On this week's Outlander: Last week's cliffhanger is resolved, plus Claire meets with Black Jack Randall again, and finds out just how different he is from Frank. Also, we dive further into the tension between the English and the Scots, with real consequences for Claire.

Spoilers ahead!

Last week's cliffhanger essentially asked Claire where her loyalty lies: With the Scots, or with the English. Frankly, her loyalty lies with whoever will get her to Craigh na Dun, so really the question is, does she think she has a better chance of that with Dougal or with this Lt. Foster?

With Dougal, it turns out. She is happy to send the soldiers on their way and stay with the MacKenzies. It's an interesting choice, given how resentful Claire has been of Dougal's suspicion and of being an outsider during their travels. My take is, Dougal is a known quantity at this point, plus she doesn't want to go through her story yet again. And perhaps some part of her is calculating that it's best to stay with the MacKenzie war chief on MacKenzie lands which, if so, is prescient on her part.

(Unfortunately I don't have any insight into this from the book, because events occur differently - Dougal chooses to take Claire to Fort William as part of his efforts to find out if she's a spy. The outcome is the same, though - Claire is gut-punched by Randall, and Dougal is instructed to deliver an English person, one Claire Beauchamp, back into the hands of Captain Randall.)

(Also, weirdly, they choose not to use the voice-over for this scene. I don't mind, but it's just surprising that our VO-happy showrunners opted out here.)

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Lt. Foster insists on bringing her to his garrison commander anyway, and Dougal accompanies her (for protection, or to see how she behaves with the English, or perhaps both). Claire is presented to Brigadier General Lord Oliver Thomas, a recent arrival in the Highlands. After withstanding various slurs and derogatory comments about Scots within the first five minutes or so, Dougal excuses himself and leaves Claire to dine with the General and tell her tale.

Hahaha, Lt. Foster, isn't racism delightful? I crack myself up.

Everything is going swimmingly for Claire, and she secures an escort to Inverness, and then...in walks Black Jack Randall. Here's the subtext:

Jack: Wow, you look exactly like this suspicious woman I tried to rape.

Claire: Funny, you remind me of a terrible cad who tried to rape me. Would you like to tell the General all about it, or shall I?

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Randall, suspecting that Claire is in cahoots with the MacKenzie war chief (seriously, she CANNOT catch a break!), decides to get to the bottom of things and starts poking and prodding Claire until she reveals her sympathy for the Highlanders. Whoops, she walked right into that one. Luckily, before the General digs too deeply, a timely medical emergency allows Claire to escape into the blood and gore of her profession while most of the officers she dined with ride out to fend off a Highlander skirmish.

This leaves Claire solely in the company of Black Jack.

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A keen manipulator, is our Black Jack. Not only does he see through Claire's stories - both of them - but he also spins his own yarn about redeeming his soul. Claire falls for his trap, mostly for the sake of Frank, I think. Jack reveals himself to Claire via the story of Jamie's flogging. Frustrated that an initial 100 lash sentence did not break Jamie and thus did not provide the proper lesson to the local Scots, Jack sentences him to another 100 lashes, which he administers himself. We watch this second flogging through flashback.

This torturous tableau paints a picture of both Black Jack's and Jamie's characters. Jack is reflecting fondly on the "masterpiece" he made of Jamie's back, and his satisfaction at subduing the audience and gaining their respect through shock and fear. Meanwhile, we see Jamie approach the post, tidily fold his shirt, and make quips as he is chained up. Jack is determined to make the lad cry out, and Jamie is equally determined not to give Jack the satisfaction.

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Jack manipulates Claire into feeling some kind of hope or pity for his soul, then pulls the rug out from under her - she literally takes a punch in the gut. You get the sense that Jack feels something of a calling in his role as terrorizer of Highlanders; a purity of purpose that he savors. A monster he may be, but a monster is what is required.

Jack is encouraging a young Corporal to kick Claire while she's down when Dougal barges in, in the episode's f-yeah moment. I love that Dougal fends off the Corporal with nothing more than his steely gaze - you can feel the force of it push the man away from Claire. Dougal is able to escape with Claire by reminding Black Jack that he probably doesn't want to kill the brother of the MacKenzie on MacKenzie land, unless he's prepared to start a war. (The implication is that Dougal would start a war over Claire, which is quite impressive.)

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Dougal flees with Claire, taking her to St. Ninian's spring and having her drink the sulfurous water there. The water serves as a truth serum of sorts - supposedly the water will harm Claire if she lies to him after drinking it. Claire tells him, again, that she is not a spy, and remains unharmed; therefore, Dougal finally accepts the truth.

Having accepted the truth, Dougal then reveals his plan to protect Claire from Black Jack Randall: She will become a Scot, removing her from the influence of English law, by marriage. Who is the lucky bachelor? I think we all know.

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We also know that Claire is touchy on the subject of fidelity. This is quite the moral test for her, then: Marry a Scot, albeit one with whom she has a rapport, and betray Frank (in her mind, at least), or submit herself to Black Jack Randall and all of his chivalrous notions involving boots and soft female stomachs.

Jamie and Claire discuss the proposition briefly as Claire is deciding what to do. He seems rather nonchalant about the notion, saying he doesn't really have any other prospects, what with the price on his head and all. If I were Claire, I'd be more surprised that he doesn't seem to take the lifelong commitment of marriage more seriously. (She is planning on ditching him to return to her own time, but he doesn't know that.)

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And so, Claire finds herself examine her loyalty to her country and to her husband in this episode. Her confidence and faith in England is shaken after seeing how the Scots are treated by the English, and she gets provoked into making traitorous comments which land her in hot water with the English soldiers (specifically Randall). Her only way out may be to sacrifice her loyalty to Frank. Can she betray him, to remain free to return to him?

Next week, on The Wedding, it seems Claire will take Jamie's (real) name, though the wedding night will surely be interesting...it'll have to be consummated to be official, you know. How awkward will it be to watch a reluctant non-widow bride and a reasonably willing virgin groom as newlyweds? Find out in the penultimate episode of the first half of season one, next week!

Memorable Quotes:

"I live in darkness, and darkness is where I belong." - Black Jack Randall

"...into a Scot?" - Claire

"If you wanted to hear Londoners speak, perhaps you should have stayed in London." - Dougal

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"I'm afraid I'll freeze stiff before you're done talking." - Jamie

Historical Sidenote:

Fort William was established in 1654 by Cromwell's forces, and was initially just a wooden stockade. In 1690, a proper fort was constructed with 20-foot walls. The fort was at that point named Fort William after William of Orange, and the village nearby named after Queen Mary (Maryburgh). In 1746, the Jacobites tried to take the fort, but failed after a five-week siege. It is located near Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles (4406ft high). [Ref.: visitfortwilliam.co.uk]

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Obligatory Beautiful Picture of Scotland: