch she heard about a poor “Highland boy” who received 100 lashes upon 100 lashes. NOOOOOOO. Claire, stop! Don’t bring up Jamie! Wow, is BJR eager to jump into this topic. And now he knows that Jamie is with the MacKenzies.

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This brings us to the centerpiece of the episode, in which BJR recounts to Claire the story of Jamie’s flogging. We’ve heard a brief mention from Jamie, but here we get the sordid, bloody details from the man who carried it out, and it’s scary and disgusting. In an extended flashback, we hear BJR’s narration as we see the events — Jamie chained to the whipping post in the courtyard, a crowd of Scots forced to bear witness (including Dougal and Jamie’s father), and the stubborn courage Jamie shows in the face of overwhelming fear, as his already destroyed back is subject to another round of flogging only days after he received the initial 100 lashes. It’s horrifying.

BJR is challenged, intrigued, and (we can surmise) aroused by the fact that Jamie takes so much abuse and pain without crying out. BJR is determined:

“I will break you.”

His language in describing the events is sickeningly full of wonder and awe:

“I was hurting him. The sheer judder of the whip coursing up my arm, exploding in to my heart.”

The flesh hangs from Jamie’s back. He can barely keep to his feet. But BJR’s words are a stark contrast to the horror:

“I could see the beauty. I saw the truth. That boy and I, we were creating a masterpiece. An exquisite, bloody masterpiece.”

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Claire listens with tears streaming down her face, but insists to BJR that “it is not too late to win back your humanity”. She tells him there is hope yet for his soul, and that he can return to the goodness that must still be inside him. He seems to consider her words and take them to heart, offers her a hand to help her stand… and then sucker-punches her in the gut, leaving her gasping on the floor. He proclaims to Claire that he dwells in darkness, and that seems to be where he wants to remain. He calls his corporal into the room and orders him to kick Claire, which he does.

Dougal bursts in, scares off the corporal, and raises Claire to her feet, putting a protective arm around her. He’s going to take her away, but BJR says no… until Dougal threatens war on the spot if BJR tries to stand in their way. BJR backs down, and orders Dougal to bring Claire to Fort William by the following evening for further questioning, or he’ll hunt Dougal down and punish him and all the MacKenzies who get in the way, “even unto death.”

Dougal and Claire leave, and ride off on their horses as fast as they can. Dougal calls a stop by a hidden spring, and while Claire is drinking, asks her one more time if she is a spy for the English or French. Claire denies it, then sees that Dougal had been holding his dirk behind his back in case she gave the wrong answer. He can finally trust her, because this is St. Ninian’s spring, and if you drink from it and tell a lie, it will burn you from the inside out. Claire is still alive and well, so she must be telling the truth!

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Claire is upset and believes the MacKenzies will have no choice but to turn her over to BJR, but Dougal tells her there’s another way. The British cannot compel a Scot from clan lands, so Claire needs to become a Scot. Huh? She must marry a Scot, and thereby become a Scot herself. What, marry Dougal? Nope, he chuckles. He might like the idea of having sex with Claire, but he’s not going to marry her — he has someone else in mind as the bridegroom.

In the final scene, we see Claire drinking (again!) while reading over a marriage contract. Jamie comes to sit by her side, and he seems perfectly willing to follow Dougal’s orders and marry Claire. Claire is unhappy, but sees no way out. She tries to get Jamie to change his mind or object, but he rationally responds:

“You’ve mended my wounds more than once. Besides, what kind of friend would I be if I left ye to that mad bastard Randall?”

All seems settled. All Claire can do at this point is keep drinking.

Steam factor:

The flashback scene to Claire shaving Frank — him shirtless, her in a sexy nightgown, all framed by an open window — is sweetly sexy and loving.

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Fashion statements:

Claire wears that beautiful pleated green dress throughout this episode, with and without the shawl over her shoulders:

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Her nightgown in the flashback scene is lovely (the picture doesn’t really do it justice):

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Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • Black Jack Randall is a sociopathic, disgusting, amoral sadist.
  • Basically, he’s the worst thing in the world.
  • Like, rotten to the core.
  • Jamie is brave, strong, and true, and has lived through hell.

Memorable lines:

Putting the emphasis on the positive, I’ll just include the concluding dialogue from the episode:

Claire: “Doesn’t it bother you that I’m not a virgin?”

Jamie: “Well, no. So long as it doesn’t bother you that I am. I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.”

Character impressions:

The sadistic nature of Black Jack Randall is revealed, and it’s horrifying and scary as hell. This is a bad guy way outside the typical TV versions of bad guys. Through quiet talk and intimidation, he does more damage to Claire than any show of force could.

