Last night we were treated to Jamie’s voice while the opening scenes of Outlander’s ninth episode, The Reckoning, unfolded. I have no idea what an eighteenth century highlander’s life would have been like, but I doubt many were as dangerous and exciting as Jamie’s. He’s skipping stones on the waters of a stream in a place we will later learn was a childhood favorite. Mulling over the decisions he’s made in his life and where they have taken him. The Reckoning is an apt title for this episode given its archaic meaning is a bill, or account, or its settlement. What we have in this episode are many reckonings. If you need a recap of episode eight, you can read it here.
Jamie, Murtagh, Dougal and his men are meeting with the English deserter, Horrock, who says he will reveal to them, for a price, the man whose death was blamed on Jamie. If Jamie can bring proof that he did not murder the man then he would no longer have a price on his head. It’s clear that the men do not trust Horrock. To them honor is something almost sacred, and Horrock has deserted his post and turned his back on his country. And weren’t the men who attacked Jamie and Claire deserters? But Jamie is desperate, and after much grumbling Dougal tosses a sack of gold to Horrock. He says the murderer was Black Jack Randall. Jamie’s fate is sealed. There is no way the English will believe that Captain Jonathan Randall is the murderer.
Being a smart man, Horrock immediately prepares to leave knowing the highlanders are not happy with his information. Dougal rushes to take the gold back, but Jamie stops him. Before heated words are spoken between the two, a rider appears – the young man tasked with watching Claire. While he was distracted Claire wandered away and into the clearing where the Redcoats captured her.
Murtagh and Jamie overcome a guard at Fort William- the very same fort where Jamie was imprisoned and brutally whipped – and persuade him to tell them where Claire has been taken. In the commander’s office in the tower. As Jamie makes a harrowing climb down the tower he hears Claire screaming. When Jamie lands on the window ledge, Black Jack has ripped her dress down to her waist and has her pinned against a table with a knife to her throat.
“I’ll thank ye to take your hands off my wife,” Jamie says while pointing the pistol at Randall.
Black Jack, in his deliciously evil way, laughs and says, “Good God.” For him this is a dream come true. Jamie, the man he’s been trying to ensnare is married to the woman who’s twice eluded him. I don’t think I can fathom the depravities Jack is thinking in that moment. As expected, Randall torments Jamie with questions about his back and instructs Jamie to drop the gun or he will slice open Claire’s throat. Jamie complies and is assailed with a slew of comments about watching as Randall plays with Claire. Feeling condident in his dominance over Jamie, Randall grabbed the gun and tossed Claire to the side. For she’s not who he truly wants. Randall wants Jamie. He fires a shot to wound Jamie, but the pistol doesn’t fire, and Jamie overtakes him. Jamie explains to a stunned Claire that Ned insisted they all carry unloaded weapons as he was afraid they’d kill someone while there. Jamie easily overcomes Randall and knocks him unconscious.
I guess there are two ways to think about this part of the scene. Jamie says in a voice over that he chose not to take his life because he was unconscious, and therefore defenseless. I guess there is no honor in taking the life of someone unconscious. Another way to think of it, is that if he killed Randall he’d have an even larger price on his head. Though I think a pissed off Randall is going to do more harm to Jamie than a higher reward amount. Either way, Randall is left sleeping like a baby while Claire and Jamie run for their lives and eventually jump off the tower into the cold waters below.
After riding through the night, they take time to water the horses, and Jamie and Claire have one hell of a fight. Jamie wants an apology for Claire wandering off and endangering herself, him, and his men. He thinks she disobeyed him on purpose because she was mad he couldn’t protect her when the deserters attacked them. Claire is incredulous that he would think such a thing. And extremely offended that he blames her for what happened and that he believes she should obey him just because he’s a man, and her husband. She slaps him and he threatens to slap her back if she does it again. She calls him a brute and a fool and as the fight escalates she gets in his face and calls him a fucking bastard. His ire up, he yells that she’s a fool mouthed bitch and should not speak to him this way. He takes a step back, staggers, turns, leans against a boulder to steady himself, and says, “I went to ye at Fort William, armed with an empty pistol and my bare hands. When you screamed…you’re tearing my guts out Claire.”
Those lines are said with such torment and pain it was hard to watch. Claire realizes how much this has cost Jamie and asks for his forgiveness, which he gives, and he asks for hers also.
I can see both perspectives. Claire doesn’t understand the time she is living in, but she is strong-minded and used to taking charge. She was almost raped by deserters, killed one of them, was an inch away from touching the stone that would have taken her back to her time, captured and tormented by Black Jack Randall, rescued, and then plopped down and told to explain herself. How is she to do that? She’s in a place and time where no one knows who she is, what she is, or has any concept of the world she lived in.
