Outlander season 3 episode 12 recap and review: The Bakra


Claire and Jamie make it to Jamaica, Geillis and John Grey return, and season 3’s disparate storylines collide in “The Bakra.”

Apparently the TV writing gods heard my request: Claire’s season 1 bestie Geillis plays a major part of this week’s Outlander. More than two decades have passed since the two last saw each other at the witch trials and ever since, Claire’s believed Geillis to be dead. So the moment when the two reunite is pretty powerful. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” Geillis quips.

I mean, what else would you say if you were a circa 1940s-born woman in 1766 Jamaica seeing the circa 1918-born friend you made back in 1740s Scotland for the first time in 20 years (or 200, depending on how you look at it)?

After the two exchange slightly awkward pleasantries, Geillis updates Claire on how, exactly, she avoided execution by burning. The powers that be waited until her son was born to kill her, Geillis reveals. Meanwhile, the father, Dougal, found a home for the baby and helped Geillis escape. “The hooded figure they dragged to the pyre … wouldn’t be that of Geillis Duncan,” she tells Claire. Instead, it was the body of an old woman who had died three days prior.

We all know Jamie is the king of cheating death, but turns out Geillis is no slouch, either.

Let’s talk some more about Geillis and the rest of the happenings in “The Bakra”:

Watch out, boy, she’ll chew you up

I always knew, as Lord John Grey puts it, that Geillis was “a touch strange.” But “The Bakra” sees her really kicking it up a notch. Between bathing in goat’s blood (shudder), seducing virginal young men before dispatching them, and fixating on some prophecy calling for three sapphires, Geillis is like some terrifying hybrid of a black widow spider, Cleopatra, and the evil queen from Snow White.

Jamie opines that Geillis has “a wicked soul,” which is definitely possible given the cold open, in which she interrogates, terrorizes, drugs, and propositions Young Ian. Honestly, I have very mixed feelings about the scene in question. Lotte Verbeek delivers an awesome performance and it’s a relief to know that the horrors Geillis has encountered haven’t dampened her spirits any: she’s still a steadfast Jacobite to her core. However, the scene makes me feel nauseous for reasons that have nothing to do with the literal blood bath. Geillis is 1) enslaving people who are 2) often underage for 3) her sexual needs and 4) could not care less about consent.

Geillis’ behavior is without a doubt wicked. But I’m not entirely sure Outlander sees her that way, so it’s especially difficult for the viewer to sort out their own feelings about the character. Is Geillis a straight up villain now? Or is she just doing what she feels she has to for her cause? I truly don’t know and don’t think the series does, either.

The dark side of history

From the ubiquitous misogyny to the lack of adequate sanitation, Outlander has never been shy about spotlighting the terrible aspects of the past. But I don’t think any episode has been as sickening as “The Bakra.” When the Artemis docks in Jamaica, Claire and Jamie find themselves smack dab in the middle of the slave trade. As a result, the series’ treatment of race and the horrors of slavery are imperfect, but still very effective.

As our heroes search for Young Ian at the slave market, Claire becomes more and more stricken. She sees black folks of all ages in cages and chains. They are branded, spoken about as if they are animals, humiliated, beaten, and auctioned off. When one slave trader lifts his prisoner Temeraire’s loincloth to prove how virile Temeraire will be for breeding, Claire’s rage and disgust bubble over. She attacks the trader in order to defend Temeraire and starts a riot. “Do something — help him,” she begs Jamie after he breaks up the fight.

Jamie does the only thing he can and buys Temeraire. As he and Claire explain, Temeraire will act as the Frasers’ manservant until they find a place to free him completely. If they let him go in Kingston, Temeraire will likely be captured and sold back into slavery.

What’s disappointing about this arc is that Temeraire finds a place to be free by episode’s end. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want Temeraire to be a permanent part of Team Fraser simply because he has to be. Instead, I would have liked for him to stick around so that the horrors of slavery could actually be presented from the point of view of someone who has experienced them. Via “The Bakra,” our heroes notice how dehumanizing and plain evil slavery is, don their White Savior caps, free one person, and quickly move on. The slavery plotline would have had a much greater impact if Temeraire had had time to share his story and reiterate that, while Claire and Jamie are at the center of Outlander, they are not the center of all history.

