[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 109,“The Reckoning,” Written by Matthew B. Roberts, Directed by Richard Clark
Outlander left us hanging on a windowsill literally at the end of Episode 108, “Both Sides Now.” At the end of that episode, Jamie (Sam Heughan) appears in the window of Black Jack Randall’s (Tobias Menzies) office while he is preparing to rape Claire (Caitriona Balfe). After a long, long break, Episode 109, “The Reckoning,” does not pick up where you would expect.
The episode’s beginning mirrors that of Episode 101, “Sassenach.” The Scottish landscape, the narration that focuses on what has happened in the past (or is it the future?) are all there. The big difference is that it is Jamie’s turn to do some reflecting on what has come to pass. At the end of the monologue, the expectation is that the opening credits will start, but instead we are thrown back into the present story.
Jamie is meeting with Horrocks (Lochlann O’Mearain) to see if he knows something that will clear Jamie of the charges against him. Jamie is not completely focused on the meeting, possibly thinking about what has happened with Claire and himself at the glade. Dougal (Graham McTavish) pulls him back into focus. There is doubt that Horrocks is trustworthy and worth the coin being paid for his information, considering that he is an English soldier deserter. After threatening to leave the meeting, Dougal gives him the payment. However, Horrocks claims that Captain Jonathan Randall a.k.a. Black Jack was the one who killed the sergeant. Jamie knows that he can never use that information to clear his name because who would believe that Black Jack shot one of his own men.
As Horrocks leaves, Willie (Finn den Hertog) arrives on a horse frantically. He tells the men that Claire was captured by the Redcoats and taken south. The group rides off to save Claire. The scene fades to black and the opening credits begin.
The title sequence shows us how Jamie dresses in a kilt and his other garments in the morning. This is something that fans have wanted demonstrated for a while. It is nice to see an abbreviated version of it.
We jump to the fort where Claire is being held. A soldier is posted at the water’s edge. Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) sneaks up from behind and pulls the soldier back into the darkness. With the soldier gone, Jamie comes up from a hiding spot and joins Murtagh in interrogating the soldier about the English woman’s whereabouts. It takes threatening to cut part or all of his manhood off to get a location. Once the soldier confesses, Jamie leaves to signal to the others that the coast to clear, while Murtagh says thanks and knocks the soldier out. Angus (Stephen Walters) and Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) come in to the scene. Rupert stays behind with the soldier, while the other three venture further into the fort.
Jamie knocks out another tower guard before finding a way down to Black Jack’s office. He readies his gun and repels down the castle wall. Halfway down, he hears Claire scream. He makes it to the window, takes out his gun, cocks it, and then opens the window’s shutters. He sees Claire bent over the desk, Black Jack behind her. “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife,” Jaime says. A look of relief comes over Claire’s face. “Good God,” Black Jack says in reply and a look of elation comes across his face. Black Jack comments on his handiwork on Jamie’s back and asks if he can see his scars. “It would be the last thing you ever saw,” Jamie replies. Claire madly tries to tell Jamie to kill Black Jack, but this enrages Black Jack even more. He brings her back off the desk with a knife to her neck. Black Jack still endeavors to rape Claire, now with Jamie watching. Jamie relinquishes the gun. Claire implores Jamie to leave as Black Jack grabs Jamie’s gun. As soon as Black Jack drops his knife and Claire, he fires the gun. The gun does not fire; it is empty. Jamie takes the opportunity to grab Black Jack and knock him out on the desk. As Jamie and Claire are about to leave the room, Jaime narrates about why he did not kill Black Jack then (a bit of foreshadowing).
As Claire and Jamie try to escape, they run into soldiers and the alarm is rung. As a line of soldiers are about to fire on them, a huge explosion goes off, knocking the soldiers down as well as Claire and Jamie. To escape the castle, they jump into the water from a high wall.
The episode moves along to the next morning with the group riding fast to escape whomever may be after them. They stop along a riverbed for a brief rest when they are about two hours out from The Drover. Jamie takes Claire to the side to have a discussion with her about what has just happened and to demand an apology. Claire is clearly flabbergasted by this demand considering what she has been through. The fight escalates enough that there is slapping and grabbing. This is clearly two strong-willed people fighting when each thinks they are the ones who are right. Jamie thinks Claire ran off to get back at him for what happened at the glade. Jamie thinks Claire should obey him at all times; Claire does not want to be thought of as property. It is only when it gets to the point of calling each other horrible names do they both realize what they are doing to each other. It ends with them in each other’s arms, apologizing, and a narration by Jamie saying he loved her even before then.
They arrive back at The Drover and join the rest of the clan that stayed behind. Claire is given the cold shoulder when she tries to speak to them and apologize. She instead decides to turn in for the night. Before Jamie joins her, Murtagh says that she does not understand what she almost cost them. It is Jamie’s place to make her realize that.
Claire is already under the covers when Jamie arrives in their room. She wonders if the men will ever speak to her again. Jamie assures her that they will. Claire asks Jamie to come to bed, but Jamie says they have a matter to settle before that happens. Jamie pulls off his belt and asks Claire to raise her shift. Thus ensues another fight that has Claire trying to escape Jamie’s clutches as he tries to whip her rear with his belt.
The next morning, Claire comes down for breakfast embarrassed and unable to sit comfortably. She is still very mad at Jamie. The clan leaves to go back to Castle Leoch.
The married couple arrives to cheers and congratulations in the Great Hall, especially from Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland). The commotion stops as Letitia (Aislin McGuckin) and Colum (Gary Lewis) arrive in the Hall. Letitia says her congratulations but Colum only says congratulations to Lady Broch Turrach (Claire), nothing to Jamie.
