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If anyone out there wants to think that “Outlander” is just a fluffy, historical romance series – I challenge them to watch this last night’s episode and not cringe. Claire answers that she is in fact a guest of the MacKenzie clan but is still asked to follow Lt. Foster back to the British stronghold to explain her presence in Scotland to the commanding officer Brigadier General Lord Oliver Thomas. Claire believes that she’s finally in the right hands of people who will help her to head back to Inverness so she can attempt to find a way to ride a one way ticket back to the 21st century at the stones at Craig na Dun.
She is presented to a feast with the upper level soldiers who all are captivated by her fabricated tale on why she was in Scotland to begin with. Dougal MacKenzie is on hand to protect Claire until he’s not so kindly asked to leave. Claire gets a view of the arrogance of the soldiers and their racist views towards the Scots. She’s appalled, particularly when General Thomas asks Dougal directly about what men wear under their kilts.
Things seem to be running smoothly for Claire and her return trip is all but secured when in barges Black Jack Randall who’s mortified to learn that War Chief Dougal MacKenzie is on the property. When he sees Claire he immediately begins re-evaluating the situation and puts doubt in the General’s mind over Claire’s actual loyalties. When a scouting troop returns with one soldier wounded, Claire jumps in to assist with assessing the damage. After assisting the field surgeon with an amputation, she comes back to the dining room to discover Jack by himself, getting a shave from an inferior soldier. Thus begins a dance between the two that ends with Claire demanding an explanation of his actions that resulted in Jamie getting repeatedly whipped. We then get to see the second flogging through Black’s eyes. Composer Bear McCreary tweeted before the episode “Also, my squeamish friends beware…tonight’s @Outlander_Starz contains one of the most graphic scenes I’ve ever scored.” During the flogging, Black embraced his inner beast and hasn’t let go, which unfortunately poor Claire had to learn the hardest most violent way.
In the end Dougal saves the day and whisks her off to head back to the Clan, with the threat of unstoppable force if they don’t bring Claire to the local English fortress the next day. On the way they stop and she drinks out of a stream that the Scots believe has magical truth properties. When she doesn’t spontaneously erupt in flames, Dougal decides to finally trust that she’s not a spy…and decides not to kill her. Instead he arranges another plan to make it so she won’t have to be handed over to the British. The only way to stop that is she needs to become a Scot. She is momentarily mortified that Dougal might be referring to himself, instead, he laughs and tells her that he has a different candidate in mind…his nephew.
Claire is at a loss over why Jamie would accept this task. His reasons are rather adorable – 1) she had patched him up on numerous occasions and he should pay her back 2) he wouldn’t be much of a friend if he handed her over to Randall 3) with the price on his head he isn’t exactly on any father’s list as a “great catch” for their daughters. Still reeling and flabbergasted, Claire asks if he’s bothered that she’s not a virgin – he says, “No, so long as you don’t mind that I am….besides I reckon someone should know what they’re doing in the relationship.” The episode ends with Claire still clinging to the marriage contract, she grabs a full bottle out of Dougal’s hand and runs off.
The episode pretty much ended any fairytale type notions that Claire might’ve had to anything. The more time she spent with the British the more they seemed foreign to her. They were cold in contrast to the MacKenzies who had welcomed her warmly into their community. Dougal who is very hard to read turns out a true hero in this episode, he stands up for Claire and steps in, and saves her from being assaulted by the enemy. For his part, Tobias Menzies gave a top notch performance in the episode. There was never a moment that you would’ve thought that he was Frank Randall. Tobias fully embraced the cold, calculating monster that the entire MacKenzie clan fears. Jamie we learn has to have the highest pain tolerance and strong constitution of any man alive. During his whole whipping he not only spoke not a single word, but as long as he had strength in his body, he kept himself standing upright to take more blows. This rather explains why he’s pretty quick to jump in to a fight, nothing anyone can throw his way could possibly ever be as bad as having the entire top layer of skin flogged off of your back and turn your muscles into chopped meat.
Thankfully after the highly emotionally charged middle of the episode, it ended on a rather light note. Graham McTavish’s Dougal made a comment that referred back to one of the campy, rowdy songs that the fellas were singing on the road in last week’s episode “Rent.” His delivery of the line goes down as one of the best placed, most needed “I really need a good laugh moments” in the history of TV. McTavish also shined in tonight’s episode showing a fierce protective side that now extended to Claire thanks to her truly belonging in their circle.
As for Black Jack, his telling of the tale, of being a man who was just doing his duty and then snapped echoes to many soldiers who over history have lost themselves to the violence of their situations. It should be noted that the entire Garrison of soldiers conveniently all left to hunt for rebels leaving Jack alone with Claire, thereby giving him full rights to do what he pleased with questioning her. That act alone should’ve been enough for Claire to know that “her people” were not on her side anymore, nor are they to be trusted in the slightest. They happily abandoned a fellow Englishwoman to a monster and did not think twice about the consequences or what he might do to her. Compare that to Jamie who wouldn’t even dream of letting her sleep alone in her without him protecting her doorway from fellow drunkard Scots that might want to do her harm, nor would he take a spot on the floor in front of her fire in fear that people would start rumors that they were being inappropriate.
The virgin vs non-virgin thing is a nice way of helping to make for a very uncomfortable wedding night for both Claire and Jamie. Why would Jamie be a virgin? It does mark him as being a strong contrast to the other men in his group who are constantly spouting off about their conquests – Jamie might’ve laughed along with them, but he never participated in the banter. He has mentioned before that he was tutored which should be the clue for Claire that Jamie comes from a more cultured side of the family. Gentlemen who were raised as gentlemen would likely wait until their wedding nights…we can always dream it to be so, right ladies? The more likely answer is that Jamie just never had much of a chance in that territory being constantly on the run from the Red Coats.
After the rather stress-filled nature of this week’s episode, bring on the awkward festivities – The Wedding for next week cannot get her fast enough!