This is my quest, to follow that star No matter how hopeless, no matter how far To fight for the right, without question or pause To be willing to march into hell for that heavenly cause
– From “The Impossible Dream” by Mitch Leigh
I yam what I yam & dats all what I yam. -Popeye
What an episode. Beards, Lord John, a multi-faceted Mohawk culture and the Fraser womenfolk kicking tail and taking names. I almost lit up a cigarette after, and I don’t smoke. It was that satisfying. When Outlander does emotion best, it’s a tide that sweeps you away into fear and empathy. There is no real room for the brain, for noticing the beats or lulls in the script or a soft accent here or there, it’s all heart, all gasps of recognition and the communion of souls. That last bit lends itself quite easily to religion, which on the surface, is a theme woven throughout this hour. I’d like to push out a bit and say that, more so than Catholicism (or Protestantism), the hour revolved around morality, ethics (encompassed here in the cultural systems of religious practice) and what makes a person ‘good’ versus ‘bad.’
Cultural relativism, also known as descriptive moral relativism, says that morality is culturally defined, excepting a few universally held beliefs (“Thou shalt not kill”) and that these moral truths are based on beliefs and practices unique to that culture. On the other end of the continuum is moral absolutism, which holds that right and wrong are universal and so all can be judged under the same standard. The truth, as with so many things, is likely in the middle. While laws and standards likely need to take into account the cultures in which they are being practiced, there needs to be a commonality to them in order to make the enforcement acceptable to the population, lest the entire thing fall apart and anarchy prevail. Part of our unspoken social contract is that we acknowledge and accept living by these standards, but what do we do when the goalposts move? On the scale from relative to absolute, what makes us good people? In a world that sometimes seems that chaos takes the wheel, is goodness more important than survival?
And so today, my world it smiles Your hand in mine, we walk the miles Thanks to you it will be done For you to me are the only one Happiness, no more be sad Happiness, I’m glad –Led Zeppelin, “Thank You”
This one’s a little different. First a general reflection and a bit of a window into my personal life, which I tend to shy away from. I watch TV through a lens of what stories say about people in general. I think it’s a leftover from studying to be an art therapist, looking at the way symbols and gestures represent emotions and the way there are commonalities across ethnicity and gender that speak to the shared emotional ancestry of the human experience. Reading the Outlander novels is so lyrical, I am sometimes drawn into the music of the language, lulled into a rhythm which enables a certain emotional distance. I recognize and process the feelings I read about on a mostly intellectual level more than an emotional one. By causing me to experience those same stories through the actors’ bodies and eyes, their feelings expressed in motion and volume, the series sometimes makes my own emotional reaction harder to process, and I work that out by writing about it. It’s a sort of reciprocal loop, and it gets very, very wordy. Bear with me as I meander. Spoilers ahead for episode 410, “The Deep Heart’s Core” after the jump.
“Now it’s like… like my own fortress has been blown up with gunpowder – there’s nothing left of it but ashes and a smoking rooftree, and the little naked thing that lived there once is out in the open, squeaking and whimpering in fear, tryin’ to hide itself under a blade of grass or a bit o’ leaf but…but not …makin’ m-much of a job of it.” -Jamie Fraser, Outlander
simultaneously, a difficult watch and a viscerally rewarding one. The Fraser
base family unit is finally together for the first time since Jamie saw his
pregnant wife through the stones right before Culloden. It’s far from a
storybook reunion, as so many things are, both in Outlander and in life. There are periods of intense joy and deep
sorrow. The brutal reality of it is jarring and yet, instinctively recognizable
as truth. The writing moved along at an energetic pace and while the plot
points were all dutifully ticked off, it was done with a meticulous attention
to characterization that was satisfying in the extreme. Even if certain choices
seemed obvious course-corrections (I’m looking at you, Murtagh suddenly at the
Ridge despite your successful smithy), every emotional note was right on beat,
weaving together a melody that was as mournful as it was joyful.
Spoilers ahead for episode 409, “The Birds and the Bees”.
A Difficult Lord to Serve
Despite the angry words they both flung at each other the night before, both Roger and Brianna expect that they will come back together. It’s not the healthiest relationship dynamic, but you can’t deny they love each other. Unfortunately, once again Bonnet is there to casually threaten Roger and derail not only their reunion, but the means by which to enlighten Lizzie as to who Roger really is. For a moment it seems as if Roger will risk the limb over the lass, but he isn’t given a choice, bodily escorted out by Bonnet’s men. He makes sure Brianna knows he was looking for her, but when she finds the ship gone, as per the usual when it comes to Bree and Roger’s assumptions about one another, she assumes the worst, that he loves her “not at all”. Roger, though, is steadfast, not only keeping his promise to return for Brianna, but asking to be paid via gemstone with an eye to their return trip. “You have Danu, I have Eros,” Roger tells Bonnet, but he’s really communicating to us, in the most succinct way, that every action he takes is because of love. A man that committed wouldn’t be likely to abandon a wife, and so he shows up at the Ridge, heartbreakingly friendly and utterly unprepared for what happens. Unlike in the novels, he doesn’t even get a chance to defend himself, and it’s even more horrifying to watch because we know him to be innocent of that which he’s accused.
