So here we are at the mid-season finale. I laughed, I cried, I considered perming my hair and I knit like a flipping banshee. Much like the lauded high-quality bootie we have been exposed to thanks to this show, I hate to see it go, but I LOVED watching it leave. Posted in 2 parts because.
We begin as always with the lovely Skye Boat Song, and I play my usual mental game where I try to recognize each clip and where it comes from. Some are harder than others. Like, why is Claire running here? Towards or away from something? Let’s look.
RUN, GIRL. Damn it, I miss this show already.
First scene, we are in Scotland, 1946. Specifically in the Inverness Police Station, where cops spike their drinks to deal with those pesky victim’s loved ones who won’t leave them alone and get over it already.
That’s right. Frank has become such a fixture at the station that he’s someone used his coat for graffiti. It happens. At least the unnamed vandals who defaced his suit understand what makes him tick. Can’t say the same for the detective, who is very obviously patronizing. Frank listens to him apologize and say that he “wishes he could do more” for him and calmly says it’s his job, perhaps he could do that? The detective replies that he understands he is “disappointed” and I actually stood up and cheered “Disappointing? That’s an interesting word. It suggests expectations that were unmet. My expectations of your department were low to begin with and I can assure you that you have met those expectations at every turn.” DAYYYYUM SON. /highfive
This is enough for the detective to finally lose his patience and let him have it. He reminds Frank that they spent the past six weeks “searching over 100 square miles of rugged terrain, conducted 175 interviews, invested over 1000 man hours…” but Frank don’t care. He wants to know what he “has to show for these efforts.”
As he speaks, the camera pans over to bulletin board and the missing persons rewards being offered for both Claire, and the Highlander Frank saw watching her on the night of their arrival, who looks pretty familiar…
Frank emphasizes that his wife has disappeared. “Do you have any idea–at all–what might have happened to her?” The detective says that they didn’t find a body, so they assume that she is still alive. There was “no blood in the car, no sign of a struggle”, so they assume she “probably wasna taken against her will.” Franks’s face hardens. He has heard this before, and deadpans that is is the detective’s “favorite theory.”
The officer’s calm begins to crack and he raises his voice, telling Frank that he admitted that he caught a man staring at his wife through the window the night before she disappeared. Frank says that he has said since the beginning that “the Highlander is certainly involved in some way,” and then the detective finally loses his patience.
He shouts that “OF COURSE he is involved, you fool! He is her lover and the two of them left, together.” Frank doesn’t take well to this.
He slams his fist on the table and shouts, his body shaking and more emotion than we have seen from him in the entire series to date. “My wife is NOT with another man.” It is telling that when he looks around the station and notices everyone is watching him, he almost immediately reverts to calm, as if he himself cannot handle the emotion and the illusion of control is important. He gets his hat and prepares to go.
Back to 1743, where Claire and Jamie are having a snack and gazing at each other like teenagers.
Jamie acts all cute which means he is mostly just breathing and shyly asks Claire if he can ask her a question and she replies “of course.” He says he does not want to embarrass her and imply that she “has a vast knowledge of men,” but that she knows more than he does in such matters. After some prodding from Claire, he reaches over, holds her hand and asks “It is usual? What it is between us when I touch you? When you lie with me? Is it always so between a man and a woman?”
At first Claire demurs and says that “It is often something like this,” but at Jamie’s somewhat dejected look she seems to reevaluate her approach and alters her response. “No. This is unusual. It’s different.”
That seems to please Jamie and there is a very sweet beat as they lock eyes, and then a wee interruption.
Jamie’s eyes widen and he throws himself over Claire to shield her, then tells her “don’t move” as he crawls over to examine the arrow. When he gets a good look at it, this is how you know they are in no real danger.
It really is good and refreshing to see honest open smiles on either of their faces. They are so often swimming upstream a river of sh*t that the moments of joy really hit home for me. Not only is it not danger, it is a friend! Hugh Munro, what looks like the Highland equivalent of a homeless person crossed with that one stuffed rabbit you loved all the fur off of when you were a child.
Hugh is mute, and so communicates mostly by grunts and signs, which Jamie interprets for Claire. I don’t speak Munro, so I just made crap up.
