Previously on Outlander: In 1946, Claire didn't buy a vase and fell through a time rift, landing in 18th century Scotland. She's married to one dude, Frank, but has just met warrior Jamie. Hope this doesn't cause any horrible, roiling internal conflict!
Claire and the merry band of Scotsmen arrive at Castle Leoch, where Claire is still trying to process her unexpected trip across centuries — and figure out how to get home. Amid playful banter among the group, a jolly older lady greets the returning men. But she stops short upon seeing Claire, who looks muddy and bedraggled and close to naked in her light shift dress. Claire certainly knows how to make a first impression, I'll give her that.
Jamie helpfully introduces Claire to the woman, Mistress Fitzgibbons — Mrs. Fitz, if you're nasty — who ushers Claire inside for some food and more appropriate clothing. Because even when men are fighting and dying and you're under occupation from ruthless British military, the number one threat to peace is still modestly covered breasts.
Before they make it inside, Claire insists she change Jamie's bandage, so his wound won't become inflamed. Mrs. Fitz eyes Claire, looking slightly suspicious of her mysterious healing abilities, but allows Claire and Jamie to go ahead. Walking through Castle Leoch, Claire is haunted by memories of just days earlier when she was here with Frank.
As Claire removes Jamie's cloak, she notices his back is criss-crossed by deep scars. It's almost enough to keep our minds off Jamie's incredible shirtless body. Almost. "Redcoats," Jamie says, explaining his scars. But not just any Redcoats: a group led by Black Jack Randall, Frank's ancestor — and the man who tried to rape Claire. Jamie was flogged twice within the space of the week, first for escape and then theft. When Claire asks why Jamie escaped in the first place, he coyly growls, "They were holding me prisoner."
Claire presses on and Jamie reveals he was being held on a charge of obstruction. We flash back into Jamie's memory and it's a doozy. While Jamie's father was away, Black Jack Randall and his men entered Jamie's village and set upon Jamie's sister. Running in from the fields, Jamie launches himself at the offending Redcoats, dispatching the men handily. But Black Jack Randall emerges from Jamie's home with a gun at Jamie's sister's throat. Jamie's willing to surrender but Black Jack can't resist some good old-fashioned spirit-breaking humiliation. He makes Jaime watch as he rips open the front of Jamie's sister's dress.
Not content to just be kind of evil, Black Jack ties Jamie up and mercilessly lashes his back. Jamie reveals to Claire that, desperate to save Jamie's life, his sister agreed to sleep with Black Jack. Of course, he still gets arrested for obstruction, presumably obstructing the ability of Redcoats to rape and humiliate whoever they want. Yeesh. Welcome to the past, Claire!
As Claire gently tends to Jamie, he remarks on her "good touch," noting that her husband "is a lucky man." Claire turns away, overcome by the idea of Frank searching for her in 1946, and the confusion and pain he must be experiencing.
Seeing that Claire is in tears, Jamie softly asks if her husband is not alive. Eerily appropriate phrasing, since Claire is forced to admit that he isn't. It's true: Frank hasn't even been born yet. In one of the most touching moments of the entire episode, Jamie embraces Claire as she weeps, lost to grief.
As they pull out of the embrace, Jamie smolders at Claire while they exchange a Portentous Look of Pre-Kiss Tension. But Claire pulls away. She's still married, even if Jamie is shirtless and kind and shirtless and Scottish and hot and shirtless. Maybe if all us together think really hard, we can wish Jamie's shirt out of existence permanently.
Seeing how shaken Claire is, Jamie promises her that she never needs to be afraid around him — he'll always protect her.
But what about when he isn't around? He warns Claire that being English is dangerous, and that she should keep that in mind. I'm sure it's fine, Jamie. What could possibly go wrong?
The next day, Mrs. Fitz rouses Claire and we're treated to a sequence of Historical Dress Porn as Mrs. Fitz finds Claire some suitable undergarments, like a shift and corset instead of her satin brassiere ("It's from France," Claire tells a skeptical Fitz), finishing it off with a heavy tartan dress.
