Previously: Claire didn't make the best first impression on Colum MacKenzie, laird of Castle Leoch, and now she's being kept quasi-prisoner as the castle healer. Jamie kept his shirt on.
We open on a flashback: World War II is still raging and Frank is escorting Claire to the train station. She's headed to the front lines, which Frank notes is a bit of bitter irony: He'll sit behind a desk in London, sending men on covert operations, while his wife is in the thick of battle. In a way, it's a refreshing, progressive dynamic, but it also makes me wonder if a man who's been In The Mess would "get" Claire more. Not that I'm thinking of anyone specific. Ahem.
Before Claire boards, Frank reminds her that he can have her orders changed. Claire refuses. In what will emerge as the episode's theme, Claire values her personal security less than the opportunity to help others. It's stubborn, reckless, a little short-sighted — and totally admirable. Frank agrees.
As Claire leans through the train window to kiss her husband goodbye, she promises that she will return to him. I dab my eyes because it's suddenly gotten very dusty in my bedroom.
We're brought back to 1743 with a literal splash of cold water as Mrs. Fitz bathes Claire. Noting Claire's flawless skin, Mrs. Fitz comments that Claire's second husband will be lucky. (Much like little black dresses, sexy wives are always on trend.)
Claire, seized by sadness, tells Mrs. Fitz that her husband isn't dead, but that he hasn't been born yet. In a spectacular display of ill-advised word vomit, Claire tells an increasingly disturbed Mrs. Fitz that Claire's fallen through time and that she needs to get back up to the stones at Craigh na Dun.
Mrs. Fitz screams "WIIITTTCH," because the word "crazy" hadn't been invented to describe unusual women yet.
PSYCH! The entire confession was a daydream sequence, because Claire's not a complete idiot. Jesus. I'm sweating and it's only seven minutes into this episode.
Breaking Claire's daymare, Mrs. Fitz chatters about "the Gathering," which, sadly, is not about immortals sword-fighting to the death because There Can Be Only One, but is actually just a family reunion of everyone in Clan MacKenzie at Castle Leoch.
Fitz also encourages Claire to prove her worth as a healer because it would win over Colum and Dougal. Claire voiceovers unnecessarily to explain that winning their trust may mean her release and getting back to Frank. I'm not sure why Ronald D. Moore doesn't trust us to put the pieces together without the voiceover, but honestly, I'm a little insulted.
Claire works diligently in the surgery, despite having far fewer and more antiquated resources. While in the kitchen to retrieve her "guards," who apparently trust her enough to leave her be while they get daydrunk, Claire witnesses Colum's chambermaid being sent home for the day, apparently stricken with grief. Fitz tells Claire that the chambermaid's son — "wee Lindsey MacNeil" — died the night before.
When Claire asks why no one fetched her to help the boy, Mrs. Fitz tells her that Lindsey was possessed by the devil, all because he visited the cursed old ruins of a Benedictine monastery. So obviously there's no mortal cure. Claire carefully expresses a little skepticism, but she doesn't roll her eyes or scream or shake anyone. File photo of Claire's brain right now:
A young boy enters the kitchen to take Claire to Colum, but before the lad can whisk her away, Mrs. Fitz introduces him as Thomas Baxter, her nephew, and good friend of the late demon-possessed Lindsey MacNeil. He looks mostly devil-free.
As Claire enters Colum's room, she sees he's trying on a brand-new frock coat. When he notices his new tailor has taken the liberty of lengthening the coat to hide Colum's deformed legs, Colum growls at the man that it appears to be a non-standard coat. The tailor nervously laughs that it's a one-of-a-kind coat for a one-of-a-kind man.
Colum is NOT amused — so not-amused that he pulls a sword on the tailor, who is probably regretting every decision that brought him to this moment. Some of you may think Colum is overreacting. But as a woman who's gone for an eyebrow wax and had an aesthetician ask "is that all?" as she shoots a withering look toward my upper lip, my feeling is YOU DO YOU, COLUM.
But rather than murder the tailor, Colum lets him go after securing a promise for a standard-length frock coat.