Dougal is seen here as strong and defiant. Even as a man being mocked, he maintains his dignity and pride. He could easily have dumped Claire, but he takes on a protector role and won’t leave her to BJR’s mercy. Of course, we know as well that he has a vested interest in keeping Claire out of BJR’s hands. She’s seen a lot on their travels, and does know about their Jacobite activities. I don’t believe Dougal’s protection of Claire is only mercenary — he does need to keep her from informing on the MacKenzies, but he is also a gallant man who cannot abide seeing a woman abused so brutally.

Jamie is very matter-of-fact about the upcoming marriage, and seems to see it as the duty of a friend to marry a woman in need. He points out to Claire that he really has no marriage prospects, as no father would want a man with a price on his head as a husband for his daughter.

Takeaway:

This is a breathtaking episode, with all action centered around the table in the dining room. All events stem from that set piece, as Claire’s fortunes rise and then fall again over a brief period of time.

Claire is often described in the books as having a “glass face”, meaning that her emotions are always obvious to anyone looking at her, and Caitriona Balfe makes that so true in this episode. I absolutely believe that you could watch this episode with the sound muted and you’d still know exactly what was happening just by watching the changing expressions on her face. It’s an astounding performance.

As I said earlier, this episode has an intensity and dramatic arc throughout that build and build and build, a cohesive, powerful approach to storytelling that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s quite a masterpiece, and despite the lightness of the ending scene, the stakes are high and the danger is real.

From here, we know that there are two overarching stories to pay attention to: Jamie and Claire’s relationship, and the threat of Black Jack Randall. We may not see him again immediately, but we’re now on notice that BJR thrives on pain and would love nothing more than to continue to hurt and threaten Claire and Jamie.

 

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 105, “Rent”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 5: “Rent”

OL rewatch

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

Claire joins the MacKenzie rent-collecting trip. To her horror, Dougal uses Jamie’s scars to gain sympathy for the Jacobite cause. Claire recalls that a defining moment in Scottish history is fast approaching.

My synopsis:

First things first — this is not what this episode is about:

 

Okay then…

This episode opens with a simply breathtaking shot:

Claire view

The MacKenzies are on the road, traveling through MacKenzie land to collect rent from the tenants. Claire sees this trip as her best option for escape, but she’s watched constantly (and also has no real idea of where she is), so running off seems unlikely. The landscapes throughout this episode are stunning.

Claire recites a John Donne poem as she gazes across the loch, and is joined by a spry older man, the lawyer Ned Gowan. He seems like a kindred spirit, someone a bit apart from the Highlander hooligans, and they bond over poetry and Claire’s treatment for Ned’s allergies.

The group sleeps in tents and tells bawdy stories around campfires, using Gaelic to exclude Claire. Jamie treats Claire with kindness, reassuring her that no one hates her (except maybe Angus, who hates everyone), and urging her to just chill and not take offense.

When they reach a village, Ned sets up a table to tally the rent, which includes not only coins, but bags of wheat, goats, and pigs. Dougal is chummy with all the villagers, and Claire gets bored and wanders off. She meets a group of women engaged in waulking wool — using “hot piss” to set the dye. This is an amazing scene, showing the production’s efforts to include cultural moments from the history of the Highlands.

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The women sing as they work, and Claire joins in. (I couldn’t help worrying about her pretty dress!) Check out the song from the Outlander soundtrack:

There’s trouble, though. Angus is “pissed” (ha!) that Claire wandered off and drags her back to the men, who are preparing to move on. Claire is angry at her treatment and acts out, trying to return a goat given as rent to a family who needs the milk for their baby. As a major confrontation with Dougal ensues, a young man with an English accent approaches, asking if Claire needs assistance. He’s outnumbered by the clansmen, who send him packing. Later, we see him don a red coat — he’s an English officer.

In a tavern that night, Claire witnesses what will become a repeated events during their travels. Dougal gives an impassioned speech to the gathered villagers (in Gaelic, of course, so Claire has no idea what he’s saying). The climax comes when Dougal rips the shirt off Jamie’s back, displaying his horrifying scars to one and all — which inspired the people present to hand over coins to Dougal and Ned. Jamie looks upset. He hates being used that way. Claire is disgusted. From what she can see, Dougal is using Jamie’s back as a way to scare the people into paying protection money. Basically, she believes he’s stealing money and hiding it from Colum. Her opinion of Dougal and the rest of the MacKenzie group plummets.

At the next camping site, Claire continues to sit apart from the men, filled with anger. She refuses the food she’s handed, accusing the men of thievery, causing a meltdown by Angus. Claire is hurt and upset, and Jamie tries to calm her down, cautioning her not to judge what she doesn’t understand.

As the rent party continues on the road, they encounter the Watch — a group of Scots who extort money from people in order to protect them from Redcoats. Anyone who doesn’t pay up gets punished, like by having their houses burned down. Jamie makes himself scarce. Murtagh explains to Claire that since Jamie has a price on his head, if the Watch sees him and realize that he’s wanted, they’d turn him over in a second in order to get the reward.

