Critics and viewers have given overwhelming praise to episode six of Outlander. I am here to tell you that the hype is real. This well-executed, tense and riveting episode is the easily the best we’ve seen all season.
Last week’s episode left us on a cliffhanger. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Claire answered (She showed loyalty to her travel companions by answering that she’s willfully accompanying the Scottish man), because the Red Coats decide to take her in for questioning. Dougal and Claire oblige the officers and head over to their headquarters, which do rest on MacKenzie lands. Claire is introduced to the General, a boisterous and insufferable fellow who makes several offensive and disparaging remarks against the Scottish. Dougal is the room and surprisingly takes the insults with little to no reaction. He does talk back, but he knows better than to start a fight (or maybe even a war) with these men.
The General invites Claire to sit and drink with them as they ask her about her journey and how she came to be with the MacKenzies. Dougal takes his leave, assuring Claire he won’t be too far. Without any of the MacKenzies breathing down her neck, Claire finally has her chance to get back to the stones. She humors the British General and other men with her fantastical and untrue story. They are easily charmed by her, and the General agrees to help escort her “back to Inverness” so she can be “reunited with her family.”
Relief is clear in Claire’s expression, as she thinks that she just secured her ticket back to the 20th century. But she falls for the same trap that Colum had played on her when she first arrived to Castle Leoch. The British soldiers repeatedly offer her wine and drinks, which loosen up her words and inhibitions. It’s not so bad until Captain Jack Randall—or Black Jack Randall as many know him—barges into the room. The General is appalled by Black Jack’s dusty appearance and cradles his Claret to protect it from the Captain’s flying dirt. It’s clear that they are two very different men. The General may be his boss, but we know that Black Jack doesn’t take that man seriously at all. He humors him though, by dusting off in the doorway and reentering the room to report some news to the General.
Claire instantly recognizes him, and the same goes for Jack. When the General explains her presence, Jack knows she’s lying. A devious smile plays on his face as he begins his own little interrogation. Claire gets flustered and eventually says something traitorous and supportive of the Scots. The men in the room are shocked, but Claire turns it around as more reason why she needs to be taken home to her family in Inverness. The General elects Black Jack to take her home. Shortly after, another man barges in the room saying that some men attacked the soldiers, killing and severely injuring them. Claire runs out to help the injured soldiers.
She makes her way back into the dining room and sees Jack sitting back and being shaved by a nervous young soldier. The sight of them reminds her of shaving Frank, who has an uncanny likeliness to his ancestor. Claire and Frank’s moment is intimate and romantic. The opposite of what she’s seeing now. The soldier ends up nicking Jack, who then turns the razor on the boy. He doesn’t hurt the boy, but gives him sharp, precise shave to make his point. The boy leaves the room terrified, when Jack dismisses him.
Alone, Black Jack continues his interrogation. He asks for trust. He’ll be completely truthful, if Claire is. Claire can’t be honest, so she tells a different variation of her story. She plays it convincingly. Jack oddly looks interested and sympathetic. Then, he tells his story of when he flogged Jamie. We’re taken back to it in a scene. The brutality of the scene is the most graphic I’ve seen all season. Jack doesn’t hold back both when it comes to the whip and telling Claire his feelings as he whipped Jamie. He loved it; he talked of the intensity and intimacy of the moment. It’s horrifying. Yet, he starts to back off those sadistic feelings and begins to wonder if he can change to become a better person. Claire takes the bait and tries to convince him that he can be a good person. You can’t really blame her, since the man does look so much like her husband.
Their conversation seems to lead to a truce when Black Jack stands up and offers his hand. Claire takes it, and stands. That’s when he sucker punches her hard. Claire falls to the floor. He’s not letting her go until he gets the truth from her. He calls the young soldier to come back in and orders him to kick her. The boy doesn’t want to do it, but he’s scared of Jack and kicks her lightly. That’s not enough; he orders him to kick her harder. Claire continues to cringe and cough on the floor. Luckily, Dougal runs into the room before the men can do more damage. He helps Claire up and says the men can’t take her since she is a guest of the MacKenzies and under their protection. However, Claire is clearly English, which makes her fall under the British’s jurisdiction. Black Jack lets Dougal take her, but that she must be released back to the English soon.
Dougal and Claire ride off, and they stop at a sort of secluded place to drink water. Claire drinks the water, and Dougal asks her for the millionth time if she’s a spy. She has the usual outburst, denying that she’s not a spy. Dougal believes her, especially since she just drank from a magical pond with water that works as a truth serum. With that reassurance, Dougal offers to help her out of her situation. The only way she won’t have to be returned to the British and thrown in jail is if she became Scottish. They only way to do that is through marriage.
But it’s not Dougal she’s marrying. Back with the rest of the clansmen, Claire is sitting by herself, staring at a marriage license. Jamie comes to sit next to her and offers her a drink. She tells him that Dougal wants her and Jamie to marry each other. He says he knows. She surprised he doesn’t have a problem with it. But Jamie simply explains that he feels like he owes her, since she’s fixed up his wounds, and he wouldn’t want to leave her in Black Jack’s clutches. Also, he’s not quite a catch for other women, seeing as there is a price on his head and all that. He stands up to head back to the other men, and Claire asks him if it bothers him that she’s not virgin. Jamie looks slightly abashed and hesitates before saying something along the lines of “No, as long as you don’t mind that I am. Reckon someone ken what they’re doing.”
Knowing she doesn’t have any other options, Claire marches back to the men, grabs Dougal’s whisky, and walks off while taking a huge drink. Glad she’s taking all this well!
Final thoughts on the episode:
- The writers crafted this episode so well. They show off Black Jack’s brutality, sadism, and manipulative ways spectacularly. Tobias Menzies plays it so well. For a moment, I thought the TV show was softening Black Jack up, but really they gave him an extra punch (literally) that makes you hate him so much more.
- I enjoyed the way Claire acted as mediator between the British and Dougal. It shows just how attached she has become to her companions and their culture.
- The last scene with Jamie was great. Sam Heughan manages to make Jamie act like getting married isn’t a big deal, but you can still tell that he really is taking it seriously. Also, the part about Jamie still being a virgin added a little nice comic relief to an intense episode.
Outlander is rated TV-MA. It airs Saturday nights at 9 ET on Starz.
Enjoy some clips from tonight’s episode below: