What a gut punch! (And I don’t mean the Black Jack Randall kind.) “The Devil’s Mark” has got to be the most emotional Outlander episode thus far. Despite knowing the events that were to unfold, I still became misty-eyed over both Geillis’ sacrifice and Claire’s big decision. Grab your tartan hanky, and let’s go to court!
Following their arrest for witchcraft during last week’s “By the Pricking of My Thumbs,” Claire and Geillis find themselves at the bottom of the thieves’ hole awaiting trial.
“We won’t be here long,” Geillis assures Claire. “Dougal will come for us.” But Claire knows the truth: Dougal has been banished from Castle Leoch over his affair with the husband-murderer, and Jamie is escorting him home. In short: No one is coming for them. That truth becomes even more plain as they enter the courtroom and not a single soul from the castle is present. Except, wait! It’s Ned Gowan come to represent them. And his legal cunning is quite impressive! (If it wasn’t clear from last week’s contractual dealings, Ned is much more than a glorified coin collector.)
With what seems like the entire village in attendance, witnesses are called one by one to testify against the supposed sorceresses. First up: the Duncan’s housekeeper. She reveals that she not only saw Geillis selling love charms and amulets but that Claire was in cahoots. Ned, however, makes quick mincemeat of her, painting the maidservant as a disgruntled employee, tired of working for a “flatulent old” man and his “flibbertigibbet” of a wife.
The next person to testify is the mother of the “changeling” Claire had found in the freezing woods and tried to save. The mother blames Claire (and her incantations) for the fairies not returning her son. But Ned once again turns the argument on its head, blaming the mother for simply standing by when she saw Claire interfering. And somehow he manages to assert this argument without the crowd turning on him. Again, admirable.
The final complainant for the day is a man who testifies that he watched Geillis—among other things—call “down lightning with the flick of a hand” and fly “like a great winged bird.” Okay, dude.
Back in their dark, dank hole, the tension between Claire and Geillis that’s been building since their arrest slowly begins to dissipate: They know they’re not long for this world. Or, at least, Geillis knows: “You still don’t understand, do you?” she asks Claire, who can’t seem to let go of her 20th-century notions of justice. “They mean to kill us. Drink tonight, Claire, for tomorrow our ashes will be scattered to the four winds.”
Geillis uses their final evening together as something of a confessional. She tells Claire that she’s been diverting her husband’s funds for years, amassing 1,000 pounds for Scotland. Yep, Geillis is a Jacobite. It was politics that brought she and Dougal together. “He’s a lion,” she coos.
“God, you actually love the bastard,” Claire muses before apologizing for Dougal leaving her behind. Geills says not to be sorry—she’s just glad she was able to help the cause.
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” Claire says, quoting the famous words credited to American spy Nathan Hale before his execution by the British—not to be uttered for another 33 years. It causes Geillis pause. “Nicely put,” she finally says.
NEXT: Disorder in the court [pagebreak]
It’s day two of the trial, and the first witness to take the stand may be a surprising one to book readers—it’s Laoghaire MacKenzie. She does not appear in this scene in Diana Gabaldon’s source material, but it makes total sense. Laoghaire has been scheming against Claire for weeks, orchestrating her capture by the wardens. Why wouldn’t she be there to see her plan through to fruition? And remember that “love potion” Claire concocted for Laoghaire earlier this season? Well, the scorned woman uses it as her evidence against Claire. It also doesn’t help that Claire slapped Laoghaire after she tried to seduce Jamie. Ned can’t help her out of this one.
Laoghaire is followed by Father Bain, whom you’ll recall Claire was at odds with over the supposedly demon-inflicted child, who’d really just eaten some poisonous Lily of the Valley. And it looks as though his screed against Claire is going to follow the trajectory of the book—but wait!—it’s a bait and switch! Maybe? He unexpectedly begins repenting to the gathered mass—explaining that Claire was able to save the child when he was not and that he should be relieved of his priestly duties. The crowd is hushed until a voice rises: “Bear witness to her fiendish ploy!” Claire has brainwashed the man of God! It’s then the father flashes a creepy grin Geillis’ way. So his plans were indeed nefarious after all…
Ned calls for a recess. In the quiet of the backroom he tells the women that he can save only one of them now. And it’s going to be Claire. She must renounce Geillis and tell the court that she was bewitched by her friend. The women have a lot to consider here, especially given the fact that Geillis is pregnant.
