Outlander Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON is about hope. Claire hopes she can rescue Jamie from the gallows. Randall hopes he can break Jamie before the object of his obsession permanently escapes, and Jamie hopes to meet death on his own terms.
Ironically, it’s Claire’s actions which enable Randall’s dreams-come-true and launch Jamie into a lifetime of nightmares. I’m not attempting to add unnecessary hype to Episode 116, but as I watch each episode, I tend to think about Claire and Jamie’s future as Diana Gabaldon has written it in the follow-up novels. There is much joy and happiness to come, but Jamie will pay the price for this one night for the rest of his life.
Episode 106: THE GARRISON COMMANDER showed us the dark side of Jonathan Wolverton Randall though his very own eyes. In Episode 115, he has a very different look in those same eyes – one of absolute delight. I compare his smile when first entering Jamie’s cell to that of a child on Christmas morning – gleefully laying eyes on the gift he most craves.
I’d been looking forward to this episode because of the performances I knew the actors would deliver, and they do not disappoint. As a matter of point, they exceed my expectations. I’m one of many fans who can’t seem to resist Randall’s delicious evilness. It works because Diana created the character as complex. He’s not simply a single-minded sadist. Add to that, Tobias’ breathe of life and voilà!
Throughout the episode, the strain on Claire is evident. She’s filled with fear but doesn’t let it overtake her at any time, even when matters seem hopeless. She can’t. This episode is about hope.
Jamie is the bravest we’ve ever seen him. He’s a dead man and knows it, but groveling is not in his nature. Jamie thinks he knows Randall’s true nature, but someone with a soul of light cannot possibly fathom one with a darkness as black as Jack’s.
By the way, there is a warning of nudity at the beginning of this episode, which I did not detect – not that I was scrutinizing for it. But it had me worried for a bit. Guess I’m glad Marley doesn’t provide any gratuitous glimpses. Perhaps the ratings board has raised their standards and Jamie’s bare feet and ankles qualify. Or maybe I blocked out Randall’s PocketBlackJack.
Ira Steven Behr returns to ravish us with another heinous encounter between Jamie and Black Jack, although we know the actors create the genuine spark in each character – bring them to life in all their soulfulness.
In the opening scene of WENTWORTH PRISON, Jamie (Sam Heughan) awaits certain death and is forced to watch others hang from the gallows from his position in the queue, while the bored guards go through the motions.
He tries to enlist help from Tarran MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall) to make a daring attempt at escaping the noose, knowing full-well they won’t succeed. But he’d rather die as a man and not piss Claire off by getting himself hung like a dog. Why do people always pick on dogs? I’m sure they wouldn’t like it much either.
The one thing a condemned man hopes for is a clean, quick death – a swiftly broken neck when the rope snaps. Unfortunately, MacQuarrie’s weight doesn’t seem to do the trick. His body autonomously and futilely struggles for life until finally going limp. Not exactly the act one wants to follow.
Jamie takes the stage next. With rope around his neck, the sound of a rider interrupts the prison’s run-of-the-mill morning routine. Captain Jonathan Randall (Tobias Menzies) enters the courtyard and puts an immediate halt to Jamie’s execution.
This is the part where I actually thought Jamie would take the long walk off the short pier the moment he sees Randall. Of course, I’ve read the novel and know he doesn’t meet his end that way, but I figured he’d decide on the lesser of two evils, be saved by the guards, then taken back into the dungeons.
But . . . that doesn’t happen. I’m sure Jamie doesn’t believe Randall is there with a last-second reprieve. Randall is the last person who would deliver such news. Perhaps Jamie’s not thinking anything at all. His mind has been focussed on death the last few days. How does one change gears?
While Jamie is downstairs in a private cell, “enjoying” his last meal, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is upstairs in the warden’s office, making an appeal to see him.
She is passing herself off as a high-born Englishwoman who is a friend of the Frasers.
