Like many people I was dreading this episode the most. On the one hand, I had a very definite set of expectations about it, and on the other, I had no idea how they would include the wealth of material remaining in the story, while dealing with the extremely difficult subject of Jamie’s rape and torture. Based on the series as a whole, and the Wentworth Prison episode in particular, I did not think that Ron Moore, Anna Foerster and Ira Stephen Behr would be gentle about his ordeal, to paraphrase Jamie. They weren’t. In spite of how brutal it was, and as strange as this may sound, I found this episode to be incredibly beautiful. Oh, Lord, maybe Black Jack is rubbing off on me.
The finale was brilliant. Once again, all of the actors outdid themselves, especially the three principals. But this episode belongs to Sam Heughan, hands down. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance that raw (and I’ve see a LOT of films/shows/theater). He was ridiculously good. It took a lot of guts to allow himself to be that vulnerable and exposed. He held nothing back. Very few actors are willing, or able, to put everything on the line like that. In doing so, he gave us the gift of an incredibly powerful performance. I’m a wee bit in awe of you right now, Sam.
On to the show…there has been a lot of complaining about specific scenes that were left out from the book. Enough already. Please hear me out. Were there some things I would have liked to see? Yes, of course. Here are the very few things I missed, and why (not just because they were “in the book”):
- I missed Jamie and Claire finding their way back to each other physically. I would have liked the scene where Jamie crawled into bed with Claire, both of them scared to death: her fear of it being “too soon”, and his of being able to respond to her sexually without seeing Randall. A very slow, tender. love-making scene would have been cathartic to the characters and to the viewers. That scene was very powerful in the book and important in bringing him back to her. They could have even incorporated the end of the fight scene with that, having the two of them weeping after making love, with Claire telling him “to lay his head, man.” However, given the time constraints of the show, I understand why this was left out. Since there was not a lot of time spent on Jamie’s recovery, that kind of intimacy between them would have been incongruous and unrealistic.
- The scene where Jamie explains that Randall has completely destroyed his “secret fortress” and then later, as he recovers, telling her that he’s managed to build a little lean-to with a roof.
- The exchange where Jamie is examining his hand and crying. Claire sees him and misunderstands, apologizing for not doing a better job. And then his reply to her, that he was crying with joy that he still had a hand with which to hold her, and oh yeah, she also gave him back his life and his manhood.
(I’m still secretly hoping they manage to add some version of all of these back in to the beginning of Season Two…hint, hint Ron and Maril). I think these omissions could have been included if they had combined The Watch and The Search episodes into one. As much as I enjoyed both of them, the time would have been better spent on an additional hour of To Ransom a Man’s Soul: the hour we had, and an hour for a much slower recovery time for Jamie at the Abbey. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. Just my opinion.
That being said, I went into this episode with an open mind. I took Diana Gabaldon’s advice to heart; I PUT THE BOOK DOWN. As of this writing, I’ve watched the episode probably eight times, each time paying careful attention to the details and references to scenes from the book, of which there are many. You just have to allow yourself to notice them.
This episode, like the last, was harrowing and intensely uncomfortable to watch. But, as I said in my last blog post, I think it was necessary to see what really happened between Randall and Jamie in that dungeon, especially for the non book-reading viewers. I don’t think it was “too much” or exploitative. The critics (just regular people, not the professionals) have mainly commented that (1) it focused too much on Randall’s pleasure/Jamie’s pain and not enough on Jamie and Claire, and (2) the final “encounter” with Randall was upsetting because Jamie “participated in it,” “consented to it” or “enjoyed” it. Seriously, people?
I don’t normally do re-caps, but for this episode, I felt like I needed to go through the episode in order to address these comments. Perhaps some people simply don’t understand the concept of torture and rape and their effects on a victim, especially in extremis. I plan on using a lot of stills from the episode, so if you were offended by the show, you won’t like these images either.
We open with a the British fife and drum corps greeting the new day, thus informing the viewer that Jamie has been with Randall for a good 12 hours (if you recall, it was about dusk the day before when Randall pushed Claire down the corpse hole). The camera then focuses on a naked and battered Jamie in the dungeon, looking a bit like a corpse himself.
