Outlander Recap: S03E12 “The Bakra”

“The Bakra” takes a turn for the witchy with the arrival of old characters with a some (questionable) new hairdos, as the Fraser gang finally arrives in Jamaica. The episode was altogether entertaining, and a good segue from the previous side-quest episodes, and the main plot of the second part of the season. Which is what you might be wondering.

So remember this kid?

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The episode begins by giving us a brief summary of what had happened to him after he had been kidnapped. The pirates had been after the box that Jamie had been sent Ian to fetch. After they retrieve the box, they decide to keep Ian for the Bakra, since the Bakra likes young men. We then see Ian arriving in Jamaica, and being thrown into a cell with two other young men. As one of the other prisoners tells him, the Bakra is sort of a man-eater: the other ones had been sent to her and had never returned.

But Ian doesn’t have to wait long until he is taken to the Bakra himself: Like Ian, she is Scottish. Unlike Ian, she likes to bathe in  blood (and it is during one of her baths that she welcomes Ian into her chamber) And, the moment she speaks, we immediately recognize her as Geillis Duncan/Gillian Edgars.

As a normal reaction to seeing someone bathe in blood, Ian looks scared out of his mind as Geillis steps out of the tub covered in blood. She tries to reassure him that it is only goat’s blood that she uses to keep her skin young. It’s nice to see that someone on this show is given a legitimate reason why they only look a few years older than in the last season set 20 years prior. But, Jesus, Geillis, Elizabeth Bathory much?

Geillis quickly feeds and gives tea to Young Ian, whose primary concern is to know what it is she does with the other boys. Geilis doesn’t answer any questions, and instead begins to ask Ian questions about how he ended up with her box, and if he had taken one of the three sapphires that had originally been there. Now, as you might recall, Jamie had given John a sapphire he had gotten retrieved from that treasure box in “All Debts Paid”. Ian tells her that he had not had enough time to open the box before her men kidnapped him. But, to his own surprise, he tells her that his uncle had likely taken the Sapphire. Geillis had spiked Ian’s tea with Veritaserum or something, and regardless of if he wanted to or not, he would have to tell her the truth. This, of course, leads him to reveal that his uncle is none other than James Fraser of Broch Tuarach. Ian threatens that his uncle will come for him, to which Geilis responds that she is counting on it, and hopes that he will bring her jewelry along.

Ian insists on wanting to know the fate of the boys, because that’s a pretty pressing matter for him. Geilis simply says that she takes their virginities, and doesn’t really say what happens after (that’s not creepy at all). But, despite young Ian not being a virgin, he is declared fit to be Gellis’s lover, by Geilis herself. Needless to say, everything about this scene made me incredibly uncomfortable and the ending of it didn’t necessarily make me feel any better. For a show that has struggled with issues of rape and consent, particularly this season, it was difficult to watch something that basically amounted to the sexual assault of a minor.

Luckily for Ian, his aunt, uncle, adopted and step-cousins who are married, and the employees and partner of his uncle have arrived in Jamaica. However, they have to tread carefully, since Captain Leonard is likely already in Jamaica and looking for Jamie.

Claire is apparently under the impression that Jamaica is the jewel of the Caribbean, which is kind of silly considering she just left the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean. She’s also under the impression that an island in the most important economic place under British domain is “primitive”. At the port, they meet Kenneth McIver, an employee of Jamie’s cousin Jared. He invites them to the grand ball being held in honor of the new governor, but Claire and Jamie quickly inform him of what had brought them to Jamaica.

Mr. McIver confirms that the Bruja, the ship that took Ian, had already set port in Jamaica and was likely going to Portugal or Africa. Now, the audience has already figured out that this boat and its crew likely work for Geillis. And for those watching that weren’t clued in by “the Caribbean” and “Portuguese ship”, McIver is also telling us that the Bruja trades in enslaved cargo. So to make sure we are all on the same page: this is a slave vessel, owned by a woman from the XXth century.
And while, of course, racism had not disappeared by Geillis’s time, the fact that this contemporary woman is engaging in this industry that she should recognize as violent, abusive, and utterly inhumane makes me sick.

However, this means the best place for them to start looking for Ian is the slave market. Claire and Jamie go to the market and begin asking around for him, but it’s more along the lines of: Jamie asks around for him while Claire walks around the market, absolutely disgusted at what she’s seeing. This isn’t the first time Claire interacts with the grittiest aspects of the past, and it certainly won’t be the last. I do wish that this experience had received more attention. I wish the show had told what Claire, a woman living in America during the Civil Rights Movement and with her closest (and possibly only) friend being a black man, was thinking during this scene, particularly since the show has shown a lot more tact in dealing with non-white characters than the book.

Their trip is, however, fruitful: Jamie finds out that the new governor had bought slaves from the Bruja. But while he was doing this, Claire had wandered off, sort of hypnotized by the horror. She eventually stumbles upon a slave auction, where a young man with a limp was being presented. As the auctioneer announces, he was not fit to work but would serve for breeding. The people at the auction ask for proof of this, and the auctioneer begins lifting his small cloth and reaches out to touch him. That is the last straw for Claire Fraser, and she punches the slave auctioneer with her umbrella, yelling at him to stop it. Eventually, the crowd turns against Claire and they begin to attack her. Jamie is able to safely remove her from the crowd, and Claire asks him to please do something to save the young man.