Alone with Claire, Colum begins to disrobe, which leads to a tense couple of seconds before he explains that he's hoping she'll massage his legs, as the previous healer did. Claire agrees, but hesitates before telling him that it'd be most beneficial to massage the base of his spine. Colum has no qualms about exposing his butt to Claire and to us. I'll be honest: This was not how I was expecting to see our first male nudity on Outlander. Whatever, I'll take it.
As Claire massages him, Colum confesses that he sometimes wonders what he did to make the devil punish him with his disability. Once again, Claire bites her tongue. "You don't have demons in Oxfordshire?" Colum asks her. "We do, but we call them Scots," she replies. Claire's got jokes. Won over by Claire's skill and sense of humor, Colum invites her to hear a bard singing in the hall at Castle Leoch. That sort of seems like inviting someone to a party at her own house, but okay. Cool hosting, Colum. You are the best laird/jailer.
That night in the hall, Claire has a brief run-in with Dougal, who compares her to a feral cat. Too bad "being a charmless dick" isn't a qualification for being the laird, because you are peerless, Dougal.
Claire skitters away, sitting down on a bench, where she formally meets Laoghaire (pronounced "Leery"), Mrs. Fitz's granddaughter, whose "loose behavior" nearly earned her a beating on last week's episode. Claire quickly learns that Laoghaire has got it bad for Jamie, as the dashing fellow walks into the hall. "But it's not me he fancies," she tells Claire.
Claire decides to play wingwoman, remarking on how beautiful Laoghaire looks. "Aye, she's bonny," Jamie says, barely looking at the girl. Like many women before and after her, Claire bears the heavy burden of being the Sexy Friend at the Bar. "Have you met my cute friend? Maybe you should buy HER a drink?"
Jamie appears totally uninterested in Laoghaire, and essentially says he wouldn't have noticed her the last time he was at the castle because he was a "young buck of 16" and she was part of a "rabble of snot-nosed bairns." This castle is absolutely bursting with charming men, isn't it?
Claire nudges him slightly in reproach, but this display of jackassery doesn't keep her from allowing him to accompany her back to the surgery — Jamie claims his bandage chafes, but once there, he confesses that he just wanted to see her back to her jail cell before she got absolutely wasted in public.
Claire jokes that Jamie would probably have torn the bandages off had they actually chafed but he disagrees — he fears her wrath. "Too right; I am the healer after all. I'm in charge," she says.
"Never doubted it," he replies.
Jamie, I'm mad. You were rude. Let me be mad at you.
Claire asks why he didn't just let her change the bandages at the stable, but Jamie reveals that he didn't want the stable keeper, Old Alec, to see his scars. While Alec knows Jamie's been flogged, seeing the scars is just too personal. He doesn't mind Claire seeing his back because he knows she feels sympathy and not pity.
Before Jamie leaves, Claire gingerly opens his coat and shirt to check on the wound. "It's scabbed over nicely, no drainage," she tells him as she starts to return Jamie's smolder gazes. God, you two have the weirdest way of flirting. Just before they bid each other goodnight, she tells Jamie to change the bandage in a few days.
"As you say," he tells her, which sort of sounds like:
Ugh, okay, I guess I forgive you, Jamie.
The next morning, Claire and one of her guards are out for a walk when they meet up with Geillis, the oddball redhead healer from last week. Geillis tells Claire that the Baxter boy — Mrs. Fitz' nephew — is scheduled for an exorcism, since he now suffers from the same affliction as his buddy Lindsey MacNeil.
Claire presses Geillis for more information. "He's not ill; he's possessed," Geillis shares matter-of-factly. Claire is clearly not into this demon possession theory, which is a dangerous position to hold in 1743 Scotland. In a strange, knowing way, Geillis asks Claire if she doesn't believe in forces outside of our understanding — like magic.
"Have you never found yourself in a situation with no earthly explanation?" Geillis inquires. Claire rounds on her, dodging the question, instead pointing out that there's a strong possibility that Thomas Baxter is merely sick, not possessed, and that Claire and Geillis might be able to help him.
To Claire's disappointment, Geillis says she won't go near the boy — people believe he's possessed and challenging deeply-held religious beliefs is dangerous.
