Outlander Mid-Season Finale: So Much Dizzying Back-and-Forth and Not Nearly Enough Sex

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Photo: Neil Davidson/Sony Pictures
Outlander
Show
Outlander
Episode Title
Both Sides Now
Season
1
Episode
8
Editor’s Rating
4/5

This show made us wait until the seventh episode for Claire and Jamie to get right with the world. So it makes sense ... go with me on this ... that I would make you wait a full week for the recap of the final episode before Outlander’s long hiatus. Or that’s an elaborate way of admitting I was on a book tour all week and had to catch up at work and then, finally, on Friday night, I was able to sequester myself and watch this mid-season finale of Outlander.

(Have you noticed the proliferation of mid-season finales lately, by the way? That’s not a real thing. It’s a sadistic marketing tactic.)

Before we can get back to the sexy times in the Highlands, Frank is in a police station in Inverness, where a detective is offering up a futile apologia for why they cannot locate Mrs. Randall. We come to realize that some time has passed, and Frank has been searching high and low for his beloved wife. The detective, finally frustrated that Frank won’t let this go, says Claire has left with a lover. Frank slams his fist on the desk and says, “My wife is not with another man.”

Oh, Frank, oh, sweet honey baby, if only you knew. She is not only with another man, she is having quite a lovely time. 

Back in ye olde times, Jamie and Claire are enjoying a hilltop picnic and a wee chat. Jamie, aww shucks, asks if sex is always this off the chain. He doesn’t understand how magnificent his body is, so we must forgive him this question. Claire admits the chemistry they share is “unusual, different.” Before more can be said, an arrow lands near them, and Jamie springs into sexy hero mode, telling Claire to stay put. But the arrow was dispatched in jest by an old friend, Munro, whose tongue was cut out by the Turks yet still manages to tell Jamie what needs to be said. He brings news of a witness, a Redcoat deserter named Horrocks, who can attest to Jamie’s innocence in the murder of the man he has been accused of killing and may be able to help get the price off Jamie’s head. Jamie is excited at the prospect that he might finally go home with his bride. Claire is torn because now she has a hot Scottish husband and then there’s that Frank guy she is still stuck on.

Back in the 20th century again and Frank is trying to suss out what happened to Claire, and there are no easy answers, so he goes to a pub to drown his sorrows. What would we do without alcohol? I prefer not to consider such a fate. Our dear dull Frank is soused when a woman named Sally Not Sally sidles up to him and says she can help him find the Highlander that Frank claims to have seen peering up at Claire’s window in the first episode. All Frank wants to know is whether Claire is with this dude, and he’s willing to pay for the information, but Sally Not Sally has no such answer for him right now ... not here. She tells Frank where to meet her with the reward, and that is that.

Jamie, Claire, and some McKenzie clansmen are sitting around a fire on their journey to find this Horrocks guy when the horses become restless. These Highlanders are wily, though, so they all know that there are intruders nearby without making a big production out of it. Jamie gives Claire a sweet kiss, slips her a dagger, and sends her off to hide while the men fight for their honor! Or to at least not get killed. All ends well, mostly. The raiders only abscond with a horse and some grain, so that’s enough excitement for one night. 

Back in 1945, a hopeful, determined Frank trudges through the rain to his appointment with Sally Not Sally, who scolds him for not being early. It’s a trap, of course, and men hulk around Frank demanding the reward money. Guys, it seems that quiet Frank is not so quiet. He proceeds to beat the men nearly to death, and when Sally Not Sally tries to stop him, he grabs her by the neck and chokes her until she admits she has no knowledge of this mysterious Highlander he wants to find. Still waters run deep, I suppose. We are seeing a completely different side of Frank, and it’s quite interesting.

In the Highlands, the men tell Claire she needs to learn to defend herself, and Angus gives her a tutorial on using a tiny dagger. Turns out, if you stab someone from behind, just under the last rib, and aim upward, you hit the kidney. The more you know.

