Outlander: The Garrison Commander (1×06)
Synopsis: Claire and Dougal are taken to The Garrison. Claire meets Brigadier General Lord Thomas. She is also reunited with Black Jack Randall as he questions her intentions.
Oh, sweet, sweet Tobias Menzies. I remember when you were merely Edmure Tully, the foolish flopping trout of Riverrun.
And now here we are…
I don’t even really know if I enjoyed this week’s episode. I mean, yes it was great to see a different side of things, especially from the side of the Redcoats. Remember last week when I commented on the attractive Lieutenant Jeremy Foster (Tom Brittney)? Well, it’s safe to say that my concerns are most likely wrong, as he seemed to be the only Brit who wasn’t an insufferable asshole. I would enjoy a romance novel in which he falls in love with a highland woman and changes his point of view (just saying, he was spending some time in that village, I don’t doubt there could be some fanfiction out there with him).
In this episode, we get to see Fort Williams, also known as The Garrison. In a stark contrast to Castle Leoch, there is no warm welcome here for the arriving soldiers with Claire and Dougal. Immediately we meet Brigadier General Lord Thomas (John Heffernan), who seems not only pretentious but a little bit dim in comparison to Lieutenant Foster and Captain Randall. His attitude seems to set off Claire’s temper; although she might have been treated a little crudely by the Mackenzies, she shows her true colors defending the Scots against the insults of the British. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bode well for her when she does.
It takes less than ten minutes with the lobsterbacks to accept the sad fact that Dougal is more of a gentleman than most of the men in the room. However that doesn’t mean Claire can’t fend for herself. She is wined and dined by Lord Thomas, and wins their trust to take her to Inverness. It is only when Captain Randall enters the mix that this situation is muddled.
Most of the episode is spent between Claire and Randall, who not only reveals his own sadistic nature, but also reveals just how smart he is. It makes him into a perfect villain, as well as a perfect opposite to his descendant Frank Randall. There is a small scene in which Claire amputates a man’s leg, and although it reminds us (yet again) that Claire is a tough cookie, it seems to serve more as a scene to interlude between the Lord and his men leaving and Claire returning to an empty room with Randall.
So, if you’ve been reading these recaps that I’ve made, you know that I am a fan of Frank and Claire. Sure, I love Jamie, but we’ve gotten only a few scenes between the two versus the intimate and emotional scenes we’ve had with Frank and Claire. With the return of Black Jack Randall this week, I can pretty much say that Tobias Menzies is the king of this whole damn show.
I love the offset of Black Jack and Frank as two wildly different characters. Frank is slick, he’s a spy, he’s a gentleman, he’s a scholar, he’s warm and kind. Jack is rough, he’s a soldier, he’s a bastard, he’s cold and cruel. I love when actors are able to play two drastically different characters, so I applaud Menzies’s work in this episode.
That being said, I also really enjoy Black Jack Randall’s character. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is a thick complexity to every character in this show. Jack is no exception. He’s a villain in every meaning of the word, but he’s not just snarling and snapping at everything he touches, he’s manipulative and quiet as much as he is loud and wrathful. He instantly sees through Claire’s lies, and much like Dougal, trusts very little of what she says. He lures Claire into a false sense of security, and when she finally thinks she’s safe, he beats her down quite literally. Claire, who might have been fooled by Randall’s likeness to her husband, is given a very firm confirmation that Black Jack Randall is not her husband, Frank Randall at all.
I’ve got to say, Jack’s rendition on the tale of whipping Jamie was pretty gruesome. Not only because we see Jamie’s back actually falling off with each lash of a nine-o-tails, but because we see a very dark picture of the true sadist that inhabits the soul of Jack Randall. He is not only whipping Jamie because it is an order, he is doing it because it is transcending him to some dark place where he feels a connection to a person through that violent torture.
Ultimately, it is Dougal who comes to the rescue. They barely make it out alive before Dougal stops at a spring with Claire to take a drink from some water. They end up at a spring that is known to have magical waters in which after a person takes a drink from the water, if they lie, they die. Dougal watches as Claire drinks from the spring before questioning her, with a knife behind his back just in case.
It’s interesting to see that for once the Brits seem to be knocking at the right door, Dougal and the other Highlanders are a superstitious bunch. However, while I’d believe Dougal is superstitious, I also know that there is a part of him who believes that Claire is not a spy. She may not be who she says she is, but she isn’t a spy.
Demanded by the Redcoats to bring Claire back to The Garrison, Dougal then tells Claire that the only solution for her to avoid Jack Randall is to make her into a Scotswoman instead of a British woman. While it’s funny to imagine Dougal married to Claire for a hot minute, we obviously know that she’s been paired with Jamie. It seems that Dougal and Ned have been prepared for this, and Claire must face the reality that she must marry Jamie in order to be safe from Black Jack.
It’s emotional for her, as we know Frank clearly still fills her memories. But it is also obvious to us as viewers that she and Jamie have a strong connection, and he has sided with her more than once. And despite Laoghaire’s attraction to Jamie, he makes it clear that his status as a criminal makes him undesirable as a husband to fathers. Claire makes an interesting comment about her virginity, “Doesn’t it bother you that I’m not a virgin?” (though I’m pretty sure Jamie took that into account as you are a ‘widow’), but it doesn’t seem to faze him as he responds, “Well no, as long as it doesn’t bother you that I am. I reckon one of us should know what they’re doing!”
Although we are left without a real response from Claire, as she walks off past the Mackenzies, we can guess that she has no choice but to say yes. Especially with an episode title like “The Wedding” in the next episode. It remains to be seen how the British will react to this new development. For now, we can be satisfied with Murtagh’s gleeful smirk as Claire walks off with a bottle of alcohol.