Thursday, June 20, 2024

Outlander Season 1 Catch-Up: Episodes 7-8

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Recaps of episodes 1×07 “The Wedding” and 1×08 “Both Sides Now”; content warning for discussions of rape and violence

These two episodes are WILD and CRAZY, y’all. My original plan for these recaps was 4 episodes per article, as I did with the first one, but considering how LONG each episode is, and how much happens, I decided it was easier on everyone if I whittled it down to 2. That means it’ll take a little longer to get all the recaps out, but you won’t be reading an entire novel every Friday!

Let’s start with “The Wedding,” maybe one of the single greatest episodes of television ever made. Okay, slight exaggeration, but only very very slight. This episode was both written and directed by women, and it shows in pretty much everything: the lighting, the music, the way Jaime touches Claire and the way it’s all filmed. The wedding night love scenes were voted some of the best sex scenes on TV in 2014 on several lists. I mean just. This episode. Wow.

It opens with Jaime and Claire preparing for their wedding night, and I remember the first time I watched it I was like, “Wait, did I miss something?” The story of their wedding is told in flashback as they get a little tipsy to overcome their nervousness about consummating the marriage. As the episode goes on, Jaime reveals quite a few things that would make even the most hardened cynic melt.

It’s terrible, really…

First, it becomes painfully obvious that despite his lack of choice in the matter, he was really jumping at the chance to marry Claire. Boy is smitten. He is in deep smit. He tells Dougal there are 3 conditions for him marrying Claire:

  • It has to be in a proper church with a proper priest
  • She has to have a proper ring
  • She has to have a proper wedding gown

Be still my fangirl heart.

Dougal and Willy take care of the priest situation. Dougal ends up having to bribe him to perform the ceremony, because he insists he won’t do it until the banns have been read. It’s a process that takes 3 weeks (every Sunday for 3 weeks…), and obviously they don’t have that long, since Jack Randall is expecting Claire at Fort William in 2 days. The priest hates his cold, drafty church, so Dougal offers him glass windows. That seals the deal without much of a fight.

Angus and Rupert approach the local blacksmith to ask about the ring. He tells them he has some silver in the back, but Rupert presents him with a key and says that Jaime wants the “part you stick in the lock” and “the other bit” left intact. The blacksmith says he can do it. Next week. They pay extra for him to get it made that day.

Ned Gowan is sent to the local brothel to find a wedding gown. The girls offer him quite a few dresses, but finally the madame appears with a gown wrapped in a cloak. She tells him a lord bought it for his wife, but then traded it to them for, uh, services rendered. She says it’s never been worn, as is proper for a wedding gown. Ned says he’ll take it, and she asks for a shilling. Wow. What a steal and a half.

Meanwhile Claire is piss-face drunk. The ladies get her dressed, and she shows up to the wedding hungover. Jaime has a laugh about it as Claire tells him. She says she remembers bits and pieces, but he says he remembers every single detail. “When I saw you, it was like I walked outside on a cloudy day and the sun had come out.”

Ugh. Anyway. Claire has a moment of panic. She says she can’t marry Jaime because she doesn’t know his real name. “James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser,” he tells her. “Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” she says, offering to shake hands. Instead he takes her hand in his and holds it until she calms enough to walk into the church.

Who knew you could find a dress like that at a Scottish brothel?

The wedding is lovely, and after the priest has done his bit, Dougal cuts their wrists a little and binds their hands together. They then repeat some words in Gaelic and yay! They’re married!

Back to the wedding night…Jaime is a silly young virgin, and their first time isn’t so great for Claire. Things improve dramatically from there, though, and honestly just watch this episode because it’s fantastic.

pretty much sums it up

There’s also a good deal of imagery with Claire’s wedding ring from Frank. She drops it down her bodice before the wedding, and after the night with Jaime she’s shaking out the dress and the ring flies across the room. It rolls until it falls between a floorboard crack, but luckily the crack isn’t wide enough for her to lose it. She puts it on her right hand, and there’s a long shot of her two hands spread, Jaime’s ring on the left and Frank’s on the right.

two hubbies, two hundred years apart

Episode 7 begins with Jaime and Claire enjoying a picnic on a high cliff. Doesn’t look like a great day for filming: though it isn’t actively raining at the time, their hair is wet and it’s all gray and foggy. Ah, Scotland.

An arrow flies in (ambush is a common theme in this episode), but it’s friendly fire. Jaime’s old friend Hugh Munro appears, and Jaime introduces Claire. Hugh had his tongue cut out by the Turks, so he speaks largely with signs. He insists they enjoy a drink together, and he gives Claire a gift: a dragonfly frozen in amber. For those who don’t know, Dragonfly in Amber is the title of the second book.

Munro, Jaime, and Claire enjoying some fine Scottish weather.

Munro tells Jaime that an English redcoat deserter was a witness to the murder Jaime didn’t commit. The deserter is willing to testify, and thus get the price lifted from Jaime’s head. Jaime trusts Munro implicitly, but he doesn’t trust the deserter guy at all. Still, it’s a gamble he has to take if he wants to return to Lallybroch with his new wife.

