Outlander Recap: Claire and Jenny Become Thelma and Louise

Outlander. Photo: Neil Davidson/Sony Pictures
Episode Title
The Search
Editor’s Rating

When last we saw our heroes, Jamie was in mortal peril (again), having been taken by the Redcoats (again), and Claire was determined to get him back (again), probably because they hadn’t had sex in several episodes, or at least not onscreen. In some ways, this is a filler episode, since we end up not too far from where we started: Jamie remains in mortal peril. But consider how entertaining “The Search” is — full of singing, dancing, palm-reading, cross-dressing, and even some glints of sexual tension here and there — one can’t complain. Plus, it’s a well-directed episode, one that shows Scotland off to its best advantage.

We begin with some ominous glimpses of a puppet show. Then we’re back at Lallybroch. After some squabbling with the wounded Ian about the advisability of her setting out alone, Claire gets on horseback to rescue her man with only a hand-drawn map and a shawl. Fierce wee Jenny then emerges with firepower. Yes, she just gave birth about five minutes ago, but she’s coming along; without her help Claire has no chance, and she knows it.

Together, the two women set off over gorgeous Scottish countryside, pausing only to pray over half-eaten corpses. Good thing Jenny was only ever TV-pregnant. You should have seen me after I delivered my daughter: I had two black eyes that didn’t fade for a week. 

Because Outlander is a gloriously feminist text, the women ride with confidence, tracking the soldiers like cowboys. When Jenny’s engorged breasts bother her, she stops to express milk in a matter-of-fact fashion, using her hands and a cup, as no Medela Pump in Style is available. (Myself, I liked Ameda Purely Yours; cheaper but just as good.) Claire marvels at the magic of breast-feeding before turning away because she’s still kind of an English prude. “Everything to do with bairns is a nuisance, almost,” shrugs Jenny. “But you wouldn’t choose not to have ’em.” I guess she’s never met Meghan Daum.

Someone please GIF the hell out of Jenny milking herself like a boss among the ferns. Yaaas, queen.

After finding some still-warm horseshit, Jenny pulls both her pistols. Yes, she’s her brother’s sister, all right. Jenny gives Claire one of the guns and they go stalking; they can hear voices that, sure enough, turn out to be those of the Redcoats. They see McGibberish, who seems alive and unharmed. Where’s Jamie, though?

One of the soldiers gets a message and rides off. Jenny throws himself in her path, and when he stops to ask if she’s okay, Claire puts a gun to his head. The soldier doesn’t take kindly to their methods, refusing to answer their questions except with insults. “Only a slut would stoop to rob a King’s man,” he says. Uh, where I went to school, they taught me not to antagonize my captors when I’m at their mercy. Especially a captor like Jenny, who looks like she will scruple at nothing to get her brother back and return to her newborn.

Though Jenny uses enhanced interrogation techniques like a pro, the Redcoat won’t give up his secrets. The women pause to rifle through his bags since the man claims only to be a courier, and indeed, they find a letter. Jamie got away! This letter was intended to get to the fort to alert the soldiers there so that those soldiers could start searching.

Jenny rips up the note and debates with Claire over what to do next. Claire wants to bind the man’s wounds, while Jenny tells her the man must be killed. Claire is both shocked and judge-y but, “There’s no room for sentiment,” Jenny says.

Before they can come to an agreement, a third party settles the question for them: Murtagh, Jamie’s taciturn godfather, has followed them and killed their hostage. (Hey, what if they had more to ask him?) Their Thelma & Louise days are over. There’s a man around again, and patriarchy’s back in place. They do have time for a few more opportunities for bonding, though. And even Murtagh admits that they are “natural outlaws.” Claire’s Geena Davis and Jenny’s Susan Sarandon, in case you were wondering.

Before Jenny heads back to Lallybroch, Claire tells her to plant potatoes to prepare for the coming famine, and they embrace. God, for a spinoff of just those two women, roaming the countryside like bounty hunters and doing it as they please, with strangers and/or each other!

Stolid Murtagh throws cold water over my fantasies. He has a plan, ye ken? Claire needs to establish a reputation as a healer, attract attention. That shouldn’t be hard, as the woman can’t even keep her head down when it’s raining. Then Jamie will find them.

