In the latest episode of Outlander, Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall is back with a vengeance.
Before I begin, please, please do not read if you have not seen the show. I’m not kidding, please watch this amazing episode before you read the recap. You will thank me later.
As most of us who have read the Outlander series can tell you, this episode is one we have been looking forward to and dreading at the same time. When I first read what transpired in Wentworth Prison between Capt. Randall and Jamie, I was in tears. Seeing the same interaction on screen was more than I could bare. I was literally sobbing. And that is a wonderful thing because Tobias Menzies, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were outstanding.
Normally, this is where I would begin to summarize what happened in the episode. Instead, I would rather talk about Tobias’ and Sam’s performances. Not to take away from the rest of the cast’s work, as they were great, particularly Caitriona Balfe. But this episode was all about Capt. Randall and Jamie Fraser. As viewers saw in earlier episodes, Black Jack and Jamie have met before. Each time, Randall used his power and position to bring pain to the Fraser family and to Jamie, specifically. He is the reason Jamie’s back looks like a crazy roadmap, as flogging is his forte. No, that isn’t right. Pain is Randall’s forte, whether mental or physical. This episode showed the lengths he would go to in order to achieve both.
As Claire and Company do their part to try and free Jamie, Randall does what he can to get what he’s always wanted: Jamie. The Laird, who was scheduled for execution via hanging, is “saved” by Captain Randall when he rides in on his horse to stop it. This bit is ironic, as a man riding in on a horse to save the day is usually a good thing. But it is quite the awful opposite in this case. Randall finally has Jamie where he wants him: alone, vulnerable and in control of his life. And he relishes every moment.
Jamie, who has been trying to elude Randall’s clutches for a while now, is a man who will die before surrendering to his captor. He tries his best to break his ankle chain to no avail. He is stuck in more ways than one. He knows what Randall wants and will not succumb. When Black Jack tells him that he wants Jamie’s surrender, he rightly expects his prisoner to refuse because deep within, that’s what he wants. The struggle is what gets Randall going. The fear and the struggle and the ultimate takedown of someone he can control. Jamie knows this and fights for his life, attacking Randall and getting into a scuffle with his “dog” Marley (Richard Ashton). The oaf gets the best of Jamie and almost chokes him to death before Randall kicks him in the face to stop him. He orders Marley to grab Jamie and lays his hand on the table, where Black Jack smashes it with a metal mallet. When he’s done, Randall holds Jamie almost affectionately, taking his good hand to him so he can feel his excitement. The contradiction between Randall’s sadistic behavior and his desire are not lost on the viewers. He may enjoy the pain he administers, but he wants nothing but to be lost in Jamie. Before he gives in to his passions, Randall leaves the dungeon, giving Claire, who has found her way there, a chance to rescue her husband.
It’s quite obvious that Randall will find her there, because the next scenes would not be as powerful without her. Claire’s fierce love for Jamie and her equally fierce hatred for Randall are essential to what comes next. The viewers need to feel everything that happens between all three characters, but especially the love that exists between Jamie and Claire. We’ve always known that it was strong, but this episode exposed that love for what it truly is: something raw and everlasting. It is more than passion, lovemaking and constant bickering. It is the kind of love that one would literally die for. Claire knows who Randall is and what he wants, but she will not leave Jamie under any circumstances. She will try and save him no matter what and will gladly lose her life if she must.
When Black Jack finds Claire, he expects her anger. When she calls him a “beast,” Randall replies, “You can do better than that” because he knows what she’s capable of. He has a reluctant respect for her, telling Claire that she’s no coward and is a match for Jamie. He tries to rattle her when he threatens to have Marley take her physically, but she is a strong woman. Claire surprises both men, knocking Marley down and grabbing Randall from behind. Jamie grabs a piece of a broken stool and sticks it in Marley’s neck, killing him. But Randall easily knocks Claire down, grabbing her by the neck and begins strangling her in front of Jamie. The Laird, unable to physically save his wife, tells Randall he will give him his body in exchange for Claire’s life. Black Jack, so close to his prize, wants more of a commitment than Jamie’s words. And it is at this point where Tobias, Sam and Caitriona pull our hearts completely out of our chests.
Randall orders Jamie to sit at the table and lay out his hand. Thinking he means his good one, Jamie lays his right hand on the table. But Randall wants the already-mangled one. Jamie, already in agony, reaches for Claire before he opens his hand, his face a complete mask of pain. Randall takes a long nail and then proceeds to pound it in the middle of Jamie’s hand. I can tell you with all honesty that I cried hysterically at this part for so many reasons: Claire’s inability to help her husband, Jamie’s suffering and complete lack of control. But when Randall tells Jamie to kiss him, I completely lost it. Jamie was broken into two parts at that point. On one side is Claire, clinging to him, helpless and sobbing and unable to do anything else. On the other is Randall, kissing him like a lover with the promise of more to come. Jamie was stuck, literally and figuratively.
After the kiss, Randall escorts Claire out of the dungeon, but not before she says goodbye to her husband. As they walk down the corridor, Black Jack mentions hearing rumors about Claire being a witch. Instead of denying it, she claims the rumors are true. She curses Randall by telling him the date of his death, whispering it in his ear. The look of fear that crosses his face filled me with glee, as I’m sure it did many others. He pushes Claire through a trapdoor in the floor used to dispose of dead bodies. She sees Taran MacQuarrie’s corpse before making her way back to Murtagh and the others. When Randall gets back to the dungeon, Jamie touches his hand and asks if Claire is safe. Although Randall may be a bastard, he keeps his word and confirms it to Jamie. He has no reason to lie, especially now that Black Jack can do with him as he pleases. Chills went down my spine when Randall asks Jamie, “Shall I begin?” The horror is definitely not over for young Jamie.
I can say with all certainty that this is the best episode of Outlander I’ve seen so far. The performances by all three leads were nothing short of amazing, but I have to give mucho credit to Tobias and Sam. Under Anna Foerster’s direction, the two actors were able to show much more range and depth to their characters than in previous episodes. Playing two characters, Tobias has gone from one extreme to another and done it with conviction. He does not go overboard with Randall’s cruelty, which could be easily done. Instead, Tobias brings it out in flashes, making viewers unsure of when or how Randall will lash out. When he does, it is as terrifying, and as horrifying, as we may (or may not) expect.
As for Sam, I truly enjoyed his performance because this was a different Jamie than viewers are used to seeing. He is usually strong, honorable, quick-tempered and funny. But all of that was washed away and we saw a Jamie who was brought low on so many levels. Mentally, physically and emotionally, Randall was able to break him and has more in store. Jamie’s fear not just for himself but for Claire was almost soul-crushing. I doubt I will be able to watch this episode again for a while. My heart can’t take it.
What did you think of this episode? Take a moment to leave a comment or share your thoughts.
Outlander airs on Saturday at 9 p.m. on Starz.