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Two Takes: Outlander “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” 

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.

The penultimate episode of Outlander‘s first season gave us a Black Jack Randall at his most brutal. It was tough to witness him crush then nail Jamie’s hand. And then, of course, things took on a more sexual nature. By the end of the episode it was clear that Jamie’s nightmare was far from over. It would continue in the finale, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul.”

Tina: Kara, I was grateful that the episode didn’t pick up right where things left off in “Wentworth Prison.” However, seeing Jamie’s rescue right off the bat only delayed the inevitable. It wasn’t too long before the flashbacks started. And it took all I had to get through these scenes.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.

Kara: This episode f*cked me up. I had to pause it a lot. I mean, we knew things were going to get worse because Randall promised to break Jamie. And the fact that Jamie kept asking people — Randall, Murtagh (not sure on this, as they speaking Gaelic, but it seems likely) and Willie — meant that whatever Randall did made him value his life so little that he’d prefer death. Can we talk about heartbreaking?

Tina: I didn’t pause any of it. But I kept looking away…looking at my phone…looking at whatever would distract me. That’s how I got through it. I can’t stand seeing Jamie in so much pain and anguish…physically and down deep to the core of his soul. It’s too much to handle. Those scenes were difficult to watch because they went there. They didn’t hold back. I don’t blame Jamie for breaking. But he sure blames himself.

Kara: Oh, we know Jamie blames himself. But before we get to that I want to talk a little about how the book and TV show differ here. First of all, MacRannoch is much more involved in this rescue in the book. Not only does he provide the cows for the distraction, but Jamie’s broken body is taken to his house and tended there. And Jamie’s physical wounds are much worse in the book. In addition to the hand, Randall whips Jamie again and Claire also finds evidence of cane marks, use of a hot poker (in addition to the brand) and a few of Jamie’s ribs are broken as well. I’m glad they toned that way down for the show, because I don’t think I could have taken it.

Tina: It does feel like a lot of the end of the novel had to be sacrificed for time. The book was over 800 pages so there’s no way they were going to be able to fit everything. Not even close. I’m also glad they toned down a bit of the brutality. And I don’t think we needed all of the MacRannoch/cows exposition. And sorry for jumping way ahead but the one aspect I felt was rushed was the part where Claire helped Jamie recover at the abbey. I could have used some more of that. Which is weird for me to say because when I originally read the book I remember thinking they spent too much time there. Go figure.

Kara: I’m glad you brought that up, because I completely agree. I think it’s also important to mention that the abbey is in France in the book (so they’ve already sailed on the Cristabel and arrived at their destination), whereas in this episode it’s close enough to the prison that Murtagh has to keep an eye out for the Redcoat patrols. There are actually quite a few differences in the book, but let’s get back to the episode.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.

Tina: Well, as you can imagine, Jamie post-rape is in such a bad, dark place. He’s suicidal. He’s in a lot of pain. He’s not eating. But one of the first tasks Claire has to tackle at the abbey is fixing her husband’s hand. Kara, I just couldn’t stomach watching Claire sew and stretch and splint and do whatever she needed to do to save it. I really don’t know how Jamie’s been able to take so much pain in his life. It’s a good thing Claire’s able to give him something to knock him out. But that’s a painful injury in today’s world let alone back in the 1700s.

Kara: Yeah, I had to cover my eyes and it’s interesting that Jamie is so blase about Claire fixing his hand. He would’ve been permanently crippled without her expertise. But, at that point Jamie isn’t in his right mind. He’s so clearly traumatized and Claire’s just trying to keep it together. Afterwards, Claire needs some time to herself and goes to the chapel. She clearly needs someone to talk to and I’m so happy she shared her story — her secret — with someone and that he believed her.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.

Tina: I loved Claire coming clean with Father Anslem. She tells him everything. She reveals she’s from the future and tells him how she basically got to where they are now. She even tells him how she went on trial for being a witch. His reaction is unexpectedly amazing. He believes her almost instantly. There’s another secret that needs to be outed. And that’s why Jamie continues to shut Claire out. It gives way to one of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever witnessed on TV.

Kara: Their first go around was quite violent — the evidence of which we see when Jamie’s crawling away from Randall — but he hasn’t broken Jamie, not yet. Randall asks: “Are we close? Have you reached your limit yet?” But he knows Jamie hasn’t, so I guess Randall’s really just taunting him with those words. At this point, Randall knows he needs to involve Claire to get what he really wants from Jamie. Randall wonders how Claire still has power over Jamie, even now. He wants Jamie to prove that he belongs to Randall, so he makes him brand himself.

