MY Outlander Review – Crème de Menthe

Lies, Sex and Murder. Oh yes, and Jamie proves he can also be a bit of a twat.
Contains SPOILERS.

After last week’s episode, this episode was always going to be a bit of an anti-climax. But after such a longed-for reunion, I didn’t expect the cracks between our two lovers to show so soon, even if the catalyst for them is the arrival of Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) would-be attacker, excise man John Barton (Ian Conningham).

However, thanks to some not so nimble footwork by said attacker, Claire remains unscathed while he’s out for the count having hit his head against the fireplace. As Jamie (Sam Heughan) arrives seconds later, all in all, said attacker has probably had a lucky escape and a far less painful death.

Especially when it turns out he’s not dead and Claire, always the doctor, tries to save his life despite him trying to rape and murder her. Personally I think it’s great she takes her Hippocratic Oath so seriously but I’m with Jamie who can’t for the life of him understand why the hell she’s trying.

As Jamie helpfully explains to Claire, Georgian law being what it was, as a married woman found in a brothel with a man not her husband, Claire’s the one who’ll be accused of attacking him not the other way round. Thus if Claire does succeed in treating him, Jamie will presumably have to kill him anyway or Claire will end up in the dock.

What does become clear is that Jamie has been cheating Sir Percival (Paul Brightwell) in their nefarious smuggling arrangements. Sir Percival is the posh English bloke from last week’s episode whose life expectancy, I suspect, is getting shorter by the minute. Aware that Sir Percival will be trying to track down the contraband, Jamie, Young Ian (John Bell) and Fergus (César Domboy) make haste to get rid of it with Ian, showing surprising business acumen for a 16 year old, as he flogs the goods with the unlikely sweetener, considering he’s in Scotland, of a couple of casks of crème de menthe.

Ian’s luck continues to hold when he manages to cop off with the willing barmaid, Brighid (Zoe Barker) who he takes back to the print shop to help him pop his cherry. And weirdly just like his uncle before him, Ian seems to think you should have sex as Jamie once so naively put it “like horses”. Brighid, who seems by far the more experienced of the two, wisely decides to take matters into her own hands.

However, while Ian is busy lying back and thinking of Scotland, one of Sir Percival’s henchmen (Ian Reddington) is ransacking the print shop, and in the kerfuffle that follows, the print shop is set on fire with Ian still in it, but not before the henchman has got his hands on some seditious documents that Jamie has printed and which would implicate him in a capital crime.

As for our two star-crossed lovers, their romance already seems to be on the back burner. Admittedly there is a brief moment when Jamie makes clear to Claire how he feels about her return, referencing a speech of his from The Wedding episode, when he describes life without her as living in the shadows and her reappearance as if the sun has returned. But on the whole this episode proves that getting back with the love of your life after two decades is not plain sailing.

Firstly, you start noticing those little things that used to irritate the hell out of you when you were together last time round. As we all know, Jamie may be a leader of men, the brave Highland warrior, the go-to man at Ardsmuir Prison, and Colum’s presumptive heir, but the one person he’s never been able to order about is Claire who, as always, refuses to listen to him. “Stubborn as always” he spits out through gritted teeth at one point. After twenty odd years of being a natural leader of men, accustomed to people doing what he tells them to do, this must be slightly galling to say the least.

But we also witness sides of Jamie’s character we’ve never seen before and they are not particularly attractive. For starters, he seems exceedingly jealous and suspicious, even when Claire mentions she’s simply off to see a patient. Jamie seems to have an underlying fear that he’ll lose her again, hating the idea of her going off to the apothecary and asking her if “You will return afterward” when she’s only going across town. This is a man who is evidently worried she’ll leave him again which seems rather unfair considering she never wanted to leave him in the first place.

Also, as with anyone who’s been living on their own for a long time, Jamie is content with having things exactly how he likes them and seems genuinely surprised that Claire might not want to live with him in a brothel. He may be sending every shilling he earns back to Lallybroch but you do wonder why he thinks a brothel would be a suitable place for him and his wife to live in, even if rent-free.

Even less understandable or forgivable is Jamie’s attitude to his best friend and brother-in-law Ian (Steven Cree) when he lies about not having seen Ian’s errant son.

Claire isn’t best pleased and finds it hard to take in that Jamie would lie to his own family like that. She must also be wondering what kind of man Jamie has become. As a mother, she obviously empathises with what Jenny and Ian must be going through but Jamie seems nonchalant about it all, if not arrogant. This is a bit rich considering he’s involving a minor in a criminal enterprise at a time when the penal code even for misdemeanours was harsh. Jamie believes he knows what’s best for the lad and that he’s teaching him the “ways of the world”. Of course the irony of all this is that while Jamie is pontificating about how safe Ian is with his uncle, Ian will soon be at death’s door, stuck in a burning building.

