Intrigue and plotting; machinations and duplicity – and you thought Outlander was all sex and swash. Oh no!
Admittedly, the first time I watched this episode, I didn’t like it. It was easily my least favorite. Too far from the books (and I haven’t, up to this point, had much of an issue with almost any of the changes that have been made from book to series), changes seemed unnecessary, and it seemed overly hysterical, from Geillis dancing in the woods to Dougal in full-blown rage about his wife’s death. But I loved Simon Callow as the Duke of Sandringham – so I gave it another chance.
And upon rewatching, I’m still not crazy about the episode, but I can accept some of the changes better than I did before. For my non-book readers’ sake, I’ll try to judge this as it stands, but that may be a little tough! Several hinted-at storylines butted up against each other and crossed paths in this episode, leading to the promise of some interesting, action-packed resolutions in coming weeks.
Sidetracking, did you survive the first 5 minutes? That may have been the only stretch of the piece that was true, where nobody was trying to deceive someone, play a part, hide a secret. Jamie and Claire are moving deeper into their relationship – physically, they’re moving together well, but emotionally, he’s still a bit ahead of her, literally and figuratively eager to please. Claire hasn’t yet told Jamie her secrets, but her two worlds come together when a piece of information she heard from Frank in 1945 becomes important in 1743 – that the Duke of Sandringham, soon to be a visitor to the MacKenzies, is a friend of Jack Randall’s. Of course, she’s used this bit before, but with Randall himself, trying to bluff her way out of his sadistic interrogation – and knows that there’s something to Frank’s speculation.
So here begin the plots – Ned Gowan believes that the Duke can be convinced to bring a petition against Randall for his actions toward Claire, but only if he can understand that protecting Randall is less important than protecting his own head. “Truth and lies have very little to do with the law,” he tells Jamie and Murtagh. So he drafts up the complaint against Randall, which Claire is reluctant to sign – she’s worried about her part in all of this, knowing that her flimsy backstory won’t hold up to any level of scrutiny. Jamie reads to her from the complaint – “Randall’s repeated sexual provocation of a highborn Englishwoman is a black mark, impossible to erase.” She can’t prove herself to be “highborn,” or even born in this time, so any investigation into her background will create more questions than answers. But Jamie wants desperately to clear his name, and bring her as Lady Broch Tuarach to his home at Lallybroch – what choice does she have? So she signs.
She needs a cushion, though, and someone more worried about what she holds over them than what they can hold over her, and approaches the Duke on her own. Oh, you aging sodomite, you prancing poofter… the Duke recognizes the threat that Claire holds over his head when she comes to him, without Jamie’s consent or even knowledge, and broaches the idea of the complaint against Randall. He tries to hold up against her, saying, “Did anyone ever tell you you have the most gorgeous neck? It holds your head so prettily. I’d hate to see them parted.” But our girl doesn’t back down – she pulls the Duke into the plot, and he agrees to further Jamie’s suit. The scenes of the Duke’s residence were absolutely beautiful – and writer/producer Matt Roberts said on Twitter this evening that they were shot at Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh, commissioned in 1699 and mostly completed by 1707.
But she’s not done with her daily confrontations – she has it out with Laoghaire (“Leery”), telling her that Jamie was never interested in her, and trying to do it nicely. And when Leery comes back at her, saying she feels sorry for Jamie, that he must have to get drunk every night to be willing to sleep with Claire, our girl’s had enough. Slap! And such sincere apologies she offers: “Sorry, shouldn’t have done that.” Believe her? Nah. We all wanted to do it. but it doesn’t turn out to be a wise move – the little girl has more up her sleeve to get the man she wants. Claire just doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, to take it as the foolish move of a young girl and “let it go, let it go…” I think there was a collective cheer from the fan community at the “slap heard round the Castle,” but we, unlike Claire, know what consequences the slap will bring!
Claire continues to barrel through, and heads off to find Geillis Duncan, presumably to give her a piece of her mind for selling the ill-wish to Leery (for the convenience of your correspondent, I won’t attempt to spell it correctly. And I’m sure you don’t want to stumble through the non-phonetic pronunciation again, either). Husband Arthur is once again feeling poorly and taking it out on the staff; Geillis is off amusing herself somewhere, but her maid sends Claire to find her “in the glade, northwest of the castle, before sunup.” We knew Geillis was a little off, and Claire finds her dancing, nearly “skyclad” (figure it out) among a number of small fires. Set against Claire’s memories of the dancers at the stones in 1945, the scene is beautiful and more than a little scary – does Geillis really believe that in these rituals, unlike the modern women who are following an ancient ritual, more for the enjoyment of the secrecy?
Lotte Verbeek is excellent in this scene, and having had the chance to meet her and see her in person at the New York Tartan Affair event, I can honestly say that this was all Lotte – she’s a beautiful woman, but you can see the bit of the fairy fey in her, Her “summoning” under the setting moon was intriguing and graceful, sensual and witchy. Claire discovers Geillis’ pregnancy and the name of her lover – does she love Dougal, or is he convenient (and certainly more attractive than Arthur!)? Another piece of news about the Duke of Sandringham is revealed, something Claire already knew: “He meets with Colum,” Geillis tells her, “but he’s fond of Dougal.” And as Sandringham is suspected to be a secret Jacobite sympathizer, and Dougal is a known Jacobite supporter, we’ve set up another leg of this potential plot. Are the Duke and Dougal scheming together?
