Broken people…Break people…Looking Ahead to Outlander Episode 16   69 comments


You might already know that my husband was a college football coach.  We chased his coaching dreams for 30 years and our longevity at each institution averaged around five. Every time we moved, I packed up my accumulated knowledge and experience and went hunting for a new job. One of those job hunts found me employed in a Ohio prison.  I was part of a team of four people who created and ran a program for alcohol and drug addicted felons. The program was confrontational and encouraged introspection and personal responsibility.  One of the therapeutic exercises the inmates, who volunteered for the program, completed was a two page autobiography.  It didn’t take reading more than a couple of paragraphs to understand that prison seemed like a logical “the end” to these stories. The dysfunction these individuals lived with was staggering. Their homes and lives were broken by neglect, abuse, violence, and addiction.  I came to understand that “normal” was a relative term.  If all you’ve ever known is the a fore mentioned dysfunction you adjust to it. You cope with it. You survive it.  Some folks actually survive and thrive, but others have less success. What they survive and how they survive often leaves them broken and dysfunctional and the cycle is then perpetuated. Broken people often break other people with their needs and desires.

Read the rest of the article after the jump!

While thinking about the upcoming season finale of Outlander on Starz, I wondered what these men and Jack Randall might have in common.  We don’t, in fact, know if Black Jack grew up with dysfunction.  Only Diana truly knows and she has chosen not to reveal Jack’s back story to us. One of the few things we know about this villain is that he actively seeks out ways to harm others to satisfy his own twisted desires and needs.  What we do not know are his true motives for his actions. In the books, Diana hints at his damaged past and even allows the reader to approach something akin to pity for him when he cries for “Alex” to love him (who Alex is remains a mystery) and when he is grieved by his younger brother’s death, but it is never enough to balance what is seen as at the least sadistic or maybe sociopathic behavior. Jack always has the ability to choose between inflicting tremendous harm or not doing so and chooses harm.


I was curious about sadism and the role dysfunction might play in its development.  So,  I read some research. The pieces I read suggest this type perversion is often rooted in a person’s childhood experiences. Things “learned” in childhood are often “hard-wired” in our brains in a way unlike any knowledge we gain as adults. I read that many personality disorders and unhealthy coping skills are indeed learned as children in a dysfunctional environment.  I found the early attempts to identify the roots of this particular behavior almost laughable; the theories based on teething and potty training come to mind.   It seems we have recognized the behavior for a very long time, but the “why” of someone becoming sadistic is still a bit of a puzzle.

The term “sadism” is derived from early 19th century French medical literature and in connection with the novels of the Marquis de Sade that depicted scenes of torture, cruelty and killing for erotic purposes. Sadism was defined as:

“The experience of sexual, pleasurable sensations (including orgasm) produced by acts of cruelty, bodily punishment afflicted on one’s person or when witnessed in others, be they animals or human beings. It may also consist of an innate desire to humiliate, hurt, wound or even destroy others in order, thereby, to create sexual pleasure in ones self” Krafft-Ebing, 1886.

This definition hasn’t changed much over the years. In 1977, Erich Fromm, a German social psychologist and psychoanalyst suggests the “core of sadism” is:

“the passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over living beings, … whether an animal, child, a man or a woman. To force someone to endure pain or humiliation without being able to defend himself is one of the manifestations of absolute control, but it is by no means the only one. The person who has complete control over another living being makes this being into his thing, his property, while he becomes the other being’s god”

Both of these definitions fit Jack’s fascination with Jamie.  He couldn’t break him and as Jamie suggested, it seems he did “haunt” BJR’s sadistic dreams.

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With the advent of the brain scan there is research that suggests that brain damage might contribute to sadistic behavior. However, even these studies leave doubt as some subjects who engaged in sadistic behavior had evidence of brain damage while others did not.  More recent psychological research suggests that sadism is a spectrum of behaviors and often is overlapped by other personality disorders. I found it interesting that internet trolls and school yard bullies found a place on the sadistic scale. Jack seems to fit these recent theories of overlapping personality disorders.  If I was able to ‘diagnose” Jack, I would say he belonged with a group of people who suffer from what has been identified as “The Dark Triad” of personality disorders; narcissism, Machiavellianism (not officially recognized as a personality disorder), and psychopathy.

  • Narcissistic people display grandiosity, pride, egotism and have a lack of empathy.
  • Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation, exploitation and a disregard for morality.
  • Psychopathy includes antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callousness, and remorselessness.

This combination is considered malevolent and we were witness to that malevolence in Wentworth prison. I was  somehow under the mistaken impression that this behavior was the result of the inability to feel, but after my reading, I came to realize that it is just the opposite. Jack knows what people are feeling when he perpetrates his will on their lives and it feeds his own feelings. His victims feelings are of import to him in so far as they serve his needs…their needs are of no import.

