Episode 307: Crème De Menthe

Hi.

How are we all doing? Okay? So many emotions after last week’s episode! But you know what? It’s all really awesome. Seriously. How many people in this world are just gliding through it, not really feeling anything, and then here we are with so many fans being SO passionate about something! And about literature and literary adaptation, no less! It’s all pretty great. So yay for fanaticism and intellectual debate. And double yay for Outlander and Outlander fans.

Shall we tackle this week?

Warning: Contains spoilers from Outlander Episode 307: Crème De Menthe

Okay, so indulge me for a bit. Because this shot…

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…really reminded me of this shot…

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….which, of course, is from the greatest music video of all time.

Watch it, improve your day, and thank me later.

Sorry, I was lost in a trance of 90s supermodels. Anyway, George Michael, you were saying?

It may not be what you want from me, it’s just the way it’s got to be.

And that seems pretty fitting because this episode is all about expectations versus reality. Jamie is expecting Claire to neatly fit into his Edinburgh life, when the reality is she envisions something more domestic. Claire expects to continue her life as a surgeon, but the reality is she is heavily constrained by the limits of the century. They both expect to pick up their relationship where they left off, when the reality is that twenty years and centuries of change have made them very different people. Claire expects Older Ian to be overjoyed to see her, but the reality is his feelings are far more complicated. Young Ian expects that losing his virginity will be awesome…and it pretty much is until it ends in a giant mess of conflagration.

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“This is very bad, Milord.” Yes, Fergus, that is the understatement of the season. It is all going pretty badly this hour, as everyone grapples with the realities handed to them.

Sidenote: I am never drinking crème de menthe again.

We open right where we left off, the morning after Jamie and Claire’s reunion. And it’s actually hard to remember that Claire has been back for less than one day. In fact, by the time this episode ends it’s really only been about 36 hours total. When I remind myself of that it’s a bit easier to understand the actions and emotions of our characters.

Claire, upon returning alone to her room, walks in on a man named Barton who promptly attempts to rape her. Barton, as we come to learn, is an exciseman working for Sir Percival and is snooping around looking for evidence that Jamie has been smuggling beyond Edinburgh (and consequently not cutting Sir Percival in on a large enough take). Claire defends herself and Barton falls and suffers a head injury, rendering him unconscious…

…but not dead. Jamie walks into this chaos and beautifully backs Claire back off the proverbial ledge; I thought the gliding of his hand over her arm to disengage her was a really nice shot.

Claire determines that Barton has not died but has suffered an epidural hematoma, which will likely be fatal in this case if not promptly treated. Claire gets right down to the business of saving Barton and I think Jamie’s reaction probably mirrors a large section of the audience when he asks, “why?”

Why, indeed? I think for a couple of reasons. First, Claire took an oath which she takes very seriously; doctors are supposed to withhold judgement and treat saints and criminals alike. Second, I believe Claire is trying to cling to her identity as a surgeon as desperately as she can. Medicine is a huge part of her life and it would be tough to give it up cold turkey.

Still, I think we are really meant to sympathize with Jamie and his confusion here. The Claire of seasons past would have no qualms about leaving a violent man to die. She has not tried to save the lives of their previous attackers and has killed would-be rapists before. She plotted to murder Charles Stuart. She helped kill Dougal. So, yeah, it’s confusing. Jamie’s expectation is that Claire would leave Barton to die and the reality is that being a doctor has altered her moral compass.

Enter Fergus and Madame Jeanne, who accurately ascertain that this is a huge eff-ing mess. They need to get the contraband casks off of Madame Jeanne’s premises pronto. While everyone here is rightfully pretty worried about their own hides, Claire is (somewhat amusingly) barking orders to try to save Barton. I need hot water, whisky, and a trephine– STAT!

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To me this look says, I may have initially underestimated this woman who wants to drill holes in a man’s head. 

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And this one says, I am a healer but if looks could kill…

Sam Heughan does a great job here of showing us Jamie’s mental calculations, all without saying a word. He is conflicted but also willing to do what Claire asks because he is terrified that she might leave. So, with extreme reluctance, he agrees to aid Claire in treating Barton.

Jamie and his crew get to the task of moving the liquor casks out of Madame Jeanne’s basement and the various opinions of the men are meant to serve as a sort of chorus for the audience: respecting the sanctity of life is noble, but perhaps it’s foolish to save the life of a man that tried to take your own. Jamie then tasks Ian and Fergus with selling the casks ASAP to rid themselves of evidence.

Claire rushes down to the apothecary shop to fetch drugs for surgery. Enter Archibald Campbell, who does not really share Claire’s sense of urgency. He is every person with twenty-five items in the twenty-or-less checkout line. He “offers” to let Claire go ahead of him in exchange for a free examination of his sick sister.

