Now we know where all the mud that the actors have talked about has come from… Stunning scenery in a powerful episode, as Claire learns that assumptions can be poison, and friends can be made.
Before we discuss tonight’s episode, I’d like to talk about the pace of this series so far. I’ve seen several comments from fans that the show is “too slow,” and is losing their attention. Honestly, if you feel this way, you’ve likely been seduced by the fast-paced, short-attention-span-inducing TV shows that are the norm these days. Outlander isn’t a show that will have a climax of the story in each episode; it’s not a “find the bad guy, kill the bad guy, everybody goes home happy” show. Outlander is the story of lives and loves, across decades. Does your own life unfold in the space of an hour? We’re learning about these people as we go along – what they believe, what they need, who they are. We are watching, slowly, as it often happens, Claire learn about Jamie and find him to be more than just another unsophisticated, backwards clansman. This is a show to be savored, considered and appreciated – like the books. Don’t ask it to rush – you’ll miss the nuance, the glances, the growing tenderness that evolves. Now back to your regularly scheduled review.
Claire and Jamie accompany Dougal and the gang across the Mackenzie lands, collecting rent payments from the tenant farmers. Along the way, Dougal seemingly extorts extra payments from the poor tenants, and Claire assumes that he’s lining his own pockets: “a penny for the Laird; a pound – or more – for you,” she accuses him. But she doesn’t know for sure what’s going on, as the dealings are all conducted in Gaelic. Claire has nothing to do beyond walk around and fume at how she thinks Dougal is treating people. I had trouble with this – Dougal said that she was coming with because it might be useful to have a healer – don’t you think there would be plenty for her to do? It’s not like there’s a Walgreen’s with a doc-in-the-box on every moor. Aren’t there teeth to be pulled, rashes to be soothed, on and on? All Dougal would have to say is “here is the Mackenzie’s personal healer,” and she’d be mobbed with patients. Instead, she’s open to coarse men wondering who she is, and assuming that she must be there for the Laird’s personal use – she’s pretty, dressed well, and idle – what else should they think? The only healing she does is relieve lawyer Ned Gowan’s asthma.
Claire comes across a group of women working – there was no vacation time, no “sit down and play” time for most people, at least those who lived the hard life of tenant farmers. Bored, and innately interested in the people she comes across, Claire quickly joins the women in “waulking” wool, or pressing and dying the wool. Here’s where you should be very glad you don’t have Smell-O-Vision, as the dye is set using hot pee, uck but effective. The waulking songs are terrific! I’m hoping to learn more about these in Ron Moore’s weekly podcast (you are listening to these, aren’t you? I add the podcast link to the review as soon as it’s available, usually Monday afternoons.) And the women take a break for a cup of whisky – the better to make them have to go and fill up the bucket again! Of course, it’s at this point that Claire is found having snuck off, in Angus’ opinion, now smelling of whisky and pee. He drags her back to the group, and a young man steps out from a smithy and asks if she is alright. Angus, still mad that Claire had wandered off on his watch, steps up and makes the man back down; when their backs are turned, he puts on his Redcoat uniform and hat (what, nobody noticed? Where did he come from? How did a Redcoat integrate himself into the village enough that he’s working as a smith or farrier or whatever else he’s doing?) and leaves.
EDITED TO ADD: On her site, Diana responded to a question about this character. Here’s her answer as to who he is and why he’s there:
Having seen all the daily footage, I can answer that one. His horse had thrown a shoe and he’d stopped to make repairs; he’s borrowed the apron he’s wearing from the local farrier. In the scene as shot, he introduces himself immediately as Lt. Jeremy Foster, and asks Claire if she’s all right, whereupon the Highlanders menace him away.
They cut the first part of the scene when they edited the episode, and then added that quick visual of him putting on his hat and coat, so we’d know he was a soldier, and recognize him when he shows up with his buds at the end.
Here’s a clip from a documentary about waulking wool that has the English translation of some of the lyrics. You can see how painstakingly accurate the Outlander production has been:
While Angus and Rupert may have been comic relief in the first few episodes – gamely following her around, trudging after her while she goes about her daily business, the pressures of being on the road and the potential danger they’re in make them, especially Angus, more angry and suspicious of her. In fact, at one point, Claire tells Jamie that “they all hate me,” and Jamie assures her that they don’t – “well, maybe Angus, Angus hates you.”
Ned Gowan was an interesting character in the books, and I enjoy how he’s portrayed here. Eminently courteous, intelligent, and urbane, the little lawyer explains to Claire that he has a taste for adventure, and he seems to love being on the road with this rough and tumble crowd. Claire enjoys talking with him, until she starts to believe that he is complicit in Dougal’s fleecing of the tenants – and tells him so in no uncertain terms. But Ned knows what she doesn’t stop to consider – that the dealings are in Gaelic because she’s still suspected of being an English spy, and while they bring her along to keep an eye on her, they don’t trust her not to run off and tell the Redcoats what’s actually going on. So they keep up the pretense, until a few stray words – “Long Live The Stuart” – make sense to her.