The frame draws back, and we see that Randall is in the bed with him, also naked, so we know “the deed’s been done.” Randall looks like a he just had a great one-night stand (if he could have high-fived himself, he would have). The look on Jamie’s face? Vacant, dead, in shock… (Were you getting as sick a feeling as I was at this point?) This opening shot was pure cinematic genius. It told the viewers volumes without a word being spoken.
Randall gets up and starts to dress. Jamie reminds him that he owes him a debt (to die). Randall takes out his knife, seemingly to oblige Jamie’s request. But, he’s distracted by a strange noise out in the corridor. He leaves to investigate. Jamie’s voice hitches in his throat seeing Randall leave…he whispers something in Gàidhlig. I don’t know what he said, but it broke my heart.
Focus on Randall in the corridor, trying to figure out what the hell that noise is….He looks.. and IT’S THE COOS!!! (And boy were we pissed! We trampled that son of a bitch and left him in a puddle of his own blood. I actually did a little happy dance during this scene).
Murtagh, Rupert, and Angus rush in to Jamie’s cell and find him on the floor. It’s clear from the looks on their faces that they know what’s happened to him. Murtagh gently covers him, hoists his godson over his shoulder and they get the hell outta there. The barely contained rage on his face says it all.
In the wagon on the way to the Abbey, Rupert notes that Jamie reeks of lavender oil. Claire says it’s used to relieve pain. (Author’s note: It’s also an oil…i.e., a lubricant. A fact which will be significant at the end of the episode), Jamie is hallucinating and sees Randall when Claire leans over to check his injuries. He freaks out and tries to strangle her. Serious PTSD, or as Claire would know it, shell-shock. They race off to the Abbey where the monks have offered them shelter.
Claire is alone with Jamie. He keeps flinching from her and telling her not to touch him. She asks him again what Randall did to him. He replies, “Too much. And not enough.” His face is just…lost. (You’re killing me, Sam).
Jamie flashes back to the dungeon. Randall offers him a drink and then pries the nail out of Jamie’s hand, the pain of which causes him to vomit and fall to the floor. Randall picks him up like Mary’s evil twin brother and lovingly tells him what a “magnificent creature” he is. He assures him that “the worst is over.” NOT.
Randall kisses him, but Jamie’s having none of it. He reminds him that his men can have Claire brought back within the hour and that they have an agreement. Jamie says it was that he wouldn’t resist. Randall responds, “So that’s your plan, to submit, like Christ on the cross? We’ll see about that.”
He hoists Jamie up on the stool and pries his legs apart, trying to arouse him with his hand and his mouth. He explains “Jamie, I just want this to be a pleasant experience for us both.” (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth).
Jamie is clearly in hell, wanting with every fiber of his being to resist, knowing he swore he wouldn’t in exchange for Claire’s life.
He lashes out at Randall, telling him to “take his pleasure and be done with it”, spitting in his face. (Yeaaah, probably shouldn’t have done that, lad). Randall pulls him to his feet, drops Jamie’s kilt, turns him around and slams him (and his mangled hand) face down on the table, informing him that “one way or another, he will get a response from him.” He then proceeds to brutally rape him, so brutally, in fact, that Jamie finally screams in agony (which is exactly what Randall has wanted from him since the flogging…to hear him scream. He clearly gets off on that).
That was one of the most vicious things I’ve ever seen on film. Horrible to watch, but incredibly well-done by Heughan and Menzies. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind how much Randall is hurting Jamie. Nothing pleasurable to see here, folks. At least, not from Jamie’s point of view.
Back in the present, Jamie is interrupted from his “daymare” as Claire tries to give him laudanum so that she can set the bones in his hand. He tells her that Randall made him crawl, beg, and in the end, made him “verra much want to be dead.” He takes the bottle from Claire and tries to swallow all of it before she grabs it from him. She realizes just how much he wants to die. Personally, I thought Jamie’s suicidal thoughts and actions in this episode were actually more realistic than in the book. While it’s true that he is a Catholic and believes that suicide is a mortal sin, it makes sense that he would have been so traumatized and depressed that he would to want to die, given everything that happened to him. We have to remember that Jamie’s only sexual partner up to this point was Claire, the woman that he loves unconditionally. For him, love and sex are completely intertwined. Randall decimates that belief through his manipulation of Jamie’s mind and body.
