Recap: ‘Outlander’ – We return to 1945 to see ‘Both Sides Now’

donna-dickens
Deputy Entertainment Editor
09.27.14

Starz

Well, here we are. At the end of the line. It”s hard to believe this is the last episode until April! What am I going do? The temptation to read the book to find out what”s going to happen will be strong, but I will overcome! 

Last week we left Claire in a state of internal tug-of-war between her new husband Jamie and her first husband Frank. After an amazing night of wine-muddled honeymoon sex, the harsh light of day crashed in to remind her – and  us – that she”s been sidetracked from her mission.   As we gear up for a SEVEN MONTH break (whyyyyyyyyyy?), we”re going to see “Both Sides Now.”

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A lone black phone is ringing. But this is no flashback. We”re in real time, with Frank, who has been desperately searching for his missing wife. From what I”ve gleaned in the comments, this is isn”t in the books since they”re from Claire”s perspective. So for once, everyone is as in the dark as me! Ha!

The Inverness police are pretty fed up with this damn British guy who can”t accept that his wife ran off with Ghost Jamie. With none of her stuff. And no money. And leaving the car behind. Great police work, guys. The detective has to drink desk whiskey to brace himself for Frank”s face of disgusted judgement. Despite searching for six weeks(!) and conducting 175 interviews, there is neither hide nor hair of Mrs. Randall. As a master spy, Frank is like “Well this about what I expected from amateurs. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. GOOD DAY, SIR.”

Now knowing how much time has passed since Claire went through the stones on the 1945 side, I”m wondering if this is parallel time passage on the 18th-century side? If so, that”ll help if/when Claire gets back. She won”t be, say, seventy while Frank is still in his thirties. On the downside, it does mean he gets to panic and think the worst, possibly forever.

In a jarring change of venue, we leave a frustrated Frank to find Claire and Jamie having a picnic on the foggy moors of Scotland. It”s actually really pretty and not for the first time, I tell myself I”m going to look up the pattern to make that damn shawl. Still in the throes of being newly deflowered, Jamie asks if it”s normal to feel like this when you touch your wife. Seriously, Jamie is just about the sweetest thing in the world. Claire confirms it”s normal to feel sort of like this, but not exactly like this.

I can”t tell if she”s alluding to feeling things for Jamie that she”s never felt before, or if she”s acknowledging to herself that her feelings for Jamie are inextricably mixed up with guilt and confusion.

We”ll never know though, because suddenly ARROWS! And they”re blue! It”s the return of blue as heralding important things. Jamie smothers Claire to protect her from archer with awful aim but it”s okay. Instead of bad guys, it”s only Scottish Radagast, who is a friend of Clan MacKenzie. 

Scottish Radagast has come bearing gifts and exposition. We learn the Frasers have been married two days. We also learn this poor dude was captured by Turks and spent nearly a decade as a slave. At first I thought he was deaf, but no. The Turks cut out his tongue and boiled his legs in oil, because we”re still in the portion of history where aggressive conversion tactics involved more than ringing the doorbell and handing out pamphlets. But Scottish Radagast escaped! Um excuse me, where is THIS guy”s story? Now he has licenses to beg in different Scottish parishes, which is probably the most Discworld thing I”ve ever heard of in real life. Lord Vetinari would be pleased.

The world”s most badass beggar gives the Frasers – okay Claire – a wedding gift. It”s a dragonfly in amber. Which I”m pretty sure is the name of the second book so I”ll just file that away as super important for later. Scottish Radagast also has news that some Red Coat deserter named Horrocks wants to help clear Jamie”s name. Which sounds exactly like a trap. But hey, hope springs eternal. His exposition duty complete, Scottish Radagast disappears over the foggy horizon. Godspeed.

Back in 1945, the priest is trying to buck up Frank”s spirits. Perhaps Claire fell in the river and drown. Or maybe it carried her downstream and she”s living off frogs in the wilderness, awaiting rescue. This sounds exactly as stupid and condescending to Frank as it does to us and he”s all “I can”t be around this adorable kid who just materialized into the plot because he”s is obviously relevant later. I”m going to the bar.”

The bar is a delightful dive that is an exact replica of what your brain conjures when you think of a small town 1940s bar. Complete with a blonde dame. Frank is drinking whiskey and trying to forget his wife is missing when in walks Sally. Of all the bars in all the world, she had to walk into this one. Sally sidles up to the Frank and says she knows where Ghost Jamie is. If Frank is willing to meet her behind the cobbler shop at half past midnight, she”ll take Frank to him. But he has to come alone, and bring the reward money. 

Oh. It”s a trap. What a bitch.

