Outlander, Season 1, Episode 10: “By the Pricking of my Thumbs”
The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:
Jamie hopes the newly arrived Duke of Sandringham will help lift the price from his head, while Claire attempts to save an abandoned child.
The episode opens on a private moment. A very private moment. Claire and Jamie are in bed, and let’s just say that Murtagh’s unrelenting pounding on the door is not at all welcome. Jamie, ever diligent, opts to ignore the door until he finishes the task in front of him, with apparent great success. Whew… is it getting hot in here?
The news from Murtagh is important, though. The Duke of Sandringham has arrived. He’s always been fond of Jamie (hinting that he was *wink, wink* very fond of some of Jamie’s attributes), and perhaps he’s be willing to help get the price lifted from Jamie’s head. Claire warns Jamie not to trust the Duke blindly — she knows from her time with Frank that the Duke was suspected of being a secret Jacobite supporter, and also of being a protector of Black Jack Randall’s. Jamie promises to be cautious, but he’s also puppy-dog excited at the idea that he could be free and could finally take Claire home with him to Lallybroch, where they could have a good life and be happy.
Ned Gowan considers the best way to proceed. Even with the Duke’s backing, it would be next to impossible to prove that BJR is the one guilty of the murder Jamie’s wanted for. But perhaps there’s a different approach. If Jamie and Claire swear to a complaint again BJR, itemizing his cruelty and abuse, and have it presented by the Duke, BJR would be disgraced and would likely be recalled from the Highlands, perhaps even court-martialed or sent somewhere far, far away. And if BJR is disgraced, a general pardon for Jamie would be possible. This seems like the best chance they have for finally clearing Jamie’s name.
In the kitchen at Leoch, Mrs. Fitz is ecstatic over a new apron given to her by her granddaughter Laoghaire. Claire arrives and asks to speak with Laoghaire alone, then accuses her of leaving the ill-wish under her bed. Laoghaire denies it. Claire tries to be nice to the girl at first, telling her that she was misguided in thinking that Jamie had feelings for her, but Laoghaire insists otherwise:
“The truth is, he was never yours to begin with.”
“That’s a lie. Jamie Fraser was, and is, mine. And you did us both a wrong past bearing when you stole him away.”
Their confontation ends with a big slap right across Laoghaire’s face, and Claire apologizes with a very not-sorry “sorry”. Laoghaire is well and truly pissed now, and tells Claire that yes, she was the one who placed the ill-wish, and furthermore, she got it from Geillis Duncan, supposedly Claire’s friend. Claire warns Laoghaire:
“Stay away from me and my husband.”
Claire goes to visit Geillis to find out the truth, arriving to find Geillis out, but Arthur Duncan rummaging about looking for a treatment for his usual gastric yuckiness. The serving girl tells Claire that she’ll find Geillis in the woods at night while the moon is full. And so Claire does, spying on Geillis as she lights fires and chants a prayer to the Earth Mother, dancing and rolling on the ground in a sort of religious ecstasy, clad only in the overshawl and brooch she’d worn at the gathering. Claire watches in shock, especially as Geillis’s near-nakedness reveals a distinct baby bump.
Geillis acknowledges that she knows Claire is there, and tells Claire that she has a lover — Dougal MacKenzie. It’s his baby that she’s carrying, and she’s prayed to Mother Nature to ask for freedom for herself and Dougal so they can be together. Geillis admits selling the ill-wish to Laoghaire, but claims that she didn’t know who it was for.
The two women continue to walk through the woods, and Claire asks more about Dougal. It turns out that Dougal is married, but he keeps his wife back home at his estate while he lives at Castle Leoch. As they walk, Claire hears a baby’s cries. Geillis warns her to ignore it: They’re near a fairy hill, and that must be a changeling, not a human child. Claire insists on looking for the baby, and Geillis takes off. Claire finally finds the baby, but it’s dead already from exposure, having been left out all night. Jamie finds Claire cradling the dead baby and makes her put it back in its hiding place, explaining the superstitious nature of the local people, and making it clear that it could be dangerous to ignore these superstitions, even knowing that they’re ridiculous.
Claire and Jamie sign the document outlining BJR’s crimes. Later, unbeknownst to Jamie, Claire pays a visit to the Duke of Sandringham, during which she insinuates that that the Duke’s reputation could be harmed if his support and connection to BJR were revealed. He calls Claire’s statements “libelous falsities”, but after the two exchange some veiled and not-so-veiled threats, it seems that the Duke will help Jamie after all.
Claire returns to the castle to find everyone in a tizzy. Dougal has just received word that his wife has died of a sudden illness, and he’s going nuts, raging with grief and guilt, highly drunk, and flinging his sword about whenever anyone gets near. Colum wants Claire to do something to calm him down, so she slips a sedative into some wine which Dougal guzzles, sending him into a heap on the floor.
