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OUTLANDER: Treachery Is the Rule of Thumb

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Episode 110: “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”

[Photos: Sony Pictures Television]

Your regular recapper Alex is out this week and next with a case of the day jobs, so I’m stepping in to help out. Thank you, readers, for your patience and flexibility as she and I tag-team the best sci-fi/historical fiction show on the boob tube.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I will add that I have not read the Outlander books, which is just as well, because as a viewer, I like to be surprised.  Please forgive any misses on my part due to lack of context.

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Episode 110 kicks off with a stirring reminder why this particular show has a TV-MA rating. An ill-timed knock at Jamie and Claire’s bedroom suite unfortunately rushes things along for both the couple and viewers, but at least Murtagh has arrived with a life-changing bit of news: the Duke of Sandringham has arrived. Jamie realizes that with the Duke’s power in court and a bit of doing, Jamie could receive a pardon, leaving him able to return to his home estate as Laird. Claire warns Jamie of the relationship between the Duke and Captain Jack, so Jamie decides it best to seek counsel with Ned Gowan.

Ned suggests they draw up a petition of complaint against Randall regarding the crimes Randall’s committed against the Scottish people. If the Duke were to deliver the document to the Lord president of the Court of Session, it could well lead to a court martial, or at the very least Randall’s reassignment elsewhere. With Randall disgraced and out of the picture, Gowan could take Jamie’s case to court and win him a pardon.

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While Jamie schemes, Claire confronts Laoghaire about the “ill wish” left under Claire’s bridal bed. Laoghaire not only insists that Jamie was and is hers, but she throws in a couple of insults to boot. Claire unwisely slaps the young tart in the face, only to elicit a confession from Laoghaire that not only did Laoghaire leave the ill wish under their bed, but she purchased it from Geillis.

Claire naturally seeks out Geillis, and winds up in the woods north of the foothills in the hours before dawn. There, she watches Geillis perform a pagan ritual that calls the mind the pagan ritual from episode 101. While Geillis writhes around, it’s clear she’s in the early stages of pregnancy. Claire inquires, and Geillis freely admits that Dougal MacKenzie is the father and that the ritual she’s just performed is intended to ask for her and Dougal’s freedom from their respective marriages.

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Although Claire’s shocked (as are most viewers who’ve not read the books, I imagine), she agrees to keep Geillis’ secret since they are each other’s only friends (after Geillis swears that she didn’t know the ill wish was intended for Claire). To prove that Dougal takes her seriously, Geillis shows a heavy bracelet that Dougal gave her: a gift originally from the Duke to Dougal. Claire wonders why the Duke would give such a gift to a known Jacobite such as Dougal, but recalls her husband Frank saying that the Duke was also a suspected Jacobite.

As the two women wind their way home in the early hours of the morning, Claire hears a crying baby in the woods. Geillis warns Claire to stay away because the baby’s been left on a fairy hill; children who failed to thrive were thought to be changelings, fairy children left in the place of stolen human babies. The myth was that if a human family left out their dying changeling overnight, the fairies would return the child they’d stolen.

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Claire realizes the child she’s hearing won’t survive the night out in the open, and rushes to help, but the baby dies. To Claire, a seasoned war nurse, it’s a punch to the gut. Jamie finds her grieving and holding the poor dead baby to her chest. Jamie kindly reminds her that she doesn’t understand the local people and their ways, and replaces the baby’s body in the crook of the tree where Claire found it.

Claire later pays a visit to the Duke, to grease the skids if you will, on the petition. The Duke initially refuses Claire’s proposal for the petition, despite his obvious interest in Jamie, but when Claire intimates that she’ll go public with the Duke’s Jacobite sympathies, the Duke agrees to help Jamie restore his good name.

Unaware that his wife has paved the way, Jamie himself visits the Duke. The Duke agrees to help Jamie if Jamie will in return agree to be his second in a duel with the MacDonald family over an unpaid debit. The Duke assures Jamie that it’s a simple affair of honor and that no one will be hurt. Murtagh tries to warn Jamie off this course of action, but Jamie fears the chance to clear his name may never come again and opts to risk it.

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Back in the dining hall of Castle Leoch, all players from this episode are present: Claire, Jamie, Geillis and her husband, Colum, and the Duke, and Dougal, the latter of whom is recovering from a hangover as well as the death of his wife. Before dinner, Claire manages a few terse words with the Duke, admonishing him for Jamie’s place in the upcoming duel. Then, while the whole of the hall dines, Mr. Duncan suffers an attack and dies in front of everyone. Claire looks up at Gaellis, who in turn is not looking at her dying husband but is instead exchanging a triumphant gaze with Dougal, which doesn’t escape Colum’s notice. When Claire smells bitter almonds on poor dead dyspeptic Mr. Duncan, she suspects both cyanide and Geillis.

We next see Jamie as the Duke’s second in what turns out to be a fairly tame duel. The action happens after, when the MacDonald boys start running their mouths, implying that the Duke and Jamie are overly familiar with each other. Jamie can give as good as he gets, retorting that the MacDonald matriarch inducts her sons, ahem, into manhood…all of which degenerates into swordplay melee. The Duke apologizes to Jamie for the trouble it’s caused him, but promises to deliver on their contracted agreement.

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While Claire stitches Jamie up in stern silence, he almost nervously titters about the recent developments. It’s an amusing scene that’s highly dependent on Jamie’s delivery in the face of Claire’s displeasure, and Sam Heughan delivers. Jamie’s summoned by Colum, to bear witness to Dougal receiving a good dressing down. Dougal’s ordered to return to his home until he comes to his senses about Geillis, and is forbidden not only from marrying her but from having any further contact with her. Angus, Rupert and Jamie are to accompany him, and Claire is to remain behind.

Jamie himself also gets an earful about shedding MacDonald blood without Colum’s approval. When Jamie replies that Colum won’t have to worry about being disappointed anymore due to Jamie’s plans to return home soon, Colum quickly squashes the plan. For the time being, Jamie will remain with Dougal to see that he follows his Laird’s orders. Claire and Jamie tenderly say goodbye, but not before Jamie warns her to stay away from Geillis, since there are no longer any men to keep her safe from Colum’s displeasure.

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Later, a letter from Geillis arrives requesting Claire to come quickly. Despite Jamie’s warnings, she immediately goes to Geillis, only to discover Geillis didn’t send for her after all. Wardens knock on the door, and take both women into custody for witchcraft. While they’re being loaded up in the paddy wagon, Claire sees Laoghaire lurking in the shadows and gloating, and the source of the fake note becomes apparent.

So, thoughts on this episode: Claire signs Jamie’s petition, which now in theory will be part of the historical record. Is this something that Frank Randall will stumble across in his search for her? What is the significance of the changeling baby and Claire’s strong reaction to it? Is this foreshadowing about the part that infants and children will play in Claire’s life in 1700s Scotland? Or was it simply a way to demonstrate how out of step Claire is with the people of the time she’s now in? And will Claire ever start behaving as though she’s living in the 1700s instead of as though she were still living in the 1900s? She’s a smart woman who, despite being cautioned repeatedly, often acts without thinking. And what of Laoghaire? Is she going to get the smackdown she so richly deserves? (Say yes, say yes! I can’t live in a universe where little upstarts like her don’t get their comeuppances!)

See you guys in a few days when we get some answers to the questions above, and pose a few more based on episode 111!

[Outlander Episode 109: “The Reckoning”]

[Outlander official site]

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