Later, there’s a harrowing sight — two Highlanders crucified along the roadside with the letter T, for traitor, carved into their chests. Clearly, they’ve been killed by redcoats and left there as a warning sign. The group cuts the men down and buries them. At the next stop, when Dougal again launches into his speech and collects payment, Claire finally recognizes the Gaelic phrase for “Long Live the Stuart” — and realizes that Dougal isn’t a thief… he’s a Jacobite. Dougal is collecting money for the uprising aiming to restore the Stuarts to the throne.

Flashback: Claire remembers visiting the Culloden battlefield memorial with Frank, as he explains the battle of Culloden in 1746, which was a devastating defeat that essentially spelled the end of the Highlander clans and culture. As Claire looks again at her traveling companions, she realizes that the battle at Culloden is coming in only three years, and that all of these men could be slaughtered. She tries to warn Ned, telling him that the Rising will fail — but he responds coldly, telling her that it’s just her opinion.

Culloden memorial

Culloden memorial

The group sleeps at the tavern, and Claire finally has a room to herself, a change from sleeping out of doors. She hears a noise, goes to investigate, and trips over Jamie, who is sleeping on the floor outside her room. (2nd episode in a row where she trips over Jamie. These two are adorable.) He explains that the men are drunk and rowdy, and that after Dougal’s performance, Sassenachs like her aren’t exactly popular. Basically, he’s there to protect Claire. Awwwww. She tells him to at least sleep in her room, rather than in the hallway, and he’s aghast at the idea of sleeping in the same room as her because it would damage her reputation. Claire seems amused, and practically twinkles at him.

Next morning, there’s a huge brawl in the tavern. Turns out that a neighboring table of men have been talking trash about Claire, and her gang isn’t having it. They look like they’re having a blast during the fight. Claire patches up the scrapes and bruises, and is touched to realize they’ve been defending her. Later, she jokes with the men and seems to finally be accepted by them. Jamie looks pleased as punch to see Claire and the men laughing together.

Finally, at the next stop, Claire goes off to wash in the stream and Dougal follows her, again demanding to know her secrets. Ned has told Dougal about Claire’s predictions about the failure of the Jacobite cause, and Dougal’s suspicions about Claire are fired up all over again. In the midst of their confrontation, the redcoat they’d encountered earlier shows up, this time in full uniform and with a bunch of other men, all fully armed and on horseback. Lt. Foster asks Claire once more if she needs assistance. Dougal and Claire are surrounded, and all Dougal can do is wait to see how Claire will answer.

“Tell me madam – are you here by own your own choice?”

Close-up on Claire’s face and… scene! We end on a cliffhanger moment — will Claire stick with the MacKenzies, or will she ask to be rescued, which would surely result in violence for the men? Stay tuned!

Steam factor:

No actual steam in this episode, but there were sparks! Jamie seems to be taking on a protector role around Claire, keeping an eye out for her and reining her back in when she makes the men angry. He’s made it clear that he’ll keep her safe if it’s in his power to do so.

In the scene by Claire’s door, she hands him a blanket and their hands touch briefly — and yes, there was definitely some electricity in their connection at that moment.

Fashion statements:

Claire’s traveling coat is so lovely, and we also see her in this capelet (which has caused its own little fashion stir on Etsy and elsewhere):

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Claire’s traveling clothes are simple yet beautiful, and her accessories include her fichu and more mitts (again, tons available on Etsy — this show has done wonders for crafters!):

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We also get our first glimpse of Claire’s green pleated dress and the shawl she wears over it, which we’ll see a lot of in the next episode:

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(For more on the amazing costumes of Outlander, I’d recommend checking out costume designer Terry Dresbach’s blog, http://www.terrydresbach.com).

Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • The Jacobite cause is heating up. The redcoats are abusive toward the Highlanders, and the resentment is growing.
  • The Watch is a dangerous group. Cross them at your own peril.
  • Claire is disturbed by her knowledge of the future, and fears what will happen to the people she’s come to know.
  • Jamie is upset by how Dougal uses his scars for his own purposes, but remains obedient to his uncle for now.

Memorable lines:

Dougal to Claire: “Stop your havering, woman.”

Jamie to Claire: “What’s got into you, woman?”

Dougal in the tavern (in Gaelic): “Long live the Stuart!”

Jamie to Claire in the inn:

“Sleep in  your room? With you? I couldn’t do that. Your reputation would be ruined.”

Murtagh, after the brawl in the inn:

“You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you. But God help any other man that does!”

Character impressions:

Once again, we see amazing character development for Dougal, who has quickly become one of the most fascinating characters on the show. Dougal is vulgar and funny with his men, telling bawdy tales around a fire. He’s warm toward the MacKenzie tenants, acknowledging each by name, with a personal comment for all. He’s a fierce orator, rousing group after group with tales of redcoat abuse, drumming up support for the Jacobite cause. He may be harsh and suspicious with Claire, but he has a tender side too, returning the wheat and other goods paid in rent by a village that had a bad year, making sure everyone can feed their families.

