Outlander Recap: Episode 1.15 — "Wentworth Prison"

Last week: Jenny and Claire played around at being bad girl outlaws, Claire took up a role as a traveling chanteuse in the search to find Jamie, Murtagh revealed he was in love with Jamie’s mom, and Dougal took some time out of his panty-dropping schedule to let Claire know that Jamie’s being held in Wentworth prison, set to hang. She rounds up a few of the old Castle Leoch crew and sets off for a jailbreak. What a party.

Before we begin the recap, I feel like I need to acknowledge that this was a truly terrible week to be a fan of sweeping cable dramas. In fact, one of the reasons this recap is posting later than usual is that I couldn’t bring myself to watch this episode (twice) after Sansa’s gratuitous rape in Game of Thrones

I love Outlander, I love how positive it’s been and continues to be about female sexual agency, but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t revel in the threat of sexual violence. Rape has played such a tremendous role in this season, and I’ve expressed my unhappiness with that and will continue to do so. While Wentworth is thought of as a benchmark in Jamie’s character development, it’s small consolation when you consider the sheer number of scenes we’ve seen someone — Claire, Jenny, Jamie — be threatened with rape. 

When fans bring up “historical accuracy” as a justification re: Game of Thrones, I simply turn and say “dragons.” For Outlander? Two words. TIME TRAVEL. These are stories, not historical documents. Rape was and is a reality, but that doesn’t mean it should be a convenient plot device whenever you need to imperil your characters. 

This doesn’t mean I hate Outlander or Game of Thrones. There doesn’t need to be any cognitive dissonance about enjoying something and also being critical of it. Creators need fans who engage thoughtfully with the work, even if they don’t always love it. If I’m critical, it’s because I believe in the talent of creators I respect. I believe in their ability to do better. For me, the ultimate sign of disrespect would be handwaving my dissatisfaction or sweeping it under the rug. I can’t speak for any of you, but I’m not about to treat Herself, Ms. Diana Gabaldon, like she couldn’t possibly handle my criticism. If you’ve seen an interview with her, you know she’s no shrinking violet and I respect that about her.

Okay, enough meta-talk for now. On to the recap:

At Wentworth prison, Jamie and Taran MacQuarrie wait in line to be hanged. We watch man after man called up and executed. Jamie proposes that he wrap his chains around a Redcoat’s neck while MacQuarrie grabs the soldier’s musket. MacQuarrie doesn’t necessarily prefer being shot to being hanged, so he’s not down for this last-minute rebellion. MacQuarrie’s led up the steps and spends his last breath insulting the English, which is pretty baller, all things considered. 

It’s Jamie’s turn, but our brawny Scot doesn’t go down without a fight. He scuffles with the Redcoats as MacQuarrie sways at the end of his noose, still struggling for breath — the hanging not as clean as one would hope. 

It’s here, during MacQuarrie’s extended, anguishing death, that I decided in lieu of my weekly GIF share, we could all use a “cute emergency” so this recap will instead be peppered with photos of my favorite Internet puppy, a cheeky French bulldog named Mister Baguette.

This is Mister Baguette:

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By the time Jamie is brought up to the gibbet, MacQuarrie has finally, thankfully, given up his struggle. Right as the noose is tightened around Jamie’s neck, the execution is stayed by an unlikely savior: Black Jack Randall. Black Jack rides in and demands that Jamie be placed in a cell.

Back in one of the lower cells of Wentworth, two prison guards bring Jamie food — arranged by Black Jack. Jamie’s suspicious, but he’s not stupid. He tucks in, helping himself to dinner. He pulls at his ankle chains, but there’s no give.

In the warden’s office, Claire is using her wits to lay the groundwork for Jamie’s escape. She pretends to barely know Jamie. Spying a large bible on the warden’s desk, the savvy sassenach tells the warden, Sir Fletcher, that, though she’s not well acquainted with Jamie, she wanted to visit him as part of her “Christian duty.” He’s impressed, but he can’t let her see Jamie because it might be dangerous. She tries another gambit, asking that she see him so he might be able to write a “letter of reconciliation” to his mother, and Claire would deliver it. Sir Fletcher is moved and excuses himself for a moment. Left alone, Claire’s composed facade begins to crack. But hearing Sir Fletcher’s footsteps, she rallies and turns to greet him.