Sir Fletcher Gordon (played by the inspirational Frazer Hines) is reluctant to place someone like Claire in the same room with someone like Jamie. Ha! If he only knew . . .
Denied a face-to-face, Claire asks if she may deliver a letter from Jamie to his family.
In lieu, Sir Fletcher asks Claire to deliver Jamie’s personal effects.
When the box is opened to reveal the articles representing Jamie’s life, Claire calls on her entire strength not to break down in the warden’s office.
She waits until she gets outside to lose her breakfast – which looks an awful lot like gin. Tsk. Tsk. But then, you can’t blame her.
Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is waiting near the gate and rushes to her aid.
How much do I love watching Murtagh carry Claire from the prison? A lot.
They meet up with Willie, Angus and Rupert at a local tavern. Angus and Rupert have been making good use of their time – swilling, gambling and getting two Wentworth jailers to provide useful information about the warden. It seems Sir Fletcher insists on having his evening meal in private, followed by twenty-five minutes of pious self-reflection. Shouldn’t we all be doing that?
Back in the dungeon, poor Jamie is no closer to ripping his chains from the wall than when he first started. Thank goodness this isn’t a Saw movie.
Randall enters, accompanied by his henchman Marley (Richard Ashton), who reminds me of another movie – “Yarp” (Two points if you can guess simply from that clue. The movie stars another Scottish actor.) and “Narp.” (Another clue.)
Planted on Randall’s face, at the sight of Jamie in irons, is a smile sweeter than we’ve ever seen on Frank’s face. He starts off by teasing Jamie about his pardon.
Randall pulls Jamie’s original “petition of complaint” from this season’s must-have man-purse and dangles it in front of him – the pardon, not the purse.
It’s no surprise word of the complaint reached Randall’s ears such that he was able to intercept the document before it reached the Court of Sessions – Scotland’s supreme civil court.
With nothing to say to the shocking revelation, Jamie watches as Randall puts the damning document to flame.
Claire and Murtagh return to the prison, under the pretense of retrieving a letter from Jamie to his family. The moment they are left alone in Sir Fletcher’s office, they begin their ransacking to find a map and a key – hopefully, a map with an “X” marking which cell holds Jamie along with a key labeled – Randall’s private torture chamber. Too soon?
When we return to Jamie and Randall in said torture chamber, I am reminded of yet another movie – The Princess Bride. You know the scene between Wesley (Cary Elwes) and Rugen (Christopher Guest) where Rugen is quite seriously questioning Wesley’s reactions to his own torture – simply for posterity.
But Randall is not looking to satisfy posterity. Despite what has passed between these two men – both physically and verbally – he is also not looking for revenge. It’s almost certain Jamie is the only person who has ever defied, even beaten, Randall. These are two men equally formidable in mind, strength, and spirit. SPOILER: We know Jamie’s one weakness but don’t learn about Randall’s until Season 2, although there’s a chance it’s hinted upon in Episode 116 – if they stick to the novel.
So what is Randall looking for? Satisfaction? Satiation? Surrender? All three? If Jamie had submitted to Randall the first time he was asked, Randall would not have gone to the extremes he goes to in Jamie’s final submission because Claire didn’t exist then. Perhaps the encounter would have remained purely physical – not to disregard the emotional effects of such abuse. I’ll leave that discussion for the last episode.
In previous scenes between Randall and Jamie, a professional facade prevails between them. Here, Randall makes his approach on a very personal level, almost as if they are two estranged friends “making up.”
Randall talks about Jamie surrendering his pride, showing his fear, admitting the truth. They are connected, now and forever, even at night when Jamie is in bed with Claire – a place where he should be safe from memories of Randall. Jamie is offered a choice – surrender to the truth, and he can choose his own ending be it blade or poison.
I have to say, Randall likes to talk about history a lot – King Arthur, Socrates . . . Guess he should have remembered the Battle of Thermopylae and the brave 300. Three hundred Highland warriors fighting beside 300 Spartans might have changed history, especially if they all had Jamie’s stubborn streak.