Even with knowing that Jack’s issues are probably rooted in childhood and then shaped by war, we find it hard to make any excuses for behavior that can rightly be called evil. He ruins people for pleasure and KNOWS he is culpable. “I dwell in darkness and darkness is where I’ll remain”….” Do you think I cannot control the darkness within me?”

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Jamie because of his own inner strength, morality, goodness, and ability to love has become the object of Jack’s dark desires. When Jamie gives Jack his coerced “permission”, his compliance is being assured with a threat to his wife’s life. He believes he has only a few hours to live and needs to know his wife is safe. His love for Claire was the only thing that would have made him offer Jack what he wanted. Jack’s chillingly saying, “Shall we begin?” as if he hasn’t already made Jamie suffer more than any man should have to bear made my skin crawl. Jamie naively believed that he would be able to remain unaffected by Black Jack Randall’s actions.  He knew there would be pain involved and he would feel repulsed, but he believed he could remain emotionally distant.  His illusions are shattered within minutes.  He is tortured mentally, physically, and sexually.  Black Jack will not be satisfied until he has broken him. In Outlander’s final episode, we will see a broken man do everything he can to break the spirit of another man. And,…the worst of all things that Jamie could imagine will happen…he will live.

The light at the end of this episode is Claire and her love for Jamie. Claire is a person who is empathic and compassionate, but as ruthless as the situation requires. What she does instinctively to save Jamie is miraculous. Jamie made good on his promise to protect her with his body and in her own way, Claire will protect Jamie with hers. The one thing Jack was not able to destroy was the love between these two people and the lengths they will go to keep each other safe from harm. Claire will go into hell to get Jamie back.

Although we would never want what happens to Jamie to happen to anyone, in a way, Wentworth shaped the man Jamie later becomes. Jamie comes to understand himself in a way very few of us can. He will be scarred by his experiences and yet some how be more whole than he was before. With Claire’s help his spirit will fight its way out of the darkness and he will be the stronger for it.

This Saturday we will witness what evil can do and…what love can do. It is my hope that this wonderful story of hope and survival, the strength of the human spirit and… of a committed love will give someone the courage to tell their story and others the courage to love enough and long enough to help.

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69 responses to “Broken people…Break people…Looking Ahead to Outlander Episode 16

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  1. Excellent insights,beautifully written thank you.

  2. Reblogged this on Ana Fraser Lallybroch Blog.

  3. Just beautiful, Beth. I think you may have given me just what I need to experience the dread finale in the protection of light and love.

  4. Thank you so much for this. I have read and re read this episode background in the book. It will be torture to watch but nothing like what Jamie went through. I am on esge but wouldnt miss it for anything. It is necessary to the character development. And oh the love. It makes the world tick better.

  5. lovely, thank you

    Elizabeth Fisher
  6. The statement “And,…the worst of all things that Jamie could imagine will happen…he will live” struck me hard. This is not the only time this will occur for Jamie. Thanks for another great read!

  7. Thank you for this. I always thought BJR was a psychopath.
    Apart from the first glimpses we see of him when Jamie describes the events that lead to the scars on his back in the Castle Leoch episode, we also see his disdain for his superior Lord Taylor later in the season. His mocking the request by Lord Taylor to mind the claret, a dramatic slapping of his clothing borders on insubordination.
    When left alone with Claire, he does exhibit some charm and feigns empathy when he tells her his truth about himself. He lulls her into believing he is introspective enough to consider what she says to him about being able to change. Then he gut punches her.
    Jamie later mentions that BJR likes to play with his toys. The scariest part is, I believe that he knows exactly what he is and relishes it.
    The only place for a BJR type in todays society would be life in prison with no parole.

  8. Thank You

  9. Excellent article as always. Goodness always seems to draw to it people that want to destroy it. I also enjoy the peek into the prison life and what was deemed as ‘normal’. Well done!


  10. Beth Wesson – you are the best.

  11. Thank you for this post! It is amazing with detail and certainly helps to deal with what is to come. Keep writing, you are amazing!

  12. Very insightful! Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  13. Just simply a wonderful article ….great job !

  14. Again, quite artfully spoken & a lovely perspective and questions posed to us all. It is interesting to look at victims of extreme trauma or violence and see how, though they are never quite the same, they develop a new kind of wholeness. They can go to either extremes of trying to stay quiet & hidden, as to never risk another possible trauma. Then there are those who truly feel that they have survived and that nothing in life can be as bad as what they’ve been through. They are survivors. That is the definition of Jamie & Claire. This horror ends up strengthening their bond and love. The darkness, sadness, and brutality will be hard to take, but worth it to see their love shine through. Thank you again for your eloquent post. It was just what my head needed for the next 72 hours.

