This week on Outlander, events reached a crisis point—and then the show promptly abandoned us until next spring. I SHAKE MY FISTS AT YOU, STARZ.
A phone rings! Clearly we're not in 1743 anymore. Back in the future, Frank has come to see the local yokel cops and apparently they're sick and tired of his handsome face. See, after searching for Claire o'er hill and dale, they've decided she obviously ran off with the unknown highlander spotted lurking under her window. Case closed, please leave our office so we can drink our spiked coffee in peace. Which: Are you fucking serious? A woman disappears after a man's been spotted creeping under her window and your first assumption is something other than Murder Most Foul? Jesus, did all the half-decent cops die in the war?
Frank isn't convinced and in fact he's fucking furious they keep insisting on this harebrained theory. His obvious grief makes me feel a little guilty for rooting for Claire and Jamie so hard. Also, muscles are all well and good but I bet Frank would be able to get some by-God results out of Time Warner Cable customer service.
Then we're back in the eighteenth century and I'm wondering how Claire can possibly return to the 1940s when her complexion looks so very dramatically better in this particular filter? The postwar United Kingdom is so glum! The old-time grass is so green and her hair is so auburn! Oh, right, and there's Jamie, who doesn't "mean to imply that you have some vast knowledge of men," but he wants to know whether sex is always this awesome, or if he and Claire have something special. Claire says they've got something special.
Also special: those blue mitts. Into them.
Their romantic picnic is then disrupted by a friend of Jamie's shooting an arrow in their general vicinity, as a howdy. He sits down for a drink, hands them a literal dragonfly in amber as a wedding gift (BOOK TITLE ALERT, BOOK TITLE ALERT) and says there's a deserter named Horrocks who wants to see Jamie. Supposedly he can testify Jamie didn't really murder that dude. But, of course, it could be a trap. Jamie's tempted—he'd like his new bride out from under the law's looming shadow.
Meanwhile, Frank is miserable. Talking to Reverend Wakefield in front of a wall o' clues doesn't help. So he steps out to drink alone (bad sign) and some woman calling herself "Sally" sidles up. She claims she knows the mystery highlander. Sure she does. This definitely has nothing to do with the fact that the postwar U.K. is full of people who've barely got two pennies to rub together and would really love money to buy butter and sugar and there's a big fat reward at stake.
1743 again. Claire is disappointed to learn they won't be filling stockings with toys and sweets come December, because Charles Dickens hasn't invented Christmas yet. But they've got bigger problems; there's somebody prowling in the dark, preparing to attack. Jamie hands Claire a big-ass knife and sends her to hide in a fallen log. Fortunately, the MacKenzies quickly dispatch their assailants.
Have we crammed enough action in yet? Apparently not! Frank gets his own chance to kick some ass when "Sally" leads him to a bunch of dudes who, duh, just want the reward money. The scene quickly turns terrifying—especially after all that time with the sadistic Black Jack—when Frank grabs the woman who led him into the trap by her throat and damn near chokes her out. Cut to the good Rev telling Frank he needs to turn away from the darkness, which apparently means writing off Claire and returning to Oxford. DO YOU GUYS SERIOUSLY JUST NOT THINK WOMEN EVER GET MURDERED? Don't give me that Sherlock Holmes nonsense—the simplest explanation is that Claire was FUCKING MURDERED.
Of course she wasn't, but that's neither here nor there.
The MacKenzie crew takes a few moments for Angus to teach Claire basic self-defense via knife. She gets a tutorial while the peanut gallery stands around offering wisdom like, "I still say the only good weapon for a woman is poison." Yes, Murtagh, it's a classic, but it's not much good in a pinch.
Back with sad Frank. Sad Frank opens suitcase. Sad Frank sorts through Claire's things. Sad Frank gets sadder when he sees their wedding photos. Meanwhile, Jamie and Claire are fucking on a hillock. "Does it ever stop, the wanting you?" Jamie wants to know. Let's hope not! Unfortunately their giggly tryst is interrupted by a couple of Redcoat deserters who decide they'll rape Claire, then kill Jamie. Claire promptly stabs one of them to death. Mr. and Mrs. Fraser just cannot catch a break.
Reverend Wakefield's housekeeper simply must be allowed to say her piece: There's a bunch of ballads about people transported through the standing stones at Craig Na Dun. It's true, of course, but it sounds bananagrams. Frank doesn't buy it, and in fact it finally convinces him it's time to go.
Jamie's distraught and Claire's shocky. Dougal points out that the mysterious Horrocks is likely just like these creeps; Murtagh says they're all coming with Jamie to the meeting. (Anybody else notice Murtagh stepping it up this episode?)
Frank leaves, without Claire's suitcase.
Jamie departs for his meeting with Horrocks, depositing Claire in a mossy wood and making her promise to wait. He's gone long enough that Claire can think past her hormones and realizes she's completely furious at herself for forgetting her plan to get back to Frank. Frank, who is making one last stop at Craig Na Dun before leaving. She rambles just far enough to realize that... she's standing at the foot of Craig Na Dun.
Her hair, by the way, looks fantastic.
After all that excitement for Jamie's butt (and, you know, his obvious worth as a husband), I found myself actively rooting for Claire and Frank as they each ran toward the standing stones in their respective time periods. He looks so crushed; she looks so desperate. The hollering was, yes, kind of cheesy. But they can hear each other! They're so close! Run, Claire, run for a life of pouring tea for posh Oxford undergraduates! Claire goes to touch the stones, she's almost home when—GODDAMN REDCOATS.
Poor sad Frank is probably now convinced he's had a breakdown, and Claire's hustled off to the custody of Black Jack.
Obviously, Black Jack doesn't give a handful of warm spit for Claire's Scottish wedding. He's promising to weasel out all her secrets when she goes for broke and drops the name of the Duke of Sandringham, whom Frank and Reverend Wakefield had theorized might be Black Jack's patron. For a brief moment, it looks like Claire's found an escape route. But she falls for a reference to the man's nonexistent Duchess, and Black Jack pulls some rope from his desk drawer.
My heart sank when I saw that rope. And I realized that one difference between the depiction of sexual violence in Outlander versus so many other shows is that somehow, this particular story doesn't seem numb to the crime. Obviously I'm going straight for the cliche, here, but think of how SVU treats horrific crimes against women as just another day in the life of the Big City. Terrible, yes, but not especially surprising. When Black Jack dismissed his flunky and told him not to come back, no matter what he heard, I wanted to clap my hands over my ears and close my eyes. The moment felt immense and terrible—not inevitable.
An especially unnerving touch: The scene in Black Jack's quarters felt like a bookend to the wedding night scene. All that intimate conversation in the firelight, you know? Except it's all wrong. Just when it was about to become unwatchable, the magnificent, valiant Mr. Fraser burst through the window and announced, "I'll thank you to take your hands off my wife." No sooner can we shout "JAMIE!!!" than we're hit with the credits. Outlander, you're breaking my heart.
It's been fun, friends! See you back here in April. Email recommendations if you find any particularly delightful Scottish romances in the meantime. I leave you with this wistful acoustic cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."
Photo via Starz.