Call Me Da
It’s sweet beyond words to see Jamie touch his daughter’s face, but it’s especially significant that his stroking her face is the first loving touch Brianna allows after her rape. When Jamie says that he hadn’t thought of her as grown, but still “his babe,” it’s a melancholy bookend to Claire’s “My baby,” near episode’s end, and prompts Bree to initiate her own touch, flinging herself into his arms and crying in relief. Her reunion with Claire is electric in an entirely different way, since her mother is glad to see her, but knows the danger and difficulties faced by a woman traveling through time. Bree goes back to the Ridge and we get to see her interact with her extended family. Jamie observes her as much as he interacts, empathizing with her heartbreak and, like Brianna herself, avoiding the subject of Frank. Jamie is shy with his love, and gentle, trying to go only as far as Bree allows, watching carefully for hesitation. The bees are a metaphor that Brianna recognizes, telling Jamie she has a home and that she feels disloyal to Frank, being with him. Jamie, however, has also been forced from his home, and his understanding and plain speaking enable her to do the same, making what was once a complicated thing into something “simple”. His patience here makes what comes later both more and less understandable. The idea of violence being done to your child is so unthinkable that the mind shies away from it, and you can’t help but see them at their most vulnerable, when you were most able to protect them. Claire cannot heal this hurt and Jamie, a warrior, used to bearing his own pain and suppressing his own violent memories, cannot do the same with the pain of a child he has barely regained and already worried he could not protect. He seems to be handling things… until he just isn’t, Lizzie’s painfully detailed description of Bree’s condition (while standing next to Ian, another victim for whom he feels responsible) causing him to explode. Not only is the beating savage, but Jamie seems reduced down to his most primal, his usual strategic thinking gone, telling Ian simply to “get rid of him” without killing him. It’s one of the few times Jamie acts rashly, heart before head, and it will come back to haunt him.
recites the poem on her bracelet, it seems she is outlining yet again the ebb
and flow of her relationship with Roger. Despite thinking that he might love
her “not at all,” she later confesses her love and regret to her mother, who wisely
doubts Roger would leave after one argument. Bree’s connection with Claire is uninterrupted,
warm and intimate. Her relationship with Jamie is more of a work in progress, though
both parties are well-intentioned, and a truce of sorts is struck after their
hunting trip. Brianna is open to Jamie, but despite agreeing to call him “Da,”
she still refers to him as “Jamie” when speaking to Claire, who she
affectionately calls “Momma” instead of the more adult “Mom”. There is usually no time when we want our
mothers more than the times we are in pain, and Brianna is no different. Although
she has been doing a passable job of pretending to be okay, the occasional
looks Claire shoots her daughter throughout the episode finally culminate in her
tearful confession in the garden. It’s terrible enough for a mother to hear,
but even worse to realize that there is nothing you can offer besides a sharing
of mutual grief and horror, and the promise of support. Brianna doesn’t tell
Jamie herself, but leaves Claire to do so, while Lizzie mistakenly fills in the
blanks for Jamie. This piecemeal communication will cost Roger dearly, and it’s
easy to think that Brianna is too overcome to think clearly, but the opposite
is chillingly, horribly true. In maybe
her most MacKenzian act to-date, Brianna, having put the pieces of the puzzle
together and confirming Bonnet as the thief of her mother’s ring, shields both
her parents from the terrible truth to protect them from their own feelings and
actions. It is then that the “baby” is shown to be taking care of her parents,
shielding them with her very body as if they are the child, and she the mother.
This was hands-down Sophie Skelton’s episode, and she hurt my heart to watch. From that first, shaky-breathed standing bath to her pale, distant calm every time Bonnet’s name came up to the final, desperate moment of self-recrimination, it was both excellent and unbearable. Brianna is a woman who has grown up consistently making the best of terrible situations, but she is also a child of the 20th century, raised with love and imbued with a sense of her own independence and worth, and Bonnet takes more than her body that night. You can see her struggle to reassert the very bones of who she was, clutching at her own body as if to ground herself in it, flinching at unexpected touches, seeking the comfort of her parents’ bodies, as if by somehow pressing against those that created her, she can be reborn again, whole and inviolate.
It feels like just yesterday that I was complimenting some the adaptation’s changes to the novels, so it seems karmically fair that this week I should be slapped in the face by how deeply the tiny shifts from the novels affected one of the episodes to which I was most looking forward. Drums of Autumn, the novel upon which this season is based, prominently features Roger and Brianna as individuals and as a couple, setting up the second great love of the novels. It had been hinted the show would give these characters a romantic hour of their own that would cement the emotional connections between them upon which rest several future plot points. I’m not sure that happened. As for Jamie and Claire, Murtagh’s leadership of the regulators manifested into a side plot that seemed to leave his relationship with Jamie weaker than we found it. Let’s revisit what was, for me at least, a pretty challenging hour. Spoilers ahead for episode 408, “Wilmington”.
