S1 E9: The Reckoning
It has been far too long since we were last in the Scottish highlands with brawny, kilt wearing men but at long last the wait is over. If you want to know how long you have to wait in this episode before sex happens, that is about fifty-one minutes, aka TOO LONG.
As the episode opens, Jamie is waxing poetically about choices and so on, but since sex or his bare body wasn’t happening, I tuned it out. Then Jamie and other clanfolk are meeting with a guy who has a name that will help clear Jamie’s name but alas, that name is Black Jack Randall who committed the crime for which Jamie is wanted. Jamie is still shit out of luck. Bad Black Jack. As that business concludes, Jamie learns Claire has been taken by the redcoats.
Of course she has.
So much of modern entertainment is predicated on the idea of a woman imperiled. Outlander is no different. We have been oft reminded of Claire’s womanly vulnerability in a world ruled by men. (See all television shows always.) The final episode of the first half of the season reveled in Claire’s vulnerability at the hands of Black Jack Randall. I am still irritated just thinking about it but it’s the second half of the first season. I’ll try to let that go.
The men go to Fort William and plot to free Claire from Jack Randall’s evil grasp. With rope and some moxie, Jamie finds himself in Randall’s chambers where the bastard has Claire bent over a table, about to be raped. He is the worst man in the history of men which is, frankly, saying something. “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife,” Jamie says sort of rakishly which makes the moment a little confusing. (Also, note the possessive there, as if the issue is that she’s married and that would make her violation worse.)
Randall is sadistically pleased to learn that Claire has married the young man he so brutally flogged years ago. He even asks to see Jamie’s back again. Dude is a sick puppy. Because Randall thinks he’s still running things, he tells Jamie to set his gun down so the young man can watch Randall defile his wife. Randall stays smug and gross as Claire implores Jamie first to shoot Randall and then to save himself. Like what? Claire! Pick one. Also, why does Randall talk so much? He is an incessant chatterbox.
The scene goes on for entirely too long with Claire stripped naked to her waist. It’s exploitative and annoying. Claire deserves better. Finally, Jamie gains the upper hand because his pistol wasn’t loaded and oops, Randall is surprised. Jamie knocks Randall out, and frees his beloved bride. At the edge of the fort’s roof, they stare into an abyss, unsure if there is water below but they jump because hey, the couple that jumps into a potentially deadly situation while being chased by redcoats together, stays together.
Off they ride into the mist with the rest of the gang. Once they stop to water the horses, Jamie makes sure Randall didn’t rape Claire (and I am really SUSPICIOUS about his motives for asking this question) and then he and Claire have a rousing argument about FEELINGS and such. Jamie is mad Claire didn’t “obey” and is expecting an apology. Claire is mad because Jamie is suggesting that her kidnapping is her fault. See? Women and men have been having the same arguments for centuries. Then they talk about that one time Claire was almost raped which is not to be confused with this time when Claire was almost raped. There’s a pattern here, you see. You see? Fucking television.
Anyway, Jamie and Claire really go at it and she calls him a “fucking bastard,” and he calls her a “foul-mouthed bitch,” and then he is sort of shattered as the adrenaline leaves his body. He tells Claire that hearing her scream was like “tearing my guts out,” and all of a sudden, Claire’s ordeal is all about Jamie and his man feelings and Claire is asking for forgiveness and apologizing. Nonsense.
Jamie forgives Claire and apologizes. In a voice over, he admits he would always forgive her because TWU LUV. Back at the hearth, Claire tries to talk to the menfolk but they give her silent treatment because she put everyone’s lives in danger and the silent treatment is the most mature way to deal with the problem. With a bit of macho encouragement from his kin, Jamie heads up to their room to teach Claire a lesson. There is a “matter to settle” between them. A man who had endangered the clan the way Claire did, Jamie explains, would have been flogged or some such.