“Why are you here?” Geillis asks Claire. She knows Claire’s been deceptive about her true journey to Scotland. “No more lies, Claire. If I’m going to die, if I’m going to burn as a witch, I need to know I’m dying for something. So tell me now and this time I want the truth.”
“It was an accident, I swear to you, Geillis. I’m not here for any reason,” Claire says.
“So you don’t want to change things or do anything at all, do you?” Geillis asks. “Nothing. It’s really all for nothing.”
When Ned interrupts to ask after their plan, Geillis’ response is frank and funny:
“Looks like I’m going to a f—ing barbecue.”
Yet, when it comes time to throw Geillis under the proverbial horse-drawn carriage, Claire can’t do it. She’s a righteous lass, after all. So the court pronounces them guilty to the cries of “Burn the witch!” Chaos ensues. Ned pulls a gun. Geillis mutters something about 1968. A screaming Claire is dragged from her perch, stripped, and flogged while Geillis watches.
And just when it looks as though Claire’s back will soon match Jamie’s, he bursts through the doors and to her rescue. You don’t need an abacus, though, to know that one man against an entire courtroom isn’t the best of odds. So Geillis tips the scales in their favor: “This woman is no witch. But I am!” she cries. “I confess that I killed my husband, Arthur Duncan, by the means of witchcraft! I took advantage of the ignorance of Claire Fraser, bewitching her for my purposes. She neither took part in nor had knowledge of my dealings. Nor does she serve my master.” With a flourish, Geillis reveals her devil’s mark (a.k.a. a small-pox vaccination scar). Geillis Duncan is from the future. 1968, to be exact.
As Geillis is carried away by the crowd to the pyre, Claire and Jamie use the moment as their opportunity to escape.
NEXT: The Time Traveler’s Husband[pagebreak]
Clear from danger, Jamie asks Claire the question she’s surely been dreading. He’s seen her “devil’s mark” and needs to know: Is she a witch? And then, in arguably the season’s most heart-wrenching scene, she tells him the truth. The whole truth. About how she knows about Black Jack. About how she knows about the Duke of Sandringham. About how she was born in 1918. And he—blessedly—believes her. After all, he comes from a time and culture that still believes in fairies and hexes. Why wouldn’t he believe the woman he loves when she tells him she’s a time traveler?
“Though it would have only been easier if you were a witch,” Jamie jokes. Kidding, perhaps, to ease his melancholy. Because he also learns during their heart-to-heart that when Claire was captured by Black Jack’s men it was because she headed back to the stones. Headed back to the future.
The next morning (after an evening getting frisky fireside) he and Claire set off for home. But Jamie doesn’t take Claire to Castle Leoch; he takes her to the standing stones.
“It’s what you’ve wanted. What you’ve always wanted. To go home,” Jamie explains.
But when she gets close to touching the stone, he pulls her away and into his embrace.
“I’m sorry, lass, I stopped you. I shouldn’t have done so. I just wasn’t ready.” But, finally, sullenly, he leaves, telling her that there’s “nothing for her” on this side. He’ll stay at the camp until nightfall to make sure she’s safe.
Claire once again approaches the stone, hands aloft and then—cut to black.
We pick up again with Jamie asleep at the camp. “On your feet soldier,” Claire says. “Take me home to Lallybroch.”
Tears in his eyes, Jamie nods. And we’re off to Lallybroch next week!
Now, final thought: I’ve never looked too kindly upon the voiceovers in Outlander, but this moment could have benefited from a glimpse into Claire’s psyche. The book takes pains to paint the internal struggle Claire endures over this decision—a decision once and for all to stay in 1743 with Jamie. But here, no explanation is given. What if she simply couldn’t time travel again? All solutions are possible here; it’s too vague for my liking. Yet, it’s a small quibble for an episode sure to be a high-water mark for the series’ first season.
And if you want even more discussion about tonight’s episode, “The Devil’s Mark,” check back in with EW for a post-mortem from executive producer Ron Moore.