Wentworth: The Burden of Knowing (#Outlander)

I have heard the fearful rumblings.  Some will choose to not watch Saturday’s episode, and that is certainly their prerogative.  (Trust me, I get trigger warnings.  Do what you gotta do!  No judging here.)  But I will be watching.  I won’t hide behind a pillow.  I won’t be live-tweeting.  I.  Will.  Watch.  (Admittedly, there may be a dram or two at hand. And Kleenex…plenty of Kleenex.)

Before I go any further, in leiu of a proper “Trigger Warning Font,” please allow me to just switch to my big, red warning font:




Ok, now that that’s out of the way…

Saturday means Wentworth.  It means sacrifice.  It means Curl-Into-The-Fetal-Position-While-Still-Trying-To-Keep-The-Whisky-Flowing.  But it also means a turning point.  Up until Wentworth, Jamie fought tooth and nail to protect Claire (despite the fact she had an annoying 20th century habit of wandering off, speaking her mind, and generally causing mayhem).  But at Wentworth, Jamie protects Claire by NOT fighting.  Well, at least not in the normal sense of the word.

In order to see Claire safely delivered from Wentworth prison and the clutches of Black Jack Randall, Jamie agrees to allow BJR take free liberty with his body.  Jamie agrees not to resist.  He pledges to accept whatever Black Jack wants of him—no matter how painful, or degrading, or horrific.  Jamie agrees to it, because his body is the only thing he is in a position to bargain.  He agrees to it, because no price is too great to protect the woman he loves.  (Excuse me while I swoon a little…nevermind, it was just the whisky.)

And Jamie is true to his word.  Jamie does not resist…but that doesn’t mean he didn’t fight.  Jamie—so strong, so proud—he most certainly fought.  He fought himself.  He fought every survival instinct that told him to Make. It. Stop.  Jamie fought his own humiliation, and disgust, and fear, and pain, and arousal, and shame.  Yes, there was a struggle going on; for a while, Jamie sure beat the hell out of himself.

Certainly at the abbey, Claire was left with a broken man.  Go back, he said.  Just let me die, he said.  Definitely not the Jamie we are used to.  But then, he had planned on dying in Wentworth.  And, to be honest, that which he could hope to erase in death was simply more than he was equipped to live with when he finds himself very much alive.  Jamie admits as much to Claire.

But how do you give someone back their pride, their dignity?  Jamie couldn’t fight for Claire at Wentworth—he had given his word and he meant to keep it.  But Claire could help him fight the lingering demons.  And, when finally relieved of his vow, fight he did.  Jamie awoke the next day to a wrecked room, a naked wife, and only fragmented memories of the battle that they had waged together.

One of my other posts garnered some comments about Outlander being awfully “rape-y.”

Rape also happens a lot in Outlander…because, well, rape happens a lot.  Period.  Claire does not escape this harsh reality.  When Jamie comes with Young Ian, Roger, and the men of Fraser’s Ridge, the drums echoing in the darkness*, he is faced with a very battered and abused woman.  The first time I read that book, I wept.  And not pretty, lady-like crying, no.  I cried that “Swollen-Eyes-Runny-Nose-Can’t-Breathe-Just-Pass-The-Damned-Kleenex” kind of crying.  Jamie was ferocious in his attack on her assailants, unspeakably gentle in his ministrations to Claire, and clear minded about the possible repurcussions of her rape, say, oh, nine months hence.  What threw me at first, though, was what he thought to himself when Claire very, erm, aggressively commenced their their first Post-Rape Consummation.

She fought then, that’s good.  (Or words to that effect.)

At first, it rubbed me the wrong way–as if fighting were something she owed him.  But then I realized that Jamie, of all people, would understand better than that.  He knew that fighting was something she needed.  She needed to fight…to fight through the anger, helplessness, and humiliation.  Just as he had demons to fight, so did Claire.  And she screamed and clawed and raged…just as he had.  And he let her…just has she had.

Brianna, ever her parent’s daughter, also did not escape the 17th century unscathed and, like them, she struggled with it.  Jamie watched her brooding over whether she might have somehow fought off the attack.  Instead of trying to sooth her with soft words and reassurances; however, he provokes her, riles up here anger, and shows her just how futile her fists would have been; in doing so, he assuages her guilt in a way that no mere words could have done.

