Jamie’s in prison and Claire’s on the way to rescue him. But it cannot be the penultimate episode if we don’t send our heroes into the darkness at the hands of their great enemy, Black Jack Randall.

Every single thing about Saturday’s “Wentworth Prison” was uncomfortable on every single level. It ranged from the nerve-wracking to the full-out horrifying.

Spoilers...

First, a second of lightness before we dig into the darkness. The warden of Wentworth, Sir Fletcher, is played by Frazer Hines. Hines played Jamie McCrimmon on Doctor Who, who was one of the inspirations for Jamie Fraser (note the name) in Outlander.

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Jamie, as we learned last week is sentenced to hang. We see MacQuarrie — the leader of the Watch — die before Jamie, in what felt like the longest, twitchiest, most horrible looking hanging of all time. All I could think was how incompetent the hangman was. Jamie is led to the gallows, but receives a stay of execution from the worst possible source:

Captain Jack Randall. Of course he’s here. He’s made it very, very clear that he’s obsessed with breaking Jamie. He gets off hard on power and control, and the whole Fraser family just refuses to give him any satisfaction. Obviously, once Jamie’s captured and facing death, he’d show up to give subjugating Jamie one last go.

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He offers Jamie a quick death so long as he’ll admit that he’s lost, Black Jack’s won, and Jamie is scared. Jamie refuses, and gets his hand smashed with a mallet. Which was hard enough to watch, before it got Black Jack panting and aroused. Then it got even more disgusting and all I wanted was for this to end.

Meanwhile, Claire’s using her Englishness to pose as a highborn English woman who is a distant relation to Jamie, hoping to get to see him and figure out where he’s being held. That doesn’t work, but Sir Fletcher does let her leave with Jamie’s effects, which breaks her heart even more.

Despite that setback, some drunken intelligence has given Claire and her five men the information that Sir Fletcher spends twenty-five minutes in reflection, meaning that he can’t be disturbed. So Claire goes back, and tells the guards that Sir Fletcher granted her request to get a letter from Jamie. Alone in Sir Fletcher’s office, she and Murtagh search for the keys and a map. They find the keys, but a guard interrupts them before finding a map. They knock him unconscious, so Claire sends Murtagh out and searches for Jamie.

She finds him, but can’t get him out of irons before Black Jack, in all his completely psychotic glory, returns. He tells Claire that he can’t give her no greater compliment than that she is a fitting match for her husband in courage. He also drags his thumb across her face to gather up the “sweat of exertion.” Black Jack is the fucking creepiest.

Even the other torturer and rapist is really unsettled by Black Jack

He gives Claire to the other torturer to be raped and Black Jack goes for Jamie. Claire wraps a chain around Black Jack’s neck while Jamie takes the torturer out. Black Jack gets free, and gets his hands around Claire’s neck. Which is when Jamie offers himself — with no resistance — to Black Jack for Claire’s safety and freedom.

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Black Jack makes Jamie prove his word by putting his already mangled hand under the hammer once more. It was even more impossible to watch than the first time.

Black Jack leads Claire out, and tells her he heard about the witch trial. With remarkable poise and fortitude, Claire says she is a witch and that she curses Black Jack with the knowledge of his death. She tells him his full name, his birthdate, and whispers the date of his death in his ear. It’s the only weapon she has to hurt him with, and it’s very effective.

Not as immediately effective as Black Jack setting Claire free by pushing her down the opening they use to dump the bodies of dead prisoners, so Claire has to claw her way out of a mass grave to get free, but pretty good.

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Claire and the men she was able to gather from Dougal try to figure out how to save Jamie. The man keeping them is another admirer of Jamie’s mother, but he has a family and can’t give them any people to help. But he does have cattle. And Murtagh has a plan.

There are so many twists and turns to this episode. Jamie’s about to be hung, but Black Jack shows up. Jamie uses Black Jack’s obsession with his scars to knock him down and fends off the hammer-wielding torturer with a stool, but he can’t get free of the chain. Claire sees the warden, and he believes her tale, but he won’t take her to Jamie. She finds the keys, but no map. Claire finds Jamie, but Black Jack finds them. Black Jack turns her over to be raped, but she and Jamie are able to take him out. Claire subdues Black Jack, but not for long.

Things go from bad, to hopeful, to worse. It’s a whiplash of emotions that nevertheless is a continuous downward spiral.

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The other brilliant choice for this episode is that Black Jack’s red uniform is the cleanest — and brightest — it’s ever been. It makes him stand out as much as he did in Jenny’s and Jamie’s flashbacks a few weeks ago. Which of course both echoes his need for power back then and his ultimate failure at subduing either Fraser.

Which is the end we desperately need, after watching our heroes go through the absolute wringer this week.


Contact the author at katharine@io9.com.