‘Outlander’ Recap/Review: Episode 108, “Both Sides Now”

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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 108,“Both Sides Now,” Written by Ronald D. Moore, Directed by Anna Foerster

Recap:

“Both Sides Now” opens with its title treatment featuring two maps, an old and new (1940s) map of Inverness, illustrating one supposed element of the title.

The first scene pulls us back to Frank’s time as we see a police detective enter the Inverness police station.  He enters the area where the desks are and another police man motions for him to come over.  “He’s back,” he says.  He is talking about Frank (Tobias Menzies) who has returned again to inquire about his missing wife.  The detective says to the man that today’s the day he lays it all out for Frank and tells him what he thinks really happened to Claire (Caitriona Balfe).  The camera stays on Frank as the detective speaks to him about what the police have done so far and what he thinks has happened to Claire.  Frank stays calm, but you can sense anger bubbling inside of him as he has become frustrated with the police’s efforts.  Two pieces of paper hang on the wall; one with Claire’s photo offering a 1500 pound reward for her return and a second with a drawing of that Highlander Frank saw that rainy night and thought was a ghost.  That sign simply asks if you have seen the man.  At one point, the detective sits his teacup down on one of Claire signs, and that draws Frank’s attention.  She is merely a discarded piece of paper.  Frank’s rage comes out as he throws his fist on the desk in response to the detective saying she has run off with this other man.  Calling Frank a fool did not help.

OUT_108-20140518-EM_0812.jpgWe find Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) perched on a ridge having a bite to eat.  Jamie wants to ask a question but is a bit embarrassed about it.  Claire coaxes it out of him.  He asks, “Is it usual, what it is between us, when I touch you . . . when I lie with you?  Is it always so between a man and a woman?”  Claire is hesitant to answer at first, but relents that it is often like this, but no, it is not usual.  You can see the struggle within Claire as she answers this.  The conversation is interrupted by an arrow hitting the ground next to them.  Jamie dives and protects Claire, but gets up to investigate.  After seeing the arrow and the approaching man, he deduces that it is a friend.  It is Hugh Munro (Simon Meacock).  Crisis averted, the three of them have a conversation.  Hugh is hard to understand because he had his tongue cut out when he was captured at sea by the Turks.  Using both sound and hand gestures, he tells Jamie that there is a man named Horrocks, who could testify that Jamie did not kill the soldier while escaping Ft. William.  Jamie decides there to seek Horrocks out.  Hugh also gives a wedding present to Claire, a piece of amber with a dragonfly in it (*cough* season two *cough*).   After Hugh leaves, Jamie tells Claire that this news might be a way for the charges to be dropped against him, and he can go home with Claire as Lady Lallybroch.  They hug and Claire sees both of her ringed hands wrapped around her new husband.

Frank is back at Reverend Wakefield’s (James Fleet) house.  The Reverend is trying to assist Frank with other answers to where Claire has possibly gone.  He talks of a river that might have swept her away, as much as 20 miles away.  We see a board with all kinds of papers pinned to it.  Frank and the Reverend have been trying to figure this out themselves.  By this point, Frank is pretty discouraged and has all but given up.  We do hear Frank say that she has been gone for seven weeks, giving us a hint at how much time has passed.  Enter Mrs. Graham (Tracey Wilkinson) and a young boy named Roger Wakefield (Rory Burns).  They bring in tea and cookies, but Frank needs something stronger and leaves the house.

Frank goes down to the pub for a stiff drink.  A woman comes in, sits next to him, and knows who he is.  She introduces herself as Sally (Olivia Morgan), but it is not her real name.  She has some information for him.  She knows where the Highlander is, and she tells him to meet her after midnight at another location and bring the reward money.

OUT_108-20140430-ND_0777.jpgWe are taken back the MacKenzie clan at camp.  Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) is telling a story about the water horse (the Loch Ness Monster) to the others gathered around the fire.  Claire and Jamie are sitting away from the fire.  Jamie says that it will be Yuletide by the time they get back to Leoch.  Claire talks about stockings hanging by the fire and if they have that tradition.  Jamie says, “To dry them off, you mean?”  The horses stir alerting Jamie to someone or something near.  The others become aware of it also and see them start to ready their weapons subtlety.  Jamie gives Claire his dirk and tells her to run to hide when he says.  Members of the Grant clan descend on them, trying to steal what they have from collecting rents.  It is Ned Gowan (Bill Paterson) with a gun that settles it, and the Grant clan runs off with what they have stolen.  Ned marvels at his marksmanship (which wasn’t so good).  The fight ends with the clan in good spirits.