Sadly, Sir Fletcher isn’t about to give her any opportunity to see Jamie. Instead of a letter, Sir Fletcher thinks Claire should deliver a box of Jamie’s belongings to his family. He opens the box and we see the wooden snake that Jamie’s brother had carved for him, and which Jenny had returned to him a few weeks ago. Claire struggles not to be overcome by the sight of this invaluable token.

Here’s a photo of Mister Baguette dressed as a hot dog:

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Sir Fletcher hands Claire the box of personal effects and bids her farewell. Outside Wentworth, as she comes in view of Murtagh, Claire finally breaks: she falls over and retches. Murtagh, ever the stalwart friend, picks her up into his arms and carries her away from Wentworth. Oh, Murtagh, I want such good things for you. 

The Castle Leoch crew have temporarily retired to a nearby pub where Murtagh, Claire and Willy are understandably glum. Angus and Rupert, however, are far more sanguine — they’re three sheets to the wind and gambling with wild enthusiasm. Murtagh is grim-faced as Angus and Rupert finally amble over; he tells them they’ll have to pay for the next few rounds. But they can’t, they’ve lost all their money…and they couldn’t be happier: They lost it to Wentworth prison guards. 

Yes, Angus and Rupert — our favorite rapscallions — have conned some vital information out of the local corrections officers by getting faced and going broke. Wow. All I manage to do when I get drunk is order greasy takeout, watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and dodge my mother’s phone calls. So, uh, #respect, Angus and Rupert.

It turns out that Sir Fletcher is gone from his office for a full hour during his time of solitary, prayerful reflection, which means Claire would have enough time to ransack that entire office and find the keys to Jamie’s cell. I guess there are no passages in the Bible about how you shouldn’t leave keys to prison you run just lying around unattended. To use an old Television Without Pity expression, God was in the bathtub on this one. Sorry, Sir Fletcher. 

Meanwhile, Black Jack enters Jamie’s cell, quoting some Arthurian nonsense as he watches Jamie struggle to free himself of his chains. I suppose BJR intends there to be some level of irony here, comparing a mythic English king to a Scottish prisoner, but I think we all know Jamie is the King Arthur of Black Jack’s heart…or something? 

Jamie expresses some surprise that Black Jack isn’t taking some precious alone time with him. Instead, Black Jack brought someone with him — a tall, solid man named Marley who, no surprise, has a talent for brutality. Birds of a feather and all that. But it gets worse, unbelievably. BJR knows about Jamie’s petition for a pardon — and his complaint against Black Jack. He pulls out the complaint itself, sharing that the Duke of Sandringham got wasted and blabbed about it to his friends, who told BJR, who then cornered Sandringham and did God knows what to get his hands on the petition. Okay, I’m formally disinviting the Duke of Sandringham from all future brunches, even if he is played by Simon Callow. No smoked salmon and mimosas for you, sir.

Black Jack points out the the complaint really ruins his reputation and could get him executed (note: I almost wrote “sexecuted,” which feels appropriately Freudian). Naturally he has to burn the petition in front of Jamie because sadism. 

One of these three little bears is actually Mister Baguette! Shhh!

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One of the Wentworth guards leads Claire and Murtagh back into Fletcher’s office. Claire takes a fairly big risk by telling the guard that Fletcher allowed Jamie to write a letter to his family, and she’s here to pick it up. Luckily, Fletcher can’t be disturbed because he’s praying so he can’t confirm or deny Claire’s claim. The guard will allow Claire to wait in Fletcher’s office until he returns but, noting that the guard is reluctant to leave, Claire gambles by offering him the warden’s seat (brilliant!), which sets him off defensively — he tells her he needs to get back to his rounds. Sometimes you are very smart, Claire, and it reminds me why I like you so much.

With a parting shot about how weak a protector Murtagh is, the guard finally leaves. Murtagh and Claire spring into action!

In Jamie’s cell, Black Jack decides to have a chat with his favorite guy. Though he can’t save Jamie’s life, they can have some wonderful last moments. I’ve heard some describe Tobias Menzies as “scenery chewing” in this role, but one of the things that’s always impressed me about his performance is actually his very quiet menace. The way he pitches his voice to a low growl makes me feel personally unsafe. It also makes me feel a lot of other confusing things, but let’s not go too deep with this recap.

Black Jack asks Jamie if he haunts Jamie’s dreams because that is clearly the deepest desire of Black Jack’s sick, shriveled little heart. He also channels Alanis Morrisette and asks Jamie if he thinks of Black Jack when Claire traces the scars on Jamie’s back during sex. “Is she perverted like me? Would she go down on you in a theater?” are shockingly NOT his followup questions. Disappoint. 

