Recap: ‘Outlander’ – To the surprise of no one, ‘The Garrison Commander’ is a jerk

At the end of last week”s episode, Claire left us with a brick wall cliffhanger. Would she out Dougal for his terrible wibbly-wobbly definition of “guest” or would she lie to the British platoon to avoid a shootout? Either way, this seems like a no-win scenario. Sort of a six of one, half dozen of a the other when it comes to an undercurrent of sexual violence. 

Regardless of her choice, tonight we meet “The Garrison Commander.”


We pick up right where we left off, with Lt. Jeremy reiterating his question. Is Claire hanging out in the woods with the Scottish of her own free will? There is a tense moment as she tries to be the Bobby Fischer of Scottish politics, mentally playing out moves in her head for how any answer would end up. Or at least I assume that”s what her dramatic silence means. After all, she doesn”t know she”s on a TV show.

Claire decides….drumroll goes here….that yes she is a guest of Clan MacKenzie. Yes, that is her final answer. 

Lt. Jeremy seems disappointed with her answer. I guess he really wanted an excuse to kill some Scots, but that”ll have to wait for another day. No matter, this was one of those choices that wasn”t really a choice, like a quest in the main storyline of an RPG. The garrison commander wants to meet Claire, so she”s going to meet him. 

Of course, Dougal declares he”s tagging along. You can almost feel the Scottish Santa Suspicion rolling off of him in waves. I bet it smells like pine trees. If Claire thought she”d get rid of her MacKenzie host that easily, she had another think coming. Awww, Dougal is so proud of himself, pulling one over on Claire. Just let him have this one, guys.

As they ride on horseback to the Scottish town that”s been commandeered by British troops, our heroine can”t help but voice-over narrate about how happy she is be back among her fellow Englishmen. She says it”s so nice to be back among men who look at her with respect and sympathy. I am aghast at her naive willingness to trust any man in this era. Her optimism is both inspiring and disheartening. Girl, no. You in danger!

In town, Claire muses that even though they are still on Scottish soil, Dougal is the outlander now. She is courteous enough to not rub it in his face or laugh out loud at his discomfort though. But everywhere we turn, Red Coats permeate the very walls. It”s a veritable infestation of lobster soldiers. Gross. 

Lt. Jeremy leads his guests to the biggest house in town, and I briefly wonder who lived there before they were displaced by the leaders of His Majesty”s army. I also wonder how Lt. Jeremy was living in that hamlet as a blacksmith with none of his neighbors the wiser, because he seems way too at home with the Brits to be a new recruit. Whatever, maybe a good blacksmith is hard to find?

Inside the not-quite-castle, the leaders of the garrison are having dinner. Holy curly bewigged wigs, Batman! It is a sea of terrible hairpieces. How can you take anyone seriously when they have a dead Tribble perched on their head? Somehow Claire manages not to goggle at this display of unfortunate fashion, nodding pleasantly as she is introduced to the garrison commander, Ser Oliver Thomas.

I”ll be honest, I was legitimately expecting to see Captain Black Jack Randall sitting at the head of the table. But I”m not sorry to not see him. I”m sure his vermin face will appear shortly to ruin my good mood.

In the meantime, things are getting tense at dinner as the British can”t help but be assholes. They make fun of Dougal”s accent, refer to him as a creature, and are generally just arrogant entitled shits in the way only the ruling class can be. The American in me wants to slap them all in their stupid faces. I bet their wigs would spin comically. 

Claire is a paragon of sainthood by comparison, merely pointing out that some English accents are just as hard to understand as Scottish ones. The men are discombobulated to be brought to task. God, women just ruin everything. You can”t even been an instigatory asshole to a representative of the opposition without them whining about manners.

Of course Dougal takes the bait, rightly telling them to go back to London if they want to hear Londoner speak. Ser Thomas rebuts by making jokes about kilts because it”s the 18th century and that”s still new material. Things are about to get stabby when Claire calls them all children and virtually demands they stop. Ser Thomas and Dougal finally find common ground by agreeing Claire is super good at ordering men around.

See? We”re not so different after all. Cue the rainbows and puppies. 