Claire doesn’t always come across in the best light in this episode. She’s allowing her prejudices and modern-day opinions to color her views of the men of the traveling party. They may be excluding her, but she’s also alienating them by being so judgmental and scornful. It’s Jamie who gives her the wake-up call she needs by cautioning her not to judge what she doesn’t understand. By the episode’s end, Claire seems more open toward viewing the good of these men, and in return, they begin to accept her as belonging to them.

This episode also introduces two fun characters, Ned Gowan and the young clansman, Willie. Both can be counted on to be entertaining whenever they pop up in future episodes.

Takeaway:

This is the first episode that really brought the politics of the Jacobite rebellion to the foreground, and the first episode (I believe) in which Claire directly tries to warn someone to change a course of action because of her knowledge of future events. It’s ironic that by the episode’s end, she seems to have begun to gain the trust of the men who disliked her at the start, while she’s also alienated the one person, Ned Gowan, who started out as an ally.

This episode also shows a growing connection between Claire and Jamie. Claire seems to realize that Jamie will help her if he can, and Jamie follows through on his promise from the very first episode to protect her. The attraction between the two remains unacknowledged, but it’s certainly there.

Final takeaway: Scotland is gorgeous.

 

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 104, “The Gathering”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 4: “The Gathering”

OL rewatch

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

As the Castle prepares for The Gathering, Claire plots her escape. But after a dangerous encounter with a drunken Dougal and an unexpected run-in with Jamie, her plans are dashed.

My synopsis:

We open on a scene that seems fraught with peril. Claire is running through the woods, breathing hard, seemingly desperate. Is she in danger? Is someone pursuing her? Yes, there are pursuers — but they’re not at all dangerous. Claire is playing games with the castle children, rollicking through silly chases with them, laughing and making herself the center of attention. But does this mean that Claire has settled into castle life and accepts that she must stay there? Not a bit. She’s a smart cookie, that Claire. She’s using the forest games to learn the routes in and out of the castle, leave behind ribbons and other items to mark her path, and study the sentries’ habits and schedules. Claire is determined to escape Leoch once and for all, and figures that the Gathering will provide her with the best opportunity, while the men of Clan MacKenzie are busy and distracted.

Still, Claire can’t help but feel that she’ll miss the community and the people she’s come to know over the past several weeks, the “simple joy” she sees as the folks gather to share food, songs, and games, the pleasure they seem to take in spending time together.

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Geillis shows up early for the Gathering, surprising Claire in her surgery and making a lot of pointed statements. It seems as though Geillis knows exactly what Claire is planning, and questions her without ever saying exactly what she means. Claire is on her toes around Geillis at this point and send her on her way, but this is yet more evidence that all eyes are on Claire.

Claire plans to run off while everyone is attending the Oath Taking, a formal ceremony during which each man present swears his allegiance to Colum as Laird of the clan. Claire’s plans are foiled by the doting (but interfering) Mrs. Fitz, who drags Claire off to get properly dressed and then takes her to watch the ceremony. Finally, Claire slips out (after dosing her guard Angus with port laced with valerian root, a sedative) and heads for the stables. Her plan is to steal a horse and escape under cover of night.

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This does not go as planned. First, Claire encounters a group of drunk and randy Highlanders who want to have some fun with Claire. She’s not having it, and neither is Dougal, who comes along and kicks their butts. But Dougal is quite drunk as well, and after getting particularly handsy with Claire, she bops him over the head with a stool and makes her escape… only to trip over Jamie, who’s been sleeping in the stable in the hopes of lying low until the ceremony is all over.

Jamie talks reason to Claire. She’ll never make it, if she tries to escape. There are guards posted throughout the woods. She has absolutely no chance of getting away without being noticed, and if she’s caught escaping, her treatment as an honored member of the castle will change dramatically, and she’ll end up locked up as a prisoner. Claire is forced to recognize the futility of escape — for the moment — and agrees to return to the castle with Jamie as an escort, as it’s clearly not safe for her to be out alone while there are so many drunk and horny men out and about.

Alas, the two are found, and Jamie is bustled off to the castle to take his oath before Colum. No big deal, am I right? thinks Claire. Nope, she’s wrong. This place is just teeming with political machinations. As nephew to the Laird, if Jamie takes the oath, he’ll stand a good chance of being next in line to be Laird himself, which would not sit well with Dougal and Colum. But if he refuses to take the oath, it’s a huge insult, and the MacKenzie men will have his blood. Basically, he’s screwed. Either way, he ends up dead.

