Monday, August 18, 2014

RECAP: Outlander 1x02 - Jamie's Tragic Shirt Allergy

After the tumult of time travel, WWII, and near-rape last episode, this episode was comparatively mild. We picked up right where last week left off, with Claire and her coterie of mud-caked Scots riding in to Castle Leoch, and Claire realizing that she has no idea where the crap she is or how to get back to the standing stones. 

Claire, still in her dirty white dress, that reads to these 18th Century Scottish eyes as "underwear", slides off of Jamie's horse, and insists that Jamie get some medical attention inside before anyone bothers trying to "dress her properly". Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland), the kind-faced keeper of the kitchens agrees to this order of events, and Claire is quickly escorted inside the castle.

She has trouble with the walk, as she keeps flashing back to last episode when she explored the ruins of this exact spot with Frank (and had some nooky on a table). But Claire shoves all of that down long enough to find a quiet spot where she can really dress Jamie's shoulder.

Of course, this is the first time we or Claire have seen Jamie's torso well-lit, and a couple of things become immediately apparent. First, that Jamie is incredibly muscular and dreamy and guh. Second, that Jamie's back is a veritable roadmap of scars. There's almost no visible skin on his back that isn't raised scar tissue. Even Claire, a decorated nurse from the bloodiest war in history (her history), recoils in horror. 

Jamie laughs it off quickly, and comments that he got those scars because he was flogged. Twice. In the same week. Claire can't even comprehend this, but asks what he did to get that punishment, and Jamie reveals that the first time he was flogged was for trying to escape. The second time was for theft, a secondary charge tacked on because they didn't like him. An understatement if ever there was one. 

A cute exchange happens when Claire asks why Jamie was trying to escape and he responds easily with, "Because I was being held prisoner!" And Claire is all, "Oh my gosh you goober, you're lucky you're pretty." I like him. He can stay.

Anyway, apparently Claire has reached the status of "level four friend" because she unlocks Jamie's tragic backstory. Heh. Back-story. I crack me up.

Jamie reveals that he was originally arrested for the innocuous crime of "obstruction". When the English came through the countryside four years ago, they raided local farms, collecting food and livestock for their own purposes. With his father away, Jamie was the man of the house, and he wasn't thrilled about the Redcoats stealing his family's food. Worse, they were trying to rape his sister, Jenny (Laura Donnelly). Worst, Captain Jack Randall was there (Claire's attempted rapist, and Frank's ancestor). Randall decided he liked Jenny's spirit, but he liked Jamie's more, and ordered Jamie flogged while Jenny watched. He also tore Jenny's dress open.

When Jamie resisted the flogging (a lighter one, but still does well to explain that plethora of scars) and didn't scream in pain like Randall obviously wanted him to, Randall decided that what the hell, he might as well rape Jenny. So he dragged her inside, and Jamie was knocked unconscious. He woke up miles away and hours later, strapped to a horse and being taken to Fort William to be imprisoned. 

Claire is suitably horrified by this tale of woe, and Jamie awkwardly tries to make the mood light again by thanking her for patching him up, and then asking Claire where her husband is. This does not make the mood lighter, as suddenly she imagines what must be happening to Frank. That's discovered she's missing, without a trace, and has to try to find an explanation. Was she kidnapped? Murdered? Or did she just decide to leave him without any explanation? Claire breaks down crying, and Jamie is stuck trying to console this weeping woman in her underwear.

He draws the obvious conclusion, that her husband is "not alive" and, well, it's true, isn't it? He husband is not alive. It's just that Jamie means he's dead, and Claire means he hasn't been born yet. Details. Jamie holds Claire close while she cries (and while most of the female audience swoons a little, because dayum he hot and so sensitive), and then tells her that while he's here she doesn't need to be afraid. But he ends with a warning. Never forget that she's English in a place where "that's not a pretty thing to be." Claire nods her agreement.

And then finally, finally, someone shows Claire to a room where she can get some incredibly necessary sleep. Unfortunately for her, she's in an agrarian society, and morning comes early. Mrs. Fitz bustles in to chastise Claire for sleeping the day away. I mean, it's almost 5 o'clock! In the morning! What's Claire doing still in bed?!

