So I wanted to take a moment and talk about my reactions to this episode. It wont be flashy and full of screen shots. Just me taking a moment to reflect.
It’s been days since this episode aired, and I’ve only been able to view it twice. It’s taken this long to even attempt to write something that will be thoughtful and coherent since this is such a complex and emotional episode.
It begins simply enough, Dougal and Claire go to the garrison where she is greeted like the “English Rose” she is. Then we quickly see how a mouthy (delightfully so!) modern woman reacts when someone she’s come to care for and respect is insulted and disrespected. Enters Black Jack Randall and the tension heightens. She then is able to show off her medical skills when a soldier needs an arm amputated, but don’t think that’s where the gore in this episode ends.
When she returns to the room she was in earlier, Black Jack Randall is there waiting for her. Now, if you’ve read the books you know what kind of guy you are in for, and if you haven’t, well you are in for an education in this episode.
Randall begins his game of cat and mouse with Claire. Trying to find out who she really is, where she came from, what she’s about, why she would defend a Scot! This manipulative interrogation is one of the most compelling I have ever seen on TV. Tobias Menzies blows you away as BJR. He’s brought something to this character that makes you second guess what you know in the books. He’s handsome and charming, and like Claire, there is something about him you want to believe can come back, can be saved.
As he enters into his story of Jamie’s flogging, we suddenly realize how deep his sadism really is. He’s entranced by Jamie because Jamie matches his will, his stubbornness, his immovability. He looks at the pain and torture inflicted on Jamie as a kind of experiment, and the grotesqueness of his back as a work of art. You know then that this man is so twisted, so broken, but something, something in him makes you want to reach out to him.
The flogging itself is only a few minutes but packs a punch I still can’t quite get over. Jamie is a beloved character in these books, and seeing him whipped almost to death makes me angry, makes me sick, and makes me want justice. I would feel that way about anyone having to endure such horrible brutality. Kudos to the makeup department and the director for making it so impactful and so real, as it should be.
As he ends the story, he and Claire share a smile, and you see this flicker of vulnerability. As he reaches for her hand, pulls her up, and thrusts his fist into her stomach we realize just how dangerous that vulnerability makes him. He does not want to be saved. He does not want to be reached. He wants to dwell in this darkness that he has created for himself.
We don’t get a whole lot of who Black Jack Randall is in the books. We just know he’s a bad dude, he’s obsessed with Jamie, and we don’t like him. The character that Tobias has brought to this show is beyond what I could have ever imagined. I’m so interested to see where he takes BJR.
Dougal comes in and rescues Claire, takes her to a magical stream (hee) to see if she is lying about being a spy. She once again says she’s not, and he believes her. Then he drops a bomb on her. To save her from BJR, she needs to become a Scot, and to become a Scot, she needs to marry… a SCOT. As much as he’d like to “grind her corn”, he’s lined up Jamie for the job. She’s a little resistant to this whole thing, but I think Claire gets that there isn’t any other option.
Claire and Jamie have a lovely moment where she makes sure this is something he’d be ok with. She asks him if he minds her not being a virgin, and he adorably tells her he doesn’t as long as she’s doesn’t mind that he is. The line of the night follows as he says “I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.”
Oh Jamie. I’d follow you anywhere.
Next week is the wedding and those delicious screen caps will be back as we discuss every delightful and sexy moment!