One of the book's most harrowing scenes follows Jamie rescuing Claire from the clutches of Black Jack in the midseason premiere

By Tara Fowler
Updated April 04, 2015 10:05 PM
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Credit: Sony Pictures

You can’t say Caitriona Balfe didn’t warn us.

Claire (Balfe) and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) wedding bliss came to a swift halt when Outlander finally returned Saturday with an episode that featured one of the most controversial scenes from Diana Gabaldon’s book series. We’ll get to that, but first let’s talk about Jamie’s daring rescue.

‘It Never Occurred to Me to Kill a Helpless Man’

The midseason premiere kicked off with Jamie learning about Claire’s capture by Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). The doe-eyed hunk suited up for battle, convincing the men to storm the British fort with him to save his feisty bride.

Jamie managed to break into the shoddily guarded fort with a few threats of castration. “Your next words will be in a lassie’s voice,” he said to one British soldier, holding a knife to the poor man’s family jewels.

As he snuck around the fort, Jamie heard Claire scream. He followed the sound of her voice, bursting in on Jack just as he was about to rape Claire. “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife,” he declared, returning us to the moment where the show left off in September.

Jack, however, was thrilled to see Jamie. “How’s my handiwork looking these days?” he asked, referring to the lashes across Jamie’s back. “I don’t suppose you’d show me,” he added with a gleam in his eyes. It was clear he was more turned on by that than the half-naked woman lying before him.

Jamie pointed his gun at Jack but hesitated. “Just shoot this bastard, Jamie,” shouted Claire. But Jack threatened to kill her and Jamie dropped the gun.

Jack has no such moral qualms when it comes to killing, so he picked up the gun and turned it on Jamie. He fired, but – surprise! – it wasn’t loaded. Jamie charged Jack and knocked him out. He covered Claire with a cloak and led her out, looking back over his shoulder at Jack’s unconscious body. “It never occurred to me to kill a helpless man, even one such as Randall,” he said in voiceover. His kindness is a weakness, and it was a mistake that would surely come back to haunt him.

Falling in Love

Thanks to some explosions and a well-placed moat, Jamie and Claire made their escape with ease, riding off into the sunrise. With the immediate danger gone, though, Jamie was royally pissed at Claire for not staying where he told her to. “I’ll wait for you to say something. Anything that approaches an apology,” he said when they stopped to water the horses.

Claire fired right back at him: “You’re a brute and a fool.” She said she didn’t have to listen to him. “You think I belong to you?” she ased. “You do belong to me,” he countered before calling her a “foul-mouthed b—-.”

The brutal insult pained Jamie more than it did Claire. He didn’t really blame her for her capture, but he did feel guilty for it – that, and her rape in the glade – so he took it out on her. As she watched him sitting broken and beaten on the ground, she finally understood that and apologized to him.

He forgave her, of course, and asked for his own forgiveness, noting in voiceover that there was never a question that he’d accept her apology. “I’d forgiven everything she’d done and everything she could do,” he said. “That was falling in love.”

The Reckoning

Jamie may have forgiven Claire, but the men hadn’t. “Your actions put all the men in jeopardy,” he explained to her. She wondered if they would ever forgive her and Jamie told her they would. What she didn’t realize, however, was the price of that forgiveness.

Back at Castle Leoch, Jamie led Claire to their bedroom and began pulling off his belt. “You’ve done considerable damage, disobeying my orders, and I’m going to punish you for it,” he said. She was confused. “What do you mean?” she asked, backing away from him. “You know what I mean,” he answered. He had to beat her.

She threw things at him to try to escape. “This will go faster if you just yield, woman!” he shouted, chasing her around the bedroom. To the very last second, Claire clearly wondered whether he would really go through with it. After all, this is a man who’s so kind-hearted that he just spared the life of a man who planned to rape his wife.

But he did go through with it – to the tune of some oddly upbeat music, almost as though it was a game between them, as though he were Mr. Grey and she a ready-and-willing Anastasia Steele. He hiked up her skirts and spanked her repeatedly with his belt. It wasn’t as gruesome as in the novels, where Claire could barely sit down after. But it was disturbing and uncomfortable and infuriating nonetheless.

There’s an argument that Jamie is a product of his time period. That this was expected of men in the 1700s, particularly Scottish Highlanders living in the rough wilds up north. But Jamie is anything but the average Highlander, and we – and Claire – expect and deserve better from him. And the thing is, he knew it. He knew he shouldn’t beat her, but he went through with anyway, and that is what’s most disappointing of all.

An Ill Wish

Claire ignored Jamie after, withholding sex and turning her back on him. He clearly hoped she’d just accept her role as his woman and accept what he had to do to her; however, Claire is anything but a woman who just accepts her lot in life. So she gave Jamie the cold shoulder.

Laoghaire (Nell Hudson), who’s had a crush on Jamie since forever, took the opportunity to show him what he’s been missing. “She was married before, but I’ve lain with no one,” she told Jamie when they’re alone. “I want you to be the first.”

He was sorely tempted – Claire had been holding out on him, after all – but his duties as a husband extend both ways. He’ll beat his wife, but he won’t cheat on her. “I made a vow and I will not break it, even for a lass as bonnie as you,” he said. Laoghaire did not handle it well.

The near infidelity was enough to make Jamie realize he had to heal the rift with Claire. Earlier in the episode, he saw his uncle Colum (Gary Lewis) forgive Dougal (Graham McTavish) for secretly rallying against the British and jeopardizing Clan MacKenzie. “I saw a rigid man bend,” Jamie said. “That made me mindful.”

He found Claire in their bedroom. “Wives obey their husbands. Husbands discipline them when they don’t,” he told her, before acknowledging that “maybe for you and me it has to go a different way.” Claire just stared at him and he worried that he’d apologized too late. “Do you not want me anymore?” he asked quietly. “That’s what I should want,” she answered. “But I don’t.”

They made up with what Outlander does best: a sex scene, complete with light BDSM. Claire climbed on top of Jamie and held a knife to his throat. “If you ever raise a hand to me again, James Fraser,” she said, rocking her hips back and forth, “I will cut your heart out and have it for breakfast.” Touché.

Afterwards, while the couple basked in their post-romp glow, Claire noticed a little voodoo doll under their marital bed. “What’s wrong, what is it?” she asked, noticing Jamie’s worried face. “It’s an ill wish,” he said. “It’s meant to bring pain or harm or even death.”

“Who’d put such a thing under our bed?” Claire wondered. But Jamie knew exactly who: Laoghaire. Hell hath no fury like a virgin scorned.

What did you think of the infamous spanking scene? How do you feel about Jamie now? Would you forgive him? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Outlander airs Saturdays (9 p.m. ET) on Starz.

Watch a Deleted Scene from Claire and Jamie’s Wedding Night