The camera careens joyfully across the green panorama of Scotland as though it is Middle-earth before zeroing in on our Frodo and Sam, Jamie and Claire, traveling not toward Mordor but toward Jamie’s estate Lallybroch. They are on horseback, giggling about airplanes and how old Claire is (“When I’m 40, you’ll be 245!”).
The glee dissipates, though, when they see Lallybroch in the distance and Jamie flashes back to his own whipping and the assault of his sister Jenny there at the hands of his nemesis, English Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. There were rumors, he tells Claire grimly, that Randall impregnated his sister. Now he has to face the truth, whatever it is.
You wouldn’t like Jamie when he’s angry. But you would like his hair. You’d have to. His hair is amazing. Where did he manage to get it cut like that in the wild? It looks like he just stepped out of Persons of Interest.
Uh-oh, there’s a little boy hanging out in the courtyard. Claire is talking to him like he’s some normal child and not the bastard offspring of the devil as conceived by rape. Jamie glowers. Then he sees his sister Jenny, who is equally surprised and pregnant, though she looks only as convincingly pregnant as Beyoncé did on that talk show. She runs over; they hug. Jenny, not noticing the tension, introduces Jamie to her little boy, whose name is also Jamie, in honor of his uncle. His uncle seems less than honored.
“Do ye think I haven’t suffered enough over what I let happen to name Randall’s bastard after me?” he asks. Yep, there he is, over on the Island of Conclusions! He jumped far and fast. “And whose is this?” he asks, gesturing toward his sister’s belly, implying that she has compounded her disgrace by gestating a second bastard. In a voice that splits the difference between disgust and despair, he says, “We shouldn’t have come.”
The siblings face off. Jenny is half Jamie’s size even with the wee bairn inside her, but every inch his equal. Before Jamie can yell at a pregnant lady some more, or said pregnant lady can grab him by the balls, a one-legged gentleman strolls up: Jamie’s old friend Ian and, as of several years ago, his brother-in-law. The kids are all right; they’re his. Oh.
The four adults go inside. Instead of apologizing, or asking about the wedding, the farm, or any number of other interesting optics, and without so much as a trigger warning, Jamie goes right back to what was bothering him. What happened with Randall? Jenny agrees to tell him — once.
Throwback Thursday! It’s very sepia-toned in the flashbacks, but the red coats are extra red, like in Schindler’s List. Randall takes her inside to a bedroom, where he starts doing very unsettling and unsexy things like smelling her hairline and sticking his fingers in her mouth. Jenny tolerates it as long as she can, and then she grabs the nearest heavy object and tries to brain him with it. Sadly the attempt doesn’t come off, but it gives him an excuse to be violent.
He throws her on the bed and takes from out of his pants a flaccid penis. It’s a little shocking: We’ve seen a lot in this show but, up till now, no dong, real or prosthetic. Jenny is gobsmacked, too. She’s a virgin and has never seen a man try to “make himself ready” before. But she presses her advantage and laughs at him. “He didn’t like it when I laughed,” she recounts. “So I laughed some more.” Brave Jenny! Even though she must have been terrified, she saves herself: Unable to get it up, Randall knocks her out instead. This scene is the embodiment of the fantastic Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
Even after making Jenny tell that horrible story, Jamie doesn’t say sorry for being an ass. When Claire suggests he should, Jamie takes her into a room with what looks like the Bayeux Tapestry on the wall and explains to her again how 18th-century wives behave. They wrangle a bit. Claire agrees to be more politic.
After an abbreviated attempt at more conversation in the living room, in which Jenny points out that it’s Jamie who is sleeping with the enemy, Claire excuses herself to go wash up. As laird and lady, Jamie and Claire are assigned the master bedroom, which only pleases one of them: Jamie, who is caught up in dreams of his father. “When was the last time you saw your father?” asks Claire, once they’re installed upstairs. Throwback Thursday time again!
Jamie is in Fort William, where he has recently been flogged. His father has come to plead with Captain Randall for leniency. What Randall wants, though, Jamie’s father doesn’t have the power to give him. Claire doesn’t get it, even having just heard about Jenny, so Jamie spells it out for her: Randall wants him.
This is Jamie’s choice: be buggered by his mortal enemy, or be flogged by him, while his back is still raw and bleeding from the first round of abuse. He chooses the whipping. With Jamie’s Uncle Dougal watching and, it turns out, Jamie’s father, too, Randall gives scourging Jamie his all. And Jamie’s father dies from it. He has a stroke right there, shortly after Jamie passes out. RIP, Jamie’s dad. You seemed kind.
At dinner, Jenny is still eyeing Claire like a usurper and spatting with Jamie, while Ian seems ineffectual. This tension needs to break.
The next day, the laird and his lady receive the Lallybroch tenants, who come by to pay their quarterly taxes and wish Jamie well. Everyone’s having a lovely time except one small boy, who looks like a Dickensian street urchin. He tries to take a bannock off a platter and gets smacked around by his dad in punishment. Claire intervenes. She and Jenny check out the boy once Claire brings him inside: His name is McNabb and he has bruises all over. Jamie sees them, too, though he is called away before he can do anything.
The next morning, back in the dour Tapestry Room, Jamie is attempting to nurse his hangover when Jenny bangs in, berating him for not collecting rents and saddling the family with the little McNabb boy, which Jamie more or less did without consulting her. They fight about whether he’s his father. He’s not. We know.
Jamie goes to the old mill to fix a problem with the water wheel. He disrobes (dekilts?), giving us a much-needed moment of both levity and sex appeal as he and Claire joke about him freezing to death while swimming, when Jenny arrives to warn them that the British are coming. Jenny and Claire plop down on Jamie’s discarded clothes in the manner of hens on a nest; Jamie takes a deep breath and disappears into the pond.
Unfortunately for our heroes, these redcoats are quite hands-on, though at least not in the manner of Captain Randall. When Jenny tells them the mill wheel is out of order, the corporal decides to investigate and, if necessary, get into the water himself. Before he can pull off his uniform, Jamie, still in hiding, manages to get the wheel working again, sacrificing his shirt in the process.
Once the troops are gone, our thoroughly naked and very cold Jamie emerges from the water. Whoop! More of that, please. He turns his back on the ladies to preserve his modesty and Jenny finally sees the magnitude of the damage done to her brother by Randall.
Wandering the estate by candlelight, Claire happens upon her brother-in-law Ian, and they finally get beyond small talk to bond over how crazily stubborn Frasers can be. Ian’s advice is to kick them, and then kick harder.
Finding Jamie asleep in bed, Claire does as Ian suggests. She pulls her husband out of bed onto the floor. There she makes it very clear to him that she didn’t marry the laird of Lallybroch; she married a sweet-hearted redheaded hunk who should be spending his time doing it with her, not fighting with his sister. Jamie takes this under consideration.
The next morning, at their father’s grave, the Fraser siblings have a teary rapprochement. Instead of blaming themselves or each other, they agree that they should direct their anger at a more appropriate target: “The only one responsible for putting Father in his grave is Jack Randall.” At last Jenny welcomes Jamie home and means it.
Claire and Jamie share some sweet pillow talk, too, and it seems like, at last, all is well at Lallybroch. The next morning Claire gets up, looking languid and pleased — only to emerge from her room, look over the banister, and see that strange men have Jamie at gunpoint.
Well, if someone weren’t being nearly raped and someone else weren’t being nearly killed, it wouldn’t be Outlander.