Okay, so if you’re reading a TV recap, you probably know what a bottle episode is. Basically, it’s where the majority of the episode takes place in one location. You see this all the time because bottles are cheap to produce and can get a whole lot of character development out of the way so that future episodes can move on with the action.
They are also pretty hard to (make fun of) recap because they’re all “So-and-so did this” and “Whosey-Who did that” and this episode is worse because of the ultraviolence. Still, we press on. You and I are creating a masterpiece, after all, an exquisite drunken masterpiece.
We pick up where the last episode left off – Lt. White Knight is still asking Claire if she’s a guest or a prisoner of the Scots. She hems and haws and there’s some furtive expressions going on, but she eventually is like “No, it’s okay, really” and the Lt. is all “Well, seeing as how your Scots friends ganged up on me last time we met, it’s my turn, so you’re coming with me anyways.” He’s trying to be a gentleman, I guess, but I think this is more a ‘u mad bro?’ moment than him actually caring about Claire’s well being.
Uncle Mythbusters, for some reason, comes along. I seriously have no idea why. He wants to keep an eye on Claire? The suspected Spy? Who at any moment could say, “Yeah, not only did this guy let the Build Team go in a shameful manner, but he’s also fermenting a rebellion that you probably don’t have to worry much about because his operational secrecy is nil. Still, get’m!” Uncle could have sent in Angus or someone (not Jamie, due to outlaw status) instead and not put the nominal head of the clan and/or revolution in danger.
Anyways, Claire gets a bit smug as they ride off to the garrison. “Oh, I do so like hanging out with English soldiers,” she voices over (thus proving that Boring Frank was right to wonder if she cheated on him in the war), “And now Uncle Mythbusters is the Outlander! Can I get a ‘What a Twist!’ there M. Night?” At no point does she think, “Oh snap, I could meet that rapey guy who looks like my husband again, I should prep for that.” I mean, what are the chances that the evil English officer who is a dead ringer for her husband will show up at the English garrison? I mean, Black Jack apparently spends his time standing around in the woods waiting for someone to assault, so the chances of him being there ARE ACTUALLY VERY HIGH.
When Claire is brought into the dining room where she’ll be most of the episode, I was pretty much expecting Black Jack to be sitting on a throne of skulls or at least a high backed swivel chair that he could spin round in dramatically. Nope! Instead it’s a General who has placed very highly in the Upper Class Twit of the Year contest three years running. I wonder, did Tim McInnery, who played this sort of stereotypical noble on the first two series of Blackadder, try out for this roll, have his audition go seriously off the rails, and end up getting cast as Father Bane instead? I want to see those tapes.
General Twit, backed up by a Specific Twit, begin to twitter about the Scots and how much Scotland sucks while Uncle Mythbusters stands there in the room, facial hair a’rustlin with rage. Claire misunderstands the nature of a Bottle Episode and almost immediately tucks into the claret. Gee, Claire, remember last time you had to share a meal with a bigwig and how you got drunk and things didn’t work out great for you? No? Another glass then? Okay. I mean, Uncle Mythbusters just stormed out to get some “good Scottish ale” (doesn’t exist, we’ve been trying for weeks now and are down to Fraoch) and you’re alone with a bunch of David Camerons (I IZ TOPICAL!) who look like they have not seen a graceful swan neck in an age. Ach well, Claire. More claret. You be you.
Claire again tries to arrange transportation to Inverness, gets promised help, then fucks it up by opening her drunken mouth. Although maybe I’m being too hard on her – she was thrown off by the TOTALLY EXPECTED arrival of Ole Rapey, Black Jack Randall himself.
Now, I’ve read a lot of historical adventure stories set a few generations after Outlander. One of my favorites is the Sharpe’s Rifles series by Bernard Cornwell (it’s also been turned into a TV show starring a surprisingly long lived Sean Bean) and I think my love for that series and setting contributes to some of the problems I have with this show. Things are just close enough for me to recognize tropes, but because of some important changes, I get confused pretty easily. If Outlander was in the Sharpe camp, then Randall would be the hero. Sharpe’s a Man’s Man surrounded by petty twits and cowards, a dude who Gets The Job Done. The posh lady who turns her nose up at Sharpe for being a savage in the first chapter? She’ll be in his bedroll in the last.
But Sharpe is not a rapist. He’s not cruel. Black Jack Randall is both and this throws me off.
So when Black Jack shows up ready to chew the scenery (to the point of bringing enough dirt to dump in everyone’s claret), I’m totally on his side. Look! Here’s the gruff, practical guy who actually goes out and does things while the twits all sit and titter. He’s the guy saying, “Hey, we have a Person of Interest downstairs – why are we not interrogating him?” He’s acting straight out of the Dirty Harry playbook here – I half expect General Twit to be all like “You’re a loose cannon! You’re off the case, Detective Randall!” and Black Jack to be all “But I get results!” He even plays it cool with Claire by playing along and pretending to not recognize her. Claire then screws up by defending the Scots – “Maybe you shouldn’t gut and crucify so many of the people you’re trying to rule” is a controversial statement for the time.
There’s an opportunity for Randall to be the hero of his own story, to be something more than a pantomime villain, but that chance is thrown out when he starts to soliloquy. So what happened is that, in classic Claire Needs A Friend fashion, there’s a medical emergency and she gets to win over some people with her mad medicine skillz. Some redcoat gets brought in downstairs with a horrific wound and she helps to amputate. While she’s doing this, Randall apparently spends some time setting a Bad Guy Soliloquy Scene. When Claire returns, he’s getting a shave and starts to pontificate about what makes a good razor or whatever – I half expect him to suddenly sport black shades and an earpiece like Agent Smith from The Matrix.
