It seems fitting to write my final Outlander Season One review for Episode 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL on World Outlander Day. It was twenty-four years ago on June 1st, 1991, Diana Gabaldon‘s groundbreaking novel was first published. And twenty-four years later, we have the complementary groundbreaking television series to further indulge our appetites.
I’m foregoing my usual recap for this episode. Sorry if anyone is disappointed, but you’ve all seen the episode or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Frankly, I don’t feel like rehashing Jamie’s scenes of torture.
In lieu of a recap and traditional review, I generated a list. You know how I love to make lists. Needless to say, the following mentions barely scratch the surface of this astonishing episode.
Ten Things I Love About Outlander Episode 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL and One Thing I Could Do Without:
Let’s start with the one thing I could do without, which is . . . Angus Mhor mauling Claire on the beach. Given the horrors of the episode, I suppose comic relief is the goal. But I find Angus’ actions insensitive to the other characters – not necessarily to the audience. I wish Stephen Walters had spoken up and said, “I don’t think even Angus would do something like that in front of a man who, just days ago, was brutally raped by another.” I have no idea if others like or dislike this bit of farce, but I could have done without it.
Now, on to the gory, fun stuff . . .
10. Lights. Camera. Action.
Given the many constraints associated with wrapping up the show, I was eager to view the logistics of this episode more than any other this season. It’s mind-boggling to imagine the number of decisions made for each episode, especially one including what I consider to be avant-garde situations.
I am able to enjoy the show without constantly comparing it to the novel when I’m watching it, but I find it more difficult not to make comparisons when writing about it; however, I’ll try to be impartial.
The change of season lends itself to the advantage of this episode, enabling the scene in the open wagon to take place. It’s a perfect segue between Wentworth and the monastery. Moving the initial scenes of Jamie’s treatment from MacRannoch’s to the monastery also works well. Because of their location, an urgency is added to Jamie’s extended recovery which speeds the story along to the Jamie/Claire climax.
In a novel, the author can take us from one place to another in a single sentence. In a television production, a single sentence can cost tens of thousands of dollars. I realize you all know that, but sometimes I think people forget and thus, grumble.
All in all, I feel they – everyone – involved in the production did an admirable job with this episode. In the end, Outlander leaves us wanting more, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Thank you, Outlander-Starz, for delivering an incredible first season of, hopefully, many “more.”
9. Claire Setting Jamie’s Hand
I love scenes of Claire (Caitriona Balfe) doing what she does best – healing. There’s really only one thing which makes me squeamish, and that is flaying. Short of that, I can take just about anything, including protruding bones, oozing blood, and stitching flesh. I am fascinated by the scene of Jamie’s hand, watching Claire repair his mangled fingers and set his hand in an 18th century cast-like contraption. Thank you to the researcher(s), special effects make-up artists and Prop Master John Casey for making this scene look so real.
8. Jamie’s Modesty
First of all, I do not have any issues with nudity on television, male or female . . . but I am glad Jamie’s modesty is kept in tact throughout the entire episode. Cinematically, it works to the advantage of the story. Randall is the aggressor, so it makes sense he should be exposed. Baring Jamie to the audience would debase him further, and there’s simply no need to do that. Thank you, Ron Moore and Anna Foerster, for your modesty.
By the way, what exactly does the ratings board consider “Brief Nudity,” ’cause that ain’t it? Perhaps if Randall had stopped to scratch his chin, they would have dropped the “Brief.” Just sayin’ . . .
What? You were expecting pictures of Jamie’s modesty? Tsk. Tsk.
7. Use of Gàidhlig
Because a very small percentage of audience members understand the Gàidhlig tongue and because the story is primarily from Claire’s point of view, the cast of Outlander speaks English. Watching this episode and hearing more Gàidhlig than we’ve heard the entire second half of the season makes me wonder if the characters have been speaking Gàidhlig all along, whenever Claire’s not around.
While I have not taken the time to attempt learning the language, I do love listening to it. The early line Jamie has in the back of the wagon, when Murtagh is trying to calm him, can be translated through emotional context alone.
“You should have left me there (to die)” is what I imagine Jamie saying, or something similar to it. I haven’t checked with our resident language experts yet, but the scene works for me without knowing the exact translation.
Thank you, Àdhamh Ó Broin, for your unerring dedication to the show.
6. Murtagh Fraser
In Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON and this episode, Murtagh is a source of strength for both Jamie and Claire. It’s no coincidence – I’m sure – he carries Claire away from the gates of Wentworth, then carries Jamie out of the cell. When Murtagh swings Jamie over his shoulder, I silently cheer inside.
Murtagh has two additional pivotal scenes in this episode. One is entirely in Gàidhlig, when he and Jamie are arguing over Jamie’s will to live. Again, through emotional context and body language, we can interpret the heart of their conversation.
My other favorite scene with Jamie’s beloved godfather is when he tells Claire, “I’ll not watch Jamie waste away, die like an animal in the woods with his foot caught in a trap.” Murtagh struggles to keep his rage and pain in check, for Claire and Jamie’s sake. It’s a subtle, yet dynamic, performance.
Duncan Lacroix‘s performance is one of many which makes me ache for thirty more minutes of episode in order to expand upon Jamie’s recovery. I didn’t expect to see Jamie waste away, especially in a Scottish monastery, but I wish as much time could have been spent on his salvation as his brutalization – given the budget, of course.
Thank you, Duncan Lacroix, for making me think you really are Jamie’s godfather.
