Outlander "The Reckoning" Review: Fifty Shades of James

Lily Sparks

Outlander S01E09: "The Reckoning"

OH MY LADS AND LASSIES. It's been too, too long. How long have we waited to reunite with Claire, the misty green hills of Scotland, and the red-headed Highlander who stands out against those misty green hills just so?! Outlander is back, guys. And the second half of Season 1 opened with a whole new twist: It was narrated from Jamie's point of view.

One of the greatest things about Outlander as a filmed adaptation of the source novels is the fact we're not tied to Claire as our proxy. Jamie's narration offered an unprecedented look into his thoughts, the show's swashbuckling action, and his most intimate feelings for Claire. What's more, it was smart for Outlander to switch narrators in "The Reckoning" due to the episode's controversial spanking of Claire, a moment that was just simple discipline in Jamie's 17th-century mind but probably would've been way more traumatizing if we'd been privy to Claire's more complex despair.

But, first things first: In an attempt to clear his name, Jamie paid a small fortune for the name of the man who killed the man who Jamie was supposed to have killed. The bad news? Capt. Jack Randall was the culprit. Good luck convincing the English that one of their own is guilty and that you're innocent, Jamie! And while he was still reeling from news that he'd be an outlaw for life, Jamie learned Claire had been dragged off by redcoats to Fort William.

So, brandishing only an empty pistol and an incredibly square jaw, Jamie rescued Claire from having her nipples sliced off by Capt. Jack "Ass" Randall. Randall gave us another taste of his incredibly awful flavor of crazy by forcing Jamie to put down his gun while promising to assault Jamie's wife right in front of him and then suggesting that Jamie get in the mix, too. Clearly Randall thinks sexual coercion goes hand-in-hand with torture the way you and I might combine chocolate and peanut butter.

Luckily Jamie thoroughly clobbered him. Then Jamie wrapped Claire up in a cloak and kicked a couple of guys straight down the stairs, and then he and Claire LEAPT off the fort into what they hoped was dark water. Had to be a bonding moment for both of them!

At least, you might think it would've been a bonding moment, given how often The Bachelor forces its contestants to participate in adrenaline-junkie activities, but after their epic escape, the couple had their first real argument, and it was a barn burner. Jamie wanted Claire to apologize for wandering off, Claire was incensed, and a lot of screechy name-calling ensued while Jamie's buds sat by the horses, quietly eavesdropping. At last, when the enormity of Jamie's rescue and his tremendous fear for her life really saturated Claire, she said she was sorry and so did he, and if they were a modern couple the issue would've been resolved right there. As Jamie himself said in the voiceover, he loved Claire, and had already forgiven her for anything she had done as well as anything she could or would ever do.

But his pack of boisterous Scottish bros weren't feeling quite as chummy, considering that Claire's still-unexplained stroll through the heather had endangered all of their lives.

They wanted the woman spanked, a punishment they considered to be the female version of getting your ears "cropped," a term I'm not eager to investigate. And so, the night after a brutal assault by Jack Randall, Claire was pulled out of bed by a husband intent on beating up her bare butt. Claire was adamantly opposed.

This was one of those scenes from the source material where a sort of stock romance-novel trope—a sexually tense bit of light BDSM—was originally written more realistically, as a traumatic event. In the book, Claire's experience was harrowing, but Starz decided to spin it more toward "sexy romp" than domestic violence. The swirling strings in the score added a weirdly playful momentum and tone, but if Claire had been narrating, that clearly wouldn't have been the music playing in the background. Claire was not having fun, dudes.

Claire actually called Jamie a sadist during their struggle. He had no idea what the word meant, and given they'd been face-to-face with the Shaquille O'Neal of sadists just hours before, it was sort of telling: Jamie may ascribe to some outdated ideas about marriage, but he's no sadist, and his spanking (while 100 percent unacceptable to you and me) was still a far cry from even Christian Grey levels of cruelty.

Outlander also tried to balance it out later in the episode, with Jamie passionately rejecting the entire female-male dynamic of his society and presenting Claire with a knife, swearing upon it that if he ever raised a hand against her again, she could stab him with it. The show's writers are going out of their way to absolve Jamie, and Lord knows I can' stay mad at him for too long, but it's worth taking a little break here and putting down for the record that men who abuse women outside of the world of fiction are to be AVOIDED at all costs, even if they own a helicopter or promise on their giant knife never to do it again. Like, don't just put that same knife to their throat during sex and curse them out, Claire-style. Just straight-up get away from them. Nonfiction abuse is not fun or cute or sexy and it sure as hell isn't a one-time deal.

Anyway, though Claire was welcomed back into the arms of her grubby road-tripping buddies after her spanking, Jamie was headed for nothing but trouble back at Castle Leoch. Colum was angry at Dougal for raising money for rebel forces, which could endanger the entire MacKenzie clan as traitors. Laoghaire came out of nowhere, told Jamie she'd been crushing on him for life, and forcibly cupped her boob with his hand. Colum was all angry at Jamie for marrying a sassy sassenach. Claire would not let him sleep in the bed with her and her sore butt. Oh, everything was quite a mess.

Luckily Jamie brokered peace between the two brothers, politely rejected Laoghaire by telling her he'd taken a vow and was crushing on his wife anyway, and then did that thing where he pulled out a giant knife and vowed to Claire that he would turn his back on a lifetime of social conditioning and pledge fealty to her. (It was especially meaningful because just one scene earlier, Colum had reminded Dougal of the gravity of an oath of fealty sworn on a dirk.) And also P.S. her wedding ring was the key to Lallybroch, because, just a reminder, she's the lady of a castle now. Claire was receptive to these overtures...

...by which I mean they made passionate love on the floor because they couldn't even wait to travel two feet to the bed, and then mid-thrust Claire pulled out the knife and swore to Jamie that if he physically hurt ever again she'd cut out his heart and have it for breakfast. Hahaha, Laoghaire and her slut-shaming could've learned a thing or two from this moment, if only she'd stuck around and watched after planting her Blair Witch Project prop under the mattress. Anyway, Jamie seemed into all of it and afterward they basically promised to be each other's forever. So Outlander returned with an episode that served as a veritable sampler platter of all its elements: psychologically devastating physical interactions, British violence, Scottish politics, a tinge of witchcraft, and sweet, sweet loving. How we've missed ye!


QUESTIONS:

... Was the spanking appropriate justice for a disobedient member of a team whose lives depend on each other, a sexy romp, or an instance of unjustifiable domestic abuse?

... Laoghaire: It's hard to fault her for making a pass at Jamie, but did she have to put Claire down for being married previously? And hex her with witchcraft? Seems rude. Also did this episode make you consider buying a corset?

... What are your biggest hopes/fears for the second half of Outlander's first season?