Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 307: “Creme de Menthe”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Claire follows her conscience as a surgeon, even though it could put her and Jamie’s lives at risk. At the same time, Jamie attempts to evade the reach of the Crown as its representative closes in on his illegal dealings.
Major plot points:
Day 2 of Jamie and Claire’s reunion isn’t going so well:
- We start where the last episode ended, with Claire being accosted by a stranger searching Jamie’s room. After a scuffle, he falls and hits his head.
- Jamie thinks it would be best for the man to die. Claire is a doctor and can’t leave the man without trying to treat him.
- In going to fetch herbs, Claire meets Archibald Campbell, who arranges for Claire to come see his sick sister Margaret later on.
- Claire tries crude surgery on the injured man, drilling into his skull to relieve the pressure, but he dies anyway.
- Sir Percival comes to search the brothel for Jamie’s smuggled liquor, but finds nothing, as Ian and Fergus have already removed it and sold it.
- Ian has his first sexual encounter with a barmaid, after some coaching from Fergus.
- Ian Sr. comes looking for Young Ian, and Jamie lies and says he has not seen him.
- A man with a blind eye searches the print shop and finds Jamie’s seditious pamphlets. In a fight with Young Ian, the printshop catches fire.
- Jamie rescues Young Ian, but the shop is completely burned.
- Jamie agrees that he and Claire should take Young Ian home to Lallybroch.
Well, the honeymoon is over.
Jamie and Claire had one blissful night of lovemaking in the last episode, but now in the cold hard light of day, the reality of the rest of the world comes crashing back in, leading to danger from without and conflict between Jamie and Claire.
I can only imagine what’s going through Claire’s mind during the events of this episode. She thought she knew what she was getting herself into, and had accepted the uncertainties she’d face. Before traveling back through the stones, Claire knew that it was possible that Jamie would no longer have room for her in his life. It was a calculated risk, and one that she took for herself and for Brianna, putting her faith in the love she and Jamie had shared, and hoping it would be enough for them to build a new future on.
And here she is, back in Jamie’s world — and in her shoes, I’d probably be asking myself what the f*** I just did to my life. Once again, she finds herself married to a man on the wrong side of the law, with no home, no standing, and no way to fulfill her professional goals. She asks Jamie if they can find someplace else to live (what, brothels aren’t homey enough for you Claire?), but Jamie says money is too tight. Claire suggests that she can set up shop in the back of the printshop as a healer, but Jamie doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic. Honestly, he seems to mostly be looking at Claire as if she’s trouble throughout this episode. A nice docile wife would, I guess, have agreed to let the injured man die — but instead, Jamie has Claire back in his life, putting her medical vows first even when it thrusts them into greater danger. Deja vu all over again, right Jamie?
As for Claire, she’s quite clear with Jamie that she’s a physician and a surgeon, and it’s also clear that she may be regretting walking away from her 20th century medical career, with its clean hospitals and surgical implements and medicines. No, she doesn’t regret finding Jamie, but I think it’s hitting her bit by bit that she’s back in the 18th century, where she has no authority and lacks the most basic of decent medical resources.
Mr. Willoughby seems like a good assistant to Claire. As I probably mentioned last week, I’m very thankful that the show is treating his character as a respectable adult, rather than as the caricature he is in the books.
Young Ian and Fergus are adorable together (and basically are adorable always, in any setting). So now we know that Fergus lost his virginity at age 15 in a menage-a-trois. Oh, Fergus. Never change. Fergus gives Ian a few tips that seem to work pretty well, because before he knows it, he’s heading to bed with the pretty barmaid. Sure, there’s the confusion that seems to plague the virginal males of the family — no, Ian, you do not have to do it from behind. Don’t worry, Jamie was befuddled at first too, but you’ll learn. Sadly, Ian’s first experience is interrupted by the printshop bursting into flames, but I’m sure he’ll have plenty of opportunities down the road.
Claire’s reunion with Ian Sr. was interesting and difficult. He looked at Claire with love, but also with hurt, I think. He tells Claire that he and Jenny mourned for her for years. It’ll be hard for them to accept Claire’s cover story — that she thought Jamie was dead and fled to the colonies. It begs the question of why she never wrote or tried to contact Jenny in any way, and there’s no good answer. Either Claire tells the truth about time travel, which they may or may not believe, or she sticks to a story that makes her sound hard-hearted and uncaring toward the Murray/Fraser clan. Still, Ian had tears running down his face while embracing Claire. He may be hurt, but he loves her anyway. I wouldn’t expect instant forgiveness from Jenny, Claire.