5. Jamie’s Derangement
Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander novel does it best when Claire pretends to be Randall in order to make Jamie fight for his life. Due to time constraints and artistic decisions, that scene is cut a bit short. But Jamie’s derangement is powerfully captured during his torture and after his rescue to give the viewers a sense of his broken spirit. I love seeing through Jamie’s eyes, the cuts between Randall and Claire – both sinister and heartbreaking. Thank you to Editor Michael O’Halloran for making those scenes so unforgettable.
5. Use of Flashbacks
My applause for the use of flashbacks is tied directly to my appreciation for #2 on this list. In the novel, Jamie’s brutal experience is revealed through a series of flashbacks. I am thrilled to see the showrunners apply the same storytelling process. It creates mystery and increases the drama during the final climax.
As you recall, a similar series of flashbacks is used in Episode 107: THE WEDDING also to great effect. There’s something about playing “peek-a-boo” with a storyline which immensely appeals to me. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but wouldn’t life be boring if we walked in a straight line and never veered or took a step back? Thank you to Diana Gabaldon, Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, and – what the heck – Homer for writing one of the most famous and ancient recorded flashback stories, The Odyssey.
3. Jamie and Randall’s Relationship
Ew. Ick. I’m not supposed to “love” anything about Jamie and Randall together, much less call what they have a “relationship.” But . . . that’s what they have. It’s obvious Randall respects Jamie, and to a certain degree, Jamie respects Randall. He proves that in Episode 109: THE RECKONING when he doesn’t kill the unconscious fiend.
What I most love about their relationship is the battle of wills, the struggle for supremacy, the conflict for domination. I stated in my last review that Jamie and Randall are evenly matched in almost all aspects, including intelligence, determination, and honesty. Without a doubt, it’s morality which sets them apart.
The dialogue throughout the entire series is top-notch, but there’s something special about the dialogue between Randall and just about every other character in the show, especially Jamie (and Claire). It’s my understanding Tobias Menzies has much to do with that, having taken the role of Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall to a deeper level.
The range of emotions Sam Heughan expresses never fails to impress, but he reaches new heights in this episode, using every part of his body to convey his desperate thoughts, his infinite pain, and his horrific pleasure.
2. Claire Saves Jamie
As emotionally charged as the torture/rape scenes are, it’s Claire’s acceptance? . . . forgiveness? . . . of Jamie which most strikes a chord within me. This is the big moment when Claire finds out there is something worse than rape.
I am reminded of a scene in the film The General’s Daughter, between Brenner (John Travolta) and Moore (James Woods). A young woman is brutally beaten and raped by a group of fellow soldiers. Her father, the General, induces her to suppress the incident which sets off a chain of unfortunate and tragic events leading to the woman’s death. During Brenner’s murder investigation, he asks Moore, the rape victim’s commanding officer and friend, “What’s worse than rape?” The response is, ” When you find that out, you’ll have all the answers.”
Sorry to take the long way to get to the point, but that simple sentence is the conundrum of this episode. We are witness to some truly horrific treatment of Jamie, but it’s the single act of succumbing to Randall’s “lovemaking” which breaks Jamie’s spirit.
When Randall delivers the line, “How could she ever forgive you?” I am left to wonder – does he plan on contacting Claire to tell her what happened? I wouldn’t put it past the bastard. After all, Jamie is meant to die, possibly within the hour. Perhaps Randall merely wants Jamie to die with that last thought – the final sadistic knife to the heart.
It’s Jamie’s love which keeps Randall from killing Claire in Wentworth. In the monastery, it’s Claire’s love which keeps Randall from completely demolishing Jamie’s spirit. Thank you, Caitriona Balfe, for perfectly illuminating the role of Claire.
1. Author, Creator, Mentor
What can I say about the creator of the Outlander world which hasn’t already been said one hundred times?
Hmm . . . still thinking . . .
. . . and thinking . . .
I suppose I should simply speak from the heart.
A year ago today, I published a post sharing how much Diana has affected my life – as a writer and a person. Despite the rigorous demands made on a best-selling author and co-producer/consultant on a wildly successful television series, Diana takes the time through social media to share her wisdom and advice to budding writers such as myself.
Because of her influence and encouragement, I completed my first full-length manuscript. Having accomplished the “easy” part, I’ve come to gain a new appreciation for all writers and published authors. A part of me is in every sentence and every word – not only the story and characters. When I look at the thousands of books on my bookshelves now, I see more than pages with printed type. I feel the agony and ecstasy drawn upon to create each individual novel.
I realize that bit of melodrama above has nothing to do with the Outlander season finale, but it goes to show amid the frenzy of writing, traveling, and working on the series, Diana is a generous, good-hearted, and gracious woman with a quick-witted tongue. Thank you, Diana Gabaldon, for being who you are and creating a world and cast of characters for us to love.
For the final episode, Executive Producer Ron Moore is joined by co-screenwriter Ira Steven Behr during the podcast for Episode 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL. It should be available for free on iTunes, or you can listen to it here. Ron also discusses the darkness of the episode and the hopeful ending in our last Inside Look of the season.
Costume Designer Terry Dresbach also gives us an inside look at the costumes for this episode, with special attention to Claire’s to-die-for trews and Jamie’s modesty garment. Read her latest blog post: The End, and A New Beginning . . .
Mandy Tidwell provides our final Gàidhlig translations for the season in her Outlander Episode 116 blog post: To Ransom a Man’s Soul – The Gàidhlig Bits I Could Decipher.
Outlander Season 2, based on the Dragonfly in Amber novel, returns to Starz in 2016 in the U.S. No premiere date has been set.
For more goodies on this episode, check out: Jamie’s Top 30 Looks from Outlander Episode 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL
And if you missed my previous recapped review, you can read it here: A True Fan’s Review of Outlander Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON