A band of thugs arrive to complicate life at Lallybroch as Claire (Caitriona Balfe) plays impromptu midwife.
Let’s bitch it out…
The serenity that dominated last week’s episode couldn’t possibly last and – as teased by the final scene where Claire found Jamie (Sam Heughan) surrounded with a gun to his head – it didn’t. The opening scene of ‘The Watch’ introduces a band of roving criminals who offer protection in exchange for a pay-out and the threat they pose to Jamie is clearly established from the first interaction. This isn’t just a group of men who have come looking for trouble; these are men who profit (financially and in hospitality) when they darken the doorstep of their clients. They won’t hesitate to turn Jamie in if they knew his real identity, which requires the stubborn Fraser to tread carefully lest he arouse their suspicions.
Much like our introduction to the Mackenzie clan, it takes awhile to get to figure out the best course of action dealing with these men. Jenny (Laura Donnelly) and Ian (Steven Cree) urge calm complacency, but they’ve been dealing with this once every few months for two years. Naturally Jamie doesn’t take things quite as passively – leading to a small hay fire from one man and blackmail from another.
It soon becomes clear that the group’s leader, MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall), is actually a man of his word. Yes he’s involved in disreputable activities, but he respects Jamie and appears to live by a code. This is in stark contrast to his men, specifically Horrocks (Lochlann O’Mearáin) who immediately identifies himself as the main threat when he blackmails Jamie in exchange for silence. Thankfully MacQuarrie has a greater business sense than Horrocks; after learning that Jamie and Ian killed Horrocks, MacQuarrie recruits them into his company rather than do something irrational, like shoot them.
Of course, the fact that the leader of the Watch is not a bad man is why we end up with a cliffhanger. Had Jamie simply been able to walk away after the Redcoat ambush, he would have returned with Ian to Lallybroch. Instead Jamie stayed behind with the wounded man to protect him, which means that Claire now has to spring into action and do the saving for a change.
The flip side of ‘The Watch’ focuses on the domestic side of things as Claire and Jenny spend more time together. This is valuable since Claire ultimately ends up having to take care of Jenny when her water breaks and they discover that the baby is breeched. At one point it seems as though both Jenny and Ian might perish in their respective story lines, but then I realized that that would leave Claire and Jamie with two children to raise and it seems unlikely that Outlander would tie them down so soon in the series’ run.
As it stands, both survive their respective brushes with death. In hindsight, ‘The Watch’ is more interested in exploring Claire’s idea of family / children and expanding on the nature of Jamie and Ian’s friendship back during the war. The former is valuable because it casts Claire in a slightly different light; as opposed to focusing on the way that she stands out, this story line clarifies just how deeply Claire has become enamoured with Jamie. It’s a big break through that she admits how much pain its causing her that she may never be able to share the joy of parenthood with him.
Spending more time with Ian is similarly helpful. As I mentioned last week, Cree did well in his introduction, but he was barely more than a kind stranger for Claire to bond with over the stubborn feistiness of the Fraser siblings. Here we get a better sense of what Ian and Jamie mean to each other, particularly when Ian kills Horrock to protect his friend and Jamie returns the favour by taking responsibility after MacQuarrie confronts them about the murder. The result is that Ian feels more like a real person rather than a bystander at Lallybroch. This in turn makes the moment that the screen fades to white during the Redcoat ambush that much more emotionally resonant because we don’t want Jamie or Ian to die.
- Ian (when Jamie asks if he should turn the other cheek to the McQuarrie’s actions): “That’s why you have two cheeks.”
Your turn: are you glad that Jenny and Ian didn’t die? Is MacQuarrie a good addition to Outlander‘s roster of secondary characters? Did you see the Redcoat ambush coming? Sound off below.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on STARZ