Outlander: Ep. 208 Review, The Fox’s Lair – No Escape for the Wicked

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Farewell, France! An adieu to beautiful clothes, stunning rooms, new friends, and at least a few excellent episodes. Jamie and Claire’s time in France, was, in large part, sad and unsuccessful – loss of their child, imprisonment, failure to change the future – but Jamie is well on his way to his recovery, and  it seems that Jamie and Claire are reconciled. And now they’re ready to get back to Scotland and try another tack to keep Prince Charles from causing death and destruction.

But… this episode was a mess. While there were parts of it that I did like, and I’ll get to those in a minute, there was too much crammed in here, odd characters roaming around, mixed in with some strange flights of fancy on the writers’ parts. For both seasons, the timeline has been compressed to the point that I feel almost like we’re watching this in 78 instead of 33 1/3. Jenny’s had another baby? Already? How long were they in France? How long did it take to wrap up whatever had to be settled before they came back to Scotland? That Ian’s sure a fast worker. When did Murtagh get back? How long does it take to get potatoes for seed, plant them and get your first crop? (edited to add: after the episode aired, we learned, from Ron and Maril, that they had been at Lallybroch for about 8 months at this point. But you shouldn’t have to rely on anything except the actual aired version for facts. And that makes the voiceover even more confusing. It could have been solved by changing the voiceover: We had been back at Lallybroch for about 8 months. Life had settled into a comfortable routine, even with the shadow of what we knew was still coming. Jenny had had another baby…)

7/47 - Int Lallybroch - admiration of the potatoes, Jamie furious, Charles has forged his name

7/47 – Int Lallybroch – admiration of the potatoes, Jamie furious, Charles has forged his name

Did that potato scene bother anybody else? Yes, the potatoes are important to saving the family’s lives, but how they’re dealt with is just a little odd. They’re all standing around the table (except Jamie, who’s sitting on the corner), beautifully arranged like some Renaissance painting, with the lighting and shadows. It almost felt like a throwaway. And Jamie and Claire are canoodling like teenagers. Yes, we wanted more J&C intimate, lovely downtime, building their relationship, showing how much they love each other, but I just wanted to holler “get a room!” This wasn’t appropriate behavior in front of the children. A touch of the hand, a brush on the hair, an arm around the waist – but geez. And the return of Rabbie McNab – Rabbie was the young boy whose father beat him in the Lallybroch episode. I didn’t understand then why they included that at all since they didn’t use either father or son in the role that Diana had originally written for them, and  I don’t understand why they’ve bothered to bring him back here (and would he really have called the Laird’s wife Claire, instead of Mistress Fraser?). Of course, though, Ron Moore has now established that he’ll bring back characters that we didn’t expect to return, and we don’t know if he has maybe set Rabbie and his father in place for a crucial role still this season, or next. But it was a weird little bit.

7/47 - Int Lallybroch - admiration of the potatoes, Jamie furious, Charles has forged his name

7/47 – Int Lallybroch – admiration of the potatoes, Jamie furious, Charles has forged his name

And they had another important letter – from Jared in France, congratulating them on taking the brave stand of supporting Charles publicly as he declares the Stuart line to have the divine right to the throne of Britain. Of course, they have done no such thing – Charles has presumed on their support – and why would he think otherwise – and he has put Jamie’s name down on the list of supporters, making Jamie now a traitor to King George. Jamie and Claire now have decisions to make – how best to try to save the lives of the people they must care for? Is there a way to still avoid what Claire believes will happen? (Did you catch that they also had a letter from Aunt Jocasta? If you’re confused, Jocasta is Colum, Dougal, and Jamie’s mother Ellen’s sister.) Claire is in favor of leaving, making their way to Ireland, but this isn’t the solution to any of their problems. ‘We know what will happen if the Jacobites lose the war. But what if they win?” Jamie asks, somewhat rhetorically. “They don’t. It’s the verdict of history,” she reminds him. “Have you given up trying to change the future, Sassenach?” he says – obviously, he hasn’t, and believes, now that his hand has been forced, that they have to try. I’m very pleased to see that Jamie is more the man that we expect and want him to be – a leader, strong, smart – and in this, the series is definitely, finally going in the right direction.

