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“Where are we?” I croaked, my voice hoarse from cold and disuse.
“The keep of Leoch,” he answered shortly.
Castle Leoch. -Outlander
The keep of Leoch. And there is a ton of keeping in this episode- people kept out of Leoch and people kept in. People keeping secrets (Claire, Geillis) and people keeping confidences (Jamie). People keeping tabs on others (Dougal, Rupert) and people keeping hope that they can soon put this all behind them (Claire).
And one person decidedly not keeping promises:
Let’s get started.
Warning- This recap contains spoilers from Episode 102: Castle Leoch. It also contains spoilers from all three seasons of Outlander.
And here we are. It’s cold and muddy and decidedly without the promise of a hot bath. Claire discovers almost immediately that she is a person of interest- as anyone who shows up in their undergarments and with an English accent might be.
Here comes Mrs. Fitz! Don’t you just want to hug her? Warm but slightly formidable, friendly but cautious, efficient but understanding, Mrs. Fitz is the office manager of our dreams. If Colum and Dougal are the masters of the big plans of Leoch, you can best be assured that Mrs. Fitz is the one that keeps the place running with its small, everyday details. Soldiers can’t win wars if they haven’t had breakfast.
Mrs. Fitz is slightly impressed that Claire has some medicinal knowledge and I think she also respects Claire’s desire to tend to Jamie’s needs before her own. Although, honestly, it’s not such a huge sacrifice to tend to this man’s needs:
Mrs. Fitz conveniently leaves them alone and Claire sets right to work.
As Jamie begins to tell Claire some of his backstory (pun not originally intended, I promise) she realizes that perhaps the romantic vision Frank had of his ancestor, BlackJack Randall, was…misinformed.
Flashback to Jamie doing farm chores, looking exceptionally handsome. Can we please petition a revival for Oklahoma! on Broadway starring Sam Heughan? Oh what a beautiful morning, indeed.
But things go south rather quickly when Randall and his men harass Jenny, Jamie’s sister. Jamie consequently deals them a few blows and then suffers a lashing at the hands of the most sadistic man in the Highlands. He’s carted off to Fort William, left to assume that Randall raped Jenny.
The brutality of the story is softened a bit by Jamie looking like this while he tells it:
Oh, Jesus. RIGHT. FRANK. We have to get back to Frank.
But, first, there’s no harm in accepting a little comfort from a finely muscled half-dressed young Scotsman, is there?
NO, THERE IS NOT.
In all sincerity, this is a really great scene. Claire sort of breaks down with the fear and exhaustion of the last couple of days and it’s really one of the very few times we ever see her cry. I’ve noticed she never cries out of pity for herself, though- most of the times we see her cry she’s doing it out of fear or pain or grief for others.
There’s no other way to describe this except to say it is a really charged moment. It reminds me a bit of the LOOK Jamie gives Claire at the Governor’s Ball in Episode 312 (The Bakra)— it’s held juuuuuuust a beat too long and in that extra beat there is all sorts of meaning. Clearly these two have an instant, undeniable attraction. Also, this is the first time we hear Bear McCreary employ Jamie and Claire’s theme music.
“Ye need not be scairt of me, nor of anyone here, so long as I’m with ye.”
I mean…looking at this man he seems very believable, doesn’t he? This is the first of many, many times in their relationship that Jamie promises to protect Claire and it’s no wonder Diana fought for that particular line to stay in the episode. What makes it especially endearing is that Jamie doesn’t even really know Claire very well yet— it’s just his nature. Protecting others is simply what he does, no explanations needed.
Again, from years of reading Tom and Lorenzo’s costume analyses I know that when one character is in a state of undress it’s typically used to show a power imbalance. But here Jamie and Claire are both lacking most of their clothes so we are establishing early that they are equals in whatever relationship is developing.
Nope! It wasn’t a dream, as Claire might have hoped when she’s awakened later in the day by a bustling Mrs. Fitz. I have no doubt that Mrs. Fitz is the type of person who sleeps at night for three or four hours- tops- and then has little patience for the sloths who have the audacity to need more than that.
“It’s a brassiere; it’s from France.“
This line always cracks me up, mostly because of how easily Mrs Fitz accepts it as a reasonable excuse. Of course it’s from France! The French probably wear strange things all the time!
