Out of the fire and into the frying pan is one way to describe Claire’s (Catriona Balfe) situation as she spends time among the English.
Let’s bitch it out…
Another day, another interrogation. Just when Claire thought that she was on steady ground, she finds herself back under scrutiny as she and Dougal (Graham McTavish) are taken in by the English. We pick up immediately after last week’s cliffhanger as Claire makes the decision to try and spin a yarn that will endear herself to the English and get her back on route to Inverness. We don’t hear the story that she tells, early on it seems that she’s won over the prim and proper Lord Thomas, a newly arrived Captain in Scotland who isn’t yet accustomed to being out in the field (case in point: he fancies he may became a Lord, but instead sounds like a moron).
Claire’s ability to court favour seems to put her case to rest…until the appearance of Black Jack (Tobias Menzies) ruins everything. The moment that Jack enters the room, he is immediately put in contrast with the other officers by his unkempt appearance and his frank tongue. With relative ease he manages to overturn confidence in Claire’s story and then, in an extended scene that crackles with dynamic intensity, the pair face off – challenging each other with accusations of treason, rape and every other mental concoction they have in their arsenal. By playing off the gentle, loving image of Menzies as Claire’s husband Frank in the first episode, ‘The Garrison Commander’ gets great mileage out of his portrayal as Black Jack, who turns out to be an even more reprehensible character than we thought. Even when he does something that would normally soften a hard-assed character (ie: his drawing of Claire’s portrait), Black Jack refuses to relinquish his venom, sneering that he’ll call the striking likeness “Beautiful Lies” to honour her untrustworthiness.
I was really taken in by Menzies’ performance early in the episode, particularly when his two characters are contrasted in their respective shaving scenes. But the man takes it to a whole new level when Black Jack recounts the beautiful masterpiece he created when he flogged Jamie (Sam Heughan). The way he speaks of the act, with the camera lingering on his face in close-up, Jack almost manages to turn the truly reprehensible act he’s describing into something artistic. His vulnerability and depth of insight is almost enough to fool us into thinking that he will do right by Claire and accompany her to Inverness after all. It’s a calculated ploy, one that I’m not ashamed to admit I fell for, because when he punches her in the stomach, it’s clear that the entire sequence was designed to show that this man isn’t a misunderstood brute. No, his brutal blow is shocking because we should have known better than to trust him. We knew he was capable of unmitigated violence (we see it firsthand in the glee he takes in striking Jamie hundreds of times), but we still tricked ourselves into thinking that he could be saved. Well done on turning the tables, Outlander.
Black Jack’s savage attack on Claire sets the stage not only for Dougal’s rescue, but also a surprising recommendation to keep her safe: Dougal proposes that she marry a Scottish man in order to remove herself from the grasps of English laws. At this juncture – unlike the cliffhanger – Claire has no choice, and so it looks like the expected union with Jamie will not be the result of lust, but rather necessity to stay out of Black Jack’s hands.
- Let’s take a moment to applaud the realistically terrible sounds of the amputation that Claire endures. It seems like a gory high point until we see Jamie’s 200 lash flogging, which raises the bar on the show’s tolerance for gruesome setpieces. And it is gruesome, no matter what Jack says about the beauty and truth within the “masterpiece”. So much blood *gag*
- This week’s shout-out to the beauty of Highlands comes courtesy of the magic spring: a sprightly river nestled among a cavern of moss-covered rock walls. A perfect place for a conversation about switching nationalities…or, you know, a picnic (if you’re less inclined to crazy proposals).
- Finally, Jamie is a VIRGIN?! That was unexpected. Claire suddenly seems more cougar-ish.
- Black Jack (after apologizing for trying to rape Claire in the first episode): “I look forward to the opportunity to reveal my true nature to you.” Read into that what you will.
- Claire (crying after Jack tells her of flogging Jamie): “The fact that you care what I think gives me some hope for your soul.”
- Dougal (when Claire inquires if she must marry him): “Well I must admit the idea of grinding your corn does tickle my fancy…”
What are your thoughts on Menzies’ frightening performance as Black Jack? Were you similarly disgusted by the flogging scene? Did you anticipate Dougal’s marriage solution? And what will happen with the British now? Sound off below.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on STARZ