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Jamie tells Claire about his grandsire, Lord Lovat, before they leave to go seek his help. Downright old reprobate, isn’t he! And Jamie is obviously sensitive about being the son of a bastard, even an acknowledged one. It was sweet that he thought Claire ought to be concerned about his spotty heritage, but she’s already met two of his uncles. And neither of them are the soul of familial love – one uncle has tried to kill Jamie, one has tried to kill Claire. So you know that they’re not traveling where they’re likely to be greeted with happiness and enthusiasm.

How sweet, though, was Jamie with his baby niece! You get a lovely glimpse of what he would have been like with Faith, caring for her in the middle of the night. Do you think he was telling baby Katherine a about her angel cousin? He has had so much sadness, but a baby is always a hopeful thing. “You can talk to a wee one in a way you talk to no one else,” Jenny tells Claire. “Ye can pour out your heart to them without choosing your words or holding anything back, and that’s a comfort to the soul.” And Jamie needs that kind of comfort – he’ll be walking into the fire now, and he knows the expected outcome.

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Clive Russel was excellent as Lord Lovat, the Old Fox. Bullying, righteous, unsympathetic – he doesn’t care what anyone else wants. He’s a man who takes what he wants, and the rest of the world be damned – whether it’s power, land, money, or, apparently, women. He has little regard for and a very low opinion of anyone else. He doesn’t think much of Jamie for having married an Englishwoman, or for supporting (on paper at least) Prince Charles. He’s only interested in what he wants – and what he wants right now is Lallybroch, which Lord Lovat had given to Brian and Ellen, Jamie’s parents, under pressure from Colum when the two were married. He’s willing to make whatever deal is most profitable to him – remain neutral, siding with Colum; or agree to send men with Jamie to fight for the Prince – but only if Jamie hands over the estate. And he’s willing to threaten Claire with gang rape to get what he wants. But Jamie sees his weakness – a superstitious streak – and tells him that Claire is a white lady, that the man who “takes her in unholy embrace will have his privates blasted, like frostbitten apples, and his soul burn in hell” – and throws his drink into the fire to demonstrate! (In the book it was Lovat’s wooden teeth, but the alcohol made for a much showier demonstration of Claire’s powers, don’t you think?)

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During my first watch of this episode, I knew that Diana Gabaldon had said there was something in this one that she had trouble with (her “jump the shark” moment), and as I watched, I could see more than one moment that could have been what she was referring to (and that’s never a good thing, to have choices for what doesn’t work the most). As it turns out, she was referring to the storyline that includes Laoghaire – not necessarily that she showed up, but that she was made to be the villianess of Cranesmuir. Diana explained on Facebook that as written, Laoghaire was really just a love-struck, whiny young girl who tried to make Claire look bad, not kill her, and that Jamie hadn’t known anything about what she had done – once Claire was rescued, they were too busy trying to get on with what came next to worry anymore about it. BUT, here she is, supposedly repentant for her role in Claire’s arrest and trial. How will that play out down the road? Once the production has made a factual change, they have to live with it for the rest of the series.

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I didn’t buy Laoghaire’s tears – yes, Mrs. Fitz would have been likely to insist that she apologize, and maybe Colum really did have her beaten for her actions (although that would have been a bit of a diversion away from his own involvement), but she hasn’t changed. She still has her eyes on the prize – Jamie – and when Claire comes to her with a suggestion that may help her get back in Jamie’s good graces (not Claire’s, she couldn’t care less about Claire), she agrees.

This involves young Simon, who looks at her with big cow eyes over dinner. Lovat doesn’t think much of his son, but notices the attraction, and takes delight in taunting the boy by touching the girl’s arm and insulting his son while doing so. Young Simon looks younger than Jamie (and more than once calls him Cousin, when Simon is really Jamie’s uncle – young Simon is the much younger half-brother of Jamie’s father Brian), and is a shy, poetic young man. I didn’t like this character at all. AT ALL. I try not to make too many comparisons to the book, but this character is completely opposite to what was originally written, and there was really no reason for it. We didn’t need a bit of levity here, if that was intended. But he’s completely in fear of his father, and when he tries to voice any kind of independent opinion, he’s shouted down and ridiculed. Claire recruits Laoghaire to boost the boy’s confidence by playing up to his infatuation with her – and she ends up giving him a “keek” down her dress. Nope, didn’t like this at all. Even though Claire grumps at her, “It’s not about sex!”, it clearly was. Yes, use the little tart to make him a big man – in more ways than one – and manipulate him in a way that I think the show’s mostly female audience would object to – great idea.

