Having read all the Outlander books, some more than once, I felt a tad smug about my knowledge of what Claire would encounter at Castle Leoch. Five minutes into this second episode, aptly named Castle Leoch, I realized that what I’d imagined while reading was nothing compared to seeing and hearing the world Claire encounters. The production of this series is astounding. In an age where high tech and comic book heroes are de rigueur in the theatres, we have this gem of a series which is set in 1740s Scotland .
So…what challenges does Claire face at Castle Leoch. In episode one, Sassenach, Claire was transported back in time, almost raped, captured, and plopped on a horse for days of hard riding, Their destination is Castle Leoch, the same castle that Claire and Frank visited in the 1940s. What was a ruin in Claire’s time is now a vibrant community ruled by the Clan Laird, Colum, who stares down from his rooms as she enters the yard. We know before meeting Colum that he rules well. The inhabitants are at ease, there is industry, individuals are going about their tasks without fear, and no one looks hungry or ill treated.
A bustling Mrs. FitzGibbons greets the arriving party and is literally stopped in her tracks when she spies Claire. After days of riding and sleeping outdoors, not to mention that she ripped her meager dress to create bandages for Jamie, Claire looks haggard and bedraggled. To Mrs. FitzGibbons she looks indecent wearing only a revealing shift. Jamie and Mrs. FitzGibbons make eye contact and Jamie explains she is a guest of Dougal’s. It’s an interesting exchange between Claire and Mrs. FitzGibbons as both of them size up the other. Whatever Mrs. FitzGibbons’ feelings are regarding Claire she keeps them to herself and tries to herd Claire into the castle to get “something more” on.
Only six months separates Claire from her life as a nurse during World War II, and two days since she was transported back in time to the 1740s. She hasn’t adjusted to her new reality yet, and her training as a nurse is foremost in her mind. She insists that she must tend to Jamie’s wounds as she was not able to clean and dress them properly. Mrs. FitzGibbons’ expression changes, perhaps there is respect there, or maybe fear, but she asks Claire in a hushed tone if she’s a charmer. Claire answers that she is something like that.
They walk through the candle lit halls of Castle Leoch with Claire remembering how it will look in the future, when she walked these same halls with Frank. Mrs. FitzGilbbons settles Claire in a room – a very nice room – and Jamie sits by the fire to be re-bandaged. As Mrs. FitzGibbons leaves, Claire thanks her, and is told she can call her Mrs. Fitz, as everyone else does. Mrs. Fitz’s regard means a lot in the castle, and for now, Claire has made a good impression.
Claire, in tending to Jamie’s wounds, uncovers his back. He’s in his mid-twenties, his body muscled, bronzed from the sun, the epitome of a viral male. The juxtaposition between his ravaged back and the rest of his body is heartbreaking. Claire, who is no panty waist when it comes to wounds, is so disturbed that she drops her cloth and has to set it back into the kettle of boiling water to re-sterilize it. Jamie is uncomfortable and exposed, but makes no move to cover himself. She asks what happened as she gentle goes back to cleaning his wounds. He explains he was whipped once and then a few days later. That Captain Jack Randall would have whipped him twice in the same day if he thought Jamie would have survived it. She wants to know why he was whipped.
Black Jack Randall and his men were foraging the countryside for provisions and came upon his home, Lallybroch. Randall took a liking to Jamie’s sister, Jenny, and would have raped her if Jamie hadn’t come running in from the fields. Captain Randall has all the power. He can rape Jenny. He can whip Jamie. He could burn their home down. Randall, played to perfection by Tobias Menzies, communicated without words his immediate fascination with Jamie. Like a cat with a mouse he tormented Jamie by ripping Jenny’s bodice. He doesn’t want Jenny, but he does want Jamie who he whips in front of Jenny while telling her she can make it stop by going inside with him. Given the choice of being raped or seeing her brother killed, Jenny choses to go with Randall.
Jamie explaining this to Claire is pivotal. In Claire’s time this should not happen. Jamie did nothing wrong. He was only trying to protect his sister. And yet, he was beaten, charged with a crime, and taken to Fort Williams where he is put in prison. If this can happen to someone as strong as Jamie, how is she to survive in this time? Also, it sets up Randall’s obsession with Jamie, his need to dominate Jamie. And in one way he has, as Jamie will bear Randall’s lash marks on his back for the rest of his life. It also shows that Jamie is willing to tell Claire the truth, no matter how ugly. He admits to escaping prison with the help of his family, and though he was almost too weak to stay in the saddle, he’s been charged with killing a guard, and now has a price on his head.
Jamie expresses his gratitude to Claire for taking care of him, and tells her she has a nice touch, and that her husband is lucky. It’s all too much for Claire and she breaks down and cries, thinking of her husband and how he must be distraught looking for her. Jamie asks if her husband is not alive. I love the phrasing of that, as Claire answers in the affirmative, which is true. Frank is not alive, yet. He comforts Claire and tells her, “Don’t be scart o’ me…nor anyone else here. As long as I’m wi’ you”. She asks the obvious question, what about when you aren’t with me? He tells her to remember that being English is not a pretty thing to be in Scotland. So she’s not only found herself in another time, but also, by virtue of her birth, the enemy of her captors.
