This week on Outlander, not much happened except Claire's little hands-out genealogical expedition made a hard right turn and went careening off a cliff, when she discovered that her husband's ancestor, Black Jack Randall, is a sadistic nightmare human who finds it "very freeing!" to kick women. Cool relatives, Frank.
The episode kicked off on a high note: Perhaps grasping that to say otherwise would kick off a skirmish with major repercussions for, oh, everyone she's met on her Highland holiday, Claire tells the Brits that she's with these Scottish gents of her own free will. Congratulations on packing away your pique, Claire. However, young Johnny Redcoat insists she accompany him back to check in with his commanding officer. Dougal, of course, invites himself along.
Unfortunately, Claire is operating on a dire misunderstanding, which is that these are basically the same fellas as the ones she recently fought alongside. "They might be called Redcoats instead of Tommies, but they were still the British Army I'd been a part of for six long years. And somehow it felt liberating to be looked upon with sympathy and respect, instead of hostility and suspicion." Oh, Claire. Just because Highland Scotland feels foreign doesn't mean Georgian England is your England.
And at first, it seems things are going swimmingly. We meet Lord Thomas, the idiot in charge of His Majesty's army around these parts. He is primarily concerned with his claret ("my own, bottled in '35—need I say more?"), and he is easily swayed by Claire's pretty face. They engage in some classist accent-based repartee, and everyone's having a grand old time. But Claire is so happy to be among her own people that she sees a blessedly kind friend, instead of a mark whom she should manipulate into sending her home as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless she's damned close to being put on a horse to Inverness when in strolls Black Jack Randall, Frank's very unpleasant ancestor whom we met in the first episode. They recognize each other, but he doesn't say anything. This lures Claire into a false sense of security and her lovable bluntness becomes a liability. She might've been up shit creek regardless, but her best shot was to play the simpering, silly-headed woman, endearing herself to the doltish Lord Thomas. Then maybe, just maybe she could've squeaked past Black Jack.
But once she started trying to defend the Scots (like that's gonna do them a lick of good; Culloden's coming and you can't stop it, sister), that gave Black Jack the wedge he needed to cast doubt on her virtue, meaning Lord Thomas no longer felt obligated by the rules of polite, patriarchal English society to play the gallant. And then she really climbed into her own coffin and pulled down the lid:
"The Scots just want the same freedoms we enjoy. Freedoms we take for granted. we are not the aggressors, we are. It is their land, and we are occupying it." Stunned silence, and then: "I believe it's the king's land." By the time she dashes downstairs to take charge of a bleeding soldier, it's just icing on the well-you're-fucked-now cake.
Note that this episode is the counterpart to the first set at Castle Leoch, with the dinner that's really an interrogation and the impromptu call for her medical skills. Among the Scots, it doesn't make her totally trustworthy, but does earn her a tenuous measure of respect and the personal protection of the local laird. Among the English, it gets her abandoned in a room with a fucking psycho.
Because that is what Black Jack is! He is basically that villainous character from The Patriot, except scary instead of cartoonish.
And it's all because Tobias Menzies is absolutely goddamn terrifying. On paper, so little happens in this episode. Claire sits in various chairs for approximately 45 minutes. But it's riveting, because Menzies fair oozes menace. Did you notice all those twitchy things he's doing with his face? Who knew an occasional sniff and a weird tongue-swipe thing could scream serial killer instead of post-nasal drip and/or coke habit?
Everything Claire says, like that cut-rate vaudeville bit about her "affair of the heart" and letting it slip that she knows he's from Sussex, only makes Randall more and more confident that she's someone he can victimize with impunity. Because that's what he wants, really. People who're plausibly enough on the crown's bad side that it's open season.
This is confirmed by his side of the story re: Jamie's beating. He doesn't even really bother to justify it legally, admitting that the flogging, "made my stomach flutter and my legs shake." I couldn't help but feel like if we'd gotten a below-the-belt shot, he'd've been stroking his dick. And then, when he concludes, "I promised I would reveal myself to you and I have." Did anybody else start humming "Getting to Know You," just to arrest their case of the willies? If he didn't have a commission, he'd be stuffing bodies in the crawlspace of his Mayfair townhouse.
That said: Gonna be soooo much fanfic inspired by that horrible beating scene:
Initially, Claire still believes Black Jack is just some counseling away from a normal life, but it's pretty clear to the audience we're not dealing with PTSD and it's not really a surprise when he slams his fist into her gut.
I could've kissed Dougal's bald head when he stormed into the room and spouted off legalities to get Claire free. He finally feels 100% confident she's not a spy after he makes her drink from a magic fucking spring. Sure! OK! Assured she's not a threat to the clan, he proposes that she secure Scottish citizenship by marrying a Scot, thereby putting her beyond Randall's reach. No, not him (sorry, Dougal fans), but Jamie.
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!!
Cut to Jamie's bare knees, ambling up as Claire sits in a sunny glenn, contemplating the marriage contract and stroking her wedding ring. He brought whiskey! Oh, and reassurances that he doesn't mind she's not a virgin—as long as she doesn't care that he is. "One of should ken what they're doing." I swear to God if they don't bone in the next episode I'm writing Starz a very harshly worded letter.