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Yes, Jamie needs Lovat’s men to join him so that he doesn’t look weak in front of Charles, and has some chance to guide Charles’ hand in making decisions – left to himself, Jamie fears, battles won’t be much more than the picnics that were popular overlooking the fighting, and that doesn’t get the job done. But there were other ways to get to the point where Lovat would have it both ways – appear neutral but support the rebellion.

Remember Lord Lovat believes in the supernatural? He has his much-maligned seer, Maisri, who Claire meets when the big bully tosses her out in the hall when she won’t tell him her latest vision. But she tells Claire – a man, wearing a black hood, behind Lovat, who has the shadow of an ax across him; obviously an executioner, could be for either side (and both Jamie and Lovat bring this up). Clunker line – Maisri didn’t tell him because he might “kill the messenger.” This sounded much too modern, although I don’t doubt that some version of this has been used for centuries. Maisri supports the idea that yes, Claire and Jamie CAN affect the future, but again, this was a rushed, sped-up bit of plotline. And since Maisri won’t tell him this, well, then, Claire might as well. I’m not quite sure how I felt about this scene – this was another one of those “is this the shark?” moments (since Diana had said the moment has something to do an out-of-character action – before I knew what it was). Just as you think Jamie is about to give in to Grandsire Bully, and give him Lallybroch, Claire swoons. We quickly realize that this moment must have been cooked up between Jamie and Claire – and Claire’s really developed a great big hammy streak (remember the hand in front of her face as she saw the darkness in the Comte St. Germain?). “OOOH! I see a shadow of an ax!” This is what comes from taking a girl on the road and making her sing and dance – she develops an inflated sense of her own thespian abilities (Claire, not Caitriona). Whatever works, right?

2

I thought the addition of Colum to the episode, with his careful, considered arguments against the Rebellion, was one of the few things that worked really well. “If we don’t send men, the rebellion will melt away. And then we’ll be left alone,” he tells Jamie. “For your sake, and the sake of all you hold dear, do not make this bargain with that man. Do not trade your home for a war you canna win.” Colum has no interest in supporting anything beyond Leoch’s castle walls, which he made clear to Dougal, a Jacobite, last season. He’s very unhappy with Jamie, and probably sees through their little drama, but as he leaves, he finds a way to silently let his nephew, and the man he would have chosen as his successor, that they’re still family.

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Claire tells Jamie to go thank Laoghaire – it’s too long of a story to tell him at the moment – and he does as he’s asked. “I’m told to thank ye – for what I dinna ken, but I thank you.” And the little schemer keeps up the repentance façade – “I hope that one day I can earn your forgiveness, Jamie.” And as he turns to leave, sotto voce, “… and  your love.” She hasn’t repented, she hasn’t truly apologized, she’ll continue to go after what she wants. And if you’re worried about how this will play out in the Voyager season, remember that a pretty, seductive, begging woman in need of protection can make a man, especially a lost, damaged man, forgive almost anything.

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In the end, Jamie gets his men – but Lovat can claim that he didn’t send them, that his young son has finally grown a …. backbone, and convinced the men to come with him, thus remaining firmly straddled on the fence.

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Were you expecting to meet Lord John Grey in this episode? If the show was following the book’s timeline, you would have – there are 200 pages, several nights sleeping rough, the originally written wool-waulking sequence, some wonderful Ian Sr. moments, a stay in Edinburgh, a fabulous sword stunt by Jamie, an encounter with an old enemy, and a chivalrous young man in between Lallybroch and Beaufort Castle in the book. We’ve already had the wool-waulking, but the rest of it we can only hope gets included in the five episodes that are left – some of it’s guaranteed to show up (since he’s been cast, we know we’ll see Lord John at some point this season, so don’t despair about that). What do you think will be shown, and what won’t be? What did you think of the resurrection of Laoghaire? Did it work for you, despite Diana’s comments? There’s lots to discuss from this episode!

Read my interview with Theresa Carle-Sanders, and enter to win the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook!

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Erin Conrad