Claire sets the broken bones in his hand (while Jamie is still hearing Randall in his drug-induced stupor). When she finishes, the monk tells her to go and rest. She goes to the chapel for some quiet time when Father Anselm comes in. He offers to hear her confession and she tells him everything that’s happened to her, including the time travel. In the end, she also confesses that she feels responsible for what has happened to Jamie. He absolves her of her sins (and also thinks it’s pretty cool that she’s from the future!)
Claire goes to Jamie’s room to check on him. The monk tending him tells her that he is still refusing to eat. She tries to be matter-of-fact with him, telling him his hand is looking better and that she can give him a regime to help restore the use of his fingers. He tells her that she “canna save a man that doesna want to be saved.” She is becoming more desperate and afraid for his mental state.
After a brief scene with “the boys” talking and worrying if Jamie is going to recover, Murtagh leaves after Willie makes a really stupid remark about how his uncle starved himself to death. We then see him in Jamie’s room and they are having a conversation in Gàidhlig. There is no translation, but none is needed. We really didn’t need to understand the words to understand the meaning. (However, If you want to know what was said, here’s a link: https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/63756291/2604/
Jamie starts flashing back to the dungeon again. Not sure if everyone thought this, but in my view, this was that scene in the book that we were (thankfully) spared from witnessing (that one might have been too much, even for me). You know, the bloody blowjob scene. We see Jamie on the floor, blood “and other things” on his face. He is gagging and spitting something out of his mouth. His upper thighs have blood on them. Although there is no cut on Jamie’s chest, as in the book, this is that scene.
Once again, nothing pleasurable to see here, either. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that, again, Jamie has been subjected to still more intense abuse. Randall is sitting on the floor watching Jamie struggle. He asks him, “Am I close? Have you reached your limit yet?” Jamie is obviously in a huge amount of physical pain, but the viewer doesn’t know exactly why. Those of us who have read the books know all too well what Randall has done this time. In some ways, the show version was worse; we see the blood on his face and thighs, but we don’t know from where it came. Ughhhh.
He then proceeds to prey on Jamie’s weakened mental state by conflating himself with Claire, playing on Jamie’s delusions, thus breaking him down even further. It is completely heart-wrenching watching Jamie realize that he will never see Claire again. He sobs, “She’s gone…there’s no more Claire”.
Back to the present, Willie comes to Jamie to tell him that Murtagh has gone to secure passage on a boat to get out of Scotland. He asks Jamie what he can do to help him. Jamie asks for his blade, to put himself “out of this black misery.” Willie, of course, refuses to give it to him.
Claire confronts Murtagh with this information. He knew about it, but was sworn to secrecy by Jamie. He tells Claire that he “refuses to watch Jamie waste away. To die like an animal in the woods with it’s foot caught in a trap.” He will kill him himself, if it comes to that. Claire collapses in his arms.
When she comes to, she and Murtagh decide it’s time for drastic measures. She anoints herself with oil of lavender, and holds it under Jamie’s nose to bring back the nightmare of Randall. He tries to get away from her and the smell, but she refuses to give in. They wrestle and fight, he is on top of her, telling her he doesn’t want to hurt her. She screams that it’s too late for that, since he wants to kill himself and he won’t tell her why. She cries “Do you want me to hate you?” She tears off his bandage and finally sees the brand, which has healed enough to now be a discernible “JR”. Jamie confesses that he did it himself. He then finally tells her the rest of what happened.
“He made love to me, Claire.” (notice that he has not called her Sassenach at all, reminding us that he no longer feels any joy). We go back to the dungeon in Jamie’s mind. He is laying on the pallet, watching Randall clean himself across the room. Randall approaches him, gently moves his ruined hand, and them revives him with oil of lavender. (Author’s note: Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing relaxing properties, and is used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.)
