Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 3 episode “The Bakra.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch the episode yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
Never fear, sassenachs, your Outlander recapper is here. It’s almost hard to believe that we’re already close to the end -- one episode away from the finale -- and yet, looking back on all that’s happened, we really have watched our faves go through a lot over the course of Season 3. Last week, Claire got her Survivor on for a couple days in Haiti before being swiftly and epically reunited with Jamie. Oh, and Fergus and Marsali finally got married. It was a very happy ending for a season that has been a mixed bag when it comes to happiness for these characters.
This week: Jamie and Claire finally make it to Jamaica, where they immediately resume their quest to rescue Young Ian -- though not without enlisting some unexpected help in the process. Old ghosts from the past resurrect left and right, but only some of them might be welcome. Oh, and everyone goes to a ball, because there’s always time for one of those.
The episode starts with a bit of a rewind. We take it all the way back to when Claire and Jamie watched in vain as Young Ian was snatched from Selkie Island, only now we’re from the lad’s point of view. As he’s hauled onto the Bruja, kicking and struggling all the way, the captain peruses the contents of the chest. We learn that it all appears to be in line with what “the Bakra” (title of the episode) is seeking, and while one crewman suggests throwing Young Ian to the pigs that are apparently on board, the captain decides he’s to be kept alive instead. We don’t stay with Young Ian for the length of his journey to Jamaica, however; the next thing the episode cuts to is him being hauled into a cell. Oh, and the captain refers to the Bakra as a woman. That’s interesting. Less so is her apparent need for young boys. Ick.
Understandably, Young Ian is nervous, to say the least, and he doesn’t feel any better after he talks to his fellow cellmates, two boys named Henry and Ibiku. There was a third one named Robbie, apparently, but he hasn’t been seen ever since the Bakra summoned him. Even more unsettling is that there were once six boys in total, and at least half of them have disappeared the same way. Eventually, Young Ian gets taken to the Bakra -- and before we even see her face, I’d know that voice anywhere. It’s Geillis Duncan, aka Gillian Edgars, and she’s bathing in blood a la Elizabeth Bathory, so I guess this show is fully leaning into her being Outlander’s version of the evil witch now. Even after she reassures Young Ian (and us) that it’s only goat’s blood (to keep her skin looking flawless), it’s … not all that reassuring.
Young Ian’s both terrified and transfixed by Geillis, but he’s also starving, and when a tray of plum cake comes in he gobbles it down like Edmund scarfing the White Witch’s Turkish delight. All the while, Geillis continues to refill his tea and ask gently probing questions about the treasure chest he was retrieving. There were originally three sapphires inside -- but one’s gone missing, and she needs to get it back. Ian says he doesn’t have it, and his answer doesn’t change even after Geillis presses him again. That tea he’s been drinking? It’s basically an herbal version of truth serum, so she knows he’s not lying to her. Unfortunately, he’s had enough of it that he can’t stop himself from telling her his uncle Jamie might have the third gem. Geillis is certainly familiar with both Jamie (and Claire) after tangling with them in Season 1, but she’s not concerned when Young Ian insists his uncle will be coming after him. In fact, she’s counting on it. There’s still the question of what Geillis is doing with the boys who are brought to her, and it’s as disturbing as we suspected. She has a preference for virgins (according to her, it’s got something to do with their “power”), but Young Ian’s still got some of that truth tea in his system and admits he’s already lost his V-card (thanks, Brighid-the-barmaid!). Geillis says she isn’t that picky, and I start wondering if I need to cover my eyes at this point when the opening credits finally roll, THANK GOODNESS.
We pick up after the credits with Jamie and Claire finally disembarking in Jamaica. Fergus and Marsali are sampling some pineapple while everyone does some mental calculations. From the looks of things, Captain Leonard and the Porpoise haven’t docked yet, so there may still be time for them to find Young Ian and get away unnoticed before the British even arrive to arrest Jamie. Claire suggests splitting up to cover more ground in their search, and the whole time I’m thinking NO CLAIRE NO because that is the WORST IDEA EVER. You JUST reunited with your husband and now you want to split up again? Luckily, Jamie becomes the voice of reason here and nixes that idea, because Claire’s only been back for a few months and they’ve already experienced enough apart time. They encounter one of Cousin Jared’s employees, Kenneth McIver, who takes the cargo of the Artemis off their hands and invites them to a ball hosted by the new governor of Jamaica. Claire sensibly turns down the invitation since there’s still the matter of Young Ian to attend to.