Hugh found them because he saw Dougal watering the horses and came up to where he figured Jamie would be. When he signals towards Claire, Jamie introduces her as his wife, “married just these two days past” and Hugh pulls out a wineskin, insisting that they drink to Claire, after which he has some news for Jamie. Jamie agrees and they all sit. As they pass the wineskin around, Hugh reaches into his bag and pulls something out. Jamie interprets that it is for Claire, “a wedding gift.” It is a dragonfly, trapped in amber.
As Claire admires her gift, Jamie reaches over and taps one of the medallions sewn onto on Hugh’s vest, joking that he has “gone official.” he explains to Claire that they are gaberlunzie pendants, which are official licenses to beg within the borders of a single parish. Claire notes that he has “at least a dozen” by her count, and that is when Jamie says that Hugh is special, as was “captured by the Turks at Sea, and spent many years as a slave in Algiers”, where he lost his tongue. Claire asks if they cut it out and Jamie says that that and hot oil on his legs is how they got “Christians to convert to the Musulman religion.” When Munro appears lost in memory, Jamie prods him for his news.
Turns out he has encountered a man named Horrocks, a redcoat deserter, who is willing to meet Jamie and provide testimony that Jamie did not kill the Seargant at Fort William. Munro cannot vouch for Horrocks’ trustworthiness, but Jamie wants to go meet with him, as having the price lifted from his head would mean he could take his new wife home to Lallybroch. He is terribly excited and hopeful and he hugs Claire, who has to go be a total downer because God forbid you should just hug your hot young Ginger husband who is totally into you and JUST ENJOY IT.
A sincerely awesome shot of her hands blurs into Frank’s left hand with is ring finger on it, and we are back to 1946 to the owner of said hand, in the Reverend Wakefield’s house telling him that the police are not interested in his theories on what may have happened to Claire. The Reverend thinks she may have fallen in a river and been carried up to 20 miles into the forest. Even though Frank is being polite, you can tell that the Detective hit a nerve and that the Reverend, however well-intentioned, is starting to annoy him.
Rev. Wakefield is getting on his last nerve by telling Frank about how Claire could be living in a cave (IT HAPPENS) and subsisting on “fish and frogs” when he (and all of us) are distracted. Mrs. Graham comes in with a snack and she is followed by his tiny, adorable nephew, Roger. Pause FOR THE CHEEKS. They demand it.
There is a sweet bit when Roger asks for two cookies and the Rev. Wakefield tickle-chases him asking if he is going to “eat all my biscuits” and I am thinking about how it must say to share somewhere in the Bible and Frank is staring at them like “Great, now I have to be reminded that I am a childless sad sack, too.” Roger goes upstairs to bed, and Frank glares at the board with all the clippings related to Claire’s disappearance.
Mrs. Graham offers him tea because he is English and I’m pretty sure that is how they mediate all disputes, but Frank says he needs “something a bit stronger” and, refusing the Reverend’s company, asks that they not wait up for him.
At what I assume to be the nearest pub, he looks like a PSA for how you handle this situation.
I honestly identify with Frank probably for the first time ever during this scene. There is a fragility to Tobias Menzies’ sadness laid over a core of anger that feels very real, a man at absolute emotional bottom. So of course, here comes a blonde Eve to tempt him with a metaphorical apple.
She sits next to Frank and greets him with a smile and a “Good evening…Mr. Randall” which gets his attention. She says he can call her Sally, although that is not her real name. He gives her a once-over and asks, “What can I do for you, Sally?” She says it’s what she can do for him, and you can tell he’s intrigued.
Sadly, no sexcapades (and really, who could blame him). Rather she takes out one of the leaflets advertising a reward for information regarding Jamie and tells Frank that “I ken where he is”. “Where?” Frank says immediately, and she replies, “Close. I can take you to him.”That’s all Frank needs to hear to jump up and get ready to go, but Sally places a hand on his arm and says “Not now. There are too many eyes and ears in here.” She asks Frank to meet her “at half past midnight” on Drummond lane, past the cobbler’s shop, to bring the reward, and to come alone. She gets up to leave, but poor hopeful Frank has one more question, and he grabs her hand to stop her from leaving and ask if Claire is “with him”. Sally says she doesn’t know, she’ll arrange the meeting and the rest is up to him.
