‘Outlander’ Recap/Review: Episode 102 “Castle Leoch”

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Outlander 2014
[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]

Episode 102, “Castle Leoch,” Written by Ronald D. Moore, Directed by John Dahl
Recap: The second episode of Outlander wastes no time continuing Clarie’s story as she, Jamie, Dougal and his men enter the grounds of Castle Leoch after riding for two days and nights. Dismounting the horse, Claire notices a man glacing down from a window as Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland) greets the returning party. Mrs. Fitz gazes suspiciously at Claire, who informs her of Jamie’s injury, while struggling once again trying to find a common vocabulary with the people of this time. Though Jamie downplays his injury, Mrs. Fitz accompanies Claire into the castle, calling for Jamie to follow the pair.

Inside the castle, Mrs. Fitz leaves Claire to tend to Jamie’s wounds. Uncovering his back, she discovers the scars marring Jamie’s back from being flogged by the Redcoats, once for trying to escape Fort William and a second time for an alleged theft. As Claire tends to the wounds, Jamie recounts the events that occurred four year ago leading to his first painful encounter with Captain Jack Randall.

While working in the fields, Jamie hears a woman’s screams in the distance and rushes to find his sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly) being attacked by two Redcoats. Going on the attack, Jamie frees his sister from their grasps and fights the pair. Jenny tries to run, but is stopped by Captain “Black Jack” Randall. Seeing his sister threatened, Jamie surrenders to the Redcoats and asks for his sister’s release. Rather that assuage Randall, Jamie’s request seems to spur him on as he tears Jenny’s bodice open. Jamie is then tied up and whipped by Randall, who is only stopped when Jenny agrees to offer him “better entertainment” in the house against the pleas of her brother.

Outlander 2014Jamie compliments Claire’s kindness and gentle touch as she finishes her work. During this time, her mind wanders to thoughts of Frank, who, along with Reverend Wakefield, has discovered Claire’s abandoned car. She is overcome by the thought of what Frank might being thinking about her absence and Jamie tries to comfort her, pledging her safety as long as he is with her. Jamie thanks Claire and reminds her that she is “English in a place where that is not a pretty thing to be” before taking his leave.

Claire is roused the next morning by Mrs. Fitz, who brings Claire some nourishment before relieving her of her shift and adorning her in clothing more appropriate to her current setting. A man escorts Claire to a meeting with Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis), the man she saw upon her arrival, where a letter dated 1743 confirms her suspicions that she is now in the 18th century. Her search of the room is interrupted as Colum, Laid of Castle Leoch, enters the room and welcomes her to Castle Leoch. Settling into their respective seats, Claire recounts the distress that led her to Dougal and his men and her hopes to secure passage back to Inverness. Colum continues his inquiry, which enlivens Claire’s memories of a discussion with Frank about interrogation tactics and she tries to put this information to good use. Heeding Frank’s advice, Claire concocts a story about being a widowed lady traveling to see distant relatives in France and recounts the attack by Captain Randall. Concluding their meeting, Colum informs Claire of a transport coming in five days time and offers her the hospitality of his home until that time. After leaving Colum with words of thanks, Claire finds herself wandering atop the castle walls and taking in the sights as she revisits her knowledge of this era. A playful group of children draws her attention below, as does Dougal’s interaction with a young boy named Hamish.

Outlander 2014Claire finds herself braving the chatter and stares of Castle Leoch’s dining hall as she approaches Colum’s table on the opposite side of the room. Claire is invited to dine with the Laird and his family, including Colum’s wife Letitia (Aislín McGuckin). Colum’s questioning continues during their meal, clearly suspicious of Claire as he exchanges looks with his brother. Trying to divert attention from herself, Claire asks after Jamie and uses Hamish’s presence in the hall to halt further questions. Introducing herself to the young boy, Claire mistakenly believes him to be Dougal’s son after seeing them earlier in the day and excuses herself from the table in embarrassment while escaping further questioning from her table mates.

The following day, Claire heads to the kitchen to find Mrs. Fitz and asks after Jamie since his bandages need tending to. Taking the necessary supplies and a spot of lunch, Claire heads for the stables with Rupert following and keeping track of her activities. Claire finds Jamie and they enjoy a meal together while Jamie divulges a bit more of his history, including there being a price on his head for murder, though he claims to not be the responsible for the man’s death. Claire inquires about Jamie’s name since many seem confused when she asks after him, and deciding to trust her, Jamie reveals he is really the nephew of Colum and Dougal, who know about his status as an outlaw.

