Already seen Episode 12? Keep reading at the end for some additional, spoiler-filled notes.
So, the secret’s out. Jamie knows everything there is to know about Claire. That’s it. Show’s over. Everyone can go home.
Except, it isn’t. There are another five episodes to go. Which begs the question: what the hell do they talk about now?
The answer arrives almost immediately: airplanes. The couple chat giant metal birds, as Jamie quizzes Claire on travel in the future, while riding a horse across the countryside. It’s a wonderful little sequence, not least because of Sam Heughan’s adorably surprised face. This is one of those rare times that we get to see the couple happily interact together without them having sex. (No, there’s no sex in this episode.)
The fact that Jamie describes the thought of flying so high as God’s own view, just as the camera swoops over the stunning Highlands in a helicopter, only makes it more fun: after the big events of recent episodes, Lallybroch feels like a reminder of all the other things that the show is good at, from location and direction to cast and character.
Speaking of Lallybroch, that’s where we spend the majority of the hour, as Claire sees where Jamie’s family comes from – a cute stone house with its own land and tithes to be paid by nearby clans. It’s a welcome shift of focus for the show, giving us more of our strapping Scottish fella’s back-story now that Claire’s mysteries have been largely solved. Lallybroch, of course, is the place where we saw Randall whip Jamie and molest his sister, Jenny (an immediately likeable Laura Donnelly). It’s understandable, then, that he’s concerned she might have given birth to his bastard child. (The word sounds even better with a Scottish accent.)
Hilarious insults swiftly fly between the siblings, proving that the family is headstrong and sassy in all departments – especially when it comes to dealing with Black Jack. But Jamie’s return home also brings a less amusing side to his character, as he warms to the authority of his position. “I’m the Laird. You’re my lady,” he informs Claire, before getting soundly sozzled. (Did we mention there was no sex? Not for the first time does Claire dictate the rules of carnal engagement.)
A string of tiny conflicts follow, from parents abusing their kids (which Claire is naturally not pleased with) to Jamie hiding from redcoats with his clothes off. These are far smaller fry than previous plot lines, but that’s what proves so strong about this chapter: it’s a reminder that while our couple are technically closer than ever before, they’re also further apart. “When I’m 40, you’ll be 245!” jokes Jamie at the start, but there’s a serious gap opening up beneath the humour.
It’s a sad thing to see after the cheerful introduction. The dynamic between Jamie and Claire has never been better, which makes it easier for us to invest in their relationship: their bond is now riding on sincere emotion rather than secrets and suspense. Which means Outlander has to turn to another source of tension – and, impressively, that peril now belongs to Jamie, rather than his newly happy wife. With no voice over to bother us either, Episode 12 proves that Outlander can still exist even after last week’s truth bombshell. Even more importantly, it proves you still want to see what happens next.
Season 1 of Outlander is out now on DVD and available to own from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. You can also watch it online on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, if you would also like unlimited UK delivery and 350,000 eBooks available to borrow, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership.
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Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– After meddling with that violent parent, Claire lands Jamie and Jenny with a child to look after – an extra mouth to feed just after Jamie has exonerated everyone from paying their rents. Well done, Claire. But who will that kid grow up to become? Our money’s on this having some kind of consequence down the line.
– “How did this shirt get there?” asks one redcoat, when he stumbles across Jamie’s clothes while he’s hiding naked in a lake (halfway through trying to repair the windmill like a male man). “It’s Scotland, sir,” jokes his fellow soldier. Add in a shot of Sam covering his bits – and those gruesome scars – and you’ve got a striking sight indeed.
– The episode’s biggest strength is in seeing how these two siblings react to Randall. Jenny laughs at him, as he tries (and fails) to assault her. Jamie, on the other hand, was invited to be buggered to avoid a second whipping – a crucial balancing of the scales, after Outlander’s obsession with man-on-woman sexual abuse.
– It’s also important to note that Jamie refused not out of homophobia, but because he didn’t want his father to see him give up his will to another man – a shot of his dad fainting (and dying) while he’s being flogged is a moving demonstration of Jamie’s belief in holding your own.
– “There’s a devil in that man,” says Jamie about Randall, as he and Jenny reconcile at their father’s grave (which Jamie initially refused to visit). He got that right. What a pervert.
– The final shot of Jamie at gunpoint is a huge surprise, but – like the sexual abuse – also directs peril at someone other than Claire. Will this scenario string out for another eight episodes? Who knows? But it’s a treat to see a cliffhanger involving a different character, which is enough to keep us tuning in.