This show continues to be great at a lot of things. If only the narration wasn't so distracting.
Okay, let's get this out of the way so we can talk about what's important: I'm already tired of the voiceover. Already. I didn't mind it a little bit at the beginning of the episode, but it shouldn't have come back during the rest of the episode. I can see why they thought it was necessary: Claire's can't talk about being a time traveler, so the only way to get those thoughts out are to enter her head. But things like "what king is reigning now?" and "I needed to assimilate" are just not needed. They're actually conveyed just fine through Catriona Balfe's acting.
We got a heavy dose of politics and Jamie backstory this week. Along with two things this show does well: nudity and period costuming. That should be a contradiction, but no. Yes, I know plenty of people are watching this show for the sexy sex and the naked people, but I loved watching Mrs. Fitz dress Claire in all the layers of the period clothing. SO MUCH DETAIL. I love you, Outlander costume department. I love you forever.
So, in the politics department, Claire meets Colum MacKenzie. He first seems to accept Claire's story about being a widower attacked on the way to France. (Note: the flashback to Frank talking about how to deal with interrogations? Way better device than the voiceover). And he serves her wine at dinner and is cultured and charming... right up until he tells her she can't leave as planned. Dougal thinks she's an English spy and has been following her. Colum may or may not agree, but he does think she's got secrets. So he tells her to stay as a healer. And that she's only a prisoner if she tries to leave.
There was no way she was going to leave anyway, so I mostly cackled every time Claire seemed to think she'd be allowed to just go with the trader to Inverness. HA HA, that is not the way the plot is going.
In the romance/background department, Balfe and Sam Heughan continue to have excellent chemistry. We first have Jamie tell Claire about how Jack Randall, Claire's husband's ancestor, showed up at Jamie's home and tried to rape his sister. Jamie tried to stop them, and ended up badly beaten. And his sister still went with Randall in order to save him.
Right after that, we have a truly great moment where Claire says her husband isn't alive. If you didn't yell "YET!" at the screen, you are a better person than I. She breaks down, and is comforted by Jamie. I really like the way these two are developing. It's not just sexual attraction or a relationship of convenience — they actually seem to connect in a way that neither is with anyone else. And, the positioning of Jamie as an outsider (who is relegated to working in the stables) and Claire as a perpetual outsider is a great way of explaining why the two feel like confiding in each other.
Later, Claire and Jamie meet up again for a meal/backstory reveal. Jamie adds that he's using an assumed name because he's got a price on his head for a murder he didn't commit. Just so you know. And, in case you needed more of a reason to love Jamie, he offers to take the punishment of a girl accused of being "loose." This is another thing that sets Jamie apart and gives him and Claire "Is there ever an excuse for rape?" Randall another thing in common.
And a final random note: the cast got very big this week. Stand-outs I haven't yet mentioned are Mrs. Fitz and Geillis Duncan. The former is a standard housekeeper and caretaker type figure. The latter is a self-proclaimed witch who bonds with Claire over herb knowledge and general commitment to health. Geillis points out an herb she gives women looking to end a pregnancy and Claire a fungus that helps staunch bleeding. And thus is a friendship borne! I know I'm biased, because I like Geillis solely because she's played by Lotte Verbeek who I loved on Showtime's ode to historical inaccuracies, The Borgias.
I found that the undercurrent of politics between the two MacKenzie brothers, the English and Scottish, and men and women really compelling this week. Outlander continues to refuse to be pigeonholed as a "romance," even though they're doing that well, too. Just stop narrating Claire's every thought. It's actually making her feel less intelligent.