On the way to meet with Colum in his study, Jamie runs into Laoghaire (Nell Hudson). She is teary-eyed and wants an explanation about the surprise marriage. Jamie promises one at a later time.
Jamie arrives in Colum’s study in the company of Ned Gowan (Bill Paterson) and Dougal. Colum wants to know what happened at Fort William. Colum is also wise to the other money they collected when they were out on their rent trip, the funds raised for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause. Dougal and Colum butt heads on the issue. Unfortunately, Dougal lets it slip that he “ensured his (Colum’s) bloodline.” Hamish is not Colum’s son, but Dougal’s.
As Dougal and Ned leave, Jamie is asked to stay. Colum confronts him on his marriage to the “Sassenach” and his plans to have Jamie inherit the clan and the castle are thwarted.
In their castle room, Jamie and Claire discuss the revelation that Dougal is Hamish’s father. Jamie sees her getting ready for bed and slipping under the covers. He starts to undress, but Claire denies him.
The episode shifts to the next day as Angus and Rupert are confronting Willie on his betrayal. It is evident that Willie told Colum about the other money. Jamie and Murtagh arrive and break the struggle up. Jamie is also asked where is loyalty lies and he pretty much admits to being faithful to the Laird. Dougal arrives and it becomes clear where everyone’s loyalty lies. The once tight-knit group of men are split.
Later on, Murtagh and Jamie have a conversation by the castle wall. Murtagh asks Jamie to run away with Claire to avoid the split that is forming in the clan. But with a wife now, Jamie does not want to run away and have no shelter or any way to provide for his wife.
Jamie meets with Colum again to ask him to make peace with Dougal for the good of the Clan. Jamie asks Colum to give Dougal back the Jacobite gold. Their is a jump in the timeline to Dougal and Ned joining in on the meeting. Colum warns Dougal of his treason, both to the crown and the Clan, but gives him the gold anyways. Colum asks Ned to invite the Duke of Sandringham to a dinner in his honor.
The episode then flashes back to the scenes that opened it. Jamie is on the riverbank and a blonde approaches. It is Laoghaire who has found him out for a better explanation of why he married Jamie. It is clear that Laoghaire does not even really care that he is married, as she will take what she can get from Jamie. He refuses her, loyal to his wife.
The concluding scene is in the Jamie and Claire’s room. Jamie has decided to end his “dog house” situation with Claire. He realizes that he cannot treat Claire like any other wife. She is special, with a strong will. Their relationship has to be different. He swears to Claire his loyalty and to never to hurt her physically again. Claire has no reaction to this, but you can see that she struggles with her feelings for Jamie. Jamie explains the origin of her wedding ring, made from a key to his home, Lallybroch. They begin to kiss and make love on the floor. While Claire is on top, she pulls the dirk on Jamie and threatens to cut his throat if he ever touches her again. The sex ends successfully and the two lay in each other arms. Jamie asks what “fucking” and “sadist” means, as Claire used those words in the argument by the river bed. As Jamie rises to fetch something to eat, Claire finds an “ill wish” under the bed. Claire asks who would do such a thing. The episode cuts off with Jamie saying “Laoghaire.”
“The Reckoning” has an all together completely different feel from the other eight episodes of Outlander. Most of that is due to the focus being on Jamie, rather than Claire. Claire has no narration and is not present in almost every scene as she normally is. To put it succinctly, this one is all about Jamie.
From a fan’s perspective, it is hard to believe that the mid-season split was not already planned from the beginning. The first and ninth episodes so perfectly mirror each other and both are great beginnings to a set of episodes.
There are plenty of scenes from the book that the readers will enjoy seeing: the spanking scene, the argument at the river bed, the rescue, the makeup sex at Leoch. Fan and script writer Matt Roberts clearly knows the source material and some of those scenes had to be his favorites. Looking back at the book, some of the lines are straight from it. The series continues to keep the book in mind, even if diverging from it a bit with new scenes and perspectives.
Much has been made of the infamous spanking scenes. I would rather never read about the scene again as it has been in just about every interview with the cast and crew since the mid-season break. I understand why it is in the book, and I also understand why it was kept in the adaptation. It demonstrates a clear and huge difference between where Claire comes from and where she is now. Beating wives for mistakes was common practice, and Claire made a very big mistake. The episode treated the subject with good intentions and humor. I certainly laughed when Jamie tries to wrestle a full-grown woman to the ground to whip her with a belt. The kick to the nose makes it even better. After this episode airs, I hope there will not be much controversy over this scene.
The scene that cements everyone about if the right actors are playing Claire and Jamie is the argument by the river bed. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan give as good as they get in terms of passion and conviction. The appearance of calm, turning into anger, and then turning into sadness and forgiveness all in the span of a few minutes is absolutely remarkable. I just wish a partial clip of this scene was not released early as it spoiled the power and the emotions that come from of it.
The only complaints I have with the episode are a couple minor things. The fake snow that was computer-generated to accompany the real snow that was falling during the Willie confrontation scene is too distracting. It almost felt like I should have had 3-D glasses on for the full effect. The other complaint is Claire’s curly hair and the continuity of it. When she arrives back at Castle Leoch, her hair becomes super curly and thusly, also shorter. Either someone got too over-zealous with the curling iron or this was shot earlier in the production when Caitriona Balfe’s perm was a bit fresher. These issues did not affect the story, but did prove enough of one to pull my focus away from the story.
Altogether, director Richard Clark and script writer Matt Roberts definitely made the very long “Droughtlander” worth it. This is another episode that does not follow any formula and keeps the story of Claire and Jamie new for those who have read their story for many years.