As a citizen of a country, we tend to associate ourselves with that particular parcel of land and to excuse what is done in its name. When our country is fighting another, or occupying another, we can fail to see the other side of the story. This episode brought Claire face to face with that fact as, for the first time since she came through the stones, she is surrounded by Englishmen rather than Scots. What she discovers, however, is that neither the English nor the Scots are completely to blame or completely blameless. Except for Black Jack Randall.
The reveal of exactly how depraved he is was a tour de force. As the viewers, we sat with Claire listening to this man recount his brutality against Jamie. It was mesmerizing. As Black Jack told Claire the story, it was as if he were recounting something he was fond of, something he was proud of. Like Claire, the better angels of our nature want him to regret what he’s done. We want him to be able to look in the mirror without loathing.
Which is why his punching Claire hits us in the gut as well. We, like Claire, have relaxed, have let down our guard. We believe that this man wants to change and that he is going to help Claire get to Inverness. Only to have him turn completely.
Of course, we can’t forget how surreal this must all be to Claire. She is looking into her husband’s face, into his eyes. Having Randall sketch her was a beautiful moment, almost romantic, and Claire can’t help but respond. There is no way to know this, but learning just how sadistic this Randall is must have an effect on how she views the other.
This episode also allowed us to watch Claire’s allegiances subtlety shift. At the beginning, she remarks about how comfortable she is being around the English Army again. Alas, as she so often does, she becomes too comfortable and says things she shouldn’t. By remarking to the English that perhaps Scotland belongs to the Scots and not to the King, she seals her fate. Lord Thomas leaves her alone with Black Jack, my guess is knowing full well what he is leaving her to.
By the end of the episode, it is the English who are the threat and the Scots who are offering her their protection. The scene with Dougal at the spring is wonderful and made me grin. This 20th century woman has had one hell of a day, so her face when she realizes that Dougal believes in the magic power of smelly water is a picture.
To protect her and to prevent her from turning up at Fort William tomorrow, Dougal has come up with a mad plan. She can marry Jamie and become a Scot, truly a member of their clan. Claire, still reeling from her day with Randall and the magic spring, is aghast.
The scene between Jamie and Claire is my favorite of the series so far. This is not a love match; this is a solution to a problem. Claire, desperately trying to find a way out, tries to get Jamie to tell her that he is interested in someone else. He is not. She then reminds him that she is not a virgin.
Oh my, what a reveal. Our hero is! What a wonderful subversion of what we have come to expect from adventure tales and romantic literature. It is always the woman who must be taught about sex from the confident, worldly man. Now, it will be the woman doing the teaching. I can’t wait!
This was the best episode of the series to date. Four out of four shattered bottles of claret.
Bits and Pieces:
— I want to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the book. To discuss differences between the book and the show, foreshadowing, or anything else that might spoil the story, head over to my review of the novel.
— This was Tobias Menzies’ episode and he hit it out of the park. I hope TPTB submit this episode for Emmy consideration.
— It’s one thing to read about a flogging; it’s quite another to actually see it. That scene was about as brutal as it gets. Although we have seen the aftermath, the actual event was horrific. The flowing blood, the skin hanging off, not to mention the pool of blood that causes Black Jack to slip were all used to maximum effect. I had to look away.
Black Jack: “I would not believe you if you told me that night is dark and day is bright.”
Black Jack: “I think all they could see was the horror. I could see the beauty. I saw the truth. That boy and I… we were creating a masterpiece. An exquisite, bloody masterpiece.”
Dougal: “Well, I must admit the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me…”
Claire: “Well, doesn’t it bother you that I’m not a virgin?”
Jamie: “Well, uh, no. So long as it doesna bother you that I am. I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.”
Finally! Moore does this one on his own and it is a vast improvement. He talks about the decision to expand what was a short scene in the book to an entire episode which is truly interesting. He also gives us some wonderful behind the scenes stories.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.