Tina: It’s criminal how much Jamie has to endure but he has to get everything out in the open so he can begin to heal. Claire uses lavender oil to trigger a response out of her husband. And it works. Things get physical at first between them. But after she sees the JR brand, Jamie confesses that Black Jack “made love” to him. And then it cuts to the flashback where Randall’s gently tending to Jamie with the lavender oil. He keeps mentioning Claire. He uses so many different tactics to break Jamie. This might be the worst. Jamie blames himself for giving in to the “pleasure.” But he needed an escape from the pain. It’s just all so sad.

Kara: I hate that Jamie blames himself. He thinks he was weak because Randall broke him, but Claire knows he did what he had to do to stay alive. But in following Randall into that darkness, even if it was against his will, Jamie feels like he’s failed himself and he failed Claire. She tries to reassure Jamie that he still belongs to her and that she still belongs to him, but he calls her words “weak.” I feel like Jamie doesn’t full realize Claire’s commitment to him until she tells him she’ll die with him if he’s so determined to put an end to himself. I guess that’s what it takes for Jamie to realize maybe they can get through this together.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Ent.

Tina: So I have a couple of questions for you. What did you think of the end of the episode? And what did you think of the episode overall?

Kara: I have to be honest: I didn’t love the ending, maybe because it’s so different from the book. I preferred the way the book handled Jamie’s assault and his recovery. There were issues with that version too, but it just made more sense to me. Of course, I do like that Jamie’s excited to be a father. It’s a shock that Claire’s even pregnant considering she thought she was barren. And I like that because Claire and Jamie know the future, they’re going to try to change it and make a difference.

How about you? What did you think of the episode and the season as a whole?

Tina: I think it’s hard to say this is an episode that I love because there’s so much pain, heartbreak and devastation. The performances in “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” are amazing — especially Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan. However, the drama in the finale is a bit draining. The ending is hopeful, which is cool, but I must confess it felt a little weird after experiencing 55 minutes of emotional turmoil. But I think capturing the final chapters of the book was always going to be challenging. There’s a lot they had to leave out. It’s a little more glaring in these last two episodes than in any other part of the season.

As for the big picture, I can’t get enough of all things Outlander. I enjoyed being along for the ride in season one. Starz bringing this series of books to life gives me life. The cast they assembled was simply perfection — Caitriona Balfe is a star. So are Sam and Tobias. I think my favorite episode overall was “The Devil’s Mark” followed closely by “The Wedding.” Your thoughts?

Kara: I probably have favorite moments more than favorite episodes. I like that we got more of Frank in the series than we got of him in the book. I enjoyed watching Claire and Jamie fall in love, although I was way more resistant to it in the beginning. I like how being in 18th century Scotland didn’t really change Claire – she was still the same strong, opinionated woman fighting for what’s hers and what’s right. A lot of the supporting cast was superb — Jenny, Father Bain, and Ned to name just a few. This series made me feel so much and while I didn’t enjoy every minute of it, I’d watch it again in a heartbeat.

I’m looking forward to season 2. I haven’t read Dragonfly in Amber yet. I guess I’ll do that over the break so I don’t go through too much withdrawal.

Season 2 of Outlander premieres in 2016 on Starz.

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1 Comment

  1. Cheryl L.

    I think the last episode was hard to watch for two reasons. Those of us who read the book knew there was much more to the whole event. So in some ways it does feel we were left wanting. Not that we wanted to see more, but that it likely left those who haven’t read the books stunned and not truly understanding the darkness and return.
    My husband made me promise him it gets better! (Less creepy to him.).

    Second because Sam and Tobias made it so real. I expect that both actors will feel uncomfortable about it and the questions that will come their way for a long time! Kudos to the show!

    A bit off topic. My husband simply doesn’t understand why the characters continue to be so stupid. He thinks that it was downright dumb of Jamie and Claire not to kill Black Jack when they had the chance. And, stupid of the Highlanders not to make sure he’s dead in the prison. Mind you, he’s not read the books and has no idea what Randall’s future is. Also thinks Claire needs to get with the program. Ok, he’s a writer and inconsistent bits really bug him.

    I’m really ready for season 2. Vive La France!

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