‘Outlander’ Midseason Premiere Recap: “The Reckoning”

When we last left our newlyweds they were in quite a predicament, with Claire in the clutches of malevolent, twisted Black Jack Randall, and Jamie crashing in through the window for a rescue.

Months of fan anticipation have passed. Yet resolution isn’t ours yet. Our new, unfortunately Jamie-narrated episode begins with some long rambling about choices and decisions and lovely footage of waterfalls (I’ve been to Scotland, it really looks that nice!). We’ve backtracked in time just a wee bit: Dougal and his men are bargaining with Horrocks, the deserter, to find out who really committed the murder Jamie has been accused of. Turns out, unfortunately, that the killer was none other than Black Jack himself. Even worse, a rider arrives, and Jamie finds out moments later that Claire has been taken by — none other than Black Jack himself.

Not Jamie Fraser’s best afternoon ever, ye ken? And with that, we’re back in business. The credit sequence plays, and Jamie kilts up in a scene reminiscent of Xena, Warrior Princess putting on her armor. He and his men proceed to secretly storm the British stronghold, just in time to catch Jack mid-attempted rape of Claire. Black Jack takes pleasure in reminding Jamie of the scars rendered by his flogging, trying at every turn to draw Jamie into his twisted games with Claire. We’re starting to understand exactly what how black are the deeds Black Jack is capable of doing, indeed.

Eventually Jamie surrenders his gun, Jack fires it, and when he’s stunned to realize it’s unloaded, Jamie beats him up, but leaves him alive because… justice? The voiceover hints at what readers know: this is probably a bad move. But it’s also a good move because Jack is the ancestor of Frank Randall, who will bring Claire to Scotland, and back in time to Jamie, and I think we’re in a loop… it’s never a good idea to keep following time-travel logic. Personally, I wish Jamie had “killed this bah-stahd,” as Claire previously implored him to do, space-time continuum be damned.

They escape by swashbuckling their way out of the castle, and just when they’re surrounded, some helpful gunpowder stuns their opponents, and they hold hands and jump into a moat, which is somehow posited as romantic and freeing, rather than just cold and damp. (At this point, my inner Jewish mother demands, “where are their dry clothes? they’re going to get a chill” and then she repeats that phrase for the rest of the entire season.)

When they stop to water the horses, Jamie walks Claire off to a secluded cave to have a little chat, while the men stare not-so-subtly. Jamie demands an apology, Claire refuses. Words are exchanged. “I don’t have to do what you tell me to,” says Claire. “Aye, ye do. You are my wife,” says Jamie. Claire gets incensed, the language gets pretty salty and Claire drops an F-bomb (important for later), before both characters get emotional and relent. Claire begs for Jamie’s forgiveness for putting him in mortal danger and Jamie apologizes for being mean. His voiceover admits that he forgives her for a deeper reason: because he is falling in love.

So we’re even Steven, as we should be. Right? Right? Except for one small problem… the men won’t talk to Claire, even as she begs their forgiveness. They laugh about their exploits, she tries to chime in, and they are stone-faced, freezing her out like she’s a forlorn middle schooler hovering around the cool table in the cafeteria. She goes upstairs and has a heart-to-heart with Jamie about how much Jack Randall wants him dead, and Jamie says “it’s personal wi’ him,” which is a clunky anachronism, but who’s counting, he’s about to subject the unsuspecting Claire with a little clannish punishment… he unloops his belt, and she seems not to understand. “Oh you know fine well what I mean. Now kneel down by the bed and lift your shift, lass,” he says. He wants her to know that a “good hiding makes you understand things in a more serious light.” Naturally, she says she will not let him beat her, and their hollers as he struggles to pin her down and administer a few significant wallops echoes throughout the inn where they’re staying on an upstairs floor. The noise leads to chuckles from the men below decks, and Claire’s eventual re-admittance to the lads’ good graces. Needless to say for modern viewers, Jamie does not gain readmittance to her below decks area for a good while after that. It doesn’t help that she knows Jamie is enjoying himself immensely while he goes to town on her hindquarters.

Things are awkward the next morning while the men gently tease Claire, and extra awkward when they return to the castle, where they are met by a wedding celebration. Surprise!

Jamie, who’s getting justifiably frozen out by Claire, runs into Laoghaire in the passageways, and she gives him a come-hither, teary plea: “I waited for ye, Jamie.”  Most of the rest of the episode deals with the feud between the McKenzie brothers, after Colum finds out that Dougal has been rustling up Jacobite gold while collecting rents. Their enmity threatens to tear everything apart for both our lovers and the harmony of the castle itself. But Jamie, despite an enticing offer to leave and live off the land, brokers peace: Colum will gave Dougal the gold back, as a present, buying his brother’s loyalty, “pacifying” Dougal’s companions, and biding his time to see if anything actually happens with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Rising. With one problem solved, another hits Jamie; while skipping stones and trying to figure out how to get back beneath Claire’s under-shift, Laoghaire shows up at his secret spot, wearing nearly naught ‘neath her highland cloak. Jamie is sorely tempted by her exposed, um, soul, but his mind turns back to his wife. Finally.

Seeing the brothers kiss and make up has made Jamie “mindful” that perhaps he owes his wife some making-up, too. At home, he holds out his sword and pledges, on “the cross of his lord Jesus,” which just sounds funny, that he will never raise a hand to her again, and things will be different.

He tells her her ring is made from the key at Lallybroch, and muses on his exile, saying “you are my home now.” Claire starts breathing heavily. Very heavily. They tumble to the floor, start getting busy, and Claire climbs on top. Then mid-thrust, she pulls Jamie’s sword out and points it at her husband’s throat, calmly telling Jamie that if he ever hits her again, she’ll cut his heart out. He agrees, flips her over, and says “you are mine,” and assures her that she’ll call him master someday. “Yes, master,” said a billion fangirls. The couple cuddles on the rug and has a little postcoital linguistics class: she explains what “fucking” and “sadist” — 20th century insults she leveled at him previously — mean. “You do not flatter me overmuch, but I canna fault your observations,” he says. Oh, Jamie. You card!

The episode ends ominously when Claire finds an “ill-wish” under her bed, left by Laoghaire. “It’s meant to bring pain and harm, and even death,” says Jamie. To us, it seems harmless enough, but we know enough to see that such a symbol portends no good for our briefly-happy and very briefly peaceful lovers.