Outlander Recap: Frenemies

OUT_110-20140214-EM_0836.jpg Photo: Ed Miller/Sony Pictures
Episode Title
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Editor’s Rating

The bagpipes of the credits fade out and within ten seconds we have nipple. Within 30 seconds we have realization that Jamie’s very red hair is between Claire’s very white thighs, and within a minute we have — well, the beginnings of an orgasm, anyway, interrupted by vociferous knocking at the door. Holy coitus interruptus, Batman!

The news important enough to make Jamie get dressed for is that the Duke of Sandringham is coming. (Well, at least someone is!) Jamie is excited, Claire full of foreboding. Sounding a lot like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, she warns Jamie not to trust “the duke.” Are there any not-evil dukes? One wonders. “A friend of Jack Randall’s can be no friend of yours,” says Claire. But Jamie is too excited by potentially getting a pardon and getting to go home to his estate, Lollybroch.

Jamie consults Ned Gowan, the lawyer, and they agree on a plan to try to use the Duke to court-martial Captain Jack. Meanwhile, Claire goes to the kitchen carrying the “ill wish” she found under her bed to confront Laoghaire. Laoghaire denies putting it there. Claire tells the girl that Jamie was never hers, and Laoghaire snaps back, “That’s a lie. Jamie Fraser was and is mine.” Claire’s eyes glitter dangerously, and there are some insults, and then a slap, and it seems like this might become an episode of The Real Housewives of the Scottish Highlands.

Then Claire apologizes, realizing she ought to, for once, de-escalate a conflict. Laoghaire replies by admitting to planting the “ill wish” and saying she got it from Claire’s witchy pal Geillis Duncan. Claire doesn’t look too surprised; even in the 20th century, they have frenemies.

Claire tracks down Geillis on a hilltop at midnight, finding her skimpily dressed, despite the weather, and chanting by firelight under a full moon. She also seems to be quite pregnant. Claire watches Geillis writhe happily on the ground until she reaches a state of bare-breasted languor and says, in the voice from a satisfied exhibitionist, “You can come out now, Claire.”

When she does, Geillis flirts with her, calling Claire a prude. Which is rich, considering, as David Mamet would put it, “the country could draw her tits from memory,” but okay. Claire does seem a little prim and disapproving, especially as Geillis reveals that her baby is not her husband’s but her lover’s, and that lover is the married war chief, and Claire’s uncle by marriage, Dougal MacKenzie.

On their walk back to the village, Claire hears a baby crying on top of what Geillis informs her is a “fairy hill.” Claire feels she has to save it, which makes Geillis roll her eyes. By the time Claire reaches the infant, though, it has died, and as Claire cradles the body, feeling wretched and helpless, Jamie comes upon her. “You’ve a kind heart, but you have no idea what you’re dealing with,” he says, which is manifestly true. He puts the body back where he found it, crossing himself as he does so, and leads Claire home.

In his well-appointed quarters, the Duke of Sandringham, played with verve by veteran “Hey, it’s that 18th-century guy!” actor Simon Callow, declares the idea of a letter of complaint against Captain Jack “poppycock.” Does Claire have the letter in hand? No, Jamie is bringing it later; she’s here on her own. Sandringham tries to dismiss Claire, saying that he has no time for even charming ladies. But, displaying the same impulse for self-preservation that led her to try to rescue the baby on the “fairy hill” — which is to say, no impulse for self-preservation at all — Claire blackmails Sandringham by telling him she knows he’s a secret Jacobite in league with Dougal MacKenzie.

Sandringham is not pleased to be called a traitor to the English crown in his own living room. He tells Claire that she has a beautiful neck and it would be a shame to have it parted from her head. When she doesn’t back down, the duke of Mixed Messages offers her a drink and agrees to consider Jamie’s petition.

Claire is summoned to Dougal, who has gotten word that his wife has died in a fever. Geillis’s midnight sex magic did its work. Of more immediate import, though, is that now-widower Dougal is in a drunken rage, slicing through the mess hall with a sword. They mix Claire’s draught into some whiskey, which Dougal drinks straight from the bottle. At last he collapses.

“Now Dougal and I can be together,” says Geillis, exulting, when she and Claire meet again. With a refusal to believe in the supernatural that seems funny in someone who has time-traveled through a pagan stone circle, Claire insists that Dougal’s wife’s death was a coincidence and had nothing to do with Geillis’s spell. Geillis shrugs and smiles.

Jamie and his clansman consigliere Murtagh visit the duke, who admits that his “acquaintanceship” with Captain Jack — patronage, more like — is kind of exhausting. “And I hate work,” laments Sandringham. This guy is fun. More of him, please. The duke is willing to help Jamie, but of course he wants something in return. He has been challenged to a duel by the MacDonalds, sworn enemies of the MacKenzies, and he wants Jamie to be his second.

Sandringham appears as a guest of honor at a fancy MacKenzie dinner, where he pretends to meet Claire. As soon as they are left alone, Claire calls the duke a bastard for dragging Jamie into his duel. Before she can insult more members of the nobility, Geillis’s husband falls to the floor in a fit. Once he’s dead, Geillis weeps, while Claire narrates that she can tell the man has been poisoned.

Claire definitely needs better BFFs.

To the duel! Which is a strange and formal affair where the duke and his opponent of clan MacDonald fire guns near — though not exactly at — each other, and then extend and accept apologies. “Let’s drink!” says Sandringham. The younger MacDonalds, there to witness the fight, are not appeased; they hurl gay slurs at Sandringham and, by association, Jamie. When Jamie finally, with a smile, calls them motherfuckers, which sounds more charming the way he says it, it is the excuse they were looking for to come at him with swords.

Was this Sandringham’s plan all along, to get Jamie diced up by some hotheaded, homophobic Scots? Though it’s three against one, our hero prevails, though not without getting what Sandringham, before running away, calls “a scratch.” Mmhmm.

All is forgiven, though, since it gives us another shot of shirtless Jamie, who stands still while Claire sews him up. Too soon, he has to put on clothes and go see his uncles. Colum is exiling Dougal, forbidding him to carry on with the newly widowed Geillis. “She’s carrying my child,” says Dougal softly, with more tenderness than we have seen him show. Colum is unmoved: “Say good-bye to your hoor.”

Colum is not pleased with Jamie, either. How dare he get in a sword fight without permission! He instructs Jamie to go with Dougal; as punishment, he will keep Claire in the castle, away from every single one of Jamie’s abs. So unfair.

Before he leaves, Jamie warns Claire to stay away from her frenemy. Now that Claire strongly suspects that Geillis is a murderer, one might think that would be obvious. Jamie underlines the point, though: Colum’s wrath will descend on that lady next and she has no husband left to keep her safe. “Be careful, Claire,” says Jamie. She says she will, but honestly, asking her to stay out of danger is like asking Bart Simpson not to cause trouble. Claire can’t promise to try, but she’ll try to try.

Sure enough, next thing we know, Claire gets a letter at the castle summoning her to Geillis Duncan’s house and she goes off, by herself, and gets arrested for witchcraft alongside her. As Claire is carted off, Laoghaire smiles.