Frank is mourning back in the 20th century, but Claire and Jamie are still enjoying the bliss of being newlyweds. They do it outside! Jamie seems to be learning some things, including pillow talk. “It feels like God himself when I’m inside you,” Jamie says. Before they can reach the promised land, two Redcoats accost them. One of them moves to rape Claire while Jamie is held at knife point, and it’s a rather frustrating scene. I was starting to think the show wasn’t going to go “there.” Silly me. If there is a show about a woman, she must face sexual peril. Claire is stunned, but then she remembers her recent murder lesson and uses that knowledge well.

The Scottish innkeeper tells Frank a story about how the stones of Craigh na Dun can make people disappear. The priest isn’t interested in such tales, but Frank is intrigued by this story of how the stones allow people to “pierce the veil of time.” But wait. It’s all too good to be true. Frank, sadly, reverts to type and announces that he’s returning to England because he does not share the innkeeper’s belief.

Claire is in shock as Dougal and the men deal with the Redcoat deserters. They decide that Jamie cannot meet Horrocks alone, in case it’s a trap or something equally nefarious. Claire’s shock is, of course, understandable given what she has just been through. Her hands are very cold and mostly she walks around muttering to herself that she is in shock. A while later, as she and the other McKenzies ride, Claire realizes she is quite angry. She becomes very testy with Jamie, telling him she has proven she can take care of herself. It’s a nice little attack on his manhood, and Jamie takes it stoically, assuring Claire he will protect her should another occasion rise. Blah blah blah, Jamie and the men ride off, leaving Claire with this one guy Willie to “protect” her.

As Frank is driving away from the inn, he sees a sign for Craigh na Dun, and something tells him to go to the stones. Claire is in a reverie, walking through the woods while Willie relieves himself, “at least 50 feet away and downwind.” Suddenly, she realizes where she is, near the stones, OMG! There is a lovely montage of both Claire and Frank running toward the stones in vastly different eras. Frank gets there first and stands in the middle of the stones, trying to make sense of their mysteries. Claire is still running toward the stones, as fast as she can, but she is hampered by all that 17th-century clothing. Frank breaks down and cries and starts screaming Claire’s name. Claire seems to hear him, or sense him, and runs faster, shouting, “Frank, wait for me.” Just before she can touch the stone, however, she is pulled away by Redcoats. Frank is left alone, in the center of the stones, uttering his wife’s name.

Claire, manacled, is in a wagon on the road to Fort William and Black Jack Randall, so you know this won’t end well. They basically pick up where they left off two episodes ago, sharing some wine and dangerous banter. “I fully intend to discover, by any means necessary, both your true nature and the secrets that you hold,” Randall says in that tight-lipped arrogant and ominous tone of his. He thinks he has the upper hand until Claire says, “Perhaps you should ask the Duke of Sandringham.” Once again, Frank’s impromptu history lessons come in handy as Claire remembers that Randall had a patron of some kind who allowed him to behave so badly in the Highlands. The name flusters Randall and causes him to spill a bit of his wine. Claire presses further, trying to outsmart Randall by implying that she, too, is an agent of Sandringham’s. Alas, Randall catches her in the lie because he asks about Sandringham’s wife, and Claire mistakenly assumes that there is one.

Things go very downhill from there, with Randall binding Claire’s wrists behind her back. He tears open her bodice and bends her over a table after flinging it free of detritus. Up go her skirts and, again, I was intensely frustrated, if not downright angry, because sexual violence against a woman is once again being used to provide narrative momentum. It gets old is all I am saying. Randall finds Claire’s tiny dagger and chuckles, as a sadist is wont to do. But before anything more dastardly can happen, Jamie shows up in a window, looking sexy and heroic. “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife,” Jamie says.

“Good God,” Randall says, laughing. He is just the worst. 

And that is that, my friends, until April.

Looking Ahead:

  • Is it April yet?