Ghosts of adventures past

From a purely plot-driven perspective, “The Bakra’s” developments pay off in spades because they tie season 3’s loose ends together. Apparently Kingston is the place to be if you’re a Briton or Scot with money in the 1760s: Jamie’s old friend John Grey is there, as are Geillis (obviously) and Claire’s patients Archie and Margaret Campbell. The Porpoise‘s Captain Leonard also arrives eventually and promptly arrests Jamie for murder and sedition. You know, the usual.

You see, the treasure Jamie discovered back in “All Debts Paid” was placed there by Dougal. Geillis needs the treasure’s three sapphires so Margaret can tell her a prophecy concerning if and when there will be another Scottish king. Geillis’ men are the ones who kidnapped Young Ian in “First Wife.” When she gets the treasure, Geillis realizes that a sapphire is missing, the one Jamie gifted Grey. Grey now wears it as a reminder of Jamie, which is very touching and sad. Anyway, Geillis twists Grey’s arm and convinces him and his sapphire to sit for a reading with Margaret. “When twice 1,200 moons have coursed ‘tween man’s attack and woman’s curse, and when the issue is cut down, then will a Scotsman wear a crown,” she predicts. It makes as little sense to Geillis as it does to us.

As people from their past descend on the ball hosted by Governor Grey, Outlander gives Claire and Jamie a little room to reminisce and flirt about old times. “To look at you, [we] could be back at Versailles,” Jamie tells a very glamorously dressed Claire as they arrive at the ball. (He’s totally right, by the way.) Later, when they see the newlywed Fergus and Marsali canoodling, Claire asks, “Do you remember when we were like that — so obvious in public?” “Couldn’t keep your hands off me,” Jamie jokes. “‘Course, you were holding on from the back of the horse for most of the time, so it couldn’t be helped.”

As happy as I am to see that the third season actually has an endgame, it’s even more of a delight to watch our heroes just hang out together. Little moments like the one above remind me why Claire and Jamie mourned each other so intensely during their 20 year separation and why they are so overjoyed to be back together again.

Next: Outlander S3E11 recap and review: Uncharted


  • Alias Watch, Part 1: Geillis is nicknamed “The Bakra,” which means “the boss.” She is also known as Mistress Abernathy now.
    • Does that mean that Geillis is somehow related to Joe Abernathy or that Joe is a descendant of her slaves? Is it possible Geillis is the woman whose bones Claire and Joe examine in “Freedom & Whisky”?
  • Alias Watch, Part 2: Jamie affectionately calls Claire “mo nighean donn,” a Gaelic term meaning “my brown one.” It’s presumably in reference to Claire’s hair.
  • After Jamie jokes about Claire not being able to keep her hands off him, they stare into each other’s eyes for the longest 15 seconds in history. When I watched the scene for the first time, I kept wondering if our heroes were going to have sex in the middle of the party.
  • Most Swoon-Worthy Line: John Grey describes Jamie’s feelings for Claire as “the love that was his every heartbeat.”
  • Speaking of Grey, Caitriona Balfe does a great job showing how Claire realizes that Grey is in love with Jamie. Her eyes and tone of voice convey empathy, jealousy, kindness, and possessiveness all at once.
  • Yi Tien Cho and Margaret Campbell share a brief, very sweet moment of connection. She calls him a “rare soul,” he calls her a “rare flower.” Maybe Yi Tien Cho’ll manage to get Margaret out from under her abusive brother’s thumb and she can join the Frasers’ merry little band of foundlings.
  • Geillis’ Greatest Hits:
    • On attending her own death sentence: “Wouldn’t have missed it. No one gets to witness their own funeral, let alone their own execution.”
    • On Jamie: “Oh, do let’s say hello to your wee fox cub.”
    • On Margaret’s nonsensical prediction about the king: “Do you think I’m an idiot? I brought you here to tell me when it will happen, and instead, you give me the bloody Case of Benjamin Button.”
  • A couple of guesses: it won’t be long before Geillis discovers Claire and Jamie killed Dougal and Geillis most likely had a hand in her second husband’s death.