Interestingly, the World Wars and the metal shortages that ensued- especially during WWII- were really the death knell to the corset. The soldiers needed metal and so the bra once and for all replaced the corset during this era, exemplifying yet another way in which Claire’s life is uniquely tied to history and the bridging of two centuries.
And, seriously, good riddance. There are probably whole other blogs (and likely whole PhD dissertations) devoted to women’s fashion and gender equality so I won’t do it here, but think about how much time women used to devote to getting dressed and how restrictive- both in movement and function- those clothes really were. Ron Moore has said he wanted to film this dressing sequence in real time to show how involved the process was but it ended up taking so long that it would have been nearly half the episode.
I think we can all agree that she looks beautiful in the end but thank goodness we can now wear jeans; I’d never make it to the kinder drop-off in time if life still took this long.
And thus the makeover is complete. Twentieth century and English clothing gone. Full immersion into this phase of her life is nearly complete, at least from a costuming standpoint. Just as Terry Dresbach stripped Claire of most of her clothes by the end of the previous episode, here she has redressed- and rebuilt- her again.
Let’s just take a minute to admire the crazy amount of work that went into the set design of Colum’s gorgeous study. According to the podcast, the walls were hand painted to look like tapestries. I could spend all day on that set just discovering and staring at all the tiny details Jon Gary Steele included.
La di da…let me just snoop around and find out when in time I am…
So, actually, kudos to Claire for being up on her history. I mean, I guess she was married to a historian but I’m still impressed. Honestly, there are whole stretches of the nineteenth century where I’d have to really think hard about who might be president if I accidentally time-traveled. Harrison? Polk? Fillmore? Arthur? They all sort of blur together in a mutton-chopped haze.
Enter one Colum ban Campbell MacKenzie, laird of Castle Leoch. Where his body has failed him (he suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec syndrome, a bone and connective tissue disease caused by an enzyme deficiency), his mind has not. He is intelligent and extremely perceptive. Colum is outwardly friendly but inwardly assessing all possible angles and holes in Claire’s story.
As Claire flashes back to remembering Frank discussing interrogation techniques we see her wearing this 1940s menswear inspired outfit. We see it again when she returns to the twentieth century in Episode 201 (Through a Glass, Darkly):
Which makes sense logistically- if she had a suitcase full of clothes on their second honeymoon (they are with the reverend in the bar scene), then those would be the same clothes she wears when she returns- remember Frank left her suitcase behind in Episode 108?
But to me it also signals in this scene that she’s channeling Frank’s advice and a sort masculine energy while going toe-to-toe with Colum.
A lot happens in these first few minutes with Colum but to me this initial meeting really bookends nicely with their last meeting (Episode 212):
In this episode Colum has the upper hand; in the end it’s Claire who has all the power as Colum requests an assisted suicide. They are often adversaries but they share a mutual, shrewd respect.
Claire leaves her exchange wih Colum encouraged by his promise that she can leave in five days with a merchant who will be traveling back to Inverness. And with that good news and date to look forward to she finally marvels a bit in her circumstances:
“I did know something of this era- the politics, the people, the dress. Even some of their colloquialisms were familiar. But it was all secondhand knowledge, acquired from books, museums, paintings. It was like landing on an alien world you’d only glimpsed through the telescope.”
But then she spies adorable wee Hamish playing with Dougal- a very sweet scene…
…and she realizes that the more things change the more they stay the same.
The little actor they cast for Hamish is just so, so cute. He really looks like Aislín McGuckin, who plays Letitia.
Later in the day Claire experiences what it’s like being the new kid at school walking into the cafeteria (which, come to think of it, she probably never experienced having been raised by Uncle Lamb).
I love Murtagh in this scene– he gives just the barest flicker of a nod of approval as Claire walks by. Besides Jamie, he is really the first one to fully accept Claire, which says a lot about his character.
Colum plies Claire with some strong alcohol and attempts to unravel her story. She sort of stumbles around the details of her “distant family living in Compiegne” and sticks her foot in her mouth when she (correctly) assumes Hamish is Dougal’s son.
This look Dougal shares with Colum is so telling— this woman is keeping something from us but she’s also astute as hell.
The next morning Claire pays Jamie a visit for a bandage change and a picnic lunch and I feel like this screencap could also be used for the Fall issue of Coldwater Creek.
