Saturday, March 2, 2024

Outlander Review: Episode 2×3 ‘Useful Occupations and Deceptions’

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Wow, what a mouthful of an episode name. It’s amazing how much happened in this episode without a lot actually, ya know. Happening. I suppose some people might be bored with this season’s political machinations, and normally I’m not one much for political-style thrillers, but maybe it’s the writing or the fact that I care about these characters, but I was on tenterhooks the whole episode.

The episode deals mostly with Jamie and Claire’s separate feelings of isolation and displacement. Jamie is a Jacobite and a Scot, and as a human being he’s defined by his honesty and his loyalty. Unfortunately, their quest to stop the Jacobite rebellion forces him to go against both of those traits. As for Claire, she’s used to being useful. Busy. She just spent 5 years as a nurse on the front lines of WWII. Now she’s reduced to tea parties with great ladies while Jamie runs all over Paris plotting and scheming.

Jamie spends his days playing chess with the minister of finance and his nights at the brothel with Prince Charles. He thinks he has a good handle on Charles’ prospects, and during one of their chess games he convinces the minister to go with him to the brothel and tell the Prince that Louis can’t possibly fund an invasion force.

That night they visit the brothel only for Charles to drop the bomb that he has “quite a few” English investors lined up already. He says he needs only a small loan from Louis to complete his funding, and in return he promises an alliance between France and England.

Jamie is surprised, needless to say. That’s kind of an understatement; he looks like someone punched him in the gut and spit in his wine. It wasn’t at all what he was expecting, and now rather than stymie Charles, he’s given him exactly what he wants: a promise from the minister to bring Charles’ proposal to Louis.

Claire, meanwhile, is bored and restless. She goes to tea and discovers that the timid young girl she met a few days before, Mary Hawkins, is actually destined to marry Jack Randall and be Frank’s great-whatever grandmother. Oops.

She also stumbles upon Murtagh and her lady’s maid gettin’ it on. She yells at him, which he doesn’t take well. When she apologizes she ends up telling him that Jack Randall is still alive. Murtah agrees that they need to keep the secret from Jamie (for now), but that eventually they’ll have to tell him.

Claire goes to the local apothecary, Master Raymond, to get something to prevent the maid from getting pregnant. While there, he suggests she check out the local charity hospital if she’s looking for a way to use her medical talents.

She grabs Murtagh and they head that way. He tells her Jamie won’t be happy about it, but she waves him off. At first the Mother Superior treats Claire like any other great lady who thinks she’s helping but really just wants to ameliorate her conscious, but after Claire diagnoses diabetes by tasting a woman’s urine, she softens a bit.

Jamie comes home upset about the meeting with Charles to find Claire gone. He paces. He drinks. He tries to write some letters. By the time Claire finally comes home, abuzz with tales of urine-tasting and boil-lancing, he’s worked himself into a fury.

They fight. He tells her he wants his wife to be there when he comes home. She says she isn’t really that type of wife. What’s she supposed to do while he’s out changing history? He’s frustrated and upset with the work he has to do, and he just wants Claire to be there for him. She’s bored and feeling useless, and she just wants him to support her new venture.

It ends with him leaving for bed, and Claire’s lady’s maid tells Murtagh that Jamie and Claire are having trouble in the bedroom. Since Jack Randall, Jamie hasn’t been the same (understandably), and they haven’t had sex at all since. That’s leading to their feelings of loneliness and separation, and it’s clear something needs to change between them soon.

Jamie hires a young pickpocket named Claudel (re-christened Fergus, because Claudel “wasna very manly”) to steal Charles’ letters so they can make copies. He discovers a code hidden in music, and Murtagh remembers that Mother Hildegard from the hospital is a “musical prodigy.”

Jamie goes to the hospital to ask for her help. She studies the music and points out that each stanza is in a different key. They realize that the “key is the key,” and they’re able to decode the letter.

Turns out the Duke of Sandringham is the one helping get Charles funding in England. He has 40 thousand pounds arranged, which isn’t enough to fund an army. Clearly Charles was exaggerating back at the brothel. They’re all excited. They now have a jumping-off point, some real intel about who’s working with Charles back in England. Jamie runs off to get some whisky and Murtagh tells Claire she has to tell Jamie about Randall. Now.

It appears that she’s going to, but at the last minute she doesn’t. Murtah gives her a Serious Look, and the credits roll.

Whew. Okay, so, I don’t generally support people keeping secrets like this because it’s such an over-used trope, but to be honest I’m just glad to see a woman keeping a secret from a man for his own good, rather than the other way around. Yes, Claire needs to tell Jamie. Yes, I understand why she didn’t want to ruin that moment for him by dropping the bomb right then. He’s gonna be maaaaad when he finds out she and Murtagh were keeping the secret from him, and she’s had just about enough of Jamie being upset with her for now.

This wasn’t a particularly action-packed episode, like I mentioned, but it had so much going on. I liked seeing Jamie and Claire both fighting against their natures (Jamie’s honesty/loyalty, Claire’s need to be doing) as they tried to settle into life in France. It isn’t a fairytale, after all, especially with Jamie’s continued trauma from Randall and Claire’s pig-headedness that’s so at odds with how 18th century women usually would be with their husbands, and I’m glad the show continues to address that. The books do, of course, but as we’ve learned, some book-to-screen adaptations are better than others.

Carry on, Outlander. Carry on.

Episode grade: y’all, look. gimme a break. A. Okay?!? A.

Images curtesy of Starz


  • Meg

    Meg has a lot of ~issues. They keep her very busy. Yes, she has read the book(s).

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