We have to wait to see if Frank will be a fool soon parted – violently – with his money. In the 18th-century, Tweedle Hagrid is telling a Scottish fable about the Builder and the Water Horse”s wife. I”d bet good money there”s an allegory to Claire”s situation here but the focus moves away from the fire and the story is lost under the burble of Claire asking Jamie if they hang up stockings for Christmas. This does two things. It confirms the Randalls are moving at the same speed through time, parallel to each other. Also that the Christmas stocking tradition hasn”t made it to Scotland yet. It”s the little moments like this, where you can see it in Claire”s face as she re-remembers everything she lost by falling through time. 

Before she can become too morose, the threat of bandits draws the attention of the entire group. Tweedle Hagrid keeps up his story, but his eyes are darting about. Tweedle Dumb is still meandering, but with an air of heightened awareness. Scottish Santa arms himself. Jamie arms Claire with a kiss. I get the feeling this isn”t the clan”s first rodeo. Like a well oiled machine, they beat the snot out of whoever attacks in from the darkness.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, it is dark. In modern times, it”s easy to forget just how DARK the night is. Claire runs to hide and the skirmish is on. One of the horses is stolen but Budget Ben brought a gun to this knife fight. Clan MacKenzie wins by default! The bandits withdraw, vanishing into the misty night. Everyone has a hearty laugh because if you don”t laugh after narrowly escaping death, you”ll go insane.

Claire survived her brush with death, but will Frank? He is walking through the rain and wow, Hollywood needs more noir, because it”s such a fantastic visual aesthetic. Sally is waiting, but she is jumpy. Dude, this is such a trap. She leads him into a dark alley and of course, that”s when the thugs attack. They demand the reward money. But Frank is no fool, he came prepared. He beats the ever-living shit out of one of guys using a blackjack, because symbolism. Sally begs him to stop before Frank kills her cohort, which was a bad call because now she”s in Frank”s crosshairs. Girl, you gonna die. Before he chokes her out, she confesses it was a scam and Frank storms off. Some might say Frank is more savage than necessary, but these idiots did just try to steal money from a grieving spymaster.

Back at the hotel, the priest is all “Hey man, don”t choke women. It”ll make you evil. Like the Nazis. But you get a mulligan this time since she was kind of a manipulating bitch.” The good Father then hedges that maybe Claire did run off with her ghost lover and it”s time to let her go before the grief metastasizes into all-consuming hate and rage. 

The next morning in 18th century Scotland, the group is looking for the sword Claire dropped during the fight with the bandits. It was too heavy for her. So obviously the men decide she needs a peasant/bodice dagger. Tweedle Dumb is tasked with giving her an impromptu lesson on murder while the rest of the clan looks on. Jamie”s Fairy Godfather grumps that poison is a more appropriate weapon for women but Scottish Santa – always the pragmatist – points out poison is a bit deficient in a battle scenario. 

Look, let”s be real. This entire scene is for our benefit. The audience needs to be walked through where you stab an attacker, so we”re on board when Claire has to kill someone. Probably later in this episode. If you expect me to believe a combat nurse wouldn”t know to stab up under the sternum from the front, or through the ribs in the back, you”ve got another think coming. 

Back with Frank, he”s giving up the ghost. Claire is gone and no one here can help. But as he”s packing to leave, he spies Claire”s (blue!) suitcase. Against his better judgement, he opens it. Among her things is a photo of their wedding day.

Wow. The show is pulling no punches here. We go from Frank staring at a wedding photo to Jamie and Claire getting it on in a meadow. I actually appreciate they aren”t glossing over how messed up this entire scenario is for everyone involved. Jamie and Claire might one day be a great love story, but right now it just feels like Stockholm Syndrome wrapped in a delicious candy coating of lust. 

Suddenly, Red Coats! They pull Jamie off of Claire and are threatening to kill him. I don”t think they know Jamie has a price on his head, so they”re just being evil to be evil. Or to give Claire a chance to show off her newly acquired stabbing skills. Because based on past behavior, that”s the only reason I can come up with why Jamie isn”t taking care of this. As caricatures of evil, the lobster coats decide to let Jamie watch them rape Claire. So obviously she skewers one of them like a stuck pig and finally Jamie slits the other dude”s throat. Well, that escalated quickly. 

The priest and Mrs. Graham are fighting. She wants to tell Frank about Craig Madoon but the good Father thinks it”s a bunch of hooey an it would be cruel to give the man false hope. Unfortunately for them, it”s an old house and Frank heard the fight. So here we go. Mrs. Graham is gonna lay down the magical truth. How does it feel to be on the receiving end of an exposition dump, Mr. Randall!? How the tables have turned.