Claire is shocked that Jamie lies to Ian Sr. and says that he has not seen Young Ian. Clearly, Young Ian is involved in Jamie’s less-than-legal business dealings, and just as clearly, Jamie doesn’t want Jenny and Ian to know anything about it. Claire doesn’t understand how Jamie can lie to his family, and a rather ugly exchange ensues in which Claire makes a nasty comment about Jamie not understanding what it is to be a parent. Jamie of course brings up Brianna’s bikini as an example of Claire’s questionable parenting choices. Ouch. Boy, there is a lot of tension simmering beneath the surface.
And of course, the lies don’t end there. We finally hear spoken what we know already from the books, when Fergus asks Jamie the big question:
— Outlander (@Outlander_STARZ) October 30, 2017
Uh oh. Jamie’s lies (and lies of omission) are about to catch up with him in a big way. Next week’s episode should be explosive.
After the highs of the reunion last week, this week’s episode feels pretty low. Lots of unhappy people, lots of tense situations, not a whole lot of joy for anyone.
Claire and Jamie are both now facing the reality of what her return means. She instantly (although through no fault of her own) causes dangerous complications for him, his business partners, and the family. She’s realizing that her fantasy of a quiet, peaceful, loving home with Jamie is as far from reach as when she was in Boston.
Both are realizing that there are things about the other that maybe don’t fit their rosie-eyed pictures. Claire sees Jamie both disregarding the value of a human life and telling lies, two things that are absolutely contrary to her values. Jamie sees once again that having Claire in his life means having a wife who can’t be relied upon to follow his orders or sit on the sidelines.
They do love each other. Jamie affirms yet again that he wants her. But the open question here is whether they truly fit together any more, after so many changes and so many years. Can they rebuild a new version of their life and their marriage that will give them the happiness together that they both want?
I must admit here that I found this section of the book kind of irritating, so it’s no wonder the episode didn’t especially appeal to me either. It was very well done, as they all are — but I just find this section of the plot getting on my nerves. Jamie is so busy with his random illegal business obligations that he doesn’t pay very much attention to Claire’s needs and just expects her to fit herself into his life. Okay, fine, so he didn’t know she was coming and does have an actual life that he was living, so it’s not like he’s not justified in his actions. Maybe there is no easy answer.
I just know that in Claire’s shoes, if I found the love of my life after 20 years and he was too busy smuggling, hiding bodies, and telling lies to make me feel welcome back into his life, I might be asking myself some really big questions right about now.
“Creme de Menthe” shows that perfect love still has jagged edges, and that no matter how deep and true the romance, people have to live in the real world. For Jamie and Claire, the question is whether their love is enough to see them past their differences and the changes wrought by their 20 year separation. They’re not out of the woods yet.
Wrapping it all up…
I probably should have mentioned this back at the beginning of the season — but I am not reading along with season 3, and it’s been years since I’ve read (or re-read) Voyager. I mention this because I’ve already heard that a lot of book readers are steaming over this particular episode and its omissions and additions vis-à-vis the book. During season 1, I made a point of reading the relevant book chapters prior to watching each episode, and I found that this approach actually detracted from my enjoyment of the show. It just put too great an emphasis on noting the differences from the original source material to the TV adaptation.
I decided going into season 2 that I’d do it book-free. I remembered enough to know where the major plot deviations were, but didn’t have the details so vividly in my mind that I’d get upset about the delivery of certain lines or whether something should have happened upstairs or downstairs (for example). It was a much happier viewing experience for me. I was able to savor the beautiful parts, admire the artistry and choreography of complicated scenes, and simply enjoy the production.
So far, this approach is absolutely working for me in season 3. Which brings me back to this episode. As I mentioned, I didn’t particularly love this part of Voyager, so if they skim over some of the smuggling adventures as a means of moving the plot forward, I’m fine with that. And no, Claire doesn’t drill into a man’s head in the book — but I’m okay with that too. Here, in the TV episode, it’s a shorthand method of demonstrating the differences Claire and Jamie still have to overcome.
So — no, episode 307 isn’t the best of the season, but I think it did what it needed to do to get us from point A (the reunion) to point C (the beginning of the rest of their lives together). It’s okay. It’ll all be okay.
And anyway, since when did Jamie and Claire ever have smooth sailing?