Outlander is back! Huzzah! And right away the show tackles some of the most controversial content from the books. The Reckoning is all about the tricky business of power dynamics.
Spoilers ahead, ye ken...
The so-called spanking scene and subsequent reconciliation sex are difficult for some book readers. Some refuse to finish the book and the series because of them. But the show made some slight changes that I think made them more palatable, and focused on the purpose of the scenes: To show the evolution of Jamie and Claire's relationship and its balance of power.
Most notably, this episode changes to Jamie's point of view. I was worried at first, but ultimately I think this was a good choice. It meant that we lacked Claire's point of view for the key scenes, which was kind of risky, since the main objection to the reconciliation sex is the question of her consent. But that is never called into question in the show's version.
Jamie first chastises Claire for disobeying his orders. Claire chastises him right back, in an epic argument, and they both end up apologizing and forgiving each other. But the clansmen disregard her because, as Murtagh says, "she doesn't know what she nearly cost us." It's Jamie's responsibility to educate her. He gives justice as he knows it.
For Claire, this feels like a betrayal, because the one person who used to be her refuge from violence enacted violence upon her himself. He used his physical power to exert himself as the dominant person in the relationship. She remains distant as the group arrives at Castle Leoch.
Just as Jamie and Claire are managing their balance of power, so are Colum and Dougal. Colum, like Claire, feels betrayed and that his power is being undermined by his trusted partner. Dougal goes around raising money for the Stuarts as a representative of clan MacKenzie, which puts the clan in danger by suggesting they are traitorously supporting the Jacobite cause.
Colum is in a precarious position, like Claire. They are both partnered with men who are stronger than them, who can dominate them if they so choose, simply through sheer physical power. In Colum and Dougal's first meeting, all Dougal has to do to remind Colum of this is stand over him menacingly. Colum is speechless with rage as Dougal reminds Colum of all he does for the clan - implying that Colum's power is for show, a house of cards Dougal can tear down anytime he wants.
Jamie finds the way back for Colum and Dougal, and also for himself and Claire, by realigning the balance of power. He encourages Colum to gift the money to Dougal, which would ease tensions within the clan, and provide little risk to Colum given how distant a rebellion seems. Colum agrees, showing that, as Jamie says, "a rigid man can bend." Jamie thinks Colum "risked looking weak," but I think this move allows Colum to reinforce that it's his choices, not Dougal's, that drive the clan. By making it Colum's choice to use the money, Colum reasserts his power over Dougal.
Similarly, Jamie is willing to "risk looking weak" and forgo his traditional beliefs of marriage to appease Claire. He gives her an opportunity to assert and claim power over him. He gives the clan's oath to Claire, essentially promising never to raise a hand against her again, and gives her the opportunity to accept it - or not. This is the oath that clansmen give to their laird, remember; by giving this oath, he acknowledges her power in the relationship, and gives her power over him. He is literally bending to her will.
Claire accepts his oath, and accepts him again as her lover. Then, obligatory hot fireside sex ensues. But first, Claire is in the dominant position, and even whips out Jamie's dirk and threatens to cut his heart out if he ever hurts her again. Then, Jamie is on top, saying he wants to make her call him "master". Afterwards, he remarks that he is her master, but also, she is his. He acknowledges her power over him. They have arrived at an equal balance of power romantically and maritally.
[Sidenote: Did she and Frank ever have this kind of balance of power? I mean, he did, ahem, "service" her at Leoch in the first episode. But he also called her Mrs. Frank Randall rather than Claire Randall when they got married. What do you think, gang?]
Some other plot notes...
First, Jamie gets the bad news from the deserter Horrocks that Black Jack himself shot the soldier Jamie is accused of killing. Hopes for lifting the price on his head = dashed.
Next, let's all shout at the TV - first "YES!" when we get the cathartic Jamie-Black Jack beatdown we've all wanted (which lasts about 3 seconds); then "NO!" when Jamie leaves Black Jack lying unconscious but alive on the floor of his office. I mean, yeah, Jamie's honorable and whatnot, plus Ned told them all not to kill anyone, but...we all know that choice is going to come back to haunt him, right?
Lastly, Leoghaire. Oh, poor, young, beautiful, wacky Leoghaire. I think Jamie was kind of leading her on, but will she get the message now that Jamie has rejected her? Although he didn't say "I don't want you," he said "I have to keep my vow." So in her mind there still might be hope. If only Claire was out of the way...
Next week: By the Pricking of my Thumb...something wicked this way comes. Ruh-roh. A reference to Geillis perhaps? Will we find out what that creepy ill-wish was about? A bit ominous, at any rate. Also: Can the Duke of Sandringham provide yet another opportunity for Jamie to clear his name?
"What does 'fucking' mean?" - Jamie
"I didn't say I wouldn't enjoy it." - Jamie
"You are my home now." - Jamie
"I am your master, and you're mine. It seems I cannot possess your soul without losing my own." - Jamie
(Yeah, Jamie got a lot of the good lines this episode.)
"Guy can't catch a break!" - My husband, while watching this episode
"She spends a lot of time with her top off." - My husband, also while watching this episode
Obligatory Beautiful Picture of Scotland:
This tumblr analyzing the spanking & subsequent scenes from the book really enlightened me. I used some of that enlightenment to analyze the show's portrayal of these scenes.