Wednesday, September 16, 2015

RECAP: Outlander 1x10 - Choose Your Friends More Wisely, Guys

At long last we return to our amazing, fantastic, outstanding Outlander recaps! Okay, that's definitely hyperbole. They're all right. 

So, when we last left Claire and Jamie, our heroes, they had finally made up after the confusing and conflicting episode all about whether or not it's okay to hit your wife. Which it isn't, and Jamie knows that now. Back on good terms, their one real question became how to protect themselves from, well, everyone else. Because no one in that dang castle actually likes either of them and they're pretty much always in dire danger. 

Dire danger that might come from any corner. On the one hand we have Laoghaire (pronounced "Leery"), a sweet young girl with a crush on Jamie and a serious hate-on for Claire. Laoghaire has already tried her hand at seducing Jamie since they got back, failed, and retaliated by putting a witch's curse in their bed.

On the other hand, we have Jamie's uncles, Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, who are having their own problems with each other. Jamie finds himself trapped in the middle as Dougal and Colum argue over the worthiness of the Jacobite cause. As in, they argue over whether or not to support a blatant insurrection against England and attempt to put a Scottish king back on the throne of Scotland.

In order to make up his mind on the matter, Colum has decided to bring the Duke of Sandringham, a relatively well-known English nobleman to the castle for a visit. While there he'll sound Sandringham out on the idea of a Jacobite rebellion. Good plan, right?

This episode starts, then, with some interesting news. Well, technically speaking it starts with Jamie and Claire having enthusiastic (and cheeringly Claire-centric) sex in the morning, happy to have reconnected and gotten rid of their lingering bad feelings. But that spell is broken when Murtagh walks in and demands that they think about "real problems" and "stop having sex all the time you guys, gosh".

Murtagh is there to tell Jamie, and by extension Claire, about Sandringham's visit. Murtagh figures that since Sandringham is well liked in England, he might be able to speak on Jamie's behalf and secure a pardon. You know, because Jamie is accused of killing an Englishman and there's a price on his head and he has to live in hiding for the rest of his life or be executed. That whole thing.

Jamie and Murtagh are super excited about this. But Claire has her hesitations, and with good reason. Back in 1945, when she was hanging out with her first husband/husband who hasn't been born yet by about two hundred years, Claire heard all about how the Duke of Sandringham was almost definitely a close ally to Black Jack Randall. Black Jack Randall being, of course, this terrible Englishman who accused Jamie of murder in the first place and really really hates him.

So that's a problem.

Claire tells Jamie and Murtagh this, though she refuses to explain how she knows. But Jamie doesn't see any real problem here because he is adorable and a little dim sometimes. He agrees to go off to talk to their lawyer, Ned, before doing anything stupid, but Jamie is completely blown away by the idea of actually getting to go home to Lallybroch and taking his new bride to see his old home.

Also I think he figures that since the Duke of Sandringham is gay and had a thing for him a few years ago when he last visited, he'll probably be able to pull it off no matter what. Oh Jamie.

Ned unfortunately has to explain that it's not as easy as Jamie seems to think it'll be, but the plan is doable. Ish. Jamie has to convince Sandringham that being friends with Randall is a bad idea and then write a letter accounting Jamie's grievance against Randall to the higher ups in the British army. Said letter should get Randall reassigned outside of Scotland, since he's being a jerkface to all the Scots and clearly hates them, and would give Ned the opportunity to sue on Jamie's behalf and maybe get a general pardon. There you go. Now you know all about eighteenth century English law.

Meanwhile, Claire is on the warpath. She knows that Laoghaire is the one who put the "ill wish" in her bed and she's not taking that lying down. She confronts Laoghaire over it, and because Claire is an idiot sometimes, she does it in front of Mrs. Fitz, one of her only supporters in the house and also Laoghaire's grandmother. Oh Claire.

Still, Claire's pissed. Laoghaire is a silly child trying to mess with her marriage, and said marriage has enough problems as it is. But Laoghaire has more tricks up her sleeves. She didn't get the ill wish just anywhere. She bought it from Geilis Duncan in town. Again, this is a problem because Geilis is like Claire's only actual friend. So Claire slaps the hell out of Laoghaire, engages in some yelling and general tug-of-warring over Jamie, and does not come out of this situation looking like the actual adult woman she is.

In town, Claire doesn't find Geilis but she does find an incredibly sick and disgusting Master Duncan yelling for his wife. He's really, really, really not doing well. And Geilis isn't there. Apparently she's off in the woods, dancing for the full moon. Because, as it turns out, Geilis really is a witch. Huh.

