Hundreds of reviews for Outlander Episode #102: CASTLE LEOCH came out yesterday and today. So, if you’re taking the time to read mine, I want to say “Thanks!” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I strongly urge you to watch before you read. I do not hold back on spoilers in this review as I did for the red carpet premiere.
The episode starts where it left off in SASSENACH. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) enters the courtyard of Castle Leoch as an involuntary guest – shall we say – of the MacKenzies. What I like most about this opening is the feel. It’s quite like watching a stage play. Ms. FitzGibbons (Annette Badland) enters from stage right to greet the dirty, smelly, hungry Highlanders. Claire sees them all as a friendly lot for the first time and is unable to crack a smile at their camaraderie. It serves to cast her further as an “Outlander” in this strange place. There’s no voiceover here. Claire communicates her alien presence perfectly through her subtle facial expressions and body movements.
As usual, she comes to attention when the welfare of one of her patient’s is in jeopardy. Mrs. FitzGibbons is the alpha female (aka Bitch #1), but Claire stands her ground.
Come on. Admit it. Mrs. FitzGibbons is kind of bitchy. There’s a new woman in the castle, and she’s hot. “Damn. Even more competition for me, er, I mean – my granddaughter.”
Jamie (Sam Heughan) plays the scene cool. He’s just brought a new kitten home to the castle, but he’s trying not to get too attached. Too late, lad. We already saw you fall in love with her on the side of the road. And there’s no need for the “I’ll be fine” speech as he winces when he throws a bag over his shoulder. He’s already fainted in front of her.
There’s no music during this scene, and the courtyard is awfully quiet. I think there was more noise in the background during Ron D. Moore’s podcast for Episode #101 – not that I’m complaining. I don’t want to miss a single word of dialogue. A companion podcast for Episode #102 is also available. This time, he’s accompanied by his wife, Terry, costume designer extraordinaire. Check it out here.
NEW NOTE: Ron Moore’s podcasts are now available for free on iTunes.
As the episode unfolds, there are a few flashbacks to Frank (Tobias Menzies) and Claire walking through the castle and her memories of his talks about interrogation. The flashbacks seem to take the place of the voiceovers. I’m one of the few who didn’t mind the voiceovers, but I must admit – I very much like the flashbacks. I’m a flashback girl. Instead of Claire saying, “Frank once told me . . .” we are rewarded with Frank telling us what we need to know. There’s nothing wrong with more Tobias Menzies.
Mrs. Fitz – as she later corrects Claire – takes control and orders everyone into the castle. Have to do something about that swelling. Little does she know, she’s about to make it worse.
At last, we come to “the scene.” Sitting beside the fireplace in Claire’s guest chamber, much is revealed – from the scars on Jamie’s back to the story of how they came to be there. Outlander Starz released two parts of this scene which I elected not to watch beforehand. I wanted to wait and watch the entire story unfold in context. I’m very glad I did. It’s powerful and very well-performed. Chemistry ignites in both good and bad ways.
We experienced only a glimpse of Captain Jonathan Randall (Tobias Menzies) last week. He’s front and center in Jamie’s flashback to Lallybroch. It’s a serene place for about 3-seconds before Jamie hears his sister, Jenny (Laura Donnelly), screaming. He rushes to her aid and is confronted by Redcoats accosting her as well as his family’s property.
Black Jack Randall enters. One of the things I find most interesting about his character so far is his lack of expression. No, that’s not an insult to the show or Mr. Menzies’ performance. But when you compare his character to Frank, they are night and day. You know which is which even without the wig and hat.
Frank is scholarly, tender, awkward, yet confident. Black Jack is simply menacing. He’s so menacing, the expression is stuck on his face as if carved in stone. I’d venture to guess he has a little Hannibal Lecter in him. His heart rate never increases no matter what he’s doing. The word sympathy is not part of his vocabulary, although I liked the way he says, “She’s bonny.” He made it sound dirty – so good and so bad.
I won’t go into the gratuitous details of the scene. It’s heart-wrenching, as we knew it would be. We feel every lash of the strap on Jamie’s back and share Jenny’s terror and degradation. Shivers. Rage. If they can do this to us with the painful scenes, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle Jamie and Claire finally cutting through the sexual tension. Oy. Not that there isn’t plenty of sexual tension almost being cut through in the fireplace scene! It’s the best sex scene without sex I’ve ever seen.
But this scene isn’t just about that. This is where Claire and Jamie show their most vulnerable faces to one another. He opens up to her about his painful past – something about which he hates to talk. It’s more difficult for Claire because how do you tell someone you’re from the future without their thinking you’re nuts – or worse, “A witch!”
Eventually, Claire finds herself in Jamie’s arms. As they hold each other, their theme softly and slowly builds until Claire has her “I’m sorry” moment. Bear McCreary, the composer for the show, has a wonderful blog where he discusses the music for each episode in great detail. Please visit his site to read about his influences for each scene.