But before we have much time to appreciate Claire rocking vintage fashions, she's taken to meet Colum MacKenzie, laird of Castle Leoch. Spying a paper on his desk, she sees the year is 1743 and tries to mentally grab at all the information she can remember about that era.
Colum, a severely bowlegged fellow, reveals that the leader of the Scottish band who rescued Claire is actually his brother, Dougal. Colum is cordial but wary of Claire, questioning her presence in the woods where the men rescued her from Black Jack. When Colum presses for more details, Claire draws on advice Frank once gave about withstanding an interrogation: stick to the truth except for the vital details that must be altered. So Claire spins a tale of being set upon by highwaymen, wandering through the woods and being assaulted by Black Jack. But Colum thinks she's full of it.
"A man bearing the King's commission decided to rape a stray lady traveler ... for no good reason?" Colum asks.
"Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master MacKenzie?" Claire retorts brilliantly.
In a shocking twist, Colum actually apologizes for this transgression. He offers Claire passage back to Inverness, in five days time.
Reflecting on the hope that she might be able to go home and on the sheer oddity of this situation, Claire strolls outside. She's momentarily charmed by the sight of Dougal, Colum's brother, playfully sparring and roughhousing with a young redheaded boy who appears to be his son. It's adorable.
But while Claire may be treated with hospitality at Castle Leoch, she's far from a guest. All activity stops when she enters the large dining hall and it isn't long before Colum is filling and refilling (and refilling) her glass with wine. He launches into an interrogation disguised as friendly conversation, trying to poke holes in the story she's provided about her past.
Unfortunately, Claire, who's still eagerly drinking down all the wine Colum pours for her, can't keep her foot out of her mouth. Listen, Claire, I understand booze helps take the edge off in a stressful situation BUT when you're trying to conceal the fact that you're a time traveling nurse from 1946 who has little information and even fewer connections in 18th century Scotland, YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE IT EASY. Sip, don't gulp!
The young redheaded boy with whom Dougal was mock fighting earlier turns up again in the dining room. Tipsy Claire introduces herself by saying she saw him playing with his father. Everyone goes immediately silent. Turns out the adorable ginger is Colum's kid, not Dougal's. But from the palpable discomfort in the room, it seems like maybe that's still an open question.
Well, damn. No one does sibling rivalry like the Scots, I guess!
Suitably embarrassed and more than a little frightened by her lack of discretion, Claire excuses herself. Too late, she realizes she fell for what Frank would've called a classic trap: allowing herself to be plied with food and drink while the interrogation continued apace. I know how you feel, Claire. It's the same story whenever I go home for a family gathering.
The next day, Claire tries to stay out of trouble by taking Jamie some food in the stables. Over their lunch, Jamie reveals that he's been on the run because there's a price on his head: he's wanted for murder. He says he's innocent, but it's why he travels under an assumed last name — MacTavish — since there are plenty of people who'd turn him for a bit of money.
Jamie also tells Claire that Dougal and Colum are his uncles, and they're well aware of his outlaw status. Claire wonders why Jamie has chosen to share all of this with her, when she could easily turn on him. "Well, you may be an English stranger, but you're also very hot" is actually NOT what Jamie says. "Didn't think about it. Decided to trust you instead" is all the explanation he offers.
Ending lunch, Claire playfully orders Jaime to avoid getting flogged or stabbed. "No promises, sassenach," he smolder-replies. You are killing me with your smolder-wit, Jamie.
Walking away from the stables, Claire catches one of Dougal's men keeping tabs on her. Though this guy is affable and oddly non-threatening, Claire has really had it with everyone's suspicions. I get her frustration, but also? Claire, you are English in a place where the English are routinely oppressing, harassing and imprisoning the citizens. Get a sense of perspective, lady!