Not to worry – Jamie can maneuver with the best of ’em. When Jamie gets to the front of the line, he tells Colum that he cannot make a pledge to him, as his loyalty is already given to the clan whose name he bears. But, he can offer friendship, and swears to be obedient to Colum and to serve the MacKenzies as long as he is on MacKenzie land. After a tense moment with lots of hands hovering over sword hilts, Colum smiles and drinks with Jamie. Whew! That was a close one.

Outlander 2014

The next morning, a large group heads into the forest for a boar hunt. Claire is brought along, because boars have very sharp tusks and the skills of a healer are likely to be needed. And they are. A man named Geordie is gored by a charging boar, and at first Claire thinks he’s treatable so long as she tourniquets the leg — but then she sees the blood on his shirt and looks beneath to see that his stomach has been ripped open as well. It’s fatal, she tells Dougal — and in a moment of surprising tenderness, Dougal holds the dying man in his arms, talking to him and giving him comfort until he passes. It’s a rare bonding moment for Dougal and Claire.

On returning to the castle, Dougal works off his rage over the loss of his friend by jumping into a very lively (and dirty) shinty game. This is one of my favorite action sequences in Outlander — check it out:


Finally, Dougal visits Claire in her surgery and praises her help with Geordie. He tells her that he leaves the next morning to travel through the MacKenzie lands to collect the quarterly rents, and he’s bringing her with him, as it will be good to have a healer along. Once again, Claire’s hopes rise — away from the castle, on the road for weeks, will she finally have the escape opportunity she’s been looking for?

Cameo Alert!

Author Diana Gabaldon and show creater Ron Moore each had cameos in this episode, and Diana even had a brief speaking part. They both looked fab all done up in period costume:

cameos DG cameo

Steam factor:

This episode was pretty low on the steam factor, unless you count Angus and Rupert pulling straws to determine who gets first crack at the lovely wench stirring the pot of soup.

Fashion statements:

Once again, gorgeousness abounds! Can we just talk about the awesomeness that is Geillis? Her look changes so greatly from scene to scene, but you can always tell that she’s in control, but never just part of a crowd. First, she looks practically perfect as a presentable, proper wife of an important man, during the scene in which she visits Claire in the surgery:

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But at the Gathering, her hair is down, and she’s wearing this amazing, flowing dress that sets her apart from the crowd even while not straying too far from what’s acceptable. All that, and a sly little hint of Jacobite loyalties, too — that brooch on her shoulder features a painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s eye.

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Claire certainly look beautiful in her pretty party clothes:

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And even Mrs. Fitz gets dolled up for the special occasion!

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And as the riding party leaves in the final moments of the episode, Claire has yet another new garment. Check out the fancy fur on her traveling cloak! (Jamie looks pretty dashing too, with the jaunty angle of his cap.)

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Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • Clan politics is serious business that can get you dead.
  • Jamie is Dougal and Colum’s nephew, and if not officially a MacKenzie, he at least has the MacKenzie talent for manipulation and maneuvering one’s enemies.
  • Dougal’s drunken pawing at Claire seems to reveal an unacknowledged desire on his part for the lovely Englishwoman. Claire had better watch herself around him.
  • Healing in the Highlands gets pretty intense, and boars are deadly.
  • Murtagh always has Jamie’s back.

Memorable lines:

Laoghaire asks Claire for a love potion, something to “open a lad’s heart to a lassie”. The kissing part is going fine, for sure, but she needs help “moving his heart forward.”

Claire is in too big of a rush to worry about Laoghaire, and gives her a concoction of horse dung, telling Laoghaire to sprinkle it near the man she wants, click her heels together three times, and chant:

“There’s no place like love, there’s no place like love… “

Gaellis’s matter-of-fact storytelling seems to contain a warning for Claire:

“The Highlands are no place for a woman to be alone.”

Character impressions:

With each episode, we see more and more sides of Dougal. Here, he’s the loyal brother at the side of his chief, but he’s also a political mastermind who isn’t afraid of a little murder if that’s what it takes to hold onto power. He’s never shown any tenderness toward Claire before, but between his drunken fumbling and his reluctant acknowledgement of her help with the dying man, we get the sense that he wants her and that he sees her as valuable.

Takeaway:

Claire still wants to escape and return to Frank more than anything, but she has also adapted quite a bit to her new surroundings and has carved out a place of respect for herself. Her friendships and entanglements with the Highlanders will be complications if she wants to see her plans through and get away.

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 103, “The Way Out”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 3: “The Way Out”

OL rewatch

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

Claire decides to use her medical skills to aid her escape from Castle Leoch – with Jamie’s help, she tends to an ill child. During an evening’s entertainment, a story gives Claire hope for her freedom.

My synopsis:

We open on a train platform in the 1940s, as Claire and Frank, dressed in uniforms, say good-bye. It’s a typical wartime scene, except Claire is the one heading to the front. As the train pulls away, they share one last kiss, and Frank asks Claire to promise to return to him. “I will, Frank Randall. I promise.”