Jamie is a fugitive in his own land. He can’t go back to his home for fear of endangering his family or being captured. Claire promises to stay put while he meets with Horrocks. She doesn’t and gets taken to the man who imprisoned and beat him. Not only does Jamie risk his own freedom and life but that of the men who go with him. He can’t have a wife who is reckless with other’s lives.
At an inn they stop in for the night, they are reunited with the rest of the men. None of them will look at or speak to Claire. She is shunned for her actions. Dejected and tired she goes up to their room. When Jamie arrives she’s in bed. Needing his comfort she asks him to come to bed, but Jamie has other matters on his mind. In his world if a man put the rest in danger he’d likely had his ears cut off or flogged or worse. He explains that if it were just him he’d say nothing more about it, but since her actions put everyone in danger… Claire doesn’t understand until he doubles his belt and announces, “I’m going to punish ye for it.”
I know this is a lightening rod of a scene for many people. Jamie spanks – hits, hides, thrashes – whatever wording suits you – Claire without her consent. She fights him and he overpowers her and punishes her with his belt. She calls him a sadist. He doesn’t know what that is.
Interesting she would use this turn as she knows Jamie is not a sadist. Jamie is doing what he thinks is his duty as a husband.
This scene was in the books which are historical fiction. Some men – more than most, but of course not all – punished their wives and children for offenses. Many of the punishments handed out by the government were of such a nature. You had people put on the pillory to be tormented by the crowds, whipped, hanged, mutilated, branded, or sold off to slavery for offenses. From my perspective this was not sexual as I’ve seen some note. Jamie did enjoy it, but not out of desire to hurt her, but more of impressing upon her the importance of the matter.
When she goes down for breakfast the men greet her and offer kind words. In their eyes, she’s taken her punishment and all is forgiven. The men truly like Claire and have risked their lives for her, but that doesn’t console her and she chooses to stand alone and eat her breakfast. What Jamie doesn’t realize is that this incident will cause a large rift in their relationship.
Everyone has turned out to celebrate their return to Castle Leoch and their marriage. Colum and his wife make an awkward entrance wishing them well, but you can see the distress in Colum’s features. Is he upset by the marriage? Or is it something else?
In the hallway, Laoghaire confronts Jamie and asks why he married Claire. She’s upset and crying and Jamie tries to be kind and say it was an arrangement Dougal made instead of telling her he loves Claire. There is no good that will come of him not telling her the truth.
Colum summons Jamie, Dougal, and Ned to his chambers. Colum wants to know about Fort William and, more importantly, about the gold they’ve been taken for the Jacobite cause. Who would have thought that Dougal concealed this from Colum? I didn’t. It seems the Laird and the War Chief do not share the same politics. Colum wants to know how Dougal could claim fealty to him and then take gold from him? Dougal lashes back while glowering down at his brother explaining that he’s protected his person, collected his rents, fought for him in battle, and insured his bloodline.
Everyone is released except for Jamie. Colum expresses his displeasure regarding the wedding, because now no one in the clan would elect Jamie as his successor. So…things fall into place now. Dougal was keeping Claire close and derailing any chance Jamie had as taking over as Laird. Politics again rear their ugly head. Not that Jamie wanted to be Laird, but obviously Colum did. Why? Why wouldn’t he want his brother?
This rift between brothers is splitting the clan. Some want Colum to remain as Laird, and some want Dougal. Unless something is done a war within the clan will destroy it. Jamie goes to Colum with a resolution, for Colum to make a gift of the Jacobite gold to Dougal. The Bonnie Prince isn’t likely to return to Scotland, and therefore there would be no harm to the clan. Jamie sees a powerful man bend to the greater good.
At the stream from the opening sequence, Jamie is skipping stones mulling over how to approach Claire. He knows if the discord between them continues it will destroy their relationship. Laoghaire finds him there and offers herself to him. Jamie is tempted, but refuses, and goes immediately to made things right with Claire.
In one of the most charged sex scenes I’ve ever seen, Jamie gets down on his knee and pledges his fealty and loyalty to Claire and that he will never raise a hand to her in rebellion again. That he asks for his blade to pierce his heart if he breaks this vow. The tension, the anger and fear, and everything else between them is expelled while making love. The power struggle and balancing act of their relationship is expressed as Claire sits astride Jamie and places a blade to his throat telling him that she will cut his heart out and eat it for breakfast if he ever raises a hand against her again. Being the smart man that he is, he gives his word.
And so, balance has been regained between Claire and Jamie, and, between Colum and Dougal, but what of the imbalance of Laoghaire and Captain Randall?