The writing style of Toni Graphia definitely is in contrast to previous episodes. This had a gritty, dark, raw quality that oozed resignation and isolation for Claire, tested loyalty, restraint and mental strength for Jamie as he was embarrassed, used for gain, but closeness and redemptive promise for the others.
The opening scene of Rent for me set the tone for the entire episode. Claire was resigned, sad, lost, almost forlorn. That emotion carried throughout with Claire becoming more enflamed, assumptive, pouty, angry, self righteous, sad, defensive as days turned to weeks during the travels to collect rents from MacKenzie land tenants. Jamie struggled with his family position, obligation, being a wanted man, and his desire to help Claire. Dougal continues to show layers and motive. Politics and family business intermingle. He tries to be the image of a strong leader, a successful political stumper, and be a proper stand in for his brother, Colum, the MacKenzie, the laird. The supporting players must navigate every situation, sometimes unpleasantly with strong emotions and then a turn of great openness and humor shines.
Even with the overall heaviness of this episode, there were insightful moments of levity, encouragement, support, clarity, and bonding between them all.
The utter hopelessness of Claire was palpable. One could touch her emotions. Her face showed all. Hiding nothing. She had no reserve to put on a mask. She simply was surviving place to place. As she was stretched thin emotionally, her tank empty, a cat on a hot tin roof she became. Snarling, and verbally unhinged, near came to a hard edge with Angus. Dougal, Rupert, Ned, near anyone who crossed her path.
Fighting with Rupert over a goat received as rent came on the heels of Angus angrily dragging her from the waulking women. She lashed out in response to her own repressed feelings of hopelessness while putting forth the defending the need of the baby who refused to nurse and needed the milk. A tug of war, words flying, leaving the crew of men angry and accusing her of being drunk. There were only losers in this scenario. Her deep frustration needs an appropriate outlet.
Seeing is not always knowing or understandings when it comes to Claire filtering the evening activities she witnesses. Ned Gowan the beloved lawyer, (introduced in the opening scene to Claire) allowed Claire to make assumptions over the additional funds Dougal was collecting from tenants over drams. Claire assumed it was thievery of monies meant for Colum. Dougal’s fear mongering speeches and his shameless display of Jamie’s flogging scars to boost his take deeply affected Her attitude day to day. Far into the episode she finally understands these measures are for the Jacobite cause. This is key to her view shifting toward the men and knowing the future was a costly knowledge to carry. She wants to protect them, warn them, save them, but her words to Ned only deepen suspicion of her in the end.
Her provocation of Angus during a meal, insulting him, calling them thieves, even had Jamie asking her what was wrong with her. Jamie came to her aid, settling Angus, then privately offered her advice to stay out of it and to stop judging what she lacks understanding of. This place where she finds herself is what matters, not where she is from. She must move outside her own feelings, experiences, and view point. Her boldness does not serve anyone in this situation.
(Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly).
Thankfully the points of levity for Claire were pretty phenomenal. As Ned enters the picture, he greets her by reciting in tandem the poem she is saying allowed to the loch. A softening of her was heartwarming when she felt connected instead of alone. This was needed to start the episode as the well of emotions were so heavy throughout. A point of light to come back to in her interactions with Ned.
Next when she was drinking with the women who were waulking the wool, she found a brief escape into tradition, laughter, storytelling. The use of urine “piss” in the process to set the dye had Claire participating in a very real way. She was asked to add to the bucket right there. It was hilarious. “Geronimo.”
Later, she completely one lined a boasting Rupert. The pause of response then guffaws from the men was spectacular. “Yer a witty one.” Jamie said. I swear even the horse laughed.
Claire found ultimately that she was not an island alone but the journey was a complex day to day existence. Slowly the others were accepting her, bonding to her, caring about her. Her place among them is clearly not set though becoming less tenuous, maybe.
As for Jamie, he was a simmering pot for the most part. He allowed Dougal to humiliate, embarrass him, because he is his uncle, his family, his authority while upon MacKenzie lands. Cringeworthy moments over and over as Dougal stumped for Jacobite fundraising revealing Jamie’s scars to elicit emotions against the English, the Sassenach intruders. He finally had his fill of display, but was shut down quickly by Dougal invoking the obedience pledged. A loyal nephew his practicality won out over his personal comfort. A very Jamie move.
His being a wanted man came into play again this episode when the group came upon The Watch on the road. They would have certainly turned him into the English for a monetary profit had he been discovered among Dougal’s men. He had to make himself invisible during the encounter. Highlighting this fact keeps reminding us there are events to come for him and the English law.
He still continued to guide Claire, help her to see what is and offer his protection. He even went so far as to sleep in front of her door at the inn where many drunken men were down below. He was concerned they would try to seek “attentions” from her. Of course she thought he was an intruder lurking outside her room and stepped on him while going to investigate. Once she knew it was him and why, she scandalously offered him to sleep in her room (not an offer to bed but to warmly sleep), he of course said no as to not risk her reputation. The alternative offering of her blanket so he would be warm outside her door, had a lingering moment of hand touching. I doubt he was cold anymore.
Jamie is a consummate realist. He is THAT guy. The one who does what is right even when it compromises something for him. The vision of him becoming a The King of Men is coming into distant view.
A very competent stand in laird and certainly a savvy politician is Dougal. He spent his day time warmly, almost jovially, meeting, greeting, and connecting with tenants during the rent collections. In the nights, he incited, invoked deep emotions for the Jacobite cause. His attitude toward Claire was all over the place. Hot, cold, suspicious, misogynistic. He always has a calculated motivation for what he says and does.
I very much enjoyed this episode. This side of Claire, Jamie, Dougal needed to be explored. Ned, the tenants and the other men anchored them all together.
I am left wanting more while feeling pleasantly full. A needed Outlander ride, complicated and calling to my heart.
Stay tuned for several more individual posts on scenes and screen caps to follow for your enjoyment.