Recap: ‘Outlander’ – ‘The Reckoning’ drives home the reality of 18th century sexism

donna-dickens
Deputy Entertainment Editor
04.04.15

Starz

We”re back, we”re back! “Outlander” has returned for the back half of the first season! And that means more recaps,  more mixed metaphors, and more attempts to guess where this story is going. Warning: By the end of this episode, I am still solidly Team Frank. 

Quick key for those just joining us:

Column – Colum MacKenzie
Scottish Santa – Dougal MacKenzie
Leery – Laoghaire 
Tweedle Twins – Murtagh and Angus
Budget Ben – Ned Gowan
Gilly – Geillis 

Got it? Good. We”re off!

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Instead of diving right back into the climatic moment where Jamie deus ex machina”d his way in to rescue Claire from Black Jack Randall, Season 1B begins with Jamie narrating about how he”s a special snowflake and ruminating on the twists and turns of his life. For added symbolism, a river rushes by to metaphorically sweep Jamie up into a chain of events. It”s two centuries too early for him to heed the wise advice of TLC: don”t go chasing waterfalls or time-traveling women, Jamie. 

As we fade into a flashback, a woman is walking towards a pensive Mr. Fraser. That”s not Claire…

Yay, the gang”s all here! Scottish Santa is ready to take a crack at some poor Red Shirt™ for bringing them information they can”t use. The Tweedle Twins are just impressed the guy defected from the British in the first place. And Budget Ben is having a hard time believing Black Jack would shoot his own man, because he is apparently the Fluttershy of this merry band of archetypes.

Then everything changes when the kid who was watching Claire comes in freaking out because she”s been captured. I”ll give them this, not one of the men hesitate to go storm a fortified British stronghold to retrieve a woman they”ve known only for a few months. 

Honor: the cause of, and solution to, all of 18th century problems.

After properly suiting up – I had no idea putting on a kilt involved laying down – the men head over to save Claire under cover of darkness. If they alert too many guards, the GAME OVER screen will flash and they”ll have to restart the level. Fortunately for them, Jamie put all his stats into stealth, wall rappelling, and bluffing. 

Finally, we get back to the point where the mid-season finale cliffhanger left us last year. While everyone would been more than pleased if Jamie had followed up his pithy one-liner with a bullet in Randall”s face, then Frank wouldn”t exist so what can you do? Instead the men basically play a game of chicken with Claire”s virtue and, knife to her throat or not, I keep hoping she cracks her captor in the solar plexus or gives a good stomp on his instep. I have to believe a nurse from WWII who saw active combat and grew up with a world-traveling archaeologist uncle would have learned some kind of rudimentary self-dense techniques. But perhaps that”s just me putting modern “Strong Female Character” expectations onto Claire, who behaves more like a real person and quietly waits for Jamie to either finish his rescue attempt or get killed in the process.

For a hot second it looks like it”s going to be the latter as Jamie stupidly gives up his weapon to keep Randall from slitting Claire”s throat. Joke”s on Black Jack though, because the guns aren”t loaded. Budget Ben said not to kill anyone, the hippie. The Tweedle Twins saw that request as more of a guideline really, since they opt for explosions. Pretty sure explosions kill people.

With the guards distracted by the fire and Black Jack temporarily indisposed, the newly married couple makes their escape by jumping into the dark water below and swimming to safety. Claire's superpower is not drowning while swimming in a woolen cloak.

Worst. Honeymoon. Ever. But at least the worst is over.

Hahaha, just kidding. Quite literally as soon as they are safe, Jamie reveals himself to be a victim-blaming jerk who wants an apology from Claire for getting kidnapped. Then his logic gets even worse. Jamie thinks Claire must have purposefully gotten herself captured and almost sexually assaulted to PUNISH JAMIE for him not being able to save her from being assaulted by the British deserters earlier. So, Jamie thinks Claire wandered off to get captured and raped to get back at Jamie for letting her get raped. Are. You. Kidding! Me!? 

Do you want to get murdered in your sleep, Jamie Fraser? Because this is how you get murdered in your sleep.

Claire is righteously furious over this treatment. For the first time she”s seeing how men in the 18th century viewed their wives, as little more than a uterus with legs. The couples” screaming fight ends with Jamie breaking down over how afraid he was for Claire and they both apologize and forgive each other.

The gang, on the other hand, does not forgive Claire. She can”t sit with them and they completely ignore her when they get back to the house. 18th century Scotland is apparently “Mean Girls,” only on Wednesdays we wear tartan instead of pink.

Just when things are settling down for the night, Jamie”s old-fashioned morals rear their ugly head again. Claire put the group in danger and must be made to understand. What that actually means is that Jamie is going to beat the willfulness out of her. Literally. With a belt.

There”s a second where I think Jamie will be smart about this and say the guys downstairs are waiting for a show, so let”s give them one. Then he”d beat the bedsheets and Claire would shriek and they”d have a laugh and a tumble and bond over their shared aversion to BEATING WOMEN FOR BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.

Do you want to be castrated and fed your own manhood in your sleep, Jamie Fraser? Because this is how you get castrated and fed your own manhood in your sleep.