As a final insult, Ser Thomas tells Dougal there”s no room at the table for him. Scottish Santa is less insulted than relieved. No decent ale at this fancy pants dinner, better to head down to the pub. A man after my own heart. If he lived in the 21st century, Dougal would be the guy asking where the burgers were on the French restaurant menu.

With their Scottish guest out of the way, the British garrison gets down to the business of having a proper multi-course meal in the middle of a war zone. Because reasons. Claire regales them with her tale of woe during a montage set to what sounds like harpsichord music. I miss the 1940s Top 40, to be honest. Everyone is smiling politely and making small talk about getting Claire back to Enveress(?) and the sickly sweet demeanors of these men is setting off every red flag I have but our heroine seems oblivious. Maybe I”m just paranoid.


Enter Black Jack Randall. He bursts in to let everyone know Dougal is downstairs drinking. Ser Thomas is like “Thanks Captain Obvious. Now get out before you get your gross Scottish dust in my wine.” Black Jack is disgusted but obliges, dramatically dusting himself off in the doorway. And just like that, you know everything you need to know about both of these men.

Black Jack notices Claire and she notices him. They are having the world”s most uncomfortable staring contest. Who will break first? The answer is Ser Thomas, who wasn”t even playing but whatever. He asks if they know each other, and both of them lie and say no. Which is absolutely the wrong move in my book. These men are bound by honor…in public. So why our heroine wasn”t like “Oh yeah, this is the man who tried to rape me in the woods at sword point. Sup?” is a mystery for the ages. Instead she just says “Captain” like most people would say “you fucker.”

Now that she”s lied about knowing him, Ser Thomas thinks it would be a capital idea for them to get to know each other. Perhaps Captain Randall would escort Claire back to Enverness. See? This is what happens when you aren”t sassy every waking moment of the day. You get saddled with your would-be rapist as an escort. 

It seems Black Jack is just as adverse to taking Claire anywhere as she is to going with him. He changes the subject to a private that died recently. Turns out he was found sitting under a tree, with his severed head cradled in his hands. Claire counters with what she and Clan MacKenzie found on the road…the men who”d been crucified with “T” for traitor carved in their flesh. She does this to point out that both sides have done terrible things they should be ashamed of, but she made a tactical error. You can”t argue logic and nuance at people who believe in the Divine Right of kings.

Sensing weakness, because let”s face it logic is weakness in this comically black-and-white world, Black Jack goes in for the kill. He accuses Claire of sleeping with Dougal. She is naturally outraged and so are the other men. What a cad! What a jerk! What a…wait a hot second, did that lady just say we”re the aggressors on Scottish land? THAT WHORE.

So this is what going mad feels like, Claire must be thinking. Probably for the 1000th time.

Before the sluggish thoughts of the British garrison can connect the dots and accuse her of treason, disaster strikes. Some Scotsmen have fired upon the British and there are injured men. Even worse, they can”t find the surgeon. Our heroine virtually throws her hands up in the air at the the utter uselessness of everyone around her and heads downstairs to save lives and chew bubblegum. And she”s all out of bubblegum.

Downstairs, Scottish Santa pulls Claire aside to make sure she”s okay. He saw Black Jack go up there and Dougal may be a lot of things – a bearded bastard, an untrusting dick, a sexual aggressor when drunk – but he is staunchly anti-rape and remembers Claire”s first meeting with the good Captain. She assures him she”s fine and asks if Dougal”s men are responsible for the attack. He is almost insulted and basically says “My boys would never be this stupid.” 

Which clan is harassing the British troops is a mystery for another day though, because War Nurse Claire™ is back in action. The writhing Red Shirt on the table is going to lose his arm. Once more she is barking orders and the soldiers jump to respond, proving people just need someone to tell them what to do in an emergency. The surgeon finally shows up and takes over, throwing a disparaging potshot at Claire about her not fainting. She refrains from kicking him in the junk, so points for discretion.

Oh sweet merciful Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, we”re gonna watch the amputation!? Noooooooope. Not gonna lie, I had to look away because I am a coward. Points to the special effects team for the visceral realness, though.

Sometime later, Claire returns to the dining room. She looks exhausted and is covered in blood. To make matters worse, the only one waiting for her return is Black Jack because that”s the kind of day this is. Some poor kid is shaving the Captain with a straight razor and we – and Claire – are suddenly drawn into a flashback.