Everyone in this scene, including the horse, looks gorgeous and extremely color-coordinated. Jamie is shown with a white horse because we are trying to establish early that he’s a good guy.
“Just a girl with spirit is all. Always a good thing.”
I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are extremely glad you feel that way, Jamie.
Look at how they are dressed here- nearly identically with brown and white tops and similarly-colored tartan bottoms. And observe, too, how harmoniously they fit into the blues and browns of the landscape. As in the last episode, costuming here is being used to denote a sense of compatibility.
Jamie tells Claire more about his life and it’s pretty remarkable that he’s confessing so much, especially considering everyone is fairly convinced she is an English spy. But Jamie sees Claire for who she is and decides to trust her from the start.
Little details about Jamie’s life keep emerging. When Claire quips he is using nom de guerre (which translates literally to “war name”) Jamie is amused. So much conveyed in just that small sequence: he speaks French so we can deduce that he’s educated. He also has a sense of humor and is fairly impressed by Claire, who is also clearly very intelligent.
Gah, so amazing. I’d forgotton how beautiful the cinematography was in these early episodes. I’ve loved all three seasons but I really miss all these gorgeous, panoramic landscape views.
The next day Claire goes out foraging for edibles and medicinals and, what ho, who do we have lurking like a beautiful red-haired nymph among the plants?
Notice the first time we are ever introduced to Geillis she is costumed subtly but similarly to a witch:
They make introductions and it’s no wonder Claire develops a sort of attachment to her— Geillis is really the only one besides Jamie to offer friendship and Claire is probably drawn to her in a way she can’t quite understand. It’s fun to watch these early episodes with Geillis and Claire and see all the little ways they dance around each other with their shared secret.
I personally think Geillis suspects Claire is fellow time-traveler from the start. One of the very first things she discusses with Claire is how to induce an abortion and I honestly doubt she would discuss that willingly with a complete stranger of this time unless she suspected that stranger also hailed from a different era.
There is a passage from Drums of Autumn that leads me to believe this is true. Roger discovers that Geillis actually mentions Claire in her notebook journals:
“May 1, 1945. Craigh na Dun, Inverness-shire, Scotland. Claire Randall, age 27, housewife. Seen last in early morning, having declared intention to visit the circle in search of unusual plant specimens, did not return by dark. Car found parked at foot of hill. No traces in circle, no signs of foul play.”
So perhaps Geillis knows all along. Regardless, Claire has no idea and eagerly accepts this offer of friendship. I think she is especially hungry for connection once she learns that’s a Dougal is having her followed and virtually no one in the castle or town trusts her.
Later everyone gathers at the hall so Colum can settle tenant matters. How much of the budget do we think set production spent on candles here?
And looky who we have here…
…one Laoghaire MacKenzie, blonde-haired harbinger of trouble to come.
A few words about Laoghaire. Everything she does at Cranesmuir is inexcusable and I understand why people love to loathe her. But she’s a teenager in these early episodes and her father appears to be a bit of a jerk. When Jamie steps up to take her punishment I think it’s very reasonable for her to assume that he’s doing it because he maybe loves her… and maybe she’s also hungry for male approval. By the time we see her in Episode 308 (First Wife) she’s had her heart broken, she’s twice-widowed and one or both of her husbands was perhaps abusive. She definitely doesn’t get the fairy-tale.
So, as mentioned, Jamie offers to take Laoghaire’s punishment because that’s just what he does; he’s a good guy and he knows that Laoghaire might never recover from the shame. Also…I think maybe he’s also trying to impress Claire? Especially considering when his face falls a bit when Claire is later tending to his wounds and mentions she’s leaving:
They say their goodbyes, both likely ignoring the strong electric current that runs between them, and the next day Claire is practically giddy as she prepares to leave and make her way back to the standing stones and Frank.
But…not so fast.
Dougal summons Claire to the lower level of the castle- the creepy one where she correctly asssumed the castle hermit might dwell (hermit- from the Greek eremos, meaning desolate or bereft).
Whereas she and Frank had a bit of fun in this room last she was here, today not so much. Colum informs her that she will be staying at Leoch, at his pleasure, to serve as a healer. And thus we find out that Castle Leoch is much like Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
Have heart, Claire. I have a feeling that in about four episodes things will start looking…up. Pun totally intended this time.
See everyone next week!
photo credits: STARZ, NBC