This week's episode was surprisingly slow — the first half could have been called "The exciting world of Highland rent payment." Then the audience and Claire remembered a bit of history that's going to be a disaster for her current party. And then we got a cliffhanger.
So, before I launch into the recap as a whole, I have to say that there's a pattern developing. And it's not one I'm okay with. The pattern is that Jamie doesn't really do much in the episode until about a third to halfway in. That's a tragedy. It's a personal tragedy, because I love Sam Hueghan, and it's a general tragedy because one of the best parts of this series is watching him and Catriona Balfe's slow-burning chemistry.
Okay, that's off my chest. Spoilers...
Claire As Outsider
At the end of the last episode, Dougal took Claire with him on the tour of collecting rent. This journey has once again highlighted Claire's constant feeling of being an outsider, which she's been carting around since before she even ended up in the past.
She's quoting Donne while the men wrestle. They speak Gaelic so she can't understand their dirty stories. And the one time she actually starts to enjoy herself, drinking with the women of a village they're in and being convinced to pee in a bucket so they can use it for wool, Angus drags her away.
She also protests the collection of some of the rent (paid in everything from coin to live pigs), because there's a baby who needs the milk one of the animals can provide. To her, it's not payment rendered — it's stealing.
Jamie then gives Claire some advice: "It doesn't matter where you came from, you're here now."
But Maybe Not So Much an Outsider As she Thinks
While Claire hasn't internalized this message at all and is still desperate to get home, her captors have embraced her better. Late in the episode, Angus leads the men into a brawl to protect Claire's honor. She's been called a whore, and, as she's informed, "You're a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you but god help any other man who does." I have a cold heart, and I was still touched by that.
There's also Jamie, who has taken to sleeping outside her door to protect her, and the lawyer charged with keeping track of the rents, Ned Gowan. Ned joins Claire in her Donne recitation, making clear that Claire's not so removed from these people as she'd like to think.
Both the setting up of Claire as an outsider and the MacKenzie clan's defense of her nicely lead into the episode's cliffhanger: The group runs into some redcoats, including one who had been hiding amongst a village earlier. Claire is asked if she's with them by choice or not. And fade to black.
Claire as a Cassandra
The most interesting aspect of this episode is Claire's discovery that Dougal and Ned are raising money to reinstate the Stuarts to the throne of England. At first, Claire thinks that they're just lining Dougal's pockets. She can't understand Gaelic, remember, so when she sees Dougal use Jamie's whipping scars a demonstration to whip people into a giving frenzy, she assumes the worst.
And Ned does nothing to dissuade her when she confronts him. Better she think they're stealing than that they're rebels, since she is still English and Dougal's still suspicious of her.
But she eventually picks out a few words of Dougal's speech, and a quick flashback to her historian husband explaining the failed rebellion spurs her to action. Claire doesn't really angst over whether she should say anything, the way a more time-travel genre-savvy person might. She tries to tell them that they're headed for a battle that cannot be won, but is soundly ignored. And she can't press any further, less her knowledge of things she shouldn't know land her into trouble.
Previously, Claire's future knowledge had only done her good and it was her 20th century values that landed her in hot water. That put her in opposition to the others. Now, she knows something and wants to help, but fails. It's an impotence that I'm looking forward to seeing more of.