Also, I’m pretty sure casting plucked this apothecary dude right off the streets of Northern California because he would fit in perfectly in Humboldt County. Is pharmasexual the new lumbersexual? Asking for a friend.

Meanwhile, Young Ian and Fergus manage to rid themselves of the contraband at a good price, mostly due to Ian’s clever negotiating tactics.

You guys, I am totally falling in love with Young Ian. He is full of unconditional loyalty, good humor, and heartbreaking earnestness. I adore how John Bell is playing him as young but not naive, kind but not a pushover, and faithful but independent. He is perfection.

Ian then begins asking Fergus about Claire. It’s obvious that Claire’s sudden and prolonged absence swelled her reputation to near mythical status. One can only imagine the gossip around Lallybroch once she quite literally disappeared.

Fergus tells Ian what her remembers of Claire and also acknowledges that she’s put them in quite a predicament this morning. But Ian is ready to accept and love Claire no matter what, because he accepts and loves Jamie no matter what. Family is paramount.

Also, how Young Ian wears his hair is pretty much how I look every day. In my mind I look like Elsa from Frozen but it’s really just a sloppy braided mess. My own expectation vs. reality.

As expected, Sir Percival and his mouth-breathing henchman show up at Madame Jeanne’s and unsuccessfully search her premises for the casks.

Did you notice that Mouth Breather has a blind left eye and Barton’s head injury is on his left side? The Latin word for “left,” used quite often in medicine, is sinister.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Claire performs a craniotomy on Barton and Yi Tien Cho (aka Mr. Willoughby) serves as her surgical assistant. Kudos to post-production for accurately adding in the bone-crunching skull sound and getting it juuuust right.

While the surgery initially appears to be successful we learn that Barton died anyway, which comes as a relief to pretty much everyone except Claire.  There’s a double layer of reality versus expectation here. Claire expected that she would save Barton and we, the audience, also probably expected that. It’s what she does, right? She’s our hero. But, the truth is, this was a surgery performed under completely suboptimal conditions with a poor starting prognosis.

Jamie does his best to reassure Claire that she will have other chances to practice medicine. He also says something really sweet about Claire being like a burst of sunlight in his world. Claire, smiling weakly, is feeling like a failure and isn’t really in any sort of mood to accept love or feel good about herself.

Claire informs Jamie that she has to go examine Margaret Archibald and, again, Jamie is left working out some feelings of fear and confusion. Claire has been back for a day and is already establishing her own life in Edinburgh, which isn’t totally out of character but maybe not wholly expected on Jamie’s part. He is clearly scared of losing her again and needs reassurance that she will return from her errand.

I am here for the Fergus and Young Ian Bromance. They are adorable. Maybe we should go into business together, muses Fergus. Um, yes. That sounds like an amazing spin-off and someone needs to pitch it immediately.

While they are celebrating their sale at a tavern Ian confesses that he’s been crushing on the barmaid, Brighid, who wins top prize for Best Teeth in the Eighteenth Century. Fergus gives Ian some romantic advice (although, apparently, not enough) and Ian makes his move.

Ugh, poor Claire. I know these feelings all too well. I’m a veterinarian so I’m not going to pretend to fully understand the scope of emotions that doctors of human medicine feel when they lose patients. I do know, however, that when I lose a patient– even though they are the furry and four-legged kind– it is really, really tough. It’s a horrible mix of sadness and failure and grief for the family that you carry around until you’re forced to eventually put it aside in order to be a functional human being. Caitriona Balfe’s face here feels very familiar.

But, more than that, I think Claire is also feeling the profound loss of her career. Performing a make-shift emergency surgery in a brothel is a pretty harsh reminder of all that she left behind in Boston. Being a surgeon is such a large part of her identity and, at least at this point, it seems unlikely that she will ever fully get it back.

I thought this scene was extraordinarily well-done. Claire arrives to examine Margaret Archibald, who has a delusional outburst and displays some pretty classic signs of schizophrenia. I love how Claire is totally unfazed throughout; as a doctor she has seen her fair share of mental illness. An empathetic understanding of mental illness does not really exist yet in this century, the realization of which Caitriona Balfe plays with believable sadness.

Novel readers know that there actually is some foreshadowing in Margaret’s “vision,” so please no spoilers. Archibald informs Claire that he and Margaret will be travelling to the West Indies to continue their work as fortune tellers for a wealthy client.

Brighid falls for Young Ian because he is adorable. Quite hilariously, Ian has the same assumptions about sex as Jamie did at his age. Memo to Lallybroch men: perhaps quit watching the horses.

Claire returns “home” from treating Margaret Campbell and broaches the subject of moving out of the brothel and beginning her own career, thereby eliminating the need for illegal enterprises. This is a TOTALLY reasonable wish but Jamie, having lived in survival mode for so long, clearly has not given any long-term plans much thought.