Frank and Claire are sitting in a window, bathed in morning light. They are happy. She”s in a robe and he”s shirtless and the implication is they were having a good time the night before. But currently Claire is shaving her husband. With a straight razor. The same straight razor. It had been in his family for generations; over the centuries the original owner lost to time. Part of me wonders if Claire will try to steal it, if only to have a tenuous connection to her Schrödinger”s husband.

But no. Instead we are returned to the present…the past…the current scene…just in time for the nameless corporal to accidentally nick Black Jack”s chin. Which is all the provocation he needs to swan dive straight into Bond supervillain territory. With all the menace of a cartoon parody of evil, Captain Randall forces the soldier to switch places with him so he can pretend like he”d callously kill a member of His Majesty”s service with a razor blade. The only problem? Black Jack is so unhinged, I”m actually concerned for the kid right up until he is able to flee the room.

Of course, with the object of his displeasure gone Captain Randall is free to turn his full attention to Claire. Turns out, while she was saving a kid”s life, the upper crust of the garrison split the scene. So our heroine is in the tender care of the one man in town no woman should be alone with. Great. 

Things start out bizarrely as Black Jack apologizes for trying to rape her. But he does this while pouring the wine out the window and tossing the bottle after. How he makes this feel like a menacing threat is beyond me, but here we are. Watching Claire trapped in a room with this guy is as close to being hunted by an apex predator as I hope to ever get. He”s right up there with King Joffrey on my shit list. Points to Tobias Menzies for fantastic acting, though.

Claire agrees to match her honesty to his, which hot damn that is some good shade. A+ girl. Then begins the game of cat and mouse. Black Jack is trying to suss out who Claire really is. He tests her knowledge of England by saying he”s never met any Beecham”s from Oxfordshire. Claire accidentally tips her hand by saying “how would you know, Sussex boy?” She recovers by basically insulting his accent. They speak French at each other, with the round going to Black Jack, with the backhanded prostitute compliment. 

The stand-off ends in a draw. In an alternate universe, this kind of tit-for-tat would end with Randall sweeping everything off the dining table and the two of them going at it like rabbits. In this universe, it ends with him accusing Claire of being a Scottish spy.

No, THIS is what going mad must feel like, Claire probably thinks for the 1001th time.

The distrust of the one man who can get her back to the standing stones will not do, so Claire goes for the half-truth. She spins a yarn about following her soldier love to Scotland, only to have him prove a cad and try to take advantage of her sexually. By merging Frank”s personality with Black Jack”s, she is even able to convincingly bring about some tears. 

Unfortunately her captor has maggots where he heart should be. While she was dredging up the performance of a lifetime, he was capturing her likeness in charcoal. It”s alway disconcerting when truly evil people have talents. Hell, I”ll bite. You know, like Hitler.

Still unconvinced, Randall demands our heroine give up Dougal and the MacKenzie”s Jacobite plans to prove her loyalty. She refuses, but doesn”t have the wherewithal to say they”ve been speaking Gaelic so she honestly has no idea what they”ve been saying. Instead she accuses Black Jack of flaying the back of a poor Scottish boy and GIRL WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Jamie is a wanted man who is literally in hiding from the British army; don”t tell them where he is. Ughhhhhhhh.

Because he”s insane, Black Jack remembers Jamie fondly. The boy wouldn”t cry out for mercy during his 100 lashes, which was somehow a personal affront to His Majesty and would not be abided. So Randall determined to give him 100 more lashes on top of that. What he didn”t count on is Jamie is some kind of zen master and was able to keep his mouth shut even after any normal human would”ve been weeping in agony. Oh wait, no. Jamie”s just barely conscious from blood loss. I mean, when the dude with the whip is literally slipping in his victim”s blood and the British soldiers standing guard are fainting at the sight of a man”s back laid open like so much meat, maybe it”s time to stop.

How Jamie isn”t dead is a miracle of plot convenience. If the blood loss didn”t get him, the infection should have.  

But we”re not done with this trip down insanity memory lane. Randall continues by saying all everyone could see was the horror, but only he, Black Jack, could see the beauty. The beauty of flaying a man alive. The beauty of Jamie”s back as a canvas. On the one hand, it”s interesting to see inside the logic of the person doing the whipping. On the other hand, Claire run.

