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Episode 106, “The Garrison Commander,” is not one for the feint of heart.  Claire’s meeting with Black Jack Randall is expanded from the book version to take up most of the episode.  Ron D. Moore’s expanded adaptation was intended to help shed light on the diabolical behavior and nature of the infamous Captain of Dragoons.  The flashbacks to Jamie’s flogging as Black Jack Randal recounts the events to Claire are disturbing and difficult to watch.  Two of our favorite scenes occur at the end of the episode and offer some much needed levity from the brutality of most of the subsequent scenes.  Therefore, rather than focusing on the darkness in which BJR tells Claire he belongs, we will focus on a scene that illustrates Jamie’s strength and defiance of his tormentor.

“The boy would not beg.”

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UGH!  This scene was both the best and the worst for me.  It was awful to watch, yet so masterfully played.  From an acting standpoint it is exceptional.  We have not just the voice over from Tobias (as BJR) in that flat affect, but Sam really sells so convincingly the pain of the flogging and Jamie’s stubborn determination not to acknowledge it.

From a narrative POV, THIS small but effective scene is the crux of the relationship between Black Jack Randall James Fraser.  This moment is what precipitated BJR’s fascination/obsession.  Jamie’s strength of will became Jack’s white whale.  And we know how THAT turns out.  Grrr.

This scene, this horrible, awful, beautiful scene so perfectly showcases and explains everything that comes after it.  Everything.  All of Black Jack’s subsequent actions (and words) to both Jamie and Claire are predicated by what he says here.  We see that he likes to hurt.  He likes to break.  He attempts it with Jamie in the actual flogging.  He attempts (and perhaps succeeds) in the recounting of it to Claire.  I don’t believe that it was a moment of self-reflection for him.  It was a moment of pride.  He was gloating to Claire, and thereby breaking her trust that somewhere inside him was a decent human being.  He set her up perfectly for the literal/metaphorical gut punch that comes next.  BJR is literally the worst.

Even though this passage is less than a page in the book, I love that they devoted an entire episode to it in the series.  It was important not just to learn the lengths that BJR will go to, but we learned a lot about Jamie and Claire as well.  We actually learned a great deal about Jamie, more so than we have probably learned up to this point.  Yes, we were told of the flogging, but Jamie brushes it off.  He does not want people (Claire, Alec) to be uncomfortable or pity him for it.  But we never see the strength of character or stoic nature that Jamie has until we see the moment.  We see EXACTLY what Jamie is willing to put himself through for the people he loves.  We see the pride that Jamie has.  This pride is not a character flaw.  It is a pride of WHO he is… not just as a man, but as a Scot.  He is a symbol of the Scottish people.  They are beaten, shackled, and abused, but they are not broken.  They will not beg.    -S

“Well, I must admit, the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me.”

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I love Graham McTavish, but his character, Dougal, is not a favorite of mine.  That said, in Episode 106, Dougal has a line of dialogue that has become iconic in the Outlander fandom.  “Well, I must admit, the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me…”   Truthfully, with the possible exceptions of Father Bain and the Duke of Sandringham, who among the male characters wouldn’t like to grind Claire’s corn?

People who had not read the Outlander books before seeing this episode must have been anxious to learn exactly who Dougal had nominated for the position of Claire’s husband.  They must have breathed a sigh of relief to learn that it was not Angus, Rupert, or even Murtagh, but Jamie.  Don’t worry, Claire.  Everything is going to work out just fine.

“I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.”

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Claire, you are a lucky woman.  Dougal nominated Jamie for the job.  (Though I must add that Jamie is also lucky because God is giving him a “rare woman.”)  This is one of my all time favorite scenes. Claire isn’t pleased about the forced marriage, but with the aid of a bottle of whisky she reconciles herself to it.  Jamie isn’t nearly as bothered about it.  Their mutual attraction is strong, but he is willing to do anything to protect Claire from Black Jack Randall.  The look on Claire’s face when Jamie informs her that he is a virgin is simply priceless.  The thought of de-flowering the young highlander clearly makes her anxious, but as we will see in the next episode, “The Wedding,” Jamie is a quick learner.  In fact, in the book, Claire reflects that “Virgins are highly underrated.”   -D

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http://decider.com/2016/07/08/outlander-s2-finale-preview/

Tomorrow night, Outlander is poised to take its beloved hero to his doom on the battlefield. Despite Claire and Jamie’s best efforts, the Battle of Culloden is going to happen. Scottish highlanders will be cut down and their way of life destroyed. Oh, and Claire is going to have to return to her timeline, to raise Jamie’s daughter with Frank.

Outlander fans know all this. It’s been teased since the Season Two premiere. What they might not know yet is that tomorrow night’s supersized 90-minute long episode might be one of the most emotional, most romantic, and most, well, fun in the series’ whole run.

Season Two of Outlander had a lot to recommend it. Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, and Tobias Menzies all brought their A game as they each tore into some of the most emotionally challenging material on television. The trio kept everything emotionally grounded even as the show sometimes spiraled even further away from straight-forward logic. Likewise, the set and costume design were stellar. Claire’s gowns were worthy of a Fashion Week runway. The story itself reached delirious new dramatic heights.

Still, not all of it worked 100% of the time. The first half of the season sometimes felt like a sorry slog through unthinkable tragedies. We saw lovable characters raped and Claire lost her baby. Not to mention the fact that Claire and Jamie were often on the outs with one another. Overall, the whole Paris part of this season was not a lot of fun. Things finally perked up once the show went back to its roots in Scotland, as the story hurtled towards destiny, and as Claire and Jamie solidified their commitment to one another.

It’s not that the show shouldn’t court tragedy and discord, but Outlander works best when Claire and Jamie are a solid, supportive team and when it’s dealing with the emotional fallout of trauma. While many dramas lean on thrilling moments and shocking twists, Outlander actually soars highest when it’s showing its characters ruefully picking up the pieces of the tragedies that have occurred. It’s a show about the beauty of surviving, about looking at all the horrors you’ve seen and declaring that you won’t give up. Something is worth fighting for — and that something is usually love.

That’s why tomorrow night’s season works so well. It not only ties up numerous story threads from the first two seasons, but it opens the door for more adventure. The entire 90-minute episode is split between narratives about our heroes coping with an oncoming tragedy and trying to make sense out of the fallout. Oh, and those new kids hyped in Entertainment Weekly? (Click here to be spoiled.) They’re both pretty swell and give the show a breath of fresh air. The finale is going to tug at fans’ heartstrings just as it declares that there’s going to be a new energy and swagger next season.

Needless to say, it’s worth the wait.

The Season Two finale of Outlander airs Saturday, July 9th at 9 PM on Starz.

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