After Claire and Jamie overcome that famous awkward moment, Claire is on her own for a while with her only friend relegated to the stables. The next morning – bright and early – Ms. Fitz wakes Claire to help her dress. It’s a humorous (“It’s a brassiere.”) and fascinating scene to watch and makes me very glad to be living in the 21st Century – well, almost.
As in the book, Claire tries to fit in using her wit and knowledge of the age. But no matter how smart she thinks she is, this is not her century. These are not her people, and they are not characters from a history book. Caitriona Balfe does a superb job of looking like she fits in without really fitting in. Clothes may make the man, but they can’t change Our Claire. Her 20th Century roots keep showing.
After sticking her felted foot in her mouth at dinner, Claire decides to seek out Jamie. I guess she doesn’t have enough sexual tension in her life, or maybe she thinks she’ll be safe in a stable.
I have not made it a practice to re-read corresponding chapters of the book before each episode. I might start doing that. I’d like to compare my emotional responses between the book and the show. As I stated in my review for SASSENACH, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan disappear when they are on screen. Once again, in CASTLE LEOCH , they simply become Claire and Jamie.
The stable scene may seem like an easy bit to play, but it’s not. They’re eating and glancing at one another. We see the curiosity building even faster than the trust. This is not a time to overdo it. Jamie’s already had his chain yanked back once. He’s not eager to go there again.
As I watched this scene, I found myself wondering (again) – what would I be thinking or wanting for Claire right now if I didn’t already know what’s going to happen? Would I want her to get back to the stones and Frank, or would I be rooting for Jamie? Perhaps a few more flashbacks with Claire and Frank in intimate moments rather than fyi’s would have helped. Oh, that sounds like a complaint, doesn’t it? I’m just sayin’ . . . If we want Claire to be torn, then let’s tear her up inside, right?
It wasn’t my intention to write a scene-by-scene description of the entire episode, so I’ll breeze forward. Claire meets the Laird of Castle Leoch, Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis), and we see his legs for the first time. He suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome which created a technical challenge for the crew, but they did a fantastic job with the visual effects – not that I expected anything less. Watch this inside look with Executive Producer, Ron D. Moore, to see how they approached the challenge. The video also includes commentary on Claire’s dressing scene described in Ms. Dresbach’s blog.
Next, Claire meets Geillis “They say I’m a witch” Duncan. Probably not the best way to introduce oneself. Personally, I don’t think I would have made friends with her no matter how desperate I was for allies, especially the way Lotte Verbeek plays her. There’s something about that giggle. I love it yet also cringe.
Finally, we get our first glimpse of Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson), Mrs. Fitz’s granddaughter and Bitch #2. It runs in the family, ye ken? Laoghaire’s father accuses her of “loose behavior.” What exactly is loose behavior in the 18th Century? I want to know. I mean, Claire walked around in a shift with her legs showing in broad daylight, and no one threw stones at her. As a matter of fact, no one even seemed to notice her beyond Mrs. Fitz. What’s up with that? Maybe there should have been a bit more oogling, pointing and staring? Ah, life in the 18th Century is no’ easy. But I’m digressing again . . . Back to Laoghaire. Is she an 18th Century Nellie Olson, or a misunderstood teenager who would fit right in with a 20th or 21st Century clique? There’s an idea. She and Claire should have traded places. Would have solved a lot of problems.
Let’s pretend we don’t know anything about this young ‘un and be thankful brave Jamie stepped in to save the day and her hide. That brings us to the “something is afoot” between Jamie and his uncles scene. Several dubious stares are shared back and forth. Who’s in charge of this castle anyway? Mrs. Fitz or Dougal MacKenzie, cause it sure as heck ain’t Colum.
So, Jamie takes a beating for the bi– Laoghaire and ends up in Claire’s nursey hands again. He seems to like it there. She has a gentle touch, and she likes to touch things that grow. There sure is a lot of inflaming going on – just not in the right places, except for that one time.
Where is the doctor in this joint? Oh, that’s right. He died of a fever because Claire wasn’t there to nurse him. Which brings us to Claire’s hopes of returning to the stones being dashed when Colum tells her he’s inviting her to stay at Castle Leoch indefinitely to act as the castle Beaton. It’s all Jamie’s fault. He keeps getting hurt which gives Claire a full-time job.
The tension is building. Do you feel it? Claire vs Black Jack. Claire vs Dougal. Claire vs Colum. Claire vs Mrs. Fitz. Claire vs the charming Rupert. Just wait until she gets a gander under Angus’ kilt, aye?
Next week, it’ll be Claire vs Her Conscience. It’s already bending a bit. She never did change poor Jamie’s bandage in this episode. Forgetfulness is not a good quality in a nurse, but she couldn’t help herself. His blue eyes and gifted lips – not to mention his witty remarks, kind manner, and keen mind – distracted her. No’ fair.
For a look at why Claire gets so easily distracted around Jamie, check out Jamie’s Top 30 Looks for Outlander Episode #102: CASTLE LEOCH.
Outlander is based on the novel by Diana Gabaldon. Episode #103: THE WAY OUT airs on the Starz network on Saturday, 23 August at 9:00 pm EST. You do not want to miss it.