Jamie doesn’t answer right away, but we don’t expect him to yield so easily. Like us, he knows there is no end to this mind game of Randall’s – not one that ends well anyway. Things are still relatively pleasant between them, smiles on everyone’s faces – Jamie trying to delay the inevitable while Randall plays with what he considers his prey. But this is no cat playing with a mouse. This is a bear and a wolf – equally matched and equally determined.
Just as determined, Claire and Murtagh have thoroughly torn Sir Fletcher’s office to pieces, coming up empty. Time is running out, but luckily for them and unluckily for the jailer, he returns to find them making a mess he’ll, no doubt, be the one cleaning up – when he wakes up from Murtagh knocking him out.
Claire takes the keys they found and begins her search for Jamie, while Murtagh hides the jailer’s unconscious body. At this point, I’m really wishing she had more than Ian’s spare PocketJamie, er, dagger – like a pistol, or better yet, a suppressed MAC-10.
She manages to find a few crowded cells. Who needs a map when she can probably follow the smell alone? One helpful prisoner tells her the best looking captives are held in the private cells down below. Claire thanks the man and heads off to rescue Jamie.
Down in Jamie’s private cell, Marley stands by, eagerly awaiting orders to “Smash” something, (Have you guessed the movie yet? No, not Avengers.) while Jamie pretends to consider Randall’s offer. But Randall is pleased to hear Jamie refuse to surrender. After all, where’s the fun in that?
However, playtime is over. Randall wants to see Jamie’s back, check on his masterpiece. Is it still as beautiful as he remembers? Jamie agrees, if it’ll shut Randall up. When Randall approaches, Jamie grabs him by the throat, claiming:
“You’re the one who sees my face every night!”
Marley jumps into the mix, swinging a sledgehammer. A brutal fight ensues, which ends with Randall kicking Marley in the face to keep him from killing Jamie. (I swear Marley whispers a quiet “Narp” at the end.) Randall then picks up the 10-lb paint brush and uses Jamie’s left hand as the canvas, smashing it with the same savageness as when he flogged Jamie at Fort William.
Claire is near enough to hear Jamie’s screams echo along the dark corridor, as the sound of the sledgehammer strikes again and again.
Randall’s depravity takes over. With Jamie nearly passed out from the pain, Randall coaxes back his fighting spirit. But there’s little Jamie can do with only one good hand, which Randall uses to reveal his own induced level of excitement. I mention this part in small detail only because it includes my favorite line of the episode.
“I will not give in to coarse passion,”
Randall says, granting Jamie’s second stay of punishment of the day. He leaves with Marley – I hope to take a cold shower (Let me know when it’s not too soon.) – leaving Jamie bloody and lying on the floor.
What I like about this scene, particularly that line, is the vulgarity of the situation. When I say “like,” I do not mean I am smiling and enjoying Jamie’s agony. I am immersed, even shocked, which is exactly what I want. To be surprised. To be uncomfortable. To feel for Jamie as much as I feel for him in the novel. What’s happening to Jamie is gut-wrenching, but I’m invested in the story.
As Randall and lurchy Marley head to wherever they’re going, Claire emerges from a dark, hidden space. They build the suspense of her getting to Jamie’s cell by spending an inordinate amount of time showing her rig a door for their hoped-for escape. Time is precious, Claire. Get a move on, I say.
Finally, she enters Jamie’s cell to find him prone on the floor. She attempts to remove his leg iron amid his telling her to leave. Randall will be back at any moment – No shi*t – and Claire is unarmed except for the dinky knife in her garter which she never even pulls out during the upcoming scenes. This will be two times she faces Randall, but doesn’t get to show off her knife skills.
To say things go from bad to worse the moment Randall and Marley do re-enter the room is an understatement. Claire’s presence is reduced to a bargaining chip, especially after her and Jamie’s valiant effort to overpower both Randall and Marley fails.