Her dance is mesmerizing and strange, even more so than the druids' dance at the beginning of the season. Claire again watches from the bushes, because that's basically Claire's thing at this point, and she is fascinated by the similarities. Also she is fascinated by the fact that Geilis is really clearly pregnant. I mean, it makes sense that she could hide it. Eighteenth century fashion involves enough layers and padding and coats and stuff that a woman could literally be six months pregnant without showing. Which is good, because Geilis is totally six months pregnant.

Geilis and Claire talk. First they talk about how Geilis' husband is definitely not her baby daddy. Hells no. You think Geilis has sex with her husband? No, she is a trophy wife, and she is damn good at it. Second they talk about who her lover is. And to all of our surprise, Geilis just comes out and says who it is: it's Dougal MacKenzie. As in, the brother to the laird and one of the most powerful men in the region. And he's married. Which is a complication.

Third they talk about what exactly Geilis was doing dancing around naked in the dark. She was summoning "Mother Nature" to help her and Dougal be free of their respective spouses. Which is sweet? I guess?

Anyway, Claire promises to keep Geilis secrets, Geilis apologizes for selling Laoghaire the ill wish, and all is well. Until Claire and Geilis come upon a baby in the woods. Claire is immediately freaked the hell out because there is a baby unattended in the freaking woods, people! But Geilis urges her to leave it alone. It's a changeling, left out there so that the child will be returned to the fairy realm or die. Claire can't even fathom the backward thinking and terrible idea that is. So she stays.

That's where Jamie finds her a little while later, tending to the sick baby. She can't save him. Jamie has to take the baby from her arms. Claire just doesn't understand how the baby's parents could do that, but Jamie actually explains it in a way that makes sense. See, the baby was probably very sickly all along. It wasn't apt to make it. They're not stupid, they can tell. So it brought the parents comfort to believe that their healthy child was replaced by a changeling. It meant they could let the sick child die and comfort themselves with the idea that their healthy baby would live eternal in the land of the fairies.

I feel like this is where Outlander shows its real strength: when they use this historical context and the functional culture clash between Jamie and Claire to examine how we need to check our own Western privileges before declaring other cultures barbaric or backwards. Sure, there's some not great stuff that happens because of cultural norms in other parts of the world, but there are also myths and superstitions which exist really for the sole purpose of comfort. Respecting people's myths and folklore (up to a certain point) is important. And, to be fair, there is nothing Claire could have done to save that child. It's 1743. The medicine just doesn't exist yet.

So with that super cheerful scene behind us, we transition right into Jamie and Claire discussing how Jamie absolutely must try to reason with Sandringham. And Claire agrees. Totally. Sure. She even signs her name to his petition.

...And then she goes off on her own to confront the Duke without telling Jamie because Claire is actually a genuinely terrifying person inside. I love her so much.

It's all coded talk and subtlety, but basically the scene consists of Claire delicately revealing to the scenery chewing Duke that she knows he is Black Jack Randall's patron and blackmailing the hell out of him. It's positively delicious. The Duke is all pomposity and denial but she just keeps pressing at him until he agrees to take Jamie's petition. How can he not? Claire basically has him up against a wall on with his personal reputation at stake. But what's most hilarious is how she demands he not tell Jamie. After all, Claire doesn't want her husband knowing exactly how brutal she is. Not just yet.*

"Has anyone ever told you, you have the most wonderful neck. It holds your head so prettily. I'd hate to see them part it..." That's what the Duke says to Claire when she finally plays all her cards. Quote of the episode, that's for sure.

Back at the castle, Claire is immediately beset by Angus and Rupert. She's needed by the Laird. It seems that Dougal's wife has died suddenly in the past day - interesting coincidence that - and he's now mad with grief and absolutely stinking drunk. Colum wants Claire to knock him out with one of those sedatives she uses. You know, the ones she has used in the past to drug both Angus and Rupert so that she could try to run away. Those sedatives.

Dougal's really drunk. He does not appear to be faking his sorrow. He's really genuinely upset that his wife is dead. Unfortunately he's also causing a lot of property damage and threatening everyone with his sword. So the boys grab a dram of wine, pour Claire's knockout drug in it, and then convince Dougal to drink the whole thing. The part where he collapses on the ground and then it takes pretty much every man there to carry his insensible body out of the hall is kind of perversely hilarious.

Poor guy.

Geilis, of course, is thrilled about it. Claire clings tenaciously to her rationality and firm belief that Geilis' summoning had nothing to do with it. But, come on. Geilis is creepy. She obviously did something.

The time has finally come for Jamie and Murtagh to present their petition of complaint to the Duke of Sandringham. As he agreed with Claire, he will honor the petition. But...he needs Jamie to do something for him first. He just needs Jamie to be super helpful and act as his second in a duel. With the head of the MacDonald clan. 