Randall pours some oil on his hands and on Jamie’s genitals. He moves Jamie’s good hand, encouraging him to masturbate. Jamie finally appears to relax as he feels some relief from the hours of pain that he has endured. Randall rubs some oil into the burn from the brand, murmuring for Jamie to imagine that it is Claire that is caressing and caring for him. There is a very interesting moment just then: Randall bends over and kisses Jaime, and in his delirium Jamie lifts his head to return the kiss. Randall pulls back, and the look on his face tells us that he knows he has Jamie; he knows that he’s won. As long as he can keep Jamie in his present mental state, thinking of Claire, he can break him. Randall rubs some oil on himself, gets behind Jamie and enters him, gently this time. Jamie responds to him and gets lost in the pleasure he is feeling, even to the point of reaching back for Randall. Randall whispers to him, “Say my name, Jamie.” Jamie responds and calls him Claire. Immediately after he reaches orgasm, Jamie comes back to reality, lowers his head, and cries in shame and despair, Randall strikes the final emotional blow by telling him that Claire will never forgive him. Both he and Randall know that he has been broken.
I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but to me, this scene was extraordinary. It evoked so many conflicting things: the emotional torment was completely repellent yet, disturbingly erotic in those few moments of Jamie’s pleasure. But the self-revulsion that it dredged up for him was impossibly painful to witness. Who knew the price of an orgasm could be so costly? I know that there are a lot of people out there that hated this scene and felt that it completely diverged from the book. It didn’t. The description in the book was not exactly how it was portrayed on screen, but only in that it was not as detailed. Jamie told Claire that Randall aroused him. What exactly do people think he meant by that? Jamie is an incredibly strong character. Pain wasn’t going to break him, no matter what Randall did. The only thing that could was a physical and emotional betrayal of his love for Claire.
We are returned back to the present in the Abbey, with Jamie trying to explain how it “felt so good not to be in pain”. Claire has been listening quietly, letting him tell her what he has been trying so hard to hide. She doesn’t recoil from him, She doesn’t judge him. She just tries to reassure him that there is nothing to forgive, that she understands that he did what he needed to do in order to survive, but he can’t, or won’t, hear it. He is consumed with guilt and self-loathing because he succumbed to momentary pleasure at the hands of a man and in doing so, betrayed his vow to her. He can barely meet her eyes when he tells her that he can’t be a husband to her anymore, and he won’t be less. The issue isn’t her forgiving him; it’s his inability to forgive himself.
He tells her “I lie here feeling that I will die without your touch, but when you do touch me, I want to vomit with shame,” Claire finally breaks down, taking his face in her hands, whether he wants it or not. She reminds him of the promise he made to her on their wedding night, and tells him that Randall may have had his body, but she will be damned if she lets him have his soul. I thought this was a great change from the book, where it was Jamie who said that (as a reason for not committing suicide). In my opinion, it made a much more powerful impact coming from Claire.
This dialogue was beautifully written, with Claire crying and telling Jamie that everything that has happened to her, and to them, only makes sense because they are meant to be together, and if he gives up and takes that meaning away from her, she will die right along with him. That finally gets his attention. He sees how much she is suffering along with him (perhaps he is thinking of when he told her that he could stand his own pain, but that he wasn’t strong enough to bear hers?). He tries to reach for her, but still can’t quite bring himself to touch her. He despairs “How can ye want me like this?” For Claire, that’s not even a consideration. She throws her arms around him, telling him she’ll have him any way she can, always, and holds him until, at last, he embraces her in return. For us, the viewers, there is such a profound sense of relief in seeing them back in each others arms, knowing that they can overcome this.
There follows a brief scene of Murtagh cutting the brand out of Jamie’s chest, literally and figuratively cutting him out of Jamie and Claire’s lives. But I think we all know (readers or not) that a shadow of him will always be there. Still, it’s a moment of triumph and we’re all glad to see Jamie emerging from the darkness.
The last scene of the episode finally allows us to breath…literally. We’re outside on the beach, the wind is blowing, the sun it shining, Claire is saying goodbye to Rupert and Angus (that little bit of comic relief was cute, but silly, in my opinion). She, Jamie and Murtagh are rowed out to the Cristobel, headed for the safety of France. Claire is a bit green around the gills, and Jamie teases her a bit about it, the first sign of lightheartedness between them that we’ve had. We soon find out that Claire’s fainting spells and nausea are the result of being pregnant. She asks him if he is happy to hear it. At last, that smile we love, while still a bit haunted, is back. Yes, Sassenach, he is verra happy.