Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" (SPOILERS)
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
First, a quick comment about the opening credits. At “billow and breeze”, notice Simon Callow’s credit as the Duke of Sandringham. I liked the dueling pistols in the opening bit. Fascinating to see what’s involved in loading one – like a miniature version of a musket. <g>
The opening sex scene starts out straight from the book, complete with the “butterfly wings” of Jamie's tongue. <g> My first thought on watching this was that Jamie learns VERY fast! My second thought, when Murtagh started pounding on the door and calling, “Wake up!”, was that this is very similar to the scene in FIERY CROSS chapter 89 (“The Moons of Jupiter”), where Jamie comes knocking on Bree and Roger’s cabin door to find Roger half-dressed and Bree still lying in bed.
"Jamie, if I tell you something, will you promise not to ask me how I know?”
“I told ye, I’d never ask ye for anything ye didna wish to tell me.”
It's good to see this here.
Jamie talking about returning to Lallybroch – this is simplified somewhat from the book. Here, the only thing stopping Jamie from going home seems to be the price on his head, not his guilt over what he thinks happened to Jenny. But I really liked Jamie’s line, “We’d be happy there. I know we would.” Also the way his whole face lights up when he talks about it.
Nice to see Ned Gowan acting lawyerly. <g> I love the twinkle in his eye just before Murtagh says, “If ye have something on your mind, Ned Gowan, then speak it.”
The scene between Laoghaire and Claire is one of my favorites in the whole episode. Very well done!
"Jamie Fraser was and is mine. And you did both of us a wrong past bearing when ye stole him away.” - good line, and I’m sure she still believes that 20 years later!
The dialogue in this scene is really good. I especially liked this: “He must have to get himself swine drunk of a night before he can stand to plow your field” – SLAP! (Well, she deserved it, for being so nasty, but my impression was that Claire apologized because she’s trying to be the adult in this conversation.)
Geillis performing her “summoning” in the woods beneath a full moon is suitably mysterious and eerie. And I liked very much how they showed the similarity between what Geillis is doing and the dancers on Craigh na Dun from Episode 101. (Including the music, which is one of my favorite bits from that episode.)
The revelation of Geillis’s pregnancy is, of course, not at all the way it happens in the book, and I thought Geillis’s reaction was out of character. In the book, she didn’t seem happy at all about the pregnancy, more resigned to it, saying "accidents happen", or words to that effect.
“My darlin’ Dougal” – I didn’t like this. In the books, Geillis doesn’t believe in love. Is this an act for Claire's benefit, or are we expected to believe she’s actually in love with Dougal, and not just interested in him for his money and power?
I liked the way they used the flashback with Frank and the Reverend to explain why Sandringham's association with Dougal is important.
The whole scene with the changeling was VERY well done, and I was relieved to see they went back to the book. I liked the mist in the air around the trees. Claire’s reaction to finding the baby was very good. (I kept thinking of her cradling Malva’s baby in ABOSAA.) Jamie crossed himself left-handed again, just as in Episode 105, but aside from that, Jamie in this scene is very much the way I always imagined from the book. He’s gentle with Claire, seeing how upset she is about the baby.
I liked Jamie’s reaction to Claire signing her name “Claire Elizabeth Fraser”. And it made me think: Frank found records of citizens complaining about BJR’s activities. Was this document part of that historical record? Just speculation, of course, but interesting to think about. <g>
Simon Callow is wonderful as the Duke of Sandringham! And I like the set decoration here – the furniture, the paintings on the walls, everything gives it a very authentic 18th c. feel.
HOWEVER....I have a problem with this scene. As well-acted and beautifully shot as it is, it simply doesn’t make sense to me, in terms of the story.
“Ah! So Lord Broch Tuarach has sent you along to soften me up. To play on my well-known sympathies for the weaker sex.”
“I can assure you, Your Grace, that Jamie has no idea I’m here, and nor would he approve if he did.”
OK, so how did she manage to get there from Leoch? Someone would have had to take her in a carriage, or ride along with her on horseback for protection and to show her the way. I don’t believe she could just sneak off by herself without Murtagh or Auld Alec or someone else knowing. And considering what happened the last time Claire wandered off without Jamie's knowledge, it seems very unlikely that she would do so again only a few days later. The logistical issues here make this whole scene seem both contrived (set up only to get the Duke and Claire to meet) and unnecessary.