    • Thank you! This story so much more than the “critics” believed. I wonder what the ” only housewives” and bodice ripping romance” folks think now?

      • Lol…that is too true! Society becomes very dismissive of female sexuality and has to qualify anything that shows a woman taking control of her life, self, sexuality as “chick lit” or “mommy porn”. An intelligent, loving, respectful couple couldn’t possibly have depth. That is where they are wrong. Intelligently written books that people try to pigeon-hole have been expertly adapted with artistic integrity and now, there can be no denying that the amalgam of writing, acting, directing, and producing has created some of the most astonishing and polarizing hours of television. A small, subscriptions-based cable station is making waves that can not (nor should not) be denied. Cast & crew of Outlander could teach a master class on how to do it right. Bravo to all!

        • “A master’s class” YES! I wonder if other execs ARE taking notice. I’ve been writing and lurking on social media since this all began. There seemed to be a mutual love affair going on between the fans and the production. It truly has been a singular experience to feel “part” of having your favorite book become a TV series right before your eyes AND “talk” with folks making the show! They understood they had an excited fan base and let them in ! Lots of goodwill generated! Not sure EVERYONE at Sony gets that, but Someone did. Miss the “early” days, but wouldn’t trade this unique experience!

  15. Really enjoyed your post and insights on the up coming painful finale.

  16. Dr. Phil says the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. BJR knows he has a problem…He just doesn’t want to do anything about it. I admit that the thought of watching the last episode scares me more than anything I’ve ever faced before, with regards to watching a tv show or movie. My problem is that I have come to care for these characters in Diana Gabaldon’s books and to see the torture that they are going to endure tears my heart up. The fact that Jamie is a fictional character doesn’t seem to matter. I need to see him and Claire have their “happy ending.”
    Sure, I know there will be a long separation, war, misunderstandings, and other dramatic scenarios, but this one will be the hardest to watch because of the helplessness you feel, knowing that Jamie will bear the scars of this physical, sexual, mental, and spiritual torture for the rest of his life. If this were interactive television, I’d let BJR feel every pain that he’s put on others and let the wolves have what’s left.
    It’s very difficult to get close to people sometimes. The pain of loss can be overwhelming and it takes a strong character to see it through. It is in knowing that Claire and Jamie will survive this trial by fire and come out stronger in the end that keeps me watching and reading. I only hope that we who watch can use this series to gain some insight into our own strengths and weaknesses so that when our time of testing comes, we won’t give up on ourselves or on those we love.

  17. You are not only a wonderful writer, but a wonderfully introspective one as well. I look forward with and to “anticipation”! “Truly”!
    Unless I’m mistaken, in the book, Jamie refuses to let Jack call him Jaime, thus he calls him Alex. “Tell me you love me Alex”, Jaime hears him say, and tells Claire he believes that if he had responded in kind, Jack would have killed him on the spot.

    • Not sure about Alex part , but yes about the tell me you love me part! And thank you!

    • Only near the end …. BJR calls Jamie Alex, but in telling Claire Jamie wonders how he knows that is Jamie’s second name. And there are 2 possible ‘Alex’ in his life but Diana leaves it the reader to who he referring.

  18. Bravo Beth. Another great insight, given from personal experience this time. Thanks for sharing what must have been an eye-opening experience.

  19. I like you writings, however, find it very difficult to read with the flashing pictures to the left of the screen – it hurts my eyes and makes it hard to concentrate. Has anyone else commented?

    Colleen Nelson
  20. thank you so much for your insights and for a deeper perspective

  21. Beth, I am blown away by your insightful and informative post. This really helps in understanding the mindset of the survivors of these abuses. I never understood why they felt so guilty. Surviving the worst can either break you (Jack) or make you stronger than you were (Jamie). I hope, with the popularity of the show, more victims (men and women) will find the courage to get the proper help and not bury it. I have a sister who refused to talk about a rape and tried to convince herself that it was no big dea: it happens to people everyday. Yea, as you probably have guessed she is a mess.
    Again, thank you😃

  22. This will be very hard to watch
    but I believe we all have a BJR and
    I sure have scars to proove it .I am
    sorry ,I missed the books , does Jamie
    or Claire , ever get over it. Can Jamie
    feel like a man again ,once a feeling is
    ripped from your mind & body ,could I
    face it every day in my love”s eyes.
    The only way to get over ” an experience” like that is too talk and deal with it . Sleep every night and
    pray , my justice will someday come.
    Pray no one else becomes his victim.
    While you fight with husband because
    he forgot to lock the door ! When he
    left , every day many things happen
    never let you feel safe or NORMAL.
    It is a shame to watch a program or
    read a book .Not to feel alone .I am
    probably only person who did not read 50 shades either .Got too involved with OL before I knew about
    this Saturdays events ,Thank Writers
    and Cast ,we will see events in Jamie
    & Sams eyes after ,what brings him
    through the door back to reality .
    usually people say may help some
    people ,BS may help me !