The episode jumps back and forth between Jaime and Claire in 1743 and Frank in 1945. Claire’s been missing 6 weeks, and Frank is desperate to find her. He visits the police station for what must be the 100th time, and the cop finally levels with him. He believes Claire ran off with “the Highlander” Frank saw the night before Claire’s disappearance. Frank is furious, and he storms out of the station and back to Reverend Wakefield’s.

Back in the 18th century, the Mackenzie group is sitting by the fire while Rupert tells stories. Jaime notices the horses are restless and everyone braces for an ambush. Sure enough: a pack of thieves make off with a horse and 3 bags of grain before the men can fight them off. Jaime gave Claire a knife and told her to hide, and the next morning the men insist she learn to use it.

Angus teaches her how to kill a man with it, and though she believes (hopes) she’ll never need to use it, you can tell the whole scene is very Chekhov’s Hidden Boot Knife. Sure enough, like one scene later Jaime sneaks Claire away from the group for some, uh, private time, and they’re interrupted mid-coitus.

The men are deserters, and they threaten to kill Jaime and rape Claire. One of them is on top of her, nearly in the act, when she stabs him in the back. Jaime attacks the other one, whose gun goes off, and Jaime then slits his throat. Claire is understandably traumatized, going into shock, but she refuses to talk about what happened for fear she’ll say WAY too much.

Frank, meanwhile, is set up by some grifters looking to score the reward money he’s offering for info about Jaime or Claire. He ends up beating one of the men almost to death, and the next day Reverend Wakefield urges him to go back to Oxford. Give up on Claire, he says. If she could come back, she would have by now. Frank agrees, reluctantly, and goes upstairs to pack his things.

The reverend’s housekeeper, Mrs. Graham, insists on telling Frank the legend of the standing stones. She explains that craigh na dun is known as one of these faerie gateways, and that certain people on certain days can travel through them to other times. Frank doesn’t believe her, of course, and he leaves.

There’s more wedding ring imagery here, this time focusing on Frank. It seems like nearly every scene transition from 18th to 20th century somehow uses Frank’s wedding ring. It’s clear that while Frank is clinging as hard as he can to his wife, Claire is drifting further away from him as she falls deeper in love with Jaime.

Claire is angry, but she doesn’t understand why. Jaime and the other men are going to meet with the deserter who supposedly has information for Jaime, and he insists Claire stay behind with Willy. She argues at first, but finally promises she will. As she waits, she realizes her fury isn’t at Jaime or Dougal or even the redcoats, but at herself. She’s given up on her plans to return to Frank and her own time, and she hates herself for it.

She walks away a bit and looks up. They’re at craigh na dun. She runs toward the stones, while in 1945 Frank stops his car at the hill and climbs it. They’re both running up the hill, 200 years apart. Frank stops at the stones and sobs, then cries out Claire’s name. Claire hears an echo of his voice and yells for him. He can hear her! He looks around, but of course she’s 200 years away.

It’s fine; I didn’t need my heart or anything.

She’s reaching for the stone when suddenly she’s grabbed from behind by several English soldiers, tied up, and thrown in the back of a wagon. They’re taking her to Fort William and Jack Randall.

Once there, Claire tries to bluff her way out by telling Randall she’s also working for his patron, the Duke of Sandringham. I think at this point Claire doesn’t realize just how dangerous Jack Randall is. Yes, she knows what he did to Jaime; both from Jaime’s point of view and his own; and she’s been at his mercy before, but she still underestimates him.

He calls her on the bluff and ties her up. Cuts the laces on her dress and rips the front of it open. He bends her over the table and is threatening to cut her with her own boot knife when the window flies open.

“I’ll thank you to take your hands of my wife,” Jaime says.

I’m not sure who was happier to see him, Claire or Randall.

Whew. Okay, so, um. Claire was nearly raped twice this episode, which is…pretty bad. But I don’t know, you guys. There’s something about the way this show handles it? First of all, if you’re accosted by two deserters on the road and your top is already half off and you’re in the middle of having sex with your husband, what do you think they’re gonna do? Anything less would be unrealistic, and Claire rescued herself from the situation. Also, we see the aftermath of that trauma immediately. This wasn’t something she just shrugged off and moved on from; the event was actually the impetus for her actions the rest of the episode.

Randall’s behavior has been well-documented. He already tried to rape Claire once, and Jaime believes Randall raped his sister. The fact that he would use the threat of sexual violence as a means to get Claire to talk is completely unsurprising. Another British officer wouldn’t, but Black Jack Randall would in a heartbeat.

nasty son of a bitch

Jaime rescues her here, but there was literally nothing she could do to save herself. She tried to appeal to the guard outside the door, but he was just a lowly corporal under orders from his (clearly very frightening) superior. Her hands are literally tied. Her only weapon is taken from her. Jaime’s arrival is timely, but it’ll cost him dearly…as we’ll see in NEXT WEEK’S RECAP! Same bat time, same bat channel!

Ahem. Shameless self-promotion aside, these 2 episodes are so different from each other and run such a gambit of emotions that they left me dizzy watching them back-to-back. I think they demonstrate what this show is truly capable of when it’s at its best.

images curtesy of Starz

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