The MacDonald clan being, of course, the pretty much sworn enemies of the MacKenzie clan. And Jamie being, stay with me here, the nephew of the head of the MacKenzie clan. Oh jeez.

Jamie is a sweet naive idiot and totally agrees. Then, later, at the dinner that Colum throws for the Duke back at the castle, everyone has to pretend to have no idea what everyone else is scheming. Claire and Sandringham pretend to be meeting for the first time while they all try to hide Jamie's duel from Colum (who would undoubtedly disapprove), and Colum is mostly grinding his teeth over what Dougal did earlier... There have been happier dinners, let's leave it there.

The dinner only gets less happy when partway through the salad course (just kidding - this is Scotland so there's no salad) Geilis' husband drops dead. Really dramatically, I feel the need to add. Claire tries desperately to save him because, affair or no affair, he is her best friend's husband. But there's nothing to be done. Arthur Duncan is dead and he appears to have been poisoned.

No points for guessing who did it.

The duel happens the next day regardless and it all goes mostly according to plan. The grievance was over a very small debt incurred playing cards, so mostly Sandringham and the MacDonald Laird miss each other purposely, apologize, and it's good. What's not so good is how afterwards the MacDonald men can't leave well enough alone and start yelling about how the MacKenzies are "mollies" (gay men) and lapdogs of the English. Oh boy.

Jamie being Jamie and the MacDonalds being themselves, it doesn't take long for a full on brawl to break out. Jamie is mostly unhurt and the Duke ends up okay, but overall it is not a good day for diplomacy. And Jamie might have killed a few guys from a rival clan. Whoops. At least the Duke is definitely going to send that petition of complaint on to London now. That's nice.

Claire is pissed as hell at him when he gets home and she has to add more needlework to the terrifying mass of scars that is Jamie's torso. But if Claire is angry then Colum is incandescent. Jamie managed to get them embroiled in a clan feud while going behind his back to consort with English nobles. Jamie is definitely in trouble.

And Colum's solution is both elegant and super not okay for Claire and Jamie. Since Dougal and Jamie both need to be someplace that is else right now, they're being sent off together. They'll head out for Dougal's estate until Colum decides he can stand to see either of them again. Dougal of course is being banished for his terrible behavior, Jacobite shenanigans, and for his super obvious affair with Geilis Duncan. And Jamie is being banished for pretty much starting a war. So yeah, this makes sense.

But it does leave Claire trapped on her own in increasingly hostile territory. Even worse, her one friend is probably a murderer. Great.

So she mopes. Wouldn't you? Mrs. Fitz tries to cheer her up by explaining that Jamie will be back before she knows it and these things just happen sometimes, but Claire is having trouble believing her. Then a letter comes from the village and Claire hares off to see Geilis, convinced her friend is in some great trouble.

She isn't. Actually, she's fine. Well, she's super duper drunk, but otherwise fine. Geilis is taking to widowhood surprisingly well, though she's not thrilled about Dougal's banishment. She's not really sure why Claire came all the way down here...

Which is when Claire figures it out. The letter was fake but the danger is real. Geilis is about to be accused of murder. Only she really has nowhere to go. She can't flee. She won't flee. Also she is hella drunk and does not feel like listening to reason.

That's bad all around because the wardens are there. They're ready to arrest Geilis for murder and, as it turns out, for witchcraft. Geilis is sure that nothing will happen to her because Dougal will come for her. But that's going to be a problem when he's actually really far away. 

Then the magistrates turn right around and arrest Claire too. Well crap.

As the warden's wagon pulls away, both Geilis and Claire in chains in the back, Claire looks out to see a smirking Laoghaire standing beside Geilis' house. Oh hell, Claire. You really do know how to pick them.

So that's it for the episode. Overall I have to say that this is my least favorite kind of episode. I'm not one for historical dramas, so an hour of people working through the legal system of historic England is so totally not my jam. But I do love when Claire gets her moments of badassery. I don't know. I guess it's just that when we have episodes like this, episodes rooted in the day to day life and mundane realities of the past, I spend the whole time thinking how blissfully grateful I am to live in a time with indoor plumbing and the right to vote. 

I tend to have trouble romanticizing the past. And even when this is not a particularly romantic view of it, there's just not enough here that I care about. Jamie's freedom? Eh, not such a big deal to me. I know he'll probably never get it lifted if for no other reason than because that's bad drama. So I don't care how all this turns out. But maybe that's just me. Perhaps I'm just being a spoilsport. It's honestly pretty hard to say.

On the plus side, though, next episode is a witch trial! So I'm going to do lots of historical reading to prepare. Because I am a nerd and I own an alarmingly large number of books on witch hunts. Go me.

*I mean, you'd think he'd have figured it out after she drew a knife on him during sex literally last episode, but apparently Jamie has a slow learning curve on stuff like this.

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