The odd couple take their show on the road. By day, the lady mends small injuries. By night, the grumpy fella dances in pubs. Claire also tries her hand at palmistry and fortune-telling, charming a dissatisfied wife by telling her that she’ll have a long, happy life but her husband won’t. Heh.

Puppet show! As we saw for a moment just after the credits, the main puppet is a pale brunette in a white dress that looks strikingly like Claire being deviled by redheads. That seems about right. Murtagh is dancing again and not having much success with the crowd; when he’s done, Claire suggests that next time he sing something and treats him to a few bars of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” Anachronistic music choices are a trope of time-travel stories; remember Marty McFly tearing it up at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance? Sure enough, Murtagh appraises Claire and turns her into an Andrews sister. “A Sassenach lady dressed as a laddie singing this bawdy song?” says Murtagh with satisfaction as Claire prepares to go onstage. “That should spread the word.”

He pushes her up for her debut. Claire looks out at the drunken — though momentarily silent — audience and says, succinctly, “Fuck.” Hee! The last episode got four stars from me partly out of pity; this one is earning them.

Claire is too stiff to really work the crowd. She does manage to sing, though, and even smile, and the pubgoers eat it up like parritch. Soon there are handbills with pictures of her on them and Claire is managing to overcome her Englishness and dance a bit while Murtagh passes the hat and asks if anyone has seen Jamie.

They keep traveling, “gotta have a montage” style, with no luck. They reach a clearing where another performance is under way, and they are displeased to discover that they have copycats. After a clansman dances, the emcee announces, “The Sassenach!” and another pale English lady dressed as a boy starts performing Claire’s routine, the one that’s intended to bring Jamie to her. Oh, no! Claire and Murtagh have both been outclassed, and they’re none too pleased.  

They confront their rival emcee and argue about the finer points of a copyright law that doesn’t exist yet. He’s not having it, and he doesn’t buy what Claire’s selling, anyway. Why would an affluent-looking English lady travel around posing as an itinerant singer? The only reasons, he hazards, are “politics or love.” “It’s not politics,” says Claire. This strikes a chord with the man, who says that aside from money, love is what matters to gypsies most. Murtagh has no patience or regard for gypsies, and not much left for Claire either once she pays off the emcee in exchange for his word that he will stop performing her song. 

More performing, more montage, no Jamie. Claire’s hair is holding up great. One night, while Claire and Murtagh bicker over a fire, Murtagh finally owns up to the reason he cares so much: Jamie is like a son to him because of unrequited love. He is Snape to Jamie’s mom’s Lily! (“After all this time?” “Always.”) This melts Claire’s Harry Potter–loving heart.

In a tavern where Claire is reading fortunes, she is joined by the emcee from earlier. He acknowledges that he broke his promise and has been continuing to perform Claire’s song. On the plus side, though, it resulted in word from Jamie. Claire is not inclined to pay for information but, because she has “the soul of a gypsy” and because the emcee has the heart of a romantic, he relents anyway and tells her where to go. Also, maybe because she already paid him in cash for a bargain he didn’t keep? Not to mention gave him a great idea for a lucrative act.

Leaving show business behind, Claire and Murtagh ride headlong into what could easily be a trap. Indeed, when they arrive at the appointed place, they are greeted not by Jamie but by Jamie’s conniving uncle Dougal. Jamie, Dougal tells them, is at Wentworth Prison. He’s been caught, tried, and condemned to hang. Ever the opportunist, Dougal chooses this moment to hit on Claire.

“You’re being clever, not wise,” Dougal tells her when she refuses him. And he’s being impulsive, not strategic. Claire knows that what Dougal really wants is the Fraser lands, and besides, she isn’t even a widow yet. They wrangle over whether Jamie would want Claire to marry Dougal were he dead, which he isn’t, and Claire gets increasingly impatient with all this conditional nonsense. She wants to mount an attack on the prison and rescue her Highland hunk, and Dougal is wasting her time.

How about this, says Claire. She will make an effort to storm the castle; if she doesn’t succeed and/or Jamie is already dead, she’ll come back and marry her gross uncle-in-law. Dougal agrees, and they shake on it. The only thing that remains is to convince a bunch of skeptical MacKenzies to come along on this adventure. After a St. Crispin’s Day speech from Claire, the grumbling clansmen fall in line, and off they go into the wilderness to save Jamie from almost certain death.