Outlander: To Ransom a Man's Soul

"His soul, I'm afraid, is in turmoil."

This episode began with a delightful contrast between the redcoats with their flagraising and hip hip huzzahs, and the wily Scots with their cow offensive stealing Jamie right out from under their noses. It did not stay delightful.

When the episode started after the rape, I was hoping they wouldn't show it, and I'll tell you why. Jamie being tortured and raped was the reason I didn't watch this series when it first premiered in 2014. I'd read the first few books and simply didn't think I could handle it. Even knowing that he survives.

Why did book author Diana Gabaldon go so far, hurt her hero so badly? It's the genre she chose, hurt/comfort, not my favorite. Claire is a healer, and Jamie keeps getting hurt. It's the core and even the genesis of their relationship. And maybe Gabaldon made the right decisions about her characters. What happened to Jamie didn't stop me from finishing the book or continuing with the series. Although honestly, it came close.

What is left to the imagination is usually worse, but not this time. I don't see how those three flashbacks to Jamie's abuse by Black Jack could have been more graphic. That said, I give this show credit for making the episode more about Jamie's trauma. He felt soiled, not just because of the rape itself, but because Black Jack had managed to wrench a response out of his body.

But Black Jack cheated to do it. He used Jamie's delirium and pretended to be Claire. What creeped me out the most, other than that kiss with tongue, was Black Jack letting his hair down so that he could look more like Claire. The man is a monster. (Duh.) How could anyone be so aroused by a filthy, exhausted man who was vomiting from extreme pain? Because, of course, rape isn't about sex. It's about power.

At the monastery, Jamie refused to eat, flinched away from Claire's touch, and asked both Murtagh and Willie to kill him and put him out of his "black misery." Can I talk a moment about how awful that broken hand looked? It was the focus of nearly every shot of Jamie, a outer physical representation of his inner emotional trauma. Very effective.



Claire was suffering, too. As she narrated while setting the bones in Jamie's hand, she had treated many men during the war that had been more seriously injured, but none of them were her husband. Later, when Murtagh talked about killing Jamie instead of letting him waste away, Claire passed out in Murtagh's arms. Big hint that she was pregnant before that final scene on the ship.

While Jamie was in a suicidal haze, Claire turned to God. (Convenient that they were hiding in a monastery.) She confessed everything to Father Anselm, even including her trip through the stones, that she had two husbands, that what happened to Jamie was all her fault which is debatable. I loved Father Anselm's reaction, that God knew Claire's truth. If God exists, he certainly does.

Claire finally realized that leaving Jamie alone to recover was the wrong tactic. He needed to purge, to talk about what happened, to know that Claire still loved him even though he felt that by submitting to Black Jack, he'd lost his soul. (See episode title.) The JR brand on Jamie's chest was this episode's most obvious symbolism. While Jamie wore it, Black Jack owned him and his soul was poisoned. After Jamie showed it to Claire and told her what really happened, after Murtagh cut it out of his body (ouch), Jamie started to recover.



As Jamie, Claire and their faithful sidekick Murtagh fled Scotland for France, Jamie looked like death warmed over but still managed a smile. He won't recover instantly, no one could from something like that, but he's trying now. He has a wife that loves him to distraction and now they have a child coming, too.

And they finally had the conversation I've been waiting for. Can they change what happens at Culloden? Should they even try? Could it work?

That's the time travel question not yet addressed. Did fate bring Claire and Jamie together through the stones? If she hadn't come, would he have married Laoghaire instead? Would Jamie have been crippled for life if Claire hadn't been there to fix his dislocated arm, not to mention his smashed hand? Would he have been imprisoned and tortured at all if he hadn't married Claire? Has Claire changed the future already by keeping him alive? Will we ever know?

(If this is addressed in the books, please don't spoil me!)

Bits:

— Is Black Jack dead, smashed under that door trampled by cattle? Come on. Of course he's not. Tell me another one.

— I thought of Jenny during this episode, and the uncomfortable scene Jamie made when he arrived at Lallybroch. Would it be different if it happened now, instead of before? Would Jamie see rape differently now that it's happened to him?

— That bed in the monastery looked tiny. When lying flat, Jamie's feet practically hung off the end.


— Tobias Menzies did full frontal during the rape flashbacks. Sam Heughan was nude too, but with a bit of diplomatic concealment. They both gave exceptional performances. Recently, the Starz CEO referred to Sam Heughan as eye candy. The man clearly never saw this episode.

— Claire thought she was sterile. Must have been Frank.

— When Claire said goodbye to her companions, she hugged young Willie and let Rupert kiss her hand. And then Angus kissed her goodbye and grabbed her breasts. That made Murtagh laugh, and he never laughs. Very cute scene.

— Claire said it had been eight months since she arrived, which was Samhain, 1743. That means this episode took place in June or July of 1744.

Quotes:

Claire: "What did Randall do to you?"
Jamie: "Too much. And not enough."

Black Jack: "It's like kissing a corpse."
Tongue. Shudder.

Black Jack: "You think I cannot control the darkness I inhabit?"
No, actually. I don't.

Father Anselm: "How marvelous, extraordinary. A miracle, perhaps."
Claire: "A miracle? Somehow, I don't think canon law was constructed with my situation in mind."

Claire: "My husband wants to kill himself and he won't tell me why."

Jamie: "He broke me. He broke me, Claire. He knew it. We both did."

Angus: "If ye happen to run into the rightful King across the water, you tell him Angus Mohr sends his best, eh?"
Rupert: "King James is in Italy, ye fool. Not France."

Jamie: "What can we do but play our part?"
Claire: "What if we can stop it from happening? The Rising, Culloden? What if we can stop all of it?"
Jamie: "Change the future? The two of us? That's madness, is it not?"
Claire: "We have to try."

Despite the fact that initially I didn't want to see these two episodes, much less review them, they deserve four out of four rampaging cows,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Laure Mack said...

I don't know how I stumbled across this series. Before I bought the first season on DVD and devoured it in a day, I had never read any of the books or read ChrisBs reviews or heard anything about Jamie or Claire at all. So these last two episode took me by complete surprise. All throughout I kept thinking that there would be a way out. A last minute, last ditch effort to save the day. When that never came and the horror unfolded so vividly, I was shocked to say the least. I own every season on DVD and have seen every episode of Outlander multiple times except these two. I can't bring myself to watch them again.

What a poignant review on a well crafted and haunting episode, Billie. Black Jack was so truly vile throughout the whole thing. The way he methodically broke Jamie down to at first convince him that Claire had abandoned him and then take her place was almost too twisted to watch. The kind of thing you want to look away from but keep watching anyway.
Claire helped physically rescue Jamie from the prison and save his hand but she did her real saving by convincing him to talk about his trauma and fear. She begged him to come back to her and even in his darkest hour, he couldn't deny her.
The two of them are what it's all about.