But neither this insight nor the offbeat charm of Dougal's watchman relieves Claire's irritation as she loudly confronts Dougal, who tells her flatly that he thinks she may be an English spy. Claire takes great offense to this, because I guess Dougal should somehow have realized that she is not a spy, but a nurse from 200 years in the future? I mean, whenever I meet a sketchy stranger, "probably a time traveler" ALWAYS tops my list of theories. Don't get me wrong: I love Claire's spirit. I just wish she'd be a little more circumspect about how and when she decides to challenge the men who are — quite understandably — suspicious of her motives.
But Claire continues to put the "sass" in "sassenach" when she tweaks Dougal with the information that she'll be leaving for Inverness in four days — which Colum apparently never told him.
Trying to keep a low profile, Claire heads off to a quiet spot to check out some herbs and plants. She runs into another woman, Geillis Duncan, who chats Claire up about the healing — and harming — properties of the various plants.
Flamehaired Geillis isn't an outlander, but she is a bit of an outlier. She knows which flowers can induce an abortion and shares that she is commonly considered something of a witch, since the girls in the village visit her for any number of treatments. Likely a victim of unfair rumors herself, Geillis appears to have a certain affinity for "sassenach spy" Claire and invites Claire to visit her.
That evening, there's a hearing of grievances in the great hall at Castle Leoch, over which Colum presides. Geillis and Claire are hanging out in the back like two wayward teenagers at a high school assembly. The claims are mostly made in Gaelic and Geillis translates for Claire's benefit.
It all seems standard (read: boring) until a man pulls his daughter in front of Colum and demand she be punished for her "loose behavior." We see Mrs. Fitz watch tensely from the sidelines, but before any punishment can be meted out, Jamie steps forward and offers to take the girl's punishment for her. "MAKE HIM TAKE OFF HIS SHIRT" no one shouts from the crowd, much to my disappointment.
Colum allows still-shirted Jamie to take the beating (!) while the young girl runs into Mrs. Fitz's arms. "Watch yourself, lad, your uncle's up to something," Jamie's friend warns. Cut to Dougal looking disapproving. Jamie keeps a mostly good temper as he's punched in the gut, the back, the face and RIGHT ON HIS WOUNDED SHOULDER.
Jamie, still not shirtless, bows to his uncles and exits the hall.
Back in the kitchen, Claire tends to Jamie (will I ever stop having to write this sentence?) and asks why he took the young girl's punishment — he couldn't stand the idea of her being humiliated in the hall, shamed in front of everyone who knows her. For the already injured Jamie, what's another few cuts and bruises?
Mrs. Fitz comes back to thank Jamie — the young girl was her granddaughter — and turns away quickly as tears spring to her eyes.
Claire instructs Jamie to change his bandages and when he asks if it wouldn't be easier for her to do it, she tells him she's leaving. Jamie tries and fails to conceal his disappointment. As Mrs. Fitz's granddaughter comes in to talk to Jamie, Claire tells him goodbye. He smolder-wishes her a safe journey.
The following morning, Claire is all set to leave when Dougal informs her that Colum wants to see her. Led back in Castle Leoch, Claire again remembers her trip there with Frank, so frustratingly close to and far from her husband. In a dimly lit room, Claire comes face to face with Colum, who tells her the room is a surgery, meant to be used by a healer. It's currently unoccupied. Oh. Oh no.
But unlike the last time Claire was in this room — sharing an intimate moment with Frank — there won't be any joy today. Colum knows Claire is a healer and wants her to work in the surgery. "But I'm leaving!" Claire protests. "You're staying," Colum informs her. Claire rightly guesses that she won't be an employee so much as a prisoner.
Colum and Dougal lock Claire in the surgery, far from Inverness and even farther from home.
Next week: Claire decides to trust people with the information that she's a time traveler. This appears to go as well as you'd expect. What did you think of last night's episode? And if you're catching up, you can find all of our TV recaps here.