Nothing good comes from a person taking the time to explain something that has nothing to do with the issues at hand. How many of these speeches did James Bond sit through? How many have we as an audience had to sit through?
And what’s up with the dude shaving Black Jack? He’s clearly nervous about this, meaning he hasn’t really done this before, which means this whole thing is for Claire’s benefit. Again, why do people spend so much time thinking about, plotting over, and otherwise Thinking About Claire? It’s like they know she’s a Main Character and that their very existence depends on being within her orbit. What’s more, it just goes to highlight just how reactive a character Claire is – what has she undertaken on her own? She’s done very little towards her goal of ‘Get To The Stones’ besides ask for a ride to Inverness from people who offer her one but then get put off by her and renege.
Anyhoo, we get out Bad Guy Scene with extra Flashback Topping as Jack recounts the tale of Jamie’s scars. I’m not going to lie – it was pretty gross, inhuman even. Jack wanted to be sure that there would be no sympathy for him at all, so he goes on about wanting to break Jamie so lashing him over his previous lashings. I’m not sure when this happened. Jamie was lashed at his house until his sister gave in to Jack’s demands, right? So this is Part II of those lashings? But there was something about a murder or something? I guess the important thing is that we have a Passion of the Christ level of gore – that sort of set piece drowns out any plot taken to get there.
Oh, and once you start going on about composing a symphony of pain or being part of an art of gore or whatever nutterbutter stuff Jack began to go on about, you’re pretty irredeemable as a character. Claire fails to notice this, of course (I note that bottle of claret has been open this entire time) and thinks she can use her Claire powers to fix Jack’s wounded soul and gain a friend.
Instead, she gains a swift punch to the gut. Jack even has his lackey kick her a few times (were his boots too dirty?). Yeah, yeah, we all know you dwell in darkness, Jack. We saw you write it on your Trapper Keeper in 3rd period math class. At this point, you’re a Heel of the Highest Order and I would not be surprised if you pulled out Jamie’s favorite puppy (complete with a lil kilt and wee hat) and ripped it in half. “Muhahaha,” you chortle over the remains of MacScruffles, “This has not advanced my cause of taming the rebellious Scottish people at all!”
Uncle Mythbusters bursts in, somehow able to hear kicks through thick floorboards and a taproom full of noise, and we’re all actually happy to see him for once. Why Jack didn’t have a guard posted on the door, I don’t know. Maybe there’s only two other redcoats left in the garrison and one is needed for shaving/kicking and the other just lost his arm. Who knows.
Now things start to get dumb. For some reason, Jack (and evil monster who is happy to whip people to death and may be responsible for those two crucified dudes from last time) lets Claire and Uncle Mythbusters go, but then is all like “you need to come back in a day, otherwise, uh… I’ll keep perpetrating atrocities on your people ?” Didn’t it take a day for Claire to get to the garrison to begin with? Ungh. Even time bends to Claire’s will OH WAIT
So Claire and Uncle Mythbusters head off into the sunset. Claire complains about her bruised stomach, which is fair because it looked like that hurt, but she seems to forget that she rode farther and longer with an actually shot Jamie and he didn’t complain at all. After this episode, I want to hear the backstory regarding his pain tolerance. I picked up The Exile graphic novel from work. I assume this will explain how Jamie was rocketed to Scotland from a distant, doomed planet and his pain tolerance is fueled by Earth’s yellow sun or something.
Uncle Mythbusters has A Plan, but first they need to pull off the trail and stop at a magic spring that makes the drinker tell the truth. Claire, who travelled through time due to magic stones, rolls her eyes at this, but Uncle believes she’s not a spy now. I’m adding “Is there a magic truth spring around here?” to my Questions To Ask While Time Travelling as that would really help cut through the red tape. “I need bauxite for my War Machine,” I would say, “And remember how I drank from that dirty stream and said I was totally on your side and also a, uh, angel and stuff? You should go get that bauxite.”
And what is Uncle Mythbusters’ Big Plan? A Legal Technicality! Yes! That will clearly stop people who are okay with gruesome torture and straight up murder! Sorry, you can’t get me, Mr. Redcoat! I’m touching base! Luckily, the legal technicality in question is the biggest of them all: marriage.
See, just as everyone knows that if you cross your fingers you can lie with no comeuppance, the MacKenzies ken that English laws only apply to you if you’re English, so if you’re Scottish you can disregard what the army officer says to you. I guess different nationalities grant you different legal superpowers, but since there are no Estonians around to marry, Claire will not be able to fly and will have to settle for Lethal Weapon II style Diplomatic Immunity.
Man, what is with the Mel Gibson references today?
Claire immediately starts drinking as she goes over the marriage contract. Good job, Claire, make this bottle episode your own. Although, I guess being intoxicated is not the best way to review a legal document, but it was a different time. Maybe she just found out that the actor who plays Jamie’s real name is ‘Samwise’ and she’s trying to drink away the nerd shame? Here she was thinking she’d be marrying some highland rogue with a high pain tolerance and it turns out she’s marrying the guy who used to run my D&D games back in high school.
Jamie does little to counter this impression he he admits that he’s a virgin.
Oh ho ho.