Wednesday, October 7, 2015

RECAP: Outlander 1x13 - Babies and Bandits and Blackmail, Oh My

And we are once more into the breach of Outlander recapping. This week's episode follows the pattern of the latter half of the season, where one nail-biting episode is followed by a more chill exploration of the characters and their relationships. Last week was our chill week (following the hell that was Claire's witch-trial), so this week is full on tension city. And, for the most part, it really works as an episode of television. There were some slow parts where I just wanted the plot to move the hell along, but overall it worked.

The thing to remember with this story is that we all kind of know where it's going to head up. At least, as long as Outlander doesn't break any major rules of storytelling or go completely off the rails with avant-garde plots and post-modern deconstructions of the form, we can all basically guess what has to happen for this season to be completed. Claire is going to be tested in her faithfulness to Jamie. Not sexually, since we've already really tested that when she had the chance to go back to Frank, but in just sheer loyalty. 

But more than that, the whole season has been about the undercurrent of the Frasers and their unresolved conflict with Captain Jack Randall. In order to finish the season in an at all satisfying fashion, that's going to have to come to a head. And that means that when we see Jamie and Claire and Jenny and Ian all happy and getting along on the farm, we can be damn sure that won't last long. 

Okay, so last week we left off with the realization that, no, it isn't lasting very long at all. Claire woke up to an empty bed, and came out of their bedroom to find Jamie standing in the center of the hall, a gang of men surrounding him with guns pointing at his head. Not a great wakeup call.

This week we pick up precisely there, with the shocking revelation that these aren't men pointing their guns at Jamie because they know who he is, they're people pointing their guns at him because they don't. See, this is the Watch, that legendary group of Scottish semi-outlaws who function like a mafia. 

They take payments from lairds and tenants who want protection and then rob and pillage the rest. It seems that Jenny and Ian have been hosting the watch for the past few years - largely out of self-preservation - and the Watch assumed that this strange man (Jamie) strolling around their house was a thief.

Yeah. Who'd have thought?

Fortunately for all of us, Jenny and Ian are on hand to save the day. Jenny reassures the men that this is no thief, it's her cousin, "Jamie MacTavish", who served with Ian when he was fighting with the French overseas.* The Watch, for the most part, buys it. Jamie and his lovely English wife are just visiting for a while, maybe staying, who knows! And in the meantime Jenny and Ian would be totally happy to put up the Watch for a few days while they wait for their other men to arrive. No problem at all.

Jamie is, of course, not thrilled about the revelation that Jenny and Ian have been forced to work with men he views as traitors to the cause - the Watch has been known to work with the redcoats when it suits them - and reminds everyone that these men definitely will not hesitate to turn him in if they realize there's a price on his head. Not that anyone needs reminding. 

But Jenny has a plan. Nothing in this visit is particularly out of the ordinary and there's no reason that the Watch should be suspicious of sweet young Jamie MacTavish. So Jamie just has to keep his head down and not start any fights and they'll be fine.

Or not. As we all know by now, "keeping his head down" and "not starting any fights" are two things that our Jamie sucks at beyond belief. Whether he's picking fights about the state of a horse's hoof or the way the Watch has pillaged Ian's tobacco store, Jamie's out to make trouble. At one point he even gets in a fight with five of the men at once, struggling to fight them while saving Lallybroch's hay stores from burning to the ground. But all of this is a moot point when the man the Watch was waiting for arrives, and he turns out to be none other than Horrocks.

You remember Horrocks, right? Way back in episode eight, Horrocks was the man that Jamie went to go meet because Horrocks was an actual eye witness whose testimony could prove that he didn't actually kill that man. But the testimony Horrocks gave wasn't all that helpful. Jamie didn't kill the man he's accused of murdering, but Captain Randall did. So it was back to the drawing board. And then Claire ran away and it all became moot anyway.

So that guy's back.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it's a problem because Horrocks knows who Jamie really is and that there's a price on his head. But also second, because Horrocks is pretty awful at keeping his mouth shut and has no actual incentive to do so. Naturally this ends with Horrocks blackmailing Jamie.

While all of this is happening, Claire has her own crisis to deal with. It seems that Jenny's baby has decided it's time to make an appearance. Which would be good, if it weren't for the fact that Claire has no experience delivering babies. Even worse, the midwife is out of town and the baby is coming out breach. Which, if you don't know, means that the baby is basically backwards, trying to come feet first. This is bad because it means the child might get caught at the shoulders, which could cause a tear, and could kill both mother and child.

Is this a bad time to mention that Jamie and Jenny's mother died in childbirth? Yeah? Oh well, Jenny's going to bring it up anyway.

These are the two storylines that cut through the episode, and they work very well in tandem with each other. While Claire fears for Jenny's safety and the new life coming into the world, Jamie worries about the future he might have here in Lallybroch and wonders how far he ought to go to protect that possible future. Even though, as Claire revealed this episode in a moment of brutal honesty, the future might not include children of their own. Claire fears she's barren, as she and Frank were never able to have a child.

She's worried it will upset Jamie, but it actually seems to comfort him a little. Yeah, Jamie would really love to have kids, but he also loves Claire and wants her to live. He watched childbirth kill his mother. He doesn't want to see her go out like that too, screaming and in pain. Like we needed another reminder that Jenny is upstairs possibly dying.

Eventually Jamie does give in to the blackmail, but it's not enough. Horrocks is greedy and a jerk, and he's quite happy to keep Jamie dangling on a string while he threatens everything and one that Jamie holds dear. Jamie's about ready to shoot the man and be done with it when from nowhere Ian steals the job, running Horrocks through and saving them all.

