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I spent Droughtlander doing what any pissed off new fan of the Starz series would do, I ran out bought the whole series of books, immediately flipped through “Outlander” to find the scene where Jamie was hanging in the window and commenced with reading. I did eventually go back and read the beginning of the book, but in the course of a couple of days I completely, happily, spoiled myself silly for the rest of Season 1.
Since then I have made it nearly through five of the books in the series and my reviews will heavily contain book spoilers/comparisons – you’ve been warned if you haven’t read the books, read at your own risk.
For the first time in the series we got an episode from Jamie’s point of view. This was a pleasant change since Jamie was rather a background (albeit attractive) character for the first half of the season. He’s also been a very congenial, kind, reserved, happy go lucky kind of a fellow. In this episode, the real Jamie Fraser finally got to show himself.
The episode opened with Jamie’s own musings that were very reminiscent of Claire’s thoughts in “Sassanach” where he reflected over the path of his life and wondered where it would take him. The first eight episodes cast Jamie very much as a lost young man who was unable to make any of his own decisions based on the situation that he’d found himself in; he was an outlaw, an over-educated farmhand, obedient, a punching bag, and a man with no home. Now he’s a husband with nothing to offer his head strong wife.
In “Reckoning” Jamie shifted from being a boy to a man. Prior to this episode Jamie went with the flow and let others make life decisions for him. For the rest of the series of books, Jamie is a fierce leader, a man who inspires loyalty and fealty from nearly every man he encounters, those who cross him – well they can thank Black Jack for his fierce determination to seek justice against their transgressions. Jamie himself is no saint, but on the field of morality he has few equals. In time men will flock to him and his leadership like Outlander fangirls flock to a Sam Heughan personal appearance.
In “Reckoning” Jamie leads men into Fort William to rescue Claire. Per Ned’s orders, they were strictly advised not to kill anyone, as a result, Jamie ordered all pistols to be empty. Using only his wit and guts, and putting all of his faith into a rickety bit of rope and wood, he burst into Randall’s office with an empty pistol and his bare hands as weapons to rescue his wife from the clutches of the devil.
This episode had a couple of instances where the surrounding male characters “Outed” themselves. In the rescue sequence, Randall voiced his dislike/disinterest in women. This fact is blatantly obvious to Claire when he’s holding her against the table in the books and was flaccid and utterly uninterested in following up on his rape threats; but this is harder to portray on film, so instead Randall tries to perversely flirt with Jamie while he’s holding his wife half naked. Tobias Menzie’s portrayal left little doubt that the sight of Jamie…errr got things moving.
Sam Heughan’s portrayal of Jamie being caught in a tornado of emotions was amazingly spot on. Jamie was furious, terrified, deeply concerned for Claire’s well being, and doing everything in his power to remain calm in order to have things go his way. So far on the series the full Fraser fury had yet to be unleashed. His fury had not abated after he and Claire managed to escape Fort William. Claire it seemed to him was rather ungrateful over the party putting their lives on the line for her rescue. The honeymoon was officially over as both Claire and Jamie commenced in screaming at each other. Being the modern woman Claire gave back as well as Jamie dished out the insults and cutting remarks. It wasn’t until Claire bitterly swore at Jamie and he threw Black Jack’s own insult about Claire into her face that Jamie’s fury died and crumbled into a pile of confusion. Bewildered, Jamie said that he came to her with only an empty pistol and his bare hands to free her. “I heard you scream…you’re tearing my guts out, Claire.”
The two forgave each other and in his voice-over Jamie said, “She asked for forgiveness and I gave it, but the truth is I’d forgiven everything that she’d done and everything that she could do long before that day, for me that was no choice, that was falling in love.” Anyone who has read the books knows that Jamie fell in love with Claire the moment he first laid eyes on her when she set his arm. It was nice getting that confirmation in his head so we all know where he stands on the matter because this hasn’t necessarily been made completely clear on the series unless you’re marvelous at reading between the lines.
That evening comes the infamous spanking scene. Recently at a preview of the episode the audience laughed during it which caused an uproar to people who couldn’t believe that people could laugh at “domestic violence.”