Claire confronts Rupert as she leaves the stables before seeking out Dougal and confronting him about his spy. Dougal turns on Claire and threatens to have her watched day and night since he suspects her to be an English spy, or at the very least to be lying about who she truly is. Trying to regain some footing, Claire informs him that she will be gone in four days time, something that shocks Dougal. Over the next few days, Claire maintains a simple routine to pass the time and to not draw further suspicions from Dougal or the men he has following her. Mrs. Fitz charges her with harvesting food for the kitchen and during one outing Claire encounters Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek). Geillis needs no introduction from Claire, who is the talk of the village where the woman lives.

Outlander 2014The two women meet up later that night in Castle Leoch’s hall where Colum hears testimonials from his people and dispenses rulings and punishments. After several days of observations, Claire is able to identify his ailment as Toulouse-Lautrec syndrome. Geillis translates the proceedings for Claire, which begins with a dispute over a cow and escalates to a girl’s father accusing her of “loose behavior.” An unfavorable sentence is handed down for Laoghaire (Nell Hudson), but she is spared as Jamie comes forward to take her place. Jamie is beaten before the hall’s crowd and Geillis stops Claire from interfering with the punishment, but does take her to him as he leaves the hall.

Tending to Jamie’s wounds once more, Claire wonders why he would do something for a girl he barely knows, to which he simply replies it would be harder for the girl to get past the shame of the punishment. Mrs. Fitz, Laoghaire’s grandmother, once more brings Clarie supplies before leaving her to tend to Jamie. As she finishes with the new dressings, Jamie is surprised by Claire’s announcement that she will be gone in a few day’s time. Seeing Laoghaire waiting just outside the room, Claire bids farewell to Jamie.

Claire’s transport to Inverness finally arrives, but her departure is delayed by Dougal, who informs her Colum would like to speak with her. As he escorts Claire to Colum, memories of her time at Castle Leoch with Frank surface, particularly when she is brought to a familiar room. Claire nervously enters the room where Colum asserts his wish for her to remain as the castle’s healer. Claire demands to know what lies Dougal and his men have accused her of, but Colum dismisses his brother’s role, stating that he himself has suspicions and she will remain as his guest until he can ascertain that she is no threat. Claire sees herself as his prisoner as he exits and Dougal closes to door behind the pair, leaving Claire alone on the staircase. Descending the stairs once more, Claire reenters the room and attempts to keep her composure as her chance to leave slips through her fingers.

Review: While the first episode of Outlander spends a great deal of time in the 1940s establishing Claire and Frank’s relationship, “Castle Leoch” is firmly planted in the past with just a few glimpses at the life Claire was ripped from at the stones. New characters are abound in the latest episode, from the introduction of Colum MacKenzie and Mrs. Fitz to Laoghaire and Geillis Duncan, who makes an early appearance when compared to the novel.

Clarie’s narration continues in the second episode and, though not as intrusive as in the premiere episode, it still feels like an unnecessary part of the show. Caitriona Balfe proves to be a very capable Claire and her performance does not need any assistance from a voice over. Sam Heughan continues to impress as Jamie, but the highlight of “Castle Leoch” is Annette Badland as Mrs. Fitz. She makes her presence known from her first scene and exudes warmth throughout. The episode also succeeds in building tension from Dougal and Colum MacKenzie’s suspicions of Claire. Their side glances and confrontations with Claire overshadow otherwise uneventful few days at Castle Leoch with a sense of danger.

I am generally not one to be too conscious of alterations from page to screen, but having just revisited the beginning of Diana Gabaldon’s novel, I am a tad disappointed with Jenny’s depiction in the episode. In the novel, she displays a great deal of vigor while in the clutches of Randall, going as far as to stomp on his foot and elbow him in the stomach. Jenny displays less of a fight in the episode, and while it is not a glaring problem, with a strong lead like Claire, it would be nice to have seen a bit more from Jenny.

Outlander continues to captivate in large part because of its strong performances and aesthetics, including the costumes and beautiful Scottish locations. The series is a steady, slow-burn that has proved rewarding in its first two episodes and should continue to build its pace now that Claire’s past with Frank and current predicament have been established. Outlander continues next Saturday with “The Way Out.”