Jamie is forced to offer himself to Randall in exchange for Claire’s safe removal from the prison, but not without first proving his promise not to struggle.
Randall’s depravity becomes charged by his brutality. As Claire and Jamie’s hopes crash, Randall’s soar higher than he ever expected. What follows is some of the most powerful acting we’ve yet seen in this series.
The face which continues to stay with me, besides Randall’s “Christmas smile,” is the look on Jamie when Randall begins his debauchery. It’s a face of fury, fear, and defeat.
SPOILER. Readers know Jamie intends to shut Randall out, because then he’s not truly “broken.” Although we see the beginnings of Jamie’s wall go up, we also know Randall’s sadism will never allow our ill-fated hero to fortify himself completely.
Claire and Randall have one last frightful scene – frightful for him – before she is unceremoniously shoved through an opening in the prison onto a pile of bodies, Tarran MacQuarrie among them. She rendezvous with the MacKenzies and Murtagh and attempts to rally the troops. Their plan to rescue Jamie can be summed up with one word: Cows.
Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON is all about Jamie and Randall. Even when they aren’t onscreen, we are wondering what is going on. There are several fabulous lines of dialogue between them, but I decided not to try to capture them all, else my recap becomes a transcript.
Tobias Menzies‘ Jonathan Wolverton Randall is a talker and does most of the talking in this episode. Talking is one of the qualities that makes Randall such a great villain. He doesn’t stare out through black, lifeless eyes but emotes a range of feelings from pure pleasure to sadistic greed, accompanied by elegant speech – even during his most depraved moments.
Sam Heughan‘s performance as Jamie Fraser is bound to his face, much like his ankle chained to the wall. Surely there’s some symbolism there . . . His expressive eyes introduce us to new parts of his soul. We’ve never witnessed fear cross his face before, not even during his flogging. But we see it in this episode, and it’s heart-breaking. At an earlier point in the story, Jamie accuses Randall of being the one who is broken. Randall knows he’s broken, but he uses his weakness as a strength – even feeds it.
Caitriona Balfe‘s Claire Fraser wears a mask of bravery throughout the entire episode, even during her own violation by Marley. The only time it drops is when she is forced to watch her husband’s defilement. Her hope is thwarted when forced to leave Jamie behind, but it doesn’t completely extinguish. Unfortunately, she knows Randall will take his time, thus giving her time and one last chance to save Jamie.
The part of the story which always niggles me is the issue of trust. Jamie trusts Randall to see Claire safely from the prison, and in return, Randall trusts Jamie to stand by his word and not struggle. We know who has the advantage here. What makes Jamie’s submission so much worse is he honors his side of the agreement, not truly knowing if Randall honored his. There’s no means to acquire proof of life. That’s what sucks about the 18th century – no cell phones, only cells.
Despite the violent nature of this episode, I find this to be one of the most beautiful with respect to photography and acting. I included several of my favorite shots throughout the review – the close up of Claire whispering in Randall’s ear, the shot of Randall’s hand hovering over Jamie’s back, and our last look of Jamie when Randall says:
“Shall we begin?”
are my absolute favorites.
I’m curious to hear the reactions to this episode from non-readers. I’m sure you weren’t too surprised due to the build up to this inevitable confrontation. Were you shocked by any part of Randall’s brutality or depravity? Were you hoping up until the last few moments that Jamie would escape? Do you think you know what is going to happen? Drop me a comment and let me know.
Executive Producer Ron Moore is joined by screenwriter Ira Steven Behr during the podcast for Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON. It should be available for free on iTunes, or you can listen to it here. Ron also reveals more about Randall’s motivations in this Inside Look.
Outlander Episode 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL returns to Starz in TWO WEEKS on Saturday, 30 May 2015 in the U.S.
For more goodies on this episode – yes, there is another: Jamie’s Top 30 Looks from Outlander Episode 115: WENTWORTH PRISON
And if you missed my previous recapped review, you can read it here: A True Fan’s Review of Outlander Episode 114: THE SEARCH