Claire does her best to fend off Jamie”s ill-advised attempts at punishment, but he is a good deal bigger than her and in the end, she gets the belt. Good luck to the show for bringing Jamie back from this because as far as I”m concerned, he can die in a fire. Claire can”t get back to the 1940s fast enough.

By the next morning, the men are on speaking terms with Claire again. Nothing like hearing a man abuse his wife to really bring a group together. As far as they”re concerned, justice was meted out and everything can go back to normal. Which includes heading back to Castle Leoch.

Good. That”s where Claire keeps all her poisons…just sayin”.

Mrs. Fitz and the rest of the castle turn out to congratulate the happy couple on their recent nuptials. Column and his impeccably dressed wife make an appearance, giving their congratulations Jamie and Claire on their marriage before allowing an awkward silence to stretch unbearably long. Maybe Letitia is just annoyed that Claire looks better in her castoffs. 

Another person who isn”t pleased by Jamie”s surprise marriage is Leery, who waits in the hallway to demand an explanation. Look, Leery might be a roadblock to Claire and Jamie”s happiness but she has a point. Last Leery knew, Mr. Fraser was kissing on her and as far as I know, that was tantamount to pre-engagement for the time. Jamie does himself no favors by trying to let her down gently and blaming Dougal for arranging the marriage. Unrequited love is  totally going to interpret that as THERE”S STILL A CHANCE FOR US!

Since this episode is being told from Jamie”s perspective, I desperately hope Claire finds time offscreen to talk to Mrs. Fitz or Gilly about her ordeal. The men are CLEARLY not equipped to help her work through the PTSD of being assaulted multiple times.

Things start getting political when Column reveals he”s on to Scottish Santa”s Jacobite intentions. Rents were lean but the people seemed to be able to find enough gold to support a nonexistent army. Dougal points out the common folk gave him that cash of their own free will and it”s not skimmed from the rents, so Column can shove it. To the surprise of no one, Column isn”t on board with signing his clan up for a long bloody war to put a Stuart back on the throne of England. Tensions rise as Dougal goes for the low blow, saying if it weren”t for him Column wouldn”t even have an heir. [record scratch]

So Hamish is TOTALLY Scottish Santa”s Elf. Awkward.

Meanwhile, in the Fraser marriage bed Claire has put the kibosh on sexy fun times. A light sentence considering she knows where Jamie sleeps and has access to weapons.

Sexual frustration is good for Jamie though, because he diverts his energy into solving the upcoming Mackenzie clan civil war over a bag of Jacobite gold. Jamie goes to Column and basically says “Dude there”s no army. Just give Dougal the money and let him play his rebel games and be placated. You know, like you would distract a toddler.” Column agrees to this plan.

We return to the waterfall from the beginning of the episode. Jamie has no idea what to do about Claire. It”s almost as if she can”t forgive him for beating her with a belt for the crime of being sexually assaulted. Huh. My initial observation proves true, as the cloaked woman is Leery and not Claire. She”s come to finish the conversation about their relationship and she is hedging her bets by being in a state of undress.

Oh honey, no.

Leery did take Jamie”s kindness as interest and is ready to offer up her virginity to the man she loves. Her logic is steeped in the Purity Myth; Leery”s lady bits MUST be more appealing because they are unspoiled by previous men, where as Claire has been married before and therefore is worth less. Basically Leery is saying, “Wouldn”t you rather have sex with someone with no frame of reference so your inexperience with women isn”t painfully obvious?”

No, Jamie does not want that. Jamie wants Claire. But does she still want him?

Having finally realized that the traditional roles of marriage are going to get him killed, Jamie does the self-preserving thing and apologizes. In an act of desperation, he gets down on bended knee and swears fealty to Claire in their bedroom. She is frozen in what I wish was disdain, but is probably just lust warring with common sense. 

Her non-answer is all the answer Jamie needs. He asks if she wants to live separately and the dam of emotion finally breaks. Claire knows she SHOULD want to live apart  – you know, because of the abuse – but he”s just so damn pretty. This isn”t the first scene where Claire is not quite from far enough in the future for me. Apparently the concept of the hate-bang wasn”t around in the 1940s. You can still sleep with Jamie without living with him or liking him, Claire! It”s a totally valid option!

Caution thrown to the wind, days or weeks of pent-up sexual frustration bubble to the surface and the Frasers don”t even make it to the bed. It”s a really steamy sex scene, complete with the most realistic woman-on-top I”ve ever seen. Tab A doesn”t just fall into Slot B in reality. Bless “Outlander” for showing that. 

Claire does take a moment to rightfully hold a knife to Jamie”s throat and declare, “If you ever raise a hand to me again I will kill you in your sleep.” I believe she means it, but it”s also really hot, so welcome to Knifeplay for Beginners. This ONE scene has been kinkier than the entire “50 Shades” trilogy. 

The episode ends with the married couple in post-coital bliss on the floor when something catches Claire”s eye. Someone has placed an ill-wishing voodoo doll under their bed. 

Leery dammit, no! Bad spurned lover, bad!

What did you guys think of the episode? Can you forgive Jamie for his transgressions or are you moseying on over to Team Frank?

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