As they leave the woods, Claire and Geillis hear a baby’s faint cry, and Claire runs to find the child. Geillis knows that this will be futile, and possibly dangerous, as the parents have likely left the child out as a “changeling” – hoping the fairies will return their own healthy child that they believe the fairies have taken, and take back the sickly changeling fairy child. To interfere with this can be a sign of witchcraft, she tries to warn Claire, but Claire is a modern woman – and you help a child in danger. But the baby dies as she approaches it, and Jamie has to convince her that she needs to leave it where she found it. Claire’s inability to have a child of her own, to this point, is a factor in her devastation, but she finally gives in to Jamie and lets him put the child back on to the notch in the tree.
But Claire has gotten involved with something she shouldn’t have come near, and that Geillis, once again, warned her to stay away from – at the end of the episode, when Claire is swept up with Geillis and called a “sorceress,” you have to assume that this incident, and the one with Father Bain and the child in an earlier episode, are being stacked against her.
So Jamie and Murtagh, not knowing what Claire has already set in motion, approach the Duke about clearing Jamie’s name of the false murder charge. Already primed to be receptive, the Duke tells Jamie that he didn’t realize that his “friendship” with Randall was so well known, and that “I must admit shielding him from the consequences of his misdeeds sometimes feels like a full-time occupation,” but he will need a favor in return. He’s been challenged to a duel of honor by the hated McDonald clan (fast-food puns are really trying to work their way in here…) and needs Jamie as his second. Caressing Jamie’s face, he tells him that “my servants are chosen for their beauty, not for their belligerence. You, of course, contain within you a sublime combination of the two.” Don’t drop anything, Jamie – to bend over could be disastrous at this point.
Probably my least favorite scene in this episode – and I can already hear some of you start to argue with me – was Dougal’s over-the-top hysterics upon hearing of his wife’s death. Claire didn’t even know the wife existed, saying to Geillis in the woods, “Dougal is married?” They have lived apart for years, and he admits to being in love with Geillis. He threatens the clansmen and the servants, nicks Rupert’s face, clears off a table the hard way, and completely annoys Colum. Was it her “summoning” for the “freedom” they need from their spouses that caused the death? Graham McTavish is superb, of course – I can’t fault him, because he truly made us see Dougal’s guilt and sorrow at his wife’s death – but why was this necessary? It seems really only to set up another action – in this case, making Colum mad enough to send him away from Leoch.
And then Geillis is suddenly free as well – Arthur Duncan dies, poisoned, at the dinner for the Duke. Voiceover was used sparingly in this episode – thankfully – but Claire tells us that she smelled the scent of bitter almonds, a sign of cyanide, as she tried to help Arthur Duncan. Geillis and Dougal share a small, secret smile – not secret enough, as it’s witnessed by Colum, before she starts to scream.
Jamie assists the Duke in his duel – “There will be shots fired,” the Duke tells him, “but nobody will be hurt.” Uh huh. The actual duel doesn’t result in any injury, but the insults following do – Jamie is cut, a couple of the McDonalds are injured, and the Duke weasels out of the scene (fortunately pulling the Complaint from Jamie’s sporran before he runs away). The duel is a major departure from the original book. Why was it necessary? It was certainly interesting, and at least one snippet from the show’s weekly opening montage comes from this scene, Jamie defending himself with crossed sword and knife. (Of course, that brought up the question of when this episode was shot – some of the episodes were shot out of order, and episodes 9 and 10 were shot before episode 5 – two episodes at a time were done in a block – same director for both). But the duel, and Colum’s reaction to it, sets up the reason for Jamie’s later banishment.
Dougal and Colum have it out – Dougal informs Colum that he is in love with Geillis, and that she’s carrying his child. “Your child?” Colum laughs at him. “No, it’s Arthur Duncan’s child. As Hamish is my child. And if you think you’re going to be marrying that evil temptress, you’re sadly mistaken. Sadly so.” Dougal is ordered back to his own home to bury his wife, and presumably regain his senses, accompanied by Rupert, Angus, Ned and Jamie – without Claire, as guarantee he’ll do as ordered.
And no sooner than Jamie has left, telling Claire to stay away from Geillis Duncan, does she go running off to the village, after receiving a short, cryptic note. Minutes after arriving, Geillis is accused of being a witch – and Claire is grabbed as well, obviously not a mistake. The warden says, “Lookie here – the other sorceress. It’s the thieves’ hole for both of you.” As they’re thrown into the wagon, sweet little Leery shows herself – but we know she didn’t, on her own, cause this to happen. She’s had a hand in this, we’re sure, but it’s obvious that the accusation of witchcraft comes from higher up.
So now, we have both Claire and Geillis’ defenders out of the way, and a warden sent to collect the accused witches. Is this Colum’s way of cleaning up the messes – Dougal’s scheming with the Jacobite fundraising and Jamie’s marrying a Sassenach, removing him from clan leadership contention? Colum can’t, of course, have either man killed – they are too visible and valuable – but the women? If Claire and Geillis are both gone, how many roadblocks will be removed? Will Jamie and Dougal be more likely then to bend to Colum’s will? This leaves us at a cliffhanger – layers of deception and plots, damsels in distress, a scheming, perhaps treasonous nobleman – stay tuned, boys and girls!
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