    • thank you for sharing! Yes the books are a wonderful story of how to live and survive and have a good life even with scars of emotional, mental and physical trauma! A very good read!

  23. Beth – beautifully said.

  24. Thank you so much for your blog! Found it a couple of weeks ago and have read everything you post now. You make me think and yet also bring a calming perspective. Re: your comment “Jamie comes to understand himself in a way very few of us can” – can you say more about what makes you say that? Examples from future books? As much as I love Jamie from all the books, in a way I mourn the Jamie from Outlander and what he could have been without this experience. I’m still looking for the silver lining in this dark cloud.

    • Thank you. I think what I was trying to express with that statement is that few of us have to endure what he did. He truly was broken. He does refer back to experience in later books. I’m not sure he fears death anymore and he does lose , of course, innocence. I think he actually draws strength from knowing he has been to the bottom and found his way out and up!

  25. Thanks Beth, I look forward to your commentaries and input. OL has ventured into territory with the books that is ground breaking for a tv program. I have seem a few threads on fb sites where both Male and Females have come out to discuss their own bad experiences and how difficult that is for them and how they have carried these experiences over time. How they have dealt with them on the show so thoughtfully….we have every night on the news violence against women and men are sometimes an after thought to these subjects. After many wars and incarceration it is also a difficult subject…PTSD (Jamie is going through) for veterans, male on male violence are much harder for men to discuss. Women its a matter of its taken for granted when it shouldn’t be (GOT for example) I am surprised some of the reviews don’t go more into depth on this. Kudos to STARZ and the production staff for ‘going where no man (or woman)has gone before”…Little Star Trek reference.

    • I agree the show has been ground breaking on so many levels and agree with another reader wether they intended it or not the show may open doors for some meaningful discussion.

  26. I’ve read or heard Dr G say that she believed her hero needed to be truly tested and shaken to his core so he could become the man he was meant to be (my own interpretation of what I recall) And I agree with her about that. As you said, it shaped the man he became. Could he have survived the tough times to come without that experience? Could Claire have become the accomplished and wise woman she became without that challenge forcing her to mine her own inner strength? I doubt it. It is hard to watch but I cannot regret it because I believe it makes this story and these characters so much more compelling than anything else out there. Thanks again Beth for bringing your insight and truth to us. We are so lucky to have you.

  27. Thanks for all your research, some very interesting info to apply to these characters. I am a little disappointed in what the preview shows that its Murtagh who suggested how to save Jamie, when in the book it is solely Claire idea to plunge into hell to save her beloved. Very much looking forward to this episode with the expectation of a lovely ending. Looking forward to your review next week.

  28. Beth, The depth of understanding you add is priceless. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight! By the way, I am married to a football coach for 45 years…and though “retired”, he just accepted a 4 month job at a small university in Wisconsin! Road trip for this California couple…

  29. Great blog. A lot of people I know won’t get why they need to show it. Words like torture porn thrown around. I think some had a lighthearted bodice ripper in mind or think those scenes can just be imagined. But as Jamie told Claire one time sometimes you have to see something to really understand it. Plus Wentworth is not ever forgotten later. He doesn’t just get better. It is an ongoing PTSD for him. It affects him forever. I love that about this story in that things that happen to them stay with them.

  30. Every time I read one of your posts, I drool over your choice of words. They are ambrosia to me. I love the academic way you break apart the episode, the fellow fangirl squeeee every time a favorite scene or character is displayed, but especially how you make me discover anew all the reasons why I fell in love with the Book in the first place, and then add a few more I hadn’t thought of before. Bravo, Beth!

  31. Wonderful blog post, Beth. Thank you for presenting your research, insight and perspective. I found it invaluable.
    I will be watching and rooting for Claire as she goes through hell to bring Jamie back. I’m focusing on the light at the end (and not the scary, vile evilness that will be depicted) that Claire’s love for Jamie will provide. The acting by Sam, Cait and Tobias in epi 115 was remarkable. I’m expecting this upcoming episode to be epic. Looking forward to your review of the finale!

  32. Maybe you should read the Deviate Mind…..and get the real story of Sadists…BJR is a writers tool to move the story forward for the 2 lead characters…He is not broken ..He was created a monster to be a monster..that is all….

  33. Thank you so much.

  34. You are brilliant, insightful, and a woman of true depth. I love your reviews and assessments of these treasured characters.

  35. I’m very impressed with this blog and truly appreciate your insight . For the first time, I’m signing up so I can reply.

    Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

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