All The World’s a Stage After a visit to Fergus and Marsali that establishes that Bree and her parents are in the same place as well as the same time, Jamie and Claire attend the theater with Governor Tryon and his wife. There they meet the Governor’s Public Registrar of Deeds, Assemblyman and Judge Edmund Fanning, a man suffering from what Claire immediately recognizes as an inguinal hernia…and a young Colonel George Washington and his wife, Martha. Jamie is playing the part of loyal English subject, cultivating a cordial relationship with the man who is responsible for his land bequest while still trying to protect his godfather, Murtagh, from the ambush Tryon has set for him. It ends up not only cementing Tryon’s view of Jamie as a loyal subject, but also his opinion of Claire as a qualified surgeon. At the end, though Jamie stops Murtagh from committing “a hanging offense,” it’s not by showing up himself but rather returning to the theater with the Governor and sending Fergus in his stead, an act which Murtagh interprets somewhat disdainfully. Jamie, once again walking a fine line between loyalty and sedition, proves Roger’s assertion that it is dangerous to decide who lives and who dies. His actions have alerted his godfather to a traitor in his camp, but Tryon has also guessed the same about his own side, and now blames an innocent General Washington. The outcome of the Revolutionary War is a foregone conclusion, but it was by no means an overnight occurrence. With four years to go before the Boston Tea Party and six before the “Shot Heard Around the World,” it sets the stage for a long-term conflict which seems inconsistent with the level of focus Murtagh’s activities are occupying in the current narrative. It’ll be interesting to see how this plot line is resolved.
I Plight Thee My Troth Just a few minutes into the episode, a tired Roger overhears a tired Brianna inquire about Cross Creek and the two are reunited. Their affection for each other is obvious, but by the time they take their conversation outside they are back to bickering that would appear, to a casual observer like Lizzie, that they are angry with each other. I understand that the TV version of Roger/Brianna rests largely on this dynamic, but it’s problematic for many reasons and this episode saw several of those rear their head. At first, things go well. During the course of their argument, Brianna confesses that she loves Roger, and the resulting make-out session has Bree agreeing to marry him. It’s a bit sudden but still believable, and their ceremony is sweet, a mashup of the older and newer wedding traditions that ends with them plighting their “troth” to one another, i.e. their faith and loyalty. It’s here where things begin to fall apart. The same comfort that allows them both to be swept away by grand gestures and romance causes them both not to think before they speak. Brianna discovers that Roger knew about the obituary, and she accuses him of being domineering. Roger retaliates by pointing out her recklessness, both in assuming she can change the past and in risking her life, and by extension his own, in trying. Once again, they both say things they don’t mean and care less about listening to each other than they do about getting their own point across. A prime example is when Roger says that, now they’re married, she should start listening to him, and Brianna interprets that as doing what he says. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch a couple that loves each other repeatedly stall in the growth of their relationship, withdraw from each other, and fight unfairly. For example, in the novel, Brianna leaves Roger after she discovers he knew about her mother’s death. Here, it’s Roger that leaves her, and what was empowering for her and motivating for him now looks like an unfeeling abandonment by a man who just swore to take care of her. Taken together with their post-proposal fight and how this incredibly sensitive character has been portrayed as a thoughtless misogynist, it leaves me with a feeling of alienation from Roger, and for Brianna for choosing him. Perhaps the intent is to make the television audience feel closer to Brianna, who was a somewhat polarizing character in the novels, but it ends up making me question why I should be excited about a relationship where two people are so careless with each other’s feelings. I want to cheer for Roger and Brianna, but when they keep being set against each other in these maladaptive ways, it’s incredibly difficult to keep overlooking.
You Can’t Protect Them Still ringing from an argument with Roger in which she assures him that she and Lizzie have done “quite well” alone, Brianna comes back to the inn where she is staying, only to run into Stephen Bonnet and his possession of her mother’s ring. Her attempt to retrieve it unlocks Bonnet’s casual cruelty once more, to devastating effect. The resulting scene is not only traumatic for the fact that the real-time audio means you can close your eyes and see it in your mind’s eye, but because it’s heartbreaking proof of how very alone Brianna is, and how vulnerable despite the courage and fire in her heart. Outlander has never been a series that hesitates when it comes to the use of rape as a plot device, but the placement of this particular scene, directly after a loving first time, feels particularly traumatic because it happens the same night, not two days later and told as a flashback, like in the novels. Several meanings could be assigned to it. Maybe it was meant to evoke the horror of what is happening in those who watch it. Maybe it was meant as a contrast between the loving interlude with Roger, Bonnet’s relaxed violence making Roger’s careful reverence more tender and tragic by comparison. Or maybe it was simply one of those meaningless acts of violence to which reason simply doesn’t apply, presented without comment and without comfort. Brianna’s body is shown less care than her boots, stacked up carefully by the doorway. She walks back through the tavern —slowly, painfully, but upright.