On their way to the inn, Claire and Jamie catch up McIver on the real reason why they’re in Jamaica, though finding Jamie’s nephew is going to be easier said than done. This episode appropriately forces us as well as Claire to acknowledge the disturbing aspects of the era, including the slave trade that contributed to so much of Jamaica’s bustling economy in its early years under British colonial rule. As Jamie and McIver inquire with various traders about Young Ian, Claire wanders off and witnesses a female slave being branded, as well as a slave auction. She’s horrified by the sight, so much so that her composure shatters. She brandishes her parasol and starts hitting the traders after they sexually assault a male slave up on the platform. A full-scale riot breaks out, and though Jamie is able to pry Claire free before she gets seriously hurt, she pleads with him to do something. That something comes in the form of buying the slave, whose name is Temeraire. Claire can barely stomach looking at the bill of sale that proclaims him her property, and she and Jamie both conclude their end goal has to be to free him -- but only where it’s safe, as he could be recaptured by traders and sold again if they’re not careful.
In the midst of everything that’s happened, Jamie mentions that he’s acquired some helpful information as to Young Ian’s whereabouts. As it turns out, the slaves that were on the Bruja were purchased by the governor’s household, so Jamie and Claire will need to attend that ball after all -- and they’ll need another man on the inside with an open ear in case anyone has seen or heard about Young Ian. Enter Temeraire. Jamie and Claire approach him with their plan, asking for his help at the governor’s reception and promising they’ll take him to a safe place for him to leave freely at the first available opportunity.
They’re not the only ones with a big plan. As the episode resumes with Geillis, we’re given more of an indication as to what she’s cooking too -- and it involves the Campbells. Remember when Archibald told Claire that he and his sister Margaret were bound for the West Indies? Well, they’re here and in cahoots with Geillis, and as skeptical as I was about Margaret’s supposed psychic ability Geillis is definitely more of a believer. She’s counting on Margaret to deliver a prophecy regarding the rise of a new Scottish king, but that can only happen if she’s holding all three of the sapphires that were originally in the Jacobite treasure chest. Margaret nervously whispers that the treasure itself is “borne of blood and death,” as if either of these things concerns Geillis anyway. The treasure happens to belong to Dougal MacKenzie, and if you’ll recall it was Dougal that Geillis had an affair (and an illegitimate child) with back in Season 1. I’m still not sure why Geillis is so intent on hearing this prophecy, but Archibald Campbell is entirely motivated by the promise that he’ll get to keep the rest of what’s in the treasure chest after he and Margaret fulfill their end of the bargain.
Jamie and Claire pull up to the ball, along with Fergus and Marsali -- as well as Yi Tien Cho, who is wearing a blue suit and looking The Most Dapper. He and I both raise an eyebrow when Jamie says he’s there for distraction purposes, which I imagine for Jamie means that no one will be looking at him too closely, considering he’s a wanted man. (Still could’ve found a better way to phrase that, dude.) As they wait in line to greet the new governor, it becomes a series of encountering folks from the past. First, Claire stumbles into Archibald Campbell, who doesn’t look shifty at all; then, as the crowds part, Jamie realizes who the governor actually is: Lord John Grey. They have a Moment that everyone with a pulse (including Claire) picks up on before Grey takes them aside to speak privately. Of course the first thing Jamie has to ask about is his son, William, who Grey has been raising. He’s not around, because Grey traveled to Jamaica ahead of his family, but he’s doing well, Grey says, and like his father is a talented equestrian. When the subject of Young Ian comes up, Grey promises he’ll put feelers out with the various plantation owners.
There are definitely points in the conversation where it feels like Claire isn’t even there, and eventually she hilariously asserts herself into the space, bringing herself within Grey’s line of sight in a way that feels very much about reminding him just whose husband Jamie is. Her feelings don’t really improve when both she and Jamie notice that Grey is wearing the sapphire Jamie passed on to him after orchestrating his own escape from Ardsmuir. For Jamie, the gem was not really intended as a gift, but Grey’s gone and put it in a whole setting, with a ribbon and everything. I’m not surprised that Grey has basically fallen in love with Jamie (who among us hasn’t at this point?), but John, honey, he’s just not that into you.