She drags the realistically bedraggled Claire out of bed, tutting at her all the while, lets her get two bites of breakfast in her mouth, then insists that the time has come to get her into some real clothes. Time to assimilate, it seems. But this turns out to be one of the funnier scenes of the show, since Claire has no idea how 18th Century Scottish clothes work, and Mrs. Fitz has no idea what to make of Claire's decidedly foreign underwear.

Staring agape at Claire's demure (and rather pretty) silk underthings, Mrs. Fitz asks what kind of corset that is, and Claire defensively tells her, "It's a brassier." At Mrs. Fitz's look of utter incomprehension, she adds, "It's from France." So, it's from France is clearly going to become Claire's explanation for everything she can't reasonably explain. Good to know.

Anyway, Mrs. Fitz takes great relish in thrusting the still-unwashed Claire (and her frizzy snarl of hair) into a chemise, and a corset, and then a weird hip padding thing, and then an overdress, and then some stockings, and then another overskirt, and then some arm-warmers, and then shoes, and then I am exhausted just watching this. Suddenly I find myself eternally grateful for the ease and pleasant comfort of a world where I can throw on some underwear, a dress, and a pair of leggings and call myself not just dressed, but dressed modestly. Also, I like showers, and I have a feeling that Claire would like them too right about now.

The point of all of this clothing becomes clear momentarily, though, as Mrs. Fitz declares Claire acceptable and sends her off to meet "The MacKenzie". As in, the Laird of Clan MacKenzie, and the ruler of this particular castle. It's not like the Laird wouldn't be interested in the strange Englishwoman his men picked up on their land. So Claire goes off to meet him. Colum MacKenzie, the ruler of Castle Leoch.

She takes the opportunity to snoop a little and figure out when precisely she is, and judging by a letter on Colum's table, the news isn't good. Claire is stuck in 1743 Scotland, just a few years before the Rising crushed Scotland's hopes of independence for two centuries. Not a good time to be English in Scotland. Also, Colum catches her snooping, and it does little to make him like her more. 

Interestingly, Colum is not what Claire imagined as the Laird. He's physically disabled with some kind of wasting bone disease, but his brain remains incredibly sharp. He proceeds on what is absolutely and unequivocally an interrogation. Why was Claire in the woods? Why was she almost naked? What's her deal, anyway?

Claire draws on Frank's stories of his work with MI-6 and interrogation tactics in order to survive. She makes up a story about being a sweet widow on her way to meet relatives in France when she was attacked first by highwaymen, and then by Captain Jack Randall. Colum is dubious, but he reserves the wealth of his skepticism for her report that Randall tried to rape her. He insists that Randall is an officer and a gentleman and wouldn't do that. Which is funny, because that was the only part of the story even a little bit true.

Then Colum really steps in it by telling Claire that he finds it hard to believe that Captain Jack Randall, a man bearing the King's Commission, happened upon a lady traveller and decided to rape her for "no good reason". Claire's death-glare grows in intensity, and she just stares at Colum while asking calmly, "Is there ever a good reason for rape?"

Shots fired. Burn. Snap. Oh yes. Go Claire go!

Colum looks a bit like he wants to wet himself after that and immediately apologizes. He then admits that he doesn't really believe her, but in a week, the tinker will be there, and she can catch a ride back to Inverness (and therefore the stones) with him. Claire thanks him and leaves.

She winds up on the castle rampart, looking down on the life of the people below. It seems different but familiar, and even a little heart-warming when she sees Dougal MacKenzie playing with a boy she figures must be his son. Cute. 

Later that day, at lunch or dinner or something (dinner, probably), Claire enters the great hall with adorable new kid on the first day of school awkwardness. But she needn't have worried. Colum invites her up to the high table and gives her Dougal's seat. He's very nice, constantly refilling her glass and asking her lots of questions. On second thought, maybe she should worry. Since Colum is clearly continuing the interrogation and getting her drunk to do it. 

Claire doesn't reveal anything too bad, until she spots the little boy from earlier and tells him how nice it was to see him playing with his "father." The table goes silent. Claire knows she stepped in it, but she doesn't know why. Apparently said kid, whose name is Hamish, is actually Colum's son, not Dougal's, and everyone is really really uptight about it. Weird. Because it's not like it would be hard to say, "No, that was his uncle, but thanks." Claire is overwhelmed with awkwards and leaves the hall immediately, determined to do better next time if she wants to stay alive for the next week.

