Outlander – Season 3 Episode 7
“Crème de Menthe “
Outlander continues the reunion of Jamie and Claire as Jamie’s dodgy dealings catch up with him in a big way.
Last week was all about long lost lovers and soulmates reconnecting after 20 years of not seeing one another but since TV thrives on drama there’s no way that could last forever. This episode is in part about Jamie and Claire realising how much has changed in their lives since they were last together. Claire’s life over the past 20 years has been relatively simple and the viewer is more aware of the direction hers has taken but we learn about Jamie’s dealings at the same time Claire does as she is the audience perspective.
Much of the episode is focused with Jamie working to deal with the problem of the near dead exciseman who attacked Claire last week. His blow to the head was as a result of self defence on Claire’s part but Jamie points out that the law works differently in the 18th century and the situation will not be looked upon favourably since the incident happened in a Brothel and Claire being a woman won’t help matters. The fact that the exciseman dies unceremoniously means that the potential consequences for Claire are never properly explored.
Jamie would rather let the man die as it would be a lot easier to deal with. Claire’s insistence on trying to save his life is an irritation to him as he has to work to cover it up while keeping his illegal dealings unnoticed by the authorities. This involves him tasking Fergus and Ian to get rid of the alcohol by selling it immediately among other things. The mechanics of how he does it aren’t the interesting part but the urgency definitely is. Jamie is competent in dealing with this which suggests that this is something he has been prepared for. There’s also an undercurrent of fear to Sam Heughan’s performance that makes it believable that Jamie has been staying one step ahead of the law as well as his unscrupulous business partners for a long time.
Claire’s attempt to save the exciseman’s life leads her to characters sure to become important in later episodes. In her haste to get served at the apothecary gets her talking to Archibald Campbell (Mark Hadfield) who asks for help in treating his sister Margaret (Alison Pargeter). She is mentally ill and rambles incomprehensible nonsense that Archibald interprets for clients by labelling her as a seer. Claire doesn’t approve of Archibald exploiting his mentally ill sister but helps out anyway thanks to her medical knowledge. These scenes might seem perfunctory but they do provide fascinating insight into how things work for people in the 18th century. Times are hard and people have to do things they aren’t necessarily comfortable with to get by. Archibald needs Claire’s help so that Margaret can make a trip to the west Indies at the request of a wealthy client. It’s less than ideal but it’s also how things work at the time which does tie into Jamie doing what he feels is required to exist in the world he lives in.
Where Jamie is concerned there are things he could probably get away with not being a part of. His smuggling operation is clearly very dangerous as is printing seditious pamphlets but his printing business could be profitable enough to support him without partaking in illegal activities. Looking at Jamie as a character this is clearly his way of still opposing the crown after the defeat at Culloden but there’s no denying how dangerous and arguably foolish it is.
The situation escalates to the point that the pamphlets are discovered and the printing shop burns down which may be an easy solution to the problem. My problem with this season is that it has burned through plot at an extended rate and this episode makes for another example of that. Seeing Jamie navigate his illegal activities could have gone on longer than this episode as the plot was a fairly interesting one but isn’t given the time to develop. There was a sense of friction between Claire and Jamie caused by the illegalities as well as the surrounding details such as living in a brothel.
This episode does a really good job developing Ian and Fergus. Their scenes together are effortless and charming showing a long friendship forged by growing up together and Fergus’ cheeky demeanour makes for an engaging contrast with Ian’s naive nervousness. It’s a good dynamic that makes the characters instantly endearing. The conversation they have about the memorable way Fergus lost his virginity was great and the tips supplied to Ian on the art of seduction was nicely handled. Ian charming the barmaid was a reasonable pay off to this conversation as well.
Ian and Fergus’ subplot nicely ties into the main plot when he happens upon Sir Percival’s (Paul Brightwell) henchman ransacking the printing shop. This leads to a really tense scene where Ian has to fend off a physically stronger opponent. It leads to the fire starting by accident and essentially the loss of all evidence of Jamie’s illegal dealings. It’s an economic way to move plot forward and it works because Ian is such an engaging character but it also feels like opportunities have been missed. This single episode races through Ian’s lack of self confidence, his sexual awakening and puts him in a life or death situation. It’s a lot to take for a character only introduced last week.
Another highlight of the Fergus/Ian dynamic is the way Claire is described. Fergus has essentially mythologised her which is hilarious and revealing of how strong his childhood connection to her was. He tells stories about her healing wounds that would be impossible but it does tie into Claire’s standing as a Witch to some. It’s a nice revealing character beat for Fergus and definitely something that helps connect the adult to the child we saw only a few episodes ago.
Another focus of this episode is the end of the honeymoon period for Jamie and Claire. We got to see them reconnecting at length last week and it isn’t something that could last forever. There are lingering issues between them that a single night of passion can’t resolve. The 20 year gap in their relationship is not easily brushed aside and in theory the uncertainty leaves a lot of scope for exploration though the way the show handles it is somewhat baffling.
There’s a disturbing double standard at play on both sides that begins where Claire judgementally calls Jamie out on lying to Ian’s father about his whereabouts. In fairness Jamie is quick to bring up all of the deceptions they have been involved in since they met such as their efforts to stop Culloden from happening. He also confronts her on how easy deception comes to her such as the lies she tells about where she has been for 20 years. Necessary lies as far as Claire’s concerned but Jamie uses it as an example of how often they deceive others. The fact that Claire has her own ideas of where to draw the line on telling lies is one thing but her “holier than thou” attitude when Jamie does what she does so naturally is unjustified even from a character point of view.
Another issue is that Claire and Jamie seem to be having the wrong conversations about the gap in their relationship. He brings up the fact that Claire lived with Frank and questions her on whether she fell in love with him again despite her repeated insistence that she didn’t. Both Claire and Jamie seem guilty of the same thing when it comes to how they view their relationship. The belief on both sides is that they should have been consumed by grief and remained chaste for the rest of their lives. As far as they were both concerned they would never see each other again so this argument shouldn’t be justifiable to either of them. I get that it’s difficult to imagine someone you love falling in love with someone else but a degree of common sense should creep in here.
Further complicating the issue is that Jamie apparently has another wife which could be for business reasons or maybe he did actually fall in love again. There’s a lot of Jamie’s life unaccounted for so anything is possible at this stage. It looks like this will be the next issue to plague them as well as the people hunting Jamie but we shall see how that plays out in the coming weeks.
An uneven episode that suffers from fairly dull and mechanical plotting while having intermittently interesting character exchanges. A big problem this season has been the tendency to rapidly burn through plot to the point that so much potential goes unexplored. This happens here with the destruction of the printing shop which rushes through Jamie’s network of illegal dealings in a way that lacks any sense of sophistication. The episode does do right by Fergus and Ian who have a really charming dynamic though Ian’s development as a character is far too rapid.
Another issue the episode has is the handling of the bubble bursting for Jamie and Claire. The arguments they have lack any measure of common sense as they seem to forget the important fact that as far as either of them knew their parting 20 years prior was final. The expectation that life would stop seems baseless and it means that the arguments they have are nothing short of baffling. Jamie calling Claire out on her comfort lying to others was nicely done though. The mention of Jamie’s other wife could play out in interesting ways but we shall see.
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