Outlander Review (Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander)

Antagonist.  Archenemy.  Villain.

Adversary. Foe.

In Outlander, it is none other than Black Jack Randall.

At first, Tobias Menzies allows us to meet mild-mannered Frank, and then turns us around and makes us hate him as the vilest character whoever set foot in Scotland. Black Jack dwells in darkness, and darkness is where he belongs. Tobias does an excellent job of switching from light to darkness in his role, and he should be congratulated for his performance. Now that I really hate him, let’s talk about Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander.

Last week we were left hanging with Claire while she stood speechless after being asked if she was in Dougal’s company of her free will.  It’s a damned if I do and damned if I don’t moment. She could risk the lives of all the men of the clan, or take her chances again with the captain of the dragoons.  You know she’d rather just run off to the stones by herself and get the deed done without any help from the Scots or the Brits, but at this moment she can do neither.  What’s a woman to do?

Well, Claire reiterates that she is a guest of the Clan MacKenzie. Nevertheless, the lieutenant informs her that Lord Thomas will want to meet her anyway, and leads her and Dougal to a small village swarming with Redcoats. The scene that follows, from what I can tell, is an addition from the producers, wherein the book she goes directly to Captain Randall. Claire is introduced to a room full of men dining in their British finery of red and gold, with those George Washington powdered wigs.  Welcomed as a fine British lady, she sits at the head of the table, while Dougal stands beside her chair and looks at seven officers in the British army. She feels right at home, while she thinks Dougal is the outlander this time.

If Starz wanted to lace this series with the deep misunderstandings and prejudices between the Scottish and the English, they did a good job.  It’s enough to make the referendum pass on September 18 when Scotland will vote whether or not to leave the United Kingdom.  Every cliche insult is flung toward Dougal from: (a) I can’t understand a word you’re saying to; (b) what’s underneath that kilt? Even after he leaves the room, the comments continue about the Scottish being ignorant, superstitious, and impossible to make peace with because they’re not loyal subjects. Ouch! The prejudice is as thick as the powder on their wigs.  Once again, these deviations from the written word may upset some fans.  However, I think this scene is important in that it shows it’s not just Black Jack Randall who despises the Scottish, but it’s an overall prevailing sentiment from the British Army and aristocracy.

Then to Claire’s shock, Black Jack Randall bursts into the room, which is more like the scene in the book but also extended. He questions Claire further, and she tells another tall tale that sounds even more confusing than the one she told the Laird at the castle.  When she mentions how she’s heard rumors about Randall loving to flog people, it opens up another flashback. He recites the flogging of Jamie with a hundred lashes on top of the hundred lashes already received. We don’t get just the story, we get the gory visual effects of sliced flesh, gashes, dripping and pooling blood, and untold suffering that Jamie endured.  Jack wanted to break him, but Jamie was unbreakable.

Tobias Menzies does a rather good job of revealing the darkness of Jack’s soul as he portrays the reason for Randall’s brutality. His sadistic nature is unfurled as he tells Claire about how the crowd watched in horror while he beat Jamie, but he thought it a thing of beauty as he created a masterpiece upon Jamie’s back. The man’s heart is as black as hell itself, and Claire makes the mistaken assumption that he can be redeemed.

Randall’s interrogation of her continues, asking if Dougal is raising money for the Jacobites. Claire lies, of course, but Randall doesn’t believe a word.  He quickly dashes her conclusion that he can be saved, by punching her in the stomach. Then he orders another soldier to kick her while she lays groaning on the floor. No doubt it would have continued if Dougal hadn’t come to her rescue.  Randall relents, but orders him to bring Claire back at Noon the next day for further interrogation.

Well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that the Scottish people of 1743 were superstitious, and Dougal takes her to St. Ninian’s spring. He asks her if she’s a spy once more, and since she doesn’t drop dead after drinking the water, he finally believes her declaration that she’s not. “Anyone who drinks the water and then tells untruth will ha’ the gizzard burnt out of him.” Claire’s gizzard survives.

Dougal then explains to her the only way of keeping her from Randall is to have her become Scottish through marriage. The plan is set in motion, the marriage contract drawn, and Jamie and Claire are going to wed.  Never you mind she’s not a virgin but he is. At least one of them will know what they are doing! At the end of the episode, Claire does what she does best to cope. She grabs a bottle of liquor from one of the men and storms off to get drunk.

Now, I know all you lasses cannot wait until next week when vows are spoken, wrists get slit, blood gets mingled, and consummation of the marriage bed comes to pass. The question on everyone’s mind is how much skin are we going to see? Based on Claire’s romps in the sack with Frank, this could get hot.

Frankly, I don’t care if I see her boobs again–what’s under that kilt is on everyone’s mind. In order to handle it, I suggest cold showers before and after the episode airs. I bet, though, you’ll all just tune in and watch it again an hour later. Bring tissues in case you drool.

Most tender moment: Claire and Jamie discussing their impending marriage.

Most humorous statement: Lord Thomas to Claire, “You do know how to order men about.” Dougal’s response, “Aye, she does.”

Most disturbing moment: Black Jack flogging Jamie.

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