Outlander Recap: Misty Water-Colored Memories of Penicillin


Hello, and welcome back to the Thank God I Live in the Twenty-First Century Appreciation Hour. Or, as Starz insists on calling it, Outlander. Here be your recap, lassies. (Sorry, I promise I won’t do that again.)

I’d like to begin by confessing that I’ve been wholly won over by this Celtic Woman-style theme song. Any day now I’m going to drag out my Loreena McKennitt CDs from my senior year of high school and so will I fritter away the last of my coolness points.

This week’s episode begins right where we left off last week, with Claire and the dudes of Clan MacKenzie riding into the muddy courtyard of Castle Leoch. (Which you might better remember as Castle TV Cunnalingus.) This episode is another ride on the exposition shuttle before we can transfer to the main plot, but that’s OK, because at least this time it was a bunch of historical details. As various MacKenzie functionaries greet the returning soldiers, Claire stares around wide-eyed, watching people make baskets and engage in other ye old pre-Amazon tasks.

And then we meet Mistress Fitzgibbons, a.k.a. Missus Fitz, who apparently runs the show at Castle Leoch. She is none too sure about shabby Claire in her dirty shift but perks up when she realizes that our almost-modern-day heroine has some healing skills. Although, I must admit, when she asked “Do you mean to say you know what to do for that?” regarding inflamed wounds, I thought they were going to catapult us into a witchcraft plot very, very early in the show. But blissfully it looks like we’ll get a little more character development first.

Also, those arm-warmer things she’s rocking look pretty fantastic. Can I get some of those on Etsy, do you reckon?

So Missus Fitz bundles Jamie and Claire off to a convenient fireplace and supplies them with boiled garlic and whatever else passed for an antiseptic back before modern medicine. (If you’re a medical professional playing some sort of bacterial-themed drinking game, bottoms up.) And then the show gives the people what they want: Firelight flickering lovingly over Jamie’s substantial muscles.

Oh, and some backstory, if you’re into that. Jamie’s back is badly scarred, thanks to floggings at the hand of (you guessed it) Black Jack Randall. See, one day Black Jack and his soldiers rolled up to Jamie’s family farm to collect a new levy, and the men began harassing Jamie’s sister. Jamie tries to stop the rape, Black Jack intervenes only to escalate the whole situation—making it apparent that he’s a total sadist and not the fun kind—the Jamie gets flogged and his sister is raped anyway. Plus Jamie is hied off to Fort William, for “obstruction.”

“He wanted to send a message—this is what you get when you fight back against the English.” Yikes. If we’ve got any historical scholars in the house, I’d be very curious to hear anything you’ve got re: Scotland, England, and sexual violence. Obviously occupiers are often a nasty bunch, but I’d be interested to know whether this feels like a historically accurate turn of events or a blatant plot device.

Jamie’s woman-protecting bona fides having been established, we’re back to his bare chest. He grins, tells Claire her husband is a lucky man and she remembers oh, right, I’m a couple of centuries away from my beloved husband, who is probably very worried: “Fears would prey on him. Perhaps I was abducted. Perhaps I was dead. Or perhaps, worst of all, I had left him for another man.” HMMM.

Jamie attempts to reassure her: “You need not be scared of me, nor anyone else here. As long as I’m with you.” “When you’re not with me?” “Just never forget that you’re English in a place where that’s not a pretty thing to be.”

What’s really interesting, here, is just how little power Jamie actually has to protect her. With some sweeping, epic romance about a lady lost in the Scottish Highlands who meets a totally cut dude, the predictable thing would be for him to shoulder the role of protector and immediately sort things out for her, knight errant-style. Not so, thus far into Outlander! I’m sure Jamie gives really great hugs, but it frankly feels like that’s all he can do for Claire right this moment. He’s not even the boss in the group of warriors who picks Claire up—that’s Dougal. Maybe he’ll be useful eventually, but at the moment, Missus Fitz is a far more valuable ally.

