This week on Outlander, we're roaming the Highlands, collecting rent. Well, Dougal and the MacKenzie men are collecting rent. Claire is mostly pouting. She is so, so sick of these people. Welcome to our heroine's emotional low point!
Let me begin my recap with a correction: Last week's game was not proto-lacrosse but rather shinty. It's all sportsball to me, but I stand corrected.
Claire's new best bud this episode is Ned, Clan MacKenzie's lawyer/accountant/bookkeeper who's along to collect the coins, grain and livestock in which tenants pay their rent to Colum. They bond quickly when Ned, a bookish outlier, recognizes her reciting John Donne and she relieves his asthma symptoms. (This is how us nerds generally form friendships, yes.) (How damn many people is she going to befriend instead of getting on with the boneration????)
Her initial escape thwarted, Claire is coming to terms with the fact she might be stuck with this lot for God knows how long, and she is not accepting it gracefully. Not that I blame her! This is basically the road trip from hell. The dudes spend much of it speaking in Gaelic, excluding Claire, and when they're speaking English they're generally telling filthy jokes. Jamie tries to reassure her: "Dunna worry what they're saying, lass." "They hate me." "Nah. They don't trust you." Even hunky Jamie doesn't have charm enough to chase away her funk; Claire was downright self-pitying almost the entire episode.
The only thing that temporarily lifts her terrible mood is the encounter with the village women "walking wool" while singing a song meant to keep their rhythm. (The twenty-first century equivalent is, of course, exchanging misandry GIFs via IM.) The wool, by the way, is soaked in urine: "Hot piss? Yes, Claire. Sets the dye, first." That's what women do when you're not around, gents. Drink hard liquor and treat our clothes with hot piss.
Unfortunately sour-faced Angus breaks up this moment of female bonding by yelling at Claire and hauling her roughly back to the wagon. She responds by attempting to return a goat handed over as rent, so one of the women (the first welcoming people she's seen in a long while, it's worth noting) can feed her baby. Matters take a downright dangerous turn when an Englishman turns up, offering his assistance. But he's alone, and she's surrounded by armed MacKenzies. He pulls on his snazzy red coat and rides away—clearly we haven't seen the last of him.
Claire, increasingly pissy, notices something incriminating: At a series of after-dark meetings that culminate in baring Jamie's scarred back, Dougal and Ned are collecting additional money in a separate bag. (Bright side: more pectorals flickering in the firelight.) She concludes they're stealing from Colum and grows progressively more disapproving. Worse, she knows her uneasy rapport with Dougal is disintegrating: "He had brought me along on this trip because I'd earned his respect as a healer, and at least some measure of trust. But now I could see that small trust slipping away, and with it, my dream of escape."
She's even less impressed when they encounter "the Watch," apparently the 18th century Highland equivalent of the mafia, burning a suspected collaborator's house and stealing everything he's got. This is the absolute nadir of Claire's feelings re: eighteenth-century Scotland. Even the gorgeous Highland landscape in full-on seduction mode can't sway her:
Much to Claire's disgust even Jamie, who clearly despises being made a prop, wants her to put a sock in it: "You're not to judge things you don't understand. Stay out of it, Claire." Really, this whole episode dramatizes a conflict all us feminist killjoys face constantly: knowing when to open your mouth and how to pick your battles. Not that Outlander has a one-size-fits-all answer, so much as suggesting you be sure to understand the situation before reaching a decision.
Witness what turns around Claire's attitude: She finally realizes that Dougal isn't simply a thieving tool. In fact, that little performance involving Jamie is a stump speech to raise money for the Jacobite uprising. I cannot believe it took our very bright Claire so long to figure this out; clearly her dislike for Dougal and her irritation at being dragged all over the Highlands is clouding her thinking. But the epiphany reassures her—she's dealing with principled rebels rather than low-down crooks.
Personally, if I were Claire, I'd feel more comfortable about my future if they'd merely been crooks.
More importantly for OUR libidinous purposes: that scene where Claire stumbles out of her bedroom door to find Jamie guarding her threshold with his very body. She invites him to come inside and he is just aghast: "Sleep in your room, with you? I couldn't do that. Your reputation would be ruined." RUIN ME, JAMIE. RUIN ME LIKE A SPAGHETTI STAIN ON A WEDDING DRESS. Claire tosses him a blanket, they exchange a lingering look, and the audience is left blue-balled yet again.
The longer this goes on, the more I want to charge into the television and take matters into my own loins.
The episode climaxes with Angus starting an enormous tavern brawl to defend Claire's honor, the point being that Claire is one of the MacKenzies now. Or, as Murtagh puts it: "We can insult you, but God help any other man who does." It's not a culture I would pick to adopt given infinite options, but it does warm the heart to know you've got a posse at your back. Claire seals her induction with a joke about Rupert's masturbation habits. Having been the only girl on an all-male high school debate team, I can confirm this is an often successful strategy for winning friends and influencing dudes.
Of course, Claire then remembers that the 1745 uprising will culminate in a bloodbath on Culloden Moor, and very likely several of these men are going to die. Sorry, Claire, you're now Cassandra and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
Dougal, however, still isn't sold. When she ducks out to wash he begins haranguing her about who she really is and why she's trying to sow discord. (I guess Ned squealed.) But question time is quickly brought to a halt when the ruddy-faced Redcoat from earlier appears on the horizon—with reinforcements. He asks again whether Claire is with the MacKenzies by her own choice. There's something absolutely chilling about his confidence, knowing he's got the full might of Great Britain standing behind him. These Highlanders don't know how screwed they are.
Cut to black! Guesses as to Claire's next move?