Claire does not run, I assume because she is frozen in terror. This man is certifiably insane and her horror is written all over her face. But Black Jack is on a monologuing roll now, and we”re all just along for the crazy train ride. He confesses this isn”t the man he always was, that being watchman over squalid, ignorant people made him this way. That the Scottish caused this darkness and hatred to blossom inside him. Anyone with a lick of sense would see this for the bullshit that it is.

But our heroine pulls a damn Mulder. She wants to believe. Through tear-filled eyes – which are obscuring the truth because this is not your husband girl, wake up – she tells him there is hope. If Randall is this self-aware, he can change. That it”s never too late to win back his humanity. He can be rehabilitated. Perhaps starting by letting her go.

Just when Claire thinks she”s gotten through to him, the sucker punch of reality hits her. Literally. Black Jack punches her in the stomach hard enough she drops to the floor and dry retches. Where”s Scully to say “I told you so” when you need her?

To add the icing on this evil stereotype cake, Black Jack calls the poor corporal back in to witness – and participate in – the beating of an Englishwoman. The corporal is crying as he is coerced into kicking Claire in the stomach and if I were a betting woman, I”d be putting my money on that kid turning his coat before the year is out.

Suddenly, Dougal to the rescue! The corporal looks almost relieved to be intimidated away from Claire”s body. Dougal picks our heroine up like she weighs as much as a feather and gets his War Chief on. Black Jack and his goons are going to let them walk out of here, or Scottish Santa will give them the gift of their asses handed to them on a plate. And a war to boot. Randall is forced to concede but says they must return by sundown the next day, since Claire is an English citizen before she is a guest of Clan MacKenzie.

They flee. I”m impressed Claire can even sit a horse, much less gallop to safety. No sooner have I finished the thought then Claire voices the same sentiment in voice over. Luckily Dougal stops for them to get a drink. A drink from a hidden stream by a gravesite. A drink from a hidden spring by a gravesite that smells/tastes weird.

Basically the just drank the juices of decomposing Scots, didn”t they?

Dougal pulls a knife on Claire when she isn”t looking, because really, this is the worst day. He then asks her again if she”s an English spy. Instead of maniacally laughing in his face, the only reasonable response, she is like “No. Are we seriously doing this again, you ass?” But no. They aren”t doing this again. Claire is telling the truth and Dougal is satisfied. But why? Because the spring is magic!

A magic spring. Seriously? Bless you Scottish superstition. 

Now that Dougal is finally convinced that Claire is on the up and up, it”s time to save her from whatever terrible fate awaits her in English hands. Scottish Santa has a plan. Claire just needs to become a Scottish citizen. Easy as Christmas pie. Then the British can”t take her anywhere against her will. But the only way to do that? She”s gotta get married. To Jamie.


Some time later Claire is sitting in a field, marriage contract in hand. We know that”s what it is because the words MARRIAGE CONTRACT are in comically large English letters at the top. She is staring into space and playing with her wedding band as Jamie approaches. He wants to know if she”s okay and says this is cool with him because friends don”t let friends get dragged off to London by caricatures of evil.

But Claire is skeptical. Doesn”t Jamie have someone else he”d rather marry? Basically, she”s worried about Leery, which is sweet considering I can see that bitch is going to stab Claire in the back from a mile away. But Jamie isn”t exactly a catch, what with being a wanted man. So this is a marriage of two outcasts finding each other. Oh, and to top it off? Jamie”s a virgin. But that”s okay because Claire isn”t. So as far as Jamie”s concerned, at least one of them will know what they”re doing. Oh my God, he is too precious for words y”all.

The episode ends with our heroine returning from the fields, her stride purposeful. As the men look on in trepidation, she walks right up to Dougal, steals his booze, and walks away. Alcohol, the cause of…and solution to…all of life”s problems.

So! What did you guys think? Is Black Jack actually self-aware or just nuttier than a sack of squirrels? How awkward is Claire and Jamie”s wedding night going to be? And exactly how pissed off is Leery gonna be?

Need more? Catch up on all my recaps: One, Two, Three, and Four! And be sure to check back every Saturday for the latest installment!