Outlander "Castle Leoch" Review: A Real Bodice-Ripper

Outlander S01E02: "Castle Leoch"

As of “Castle Leoch”, Outlander is literally a bodice-ripper. Whereas once I thought “bodice-ripper” was a cheeky way to reference a certain lusty, historical-romance sensibility, in Outlander we quite literally saw Jamie’s sister Jenny Fraser get her bodice ripped clean off, and it did not look easy. With all that stiff fabric, tearing a bodice must be like trying to rip a phone book in half. Props to the actor playing Black Jack Randall for managing that one-handed, though I suspect a break-away bodice was involved. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Claire arrived at Castle Leoch with Jamie after two days of hard riding, and she was now disoriented enough that she had no idea how to get back to the standing stones, assuming they would even get her home. Luckily the castle was outfitted with a cozy woman with a heart like a teapot (warm, yet breakable): the lovely Mrs. Fitzsimmons, who ran out to meet the Highlanders at the gate and most importantly encouraged Claire to help Jamie go and take his shirt off get his bandage changed.

This led to the nasty reveal that Jamie’s back looks like a roast cooked with the string wrapped 'round, all criss-crossed with deep, juicy scars. Jamie explained that he got them trying to defend the honor of his sister from Black Jack Randall and his crew of extremely inappropriate redcoat soldiers.

Not five minutes later, apparently hungry for the spotlight, Claire was swept away imagining what Frank was going through now that she’d been gone for two days (a book about genealogy, I’d imagine) and started weeping. When Jamie asked why, she choked out, “My husband!” 

“Is he not alive?” asked Jamie, and Claire was like “Actually... no... I’m single. I’m so, so single!” 

The two embraced, and then remember they’d been on the road for two days and both needed showers and reluctantly parted ways. For Claire, it was time to get some rest before her big 18th-century makeover curtesy Mrs. Fitzgibbert, which would involve her bra getting some major side-eye, but when it was all done Claire looked EVEN HOTTER:

Knit gauntlets and an up-do suit her well. She was made presentable for an audience with the Laird MacKenzie and used her time in his study to rummage around his papers to figure out the actual year was 1743 before the Laird shows up at the door, surprising her with both his abrupt entrance and CGI legs.

Seriously, what in the world? The special effects here are maybe a little extreme, but sure. Let’s roll with it. The Laird MacKenzie grilled her on how she managed to wander into a battlefield wearing a dress made out of a fabric I don’t think had even been invented yet and Claire rapped out a cockamamie story about journeying to France to live with relatives there. She received a lot more side-eye from the Laird, but he told her he could arrange transportation for her as far as Inverness, in five days' time. Claire had five days of vacation in the 18th century whether she liked it or not. And maybe she liked it, after all.

It turns out that plucking mushrooms, wearing bodices, and watching Jamie train a young spirited horse to surrender to his touch are not the worst ways to spend a week. Claire was going above and beyond in terms of diligently changing those bandages, and Jamie was not complaining. The two even managed a picnic lunch date during which Jamie forgot to cross his ankles and also told Claire there was a price on his head. He is a wanted man in every sense.

Unfortunately there was also the fact her bullshit story to the Laird wasn't really fooling anyone. MacKenzie got a few glasses of wine in her and everything started falling apart. She also put her foot in her mouth in a very big way by mistaking the Laird’s heir for the Laird’s brother's son. When she innocently said to the boy that she saw him playing with his father Dougal, everyone got extremely quiet and angry, like you do when someone makes an honest mistake, and it was all so awkward and she was so drunk that she had to fake a stomach bug just to get out of the room. Dougal had her followed the rest of the week, and it became clear that her half-baked story and overall unaccountable appearance in the 18th century were not going over very well. 

On her last night in the Castle Leoch, Claire attended the stately tradition of the Hall, where the Laird MacKenzie shimmied in on his CGI legs to sit in state and and dole out judgement on all the complaints, requests, and cases of his clan. Mrs. Fitzbibbins had even managed to scrape together an elegant beaded choker for Claire, so it must've been quite an event.

When a young girl was pulled before the Laird to receive harsh justice for like, winking at gentlemen or something ridiculous, she was condemned to a whipping, but Jamie came forward and offered to take the beating for her. We were then treated to the sight of Jamie, who just last episode was shot and had his arm broken, getting pummeled mercilessly in full sight of everyone he knows. Claire was horrified and chased him down after the ordeal to firmly chasten him for putting his perfect pectorals at risk again... and also to tell him she would be leaving the next day.

There was a tinge of regret when Claire told Jamie she was leaving, and then the young girl, Laoghaire turned up and Claire, fooling no one, was like, “Excuse me, someone wants to talk to you hahaha I’ll make myself scarce so you two unattached kids can go at it” and went back to her room to, I’m guessing, write down all the reasons she loves her hubby Frank until her quill or her hand (or her heart) broke and then sob herself to sleep, whispering Jamie’s name as she finally drifted off. Anyhoo.

The next day Mrs. Fitzibble comes through with a FUR RUFF for Claire’s journey to Inverness—which, whoa, very decadent. Claire had a basket all packed and was ready to return ( to the future!) when Dougal showed up and said Laird Collum needed to see her.

Claire immediately sensed this was not good news and besides, the tinker was on a tight schedule as there were metal items up and down the land that needed tinkered with and she didn’t want to get left behind. But Dougal was insistent, and he led her through a labyrinthine hallway Claire remembered to a dark, drafty surgery basement, where the Laird revealed to her that she would be staying indefinitely as his new doctor. It wasn't so much a promotion as a nightmare for Claire (no more lunch dates in the stables?!), but the Laird MacKenzie told her that until he knew for a fact that she wasn't an English spy he had no other choice. 

He said something like, “You have secrets, and whether they’re the kind of secrets every woman has in her heart or something more, I’m not letting you leave until you find out.” (As a woman, my secret is that I CAN’T get drunk on Fireball Whiskey. Believe me, I’ve tried! I don’t know what it is. I should figure out some way to make it work for me. Like go into the CIA and question people after we’ve both had a few shots of Fireball. CIA, direct message me for details.)

Ahem. Still, as viewers, we have to be a little relieved that Claire isn’t going anywhere yet. The real story is with handsome, captivating, wronged outlaw Jamie, and the closer she is to him, the happier we’ll be. Sorry, Frank.


... What are your secrets?

... Did the special effects team get a little too extreme with the Laird’s ankles, or did the computer rendering seem accurate to “Toulouse Lautrec syndrome”? I’m no doctor, but would he really be able to walk smoothly if his muscles were that displaced and atrophied?

... If you were Claire, would you want to return to the 1940s or would you be down to stick around for a little bit?

... How much do you bet this is Loreena McKennitt’s favorite new show?