Show/Episode: Outlander 1x15: Wentworth Prison
This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Outlander, including the most recent Season 1, Episode 15, “Wentworth Prison.” Enjoy!
Jamie has never been nearer to death. Though Tarran MacQuarrie attempts to distract Jamie from the matter at hand with literal gallows humor, it doesn’t work. Jamie isn’t afraid of the rope, but what Claire will think of him for getting himself hanged. Got his priorities straight, our Jamie. There’s no chatter, no background noise at all to leaven the grimness of this scene, and even MacQuarrie’s patriotic speech is cut short as his neck breaks…mostly. No sooner is the rope around Jamie’s neck than Black Jack Randall rides in and orders Jamie’s execution stopped. Jamie’s expression says it all – there has got to be something sinister behind this reprieve, and, as we find out, there certainly is. Book fans, you know what’s coming.
Claire, however, does not. She has one thing in mind and one thing only; to get Jamie out of there by any means necessary. If that means posing as a distant relative and convincing the pious warden, Sir Fletcher, that she’s concerned Jamie can’t write his mother final farewell, then that’s what she’ll do. Not as easy as she thought, as Sir Fraser thinks meeting a dangerous criminal is too dangerous for a fine lady, but he will entrust Jamie’s effects to her. Can she get them to his next of kin? Claire keeps a stiff upper lip long enough to accept the box, but staggers outside and collapses, with sobs and vomit, her agony palpable.
Also palpable is the disgust she and Murtaugh feel over Angus and Willie’s losing all their money at a game of dice…until they learn the money was lost to prison guards, who gave up some priceless information. Sir Fletcher always takes time to dine and read his Bible in private, which will give Claire a shot at finding the keys.
Jamie finds his suspicions about Black Jack’s motives are right, and the two men begin a dance of brutal power and resistance. Black Jack slithers through his scenes, dripping elegant malice with every prick and prod. That complaint Jamie lodged against him, the one that should have been presented at Court? Damning evidence, that, which is why Black Jack burns it in front of Jamie. Black Jack inquires if his face haunts Jamie’s dreams, until Black Jack brings Claire into it. Then, Jamie lunges, fierce and primal. What does Black Jack want?
His answer? Surrender. If Jamie will admit that he escaped Fort William, but not Black Jack himself, then Black Jack will allow Jamie to choose the manner of his death, something clean and honorable, not the messy business of hanging. Every man, he intones, can be broken. Oh, and can he see Jamie’s back? Yes, if it will make Black Jack stop talking. For a moment, it does. Jamie whirls on Black Jack, insisting that Black Jack has it the wrong way around; It’s Jamie’s face Black Jack sees every night.
Black Jack does not like this at all, and smashes Jamie’s hand with a hammer. The camera doesn’t hold back, and it’s easy to feel Jamie’s pain as well as his resolve with every expressive twitch and grimace. Why, Black Jack asks, his tone hurt and silky at once, does Jamie make him do this? He forces Jamie to look at him, then to feel his erection, before he thrusts a resisting Jamie away. Black Jack wants Jamie willing, and he’s only trying to help him. Why must Jamie make this difficult? He stalks off.
Claire, drawn to the cell by Jamie’s screams, vows she won’t leave without Jamie, though he urges her to run. Nobody, however, is going anywhere, as Black Jack returns. Claire should have slit his throat when she had the chance, and Black Jack agrees, before pinning Claire to the bars of the cell. Black Jack himself may not be in the mood for cunt that night, but perhaps his guard is, oh, and is Jamie watching? Oh yes, he is.
Jamie offers himself in Claire’s place. Black Jack can have him, if he lets Claire go. Claire sobs her refusal, but Jamie begs her silence, even as Black Jack nails Jamie's ruined hand to the table, then demands a kiss. Jamie complies, then demands Black Jack take Claire away. This is an act of love, raw in its pain and beauty. Claire refuses to go, but Jamie insists she must, because he loves her. Claire doesn’t go easily, though, but curses Black Jack by whispering the day, month and year of his death, which she knows from Frank’s studies, into his ear. This startles Black Jack enough to push her through a trap door, onto the bodies of the executed men, before he hurries back to Jamie.
Black Jack gives Jamie his word that Claire is safe, (riiiight) then cuts Jamie's shirt open down the back. His fingers stroke Jamie's scars with a perverse, intimate pleasure. How does it feel to be alive and yet have so much dead flesh? Shall he begin? Begin? What? There’s more? Oh yes, book fans, there is, but we’re going to have to wait for the season finale on that one.
Claire, undaunted, finds shelter in the home of Sir Marcus MacRannoch, ready to bargain for his help. He won't give it. He has to look after his own, and it's not worth the Redcoat's ire. Claire offers Jamie's mother's pearls, which should be the right thing to do, as Marcus was the one who gave them to Ellen. It's still not enough. Fine. Claire and company will rescue Jamie themselves… with the help of nineteen head of cattle.
Black Jack: : Do I make you uncomfortable? Do I haunt your dreams since Fort William? When you awaken in the middle of the night, shaken and sweating, is it my face you see looming in the darkness? Tell me, when you lie upon your wife, and her hands trace the scars on your back, do you ever think of me?
Claire: I’m not going to leave you.
Jamie: Yes, you will. Do as I say. I love you.
Claire: Witch, I am. I curse you. I curse you with the knowledge, Jack Black Jack. I give you the hour of your death.
Charting the Course: Claire and Jamie both prove, achingly, that they really will do anything for love, while Black Jack finds ever more ways to perfect the art of psychological torture. It’s a delicate dance between body and soul, keeping us viewers on the edge of our seats.
Next stop: Episode 16, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.