Those of you who have read MacBeth realize that the title of the episode not only recalls a chapter title in Outlander novel, but also the beginning of a famous quote, and how that quote ends. So a lot has to happen in this episode to get us from happy sexathon to “something evil” coming along, and by King George’s wig, it does. No bathroom breaks!
My mind is sufficiently tuned to the sex on this show that when we open to Jamie touring Claire’s downtown, my first thought is “God, they are buttering us up! This episode is going to end awful.” Claire’s pretty happy though, at least for a moment.
They both ignore insistent knocking on their bedchamber door, and you know Jamie is learning to be a husband when he picks his head up only long enough to grunt “No,” and then redoubles his efforts until Claire sighs contentedly before grumpily putting on his pants and getting the door.
It’s Murtagh, who bashfully greets a still-glowing Claire and tells Jamie that the Duke of Sandringham has arrived, and is staying nearby at Norwood House. Jamie is excited that he has an opportunity to petition a pardon from someone who has “always been partial” to him, which he knows from a visit the Duke made to Leoch when he was sixteen. At Murtagh’s warning to be careful, he stipulates that he won’t be offering up his hindquarters for a favor, but rather considers himself “an innocent man seeking justice.”
Claire interrupts to let them know she recognizes the name, and reminds Jamie of the promise he made her, that if she told him something, he would not ask how she came by the information. He reassures her, and she tells him not to trust the Duke, as he is a close ally to Black Jack Randall, and no friend of Randall can be a friend to him. Murtagh asks how she knows and points out that even if Jamie did, he made no such promise.
At Jamie’s reassurance that they will both respect Claire’s wishes, Murtagh relents and advises Jamie to speak to Ned Gowan before he addresses Sandringham. Jamie accepts, gleefully telling Claire that if he gains a pardon, they could return to Lallybroch and live as Lord and Lady Broch Tuarach, and that he knows they would be happy there. “As do I,” Claire returns, and he smiles.
As Ned explains, Jamie is wanted for murder, and a trial would ultimately come down to Jamie’s word against Randall’s. Even with the Duke’s backing, it is not likely that a British judge would take Jamie’s word over an officer’s, though that word be true. In perhaps the most lawyer-y thing ever said by any lawyer, Ned deadpans “Truth or lies have very little to do with the law.”
He instead suggests that they try to prove to the Duke that his friendship with Randall is dangerous. He proposes to draw up a claim which would include Claire, accusing Randall of “crimes against the Scottish people” and of violating His Majesty’s laws. If Jamie can convince Sandringham to deliver this claim to the Lord President of the Court of Session, then Randall would be subject to a court-martial, or at least a reassignment far from Scotland. My soulmate Murtagh asks if they can’t “just hang the bastard,” but Ned points out that “sweating the rest of his military career in some West Indies hell hole would be a far greater punishment,” and I think we all fall a little in love. Once Randall is in disgrace, Ned believes he can take Jamie’s case to court and “win him a general pardon.” Poor Jamie is so on board he almost explodes.
In another part of the castle, Claire makes her way to the kitchens to find Mrs. Fitz raving about the new apron Laoghaire embroidered, likely with her tears, when Claire asks to speak to her granddaughter alone.
The older woman notices it’s a serious matter and offers to help, but Claire tells her it’s between the two of them, and she goes, taking the rest of her staff with her. Once alone Laoghaire snaps at Claire to say what she came to because she has chores to do, but when Claire shows her the ill-wish, she denies knowledge of it.
Claire earnestly tells her that she recognizes that Laoghaire had feelings for Jamie, and that “tender regard denied” can be hurtful in one so young as she.
“I even understand why your jealousy would be directed at me,” Claire says, but clarifies that not only did she never conspire to take Jamie from Laoghaire, but that he was never hers to begin with. This finally breaks through the younger woman’s veneer of indifference. “That’s a lie,” Laoghaire says heatedly, “Jamie Fraser was and is mine!” Claire responds with an impatient, “You’re mistaken, child.” This causes Laoghaire to assert that Claire stole her “puir Jamie” and now he is trapped in a loveless marriage with “a cold English bitch”, and probably has to get “swine drunk” to be able to “plow her field.” So Claire reacts as you do when speaking to teenagers, and literally invents the bitchslap.
I’m not that surprised when Claire gets physical because this entire thing is going Real Housewives, stat. She should have just hit her with a chair so we could notch it up to WWE Diva-level drama. I get that Laoghaire would be disgruntled and act childishly, but it feels like things get out of hand pretty quickly, like maybe there’s something here we don’t know about. Hmmm.
