A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
We’re afraid of change. It’s that unsettling dark cloud on the horizon that is bringing the inevitable drudge of rain in its wake. There might be golden rays hiding behind that storm, but it’s the imminent storm that frightens the most. What will the storm ravage? What will it spare? What will it change? We find a sense of comfort in familiarity, a sense of absolute belonging that can cushion the storm. When that familiarity is taken away, fear can become entrenched, a fear of helplessness, isolation, and abandonment. Jamie had left Lallybroch not out of his own volition, but due to circumstances that were far beyond his control. Perhaps to some of us the idea of remaining entrenched within a single area is frightening yet laughable, a morbid symbolism of a deadening stagnation. For many today and far more so in the eighteenth century, there was no means of traveling far away to see the wonders and horrors the rest of the world had in store. Ensuring survival was, and is often, the most vital function in an individual’s life. From that prism, it isn’t difficult to imagine a young Jamie Fraser being raised to become the Laird of Brock Tuarach never leaving Lallybroch, instead spending his days learning and frolicking about the forests. When he was ripped apart from his family, that sense of familiarity was completely torn apart. There was nevertheless a yearning for Lallybroch that never went away and it is with that vantage point that Jamie returns home.
The opening shots of Lallybroch are stunningly gorgeous, continuing evidence that the production team of Outlander is truly getting the most mileage possible out of filming in Scotland. But more so than dazzling landscapes that make me want to go to Scotland with a typewriter and a bottle of Lagavulin, the long landscapes fill that fantasy of home that has been entrenched in Jamie’s mind for the past four years. The smile on his face as he spots his home is confirmation. Yet as he approaches the home he had loved, a bit of that foreboding about how it might have changed comes rushing back towards him. Rumors had reached Castle Leoch that Captain Jack Randall had impregnated his sister and she had given birth to the bastard child. That fear manifests itself in the child’s physical presence and Jamie is enraged that his sister Jenny named the child after him. Sometimes it seems that the show has tried too hard to make Jamie so appealing (outside of his good looks), with his charm, wit, and kindness. But the spanking episode and tonight especially shows him in a terrible light. His reaction to his sister and nephew is simply appalling and downright ugly, as if Jenny in any way would be responsible for a man raping and impregnating her. The child, as it turns out, is not Randall’s but Ivan’s, Jamie’s friend of old who married Jenny after Jamie had been taken away. But the behavior remains as appalling as it was before.
Jamie’s ugly behavior nevertheless comes from a place of guilt over Randall’s “visit” and his subsequent departure for four years. But him for him to expect everything to be the same after that departure was simply naiveté exercising its massive, mighty power. He simply arrives in with Claire and begins to exercise his power as laird without ever trying to understand how Lallybroch had changed to begin with. He’s blind-sighted by the familiarity he craves, allowing his memories to simply cloak the present with the pest without pausing for even a moment to look around him with a critical eye and notice perhaps that the two shades weren’t matching each other perfectly. As Jenny notes with furious irritation, life didn’t start when Jamie and Claire simply walked through the door. Responsibilities arrive with the title of a laird, the title alone doesn’t give Jamie the right to prance about Brock Tuarach as if he owned the place and worked hard to preserve it. The latter part was taken care of by Jenny and Ian for the past four years and if Jamie’s earlier fiasco with not collecting the rent, it’s further evidence that he has quite a bit to learn. Perhaps he’s giddy in the celebration of returning home and that’s combined with his oozing empathy, but foregoing on the rent to be collected is less of a sign of generosity than it is of being foolhardy, such as when Claire notices a father beating his boy and Jamie jumps in to rescue the day. In the former case, Jenny reminds her brother harshly that she and Ian actually have to run the estate and you can’t do that on an empty piggy bank. In the latter, Jamie simply takes it upon himself to give the father a harsh lesson on how to treat his child, without first consulting with Jenny, who has lived there this entire time and actually had a decent idea of how to solve the matter through patience and cunning.
Jenny is a tough woman and Jamie is a stubborn man. It isn’t difficult to see how these two fierce siblings would clash so fastidiously. At its core, their relationship is marred by Captain Randall, a devilish man who has abused both Jenny and Jamie in equal measure and the death of their father that came as a result. As Margaret Atwood once said, “Men are terrified that women will laugh at them. Women are terrified that men will kill them.” Jenny recounts how the day Captain Randall took her up to the bedroom to presumably rape her, he wasn’t able to get an erection, no matter how hard he tried. Jenny ultimately fought back the only way she could at that moment, by laughing at him. He hits her repeatedly but she keeps on laughing at him, grabbing onto that bit of power that she could hold over him. He smacks her again, this time into a pole. When she awakens, he’s gone. Jamie quietly recalls to Claire of the day when Randall had whipped him in that open square. When Jamie first arrived at Fort William for punishment, Randall gave him a choice. He could either give himself over to the captain to be had or he could take another flogging. Jamie wasn’t afraid of having sex with a man. It would certainly have been quicker than being flogged to near death in an open square. But he didn’t bow down to Randall’s demands for the simple reason that doing so would have been establishing absolute power of his life in Randall’s hands and he refused to do so. Unbeknownst to Jamie, however, his father was at the flogging. He tried to rescue his son, but the flogging had begun by the time he got back. As Jamie had slid down the pole, he believed his son to be dead, a catalyst for the heart attack that took his life.
That death drove a wedge between the siblings. Jenny believed and understandably so that Jamie’s recklessness had in some fashion or another led to their father’s death. As Jamie goes to fix the mill that had been broken because he’s still in his “I’m the laird” mindset, a British patrol saunter by. Luckily he manages to unclog the mill just as a British officer steps into the water, but as he’s getting naked out of the river, Jenny realizes her belief about Jamie’s recklessness and their father’s death to be misguided. Her horrified eyes survey the extent of the whip’s severity on his back. Claire knocks some sense into Jamie’s head, so much so that when they both arrive at their father’s grave, he tells Jenny to speak first and hands over the rent that he collected from the residents. But above all, he admits that he was truly wrong not to have consulted her, to have stormed in and made decisions without asking whether what he was doing was right of wrong. The power of the trauma they endured was great and the show never made light of their tragic experiences. But as Jenny welcomes her brother with open arms before their father’s grave, there’s an understanding between the two that the love and respect they have for each other was far greater. As the final moments of the episode arrive, they find themselves in dire circumstances where they may need to rely on the strength of that relationship more than ever before. The past has come back to haunt them.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“It’s in the past.”
+“If she’s your wife, I imagine she’s more familiar with your balls than I am.”
+“Trollop… otherwise known as Claire Fraser.”
+“She’s right. You owe her an apology.”
+“You’re doing a fine enough job of that yourself.”
+“I don’t think anyone would ever make that mistake.”
+Laticia, strong woman and feared
+“I have a much better throwing arm than the fair Laticia.”
+“I was raised by an archaeologist.”
+Arrogance of mercy
+“Have you actually seen an elephant?”
+Jamie’s expression at Claire’s tales of planes
+“It’s Scotland, sir.”
+“You think I had any choice in the matter?”
+“I am speaking and you may when talk when I’m finished.”
+I absolutely love Laura Donnelly’s performance as Jenny and how acutely the writers made her into a strong, independent woman in her own right without resorting to its main protagonist like other, cheaper shows have done.
+Claire was fantastic in this episode as she realizes that just because societal expectations exist around her that inherently force her to compromise with her values of the future, she can be strong like Jenny and Geillis without sacrificing her independence
Written By: Anne Kenney
Directed By: Mike Barker