Series Rewatch – Outlander: Season 1, Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander – All Roads Lead to a Wedding

Written by Diana Gabaldon, Ronald D. Moore, and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Brian Kelly

Everything so far has been leading up to the events in this episode. This is a turning point for Claire with her Scottish hosts, as she turns to them for protection when her status as an Englishwoman could get her killed. It also marks Dougal MacKenzie deciding she is not a British spy and takes steps to protect her that will change everything.

The Garrison Commander picks up exactly where the previous episode left off, with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Dougal (Graham McTavish) being confronted by the British soldier (Tom Brittney) who was posing as a blacksmith earlier. She reinforces that the is a guest of Clan MacKenzie. Still, the soldier wants to take her to the garrison to talk to the commander regardless, and Dougal states he will go with her.

At the garrison, which is a Scottish village on MacKenzie lands, Claire is back among the English and relaxes a bit. The Commander, Brigadier General Lord Thomas (John Heffernan) is rather rude to Dougal, who states he will wait for Claire downstairs. Claire tells her contrived story to the Commander, and he and his men are all for helping her get to Inverness so she can continue her journey to France.

However, Captain Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) enters and there is recognition between the two. They both deny knowing who the other is. When Captain Randall reports Dougal’s presence downstairs, the Brigadier General states that Dougal is the one who “brought in” Mrs. Beauchamp. Claire mistakenly defends the Scottish, after having been treated fairly well by the MacKenzies. This raises eyebrows all around the table at which she’s dining.

When a wounded soldier arrives, Claire hurries downstairs to help the man. Dougal stops her and worries over Randall’s presence. Claire says she’s fine and he should leave in case things get ugly. She helps the surgeon amputate an arm that can’t be saved. When she returns upstairs, she finds Captain Randall there, being shaved with a razor that is passed down in the family and brings back a memory of Frank. However, none of the other soldiers are there, and Captain Randall questions Claire’s loyalty.

Claire changes her tale slightly and thinks she has convinced Captain Randall to send her to Inverness. However, he responds by assaulting her. He states that he knows Dougal is raising money for the Jacobite cause, but has no proof. Inducing Claire to talk about what she has seen would be that proof. Claire becomes very aware that her desire to keep that knowledge a secret would not stand up to the torture that Jack Randall is very adept at dishing out.

Luckily, Dougal didn’t listen to Claire and has stayed close by. He bursts in on Randall’s assault of Claire and removes her from his custody. Captain Randall demands Claire be turned over at Fort William the next day, or Dougal will be regarded as a traitor and hunted down.

Dougal takes Claire to a spring that is supposed to have to power to discern if someone is lying. Claire passes the test. Dougal comes up with a plan to make Claire a Scottish citizen rather than an English one, which would give Randall no authority over her. Dougal states that Claire is to marry a Scottish person which would make her Scottish. Claire thinks he means himself, but it’s Jamie who she will be marrying.

I found it odd that Claire immediately felt comfortable among the British soldiers. She states that they are part of the British Army which she was a part of for six years. Yet, that’s not true. The soldiers of these times bear little resemblance to the soldiers of World War II. I suppose she’s looking for some familiarity in this strange land, but after having been among the Scots and seeing some of the brutality first-hand, I found it hard to believe she’d immediately feel secure among the British.

The British soldiers treat the Scottish as if they are sub-human. They refer a couple of times to Dougal as “beast” or “creature” and “A fine specimen of the local inhabitants.” The Brigadier General asks how they would ever make peace with such an ill-mannered people, but it is he who is rude and disrespectful. They are also a bit on the privileged side, as evidenced when Jack Randall enters the dining area and the General is worried about the effect all of the dust Randall is covered with will have on his ’35 claret.

There is some rather graphic violence in this episode as Jack Randall describes his version of events in regard to the flogging of Jamie. Claire’s reaction is a bit of horror coupled with her trying to maintain a facade. It’s a great piece of editing, cutting between Claire and Jack and then back to the flogging. Claire is trying to talk her way to Inverness and wants Randall to believe the story she’s concocted, so she can’t show him how truly horrified she is. She’s struggling with a man who looks like the man she loves but couldn’t be more different.

The detail of the British uniforms, particularly the officers, is truly amazing. On repeated viewing, I can pay more attention to these details and they are so enjoyable. The wigs look like wigs, but of course they are supposed to in that day and age. The production values of this series are so high and so well executed. It’s an absolute pleasure visually.

The actors are all terrific, but this is an episode where Tobias Menzies shines. He’s got Jack Randall looking upon his superiors with contempt. He sees them as beneath him, and at one point the Brigadier challenges him on it. He backs off, reluctantly. He sees himself as the arbiter of all that is good and evil, even though it is he who seems to be inherently evil. He involves his valet in the beating of Claire when he seems determined to beat the truth out of her. I think he would have assaulted Dougal as well if there hadn’t been so many witnesses at the time. The difference in character between Frank and Jack is 180 degrees, but there is also a familiarity between the two, which helps explain Claire’s difficulty in dealing with him. She wants to find some hint of the kindness she knows Frank had in Jack, when there really isn’t any.

This pivotal episode is solid in every way. The pacing, the revelations, the events that lead up to Claire having to marry Jamie; all serve to deliver a terrific episode that is a must-see for anyone following the series.

Previous episode of the series:

1 reply »