Jamie’s had enough of this garbage, but Black Jack really truly wants Jamie to surrender his pride and admit that he’s terrified of Black Jack. If Jamie admits this, he can give Jamie “a final gift.” Uh, you never gave him a first gift? Or a second or third? But okay, I guess you’re the sadist in charge so this is all fine. The “final gift” is that Jamie gets to choose the method of his own death, one more noble than the noose. Black Jack runs through a litany of potential deaths, like a Roman death — “you could fall on your sword like Brutus.” WHOA, WHOA, SPOILERS FOR ROME, TOBIAS! 

Jamie’s unimpressed by this gift. Me too. Doesn’t matter to Black Jack, who’s determined to have Jamie’s surrender.

Mister Baguette has a monkey on his butt!

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Murtagh and Claire are still rifling through Fletcher’s office — they’ve found the keys, but not a map of the cells. When they’re interrupted by the guard, Murtagh knocks him out and Claire flees to try to find Jamie. 

We get a look into how crowded and cruel Wentworth prison is as Claire skulks around, looking for Jamie in various cells. He’s nowhere to be found, though there are certainly plenty of wounded, sick and desperate prisoners. One man is kind enough to point Claire to the lower cells, “where they keep those of us hanging’s too good for.”

Back in No Country For Safewords, aka the lower level of Wentworth, Jamie refuses to surrender to Black Jack. Black Jack is disappointed but would also be “crestfallen” if Jamie gave in. Oh god, make up your mind. I guess Jamie wouldn’t be worthy if he were easy to break. Guys, how much of Black Jack’s day is taken up with thoughts of sadistic pleasure? Does he ever actually do work? The Scottish rebels could defeat the entire garrison at Fort William if they just toss a few Marquis de Sade books at this rube. “No, Captain Randall can’t make the battle,” his underling explains to the rest of the company, “he’s too ‘busy’ at the moment,” he eyerolls while making a wanking motion. Just saying.

Jamie consents to Black Jack removing his shirt — to look at his scars — but as BJR reaches underneath Jamie’s shirt, Jamie whirls around and grabs BJR’s throat. “You’re the broken, you’re the one who sees MY face every night,” he tells Black Jack. Damn, Jamie. You’re hot, you’re a man of honor, you’ve studied in France and you’ve…invented psychoanalysis? Cool. 

This sets off a fight between Jamie and Marley while Black Jack gasps on the floor. Though Jamie puts up a good fight, Marley knocks him to the ground and starts choking him. Black Jack doesn’t want the fun to end just yet, so he stops Jamie’s imminent death. 

Instead, Black Jack has Marley hold Jamie’s hand flat on the table. Black Jack pounds at it with a mallet.

No one loves Easter more than Mister Baguette:

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Black Jack forces Jamie to make eye contact with him. Apparently, this is what gets Black Jack excited as he grabs Jamie’s hand and puts it right on his (clothed) crotch. I rub my eyes and check the remaining time left on this episode — 25 minutes. I quietly pour myself some wine.

Black Jack doesn’t want to give into “coarse passion” so he finally pushes Jamie’s hand away and shoves him to the floor. A little disheveled, Black Jack collects himself, tells Jamie to quit resisting him and leaves the cell, lapdog Marley in tow.

Sneaking around Wentworth, Claire uses one of the keys she’s stolen to open a back door and remove the sliding lock so it’ll remain open. She finally finds Jamie in his cell, huddled on the floor, his hand ruined. Jamie pleads with her to leave, to keep her from falling into Randall’s hands, but Claire — as usual — isn’t taking orders. Instead she uses the nearby mallet to pound at Jamie’s chains. 

But before she can get very far, Black Jack arrives and is a little impressed that she’s there. Though she lunges at BJR with the mallet in hand, Claire is swiftly disarmed by Marley. She roars that she should’ve slit his throat when he was unconscious at Fort William. BJR ain’t bothered — “Yes, I’m afraid you will come to regret that small act of humanity,” he says coolly. He admits that he admires her bravery and that she’s a good match for Jamie.

Suddenly some Redcoats rush in, in pursuit of Claire, but Black Jack stops them in their tracks, telling them he’s got everything under control. Claire entreats the Redcoats to take her to Sir Fletcher to make him aware of what Black Jack is doing. The Redcoats ask Black Jack’s permission (!) and when he refuses, they quake in fear and retreat in haste. England’s finest.