Why did you let me think you were thieves? she asks Ned.
What makes you think otherwise? he replies.
Dougal’s speech the other night.
I thought you had no Gaelic.
I’ve picked up enough to know what “Long Live the Stuart” sounds like.
You may have picked up more than you should.
(And if you haven’t read the books and are confused – here’s a brief history lesson. The Scottish king, King James, of the house of Stuart, lives in exile. The Scots are ruled, against their will, by King George, who doesn’t seem to like Scotland very much. The British put down one attempted revolution 30 years before this story, and now his son Charles, who is known in our time as Bonnie Prince Charlie, is being pushed to make an attempt to regain the Scottish throne. But he lacks the funding to raise an army. So now you’re all caught up.) (I hope you all got the history lesson Frank gave Claire as they walked along Culloden Moor – it’s important. If you don’t remember, go back and watch it again.)
As far as Claire knows, Dougal is telling the tenants that he will protect them from the marauding Redcoats, and deeply embarrasses Jamie by stripping him of his shirt and showing his flogged back as an example of what the Redcoats will do to the farmers if not protected by the Mackenzies. This extortion racket, as Claire sees it, is wrong on so many levels – and so is she.
When she learns that her assumption had been based on her general distrust and dislike, she sees the Highlanders through new, sympathetic eyes. But she also knows, being from the future, that the attempt to reinstate the Stuarts to the throne of Scotland is futile, and will only result in the deaths of all of these people, and many more. In this episode, more than the previous ones, Claire’s time displacement comes through – twice while she’s drinking with the women, she mystifies them with her “Geronimo” and “Bottoms Up,” and then she can’t keep herself from trying to tell Ned Gowan – and then Dougal – that they’re facing something bigger than they think.
What if I told you that the odds are stacked against you? The British army is the best in the world. You’re raising money for a war that you cannot win.
You talk as if the future is already decided. Outnumbered we may be, but I would match our fighting hearts against the best army in the world.
Fighting hearts don’t stand a chance against cannon.You are going to lose. That’s a fact, Ned. You have to believe me. History will never recall the name of another Stuart king, but it will recall the name of thousands of Highlanders who died needlessly for a doomed cause.
History be damned.
Jamie plays a backseat role in this episode – quietly watching Claire whenever he’s near her, coming to her defense when Angus get a little too loud and pushy, and sleeping at her doorstep to make sure nobody takes advantage of her while she’s sleeping at the inn. I love this scene – in the world Claire is used to, there would be no problem with Jamie sleeping on the floor in her room; to him, that would be a terrible compromise upon her honor. But when their hands meet as he gives him her blanket, the spark between them is obvious. You can see the tenderness toward her in his face – he understands that she is frustrated, he knows that she has tried to escape once and won’t be content to stay with them – but he can’t help himself. There’s something about this woman – her courage, her caring – that has gotten inside him. He’s mortified by Dougal showing off his scarred back, and embarrassed that Claire witnesses his humiliation, after they’ve talked about how he feels about others seeing it; but he allows it, knowing the stakes they’re playing for, something he understands she doesn’t.
The British really are the enemy – the group comes across two men killed and hanging from stakes as a warning to the Highlanders not to oppose the Redcoats. This just intensifies Dougal’s resolve. We learn so much about Dougal this episode – the farmers seem to geniunely enjoy seeing him, and there’s no animosity toward him as he collects their rent payments (even if some of it is in live pigs, to Ned Gowan’s chagrin). While he may be harsh, keeping a goat made in payment even though the family that gave it needs the milk for a child, he gives another group grain and chickens after finding out that the Redcoats have taken everything from them. After all, what is owed to the Laird is one thing – but what is taken by the enemy is another.
On the morning after Jamie sleeps at Claire’s doorstep, she watches as some men, not with her group, begin making obvious rude comments. Their intent is clear to us, despite the catcalls in Gaelic, and a fight erupts – she, of course, doesn’t understand that this was more than a territorial dispute. It’s Murtagh, once again, who explains what’s going on, that they were defending her honor – they may not trust her, they may not like her, but she’s theirs to mistrust and dislike. And again, she understands that her assumptions about these men are incorrect and incomplete. As they begin packing up to leave, she pipes up as Rupert is telling a bawdy story – “I believe your left hand is only jealous of your right hand,” and after a tense moment – what did she just say? a woman?!? – “I’ve never heard a woman make a joke,” Rupert says, they laugh, the moment passes, and she’s become a little more accepted.
Claire goes to the river to wash; Dougal follows, demanding to know who and what she really is. They’re interrupted by a company of Redcoats, led by the officer who, earlier, had attempted to assist Claire. He asks her if she is with the group by her own wishes – knowing what she knows now of the Redcoats and how they have treated the men for whom she has developed a new respect and friendship, is her answer in doubt? We’ll know next week!
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