But Claire's mind is made up. Just as she went to the front lines when she didn't have to, she'll put herself in harm's way again if it means helping another person. She visits Thomas Baxter, who's been strapped to the bed, and as she examines him, his symptoms seem to suggest poisoning. But though Claire pleads with Mrs. Fitz, she won't accept Claire's medical help. Father Bain, the dour local priest, performs an exorcism as Claire storms out.
Waiting in the kitchens at Castle Leoch for her guard, Claire considers that, even if she had been allowed to examine the boy, she might not have been able to help him. But that line of thought is cut short as Jamie and Laoghaire stumble in, kissing. Jamie spies Claire watching and...continues to kiss Laoghaire as Claire looks away sheepishly. WEIRDEST. FLIRTING. EVER.
That night at dinner, Claire teases Jamie over dinner, telling him his lip looks swollen, and suggests he got thumped by a horse. "Those fillies can be dangerous," she says and then they kick each other under the table like the freaks that they are. Just have sex already, you two.
When Jamie gets up after Claire causes him to spill his water, his buddy turns to Claire and basically — rightfully — gives her the business. He knows she's teasing Jamie about Laoghaire, which is dangerous because if Laoghaire's dad finds out what's going on, Jamie will likely have to marry her. And according to Jamie's buddy, Jamie needs a woman, a strong partner, but "Laoghaire will be a girl until she's 50."
It's clear that Claire needs to learn when her recklessness serves a purpose and when it doesn't. We haven't gotten there yet.
After this scolding, Claire goes out to the garden and VOs that she teased Jamie because she's jealous (every viewer in unison: "UM, DUH??") and that she just misses intimacy with Frank. Dougal finds her crying in the garden, and offers to take her to the village tomorrow to visit with Geillis and restock her shelves with herbs.
At Geillis' home the next morning, Claire talks a little bit about Father Bain's exorcism and Geillis again warns her to steer clear. Father Bain isn't just a priest; he also seems to be a prodigious hater of women — he thinks all women are temptresses whose husbands should beat them daily. How can a place so small hold so many WONDERFUL men, you guys?
I miss Frank.
So does Claire, who remarks that she feels like such a stranger in a strange land. "It can't be easy being a sassenach in the highlands," Geillis empathizes, "assuming that's what you mean." I swear, I constantly feel like Geillis is about to reveal she's a time traveler, too. She's just too savvy and slightly untrustworthy.
A commotion draws both women to the window and we learn that Father Bain has brought a young boy in for stealing. Geillis' husband, Arthur, is the procurator fiscal, and he'll have to rule on the boy's punishment. Before he does, he visits with Geillis and Claire, plagued by gas. Wow. Imagine if Tinder were a thing in this town of exceptional men. Do we just swipe left on everyone but Jamie?
Anyway, Geillis illustrates for Claire how you get your way in this town: you use your wiles to manipulate men into doing what you want. As she kneels before her flatulant husband and caresses and nuzzles him, Geillis convinces him to give the boy a lighter sentence.
Of course that lighter sentence involves Fr. Bain nailing the boy's ear to a pillory, but it's better than losing a hand, as Geillis points out. Holding a glass of port, Claire stares out the window at the boy, while Geillis asks where Claire could've come from, that such punishment seems so unusually cruel. Claire makes an excuse about having an unusual upbringing but before she's forced to elaborate, Jamie arrives to take her back to Castle Leoch.
Geillis' vaguely sinister curiosity will have to go unsated for the time.
As they're preparing to leave, Claire notices the boy is still sitting at the pillory. According to Jamie, the boy's hour is up — but he'll need to tear his ear to get up and leave. Claire's not having it. She and Jamie devise a plan: Jamie taunts the boy to just get up already while Claire faints at the spectacle. It works like a charm — the crowd rushes to Claire and Jamie covertly yanks the nail out and tells the boy to run along.
Of course, Geillis has watched this all unfold from the window, so she knows exactly how it went down. Ooh, I do not feel good about her.
Claire thanks Jamie for taking a risk, and asks if he wouldn't mind helping her again. They go to the monastery ruins so Claire can be House, M.D., all over this medical mystery. Jamie says coming to the ruins is a bit of a rite of passage; his cousin took ill after one such outing.