Frank is walking down a side street and turns down another.  He finds Sally.  She leads him further down to find the Highlander, but what Frank finds are two men ready to rob him of the ransom money.  Frank fights back, knocking down the men with no problem.  He continues to kick and beat one of the men, continuing even while Sally pleads for him to stop.  She steps up next to him, and he takes her by the throat up and pushes her against the wall, strangling her until she admits there was no Highlander.  We begin to hear the Reverend talking over the scene about good and evil, and how evil can find root in good men.  We are back at the Reverend’s house and Frank and he are having a conversation.

I am stepping away from the recap briefly.  By now, you realize that there are elements of Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in Frank.  While we have previously seen them as polar opposites, they have characteristics in common, but one side of good and evil is dominant in each.  As the Reverend is speaking about evil and the Nazis, he begs Frank to make his retaliation on those men his last sip of evil.  The Reverend says, “Turn away from the darkness that beckons you, and go back into the light.”  Does this quote remind you of a line spoken in another episode?  In “The Garrison Commander,” Black Jack Randall says to Claire after he punches her in the stomach, “I dwell in darkness, madam, and darkness is where I belong.”

Frank takes the Reverend’s meaning that he should leave Inverness, leave what has troubled him as there seems to be no resolution in sight.  He asks Frank to go to Oxford, start his life over, and let Claire go.  He has come to the conclusion that Claire has left on her own and hopes Frank can see that.

OUT_108-20140509-ND_0185.jpgIt is the morning after the attack on the clan.  Claire lost the dirk she had during the attack, but they quickly find it.  Jamie wants Claire to keep the dirk but she finds it too long and heavy.  The men say that Claire needs to defend herself.  Dougal (Graham McTavish) suggests she take a small dagger, a Sgian-dubh, that be easily hidden.  Angus (Stephen Walters) proceeds with her lessons on how to stab someone from the front, and using Willie (Finn den Hertog), the back.

We go back to Frank as he is packing up his things to leave Inverness.  He glances back to Claire’s suitcase by the fire, and brings it to the bed.  He pauses before opening it up, picking up a framed picture of them on their wedding day.

Claire and Jamie have snuck away from the clan for a little love in the grass.  Jamie says another iconic line from the book, “Does it ever stop, the wanting you?”  Their tryst in the grass is interrupted by a gun to Jamie’s head.  Two Redcoats have come upon them.  One pulls Jamie away, as the other starts undressing to have his way with Claire.  The scene slows down as you see Claire with terror in her eyes pull her Sgian-dubh and stab the soldier in the back.  This gives Jamie the opportunity to knock the gun out of the other soldier’s hand and quickly cut his throat with his dirk.  Jamie then runs to Claire, picks her up, and moves her away from the bodies.

Rev. Wakefield and Mrs. Graham are arguing in the kitchen about Mrs. Graham’s other theory about what happened to Claire.  The Reverend does not want her to say anything to Frank about it, but unfortunately Frank walks in on their argument.  Mrs. Graham proceeds to tell Frank about the stones and their magical power, tales of people traveling through the stones and falling through time, often returning.   Frank does not share her beliefs and says he will leave for Oxford that afternoon.  We see another glimpse of Roger Wakefield as Frank walks away.

Jamie is consoling Claire, both with bloodied hands.  Claire realizes she is going into shock, with thoughts flooding her head, but knowing she could not discuss what had happened with Jamie in case things not of his time came out of her mouth.  Dougal comes to the conclusion that the two Redcoats are deserters, as they have no horses.  Dougal insists that they accompany Jamie armed to see Horrocks since he is a deserter as well.

Frank leaves Inverness behind along with Claire’s belongings.

OUT_108-20140509-ND_0127.jpgThe clan makes their way through a forest with Claire narrating that after that pivotal event in her life all she could feel was anger.  This floods over into her conversation with Jamie as he says she must stay behind with Willie as they go and find Horrocks.  Claire says she can take care of herself as she has already proven.  Jamie makes her promise and swear to stay put while he is gone and she does.  (Anyone else think there are some green screen effects during this scene?  The background of the close ups of the actors looked suspiciously fake.)  After Jamie and the rest of the clan leaves, she realizes her anger is because she has forgotten about her plans to go back to Frank.

Frank is driving away from Inverness as he passed the sign for Craigh na Dun.  He stops the car and eventually reverses, turning in their direction.