When she leaves, he drinks the rest of his drink and asks the bartender for another. You get the sense that he’s not going home until after the meeting, and that he may be drinking up to that point. Wise choice.
In 1743, the Mackenzies have camped for the night, Rupert is telling the legend of the water-horse, and Jamie and Claire are gazing at each other, vigorously handfornicating and waiting for everyone to fall asleep so they can hit it.
Jamie tells Claire that “it will be Yuletide” by the time they return to Leoch, and she asks if they hang stockings by the chimney. “To dry them off, you mean?” says adorably clueless Jamie and Claire laughs because she is a heterosexual human female and adorable Jamie demands it. It is a lovely, sweet calm moment.
But is is Outlander, so those don’t last.
Claire notices the change in the vibe and asks what is wrong, and Jamie says the horses are restless and that someone is out there, and not to move. Those horses are better than an alarm. The storytelling goes on and everyone appears to continue what they are doing, but there is an alertness that underlies each action that tells you every man in that camp is preparing for sh*t to go down.
Jamie gives Claire his knife under cover of a kiss, and tells her that at his say-so, she is to go behind a hollow log and hide.
He strokes her hair, waiting for word from Dougal and, at his nod, yells “GO!” and all hell breaks loose.
I wanted to try to cap some of the fight, but it is one giant blur, so let me refer you instead to this excellent gifset by outlander-online, and you can just imagine me yelling over it like you do when there’s a fight in the hallway in high school: “FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHHHHT!”
And then it’s over, and it turns out it was a raid by the Grants. Even though they are some grain and one horse poorer for it, everyone is okay and giddy with exhilaration. Jamie calls Claire and she comes, saying she is all right. Ned is downright chipper, asking if anyone saw him hit a perfect shot. The comment breaks any remaining tension and everyone laughs. A crisis averted.
Back in Claire’s time, Frank finally shows up to meet Sally for their appointment, and the moment I see the contrast I worry for the outcome of this. Costuming alone will tell you who holds the power in this situation, and the fact that you can’t really see Frank’s face is visual foreshadowing.
Sally complains that he is late, to which he counters “I am on time” and she explains that she just thought he would be early. You think a lot of things, Sally. She leads him to a secluded area behind a shop, and it becomes obvious that this isn’t what Frank thought it was.
The man who punches him yells “give us the reward” and this is when I check my TV to make sure I am not watching another channel because Frank goes full Batman, but like DARK KNIGHT BATMAN.
Side note: when I was watching this for the recap, my husband wandered in and yelled “Yeah, blackjack that guy!” I got all excited thinking that he watched the show and somehow knew a plot point, but NO. Turns out that what Frank takes out of his pocket for this epic beat down is called a blackjack, and is get this: LEAD WRAPPED IN LEATHER. Kudos to the geniuses behind this production, who managed to tie this all together so neatly.
But first, said epic beat down:
I make fun because it’s what I do, but it is honestly chilling to watch this gentle, hurt man lose whatever control he was hanging on to and echo his ancestor in such a manner. Not only does he viciously kick one of his assailants over and over again once he is down and then start up beating him with the blackjack, but when Sally runs over and shouts “Stop! Ye’re gonna kill ‘im!”, this happened, and my heart just dropped.
That’s right. HE MOTHERF*CKING CHOKES HER as he growls “There is no highlander, is there?” Oh I don’t know, Frank, you’re a goddamn professor. FIGURE IT OUT. A lot of things can be said for violence in this story, both past and upcoming, but I’ve always personally felt it flowed with the time and the story, and this struck a discordant note for me. I did not feel it was justified, or really even congruent. I could have fathomed him grabbing her and tossing her to the ground, wrenching her arm, but this just felt out of bounds. Any sympathy I felt for Frank flew right out of my mouth in a string of curse words. In an episode riddled with violence, it was the one moment I felt truly uncomfortable. Although, if that was the writers’ purpose, bravo folks. You got me.
Sally finally chokes out a no, and Frank lets go of her, flipping back to Bruce Banner before our very eyes. He backs up slowly, we hear the Reverend Wakefield’s voiceover begin as the scene shifts back to the vicarage, and it’s an important one.