The only possible solution is for Jamie to buy the slave, since in any other scenario he would just be sold to someone else. Claire’s immediate response is that they set him free. And while Jamie is right, Claire is still incredibly uncomfortable. Jamie tells her that they can’t just free him in Kingston, because another slave trader could just claim him and re-sell him. While this would certainly be true of an escaped slave, a slave that is granted freedom would very likely be given a letter or other type of manumission document. signed by witnesses and notary. Why Jamie Fraser does not know what an emancipation letter are is beyond me. In his defense, as an accused criminal it probably isn’t the best idea for him to sign that kind of document, but the slave is Claire’s. The slave’s name is Temeraire.

Of course, the reason why they have to keep him is because of #plot. As a fellow slave, Temeraire could befriend the governor’s slaves and find out what’s up with Ian. But, the Frasers do promise him that they will set him free when he is safe.And let us take a moment to deal with this white savior narrative. It’s in the plot of the books but this recap’s humble editor (@beka)  and author have to wonder how the white man/woman buying an enslaved man and setting him free without a letter of manumission and/or money (?) should really be taken as a kind move. I know that Jamie/Claire are our protagonists and we are on their side, but it rubs me the wrong way to make them the heroes in this scenario and take agency away from the POC characters, particularly as Jamie treats Yi Tien Cho at the ball later in the episode.

We then return to Geillis, who is talking to Archibald and Margaret Campbell, whom you might remember from “Créme de Menthe”. The wealthy patron that had brought them to Jamaica had been none other than Geillis, who was intending to use the gemstones. The trick being all three sapphires were needed for Geillis’s request to be fulfilled: for Margaret to predict when the next Scottish king would rise.

Listen Geilis, I hate to break it to you, but back in 1968 the British Monarch was (and is still) a half-Scottish woman, so I don’t know what the fuck you’re blabbering on about.

Geillis’s character is one that I find incredibly confusing in terms of what her thinking process and her motivations are. It’s very clear that she’s meant to be taken as a political extremist, that is willing kill, seduce, and bewitch anyone in her way to get to an independent Scotland. Her use of her supernatural knowledge and talents for her cause is also totally understandable. What I don’t understand is how, as a young woman in the 1960s, she decided that the best way to achieve an independent Scotland would be by re-establishing a Scottish monarch. Obviously, she would have been a very poor antagonist for this show if she had stayed behind in the 60’s and pushed for indyref to happen a few decades earlier. But her motivations do not make any sense to me.

Claire and Jamie arrive at the governor’s party and they send Temeraire on his way to the slave quarters. I think Claire is still reeling from her visit to the slave market, which is the only reason why I can forgive her for not having any lines making of Jamie for wearing this wig.

I get it that you’re trying to be “accurate”, but if you don’t know what the fuck a manumission letter you can cut the fucking wigs.

“Thank you, Lesley. I really don’t care if these people think I’m respectable” (Claire at the slave market). Claire’s hair also looks really uneven and I don’t like it, mostly because I feel like it’s giving her a headache it also consistently looks like it’s going to fall down and I was stressed the whole back half of this episode about it. They are joined by Fergus, Marsali, and Yi Tien Cho, who thankfully have great hairdos. Yi Tien Cho was invited along because people are racist and he could prove a distraction, which is messed up.

As they wait in line, Claire is paying very close attention to the slaves that are posted as servants at the party. Jamie notices and asks her about the end of the slave trade. I love the small moments like these when Claire shares with Jamie all this information that must seem so distant to him. And, as I said before, I wanted to see this issue be flushed out a bit more. They are distracted by other forms of racism when one of the guests approaches Jamie and asks if Yi Tien Cho was genuine YIKES

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At the very least, Yi Tien Cho seems happy that a woman is curious instead of disgusted by his alienness. However, another lassie catches Yi Tien Cho’s eye: Margaret Campbell, who is predicting to a slave how he will be free in the future. For one moment, they eyes meet across the room and make eye contact, and that was all it took for me to be Team Yi Tien/Margaret.

As they wait in line, Claire and Jamie are looking at Fergus and Marsali, acting like the newlyweds they are. Claire asks Jamie if he remembers when they were like that, and he jokingly says that of course, since she couldn’t keep her hands off of him. Of course, he tells her, it couldn’t have been helped since she was holding on from the back of a horse.

And honestly, this small moment when Jamie making Claire laugh with a silly joke is everything that makes this series amazing. This was followed by Claire and Jamie inventing eye-sex. For a moment I thought they were legitimately going to start tearing each other’s clothes out then and there.

(Claire should have started with the wig)

But, the scene and the music quickly change when they approach the end of the line, and Jamie sees a familiar face: Lord John Grey, Outlander’s resident cinnamon roll, who is also wearing a terrible wig.

 

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Hey @BearMcreary: When is the season 3 soundtrack going to be released so I can listen to LJG’s theme on repeat for 25 hours?

