outlander s1e9: the reckoning

(I’m trying some new things with writing, and I’ll also be writing about some new things. I’m a big fan of the TV show Outlander, and what follows is a recap of the newest episode that aired last night in the U.S. It assumes you’ve seen it, so there are some spoilers, FYI.) 

After a long dry spell waiting for Outlander to start again, Claire and Jamie are finally reunited. And the first thing they do after escaping the British is not have super sexy Outlander sex, it’s have a horrible fight.

It’s an ugly fight, but it seems real to me. Their hearts have been torn open and ripped out, and terrible truths fly out from the depths of the cracks. A part of them means every word they said. But as Jamie says in his opening monologue, the first time we are privy to his point of view, life is a series of choices–to forgive or hold anger, to love or to hate, to live or to die. Claire and Jamie’s choices in this episode begin to shape their life together. 

The midseason finale left us with Black Jack attacking and almost raping Claire when Jamie appears in the window, her knight in shining armor…kind of. Turns out, his gun isn’t loaded and he bluffs his way into the room hoping for the best. He rescues Claire, leaving Jack alive, and the two head off into the sunset…kind of. 

Turns out Jamie is mad as hell that Claire disobeyed his orders to stay put, and he blames her for getting kidnapped. The fight they have, and Jamie’s quiet admission of fear that followed on what it cost to go after her with an unloaded gun and his bare hands, was a raw moment that showed the other side of the gentle romance and dashing heroics we are used to seeing from the couple. 

Both Jamie and Claire can encompass all of that fear, love, bravery, naivete, arrogance, ugliness, and beauty because they are both complex humans who feel all those things. And their marriage and their life together is born out of what they choose to do with those real, conflicting emotions.

These contradictions lead to mistakes, of course, but also to course corrections. 

Jamie has been so kind to Claire and has been such a bright spot in an unfamiliar place that I wanted him to continue being that heroic, perfect man. But he isn’t perfect, and the ugly things he spits at Claire reminds us he is a product of his time and experiences–as anybody is. 

Which leads him to handle Claire’s disobedience in the way he knows, and the way he thinks is right. In a horrifying scene, Jamie lectures Claire once again, and then removes his belt to HIT HER WITH IT to be sure she will never disobey him again. Claire obviously does not agree to this, so Jamie CHASES HER AND HOLDS HER DOWN. No, in this episode Jamie is not exactly a hero. Not even close.

When he says he is going to hit her, Claire says no and he actively ignores her lack of consent and violently holds her down. It’s a disturbing scene, perhaps coming across a little too lightly on the show, and it leads to the first real struggle in their marriage.

Lucky for Claire, and for us, Jamie is open to changing the status quo, and after seeing compromise play out in his clan, he realizes he should bring a more open mindset to his wife as well. So he pledges fealty to Claire and swears to never hit her again. But maybe more importantly, he shows he means it by waiting for her verbal yes before finally having that sexy sex. Listening for consent respects someone else’s agency, and Jamie is learning how to respect Claire. 

(btw I love Claire’s angry hairbrushing before Jamie apologizes. When women lose control in other aspects of their life, they can often turn to “women’s things” like hair and clothes, to assert themselves and take back a little bit of self. So you brush that hair, Claire, you keep brushing it. Also note how the camera views Jamie in the mirror–how does the way he sees himself compare with how Claire sees him right now?) 

Jamie thought men should always beat their wives because that is all he has seen and all he had known. He also thought husbands and wives only had sex like horses. Lucky for Claire and for us, he lets Claire help him form a new worldview, one where your wife’s personhood matters. 

After Claire and Jamie find their way back to each other, they finally have that sexy sex we’d all been waiting for…kind of. Claire shows once again she is no obedient pushover by PULLING A KNIFE on Jamie WHILE THEY ARE HAVING SEX and threatens that if he ever hurts her again she will cut his heart out (I’m guessing she doesn’t mean metaphorically). But I guess it all worked out because Jamie and Claire reconnect and both seem to have reached a greater understanding of each other. 

They seemed to have passed the first test in their marriage, but the repercussions from their choices may only be just beginning.

The other members of Jamie’s clan are laying some (admittedly less sexy) groundwork themselves. Jamie’s marriage to an Englishwoman and Dougal’s fundraising for a Jacobite army are not exactly easy pills for their laird to swallow. Loyalty and tradition are no. 1 for the MacKenzie clan, and Claire and Jamie are breaking down tradition one tiny step at a time. 

Next week, I hope we see more Claire, I missed her a lot this episode. And where is Geillis???

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