Later, Claire’s enjoying a much-needed glass of champagne after that encounter when another ghost from the past chooses that moment to walk through the party. To her credit, Claire recovers quickly after spotting Geillis, and when she catches up to her old acquaintance the conversation actually manages to be somewhat cordial. Over the course of their brief reunion, Geillis catches Claire up on what happened since she was last dragged off to be burned on the pyre for witchcraft. Because she was pregnant with Dougal’s child at the time, her sentence was delayed until she could give birth. According to Geillis, Dougal both orchestrated her escape from prison and arranged for their son to be given to another family to raise. When Dougal was killed at Culloden (though not in battle, as Geillis believes), she eventually married a plantation owner named Abernathy and relocated to Jamaica. Of course he died, as all of Geillis’ husbands tend to do while married to her, and now she’s inherited all of his holdings as Mistress Abernathy of Rose Hall. She pretends to be shocked when Claire informs her about Young Ian (you’ve had him the whole time, lady!) and sneakily inquires about Jamie’s whereabouts.
Jamie and Grey have resumed their conversation when Claire walks up with Geillis in tow, and of course Geillis’s eagle eye spots the sapphire hanging from Grey’s waistcoat. From there, she devises a plan to get it, and it involves using Margaret Campbell to tell fortunes for the party guests. Geillis talks Grey into sitting down and giving a personal item to Margaret to get his own fortune. I think you can see where this is going. Grey hands over the sapphire, Margaret now has all three, and right on cue she delivers the prophecy: “When twice twelve hundred moons have coursed / ‘tween man’s attack and woman’s curse / and when the issue is cut down / then will a Scotsman wear a crown.” In private, Geillis and Archibald speculate wildly over what the words could mean, but much of it doesn’t make any sense in context. I’m sure someone will decipher it all eventually, and since we only have one episode left I’m guessing it won’t happen by the end of the season.
In case you thought all the excitement was over, Captain Leonard and several soldiers crash the ball looking for Jamie. Our faves narrowly avoid discovery thanks to a warning from Fergus and Marsali, and as they’re having the carriage brought around Temeraire reappears with news of his own. Word has it Young Ian was purchased by a Mistress Abernathy of Rose Hall. Claire is astonished that Geillis would lie to her in spite of the fact that Lying might as well be Geillis’ middle name, but they’ve got to get gone for the moment. As they head in the direction of Geillis’ place, Temeraire spots a marked tree that indicates an escape point for slaves to live in the mountains without fear of being caught. Jamie and Claire see him off to freedom, but their pit stop has given Leonard and the soldiers enough time to catch up to them. Jamie takes care to quickly hand over the photos of Brianna to Claire before he’s hauled away, shouting over his shoulder that it’s up to her now. Why am I having deja vu? Oh, right, because our boy Jamie can’t go a full season without getting arrested.
- Claire’s doing a lot of outfit recycling this season, which definitely feels more realistic to me because same. Not only has she basically worn her version of the Batsuit over and over since she first came back through the stones, but for the governor’s ball she repurposes the yellow gown she wore in France last season. I do love costume designer Terry Dresbach’s gorgeous dresses, but wearing the same outfit several times feels more appropriate for Claire this season. Who has time for costume changes?
- Once again, Fergus and Marsali have a near-miss when it comes to getting to enjoy their newly married life, and I never thought I’d say this, but I really hope they get their sexytime fun the way Claire and Jamie seem to almost every week.
- While waiting in line to speak to the governor, there’s a moment that can only be described as “Jamie and Claire eyesex each other before realizing they’re in public” and it made me cackle. Claire literally has to get ahold of herself afterwards, but I guess that’s what being on the receiving end of Sam Heughan’s steely gaze will do to you.
- Caitriona Balfe is a master of microexpressions, and the series of them she delivers in response to the thinly veiled racist remarks directed at Yi Tien Cho deserve an award in and of themselves. Sorry, Claire, you’ve literally gone backwards in time where many things are backwards, but I appreciate that you don’t even try to control your face when people are terrible.
- Speaking of Cho, his unexpectedly sweet scene with Margaret Campbell was a pairing I never anticipated seeing on-screen, but I’m hopeful we haven’t seen the last of it either. Fingers crossed.
- Geillis gets in a reference to Benjamin Button, and at first I thought she was talking about the Brad Pitt movie until I remembered said movie was based on short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. D’oh.
That’s it for now, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, as well as your predictions for the rest of Season 3, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. What’s going to happen to Jamie? What about Claire and Geillis and their ultimate showdown? And can someone please check on Brianna and Roger? We’ll find out in the finale next week!