This week, the viewer is treated to a marked increase in action. Claire’s drama takes something of a back seat (phew) and Jamie’s slides into the fore, but it’s a masterful transition, and it certainly worked for me. The problem of the week appears to be the ongoing issue of Jamie’s outlaw status and what that means for him and Claire – thankfully not quite a romanticised Bonnie and Clyde – but side plots are in clear evidence, and of not insignificant importance, and, arguably, it was those side plots that comprised the most enjoyable aspects of the episode. Claire is an exceptional character and her story is profoundly engaging, but it was the turn of the other characters to take centre stage, even if it was just for a moment, and it was a serious benefit.
Among other things, Jamie goes to visit the Duke of Sandringham in the hope of making a formal complaint about Black Jack Randall with the support of the Duke, in the hope of potentially clearing his name via denouncing Randall. This would enable him and Claire not only to live without constant fear of arrest, but to return to his home and live the life he wants for her, something Jamie greatly desires.
To be entirely honest (and I do endeavour to always be entirely honest with you, dear reader), I loved it. Quite aside from the fact that it was a welcome change from Claire’s, well, ‘drama,’ the Duke of Sandringham was a delightful character and the catalyst for many cheerful scenes, not to mention an opportunity for Jamie to display his expertise in an activity that didn’t involve rescuing Claire, just for a change. How could I fail to enjoy it?
Alongside the above, it is revealed that Geillis, as well as being interested in pagan rituals that she apparently prefers to do unclothed – apparently par for the course on this show – has been having an affair with Dougal. There are two hefty obstacles to their future happiness – yes, you’ve guessed it, Geillis’s husband and Dougal’s wife, respectively, but they are both removed as the episode continues, thus seemingly clearing the way for their eventual martial bliss.
Or…not. Instead, Dougal gets exiled and Geillis arrested for witchcraft. Not quite the result they were hoping for.
Now, let’s get things straight. I love Geillis. She’s intelligent, brave, generally unflinching in the face of bad situations, and one of my favourite characters when the show first started. But this storyline has not endeared itself to me. I liked Geillis because of how different she was, the woman who married someone solely because of the protection it afforded her and who was determined to live life exactly how she wanted to, regardless of the consequences. This Geillis, however, who depends entirely on a man to rescue her, and who is partaking in a relationship there’s been no evidence of prior to the episode, is not one I either recognise or feel obliged to support. Additionally, this seems to lead, unfortunately, quite nicely into the possibility of Jamie once again taking on the role of the dashing hero/saviour, and as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had enough of that to last me for the rest of my life, thanks.
The Duke of Sandringham
On a more positive note, including the Duke of Sandringham in this week’s episode was a masterstroke. Quite aside from the fact that he offered a fresh perspective on Jamie’s situation and an insight into the politics of the story, he was entertaining, enjoyable, and wonderfully portrayed, not to mention a dramatic contrast to the rough-and-ready Scotsmen that comprise the majority of the cast. A fop, certainly, who folded almost as soon as Claire showed her teeth, but a fop with political savvy, the right kind of name, and an understanding of how to wield his particular kind of power. He might lack bravery, but he more than makes up for it in intelligence, and it was in his company that Claire once again showed a hint of that steel she used to such great effect earlier in the show, and that, too, was a welcome sight.
The only other issue – this is me, after all, there’ll always be an issue or two – that I had with this episode was the somewhat startling shift back into Claire’s perspective. Granted, Outlander is her story, but I had expected, apparently without basis, that the transition to Jamie’s perspective would last longer than a solitary episode. Now that it is clear that it will not, the change makes little sense. Why switch, for such a short period of time? It seemed to add little to the plot – the cliffhanger was just as much a cliffhanger, regardless of perspective – and the sudden transaction back to where we started was a trifle jarring. I’d actually hoped for more from Jamie – his perspective was a breath of fresh air.
In the main, however, this was a strong, interesting episode, multi-faceted and layered enough to be thoroughly engaging.