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Quick-cut to the 1740s, and Claire is in Castle Leoch, once again being fussed over by Mrs. Fitz, who washes her hair and admires her purty skin. Claire is moved to confess the truth to Mrs. Fitz: Her husband isn’t dead. He hasn’t been born yet. Claire has fallen through time. She describes her journey through the stones and her need to return. Mrs. F. understands Claire’s meaning all right — she’s a witch! Slap!

But no, it was all a dream, and Claire realizes that she can never share her secret with Mrs. Fitz or anyone else at Leoch. Mrs. F. tells Claire that a big Gathering is taking place soon at Castle Leoch, during which the people of Clan MacKenzie come from all over to swear fealty to the Laird. It’ll be a big affair with tons of people, and they’re sure to need a skilled healer. Mrs. F. advises Claire to get in Colum’s good graces through her “physicking”, and Claire decides that perhaps if she’s successful at treating the illnesses and wounds of Colum’s people, he’ll be more inclined to treat her with kindness and allow her to leave. (Yeah, right…)

Claire sets up the surgery, sorting through all the odds and ends left behind by her predecessor (icky wood lice and ant eggs among the treasure trove) and finding some useful herbs and powders that she can use. Angus and Rupert are assigned to watch her pretty much round the clock, although they find her medical business horribly boring and tend to sneak off to the kitchen to drink whenever possible.

Claire finds out that a young boy has died, supposedly killed by demons after playing at the “black kirk”. Uh oh! Mrs. Fitz’s nephew Thomas was good friends with the boy who died. Young Thomas summons Claire to Colum’s chambers, where the Laird is busy terrorizing a tailor whose work was not up to standards. Colum then asks Claire to massage him in order to relieve the pain he experiences from his deformed legs. Claire complies, and the two share a less tense moment than they have so far. In gratitude for her skilled hands, Colum invites Claire to be his guest in the hall that night to hear a visiting singer.

Bad tailoring = knife at your throat.

Bad tailoring = knife at your throat.

At the hall, Claire hangs out with Laoghaire and tries to encourage the girl in her crush on Jamie, but Jamie isn’t especially kind to the poor girl, focusing on chatting with Claire instead. Claire has a bit too much of the Rhenish again and Jamie sees her safely back to her room in the surgery. Claire insists on checking on Jamie’s wound, and there’s a heated energy between the two as she stands very close to him to untie his stock and unbutton his shirt. Sparks and sizzle!

The next day, Claire and Geillis are picking herbs in the garden, and Claire hears that young Thomas is possessed by the same demon that killed the other boy. Father Bane is going to perform an exorcism! Claire is horrified, and Geillis tries to warn Claire away from interfering, but to no avail — Claire scurries off to the village and demands to treat the boy, earning herself a fierce enemy in the affronted Father Bane. The priest is a scary dude, forcefully splashing holy water all over the sick boy while Claire watches with dismay.

Back at the castle, Claire happens to see Jamie and Laoghaire stealing a kiss in the corner of the kitchen. Jamie sees Claire watching and gives her a look before diving back in for another kiss. Claire can’t help teasing Jamie about it over dinner later. It’s pretty hilarious, but Murtagh warns Claire off, saying that if Colum or Laoghaire’s father were to find out, Jamie could find himself stuck with a wife, and Laoghaire’s definitely not the wife he should have. (Well, obviously!)

Dougal offers to take Claire to the village with him in the morning to see Geillis so she can stock up on herbs and powders before the Gathering. Geillis’s workroom is half distillery, half witch’s lair, with potions brewing and a fire in the fireplace that backlights her just so — a slightly hellish symbolism, perhaps? A rabble gathers in the street as a young boy is dragged in for justice by — who else? — Father Bane. The boy is accused of stealing, but Geillis uses her feminine wiles to convince her husband, the judge in such matters, to be lenient. The boy is sentenced to an hour in the pillory and to have one ear nailed, which is just as gross as it sounds. Claire is again horrified by the local customs, and Geillis makes pretty clear that she knows that Claire is hiding secrets about where she came from and who she really is.

Jamie comes to bring Claire back to the castle, rescuing her from Geillis’s prying, and Claire convinces Jamie to help her free the boy while she distracts the crowd. After pulling this off, she asks for more help — they visit the ruins of the Black Kirk, and Claire realizes that the possessed boy was poisoned by a plant that grows there. Claire to the rescue! She bursts into the boy’s sickroom and provides an antidote, earning the love and devotion of Mrs. F and her family and the eternal hatred of Father Bane.

Once again listening to the singer that evening, Jamie translates a song for Claire, all about a woman who traveled through stones on a fairy hill to a time not her own, spent years there, but finally came back to her own husband. It’s an extremely literal version of Claire’s story, which made me laugh, but Claire took it to mean that others had been through her experience before and made it back to their own time.