The morning finds her once again prying herself out of bed far too late for Mrs. Fitz's taste, and then asking for a little bit of food and some bandages to take down to Jamie, who's been relegated to the stable. He's trying to break a horse to ride when she gets there, and while Claire does accidentally screw up what he was doing, Jamie's thrilled to see her and accepts lunch gratefully.

During lunch, wherein Jamie eats everything quickly and Claire watches in astonishment because damn can he pack it in, Jamie reveals a little more of his sordid history. First that he's using an assumed name, and second, that he's wanted by the English not just for escaping, but also for the murder of an English soldier who died during his escape. Jamie insists he didn't do it. Also, he admits that he's eaten grass because he was so hungry before, and Claire doesn't even know what to make of that.

Fortunately, she doesn't have to goggle for long, because Jamie's got to go back to work. She tells him, "Try not to get flogged or stabbed today," and he replies happily, "Now no promises, Sassenach!" Because Jamie is incredibly cavalier about his physical well-being. He's the hero in a romantic story. Of course he's going to get beat up a lot.

As Claire's leaving, she notices (finally) that she's being followed by Rupert, one of Dougal's men. He's there to make sure she doesn't run off, she finds, and also because they think she's a spy. She immediately confronts Dougal (who doesn't deny it or care) and tells him she is very angry. Not your best move, Claire-bear.

For the next few days, Claire tries to keep her head down. She goes out foraging food for Mrs. Fitz in the kitchens, and while out there she meets a nice (?) lady, Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek). Geillis is the kind of woman who starts off a conversation with, "I know who you are," and "Those flowers are good for getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy." Also she jokes about poisoning her husband. Geillis is a little unsettling. But then, she is the first friend Claire has made aside from Mrs. Fitz and Jamie, so Claire's not gonna be super picky.

Claire should probably consider being a little more picky. Geillis is unsettling, creepy, speaks in a sing-song, and calls herself a witch. Uh, Claire? Maybe don't befriend the nice lady. Maybe walk away slowly.

That night Claire attends "The Hall", where Colum sits and passes judgment on disputes between his subjects (people sworn to Clan MacKenzie). Claire has finally figured out what Colum's degenerative disorder is - it's Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome, or Pycnodysostosis - a wasting disease that shortens the lifespan and causes the bones to collapse under their own weight. Colum is not a young man, and Claire realizes that he must be "living on borrowed time".

Geillis and Claire stand in the back so that Geillis can thoughtfully translate the Gaelic for Claire. But the business is mostly trivial and dull until it gets to a father dragging his very pretty daughter forward. He accuses her of "loose behavior" and asks that the MacKenzie punish her. Colum agrees, but before they can get to it, Jamie steps forward. Claire is confused. Jamie volunteers to take the punishment himself, for reasons unknown, and Colum seems totally okay with this.

But something is off. The punishment, which consists of a beating (Jamie chose for fists instead of the strap) goes on a bit longer than it should. It should have ended when Jamie's nose was broken, but it doesn't. Dougal keeps nodding at the enforcer and telling him to keep going. Jamie ends up getting punched in the bullet-wound and then knocked unconscious.

Claire rushes out the back to care for her continual patient. She tries to suss out why he volunteered, but he just insists that he really is that gallant. And then she tells him that he's to stop doing stuff like this, because she's leaving tomorrow and this is goodbye. Jamie seems quite sad to hear it, and bids her farewell, before bracing himself to meet Laoghaire (Nell Hudson), the pretty young girl he saved. She wants to "thank him." Heh.

The next morning Claire is totally ready and prepared and about to hop on the tinker's cart, complete with a hug and bundle of food from Mrs. Fitz, when Dougal comes to fetch her. He takes her to Colum, and brooks no arguments. Colum escorts Claire into the bowels of the castle, to the secluded bit where she had sex with Frank (of course), and tells her that this is the castle's surgery, once belonging to Davie Beaton, who sadly has died and left the castle without a physician.

Claire's all, "Well that's nice, now may I go?" But no. She may not go. Dougal and Colum are still very suspicious of her, and they've decided against letting her leave. She'll stay at the castle and be their physician until such time as they're certain she's not a spy. She's not a prisoner, she's a guest. Unless she tries to leave. As Claire fumes and begins to cry with frustration, Colum and Dougal leave, locking the door behind them.

