'Outlander' recap: 'The Reckoning'
The honeymoon is definitely over.
It’s been a long frigid winter without Jamie Fraser warming our hearts—and loins. So how lovely for showrunner Ron Moore to end the Droughtlander with a premiere told from the point of view of the hot Scot! But there’s much more to this framing device than simply quenching fans’ thirst. For one, letting Jamie explain his actions—especially in that spanking scene—fosters understanding (and dare I say sympathy?) for the belt-wielder. (He didn’t want to do it but social mores and conventions dictated he must!) For another—and this is, admittedly, a half-baked theory of mine—I suspect producers are setting a precedence for later in the season when Jamie and Black Jack meet once again. I’ll spare non-book readers the spoiler-rod here, so to speak, but if Outlander really goes there, it will have to be from Jamie (or even Black Jack’s) perspective since Claire won’t be there.
One final note before this officially becomes the longest recap introduction ever. If you’ve recently watched (or re-watched) the first half of season 1, you might have noticed that Jamie’s opening speech here—”Strange, the things you remember…”—is something of a counterpoint to Claire’s opening speech—”You forget your life after a while…”—in “The Wedding” episode. I liked that call back.
So let’s not delay the gratification any longer and get to it! As you’ll recall, when last we saw newlywed Claire Fraser, she was being held prisoner at Ft. William, in the clutches of the nefarious Black Jack. Jamie—along with several MacKenzie men—had stormed the fortification to rescue her. When Black Jack gets his first glimpse of Jamie crouched in his window, well, the look of pure joy on his face is chilling. Jamie took a calculated risk in his siege, arming himself with an unloaded gun (Ned doesn’t want them killing anyone, after all). And it pays off. Black Jack takes the gun, and when he fires at Jamie sans bullet, he becomes distracted long enough for the Highlander to knock him out and cut Claire’s binds.
“Sometimes I wonder why I chose not to take his life,” Jamie ponders in the voiceover. “But at that moment I only thought to make certain he wasn’t about to raise the alarm. It never occurred to me to kill a helpless man—even one such as Randall.” Famous last words, amirite?
Free from the shadow of Ft. William, Jamie, Claire, and Co. stop to water the horses—and have it out. Jamie thinks Claire owes him an apology. She does not think the same.
“An apology? she asks incredulously. “I was taken hostage by Jack Randall. You’re trying to say that’s somehow my fault?”
“Well, it is your fault,” he retorts. “Had you stayed put where I ordered you to stay, none of this would have happened.”
To be fair, Jamie is right. (Also note that Claire never mentions her true intentions at Craigh na Dun. Guilty conscience?) This is the most heated (non-sexually speaking) we’ve seen Claire and Jamie get thus far—and the most at-odds over their differing cultures and time periods. The argument—a powerful scene, to be sure—is a gut-punch for Jamie, who’s not used to marital discord. Ultimately, all is forgiven. Or so Claire thinks.
NEXT: A love tap
Back at their lodging, the clansmen continue giving Claire the cold shoulder.
“She does not understand what she nearly cost us,” Murtagh tells Jamie.
“Aye, and she needs to,” he responds.
After dinner, Claire beckons Jamie to bed.
“I’m afraid we have a matter still to settle between us before we sleep tonight,” Jamie informs her. He explains that if she were a man, she would have been flogged—or worse. She must be punished. Physically. So he unbuckles his belt and commands her to lie across the bed with her shift pulled up. She, of course, refuses. A chase ensues. (If you, like me, watch The Family Stone every Christmas, the moment may have called to mind that scene where Dermot Mulroney chases Luke Wilson around the Stone Family dinner table. I wanted to link to it but the Internet is not generous with clips from that fine holiday movie, so here’s a similar one featuring Ben and Jerry.) In the end, he catches her and gives her several wallops on her bare backside with his belt. Though—in fine form—she gives as good as she gets (to quote Dougal), socking and scratching him in return. That’s our girl!
Now, I’m of two minds about this scene. As a modern-day woman, I obviously take umbrage to a man hitting a woman. I would characterize Jamie’s actions as abuse. So the scoring of this sequence—that jaunty violin music that’s more hoedown than throwdown—trivializes the violence, rendering it almost playful. Yet, if I don’t overanalyze it and try to accept it in its historical context, I find it almost sexy. Almost. Interesting tidbit: The second time I watched this episode was at the world premiere in New York City (guys, it was really fun!), and it got a hearty chuckle from the crowd, which I had not expected. All that said, I’d love to hear what you thought about the handling of this controversial moment from the books—I suspect there are many interesting and varied opinions on it, so do leave them in the comments, please.
The next morning (with a smarting bottom), Claire is welcomed back into the clan’s good graces, and they make off for Castle Leoch, where the newlyweds receive a hero’s welcome. Sort of. Mrs. Fitz is certainly overjoyed for them. Colum and Laoghaire, not so much (for very different reasons, you ken).
Colum calls a meeting with Dougal, Ned, and Jamie (The Three Weasels!) in his lair. He wants to know who will take responsibility for the scuffle at Ft. William. Jamie does. But that’s not his only matter of business. Column knows they collected money on behalf of the Jacobites—and he’s not pleased. A shouting match ensues between the brothers MacKenzie, with Dougal landing a thudding blow over the true paternity of Column’s son. Ouch. And poor Jamie’s still not off the hook. Colum’s mad he married a Sassenach, ruining his chances to be the Laird’s successor.
In sum, the fallout from their little assembly is this: The MacKenzies are now torn between their fealty to Colum and their duty to Dougal. Jamie and Murtagh—as the resident interlopers—aren’t sure whose side to take. Jamie decides that no one has to pick a side if Column and Dougal can reconcile, so he suggests that Colum gift the Jacobite gold back to Dougal. He’s hesitant but finally acquiesces.
NEXT: Sexual healing
The brotherly exchange inspires a solution to Jamie’s own relationship woes. But first! A Laoghaire interlude! She finds Jamie alone, in his special spot, skipping rocks on the water and deep in contemplation. Following a short preamble, she doffs her cape to reveal she’s wearing a corset…and not much else. “She was married before, but I’ve lain with no one. I want you to be the first and only one to have me,” she coos, placing Jamie’s hands on her heaving bosom. But our guy’s a good guy and won’t break his vows. Embarrassed, Laoghaire flees.
With renewed purpose, Jamie retreats to his bedroom to pledge his fealty to his wife. “I saw a rigid man bend,” he tells Claire of the MacKenzie compromise. “Wives obey their husbands, husbands discipline them when they don’t. That’s how it was with my father, and his father, and on, on, and on back, but maybe for you and me it has to go a different way.” He pulls out his dagger and makes a vow to Claire, pledging his loyalty. “If ever my hand is raised in rebellion against you again, then I ask that this holy iron may pierce my heart.”
Claire hesitates before relenting. She knows she shouldn’t accept. But she does.
And as if to seal their new-found understanding, they do it. Vigorously. Claire’s on top riding him (I’m sorry—there’s just no classy way to say that), when she grabs his dagger and points it at his throat. Without breaking her rhythm she delivers a promise: “Listen to me. If you ever raise a hand to me again, James Fraser, I will cut your heart out and have it for breakfast, you understand me?”
Loud and clear.
And, later, as they bask in their post-coital glow (and Claire explains to Jamie what “f—ing” and “sadist” mean), she discovers a knotty pile of twigs under their bed. (Do True Detective and Outlander share a prop master?) It’s an ill-wish, Jamie explains, meant to cause harm to whoever receives it. One guess as to who left it their: Laoghaire. Now she is the woman scorned.