By the end of the episode, Claire is more determined than ever to escape the castle and find a way back to the standing stones.

Steam factor:

Some intense looks were shared by Jamie and Claire as she opened his shirt to check his wounds. Can you say sexual tension? Claire may be too consumed with the need to get back to Frank to pay too much attention just yet, but Jamie sees to be very much aware of Claire’s awesomeness.

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There’s also the Jamie/Laoghaire kiss, but let’s pretend that never happened, shall we?

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Fashion statements:

So many gorgeous outfits in this episode! Mrs. Fitz seems to have a never ending supply of pretty lady clothes, as Claire looks terrific in every scene, dressed in lovely dark colors that set off her beautiful skin and rich brown hair.

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Geillis takes the prize for this episode, though, with that crazy furry top of hers (that she seems to keep petting)…

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… not to mention those amazing red shoes.

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Key points:

Major facts that the episode gets on the table:

  • Do not judge Colum MacKenzie’s appearance or try to cover up his legs. He’ll shiv ya.
  • Geillis is sly and manipulative, and seems to know an awful lot about Claire. Claire had better watch out around that one.
  • Jamie and Claire seem to be clicking. They have an easy connection and trust between them already.
  • Laoghaire seems like a lovestruck girl so far.
  • Murtagh is protective of Jamie, and make no mistake about it.
  • The Gathering, in the next episode, will be a big deal.
  • Claire’s healing skills are earning her the respect of the MacKenzie brothers, but this only makes them less willing to let her leave.
  • Father Bane is not an enemy you want to have, Claire. Watch out.

Memorable lines:

Father Bane: “I smell the vapors of hell on you.”

Claire’s teasing of Jamie at dinner, after witnessing the kiss:

“Your lip looks a little swollen, Jamie. Did you get thumped by a horse? […] Those fillies can be dangerous.”

And Murtagh’s reprimand to Claire:

“That’s no the wife he should have. He needs a woman, not a lassie. And Laoghaire will be a girl until she’s fifty.”

Jamie, after freeing the boy nailed to the pillory:

“Ye wouldn’t expect me to be less bold than a wee Sassenach lassie, would ye?”

After an evening of drinking way too much wine:

Claire: “Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”   Jamie: “I’d be impressed if ye weren’t.”

Character impressions:

Claire is making a name for herself as a healer, and although she doesn’t want to stay there, it seems as though she’s adapting to life in the castle and getting some satisfaction from being useful and doing what she’s good at. She seems to have earned herself a loyal supporter in Mrs. Fitz, but she’s also gaining enemies, and that’ll come back to bite her.

We see more sides of Jamie, who lets Claire learn a bit more about his background (he seems to want her to know that he’s an educated man, not just a roughneck). Jamie’s appears to be attracted to Claire, but he’s also a healthy young man, and with Laoghaire throwing herself at him, I suppose we can forgive Jamie for sneaking kisses.

Colum has a streak of violence that’s perhaps less obvious than Dougal’s, but he certainly knows how to threaten without ever raising his voice.

Takeaway:

Claire hasn’t made much progress in gaining the MacKenzies’ trust, but she is establishing herself as a lady and a healer and has earned some grudging respect. Her high hopes of escape seem like a pipe dream, though, but Claire isn’t one to give up easily.

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 102, “Castle Leoch”

Outlander, Season 1, Episode 2: “Castle Leoch”

OL rewatch

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.

My synopsis:

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.

Stand-out moments:

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.

Steam factor:

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!

Fashion statements:

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:

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to finished product, it’s a wonderful little vignette that captures being transformed from one type of woman to something else entirely.

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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:

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Key points:

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.

Memorable lines:

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.”

Character impressions:

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.

Takeaway:

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.

 

Outlander Rewatch: Episode 101, “Sassenach”

Counting down until the premiere of the 2nd season of Outlander… and what better way to get ready than by rewatching season 1!

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Outlander, Season 1, Episode 1: “Sassenach”

The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:

While on her honeymoon, WWII combat nurse Claire Randall is mysteriously transported back to 1743 Scotland, where she is kidnapped by a group of Highlanders – and meets an injured young man named Jamie.

My synopsis:

Claire and her husband Frank are trying to rekindle their marriage, and perhaps start a family, after five years of separation during WWII. Claire was a battlefield nurse, Frank an intelligence officer, and they saw each other only ten days during those five years. Now reunited, they’ve traveled to the Scottish Highlands to reconnect and share a little romance — although Frank seems to be a tad too focused on genealogy when he should be concentrating on his sexy-nightgown-wearing wife.