Oh, and another interesting thing: If you were paying attention, maybe you noticed that the next scene, when Missus Fitz dresses Claire in proper Highland attire, portrays our heroine’s naked body in a vastly different manner than the blatant invitation to ogling that was the bandaging-Jamie scene. It’s much more about telegraphing “We’re in the past now!!!” than hollering “BEWBS.” Right down to the exchange about her underwear: “It’s a brassiere. It’s from France.”

And then it’s time for more exposition, as Claire is taken to Laird Colum MacKenzie for an intro. Naturally she takes the opportunity to rifle through his papers and discover that it’s 1743. “Scotland is definitely part of Great Britain.” This voiceover is definitely for Americans who’ve seen Braveheart and that’s it. Then comes the moment where Claire has to make some shit up, so they don’t assume she’s had a complete break with reality. And admittedly, she does better than most of us would (“Ummmm… I’m from….. ummmmmm…. somewhere you’ve never heard of?”). She claims to be a widow from Oxfordshire, on her way to relatives in France when she was first robbed, then threatened by Black Jack.

Colum is skeptical: “It’s true that Captain Randall has a certain reputation. But he is an officer. A gentleman. And you’re saying that a man bearing the king’s commission decided to rape a stray lady traveler that he came upon int he woods for no good reason?” “Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master MacKenzie?” GIVE ‘EM HELL, CLAIRE.

She leaves the meeting, thinking she’ll be sent back to Inverness with a peddler in five days, then it’s just a hop, skip and a jump back to her own time period. But first, she has to make it five days. When isn’t going to be quite such a cakewalk, as she discovers when she sits down for dinner and Colum begins firing off questions: Why the English pronunciation of “Beauchamp”? What does she make of the town she’s supposedly traveling to? Etc., etc.

This is why you should never time-travel alone, only in the company of a licensed Doctor.

So, basically, Jamie is the only person who seems to trust her. And, as she discovers when she takes him a bit of lunch and checks his bandages the next day, he’s an outlaw with an enormous price on his head, supposedly for killing a man. (He says someone else killed him, but while springing him from Fort William. Six of one, half dozen of the other, as far as the English are concerned.)

“Why did you tell me?” “You asked,” he tells Claire, roguishly. Oh, and then there’s this charming exchange: “Just promise not to get flogged or stabbed today, that’ll be thanks enough.” “Now, no promises, Sassenach.” As lone allies go, she could do worse.

While killing time working in the garden until she’s supposedly going to catch her ride back to Inverness, Claire makes another maybe-friend: Geillis Duncan, whose idea of female bonding is to point out the abortifacient plants and remark, “The girls in the village come to me every now and again for such things. They say I’m a wiiiitch.”

Obviously, I love her.

And then we get another scene in which Jamie steps up to protect a young woman. It’s justice night at the castle, where everyone gathers before Colum to present their problems for adjudication. Among them: An angry father who wants his daughter punished for her “loose behavior” and disobedience. Fuck that noise. This show often seems calculated to make you kiss the asphalt outside your twenty-first century apartment in gratitude for the advances we’ve made in the last couple centuries. It’s already tiresome to compare this show to Game of Thrones, but it really does feel like they’re doing something similar in stripping a romanticized world clear of its sentimental cliches.

Jamie volunteers to take the beating. He shrugs it off to Claire, explaining it would have “shamed” the girl but “It was easier for me. I’m sore, but I’m not really damaged.” I can’t decide whether Jamie is a good-hearted man who sees the unfairness with which his world treats women and attempts to fight it as best he can (but can’t figure out anything more effective than taking the occasional beating), or if the show is simply using violence against women as a characterization tool. (Or both!)

At any rate, poor Claire is almost free of these people and their kilts and their brogues, climbing into the peddler’s wagon, when Dougal appears. Sorry, Claire—it’s not gonna be that easy. He takes her down to the basement where Frank was most recently putting his face into her tingly bits, and Colum informs her that she isn’t going anywhere until she shares her secrets. But hey, in the meantime, they’d love for her to be their healer. How’s that for a job offer?

Images via Starz

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