First off – that was not the case here. Jamie lived in a time where having bottoms beaten red was an everyday occurrence. In the books Jamie talks about his own father spending more hours that he cared to recount hiding Jamie’s rear end for the constant back talking and trouble that he got into. Giving a wife a hiding wasn’t any different, it was something that happened in everyday life.
Second – the scene itself was designed to be funny. Bear McCreary’s music is light hearted, bouncy, and jaunty. It’s designed to perfectly give a playful rhythm to the scene. Jamie’s tone and attitude to Claire is not one of anger or rage, it’s one of a father trying to talk a child into understanding that a hide tanning will do them some good…which by the way adds to the hilarity of the situation. It’s also a case of Jamie trying on the shoes of being a traditional Scottish Highlander husband and getting to show off his manliess in his position…which was mostly for the benefit of saving face to the men downstairs than trying to teach Claire a lesson.
Claire for her own part has plenty of reasons to be confused. Her parents died when she was very young and was left to live w/ her academic uncle who had better things to do than discipline a child. Likely she never got a slap on the rear in her entire life. This in itself is unusual since it hasn’t been since the 1990’s or so that spanking has gone out of style and has become a taboo method for child training. Having Jamie want to strike her in any way is very unsettling. The plus side of things, Jamie might’ve finally gotten his licks in, but he didn’t leave the encounter w/o receiving plenty of welts and cuts from Claire’s fits of throwing crap at him, smashing his face, and leaving nail gouges in his cheek.
Once back at Castle Leoch Jamie finds himself getting a cold shoulder from his Uncle Colum upon hearing the news of his nuptials. I admit that I have zero memory on how these details are presented in the book but self-serving Dougal damned knew well enough that by offering up Jamie to marry Claire that would take him completely out of the running to ever be Laird of Leoch. This has always been a moot point for Jamie considering he’s a Fraser and not a MacKenzie; all that he wants is to go home and run Lallybroch and take over his role there as Laird. Now with a wife in tow, he wants that more than anything. I also have no memory of Colum ever making it 100% clear that he would rather have Jamie as his heir over Dougal. If this is a show twist, I like it. It gave a wonderful entryway for us to finally see Jamie grow from just being an observer in the background to being an active mediator in clan affairs. We see that for all that Dougal has always used Jamie for his brawn or back, Colum actually appreciates Jamie’s mind.
The battling brothers MacKenzie pretty much added to the overall mix on the episode that even the males all seemed to be massively suffering from PMS…aka Pissy Male Syndrome. Stuck in the middle of the raging MacKenzies, Jamie refuses to openly take sides, but his actions clearly state that both he and Murtagh were not putting up tents in Dougal’s camp. Jamie taking a side at all is also a huge step forward in his development and personal growth. His advice to Colum to let Dougal be the rebel and keep the Jacobite money was sound. By reminding Colum that only he would be able to actually declare war, he put the power back in his hands which didn’t overly sit well with the Laird, but secretly knowing he had one over on his confused brother was satisfaction enough for him.
The pissing MacKenzies was our second instance of male “outage” in that Dougal had to throw it in his brother’s face that he had in fact ensured his bloodlines aka he fathered Colum’s son Hamish, a fact that Claire picked up immediately when she first saw Dougal and the boy together. Ned looked sheepish and uncomfortable and Jamie was beyond shocked. This open declaration is another change from the books. In the books Claire discusses this w/ Colum which leads to him allowing for the events that will take place 2 episodes from now to occur. How exactly that will play out with that most likely not coming into play will be something to look forward to.
Claire takes this news in stride but still refuses to forgive Jamie giving him the cold shoulder and refusal to join her in bed. It’s a good thing that Jamie is used to sleeping with the horses.
Having repaired his uncle’s feud it was time to repair things with his wife. Enter lovesick Laoghaire MacKenzie into the mix. Jamie who’s feeling all befuddled by his wife being ticked off with him does the wrong thing and rather than crush Laoghaire’s heart by telling her that he loves his wife and there never was anything between them, he puts her in his back pocket, feeding hope to the lusty teen. If Jamie thought that he really wanted a wife who would obey him, Laoghaire certainly presented herself as a willing, nimble, mindful alternative to his own spitfire of a wife. Jamie being the honorable man ultimately refused Laoghaire’s advances (which I might add was why her father took her before the Laird to begin with – Laoghaire apparently didn’t learn that throwing her self around at men is a one way ticket to slutsville.) After she goes tearing off in tears, Jamie heads back to the castle determined to figure out how to fix his marriage.
