BWW Recap: OUTLANDER's All About Lairds, and Bairns, and Bards
Ah yes. Another week, another frolic about the sprawling Scottish highlands. Alright, maybe not so much a frolic. Our heroine Claire certainly has more important things on her mind; survival for one, escape for another. In this week's episode of "Outlander," Claire is faced with even more difficulties within the walls of Castle Leoch, as the possibility of returning to her home and her husband seems further away than ever.
The opening scene provides a flashback, featuring both Frank and Claire decked in their wartime finery and saying a classically romantic farewell. Claire boards a train, leans out the window to kiss her husband goodbye, and off she goes. I really appreciate that the showrunners see the importance in keeping Frank relevant to viewers. By including these Frank-centric flashbacks, we aren't quick to forget about him. As Claire navigates the halls, and the politics, of Castle Leoch, her husband remains ever present, even if we don't see him. It's easy to get lost in this new exciting world of 18th century Scotland, but we aren't meant to forget the man Claire left behind. No matter how charming that Jamie MacTavish may be. And goodness, is that guy charming.
We don't linger in the 20th century for long, as swiftly we're brought back to a motherly Mrs. Fitz assisting Claire in her daily bathing routine at Castle Leoch. Claire clearly feels comfortable with the head housekeeper-comfortable enough to stand naked before her, and to confide that she's actually from 1945 and fell through a crack in time while on honeymoon with her husband, and, well, oops. Wait. What? Did Claire really think now was the time for that particular confession? Doesn't she know we're only on the third episode? Well, just like that, Mrs. Fitz's maternal demeanor dissolves into something angry, fearful, even. She denounces Claire right on the spot, thinking she must be a witch. And before we even have enough time to dwell on how poorly timed the confession truly was, Claire snaps out of it, bringing us back to reality as well. This scene, a figment of Claire's imagination, and followed by a collective "phew" from the viewing audience, serves an important purpose. Sure, it seemed crazy for Claire to start spilling her story so soon, but Mrs. Fitz's reaction, as hysteric as it may have been, didn't seem all that surprising. Of course Mrs. Fitz, a good Christian woman and a Scottish highlander, would explain such apparent lunacy away by accusing Claire of witchery, and we don't need to be either of those things to deduce how "witches" were dealt with in 18th century Scotland. This theme of religion, in particular, plays a large role in this episode, and highlights just how careful Claire has to be during her stay at Castle Leoch.
Having recently been provided with her own surgery, Claire can now fall into something of a routine, assisting residents of the castle with any medical needs-all while carefully treading the undoubtedly broad gap between 20th century medicine and 18th century botany. Even Colum, the head honcho of the Mackenzie clan, becomes one of her patients. Though he seems amicable, even vulnerable, as Claire massages his, er, lower spine, he had been quick to whip his scabbard out only a moment earlier when he'd detected the barest trace of mockery from his tailor. And if that's not alarming, then I don't know what is. Oh, actually, maybe his brother Dougal looming menacingly in the shadows behind Claire at the Gathering; that's pretty alarming too. In general, the Mackenzie brothers are two guys to be wary of, but that doesn't stop Claire from sassing herself away from Dougal, saying, "Excuse me, I believe I'll have a better view from over there," and snapping in a Z formation before joining Jamie to watch the evening's entertainment with more pleasant company.
And, oh my, awkwardness upon awkwardness, who is it sitting beside Jamie but Laoghaire-and now if there are any book readers out there who insist that they had been pronouncing her name correctly all along, you are absolutely lying; you were calling her "Log-hair" just like me, and y'all know it. Anyway, it's an uncomfortable situation, to be sure, as poor Loaghaire sits coyly making moon-eyes at Castle Leoch's most eligible bachelor. Jamie, on the other hand, is clearly more interested in talking to Claire, ultimately asking Claire if she could-wink wink-change his bandages, proving to be a more than adequate excuse to get out of there. No, he didn't really need Claire to change his bandages, but, my dear readers, the sexual tension is very real as Claire checks the wound on Jamie's neck and their eyes meet for just a second. Oh yes, something is certainly brewing there. Until Claire catches him kissing Laoghaire-the biggest oh-no-he-didn't moment of the episode, surely.
Claire doesn't seem too bothered by it though; she teases Jamie and he reciprocates by stepping on her foot under the table-like a couple of kids in the high school cafeteria. It's a sweet moment between the two, especially when Claire kicks him a little too hard, forcing him to drop his drink. And I may have laughed a little too hard, but hey, moments of humor are rare on this show, so I like to take any bit I can get.
The heart of this episode, though, revolves around the plight of Mrs. Fitz's nephew, Thomas Baxter, who appears to be, for lack of a better explanation, possessed. Claire is less quick to jump to such demonic conclusions and decides to go see the boy for herself. She finds him strapped down to the bed, with Mrs. Fitz cowering miserably beside him. They are soon joined by a priest, who swoops in, rosary and holy water blazing, to exorcise the child. In that moment, Claire becomes determined to find her own diagnosis, and to come up with the appropriate remedy, to save the boy's life. No one seems to be particularly helpful, with demonic possession, apparently, being as reasonable a conclusion as inexplicable illness. But, of course, as Claire soon learns, the world she lives in now is much crueler than her own. A child accused of stealing, for example, gets his ear nailed to a pillory, and somehow that is a more merciful punishment than losing a hand.
With Jamie's help, Claire finally concludes the Thomas Baxter must have eaten lily of the valley, a poisonous plant. When she tries to treat the boy, however, the priest is once again incredibly resistant, aggressive even, accusing Claire of blasphemy, and y'know, for the record, the dude is actually pretty scary. "I will not be ordered about by a woman!" he bellows, introducing yet another dynamic, that of gender equality, into an already heavily weighted moment of religious tension. Mrs. Fitz will be having none of that, no sir, and Father Misogyny is very promptly put in his place. Claire saves the day by revitalizing Thomas, and the priest is left to storm angrily away, while the women exchange high-fives.
Saving Thomas is all well and good, but now, Claire realizes, she has inadvertently made herself much more valuable to Castle Leoch. By earning herself a reputation as a "miracle worker," her ties to the Mackenzie clan have only become tighter. But, hark! The bard from the Gathering is singing again! Surely he's got some message of hope between his harp strings. Actually, what he's got is a song that just about sums up Claire's entire experience with Craigh na Dun. Convenient. If the folktale is true, then maybe, just maybe, Claire has the chance of getting back home again. The episode concludes with her dire proclamation: "I must escape Castle Leoch and get back to the stones as soon as possible, or die trying." Wow. Intense.
Easier said than done? Probably. But let's let Claire hold on to that glimmer of hope a bit longer. Specifically one week longer. In the meantime, I myself will hold on to the hope that there will be more bagpipes in the episodes to come. Because really, bagpipes just make everything a little more epic, don't they? In fact, I just want bagpipes to be playing in the background of my day-to-day mediocrities. While I do the dishes, go grocery shopping, mow the lawn-okay, now I'm just being silly; I've never mowed the lawn in my life. But seriously. More bagpipes. This is Scotland, after all.