Claire asks Jamie if he believes in demonic possession and he hedges a little, but he says that he IS educated, though not as much as Claire. His tutor taught him Greek and Latin — God, is being gorgeous and strong not enough? Does he HAVE to be smart, too? I hate your beautiful, bright face, Jamie.
Claire makes him tell her everything that young Scottish lads do there. Per Jamie: They caper around, climb walls, piss on the stones, eat some berries or wood garlic. When Claire finds the "wood garlic" Jamie speaks of, it's not wood garlic at all — it's lily of the valley. It's not native to Scotland, but was likely brought by the monks who built the monastery, because these Benedictine monks...really wanted to poison the local population? I honestly have NO idea why they'd bring a DEADLY PLANT with them, but okay. Fine. Sure. Great.
Anyway, mystery solved, so Claire rushes back to the Baxter home, where Thomas is near death and Father Bain is praying over the dying boy to save his soul. Claire quickly explains that Thomas ate lily of the valley and she can cure him. Father Bain accuses Claire of blasphemy and she goes all in by telling him that the boy's ailment is a result of poison, not possession.
Mrs. Fitz tells Fr. Bain to let Claire pass, but he refuses, not about to take orders from a woman. But Fitz has finally worked up the courage to tell him off — it is deeply, deeply satisfying — and tells Claire to tend to her nephew. Bain grabs Claire and tells her he smells "the vapors of hell" on her. Claire administers belladonna to the boy, and within seconds, he begins stirring.
Seeing this, Bain tells Claire: "On second thought, I admire your treatment. Clearly you've saved the boy's life and maybe my beliefs are based on longstanding cultural sexual repression, which breeds suspicion and vilification of women. Maybe the best way to serve God is to think critically about how to serve His people and work toward a gentler, more open heart."
JUST KIDDING. Of course he doesn't say that. He says: "Satan may like to make a fool of God, but God will have the last word, I promise you that." Because Satan saves lives; God takes them? Ladies can't possibly heal because they don't have penises? I don't really get any of this logic but whatever.
Back at the castle, Claire's stunned that Fr. Bain would've preferred Thomas had died than his own beliefs proven wrong. Jamie tells Claire that a man's beliefs are how he makes sense of life and death, and so challenges to that aren't met kindly. But Mrs. Fitz, Jamie reveals, now calls Claire "the miracle worker." Claire hopes that at least maybe this has earned her Colum's trust.
And it has! But! It's also made her incredibly valuable, which means Colum has no incentive to let her go.
"I'll never get out of here," a frustrated Claire says quietly.
That night, Claire goes to the hall, feeling extremely depressed that her "miracle" only secured her more time in the surgery. And Claire wonders, who knows if the stones could even take her back to her own time? What if they landed her in an older, even more dangerous time?
With all this on her mind, Claire has only one objective this evening: get blackout drunk on Colum's wine. I don't blame you, girl.
But then something interesting happens: she and Jamie listen to the bard singing. Jamie translates that it's the song of a woman standing near the stones of Craigh na Dun, on the eve of Samhain. A chill creeps down my back.
Over the visuals of Claire touching the slab of Craigh na Dun, the song — and Jamie — essentially narrates Claire's story, of a woman who falls through time into a strange land. I huddle into myself, because I am Freaked Out.
The woman finds strangers who become friends and even lovers and falls back through time to the man she left behind. "She came back through the stones?" Claire asks hopefully. "Aye, she did; they always do," Jamie tells her.
We then see an image of Claire waking up at Craigh na Dun, as though from a nap, and Frank walking toward her. I am now in the fetal position, squealing.
Of course, we're treated to an unnecessary voiceover of Claire explaining everything we're hearing and seeing — your viewers are smart, I promise you, Outlander, you don't need to do this.
Back in 1743, Claire's heart feels lighter. She has reason to hope she can get home. And she won't wait for permission anymore. She's going to find a way out of Castle Leoch and to Craigh na Dun — or die trying.
Next week: It's the Gathering, so there'll be plenty of MacKenzie family shenanigans! Can't wait! You can find my previous Outlander recaps here.