And… SPOILER ALERT. Watch Outlander 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions BEFORE reading, please.
Okay, so now we’re getting into a difficult part of Dragonfly in Amber’s plot— because the first 400 pages of the novel are frankly a bit slow, as I have discussed ad nauseam in my previous articles, namely Outlander Season 2: A “B” Story Problem and Outlander 2: Written in Diana’s Own Heart’s Blood.
But I digress.
Ron Moore and Co, including the writer of this episode, Anne Kenney, are doing a pretty bang-up job of keeping the plot rolling right along while still introducing us to some new characters. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Let’s start at the top of the episode with…
A fallen chess piece—nice touch—followed by Jamie coming home from a night at the brothel, changing his clothes subito!
Yes, thank you, Sam. So we’re getting the idea that Claire and Jamie are being kept apart by their different schedules and agendas. It’s not exactly To Ransom a Man’s Soul in the drama department, but hang in there, folks. We’re going somewhere with this.
First, however, we’re going to tea, a scene in which we learn two things. One, Claire looks FIERCE in yellow. And two, poor little Mary Bo Peep is about to lose more than her sheep.
Yes, they do, sweetheart. Men do things like that all over the place. This leads Claire to realize, of course, where she knows Mary from. Yep, that’s your future great-great-great-great mother-in-law, honey. How do you feel about that?
Been there, Claire. Been there.
We see that Murtagh has been keeping himself busy with Claire’s maid, in a NSFW moment that I won’t post here in case you’re, well, reading this at work. I have to say, though, it’s nice to give Murtagh a bit of fun that’s not really present in the book at this point. Of course, Claire’s not having it for a second. She’s so annoyed, she’s going to go sit in the “My Boobs Look Amazing in this Corset” settee and, I don’t know, sew something aggressively.
The episode continues to do a great job keeping the weight of Claire’s knowledge about Black Jack– you know, how he’s not as dead as previously thought– present in her mind, spurring her into action and keeping the plot humming. It also gives her a great reason to confide in Murtagh, thus keeping him active and giving him more to do than just the maid. (Sorry. It was just sitting there.)
Let’s shake things up a bit, shall we? Let’s cut to…
The Library of Alexandria… I mean, the chess room. (Damn, the set designers had fun this season.) And Jamie says to Duverney:
No, I’m kidding. He says, “Tell Prince Charles… that King Louis has no intention of funding the rebellion.” This plan of Claire’s seems like it might just work… which, frankly, would kill the momentum of the plot just as it threatens to do throughout Dragonfly. And so we’re kind of watching at this point going, “Hmm, where are we going with this?” Also… can Sam Heughan crack glass with those cheekbones or what?
Speaking of cheekbones…
Comte, you’re killing me with this stone-cold glare. Those cheeks, those eyebrows. Who is this dude? Doesn’t matter. We’re back in Master Raymond’s where we learn that Monk’s Hood will kill you-kill you, but bitter cascara will only make you wish you were dead. Hmm, wonder if that will come back up later?
What’s that you say, Claire?
I’m glad they’re addressing Claire’s ennui here. Part of Claire’s frustration in Dragonfly, as I mentioned in the last recap, Outlander: Not in Scotland, Still in Love, is that the conventions of the day often keep her from doing what she does best—be a healer and an instigator.
In Dragonfly in Amber, as I discussed in Outlander Season 2: A “B” Story Problem, the first 400 pages or so felt like plot points occurred without a compelling narrative drive. Ie: “This happens and then this happen and then this happens.” It’s not that I didn’t like Claire working in the hospital, it was that I was dying for Diana to give us a more compelling reason to get her there—something that fed into the A story in a way that moved the plot forward and didn’t feel like an aimless segue. Ron Moore and Co are impressing me in this episode with the way they keep tying the narrative devices together to keep us on point, plot-wise.
And speaking of on point.
Can we seriously just give them the Best Costume Emmy right now? The ruffles! The purple. I’m dying over here.
So let’s meet Mother Hildegarde:
And that adorable wee Bouton, who I’m so glad they kept from the novel. A very charming touch.
No, I’m not, cutest dog ever. Okay, enough cuteness… and by “cuteness,” I mean puss and sutures and people dying of cholera. Back to Jamie and Prince Charles: “Wars are very expensive.”
You can say that again, brother.
The Prince misinterprets Jamie’s despairing face. “My friend James is astonished.” Yeah, that’ll happen to your face when you realize your entire country and everyone in it is completely screwed. Ugh, this is breaking my heart. Let’s go back to the apartment and find Claire. Uh-oh.
Well, I think we all know where this is going. Your husband comes home expecting a hot dinner and a bit of conversation and you’re knee deep in… what was that you were doing again today, Claire?
And now Jamie reminds us of the aforementioned problem in this episode (as it was in the book). Namely—what the hell do all these plot points have to do with each other?
As he says: “I thought our purpose for being in this God-forsaken city was to stop the rebellion… How will lancing boils and tasting urine help us to save Scotland?”
“I know this has all been my idea—changing the future, stopping the rebellion,” says Claire. And she’s right, of course. She led Jamie on this path and now it seems like she’s not even a part of it. It’s understandable that he’s frustrated, taking her word that all these horrible things are going to happen and having to act against his instincts.
“When do I get to feel good? When do I get to find meaning in my day?” Wow, I didn’t realize my husband was in this show… or that he was Scottish.
Okay, this is a drag. Let’s go to the brothel!
Where Jamie snags himself a little rascal that– as the book readers will tell you– ends up being a pretty significant presence for a long time.
Let’s meet Fergus:
Why, thank you, you charming little imp, you.
PS- Love Jamie finding the little missing snake on Fergus—a little moment of bonding right away. Can’t remember, did that happen in the book? It’s been a while.
And what was Claire doing all night?
Okay, so Fergus is installed in the household, and we get a nice moment between Claire and Jamie where they’re back on the same page about intercepting letters with Fergus’s help. Things are swimming along nicely. So we go back to the hospital to decode the music with Mother Hildegarde’s help.
And there’s some very nice stuff with Mother Hildegarde figuring out the music. Even though it is AWFULLY convenient that this nurse/nun in France just HAPPENS to be friends with Bach, and happens to have his music, and happens to speak German and… oh, forget it, it’s fiction. Let’s stop nitpicking and just roll with it, shall we? Otherwise, we’ll never leave this hospital.
Does it, though, Jamie? Because, yeah, y’all figured out that Sandringham is the culprit of the “money for the revolution” problem, but Claire and Murtagh have something to tell you. Oh, forget it. Look at that happy face. I can’t tell him bad news.
Let’s just put it off till next week. Maybe by then, history will have reinvented itself.
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3 thoughts on “Outlander 203: AKA Between a Brothel and a Hard Place”
I lay awake after watching trying to imagine how they’ll put in the crucial bits and wondering what they could safely leave out. Mary Hawkins’ rape could be eliminated, but then how could they follow the arc of St. Germain’s revenge? They’ve got so MUCH to include–especially as, I’ve heard, they’ve cast Brianna. They’ve got a hell of a long way to go to get to her as an adult. They can leave out the smuggling, I think, and rush to the duel/miscarriage/estrangement I am anxious to see how the writers manage.
Agreed. They’re moving the plot along a bit slower than I had anticipated. Something won’t make the cut. But what?
Agreed. All this political intrigue is getting boring. High points of this ep: meeting Fergus, Murtach and the maid, bouton, the Mary connection, seeing the Comte again, and the apocarther’s jacket! Love Master Raymond.