He also helped Brianna to forgive–and not just herself.  Jamie confides in her that forgiveness is a choice he makes every day.  Every day.  Over twenty years have passed, and he still has to face the past and make the choice.  The Choice.  He did not “reach a place where he could forgive” or “learn to forgive.”  Jamie chose to forgive.  And, in choosing, he takes back some of the power he handed over on a dark night, at a place called Wentworth.

No, the struggle didn’t end when he was freed from Wentworth, nor when Claire made him face his demons at the abbey.  The struggle didn’t end.

The struggle didn’t end for Claire once the bruises faded.  The struggle didn’t end for Brianna just because she tried to hide what had happened.  And Jamie knows this all too well…he shares the burden of knowledge.

And while the Wentworth will be painful to watch…it is honest: things that happen to us (and yes, sometimes things that we allow to happen to us) aren’t resolved neatly at the end of an hour.

Having read the books, I know what will happen.  I also know how Jamie’s decision at Wentworth echoes through the rest of the books.  While perhaps not quite so deep and festering after a time, the choice does leave a very prominent scar—less visible than those he bears on his back, of course, but a scar nonetheless.

So I will try to face Wentworth with the same unflinching resolve as Jamie did…and I will fight off the specters afterwards.

*Fan girl admission: this bit is one of my favorites.  The description of the bodhrán gives me goosebumps.  Seriously.  Every Time.


24 thoughts on “Wentworth: The Burden of Knowing (#Outlander)

  1. This was so amazingly perfect! I tend to get confrontational making a point and I didn’t want to do that with this episode. I know it is a really hard deal for some people and I respect that – so I chose not to say a whole lot. For me it’s movies like Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker I have trouble watching because I know they actually happened – fairly recently. They were REAL events. Also depends on where my head is at that moment in time.

    This is exactly what I was thinking and feeling and you said it SO much better than I could have – so thank you!

    I posted the following comment on a couple of FB groups and DG’s page – no real response of course but I was trying to just give my thoughts without stepping on toes:

    I have seen a lot of comments from people saying they simply can’t bear to watch the pain and cruelty that is coming within the scenes of Wentworth. For me personally, I worry more about what WON’T be shown, for then my own imagination will take over and likely make it far worse than anything that can be shown on the screen. Sam is so expressive, not seeing it will make feeling it more painful in a way. I’m actually curious to see which way Ron played this…showing all….or just enough to let a person’s imagination take over and do the rest with suggestion.

    Jamie would not have grown into the man/character we know and love without the horror of Black Jack. It sucks but it’s true. The strongest, finest metal is tempered by the hottest fire.


    • It is true though…how could Jamie have possibly dealt with what Claire and Brianna had to endure had he not walked that mile himself? Sure he would have cared, and tried, but to KNOW. Well, that’s another thing entirely. And you did a lovely job of explaining your position. 😉


  2. I really hope Bear McCreary has a bodhran at the ready for the soundtrack of that scene! He’s been so on point with all the other music that I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t. I’ve already shared with you on Twitter how I feel about this upcoming ep but will say it again here. I see watching episode 115 as bearing witness to Jamie’s sacrifice. It will be hard, I will cringe and may cry, but for me, not to watch diminishes the depth of his sacrifice and that payoff I’m expecting from To Ransom A Man’s Soul! What happens in Ep 115 is the tragedy that most shapes who he is as a man and given the number of other tragedies of his life (Ft William flogging & father’s death, Culloden, Clearances, 20 years without his love) that is saying something. I. Will. Watch.


    • Ack! I just tweeted that I couldn’t wait to hear what Bear McCreary would do with the bodhran scene. He weaves magic into music.

      Yes “bearing witness” is the perfect way to explain what Saturday means. I’ll bring extra Kleenex.


    • Gina, what you said. Bearing witness to good and evil is critical. Evil flourishes in the darkness and withers in the light. We need to bring that light to bear whenever we can, if we can. At the same time, some simply cannot do so. We each have to know our own limits and respect those of others. I hated reading about Wentworth, but it made what Claire did for Jamie so much more powerful for me. I will be watching.


  3. People who would come out of this episode saying that Jamie was weak in any way because he didn’t “fight” Black Jack are just plain WRONG. His mental status is so destroyed after BECAUSE of how hard he fought to keep himself from retaliating so that Claire would be safe. And it’s those mental connections as much as physical that bond him and Claire so much. They share experiences in ways that no other couple ever would, and so they understand the way that the other deals with trauma.


    • Anyone who thinks Jamie is weak needs to reread the books.