Willie leaves Claire to herself as he takes care of “personal business.”  As Claire wanders away, she comes upon the hill that Craigh na Dun is on and sees the stones on top.  You can see her pause and think about what decision to make, but in the end she starts toward the stones.  At the same moment in a different time (is that possible?), Frank is making his way up the hill also.  The following minutes are combination of Claire and Frank reaching the hill and getting to the stones with beautiful music playing.  Frank reaches the stones first and is looking about, eventually being overcome with feeling and calling out to Claire.  Claire hears Frank calling and returns the call, picking up speed to the stones.  Frank hears Claire yell.  Claire reaches the stone she touched to time travel and sees her discarded shawl on the ground still.  She reaches up to the stones, and the scene goes dark.  Fade in to three Redcoats dragging Claire away from the stones, Claire still calling out for Frank.  Frank leaves the stones on one side of the hill, and Claire being dragged back down the hill a short distance away.

Claire is in the back of a cart, tied up, being driven to Ft. William and towards Black Jack Randall.  Claire has the ride to formulate her plan of out-smarting Black Jack and escaping.  Arriving, she is in a room with Black Jack as he begins his interrogation.  Claire mentions flogging, reminding him of their previous conversation.  Black Jack reminds her that he takes flogging very seriously.  Black Jack proceeds to tell her that he will get to the truth of whom and what she is by any means necessary.  As Jack sips wine, Claire brings up the Duke of Sandringham, remembering what Frank and Rev. Wakefield said about him.  Jack is clearly taken by surprise as he chokes on the wine and spills some.  Claire says that they are both in the same employ of the Duke.  This works until Jack mentions the Duchess, with Claire acknowledging that she has never met her but has received messages from her.  Whoops.  There is no Duchess, and Claire’s plan fails.  She panics, trying to escape but Corporal Hawkins (Edmund Digby-Jones) is outside the door preventing her escape.  Jack ties her up, and Claire screaming is doing no good.  Jack bends her over the desk meaning to rape her.  He finds her Sgian-dubh and grazes her nipple and her neck with it.  Just then, Jamie appears in the window with a gun, “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife.”  Black Jack responds, “Good God,” as shock leads to elation and laughter at Jamie’s appearance.

OUT_108-20140501-ND_0513.jpg

Review:

“Both Sides Now” is an excellent title for this Outlander episode.  We see almost equal parts of Frank in the 1940s and Claire in the 1740s.  The title can also allude to Claire having to be the happy wife while still trying to escape to Craigh na Dun to get back to Frank.  It is a very different episode, flashing back and forth in time throughout the hour.  In past episodes, we have only seen a short flashback or two to Frank, save the premiere where we spent half the episode with Frank and Claire pre-Craigh na Dun.  It is not an unwelcome change, since it is interesting to see new parts of the story that Diana Gabaldon did not write in the book.

The editing is flawless.  The switches going back and forth in time are so inventive and seamless in their transitions.  Claire’s hand falling from Jamie’s back to the ring on Frank’s finger is one example, and the scene at Craig na Dun is another.  To juxtapose this, other scene transitions used a fade out and fade in between them.

The directing is also flawless.  The scene with Claire and Frank at Craigh na Dun is so well done, the way the two scenes are combined.  The music along with the desperation of both characters to reach the stones makes for the best scene in the episode.

Book fans will no doubt be elated to see Hugh Munro on screen.  Simon Meacock’s interpretation of him had both sadness and elation mixed into the raggedy appearance.  His gift to Claire, a dragonfly in amber, is a nice nod to the second season of Outlander.  The appearance of young Roger MacKenzie in Reverend Wakefield’s house is another welcome sight.  Fans were all a bit concerned when he did not show up in the first episode.  I will leave the explanation of who he is and where he came from for the show to elaborate on, but suffice it to say that he is important in season two.

Fans have been teased about the cliffhanger by the cast and crew for at least a month.  As someone who read the books, there are a few different places in the depicted sequence of events that a cliffhanger could have been inserted.  We all had our guesses as to what the cliffhanger might be.  Having seen it, Jamie perched in the window ready to pounce to save Claire from Black Jack did not seem like much of a cliffhanger.  It felt like the end to an episode with the resolution to be aired next week or in this case April 2015.  The scene with Claire running up to Craig na Dun and Frank in the same place but in a different time felt very emotional and suspenseful.  Had the episode ended as she placed her hands to the stone, I would have let out a loud and long, “Noooo!”  However, I do not think that the eight episode split was decided when this episode was shot, so Ron and company did their best with what they had.

“Both Sides Now” is another favorite episode.  The fleshing out of the Frank story and the additions to Claire and Jamie’s are continually ingenious.  It makes the story some of us have read for twenty years new again.  With this being the last episode until April 2015, there is plenty of time for the eight episodes to be watched again and again.  New fans can cure their cliffhanger nerves by picking up the book.  I have a feeling that when the series returns, even more fans will await the reappearance of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser.

Outlander returns to Starz with Episode 109 on April 4, 2015.