End of episode.

So, less action packed, but no less full of drama, eh? I appreciated getting more background on Jamie, and I quite like the choice to actually show us what happened, instead of making us sit there while Jamie narrated it. I also find it interesting, however, that they are picking and choosing which memories to show us instead of telling. We didn't see Jamie get flogged at Fort William, but we did see his encounter with Randall. Hmmm. I think they might be saving some of this stuff for later, when we get a much fuller story on it, but still. Interesting.

I also appreciate some of the changes made to the story. They moved up Claire's meeting with Geillis, which is good, and they added in that whole story with the tinker. I like it. It gives the narrative more weight, and Claire's desperation is more visceral when we see her chance of going home literally driving off without her.

But most of all I loved the blatant feminism of this episode. Claire's one line about there never being a good reason for rape is just so so so good. Amazing. Wonderful. This show makes me feel so much better about life than Game of Thrones ever did. And I'd apologize for the constant comparisons, but it really is like night and day.

Also? I liked how much of today's story required us to stare at a shirtless Jamie for a while. A+ storytelling, gentlemen. You may continue. It doesn't hurt that Sam Heughan is actually a really compelling actor either. And Caitriona Balfe knocked it out of the freaking park. Her tiny little facial changes when she's thinking? Amazing.

Ugh. I can't wait for next week. So good.


  1. Phwoar, shirtless Jamie! Also, I want a corset to do to my boobs what Claire's corset is doing to hers. ;)

    We're only two episodes in but I am sold. Also they've secured Season 2 just off the back of the first episode. That makes me SO happy.

    And oh, Claire's line about there never being a good reason for rape was fantastic. Colum's awkwardness was priceless. Claire is not a woman you want to mess with.

    1. I love the fact that this show has already been renewed. Female-lead entertainment with a high budget and a lot of confidence from the network? MAGIC. Openly dealing with issues in a feminist light? MIRACLES. Shirtless Jamie? WONDER.

    2. Yes, yes and yes! To everything.

      Other interesting thing I noticed on rewatching* the first episode was when Claire was in the cottage with Dougal's men. They were discussing whether or not she was a whore and one of the men joked they could take her for a test drive, as it were. Dougal shut it down instantly saying "I don't hold with rape". And all the men respected his authority. *That* is an example of how to dismantle rape culture as a bloke.

      *why yes, I have watched both episodes twice each already. :D

    3. I'm not judging you for rewatching. I have no room from which to judge... :DDD

  2. Also, he admits that he's eaten grass because he was so hungry before, and Claire doesn't even know what to make of that.

    This is an interesting counterpart to the bit about war in the last episode. Having just lived through WWII, Claire can take the Highland uprising in her stride, but rationing - especially for someone of her general social class - had nothing on this.

    1. That's a really good point. Blood, guts, and war? No problem. General deprivation, starvation, and miserable living conditions? That's what Claire is unfamiliar with.

  3. Question: is there a way to get a hold of this (legally) without getting a STARZ account? I don't wanna. But I do wanna watch this.

    After watching the freebie I read the first (excellent) book and am subsequently regretting my addiction, three books later... But I feel like this series may play with some of the things I both love and loathe; I liked their Claire a lot in the first epi. Maybe they will make me continue to love her, further down the line?

    Or maybe I should just check your recaps, and wait for the dvds. Hmmm.

    1. I don't know of any legal ways to get it other than STARZ, sorry. But it should be out on DVD sometime this spring, probably!

      I do think that the show is managing to consolidate the book into a more manageable story, as well as actually playing up Claire's feminism and the disconnect between her values and their values. It's the rare case of a show that's really improving on the book. Which is rad as hell.

    2. I want an improvement, dammit. My best friend swears to me that the books get better (again) after the 4th one, but when the books in question are over 1000 pages long, I find my patience waning. Also I distrust her judgment, since it is seriously clouded by a life-long admiration of kilted men.

      But damn that boy is pretty. I will wait for the dvds :)

    3. Having now seen the fourth episode? Definite improvement. Notable, even. Which is rad. But I'm a little worried about the future seasons of the show since, as you noted, the books kind of go downhill for a while.

      He's so pretty. So much kilt. Very shirtless. Yes.