Geillis acts as though all this is great news. “Can you believe it?” she asks Claire. It’s like her prayers have been answered, and now she and Dougal can be together. Claire reminds Geillis that she has a husband, but Geillis basically shrugs that off. No big deal.
Now it’s Jamie’s turn to visit the Duke. He’s always delighted to see Jamie (he apparently has an eye for pretty young boys), and would be happy to help Jamie out… in exchange for a wee favor. It seems that the Duke has a debt he owes to the MacDonalds, who’ve demanded satisfaction in a duel. It’s just for show, the Duke hastens to reassure Jamie. They’ll fire pistols off to the side, everyone’s honor will be satisfied, and that’ll be that. In exchange for helping Jamie in his case against BJR, Jamie must act as second to the Duke in the duel.
That evening, there’s a banquet at the castle in the Duke’s honor. Everyone is dressed up and fancy, and it’s quite an evening… until Arthur Duncan begins to choke and then collapses on the floor, foaming at the mouth. He’s dead, and Claire catches a whiff of bitter almonds, the tell-tale scent of cyanide. While everyone else is focused on the dead man, Claire spots Geillis and Dougal exchanging a meaningful glance.
Back to the Duke’s duel. It’s a simple and straightforward formality, but afterwards, the MacDonald lads get rude and insulting. When Jamie responds to their taunts with a diss against their mother, the swords come out. The Duke scampers off (a duel is one thing, but a common brawl quite another), and it’s three against one. Jamie holds his own until the fight is over, but he comes out of it with a nasty wound on his side.
Claire must stitch Jamie up once again, and she’s pissed. Jamie is summoned to Colum’s chamber, where Colum reams out Dougal for his stupidity in carrying on with Geillis Duncan. Colum exiles Dougal back to his own estate until the scandal blows over, and orders Jamie to go with Dougal, along with Rupert and Angus. And just to make sure that Jamie is doing Colum’s bidding and keeping Dougal out of trouble, Colum insists that Claire remain behind at Castle Leoch.
After a loving and tender good-bye, Jamie rides off, but not before warning Claire to stay away from Geillis Duncan. There’s a good chance that Colum will go after Geillis, and Jamie doesn’t want Claire anywhere near when or if this happens.
So, naturally, Claire goes rushing off to Geillis’s house after receiving a note summoning her — only the note is a forgery, not from Geillis. Claire begs Geillis to pack up her belongings and leave. She’s in danger — but Geillis dreamily replies that “Dougal will never allow anything to happen to me. To us.”
A banging on the door — it’s the warden. Geillis is arrested for witchcraft, and so is Claire. As they’re shoved into a barred wagon to be taken away, Claire catches sight of Laoghaire peering around the corner with a very satisfied little smirk on her face.
The opening scene is intimate and explicit, showing a lot without showing anything that can’t be shown on TV. It’s an intense, passionate moment, and shows the deepening connection and trust between Jamie and Claire.
Claire looks amazing with her fur cowls and cloaks, but Geillis really takes the cake in this episode. From her filmy shawl in her woodland ritual to the point-hooded cloak in the woods to her black-and-white dress at the end, Geillis continues to have one of the most unique looks on the show.
Major facts that the episode gets on the table:
- Laoghaire is out to hurt Claire, even to the point of endangering Claire’s life.
- The Duke is slippery, and it’s impossible to know where his loyalties lie or whether his pledges of help can be believed.
- Dougal gives into his passions despite the consequences, and Colum can’t stand it.
- Jamie dreams of taking Claire home to Lallybroch, where he’ll once more be Laird and Claire his lady.
The Duke, to Claire:
“Has anyone ever told you you have the most gorgeous neck? It holds your head so prettily. I’d hate to see them parted.
Dougal, watching Jamie and Claire having a looooong kiss good-bye:
“I said kiss her. Dinna swallow her.”
Jamie, as Claire silently glares while she stitches his wound:
“Ye’re not normally a closed-mouth woman, Claire. I expected noisier displeasure. But, quiet anger can be very effective.”
The differences between Colum and Dougal are very clear in this episode. Dougal thinks with his heart and his… um… other head, but Colum always takes the rational, logical approach. Emotions be damned — it’s the well-being of the clan that always comes first.
Geillis seems foolishly indifferent to consequences here. She’s usually so aware of actions and reactions and how to take advantage of any situation, but she seems to let her reliance on Dougal and her hopes for their future blind her to the real risk, not just of murdering her own husband but of making Colum angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Claire seems much more settled into her marriage to Jamie. They’re happy together, and she wants him.
While the situation with the Duke of Sandringham may bring either safety or greater danger to Jamie, the ultimate threat in this episode is against Claire. Jamie is now conveniently out of the way, while Claire’s been arrested and accused of witchcraft. Claire lacks a protector, and unless Jamie returns in a hurry, she may not last.