TV REVIEW: Outlander, S1, E2: Castle Leoch

After a resounding premiere with over 5 million people tuned in across all platforms, I’d say Starz has another hit on their hands! As previously mentioned, I’m one of the many who’ve read and been a fan of the novels for quite some time so I will do my very best not to mention any happenings from future books.

“Castle Leoch” finds Claire arriving at said castle to meet the Laird, Colum MacKenzie. As suspicions about her grow, Claire befriends the mysterious Geillis Duncan. When the clan discover her medical skills, Claire goes from guest to prisoner.

We are once again greeted by Claire telling us about her previous visit to Castle Leoch in the future (and we all remember what happened in that basement, now don’t we?) and how she despairs that she’ll never be able to find her way back unless she gets someone there to help her. But really, who would believe her story even if she told someone the truth? And another thing is wondering if the voiceover will start to grate after awhile. So far, so good though! Standing shivering in the courtyard, Claire witnesses the homecoming the highlanders receive and smiles as Mrs. Fitzgibbons enthusiastically greets the men.

But as her gaze turns toward Claire (who looks quite uncomfortable), she becomes more cautious, as one does when meeting a stranger. Upon Jamie’s explanation of her presence, Mrs. Fitzgibbons drags Claire along to “find ye something to eat and something to wear that’s a bit more…well a bit more.” Ladies in the 1740’s aren’t down with Claire’s 1940’s style! Whether she’s afraid to go with Mrs. Fitzgibbons alone or her nursing instincts are kicking up, Claire recognizes a kindred spirit in the older woman and explains about Jamie’s injuries, creating an excuse for her not to leave his side quite yet.

Looking a bit taken aback that Claire is a “charmer. A beaton.”, she leads them through the castle and we see Claire’s first trip down those very halls in flashbacks. Led to a room with a fire, Mrs. Fitzgibbons seems to know that Claire cares about Jamie’s well-being and says that she can call her “Mrs. Fitz” like everyone else. (And I shall do the same going forward!)

As Claire tends to Jamie’s wound, she uncovers a dark past written all over his back, littered with old whipping scars. Visibly uncomfortable with Claire’s disbelieving stare, he spits out that redcoats were responsible. One in particular – Black Jack Randall. Opening up to her, we go back into Jamie’s painful memory of the day he last saw his sister, Jenny, four years prior.

He explains that the English redcoats tended to go around in groups to collect a levy put on all the landholders in the area – so they would be forced to provide food, horses and other things like that. Jamie was working in the fields when he heard his sister’s screams. Jenny was being manhandled by the redcoats to provide something not quite in line with the levy’s terms. Telling her to run, he begins beating the bejesus (say that three times fast!) out of the soldier’s but stops when Black Jack threatens to kill Jenny.

Jamie surrenders but when he reveals that she is his sister, he is forced to look at her bared chest and veiled threat of rape as a message – don’t fight back or else. The whipping scene is painful to not only watch, but listen to. It’s our second glimpse at Black Jack’s sadism and we find out that Jenny went with Randall to stop him from being hit further.

With Heughan’s torso beautifully lit by the fire (thank you Director of Photography!), Claire continues to bandage him up until Jamie mentions her husband. This sets Claire off, thinking of how Frank must be searching for her but also realizing that he technically doesn’t exist yet so is “not alive”. It’s the first time she allows herself to be vulnerable in front of anyone and a comforting embrace is the beginning of a budding relationship between the two.

Jamie’s infamous line is upon us: “Ye need not be scairt of me, or anyone else here, so long as I’m with you.” Cue the swooning felt round the world!

Claire can’t just meet the Laird of the castle looking like she does. Getting a good night’s sleep and waking up with a bird’s nest for hair, she is gussied up by Mrs. Fitz (there are way too many layers to be put on in my opinion) before being presented to Colum MacKenzie’s study. Snooping a bit to find more information on where she is, the owner of said study appears – startling her into apology. She notices Colum’s condition – which is better known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome – but tries not to stare.

As they begin dancing around the reason why Claire is there – she tells us that the best lies are those that stick as close to the truth as possible only deviating on details that must be kept secret. So with that, she concocts a story of being a woman from Oxfordshire that was nearly raped but you can tell that Colum doesn’t completely buy it. He asks how a gentlemen of the King’s guard could rape a lady for no good reason to which she promptly replies: “Is there ever a good reason for rape?” Touche! 1 point Claire, 0 points MacKenzie.

At dinner, Claire intends to keep up her lies but is constantly plied with Rhenish – a very potent wine. Both MacKenzie brothers continue to question the now-drunk Claire hoping to catch her in a lie. Claire’s first misstep is mistaking Colum’s son as Dougal’s (or is it really a mistake?) but she excuses herself before making anymore errors.

Going to the kitchens, Mrs. Fitz gives Claire a knowing look as she inquires after Jamie’s whereabouts. He tells her more about his past – more than he’s ever told anyone else and reveals that he’s wanted for a murder he didn’t commit. This doesn’t seem to frighten her in the slightest. The trust between the two continues to build as she leaves for the castle to come upon Dougal’s spy following her. I love Claire’s firey exchange – the fact that she speaks her mind and doesn’t care about the consequences.

That might come to bite her in the behind though as she soon confronts Dougal, yelling accusations at him. He reveals that he thinks she’s a spy, which Claire incredulously replies, “Me?” She then spits out that she won’t be doing anything of interest over the next 4 days and drops some knowledge on Dougal – she’s leaving with Mr. Petree and his brother didn’t bother to tell him. 2 points Claire, 0 points MacKenzie!

Put to work in the fields, Claire finally meets the mysterious lady we’ve all been waiting to meet, Geillis Duncan. She slyly tells Claire that the mushrooms she’s picking are poisonous and inquires to whether she’ll be using them to off her husband. A bit of knowledge to put aside for later!

Back in the hall, Claire and Geillis look on as the tenants of the land come to have their arguments settled by the Laird. A young girl, Laoghaire MacKenzie is brought to be punished for being a hormonal teenage girl and Jamie takes her punishment instead. After being beaten, Claire once more tends to Jamie and he reveals that she would’ve been shamed. Mrs. Fitz brings some warming drink for him and thanks Jamie for what he did – visibly upset at the thought of what might have happened. Claire reveals that she’s leaving the next day and a disappointed Jamie says goodbye.

The next morning, Claire is plied with food and hugs from Mrs. Fitz but before she can leave, Colum requests her presence in the basement. He reveals that they have been without a castle physician – the last one died and that she won’t be going anywhere. She realizes that she’s not actually a guest but the “castle hermit” she mentioned in her first visit in the future. Distraught, she cries alone in her new home.

And another week has ended! I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode – but what did you think? Claire’s in an even worse situation than she was before – no escape in sight. If you’re a multiple re-watcher like myself, check on executive producer Ron D. Moore’s behind-the-scenes podcast on episode 2 here.

Rating: 5/5
Sharlene Mousfar

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