Well, that was a cliffhanger. Outlander's been all about the slow-burn all season, and the midseason finale followed in that tradition handily.
First off, we return to 1945 to see Frank's fruitless search for his missing wife. It's been a long time since we've spent any significant time with Tobias Menzies as Frank and not as Jack. I'm becoming increasingly fond of the sheer number of turns he's having to take playing two different characters.
Anyway, the gist is that Frank's been scouring Scotland for Claire, when the common wisdom is that she ran off with another man. (Which is only 50% true.) He's offered an award, which gets him lured into an alley and attacked for the money. Between this and people telling him to move on as a cuckold, life for Frank is pretty awful.
Once he's finally beaten down (literally and figuratively), the housekeeper decides to tell him about Craigh na Dun and how people disappear supernaturally from there. Frank's plan is still to head home, but he still decides to stop at the rock circle.
Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie are having quite the honeymoon. Or, they would be if they didn't keep getting interrupted. First, they get interrupted by their fellow travelers, who take the time to teach Claire how to wield a knife. This is some pretty basic foreshadowing.
Because the second interruption to their marital bliss comes when redcoats pull Jamie off Claire. Claire only has time to stab the one trying to force himself on her because they debate the order of raping her and killing Jamie. But they kill both redcoats, sending Claire into shock.
I actually loved this scene, as Claire's been pretty much unflappable throughout this show. She's been desperate and angry and very drunk, but she's been repressing a lot of things to survive. So her breakdown after killing her would-be-rapist was a new element to her character. And her repetition of "We're alright" and "I'm going into shock" was very distressing to watch,
So, of course Jamie decides that it will be safer if she stays behind. This is always a mistake. While Jamie's away, and her guard's distracted, Claire stumbles across Craigh na Dun. And both Frank and Claire call each other, separated by centuries. Claire, however, isn't destined to reach the rocks. And Frank is destined to be disappointed yet again.
Instead, Claire is captured by the redcoats and delivered to Black Jack. In case you'd forgotten, due to last week's dedication to the beautiful Jamie/Claire relationship and Menzies playing Frank in the first 2/3rds of this episode, Jack is a fucking lunatic.
Claire tries to talk her way out of the situation, remembering Frank's speculation about Jack's sponsor. She does very well, except for the when Jack asks her about meeting the Duke of Sandringham's wife. Who obviously doesn't exist. But I'm not going to be too hard on either Jamie or Claire for not being genre savvy. It's not like they have TV Tropes to educate themselves with.
Jack ties Claire up with the rope he has in his desk, which Claire rightfully questions. And then Jack takes out a knife and prepares to rape Claire. And as I hyperventilate at the screen because I really don't want to watch this, Jamie appears in the window with "I'll thank you to take your hands off my wife!" Oh thank god. Or not, since we have to wait until April to see the conclusion.
Honestly, until Claire got captured and delivered to Black Jack, I really felt like this episode was a breather episode following two weeks of high emotion. Starting with Frank in the 1940s felt like "catching up" with something that was important, but not vital. And Claire and Jamie were just puttering along.
And yet, the fact that a wham of a cliffhanger was just out of reach seemed equally inevitable. I did like that the two things that lead to Claire being left behind (a rape attempt and a knife) were combined in Black Jack at the end. He's every possible trauma in one package. Where Claire used the knife out of necessity and went into shock after, Black Jack's use of it was incredibly causal. It was a nice and unexpected contrast.
So now we have about 6 months to wait to see the resolution of Jamie bursting in on them. I doubt it will go well.