Black Jack asks Marley to “search” Claire for weapons, which is really just giving him license to grope Claire, which he does. We also get a nice shot of Marley removing his hands from underneath Claire’s skirt and sniffing his fingers. I check the clock again: 19 minutes left.

Remember when Mister Baguette moonlighted as a dim sum chef?

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Black Jack says he’s not in the mood for ladies today (possibly not ever, who knows), but he’s happy to have Marley take Claire to his own quarters. Claire — seeing an opportunity to spare Jamie further abuse — asks BJR if he’d like to watch. Tobias Menzies gives this slight  head tilt back and forth as if to say “ehhhh,” and we get our lone darkly comic moment from this encounter.

Black Jack blah blahs about how Claire is beautiful but he’s not about to be distracted. As Black Jack tries to rouse Jamie, Claire tosses Marley — who’s had his head under her skirt — into the stairs behind her. Jamie shakes off BJR and Claire wraps a chain around his throat, Leia in Jabba’s palace-style. For his part, Jamie grabs a broken stool leg and drives it into Marley’s neck. Goodbye, Marley.

Choking Claire, Black Jack forces Jamie to give himself up in return for Claire’s life. Jamie agrees to let Black Jack do whatever he wants — as long as Claire goes free. Black Jack seems to find this a suitable agreement, but he wants a “test” of Jamie’s sincerity. Oh good Christ.

Black Jack demands Jamie lays his ruined hand on the table. As Claire wraps her arms around her husband and weeps, Black Jack DRIVES A NAIL through Jamie’s hand. 

Kiss Mister Baguette – he’s Irish!

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After mangling Jamie’s hand beyond recognition, Black Jack crosses around the table and approaches Jamie. Black Jack wants a kiss. They kiss and it’s horrible and wrenching. 14 minutes left, guys. Jamie asks that BJR take Claire away. Sobbing, Claire tells Jamie she doesn’t want to leave him — Jamie tells her he loves her and Black Jack leads her out of the cell.

Walking Claire down a Wentworth hallway, Black Jack brings up the witchcraft trial. “You were accused of being a witch,” he says. “Yes,” Claire says, slowly turning, “which I am.” If he’s going to kill Jamie, why not mess with him? Claire curses him with the knowledge of his own death, intoning his birthdate in this creepy, witchy way and whispering his death date into his ear. He’s spooked, but he says nothing. Instead, he tosses Claire through a trapdoor, where she falls into a mass grave. Fantastic.

Black Jack unlocks Jamie’s ankle chains and gives Jamie his word that Claire is safe. Using his own dirk, Black Jack rips open the back of Jamie’s shirt to admire his handiwork. He runs his hands across the scars, calling it a masterpiece. Sam Heughan makes Jamie’s horror so palpable, his eyes widened in fear and a single tear streaking down his cheek. 

Black Jack proceeds to LICK Jamie’s scars and I take back what I said before about scenery chewing because Tobias is chewing the hell out of this scenery/his fellow actor. “Shall I begin?” he asks. Jamie’s eyes are filled with abject terror. I quietly pour myself some more wine.

Mister Baguette is way ahead of me!

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In the woods, Angus retrieves Claire and brings her to the home of Marcus MacRannoch — but MacRannoch isn’t exactly up for offering up his men to rescue Jamie. He can shelter them, but he’s not about to bring Redcoat wrath down on his people. 

Claire offers MacRannoch her wedding pearls as payment. MacRannoch is shaken by the sight of them — “where did you get these?” Apparently, Murtagh wasn’t the only one sweet on Jamie’s mom. Ellen Fraser must’ve broken a LOT of hearts, because MacRannoch gave her those very pearls on her wedding day. Realizing that Claire’s husband is the son of Ellen MacKenzie, MacRannoch gives her back the pearls and goes all in. How would they even get inside Wentworth? Claire left a door open but Angus points out that it’s hardly a plan.

One of MacRannoch’s men comes back, with the disappointing news that he was only able to round up 19 of MacRannoch’s 40 cattle. For some reason, this pleases Murtagh. “Nineteen cattle…that’s no small number.” Re-entering the MacRannoch house, Murtagh walks over to Claire: “I know how we can save young Jamie.”

Cut to black.

Next week: More Wentworth, more Black Jack, more torture, more assault. More wine. In the meantime you can find all of our Outlander coverage here.

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