Claire is hustled out of a very comfortable looking bed by an insistent Mrs. Fitz. Claire, who has a bad case of bedhead, stumbles out to sit by the fire, but before she can eat two spoonfulls of broth, is hustled out of her clothes to be dressed to meet the Laird. I adored the scene with Claire standing in her bra and panties and Mrs. Fitz starring at her. “What type of corset is that?” Mrs. Fitz asks. Claire answers that it is a brassiere, and adds, it’s French. The dressing of Claire is a long affair with multiple layers of clothing. I’m glad they added this, because it gives us a feel of how confining the clothes of this time are compared to her time. Bit-by-bit, Claire’s slight frame is enveloped in a chemise, corset, bum roll, bodice, petticoat, underskirt, over skirt, stomached, stockings, shoes, pockets, mitts and cloak. If you’re interested in knowing more about the clothes, visit the blog of Terry Dresbach, costume designer for Outlander.
While waiting in Colum’s office, Claire searches for something which will tell her the year. A letter on his desk is dated 1743. Before she can look further, Colum walks in. His legs are bowed so severely it’s a wonder he can walk. I immediately thought this is a man with a will of steel to rule with such a condition. Later in the episode, Claire decides he has Toulouse-Lautrec syndrome, and is living on borrowed time. He wants to know who she is, and how she came to be in the woods in her shift. As much as possible, she tells him the truth, that Captain Randall ripped her clothes while trying to rape her. Colum wants to know the reason why an officer would try and rape her “for no good reason”. Claire, being a product of the twentieth century, and accustomed in her role as a nurse and ordering men around, snaps back, “Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master MacKenzie?”
He apologizes for his badly phrased question, but you sense he isn’t one bit sorry, and, that he doesn’t believe what Claire is telling him. She’s dismissed with his assurance that a tinker will arrive on Saturday (five days time), and she can ride with him back to Inverness, so she can resume her journey to France. Feeling that perhaps her ordeal has an end date, Claire looks out over the yard and countryside watching Dougal play with a young boy, who she assumes is his son, and muses that no matter the time some things never change.
That evening, in the great hall, Claire is placed at the head table, seated between Dougal and Colum. What an intimidating pair they are. Two brothers who compliment each other to perfection. Colum plies Claire with food and drink – lots of drink – while continuing to press her with questions about her family, the family she is going to stay with in France, the place, why she pronounces her name as Beachum, when the French would say Beauchamp. She does her best to stick with the truth and tells him she has never met them, has never even visited France, and that some earlier relation decided to take the English version of the family name. The looks Dougal and Colum exchange make it obvious they do not believe her. Claire, in an attempt to change the subject, greets a young boy, Hamish, telling him she saw him playing with his father, Dougal. Inadvertently, she’s stepped into a mine field, when she learns that Colum is the his father. It would seem that Claire is not the only one with secrets. Realizing, her mental capacity is impaired after drinking so much alcohol, Claire asks to be excused and escapes.
The next day, Claire is determined to stay out of trouble for the remaining few days she has left at Castle Leoch, and goes to Mrs. Fitz asking where she can find Jamie. He’s in the stables working a grey horse in a round pin when she steps up to watch, but accidently knocks something over spooking the horse and sending Jamie to his knees. Again, we’re shown Jamie’s kind nature, as he doesn’t get mad or upset at the horse, just laughs it off. On a bed of straw, they sit down to a meal and Jamie tells her more of his past and troubles with Captain Randall. He confesses that his real name isn’t McTavish and that Dougal and Colum are his uncles.
Claire is collecting herbs for Mrs. Fitz humming the tune “Run, Rabbit, Run” that was playing on the radio the day she decided to go back to the stones to look for the Forget Me Not plant. Though her body is in the 1700s, her mind is still in the 1900s. She encounters Geillis Duncan, possibly looking for herbs, bur probably hoping to see Claire. Geillis informs Claire she’s picking a poison plant and that everyone is gossiping about how they think Claire is an English spy. Astounded, Claire denies this.
That evening in the Great Hall, the Laird, Colum, is resolving disputes. Geillis interprets for Claire as they are speaking in Gaelic. There are the usual cases, disputes over land, over cattle, etc., until a young woman, Laoghaire, is pulled in front of the Laird. It seems her father wants her punished for loose behavior and disobedience. Again, we’re reminded that Colum is all powerful in his domain. And that women are treated differently than Claire is accustomed to. Before Laoghaire can be strapped in public, Jamie speaks up and says he’ll take Laoghaire’s punishment.
It’s agreed, and Jamie asks for fists instead of the strap. I guess a strap isn’t manly enough for him. Anyway, the beating is supposed to stop at first blood, but after Jamie spits blood on the floor, Dougal instructs Angus to keep hitting him, until finally, Jamie drops to the floor. Claire, again, is tending to a shirtless Jamie. She wants to know why he would put himself in peril. He says the lass shouldn’t have to live with the shame of being strapped in public. Okay…. Maybe Jamie just wants Claire to keep tending to him, but his hopes are dashed when she tells him of her plans to return to Inverness soon.
The day of Claire’s departure arrives. She waiting with Mrs. Fitz, who has given her a basket of food, when Dougal arrives. It seems Colum requests her presence, and if we’ve learned anything, you don’t refuse Colum and Dougal. Reluctantly, she goes back inside, to the dark and dank room that she and Frank discovered. Colum tells her it’s the surgery and that their healer died of a fever. Clearly, she wants to leave and thanks him for showing her the room, but really must go. Colum says she isn’t going anywhere, that she will stay at Castle Leoch and take over the dead healer’s duties, because he doesn’t believe her story, and thinks she’s an English spy.
Poor Claire, to be so close to escape, and then have it cruelly snatched away from her. With each day, her dream of getting back to her time, to Frank, to her life, is slipping away. We know how much she’ll come to love Jamie, enough to desperately want to stay with him, but right now she doesn’t know that.
Good News! Outlander has been renewed for a Second Season.
Here is a Preview of Episode Three, The Way Out