All of my favorite things about Claire– her smarts, stubbornness, resourcefulness, quick thinking, and her wit – were displayed, utilized and tested in various ways in this episode. I was encouraged that from a character development perspective, despite the obvious connection between Claire and Jamie, the show is not rushing the relationship. They are also allowing Claire to bond with and interact with Galleis, Mrs. Fitz, allowing her to miss Frank, and allowing her to take charge of her situation on her own.
On a frivolous note, Claire’s dresses, her fur and knitted scarves/stolls and dresses this episode were amazing. Nothing particularly bright, colorful, or cheery, but the detail and design were fantastic. At least Colum is giving Claire a generous clothing allowance while keeping her captive.
Laoghaire McKenzie is being set up as a foil of sorts for the eventual Claire/Jamie pairing. Jamie brushes off Laoghaire’s interest in him. Yet later on, Claire sees Jamie and Laoghaire making out. At dinner, Claire sharply teases Jamie. Claire is told by another that Jamie needs a woman, and that Laoghaire will “be a girl until she’s 50.” Claire says she felt ashamed of the way she teased Jamie, and that she did it because she was jealous – jealous of the intimacy, and because she misses Frank. I do believe Claire misses Frank, and is not just using it as an excuse.
I was glad to see Claire’s emotional state go through the ringer, as I was concerned she’d too easily adjust to her new life in the 18th century. Claire very clearly took issue with how sickness was treated as a spiritual ailment, and the way legal punishment was dealt with. Claire went from planning and working to earn her release, to despair and hopelessness, and finally to resolve by the end of the episode that she was going to get back to Inverness and to the 20th century. Claire’s plan to secure her release from the confines of her stay at Castle Leoch were foiled, as she made herself so useful that Colum would never want to let her leave.
During a visit with Galleis, Claire is in disbelief that Galleis could truly believe that Tammas, Mrs. Fitz’s nephew, or the other boy that died are “stricken with evil.” Galleis tells her that if everyone believes the boy is possessed, it does not matter whether he is or he is not, and further says that whether it is magic, demonic possession, or superstition, that they are all terms for things that men and women do not understand. Very insightful comments, in any sort of context.
Later, while at Galleis’, the women watch the community dealing with a boy who is caught stealing. Galleis tells Claire they should have a nice glass of port and tell each other all their secrets. Claire both “puzzles” and fascinates Galleis. Claire explains that it is different where she comes from, not just at Oxfordshire, but that she had an unusual upbringing and childhood. Before Galleis can get Claire to open up further, Jamie comes in to take Claire back to the castle. I do enjoy the budding friendship between Claire and Galleis and I hope that Galleis’ inquiries into Claire’s childhood is merely her curiosity, not some sneaky, underhanded way of gathering information on Claire for Dougal or Colum.
There is also interesting dichotomy between science/medicine and religion in this episode. Everyone believes a poisoning is a result of a demonic possession. Anytime anyone discusses the matter, even outside of the large, scary town priest, whether it be Claire’s guards or Mrs. Fitz, they all make the sign of the cross. Mrs. Fitz and her sister are both reluctant to allow Claire to help Tammas. Scary Priest tells Claire that she has the “stench of the devil” on her, and Claire tells Angus, her minder, that a different priest once told her that her healing skills were a “gift from God.”
Even Jamie, who explains to Claire at the Black Kirk that despite being educated, he is still a Highlander and is reluctant to tempt fate and the devils. Jamie then crosses himself like all the others. Claire understands that she will have to tread even more carefully than she thought. Claire uses her knowledge to identify that what killed one young boy and sickened Tammas. It was not demonic possession. Instead, it was confusing the identification of wood garlic with lily of the valley.
Next week looks to have a lot of suspense with Claire plotting and executing her escape, and each and every McKenzie clan member searching for her. Will anyone besides Jamie help Claire? What will be the blowback if she is unsuccessful? If she is successful, will the stones take her back to the 20th century?