      He protected the love of his life with no thought of the sacrifice he had to make. He kept his word. No matter what it cost him. 💜


  4. Exactly…people make the mistake of judging based on 21st century standards of what “manliness” means and defending yourself and others means. But sometimes that definition has to change or be looked upon in a different light. Jamie defended Claire in the only way he could and he tried to keep what little dignity he could reserve through all of the brutalizing that was done to him. Those characteristics make him one of the strongest male characters I have ever read about.


    • Agree so much. This sacrifice also gives him a reference point for the sacrifice Claire has to make (ahem, King of France *cough cough*).

      And, understanding her motivation, he is able to move past what she had to do.

      In Wentworth, a lesser man would have balked at the sacrifice…he might have willingly fought to death, but not THAT. However, Jamie concedes to WHATEVER it takes to keep Claire safe. 💔


  5. “Rape also happens alot in Outlander…because well, rape happens alot.” It happens everyday in every part of the world and the truth is that the attack is just the beginning of the devastation. As a child my abuser not only raped me but kept me from telling my mother by threatening me. When I finally got up the courage to tell her we did what many did for fear of further victimization. We tried to get on with life and put it behind us. I don’t blame my mother. At the time she did the best she could in a society that still believed that you must have done something to ask for it.

    I spent the next thirty years denying what had happened to me. I managed to marry and have two lovely children, but continued to struggle with self esteem issues, distrust of men and an inability to ever really let down my guard. I learned to hide what I was feeling behind a mask of being as close to perfect as I could be.

    It was becoming involved with a Women’s Abuse Shelter that began bringing it all up to the surface for me. Yet I still couldn’t talk about it to anyone, not even to my husband. Bless his heart he had his suspicions from things I said over the years but he never pushed me.

    During this time I bought my daughter a book called Outlander. She really liked period novels, Infact I think I bought the first three. I read the first two but was too busy to really get into them. It took another crisis for me to find my own personal miracle.

    My husbands health has deteriorated and during one of the periods he was in the hospital I grabbed a book to keep me company. It was Outlander and I was horrified by Wentworth prison. I don’t know what kept me reading but I have read all of them through twice. I cried for Jamie, Brianna and Claire. I know they are fictional characters but Diana Gabaldon through her stories has given me what I finally needed to begin healing

    Jamie taught me to never give in to my demons. I have spent decades letting my abuser win. Everyday I hid from myself believing I was bad and deserved to be treated like that was a day he controlled me. Jamie learned to go on living life on his terms. He taught his daughter and me that bad things happen to good people. She was so ashamed that she had been raped. The guilt was eating her up and all the words of assurance wasn’t going to make it better. She had to accept what had happened and forgive herself for something she had no control over. She survived. Claire may have taught me the most. Her way of dealing with her ordeal was to try and suppress her feelings sparing Jamie and Brianna. I know that feeling. She was also brave enough to allow Jamie to help her. I am working on that.

    In the books Jamie has learned to accept and forgive. I haven’t quite reached that state of grace. But I will watch on Saturday to honor Diana’s books and Series. If the actors are brave enough to put themselves through this than so can I.


    • The fact that you can share your story is a testament to just how far you have come. Bless you. Words can heal. And just as this story was a balm to your soul, perhaps your words can help another.

      These books have been my refuge through some very dark days as well. The books and my Outlander friends stood vigil with me when my husband was in the hospital after his heart attack.

      When my own words failed me, I turned the well worn pages and recited one of the prayers that Jamie uttered in his times of desperation.

      When I watch Saturday, I will raise my glass to you my friend, that you will find complete grace and peace. 💜


  6. Very well written post and truly amazing conversation following. I will be watching, and honouring Jamie for his incredible sacrifice and also to honour the actors for what must have been a beyond belief intense episode to do. If they can live through it, the least we can do is watch.


  7. Thank you for this article. I was assaulted as a teenager and never told my family for fear they would blame me. It has colored my life and made me afraid of having any romantic relationships. Seeing the way that Jamie and Claire have survived and grown despite the atrocities they endured in Diana Gabaldon’s series (yes, I know it’s a work of fiction) reminds me that I can’t allow the past to ruin my future. Talking to a counselor and praying that one day, I will be able to trust again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It takes strength to survive an assault. And it takes another kind of strength to dare to let someone close again. We can find strength in different places. Books can embolden us, inspire us…they can be refuge and salvation.

      I am glad you are still moving forward instead of becoming mired in the pain of the past. May you find love worthy of a fairy tale…bless you. 💗


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