It’s a theory.
Claire says she should not have slapped her and bites out an apology, but it no longer matters. Laoghaire admits that she put the ill-wish under the bed, hoping that it would make Jamie hate her as much as she does. “He belongs with me, and one day, it will be so.” Claire answers that she hopes she didn’t pay too much for the ill-wish, because that will never happen.
Laoghaire then drops a bomb: Geillis sold her the ill-wish, and she tells a surprised Claire that she is as wrong about her friend as about Jamie. “Stay away from me and my husband,” an exasperated Claire bites out, and Laoghaire glares after her. So in one scene, Laoghaire’s conversion from relatable youth with disappointed hopes to hate-filled mastermind who wants to see the world burn is complete. You know who else had that character arc?
So I guess she’s evil now. I have to say, I still don’t hate her. Maybe it’s because I have a teenager and I know they do stupid things because their feelings go to 11, or maybe because I inherently resist flat characterization. None of the other characters are simple, so I can only think there is more to Laoghaire’s story, even if this isn’t the place to tell it. I have read the books and I realize these things have to happen in order for other things to shake out as they do, so I’m on board-but I guess what I’m saying is I wish I had been there to feed this girl ice cream and give her an essential truth to build her up instead of tearing her down: No man is worth going full Vader, ladies. Not even Jamie Fraser.
In town, Claire goes to the Duncan’s to look for Geillis, but her husband is too busy pooping himself to death to a) be polite or b) any help.
As the maid Jeannie lets her out, she whispers that it is a full moon night, and she should look for her mistress “in the woods north of the foothills, in the hours before dawn.” P.S. Next time my husband asks if he should pick up dinner, I plan to shout “By Chrrrrist’s Heaven, ya should!”
That night Claire goes wandering through the woods alone with a lamp to find Geillis because it seems like a good idea at the time. She happens upon her dancing among bonfires, and the dance itself, her torch and clothing all recall that Samhain dance Claire witnessed with Frank the day before she traveled through the stones. It also helps that the soundtrack is the same. This being Geillis, however, the entire thing is way sexier…
…and there is a wee bonus.
Geillis finishes by letting the grass get to second base and coyly tells Claire she can come out from her hiding place. I bet Claire always loses at hide-n-seek. Geillis tells her that she would have joined her, if not for her inherent English prudishness, then very thoughtfully appraises her as to the state of her nipples.
Claire congratulates her on her pregnancy, which Geillis admits has been her “own special secret” for a while now, even from her husband, who has never seen her naked. Poor crapping bastage. Claire mentions that she thought the Duncans “weren’t having intimate relations,” and in a move that is either born out of true friendship or incredibly calculating, Geillis spills her deepest secrets: she has a lover, the child is his, and that lover is… Dougal Mackenzie.
Claire points out that another man’s child would be problematic for Arthur Duncan, but Geillis breezily asserts that there are months to go until the birth, and that the ceremony she performed, a ‘summoning’, has yet time to take effect. When Claire asks, she tells her that she is asking Mother Nature to grant Dougal and she their freedom. She asks Claire to keep her secrets, not only about the child but about the ceremony, and Claire accepts, saying she understands. “I knew you would,” the redhead smiles, and cheerfully asks for help putting out the fires.
In the early hours of the dawn, the two women head back through the woods as Geillis explains she did not know the ill-wish was for Claire, or else she would not have sold it to Laoghaire. She tells Claire that she can do worse to her, now that she knows all her secrets.
Claire tells her that she has no wish to do her harm and that she is the only friend she has made since arriving to Scotland. Geillis links arms with her and says she feels “much the same,” except for her “Dear Dougal.” She shows Claire a pearl bracelet, a gift from her lover. It was meant for Dougal’s “slag of a wife Moira”, but Dougal instead gave it to her.
Claire is surprised to hear he has a wife, and Geillis tells her that she has been holed up at his estate for years, since she does not like public gatherings and has “a homely countenance.”
Claire is surprised that Sandringham gave Dougal a gift, and at Geillis’s blithe assertion that the Duke visits Colum but “likes” Dougal, she remembers Frank and the Reverend hypothesizing about the Duke being a suspected Jacobite himself.
Suddenly Claire hears a noise in the woods. Geillis tells her it is nothing, but at Claire’s insistence that the cries are from a baby, points out that there is a fairy hill nearby, and the baby is a changeling. She tells Claire that it is known the real child was stolen by fairies and the changeling left in its place “when it does not thrive and grow” as other children.
This is all healer Claire needs to hear to set off in hopes of saving “a sick child”, but Geillis, not willing to disturb the ritual by which the parents hope to exchange the changeling for their own healthy baby, tells her she must do it alone, and walks off.
Claire wanders off in the direction of the coughing, crying infant, but by the time she finds it, wedged in the hold of a tree, it is blue and no longer breathing. A stunned Claire holds it and rocks it gently, crying her apologies. It’s brutal and sad, and I think anyone who has ever stroked a tiny sleeping face felt something in their chest clench. Unless you’re evil. In which case, thanks for taking time out to read, Satan.