It's a surprisingly sweet scene, actually. Ian is very shaken up by having had to kill someone, but it's clear he loves Jamie enough not to regret it, and some backstory from Jenny revealed earlier in the episode that Jamie and Ian have been like brothers since they were kids. Ian doesn't regret killing Horrocks at all, but he's not well suited to murder. Together they hide the body and think of the matter as finished. Naturally it's not.

The man who runs the Watch isn't stupid. He understands how these things work. He saw Jamie and Horrocks recognize each other, then he finds that a day later Horrocks' horse is still tied up outside but the man is nowhere to be found. So he asks point blank if Jamie killed him. And Jamie, in a fit of abiding honesty, freely admits it. He even tells the man why he did it (though he leaves Ian out of the story entirely).

To Jamie's surprise (and mine) it seems the commander of the Watch is totally okay with this. He respects Jamie's honesty and he never liked Horrocks much anyway. Jamie's wanted by the English? All right then, so is he! It seems that the Watch is not very friendly with the redcoats right now, so even though there's a bonny reward on Jamie's head, the Watch would rather recruit him than turn him in. And that's exactly what they do.

With Jamie's rash actions costing them a man in the raid, the commander decides that Jamie will have to come along instead. And since Ian doesn't trust these men one bit, he's coming too. Claire tries to beg Ian to stay - because she's terrified Jenny is going to die in childbirth and Ian won't be there to say goodbye - but Jenny will hear none of it. She fully supports sending her husband to go care for her brother.

So Jamie and Ian go off, and we see their journey intercut with Claire and Jenny and the really difficult childbirth. It's actually refreshing to see Jenny's childbirth done like this, filmed in such a way that you really feel the pain and frustration of the moment. I mean, your usual Hollywood childbirth, even the horrible ones where the mother dies, is shown in snapshots. 

We see the mother have a contraction, and then we cut to the father holding a baby and being told his wife is dead. Maybe we see a little bit of a sweaty brow and a woman all covered up in sheets and blankets clutching someone's hand, but a really pregnant woman swearing and screaming while she crouches, squats, leans against a wall, kneels, gets on all fours, stands up again, leans on a dresser, and generally looks like she cannot get comfortable to save her life? Not common.

Happily, though, the birth ends well. Claire is able to guide the baby out, and both Jenny and the baby are fine. Not so for Ian and Jamie. While Jamie has a lovely conversation with the commander of the Watch before the battle, when they arrive to the designated place, Jamie quickly realizes that this isn't a place where they will wait to ambush someone else. This is an ambush placed for them. Horrocks sold all of them out before he died and the redcoats are there to take the Watch. Bonus! Now they get Jamie too.

It does seem a bit like no matter what Jamie does he's screwed. And there's a good reason for that: he is. Jamie has to be captured in order for the story to reach the conclusion we've been hurtling towards all season. So, byebye Jamie.

Back home, Jenny is surprised to wake up and find that she had a girl, not a boy, because she was sure it was a boy, but not upset over it. She's alive and well and so is the baby. In fact, just three days later Jenny is walking around just fine and even sitting on some cold stone steps with Claire. Ow. She and Claire have a bonding moment while they wait for the men to come back. Jenny is sure they will, but Claire is worried. Even the brief joy of Jenny giving her a pair of boar's tusk bangles can't distract her.

Though I'm sure we all can tell those bangles are going to be plot relevant sooner rather than later. I mean, they're a weird diversion unless they come up in the plot. They belonged to Jenny and Jamie's mother and were a present from an admirer she refused to name. So, intrigue.

Anyway, on the third day there's a sound and Jenny and Claire both run out to find on of the men from the Watch half-carrying Ian home. He lost his prosthetic leg and his horse in the fight, but he's otherwise fine. Jamie, however, is not. He and the commander were both taken by the redcoats and are by now, as I'm sure you can guess, on their way to prison. Dun dun DUN.

So, like I said above, this was a tight episode to make up for last episode being all about feelings and relationships. We're definitely in the home stretch of the season now, and it's just a matter of time before we end up with Jamie, Claire, and Jack Randall in a room together. Fun times.

What will Claire do? She will burn this entire country to the ground. Haven't you been paying attention?
*This relates to an interesting historical footnote that will be familiar to those of you who watch Reign: for much of the past thousand years, Scotland and France have been pretty close allies. Their alliance was based on a few things, but mainly centered around one thing: both France and Scotland haaaaaaate England. So they spent a lot of time trading soldiers and weapons and generally trying to work together to wipe England off the map. Unsuccessfully, as I think you can guess.**

**See also that time in the American Revolution when France came to our aid because, again, they really hate England. We did not return the favor in the French revolution, presumably because in that case the French were fighting other French people and not the English.***

***This is not an accurate interpretation of history. Probably.


  1. I also appreciated seeing the process of childbirth - Jenny clearly naked under her nightgown laboring (and only an idiot would see that as indecent rather than a natural part of the story - side note, the story is predominantly told through Claire's eyes, so of course she's going to be all up in a lot of female business that a male narrator might not), yet describing in beautiful terms what it's like to be pregnant, while Claire encourages her.

    I wasn't too surprised to see Jenny up and moving around a few days after childbirth - she's built pretty sturdy, and from what I can tell the clothing of the time provides more structural support than our clothing today, so that would help, too.

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