Jamie approaches John, who is surprised but ultimately incredibly happy to see him. Now, Jamie does seem to have told Claire everything regarding Willie and John, but it’s unclear if she had been told about John being madly in love with Jamie. If she wasn’t it becomes very clear to her in this episode, and she doesn’t seem very happy about it.

John leads them to another room, so they can speak in private. The camera then zooms out to another major guest at the party: Geillis, who is wearing the worst wig of them all.

After they’re alone, Jamie proceeds to ask about Willie. He’s not yet in Jamaica, but he and Isobel were going to join John during the summer. He is a “marvelous equestrian” and still remembers Jamie, from time to time.

John offers to help in any way that he can in the search of Young Ian. As they speak, Jamie notices that John is wearing the Sapphire he had given John at Ardsmuir, which he wears to remember Jamie by (#plot)

After they leave his office, Jamie goes to meet with a Freemason that might help him find Ian. In the meantime, a new OTP is formed when Yi Tien Cho comes over to Margaret and they both recognize how the other is “a rare soul”.

Meanwhile, John comes over to Claire and proposes they start an association entitled: “We <3 Jamie Fraser”. Maybe they’ll get jackets. In this scene, I think they both manage to acknowledge that they love Jamie, but it comes with an acknowledgment on John’s side that he knows Claire is the one Jamie loves.

But, their conversation is cut short when Claire notices Geillis and decides to run after her. To her shock, Claire finds her and realizes that it is not a ghost, but Geillis Duncan in the flesh. We had already known that Geillis was kept alive until after the birth of her child, but it turns out that Dougal had helped her escape. After that, she had married a plantation owner who had died a few years ago (this should be a red flag, Claire). Claire confirms to Geillis that she was a time traveler, and Claire thanks Geillis for saving her during the witch trial.

Now, when we first met Geillis Duncan, I was really rooting for her. I liked that Claire had a female friend who was like her in characters and talent, and after a certain point, she seemed to genuinely care for Claire. But then the story carries along and Geillis does things like killing her husbands, owning slaves, and assaulting young men, and I can’t help but to think of that Tyra Banks “we were rooting for you” moment. This scene is a perfect example of this: It’s beautiful to see these two women reconnecting, and for Claire to be able to say thanks. But then, when Claire shares the story of Ian, Geillis’s natural reaction is to say: Oh nooo I haven’t heard anything. She also refers to Jamie as Claire’s “wee fox cub”, which is… interesting. I’m also like, won’t Geillis be mad when she finds out that Claire and Jamie straight up murdered Dougal back in the day?

Claire brings Geillis over to say hello to Jamie, and she introduces her to John. As she speaks, she notices the Sapphire and after asking how he came by it, she suddenly leaves, so she can begin plotting a way to get her prophecy.

She asks Archibald to make Margaret tell fortunes at the party Geilis eventually tricks/bullies John into having his “fortune” told. In reality, Margaret is being forced to give Geillis a prophecy
Despite Margaret’s reluctances, she does end up delivering the prophecy:
“When twice 1,200 moons have coursed, ‘tween man’s attack and women’s course and when the issue is cut down, then will a Scotsman wear a crown”

John is understandably very confused, but so is Geillis who did not understand the prophecy. Archibald tries to explain it to her, but he’s only able to figure out that: A Scottish king will rise in Scotland when a child that is 200 years old at its birth, dies.

Geilis reacts with anger, asking if he thinks she’s stupid in believing something about a 200-year-old baby. This is when we should all re-watch the clip in the season 2 finale when Bree goes up to Geillis and essentially tells her she’s wrong about history. Also, she just saw Claire, another time traveler. Like can you not put two and two together? I am also aware that this is a plot point from the book and it will be revealed how she figures it out next ep but STILL.

Outside the party, Fergus and Marsali are being adorable newlyweds, when they notice Captain Leonard entering the party. They rush in to warn Jamie, and they all leave the party. As they leave, they see Temeraire, who tells them Ian had been taken to the residence of Mistress Abernathy (AKA Geillis).

Temeraire wants to know if the bargain is still on, and he tells them that several slaves live in the mountains near Geillis’ home. Temeraire shows them the way, and after he runs off into the mountains, with his undocumented freedom because the printer over here has no ink or paper. They begin their journey, but a little short after, they are stopped and Jamie is captured by Leonard after Claire reminds the captain that his life was saved because of her. Before being captured, Jamie hands Claire “the pictures of the children” and leaves her with one command: to find Young Ian, no matter what.

We have one episode to go and a whole lot of plot of Voyager to cover. Will Lord John and Jamie’s bromance continue? Is Young Ian okay? Will Claire murder someone else this season? Is there any hope for a nuanced look at slavery? Will the wigs get better?

“The Bakra” Episode Vitals

MVP: Claire Fraser, for punching a slave trader with her umbrella.
Favorite Moment: Claire and Jamie’s 5 minutes of eye sex
Biggest Annoyance: Why does nothing about Geillis Duncan/Abernethy make any sense?
Best Line:  Claire, at the slave market: “Thank you, Lesley. I really don’t care if these people think I’m respectable”

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