Some time later Jamie finds her like this, having met Geillis on the way and she telling him where his wife was. He tells Claire she has a kind heart and takes the baby from her, placing it back in the tree and crossing himself. Claire tells him that they just “left it there to die,” and asks if he believes in the same superstitions. He tells her what is important is that the people do, and most have never been further than a day’s walk from where they were born and are thus uneducated, “knowing only what Father Bain tells them at Kirk on a Sunday.”
He tries to comfort her, saying that for the parents of the dead baby, it might comfort them to think that it was the changeling that died, while their own child is happy and well and living with the fairies. Claire has seen violent death and the horror of illness, but this is another grim reminder that she is in a time when consigning innocents to death was commonplace, and she cannot reconcile current practice with her vocation. She asks Jamie to take her home.
At the castle, Jamie shows Claire Ned’s claim against Randall which includes his “repeated sexual provocation of a highborn Englishwoman” being “a black mark impossible to erase”, and asks for her signature. She hesitates, and Jamie tells her that although he doesn’t question her doubts about Sandringham, he has to try for them, and “for Lallybroch.” Claire signs her married name, right under her husband’s.
Norwood House. Our first look at Sandringham, who is rocking the Clairiest of hairs and is bored like a rock star. Or a suave actor.
Claire visits the Duke without Jamie’s knowledge to speak to him about the Petition of Complaint Jamie will be bringing him later that day. The Duke lets out a scathing “Poppycock” and comments that he heard “said Captain is one of the finest officers in the regiment”, (probably from Randall himself) and indicates he must refuse. Claire puts on the same poker-face she did for Randall, commiserating that it must be hard for him to turn against a friend.
The Duke harrumphs that he “hardly knows the man,” but even if he did it would basically be harmless to either of them. He thanks her for her visit and congratulates her on the future children she will bear Jamie, basically dismissing her with a smirk and an aphorism.
Claire, who has never met a china shop she wouldn’t run through with a bat, turns and politely asks on her way out how much Jacobite gold Dougal Mackenzie passed on to him, in full hearing of his staff. The Duke freezes and asks her if she wants to make an enemy of him. Claire says that on the contrary, she needs his friendship-”however lowly obtained”- and trusts that it is “preferable to a date with the gallows for treason against his King.”
After a brief veiled threat against her own pretty neck and how well it holds her head to her shoulders, he jovially states that he will listen to Jamie’s petition, and looks forward to helping her husband, good stouthearted lad that he is, “to restore his good name.”
Upon her arrival back at Leoch, Rupert and Angus come out to find Claire and tell her Colum is looking for her. It turns out that Dougal’s wife has died suddenly from a fever, “burnt up as if by fire” and he is drunk and belligerent.
They are hoping Claire can give him something to “soothe the mad beast.” Inside, Dougal is alternately crying and blaming himself and cutting down candles like they’re made out of wax while Colum looks on with the gaze of someone mentally tallying up damages.
Claire arrives and asks the men if they have someplace to put her potion, and brave Angus goes to get a bottle of wine. He is stopped halfway at sword-point by Dougal, who ultimately lest him pass in commiseration for his dry gullet. Claire takes the wine from him and pours some of the mixture down, asking Angus how he will get Dougal to take it. “What makes ye think he’d refuse?”, he deadpans.
Dougal is busy hacking at Mackenzies with his sword when Angus holds the wine high and shouts “To the fair Moira!” Dougal clutches his heart and sobs his wife’s name. “May God watch over her,” he proclaims, and take the wine, drinking deeply. Dougal says that “Even a blind man wouldna said she was bonny, but she deserved better than me.”
He halfheartedly wanders around for a bit until he notices his legs not working, then topples over like a tree. Colum barks for them to take him away until he’s sober, and it takes five men to carry him out. “If ye drop him,” Rupert warns,”I’ll have yer balls.” That would be a lot of balls, Rupert.
Later at the market, Geillis sees Claire and asks if she heard about Moira. Claire says she did, but it didn’t put a smile on her face the way it did Geillis. The redhead says that of course “It’s a tragedy, God-rest-her-soul,” but that surely Claire can’t begrudge her a little celebration at an answered prayer.
Claire doesn’t believe that she thinks her summoning had anything to do with it, but Geillis responds, “I don’t know that it didn’t, and I don’t know that it did not-and neither do you.” Claire calls it a coincidence, but Geillis says no matter what, now she and Dougal can be together. Claire reminds her she has a husband who might object, but Geillis’s response is a smirk and a coy tilt of the head, and silence.
Norwood House. Jamie and Murtagh arrive and see some men from clan MacDonald leaving the house, and Murtagh wonders what they are doing visiting the Duke of Sandringham. Inside, the Duke reads the Petition of Complaint, grumbling about how his association with Randall seems to be common knowledge.