“It’s fashionable in this modern age to dismiss the idea of good and evil. But there is evil…and it finds purchase in good men by giving sin the sweet taste of ecstasy. The Nazis drank from that poisoned cup thinking all the while they were slaking their thirst with the sweetest wine.”
Franks wants to know if the reverend thinks he drank from that same cup, to which Wakefield responds that “Evil has but one cup,” and taking the metaphor right to its limit says that while many “drink long and deep” his was “but a sip” and that he should make it his last. “Turn away from the darkness that beckons you and turn back to the light,” he counsels gravely. For my purposes, he could have been a bit more direct.
Frank takes this as indirect advice to leave Inverness, and Reverend Wakefield does not disagree. He tells him to “go back to Oxford, start your life over.” “What of Claire?,” Frank asks. “Let her go, just as she has let you go,” Wakefield says very gently. Still, the impact on Frank is visible.
Mrs. Graham overhears them and leaves the room without saying anything when Frank asks the reverend if he believes Claire left with the Highlander “of her own volition.” Wakefield asks him if he has ever read Sherlock Holmes, and tells him that “once you eliminate the impossible, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Frank shuts his eyes and sways and for one terrible moment, I think the is going to vomit. Reverend Wakefield’s point has hit home.
Thank God for comic relief, as we are now back with Jamie and Claire as they hunt through the hills for Jamie’s knife, which Claire dropped the previous night during the raid. Rupert finds it and tries to give it back to Jamie, but he indicates that Claire should have it. “It’s too big and heavy for me,” she complains, and then Rupert answers “Lassies say that to me all the time” so now, to paraphrase Diana, we know how old that joke is.
Ned tells Jamie that if he’s going to give Claire a knife, someone should teach her how to use it to “defend herself from assailants.” Angus is called up as the best man for the job and Claire objects politely, but Jamie cuts her off, saying that “every man and woman needs to learn to defend themselves, Sassenach- especially those married to a Fraser.” He punctuates this with a smooch, and she relents, saying “I think I’m more aware of that every day.”
Dougal, who is overseeing the proceedings while sharpening his own knife, says that “the lass needs a sgian-dubh,” which Jamie says is a “hidden dagger.” Ned explains that most highlanders hide them in their socks, but he has “a more private place” for his.
Claire grimaces, but takes the dagger, and the lesson commences.
Angus explains to her that it is best for her to stab underhanded, as overhead is only good when you are “coming down with considerable force on someone from above,” and Claire nods. Murtagh, watching with Dougal and Jamie, says that “I still say the only good weapon for a woman is poison.” “Perhaps,” Dougal replies, “…it has certain deficiencies in combat.”
Angus helpfully lifts his shirt to show Claire where to stab a man if he is facing her, and when she pantomimes it, he tells her to go off to the side, not in the breastbone lest she lose her knife. He then volunteers an obviously reluctant Willie as victim for a back-stabbing. It’s all informative, but I am riveted by two people I swear I haven’t seen before. Am I alone here? Have I been high?
Seriously, it’s like Dougal and Rupert’s stunt doubles or something. Ghosts? Anything’s possible. In any case, Angus tells Claire that it is hard to stab between the ribs from the back, so her best bet is to go beneath the last rib and stab straight upward into the kidney, and they “will drop like a stone.” Claire pantomimes stabbing Willie and playfully pushing him, and the reactions from the men are priceless. Claire is proud as she laughs and tells Angus “See? Got it.”
In 1946, Frank is sadpacking his sad suitcase when Claire’s suitcase telepathically links to him, because he turns suddenly to look at it.
He must be ripe for seduction, because he picks it up and sets it on the bed, bracing himself to open it.
After a beat, he opens it and stands looking inside. It looks pretty standard, with her books and gloves placed neatly above her clothes, but he tugs something out by the edge and stands looking at it, swallowing convulsively. When the camera finally gets hold of it we see what it is, and while I know it’s meant to tug at my heartstrings, the reaction I experienced was somewhat um, uncommon.
At least he has a visual aid to get him through this lonely time. We can understand that, can’t we, Outlanders?
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