In “Rent,” Claire’s road trip with the MacKenzie clan gave us part history lesson and political intrigue, part Claire making a new friend, and part Claire acting like a whiny child for not being included in the inner circle of a group of people that she herself does not like, does not trust, and wants to escape from at all costs. The opening of Claire standing by the loch certainly represented her solitude and isolation from the group as a whole, which was a theme throughout the episode.
Claire first meets and bonds with Ned Gowan, the MacKenzie clan’s lawyer who keeps records for the rents. Ned explains to Claire how the Laird’s rents are collected, that people often pay them in crops or livestock. Ned later tells Claire his backstory. Whether Ned is to be a major or a minor character as the series progresses, I enjoyed the subtle, non-forced way he was introduced.
Claire is again isolated from the group. Angus hands Claire dinner and everyone starts speaking Gaelic. Claire’s narration indicates that she is not uncomfortable with the bawdy jokes, the Gaelic, but she clearly appears so. She believes they’re using Gaelic to exclude her and expresses this to Jamie when he checks on her. Claire seemed whiny and contradictory in these scenes to me. She expresses sadly to Jamie that she thinks the group hates her, and Jamie reminds her that the group does not trust her. Jamie says that he does not think she is a spy, but he knows there are things she is not telling them and she did try to run during the Gathering. Claire looks and acts offended. If Claire is so intent on escaping and leaving the MacKenzie group behind, why does she care if they hate her? Yet she whines the whole episode about escaping and hating the life she now has.
The group arrives in a village, where the tenants line up to pay the rents. Dougal is very friendly and cordial with everyone. Claire wanders off and finds a group of women singing in Gaelic and dying wool, setting the dye with urine. She meets and befriends Donalda, who is friendly to her, but Claire is again on the outside looking into the group. From Claire’s language and expression to her trying to sing as the rest of the ladies are. Claire does find out a key bit of information from one of the ladies that the Craigh Na Dun stones are about 3 days ride from where they are now. Angus then shows up to drag Claire back to the group, as they are getting ready to leave.
As she learned that Donalda’s husband had to give their goat for rent and they had no milk to feed the baby, Claire then attempts to take the goat back. While I like that Claire was willing to stand up for Donalda, but Claire made quite a scene and then seemed offended and indignant when Dougal’s men were upset with her. Claire just met Donalda and impulsively jumps to conclusions. I understand that Claire is used to speaking her mind, and I think she should. But she should judge her audience and realize that there is a time and a place where it is and where it might not be so appropriate. Claire sometimes seems to forget she is in 1743, rather than 1945. Claire’s very public outburst draws the attention of another Englishman who asks if Claire is okay. Dougal tells the Englishman, whom we later find out is a redcoat, that she’s a guest of the clan MacKenzie and to not get involved.
Later, Dougal is making an impassioned speech and Claire again feels excluded. She surmises that Dougal is trying to collect “donations” but has seen Ned put them into a separate bag and thinks Dougal is doing it to line his own pockets. Dougal exposing Jamie’s scarred back also disgusts Claire. Dougal is using the shock of what the British did to Jamie to drum up sympathy for his “cause.”
Claire, once again, jumps to conclusions too soon. Later, Claire realizes after hearing the word “Stuart” during one of Dougal’s speeches that Dougal is raising funds for the Jacobite uprising. In the 1740s, the Jacobite uprisings sought to put the descendants of King James VII of Scotland and James II of England, Catholics, back on the British throne. Claire tries to warn Ned the cause fails and that the British army is just too powerful. Ned bristles and questions who Claire is to say that their cause is hopeless.
Claire also overhears/spies on an argument between Dougal and Jamie where Jamie wants to stop being used as an object of display and hears them discussing wanting “their king” back on the throne. Dougal calls Jamie on that all of their clansmen want the same thing tells Jamie that it will continue as long as Jamie is traveling with him.
Claire was left with a fascinating dilemma. Does she warn the MacKenzie party that they are doomed to fail by history, thus exposing her secret? Or will doing so only raise more suspicions that she is a spy? What will any attempt by her to alter the course of history do to the future past 1745? Will some of the MaKenzie clan be among the slaughtered?
During an argument between Claire and Dougal, the same British solider Claire encountered while trying to return the goat arrives, but with additional redcoats. Dougal warns the soldier to mind his own business and that Claire is a guest of the MacKenzie’s. The solider wonders if Claire is there voluntarily, and asks her as such. What will Claire say? Will Claire use the redcoats to escape the MacKenzies, bringing a whole new set of problems? If she does, will that just re-enforce the suspicions about her by the MacKenzie group? Will she again meet her husband Frank’s ancestor, Captain Randall?
There are a lot of intriguing, unanswered questions at this point. The episode was solid and the cinematography adds authenticity. Jamie and Claire are moving closer together, but at a slow pace. We’ll see if that speeds up soon.