In the immortal words of Phoebe Buffay:

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After a peek at the local Druids dancing (beautifully) on the hilltop of Craigh na Dun amidst the standing stones on the eve of Samhain, Claire returns to the site to pick some flowers, places her hands on the stones, and is transported back through time to 1743…. where she is threatened by none other than Frank’s nefarious ancestor, Black Jack Randall, then rescued by a band of Highlanders.

Between the kilts, the redcoats with muskets, the very smelly smells, and the lack of electrical lights in Inverness, Claire accepts the bizarre truth that she’s journeyed through time. After mending the dislocated shoulder of gorgeous “young Jamie”, she’s taken along with the gang as they flee their redcoat pursuers. Claire shares Jamie’s horse — and isn’t she lucky? He’s both the cleanest and handsomest of the bunch, and also seems to be the only one to treat her with an ounce of respect. (Well, can you blame them? Even in her own time, Claire would stand out as a woman who speaks her mind and defers to exactly no one.)

Claire applies the 20th century knowledge she’s picked up from her historian husband (thanks, Frank!) to warn the Highlanders of a redcoat ambush, then takes advantage of the skirmish to try to flee. Jamie stops her, quite dashingly, and gives her the choice of coming along willingly or being thrown over his shoulder and carried. Back on Jamie’s horse she goes.

The episode wraps up with Claire treating Jamie yet again for his injuries — this will be a recurring theme! — and then arriving back at Castle Leoch with her kilted road buddies.

Stand-out moments:

Can I say — all of them?

More specifics, then. First of all, I’m convinced that Outlander has the world’s most beautiful opening song and title sequence ever:


Second, the visual WOW of it all. The landscapes are gorgeous. The costumes? We’ve only just begun, but the work to make them stunning and historically fitting is remarkable.

Third, for the book lovers, this first episode was a hold-your-breath, edge-of-the-seat moment: Could the TV version capture the magic and the spirit of the books?

Episode 1 answers that question with a resounding YES.

Two other elements that are important to note:

1 – The color palette, as used to emphasize the journey through time. We don’t even really notice how muted the colors are in the 1946 segment of the episode until Claire opens her eyes for the first time in 1743, and we suddenly have these incredibly vivid hues popping from the screen.

2 – Claire’s disorientation is perfectly shown by showcasing her lack of comprehension as the Highlanders around her speak to one another in Gaelic. There are no subtitles — Claire doesn’t understand what they’re saying, and neither do we. It’s a strong but subtle way for the production to emphasize Claire’s isolation, as well as an effective means for putting us in her shoes and letting us see through her eyes.

Steam factor:

It’s all about Claire and Frank in this episode, at least while in the 1940s, much to the dismay of book fans who simply can’t stand the idea of Claire with anyone but you-know-who. Claire and Frank get it on… and on… and on… most notably, in the dingy, dusty cellar of Castle Leoch, in which Claire shows no hesitation about demanding what she wants from her husband, exactly the way she wants it.

The show seems to be making a definitive statement from the very beginning that this is a woman who enjoys her body, enjoys being a sexual being, and expects her lover(s) to be both skilled and attentive. You go, Claire!

Fashion statements:

Claire’s 1940s blue coat outfit is a stunner:

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Her white dress is perfect for the transition from stylish 20th century gal to wild woman running around in a shift:

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And of course, we get our first glimpse of what a bunch of Highlanders look like when they’re out raiding and rumbling with the redcoats:

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Key points:

Again, book fans may not like it, but the show is making it very clear that Claire loves her husband very much. This is important — we have to believe it, or why would she try so hard later on to get back to him? This episode does a good job of establishing several things:

  • Claire’s independence and toughness, as shown by the flashbacks to her unusual childhood and her wartime experiences
  • Her strong sense of herself as a woman with sexual desires who’s comfortable in her own body
  • Her love for Frank
  • Black Jack Randall’s black, black heart… and his reputation
  • That Jamie is a fighter, is tough, has a heart of gold, and is a prince among men. (Okay, maybe a bit of personal bias is intruding here!)

Memorable lines:

“Strange, the things you remember.”

“I don’t hold with rape. And we’ve not got time for it anyway.”

“On your horse, soldier.”

Character impressions:

Dougal comes across as dark, mysterious, clearly in charge, but with a sense of honor too. Most of the other Highlanders (in fact, all but Jamie and Murtagh) seem more like buffoons here, and the episode gives us a brief introduction to Angus and Rupert and their goofy behavior. Frank? Well, besides being more excited about old documents than his wife for half of his honeymoon, he does seem to be an upright, decent sort of guy, if a bit unexciting. (Really, you arrive in your honeymoon suite with your amorous wife and the first thing you do is take out a book? Not cool, dude.)

Takeaway:

Fabulous opening. This oversized episode (64 minutes) does everything it needs to do — introduces the key characters, the setting, the politics, and the major conflicts; creates drama on a micro and macro level; and leaves us wanting more!