As Claire’s husband, Jamie must discipline her appropriately. After a stern lecture, Jamie takes off his belt and declares, “I’m going to punish you for it,” with “it” being disobeying his orders. Excuse me, Jamie, what? This is when I sat STRAIGHT UP IN MY SEAT. My eyeballs were all the way open.
Claire is, what with her being a modern woman, indignant. Jamie remains resolute because he is a man and this is his duty and other such shallow justifications. Try as she may, Claire cannot talk her way out of her spanking. Yup. Jamie, a grown ass man, spanks his wife, who is a grown ass woman, to punish her and not in the kinky, consensual sense. Claire fights back and it’s clear they try to play the scene for laughs only it’s not that funny because this is actually domestic violence, highland style. “This will go faster if you just heel woman,” Jamie says but Claire is not going to heel. This entire scene stressed me out because the spanking was clearly non consensual, the show handled the scene really weirdly and a bit irresponsibly, but I would let Jamie spank me among many other things.
Being a feminist is hard.
The next morning when Claire comes down for some shitty porridge breakfast, everyone knows she has been spanked and they all think it is very funny. It is not funny! Men are the worst. The newlyweds return to Castle Leoch where they are greeted joyously by almost every one. Colum is not pleased, however. Because Jamie married a Sassenach, it will be near impossible for Jamie to succeed Colum as laird. Colum is also angry that Dougal raised money for the Jacobites but Jamie is a crafty young man and he comes up with a solution that will allow Colum to show the clan’s loyalty to the crown while they also try to return the rightful Scottish king to the throne. All this political nonsense was incredibly dull but long story short, there is peace in the clan.
There’s also a scorned woman lurking about—the young lass Jamie was flirting with before he married, Laoghaire MacKenzie, is heartbroken that Jamie married while he was gone collecting rents. At a secret waterfall, Laoghaire tries to woo Jamie back with her feminine wiles aka her virginity. Yes, she straight up offers Jamie her virginity as a prize but Jamie only has eyes and heart for Claire even though he’s also an asshole who thinks spanking his wife will somehow teach her to “obey.” She runs off as Jamie shouts “Sorry,” but that’s not even close to what the lass wants to hear from the object of her affection.
Back in their room, a fire is crackling but Claire is still giving Jamie the cold shoulder. Team Claire! Jamie falls to his knees and vows to never raise his hand against Claire again. It’s all very romantic but we’re still angry with Jamie. Claire tries to resist the incredibly hot, fit, brawny man before her but alas, the loins want what they want. Keeping it real, I would forgive him too. He also tells Claire her wedding ring is made of a key and says, “You are my home now,” so to be fair, Claire was fighting an impossible battle. Surrender was her only option.
Finally, after like 51 minutes of blah blah blah, they start making love with an EXCESS of heavy breathing and wet lips sounds. Claire climbs on top of her husband and soon she’s riding her way to ecstasy. Before she gives in entirely though, she grabs Jamie’s sword, holds it to his throat and says, “I will cut your heart and have it for breakfast,” should he ever raise his hand to her again. That’s goddamned right, Claire. You tell him, with your vagina gently cradling his cock.
Then Claire gives up all pretense of anger and they just go AT IT. Jamie, being the romantic one, starts babbling about how Claire is his and he loves her and so on. Claire seems to enjoy herself. In the afterglow she even calls him, “Master,” and girl, why not? It’s clear Jamie is getting really good at sex. Jamie is still babbling romantic nonsense but I tuned most of that out so I could focus on his biceps.
As they are about to get sustenance before getting back to the sexing, Claire looks under the bed (because they were getting down on the floor), and finds a bad luck charm under their bed. Jamie is convinced Laoghaire placed it there and he’s probably right even though it’s going to be one hell of a lazy plotline to have a woman scorned going after the newlyweds. Anyway, that’s the end of the episode. Hopefully next week there will be more sex, one hundred percent less domestic violence and less chatter that isn’t about sex.
(Bonus: No Frank this episode.)
(What is with this split season nonsense?)
Roxane Gay is the editor of The Butter.