******WARNING this post contains graphically disturbing images and content*************
Though we were introduced to Captain Jonathan Wolverton “Black Jack”” Randall in the premiere episode, in this episode 106, The Garrison Commander, we are fully exposed to his true nature, his blackness, his torment, and his damaged soul.
During Claire’s seemingly successful meeting with Brigadier General Lord Oliver Thomas to clear the MacKenzies from holding her prisoner and hopefully gain transport to Inverness, Black Jack bursts in disheveled and dusty. He clearly irritates Thomas who is claiming risk to his claret.
Incredible tension as he obviously recognizes Claire. Quiet menace is exuded. Even Thomas is questioning if they have met.
After dusting himself off rudely like a small child, he finally tells Thomas why he is there. Dougal MacKenzie the Clan War Chief is downstairs quaffing the ale. To his shock Thomas knows this and informs BJR that Dougal is the one brought Mrs. Beauchamp in for the meeting. BJR is puzzled by the relationship between Claire and Dougal. Suspicions begin to arise. Throwing in a story of an English soldier who was killed by some Scots, Claire jumps to defend with her own story of the dead men by the roadside the English soldiers obviously killed. He goes for the throat with Claire insinuating Dougal has bedded her. All are aghast at BJR and Claire. Serious suspicions arise toward Claire. He is starting to zero in on her hard.
A soldier comes in to tell of an ambush will an injured soldier in the parlor. with the surgeon in an unknown location, Claire jumps up to help. she leaves all the men in the dining room. Claire returns to find BJR n the dining room with Hawkins in attendance. All the other men were dispatched after the men who ambushed the English soldiers. So in a very dubious manner BJR chooses to be shaved by Hawkins for his conversation with Claire. A power play over Hawkins after being nicked, he shaves the young man in a menacing way before sending him away. The young man was obviously scared.
His first action while Claire asks where the men are is to pour out the precious claret. No respect for Thomas. No regard.
We now get to the depth of this exchange. He seeks honesty and declares honesty, revelation and insight to Claire.
He begins to interrogate her in a somewhat cat and mouse way. He is toying with her. He is playing her. She is internally in between time seeing the visage of Frank in front of her.
Disbelieving Claire’s answers, his mood and tack begin to change. Interrupting. Calloused.
He takes out a knife, sharpens some charcoal and begins to draw while asking more questions. Agitated in manner. She still seems to see Frank in him. She wants to believe he is not so bad. He continues to play with her.
Asking her close, he reveals his drawing. Her image. She is aghast. “Beautiful Lies”” he called it.
Claws out, he goes after her wanting information about Dougal fundraising for the Jacobite rebellion.If she gives evidence , he claims he will get her to Inverness. She says she knows nothing. She sits down in defiance. He threatens if she will not talk, he has other ways of getting what he wants. His deep anger evident.
Claire now launches into a diatribe about his reputation around Leoch regarding his other methods, namely flogging a highland boy 100 lashes upon 100 lashes. His expression subtlety menacing as he hears her words. He responds by a lengthy monologue detailing the flogging she describes. (*****this is where the graphic imagery and detail are.*********)
Settling in his face almost emotionally flat in expression yet tight jawed as ever.
The flashback to the second flogging begins. He sets the scene , Dougal is present and he is going to administer this punishment himself.
He sizes up jamie, his just healing wounds and asks if he is afraid. Jamie says only of freezing while BJR talks. This fires BJR. He will make an example of this young man. Jamie is a piece of meat. His plaything.
Proud Jamie stands tall and ready. This only deepens BJR’s desire, his sick need to break him.
Claire listens in stoic horror. BJR talks about how he needs to pace himself because 100 lashes is quite tiring. He continues on relating through flashback. His description of fluttering in the belly disturbingly sounds like love flowing through him.
The lashing continues. Jamie refuses to make a sound. Dougal watches as does jamie’s father Brian.
Blood pours from Jamie but BJR must continue. He is incensed Jamie will not break or beg. He yells in his face before continuing. This feels like he has to control and get what he wants.
He has a renewed enthusiasm now. He is firmly believing they are making a beautiful bloody masterpiece together. The fury in him. A soldier faints, the crowd laughs then gasps in horror at the relentless whipping even as he slips in the blood soaking the platform. This feels like a sexual primal response to get his need met, aroused and he wants release. Shudders.
He is in the darkest of places. only seeing beauty in this cruel sadistic display that leaves jamie passed out and crumpled.
Claire in obvious horror, attempts to reach any light in BJR. She still wants a spark of Frank. Seeming to respond, he talks about how being a soldier changed him. How he is made to do such things. Acts as if he wants to not be dark. She engages further. He bites. Even goes so far as to offer her to leave for Inverness as a first step in the redemption of Black jack Randall. She lightens and he remarks what an odd feeling making someone happy is. The cat wants to eat his prey.
Then he thinks better as he calls Hawkins in and Claire is expressing her gratitude. He punches her straight in the gut, dropping her to the floor. He tells her darkness is where he belongs. He then commands Hawkins to kick her as it is freeing to kick a woman. Hawkins mildly protests then gently kicks her. BJR unsatisfied yells at him to kick her. He does. She gasps and chokes further.
Thankfully Dougal arrives in time to stop further abuse. BJR is aghast and dumbfounded that he is interrupted. Dougal says he is taking her back into MacKenzie protection. Unless of course BJR wants a war to start that very day. Claire shaken and in pain stands behind Dougal. BJR acquiesces demanding she be delivered to him at Ft. William by sunset the next day for further questioning and imprisonment. Dougal agrees and they exit under condition.
Leaving Black Jack Randall to himself. Contemplative without resolution in his quest for information from Claire.
There was inference that his darkness comes from military service. Claire wants it to be so. BJR allows her to think so. While I absolutely believe soldiers can be profoundly damaged by war and frontline service, his level of sadistic, cruel behavior seems to go far deeper than that. I have personally witnessed PTSD from the Vietnam War and more recent Desert Storm wars. Definitely those affected by their experiences were altered. There is something far more insidious with perhaps PTSD contributing to his malevolence. but not at the root cause.
He is a case study for any time. I would be thrilled to know exactly what things in his life triggered such behavior.
This episode was very difficult to watch. BJR on paper is a horror, but onscreen is truly shocking. I actually had nightmares. This portrayal in my view is many shades darker than anything Diana put on the page. Knowing ultimately what is in store for him, I can breathe. Though of course I know it will get far worse before it gets better. My husband was very disturbed by BJR. He needed assurance BJR will get what he deserves. I gave no spoilers but told him yes it gets better. Eventually…….