On this week’s Outlander, the return of Black Jack Randall brings Jamie to some hard choices and thwarts Claire’s attempts to free him. And Jamie’s love for Claire elevates him above the likes of Taran MacQuarrie, but it’s also his downfall.
Two weeks ago, on “The Watch”, we explored the two different sides of Jamie, concluding that Jamie is a Warrior, like Taran MacQuarrie. In this episode, we find one key difference: Jamie has something to fight for. He has attachments: Claire is foremost on his mind, but of course he also has Jenny and her family, the tenants of Lallybroch, Murtagh, even the MacKenzies. As Taran climbs the steps to the noose, he attempts to make his last breath meaningful by proclaiming Jacobite sympathies, but they cut off his empty words before he can finish. Jamie, having lived with meaningful connections and purpose, says nothing as they put the noose around his neck.
Jamie is saved from Taran’s fate by none other than Black Jack Randall. Riding in at the last moment, Black Jack calls for Jamie to be taken to a dungeon cell for “interrogation”. Jamie looks appropriately apprehensive.
Claire, meanwhile, gets in to see the prison governor, Sir Fletcher, posing as a distant relative of Jamie’s. Fletcher denies her request to see Jamie, but does give her Jamie’s personal effects. As the book says, “A small, light box, to hold the remains of a man’s life.” Claire barely makes it outside the prison walls before breaking down at this casual treatment of Jamie’s life.
Back at the inn where the Jamie Gang is staying, Rupert and Angus are hard at work on their part of the plan: Losing at dice to get some prison jailers’ tongues to wag. They find out that Sir Fletcher regularly spends an hour of his evening sequestered away for dinner and “introspection”. (As usual, Stephen Walters and Grant O’Rourke provide some great comic relief, sorely needed in this episode.)
Claire and Murtagh go pay Sir Fletcher a visit at dinnertime, giving them the opportunity, once they are left alone to await his return from dinner, to search Sir Fletcher’s office for keys and prison maps. Claire gets the keys, but not a map, so she goes wandering the prison looking for Jamie. It gets easier when she can follow the sound of Jamie’s screams.
Black Jack has unfinished business with Jamie Fraser. He wants to break Jamie - to coerce Jamie into yielding to him. But Jamie will not give in. He won’t be tempted by the offer for a better death, nor will he be tortured into it, despite Black Jack’s efforts to tenderize his hand. Jamie’s not interested in sparing himself the noose...well, he is, but he won’t let Black Jack know that. And he’s not willing to pay the price Black Jack asks.
Not for his own sake, anyway. But for Claire? He said it himself two episodes ago: “I can bear pain myself, but I could not bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.” So when Claire finds Jamie, and Black Jack returns to find Claire trying to free him, Black Jack finally has the leverage he needs against his prisoner. The attachments that give Jamie strength and differentiate him from fighters like Taran can also be used against him - and use them, Black Jack does.
Jamie wouldn’t give in to Black Jack for himself, but for Claire, he does. He offers himself to Black Jack to save Claire. He gives his word that he won’t struggle, that Black Jack can do what he wishes. Black Jack finds this offer irresistible, and agrees to release Claire. But not before a brief test of Jamie’s promise...first, by nailing Jamie’s tenderized hand to the table, and then, forcing Jamie to kiss him. Claire looks on, weeping, until Jamie tells Black Jack to take her away. Having saved her life, Jamie now wants to spare her any further pain from witnessing whatever Black Jack wants to do with him. (Black Jack’s interpretation of sending her “safe away” is throwing her onto a pile of dead hanged men, but still, she is able to get away and find the Jamie Gang.)
There are many gut-wrenching moments in this episode, portrayed with beautiful tragedy by Sam Heughan, but the most heartbreaking moment occurs when Black Jack returns to the cell. Jamie is right where he left him - of course, he gave his word - and the first thing Black Jack does is finally get a look at Jamie’s back. His “masterpiece”. And Jamie’s face, staring, one tear rolling down his cheek, is utterly devastating.
The Jamie Gang holes up in a nearby manor, home to MacRannoch, yet another suitor of Ellen MacKenzie (Jamie’s mother) - his wedding gift to her was the pearl necklace from “The Wedding” - but sentimentality is not enough to convince him to muster some men to rescue Jamie. But when one of his men returns with some cattle, Murtagh finally comes up with a plan.
We don’t get to see the results of this plan for another two weeks, but it looks like things are going to get darker before they get light again. What will be the cost to Jamie of this sacrifice? And how far will Claire go to bring him back from it?
Usually the main title theme ends, when the title of the episode is shown, with an echo of the theme, composed/arranged differently each time. This episode forgoes the theme for darker, ominous chords - fitting, given the torture implements in the background, and the overall bleak plot of the episode.
Jamie: “When they come to get you, I’ll wrap my chain around their necks. You grab his musket.” Taran: “They’ll shoot us down like dogs.” Jamie: “Not dogs. Men.”
Jamie: “What grieves me is I think my wife will never forgive me for foolishly getting myself hung.” Taran: “Aye. Nothing like a wife to make a man feel disquieted at his own death...that’s why i made sure to leave none behind to mourn for me.”
“Do I haunt your dreams since Fort William? When you awaken in the middle of the night, shaken and sweating, is it my face you see moving in the darkness?” - Black Jack Randall
“Surrender this pride that you hide behind, and admit that even now, you’re terrified.” - Black Jack
“Give me what I ask, and I will give you the death that you deserve. Clean, honorable, and of your own choosing.” - Black Jack Randall
“Make no mistake: I will have your surrender, before you leave this world.” - Black Jack Randall
“You’re the broken one! You’re the one that sees my face every night.” - Jamie Fraser
Claire: “You beast.” Black Jack: “You can do better than that.” Claire: “You fucking sadistic piece of shit!”
“We will remember this moment for the rest of our lives.” - Black Jack Randall
“Witch I am. And I curse you. I curse you with knowledge, Jack Randall. I give you the hour of your death, Jonathan Wolverton Randall.” - Claire Fraser
Obligatory Beautiful Shot of Scotland:
Yeah...I got nothin’ this time.