He dismisses his secretary and tells the men that protecting Randall “from the consequences of his misdeeds” is like a full-time occupation, and the Duke isn’t about to join the working classes. He tells Jamie that it will require delicacy to damn Randall without damning himself, and that since he is scrubbing Jamie’s back, Jamie needs to scrub his.
He has been challenged to a duel by the MacDonalds over the matter of some unpaid card debts, and needs Jamie to act as his second. “Shots will be exchanged but I’m assured no one will be hurt”, the Duke says, since the matter is purely to restore honor. His servants, he says mournfully, are “chosen for their beauty, not their belligerence,” and sighs as he caresses Jamie’s chin and states that he has within him “a sublime combination of the two.”
Outside, Murtagh tells Jamie that it is a bad idea to get involved in a matter that includes the Mackenzie’s oldest enemies, but Jamie says that he has to take a chance for Lallybroch. Murtagh tells him there will be other chances, but when Jamie asks him to swear to it, he remains silent and Jamie says it is a risk he will have to take.
That night, at the dinner honoring the Duke, everyone is gathered in the hall for the presentation of this awesome pie and Colum’s toast to Clan Mackenzie’s “longtime friend and ally,” ending with calls of “God Bless Scotland!” and “God Bless the King!”
Jamie walks Claire up to the Duke to introduce her, since he is still unaware of their earlier meeting. Claire asks Jamie to get her a drink, and once again unlocks the wonder of her vocabulary, calling the Duke a bastard and accusing him of “getting his pound of flesh” from Jamie by having him agree to the duel.
The Duke reminds her of “quid pro quo” and Claire tells him it will also apply to him if something were to happen to Jamie during the duel. The Duke clarifies that it will be he, not Jamie facing the bullet, and that she better pray for him lest he not deliver her letter as requested.
Suddenly right in front of his healer wife, Arthur Duncan stands, trembling and foaming at the mouth. Geillis, seated across from him, is unmoving while Claire races down the aisle with some men and asks that he be turned over, since she thinks he is choking. Everyone in the hall rises to their feet as she turns him back over and checks his pulse. He is gone. She automatically scans the room for her friend, and what she sees is “not a grieving widow.”
Geillis has locked eyes with Dougal, who is beaming back at her when Colum turns and traces his brother’s gaze, a look of horror on his face.
Geillis sees this and doesn’t miss a beat, letting out a pained scream, running to her husband’s corpse and crying loudly upon it.
Claire, rising with a stunned look on her face and turning to be held by Jamie, recognizes the scent of bitter almonds on the dead man’s breath, and realizes it was no choking, but murder by cyanide poisoning. For me, this is when you start to see the true amorality of Geillis, and to some extent, Dougal. Was Arthur annoying, smelly? By all accounts yes, but no one is smelly enough to merit death. I know this, because I have teenagers who are still alive right now.
The next day at the duel, Jamie and MacDonald’s second, one of his sons, mark the paces and the Duke and MacDonald exchange shots in the least riveting duel ever.
The Duke apologizes, the MacDonald accepts, and honor satisfied, both parties are eager to have a drink and put matters behind them, but one of the MacDonald complains loudly that “honor isna substitute for coin,” and taunt Jamie and the Duke about their suspected relationship, saying that they should “go off and couple like the dogs they are.”
Jamie asks MacDonald to control his sons and he tries, but the boys are young men, and alternate between mocking the Duke for his fine house and empty purse, and Jamie for walking off to be bent over a log somewhere. Jamie handles this with patience and good humor, asking jovially if it’s true that MacDonalds “learn of love by rutting with their mother.”
This is enough to cause the MacDonalds to rush him, and he barely gets a warning from Sandringham before swords are drawn.
Jamie dispatches the three brothers one by one, but not without being stabbed in the side. When it is over, all four men lay groaning on the grass from their various wounds, and Sandringham picks his way through them to quickly apologize to Jamie and warn him not to tell his wife he was there.
He tells him he must now leave, as “a duel is one thing but a common brawl quite another.” Still, he reaches into Jamie’s sporran and takes the Petition of Complaint, promising to honor his side of the bargain.
Downstairs in her surgery, a closemouthed Claire sews Jamie’s wound while he chats, periodically looking down at her for a response.
He tells her that the wound is just another scar, and that the Duke took the letter, so perhaps they have cause “for a bit of a celebration.”
When Claire doesn’t say anything, he notes that she is “not normally a closemouthed woman,” to which her only response is a sharp tug on the needle she is using to stitch his cut, and Jamie jumps.
“But a quiet anger can be verra effective,” he placates. The door knocks, and it is Ned to tell Jamie that Colum wants to see him, so he goes.
Jamie and Ned arrive to see Colum already speaking to his brother, telling him to go home and attend to Moira’s funeral and stay there until he is called for. “Yer exiling me,” Dougal immediately notes, and asks for how long. Colum shouts that it is until he comes to his senses, if he is capable.