Mrs. Graham knows about the magic in the stones because the stories are passed down in songs, like the one Claire heard at Castle Leoch. Sometimes certain people are taken by the stones, falling through time. Every traveler is different. So the stones aren”t like a wormhole between two specific years. But the songs also say travelers often return. 

Frank takes this about as well as can be expected. He doesn”t believe in magic and is going home to Oxfordshire. But at least he was respectful? He didn”t call Mrs. Graham crazy or try to belittle her. He merely said he doesn”t share her beliefs. And let”s be real. Who would? Roger – the child who manifested in this episode because he”s got to be important right? – watches Frank leave.

With the Red Coats dispatched and the immediate danger over, Jamie is apologizing over and over again for the script forcing him to do nothing until she acted first. Claire is understandably in shock, which is bad. In a quick bit of voice-over, our heroine internally voices her fear that the shock will cause her to babble about things like being a time traveler. 

So she is more than happy to let Jamie leave her muttering “It”s just shock,” over and over while he and the rest of the men take care of the bodies. Dougal points out these guy”s were deserters…just like Horrocks. Scottish Santa determines it”s dangerous to go alone, take this. “This” being the entire clan. Just in case Jamie in walking into a trap.

In 1945, Frank finally leaves Inverness, and all of Claire”s things, behind.

On the road to Horrocks, Claire is angry and she doesn”t know why. Girl, really? Is it because you just got sexually assaulted? Or because you had to murder a dude? Maybe? Oh, she”s mad because she forgot all about getting home to Frank. In a daze of self-loathing she promises to stay put with Young Willie as a babysitter, despite the fact she can obviously handle herself just fine.

Frank is on the road. That car is still gorgeous. Perhaps this is the last we”ll see of him. Or perhaps he”s going home to start the search anew with all the resources available to him from the spy network. Or perhaps he”ll drive past the marker to the stones and turn around and go back to the scene of the crime. Oh my God, is he going to come through too!? How much confusion would that cause, what with him looking exactly like his psychopathic ancestor? 

Claire is walking through the sun-dappled woods in a fog of self-contempt. She”s ditching her babysitter, so either something bad is about to happen or she”s finally going to make a run for it. But there”s no need to run! The stone circle is right there. Her state of shock kept her from realizing how close they were. Without a second thought, she beelines for Craig Madoon.

There is a quick cut with swelling music as Claire and Frank run towards each other through time. In any other show, this would be the happy ending where Mrs. Randall pops back through just as her husband arrives to watch (to squash any lingering doubt that she”d left him) and they live happily ever after. But that”s not this show. SO WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

Hahaha, Frank is shouting Claire”s name to the heavens and crying and she can hear him through time and I am a blubbering mess on my couch. Claire hears Frank yelling for her and starts screaming his name back. And he hears her! She”s sprinting the last few steps and there”s her missing shawl, wrapped around the bottom of the middle stone. Claire reaches out to touch it and it fades to black. And for a hot second I think they”re going to end the episode there but no.

GODDAMMIT RED COATS RUIN EVERYTHING!

With her hands centimeters from the magic rock, Red Coats drag Claire away. Frank decides he was hearing things and, dejected, leaves. 

I AM SO MAD.

Claire is taken to Fort William, home of Black Jack Randall. Our heroine can only hope the plan she came up with on the way there is enough to help her survive his insanity. Like most psychopaths, he begins as a gentlemen. He offers Claire wine, comments on her double wedding rings. But then the intimidation begins. Who knew dragging a chair across the floor could hold that much menace? Does he practice this shit in the mirror to perfect the underlying threat?

But Claire is ready. She mentions the Duke of Sandringham. Bam! All the exposition chickens have come home to roost. For a hot second she has the upper hand, and I almost think she”s going to convince this lunatic they both work for the same guy. But then she fumbles at the one yard line and walks in to a trap. The Duke has never been married.

She tries to run but the door is guarded by a poor Red Shirt. Is that the same corporal that Black Jack made kick Claire? The guard is just as afraid of his superior officer as everyone else, so Claire is on her own. It doesn”t take long to get down to the sexual assault. Twice in one day? Bloody hell, this is the worst. But right before things get to straight up torture porn, a wild Jamie appears.

Jamie”s got a gun. His dog day”s just begun. Jamie demands the release of his wife. Black Jack laughs in disbelief. End season.

WHAT? No! You can”t end it there. Ughhhhhhhh. Well, what did y”all think? Have your feelings on Frank changed? Who do you think that kid Roger is? Was Sally a one-off character or will she be back? What are you going to do until April!?

If you miss me between now and the restart of the season, come back and read my recaps of “Doctor Who” and “Sleepy Hollow” if you watch them! Or even if you don”t and just want to fool your friends into thinking you do!

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