Jamie informs Claire they disposed of Barton’s body in the casks of crème de menthe. Surprise! The conversation is interrupted when they learn that Ian Murray is downstairs.

God, this was some truly beautiful acting by Steven Cree. Upon seeing Claire, he transitions so believably from shock to disbelief to anger to grief and back to shock again. Ian emotionally holds Claire and Jamie accountable on what is obviously a set of half-truths, which is a very realistic response to Claire’s return. She may have expected to have everyone be as overjoyed as Fergus but she left a lot of damaged feelings in her wake. It isn’t necessarily her (or Jamie’s) fault but it is the reality with which they have to contend.

Ian asks Jamie if he has seen Young Ian, who apparently ran away (again) from Lallybroch. Jamie does not admit to knowing where Young Ian is, which gets some major side-eye from Claire.

Since when do you lie to your family, asks Claire. Very true.

We used to lie all the time, Jamie replies. Also very true.

The cracks in this reunion are beginning to show. Claire calls Jamie out on his questionable choices and really twists the knife when she asserts that he doesn’t know what it is like to be a worried father, which we know is a pretty unreasonable accusation. Jamie probably worried about Brianna every day up until yesterday. We know he worried about Faith when he was imprisoned at the Bastille. He undoubtedly thinks about Willie constantly. It’s a pretty low blow by Claire.

Jamie, for his part, pretty much accuses Claire of being a bad parent because she let Brianna wear a bikini (which is a hilarious sentence as I type it). And he’s also clearly jealous of the life she has lived being married and raising their daughter with another man.

And while the marriage is threatening to go up in flames, Jamie’s printshop quite literally does. Mouth Breather has followed Young Ian back to the shop where they fight and accidentally start a fire. Mouth Breather escapes but not before stealing the seditious pamphlets uncovered during the struggle.

Claire and Jamie rush to the shop and Jamie proves he is the hero and father-figure we know him to be. He rushes in to save Young Ian, also rescuing Willie’s portrait while he’s at it. Claire, although angry with Jamie just moments before, is again briefly terrified of losing him.

Then, WHAM. As everyone is making plans to return Young Ian back to Lallybroch, Jamie tells Fergus they need to update their plan regarding JAMIE’S SECOND WIFE. I’ve read the novels so I obviously knew this was coming, but it’s still like a gut-punch knowing how horrible this is all going to be.

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So, Jamie, here is some pretty obvious Phoenix rising from the ashes imagery for you. Time to head home.

Sláinte.


Shameless plug time. I have the world’s most adorable mom and she makes Outlander stuff on her cute Etsy site. Check it out if you’re so inclined. She does custom orders, too. Also, she’s adorable. Did I mention that? Sláinte.

4 thoughts on “Episode 307: Crème De Menthe”

  1. I really enjoyed your take on this episode. I love Fergus and Young Ian together, and the barmaid had such a sweet face, it’s easy to see why Young Ian had such a crush on her. The essence of the story is here, even though there were significant changes in the story line. Your explanation of why Claire felt compelled to try to save someone who tried to kill her makes perfect sense. She was a healer when she was with Jamie during the Rising. She’s a trained surgeon now. The fact that all the events in this episode and the last comprise only 36 hours or so of time, is key. With so much happening in that amount of time, the different ways they’ve spent the last 20 years were bound to cause friction. Thanks for this review. (And I really love your picture choices, too.)

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  2. Wow, you NAILED it! At least, how I felt about the whole episode. Could not believe how much whining was happening on other reviews….everyone is suddenly a script writer! I have to say, while I wish Mr. Weatherby was closer to the book, in this very PC world, that would just not fly. Not sure about the Campbells, but the one thing I cannot understand (even my ability to suspend reality does not reach that far) was the barmaid with the Whitestrip smile. Did these people never see the tooth whitening episode of Friends? That glaring, in every sense of the word. Ah, well, I still love this show with a passion I do not understand, and will forgive them just about anything.

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  3. did they really need her doing brain surgery 36 hours after returning to the 17th century !!!! i think they have lost me…….so unnecessary. But your review was great and I will continue to read and only watch if my husband at 12 fifteen am Sunday morning says, “Let’s watch Outlander” though he is starting to call it Voyage because this was my favorite book and I talked a lot about it. he knows that they took a left turn away from the books and that I am so disappointed.

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  4. You are a lovely writer and I so appreciated how you placed your Outlander analysis in a wider and very positive context by reminding us to be happy about simple things in life that we come to love and that lift our existence.

    I so love the books and have read all of them many times, so, for me, it is not hard to see changes from book to production. It is an amazing interplay and I just enjoy seeing how the talent and creativity of the writers, producers, and actors come to fruition.

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