Dougal wants to know what he is being asked to do, but Colum clarifies that it is not a request, but an order. Dougal once again guesses his intent. “I will not spurn Geillis Duncan,” he says with conviction, and Colum points out that neither would her husband, and he can see what she did to him. Dougal responds “That bloated bastard’s been dyin’ for years,” and Colum laughs as he realizes his brother is in love. “Yer an even bigger numbskull than I thought.”
Dougal nods, speaking quietly and tenderly, tearing up near the end. “I do love her, and there’s just cause. Brother…she’s carryin’ my child.” Colum’s response is scathing and brutal, “No no no. That’s Arthur Duncan’s child. Same as Hamish is my child,” and Dougal’s face falls.
Not only will he never marry “that evil temptress,” but he must leave Leoch that very day, and he is sending Rupert, Angus and Jamie with him. Jamie opens his mouth to object, but it only causes Colum to turn to him in anger and tell him to hold his tongue.
Colum tells Dougal that he can do whatever he wants after his wife’s funeral, drink and fornicate till “a bloody end,” but at his own house, not Colum’s. Dougal stands silent, until his brother prompts him to acknowledge the orders of his Laird, and Dougal finally does so.
Colum then turns to Jamie, berating him for shedding MacDonald blood without his approval, and not caring for an explanation. Jamie, finally exasperated tells him that as he is such a disappointment, Colum will be happy to hear that he is to leave for Lallybroch in time. “In time ye can do what you want,” Colum says, but for now he is to keep close to Dougal and make sure he follows his orders “in all things,” and that Jamie will not leave until Colum gives him permission to do so. He also says that, in order to ensure Jamie’s full attention is on Dougal, he is keeping Claire at Leoch.
Jamie starts to object, clearly displeased, but Colum roars at him that the next time he “flaps that tongue”, he’ll cut have it cut out.
“Now go,” he hisses at the room, and Jamie collects Dougal, who is lost in his thoughts and starts at his nephew’s touch.
Jamie is readying to leave as Claire frets that she won’t be with him to tend to his wound. Jamie has more important matters to discuss, telling Claire to keep away from Geillis, because Colum is likely to lash out at her next.
He mentions that “loveless or no’“ the marriage to Duncan kept her safe from her own reputation, and now with Dougal leaving, there is nothing to keep her from Colum’s ire.
“Stay away from her, Claire,” he emphasizes, pretty much guaranteeing she won’t. Dougal tells Jamie to kiss his wife goodbye, but not before first warning her that they are in dangerous times, and to be careful.
They kiss, and as it gets progressively more heated, Dougal gets the best line of the night when he turns to tell him he said to “I said kiss ‘er, dinna swallow her.”
They part, and a worried Claire asks Jamie to come back to her, which might seem like a no-brainer, but this boy gets hurt a lot. You gotta be specific.
It is clear on both their faces that the parting is difficult. “Soon as I can,” Jamie answers, and with a final kiss on her forehead, mounts his horse & rides away.
The next day Claire is tending to a burn on Mrs. Fitz’s hand, and the older woman notices her somber mood. She tells Claire that Jamie will be in his Laird’s good graces soon enough, and back with her, in her arms. So now we know something else about Mrs. Fitz.
When not even your own Nanna ships your ship, that’s a sign.
Mrs. Fitz’s young nephew arrives then with a letter for Claire, and despite her husband’s warning, when she sees it says “Claire-Come quick” and that it is from Geillis, she goes to her friend.
Somewhere on a horse, Jamie is crying.
Claire arrives to find the new widow in front of the fire, and when she tells her she came as fast as she could, Geillis says that the letter was not from her, and likely a prank. She invites Claire to dinner, but Claire is in no mood. She tells Geillis that she has to leave, but the redhead does not want to.
“Drop the pretense. i know you poisoned your husband,” Claire says, and urges her to go if she cares at all about her baby. Geillis tells her that her concern, while touching, is misplaced, but Claire has found the vial of cyanide and knows it is not.
Suddenly, there are knocks and shouts downstairs. It’s the warden, and even as Claire urges her to escape through a window and promises to meet her in the wood that night, Geillis says she will not escape from her own house like a thief. She pours the vial of poison into the fire, assuring Claire that Dougal would never let anything happen to her or their child, and orders her servant to let the warden in. “He made me a promise,” she says, rubbing her belly. “The man loves me to death.”
At that moment the warden runs upstairs and tells Geillis she is being arrested not for murder, but for witchcraft.
When Claire rushes to object, she too is arrested as “the other sorceress” and is told she will be informed of her crime at trial.
The two women stare at each other, alarmed, and are hustled outside and loaded onto a paddy wagon. Claire, looking out the side window, notices a figure smirking at her as the wagon pulls away.
You win this one, Darth Leery.
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