Jamie was still unclear on how to deal with Claire. He tells her that he’s willing to break tradition since she doesn’t respond to the Scottish ways of men handling their wives. He then offers her an oath, rather like he did to Colum, except this round he gives all of the power to Claire that she has his permission to kill him if he ever lifts a hand in anger to her again. Claire’s icy wall is breaking, but Jamie is utterly lost when she doesn’t immediately give in. “Is it not enough Claire? Do you not want me anymore? Do you wish to live separately?”
We have a stark contrast here between Laoghaire’s immature outburst of tears and Jamie’s very subdued reaction to Claire’s seeming disinterest. Sam truly sells that Jamie’s heart was breaking wide open. Even his sheathing his dirk before asking if she wanted to live apart from him would’ve been symbolic of him realizing that he might be facing a future free of carnal pleasure for the rest of his life. Claire finally relents and tells him, “That’s what I should want.” She reaches for his chest and adds, “But I don’t.” In the books Claire rather begrudgingly admits to herself that perhaps she deserved the punishment – of if not deserved it – at least she understood why Jamie did it.
Claire is somewhat stunned when Jamie’s next confession to her is that her wedding ring was made using his key for his home Lallybroch and how “I wanted to wait until we returned to Lallybroch, so you’d know the place was as much yours as mine. Now I don’t ken when if ever we’ll get back there.” Claire tries to interrupt him, but he continues, “I’ve thought it doesn’t pain me as much as it might have…you, you are my home now.” And of course with that declaration the make up sex begins.
Although the episode was told from Jamie’s perspective – the end was all Claire. Jamie asks for permission to make love to her and while in the throes of passion she puts his dirk to his throat and demands that he swears her oath to never touch her again while she’s on top. Jamie of course swears. Jamie rather teasingly and wistfully tells her that he wants to be her master, to which she doesn’t respond, until later in a teasing manner. Jamie might be lord of their manor one day, but Claire is no wilting flower, she will not be second to him, and will only be a full partner…a fact that Jamie is happy enough to yield to.
The episode ends w/ Claire finding a hexing ill-wish, a clump of twigs and bones, under their bed which Jamie immediately realizes must have been put there by Laoghaire. This is also a departure from the books which will be interesting to see how Jamie’s knowledge of the teenager’s doings will feed into the next couple of episodes.
Overall the episode was fantastic. This episode more than anything was the firm announcement that Jamie is no longer second to Frank/Jack Black as the leading male and Sam showed that he’s more than capable of handling whatever is thrown his way. For those who’ve read the books, we all know that time is now ticking towards several moments that will forever emotionally scar both of our leading characters…and the spanking scene in this episode will fade into becoming one of the lesser talked about scenes from the season. Jamie’s time is finally here.
Favorite small moments:
– Jamie tapping his index finger against the hearth in the bedroom before he gave his oath to Claire at the end of the episode. Claire often notes this as Jamie’s tick when he’s thinking hard on something. It’s nice seeing Sam’s dedication to his character to build such a small thing into his portrayal of Jamie.
– Murtagh’s “Thank yooooo” to the soldier who’s balls he squeezed after he revealed Claire’s location at Fort William – totally hilarious. This is followed closely by Murtagh telling Jamie to leave Claire behind while the go off to live off of the land. Jamie’s retort, “Spoken like an unmarried man” knowing damned well he could never just leave Claire behind – she would never allow it, a fact that gets repeated over and over in the books.
– Mrs. Fitz for being the happiest person in the world to hear the news about Jamie & Claire’s nuptials.
– Colum calling out Ned Gowan for trying to snivel his way back into his good graces.
– The gorgeous scenery when Jamie and the rescue team go tearing off to save Claire and Jamie’s special thinking river spot.