Claire, who is clearly frustrated by Jamie’s attitude, possibly says the worst thing she could say to Jamie. Reminding him he has no idea what it’s like to be a worried parent and that he is not the boy’s father. This must hurt Jamie to the core, given that one of his greatest sorrows is the fact he has been unable to raise either of his children.

When Jamie answers her back, we get a sense of how angry Jamie is at this missed opportunity of fatherhood and his jealousy of Frank. Not to mention the values and double standards of an 18th century father whose concerns with his daughter’s virtue do not quite chime with the more liberated outlook of the 1960s and of those of his far more modern wife.

But we also get an insight into the real root of Jamie’s anger and insecurity when he asks Claire if she was in love with Frank. When he first asked Claire if she was happy with Frank, Claire sidestepped the question. We know this is because she wasn’t happy but Jamie doesn’t know that. It’s only human to assume the worst and believe the real reason was that they were, in fact, really happy together. That the real reason she took so long to come back to him was that she was happy with Frank. And it becomes clear that one of Jamie’s biggest fears is that Claire hadn’t missed him as he’d missed her, and that Frank and Claire may have been playing happy families with his daughter, while he longed for her and shut himself off from any other meaningful relationship.

What we therefore see under that manly exterior is a bundle of insecurities and we also finally find out what might be feeding them all: Jamie is married. A fact he’s failed to mention to Claire, thereby proving that even fantasy males can be twats at times.

And although he should have told her, you can understand why he hasn’t. After all, it’s hardly the perfect icebreaker for when the great love of your life walks into your workplace after twenty years. And it’s definitely not a conversation starter when it comes to foreplay or one for post-coital chit chat. There did seem a couple of times when Jamie was obviously pained by the secret: when Claire jokingly tells him she’ll only leave him if he acts immorally (does bigamy count?): and later on when she asks if he always came to other women’s beds as a brute. This question stops him in his tracks. It reminded me of the moment when Claire tried to reassure him after he’d told her he’d been made love to by Black Jack Randall. But unlike then, Jamie is given a get-out-of-jail card when, visibly uncomfortable at the turn of the conversation, she lets him of the hook.

Jamie assures Ian he’s waiting for the right moment but of course deep down he knows there is no right moment. And the fear that telling her the truth might send Claire scuttling back through the stones is presumably playing on his mind, and may go some way to explaining his behaviour. And knowing Claire, it’s doubtful whether she will regard, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that the marriage does not seem to be a happy one – after all Jamie’s not living with her and Madame Jeanne seemed surprised that Jamie had a wife not that Claire was it.

But before the episode ends Jamie is back in hero mode saving Ian’s life (great shot of Jamie jumping down into the burning building by the way), and perhaps taking on an even more risky escapade, agreeing to accompany Claire and young Ian back to Lallybroch despite having a wife somewhere in the vicinity and who everyone must know about. (Good luck with that one mate).

So what did I make of this episode? I’m not sure how the Campbells figure in the overall story. Presumably they do at some point. Nor why so much time was devoted to Jamie and Claire fighting over whether Claire should save John Barton or not. Particularly as he died. Maybe they needed a catalyst to cause some friction between the two and/or highlight the different mores of the world Claire now finds herself living back in. Maybe this episode was a bit of filler in that it needed to end with a stoic Jamie watching the print shop going up in smoke along with the life he’d built for himself in Edinburgh as A. Malcolm and so they had to add some business in between.

You do come away, however, with the idea that Jamie isn’t the man he used to be. In The Watch episode you got the impression that Jamie could be a Taran MacQuarrie in the making, if it weren’t for Claire. If Jamie hasn’t quite become like him, Jamie does have an ambivalent attitude towards the law and risking his own life, indicative of a man who feels he’s lost the most important things in his life already and has nothing he values left to lose. However what is indefensible is involving his young nephew in his activities.

It’s also a brave move on the part of the producers, writers and Sam Heughan to allow Jamie not to be so damn perfect. Or maybe they are preparing the ground for the big exposé in the next episode. My only hope is that when Jamie does tell Claire, she’s not anywhere near that brain drill or it could get ugly.

Special thanks to @SarSketches for her illustration accompanying this post.

For further Outlander articles and posts, check out the following links or you can always listen to mine & Jen Brister’s podcasts on the subject!

Outlander’s Jamie Fraser: a new kind of romantic hero?

Outlanderish sex: Why going back in time makes for better nookie

Outlander Season Two – A Romance for Grown Ups

 

How to survive Droughtlander – Outlander vs Dragonfly in Amber

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One Comment

  1. Great review as ever Maureen. I don’t know how you’ve stayed away from the books though so have no idea what’s coming. Hang onto your iPad! Alison

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