Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the season three “Outlander” episode titled “The Bakra.”
Over the past three seasons of “Outlander,” Claire and Jamie Fraser have crossed paths with a multitude of shady, dangerous characters: Black Jack Randall, Lord Lovat, the Duke of Sandringham, Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, etc. But no one has really brought the crazy and the creepy — in such a deliciously entertaining way, mind you — like Geillis Duncan, née Gillian Edgars.
Viewers who haven’t read “Voyager” got the shock of their lives tonight when the supposedly dead Geillis emerged very much alive from a literal pool of goat’s blood in the episode’s prologue. (And that goat’s blood, as the Scottish nationalist remarks, apparently does wonders for the skin, because, like Caitriona Balfe’s Claire, Lotte Verbeek’s wicked character hasn’t a day in the past 20 years.)
In yet another shift from the book, which, again, only provides Claire’s point of view, tonight’s episode, “The Bakra,” kicked off with a long-overdue reunion with the kidnapped Young Ian. First we got a quick flashback to teen’s perspective upon his capture by Portuguese pirates — hired muscle for the mysterious “Bakra.” Flashing forward to Ian’s arrival in Jamaica, the boy is brought to a lavish plantation, where he is received by the charismatic “Bakra” herself, one Geillis Duncan, now Abernathy (mm-hmm, just wait; it’s no coincidence that’s the same name as Claire’s colleague from Boston).
Here it is established, before the opening titles even run, that Claire’s onetime friend and savior is the real villain of season three. The buildup to the reveal of Geillis’ true nature has been slow and organic, but once you put the pieces together, everything makes sense. Sure, she was a bit of a kook in season one, and yes, that whole killing of her husband, Arthur Duncan, so she could marry Dougal MacKenzie was disturbing, but, hey, she saved Claire from being burned at the stake, so all is forgiven, right?
Not exactly. As we learned from the season two finale, Geillis has always been a murderous psychopath, even before she first time-traveled through the stones at Craigh na Dun. Back when she was plain old Gillian Edgars, living in 1968, she was so intent on bringing a Scottish king to the throne that she thought nothing of murdering her first husband, Greg, as a sacrifice before heading to the 18th century.
So once we see that Geillis has Young Ian in her clutches, and a brief scene informs us that “the Bakra” has an affinity for young men who then tend to disappear, the fact that we don’t see Jamie’s nephew for the rest of the episode does not bode well for the lad. Especially because thanks to the truth-serum tea Geillis plied him with, Ian has already provided all of the information she is seeking: Jamie Fraser is his uncle, and he is not responsible for the missing third sapphire from the treasure box that she needs. That’s because unbeknownst to Geillis or Young Ian, Jamie gave it to Lord John Grey years ago.
Thus opens the penultimate episode of season three, which finds Claire and Jamie finally arriving in Jamaica, where their mission once again takes several unexpected turns.
But first, let me explain why those sapphires are so important to Geillis, because it’s all part of the crazy: Remember that treasure Jamie sent Ian to retrieve — the one that was going to pay for Laoghaire’s alimony? Well, as we learn from Geillis’ regularly expository dialogue, which is peppered with 20th-century references ranging from “Casablanca” quotes to F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, 20 years and a crushing defeat at Culloden have done absolutely nothing to sway her devotion to “the cause.” She is now of the belief that the three sapphires in question — which came from Dougal MacKenzie’s stash — will reveal when the next Scottish king will come to power.
Enter Archibald and Margaret Campbell, a brother-sister duo Claire met back in Edinburgh, who have also made the journey to the West Indies: Margaret, despite having lost her marbles a while back, is a seer, and is apparently the only one able to decipher this supposed sapphire prophecy.
(Isn’t it incredible what a difference a week makes? Geillis’ cuckoo plans make Father Fogden’s affinity for chatting up a coconut rather innocuous now, don’t you think?)
Anyway, back to the Frasers and their search for Young Ian, which, sadly, must begin at a Kingston slave market: Since it’s believed the teenager was sold into slavery, it’s the best place to start asking questions. Not surprisingly, Claire’s 20th-century sensibilities cause her to lash out against the monstrous industry that saw innocent men and women chained and caged against their will. Claire’s well-justified fury results in Jamie, still the most progressive 18th-century-raised individual on “Outlander,” purchasing a slave named Temeraire — with the intention of setting him free. This transaction winds up being some of the smartest money the Frasers have ever spent, because it is Temeraire, who is eventually able to connect Young Ian’s whereabouts to Geillis’ plantation.
Before that happens, the Frasers secure an invitation to a grand ball at the governor’s mansion. Donning their old Parisian finery — check out Jamie Fraser in a powdered wig, yo! — they intend to chat up the local gentry and ask if anyone’s bought a white Scottish teenager lately. But their sumptuous evening soon turns into a bizarre version of “This Is Your Life: Claire and Jamie Fraser.” Not only do they cross paths with the Campbells and Geillis, but also Lord John Grey, now governor of Jamaica.
At first, Claire is happy to be reunited with her resurrected frenemy — now looking closer to her age thanks to a giant red wig that makes her look like a matronly Little Orphan Annie — and is intrigued by Geillis’ story of survival, as it’s one that rivals those of the Frasers. While Claire already knew Geillis avoided execution long enough to allow her love child with Dougal to be born, it still was a surprise to see her fellow “witch” walking the earth. As Geillis tells it, she escaped shortly after the baby’s birth — assisted by Dougal — and eventually married a wealthy sugar plantation owner. Conveniently, and suspiciously (though not surprisingly), her third husband is also dead.
It’s not until the final minutes of the episode, that Claire and Jamie start to understand even a modicum of the danger Geillis presents. They now know is that she is the mistress of Rose Hall, and thanks to Temeraire’s sleuthing among his fellow slaves, it’s deduced that Geillis’ plantation is also where Young Ian is being held.
But there’s something even more sinister lurking beneath Mistress Abernathy’s cold, calculating eyes, and if Claire knows what’s good for her, she won’t let Geillis get her hands on those pictures of Brianna Jamie slipped her seconds before his arrest (because of course Jamie got arrested — this is “Outlander,” after all).
During the ball, Geillis was keen to notice that Lord John proudly displayed the sapphire Jamie gave him on his waistcoat (Claire noticed it too, but with things about to get really ugly, there was no time for her to confront her husband about his questionable history with the governor). “Borrowing” it for a reading, she handed the jewel to Margaret Campbell, who ultimately delivered the foreboding prophecy.
I’m still fuzzy on the details — something about a baby being born 200 years after conception — but it sounds like the only way a Scottish king can be restored to power is if Geillis returns to the 20th century, and kills Brianna!
And now that Jamie has been arrested by the power-hungry Captain Leonard, it looks like we’re in for a delectable Claire vs. Geillis throwdown for the season finale. Yes, Geillis may have saved Claire’s life once, but all bets — and debts — are off when it comes to a mother’s daughter.