But I do love Simon Callow’s performance, and the dialogue in this scene is terrific! “Libelous falsities”, etc.
Claire’s confronting Sandringham about the Jacobite gold from Dougal strikes me as awfully risky (Jamie’s line in ABOSAA, “Ye were always bolder than was safe” comes to mind”), especially in view of what we know about her encounter with him in DRAGONFLY. If she needs him to be a friend rather than an enemy, deliberately provoking him like this seems a very odd way to go about it.
I didn’t care for the scene where Dougal goes berserk with rage and grief. Yes, it’s dramatic, and visually interesting to watch (I liked their use of the targes, in particular), but what was the point of it, exactly? Just to show that Dougal had feelings for his dead wife? (And why on earth would he feel that her death from a sudden fever was his fault? Surely such things were common enough in the 18th century!) Or was it only designed to show off Dougal’s sword-fighting skills? It felt way over the top and unnecessary to me, and not just because this is a scene that’s not in the book.
Whatever Claire gave Dougal, it’s a VERY fast-acting sedative! Laudanum, maybe?
I liked Colum’s line at the end of the scene: “Watch over him. I’ll deal with the sodden fool when he regains sobriety." And this line (from Rupert?): "If ye drop him, I’ll have your balls.”
Geillis is terrific in the next scene with Claire. She seems almost gleeful at the news of Maura’s death. And I love her reaction when Claire says, “Your husband might have something to say about that.” The look in her eyes, combined with that little sound she makes, is just priceless. <g>
“What the hell are the MacDonalds doing visiting the Duke of Sandringham?” I had the exact same question.
“I must admit that shielding [Randall] from the consequences of his misdeeds sometimes feels like a full-time occupation.” – great line
This whole plotline about the duel seems very contrived. “The MacDonalds and the MacKenzies are sworn enemies, but this is not a clan matter.” That makes no sense -- it seems to me that ANY interaction between two clans who are "sworn enemies" becomes a clan matter by definition -- and Murtagh is absolutely right that Jamie should have stayed out of it, that there will be other chances. I saw this as Jamie’s stubbornness (“It’s a risk I have to take”) overcoming his good judgment, and I didn’t like it.
The banquet scene was very good. I liked the way Colum presented the Duke with the dirk to carve the bird. Arthur’s death scene was done very well, especially Geillie’s reaction (“anything but a grieving widow”) and Claire’s diagnostic skills.
But I totally could have done without the duel. Dramatic but pointless, is the way it seemed to me. At times it looked like something out of a completely unrelated 18th-century costume drama, not OUTLANDER as we know it. And I really don’t understand why Jamie took part in the bantering with the young men afterward. He’s only half a MacKenzie, and we have no reason to think he had any dealings with MacDonalds in the past. So why does he react so strongly to their insults? Just an excess of testosterone, or is there something more to it?
It seems to me that Jamie’s “Is it true the MacDonalds learn of love by rutting with their mother?” actually provoked the fight. Of course, when the young MacDonald rushed at Jamie with his sword drawn, calling him a “buggering sodomite”, Jamie had no choice but to fight back, but I still think the whole fight was totally unnecessary and (for the third time in this episode) contrived purely for dramatic effect. It’s only luck that Jamie wasn’t seriously injured!
I liked Claire giving Jamie the silent treatment afterward. “You’re not normally a close-mouthed woman, Claire. I expected noisier displeasure.” – good line. (And finally we see where the bit from the opening credits with Claire stitching a wound comes from. <g>)
The scene with Colum, Dougal and Jamie is very good. Colum is absolutely riveting, totally in command, and Gary Lewis does a wonderful job in this scene, as does Graham McTavish. I was surprised to see Dougal go all soft-hearted over Geillis (I think that’s the first time we’ve seen a genuine smile from him in the whole series, in fact), just because she’s carrying his child. But I liked Colum’s reaction, pointing out the parallel between this child and Hamish and making it clear he’s not actually going to let Dougal marry Geillis. In fact, I love Colum’s dialogue throughout this whole scene.
I was certainly not expecting Colum to order Jamie away from Leoch along with Dougal, but it’s an effective way to make sure Jamie is out of the way when Claire is arrested for witchcraft.
The farewell scene between J&C was well done. I liked Dougal’s line, “I said kiss her, dinna swallow her”. <g>
“Come back to me, James Fraser” is an echo of the flashback scene with Claire and Frank at the train station in an earlier episode.
Nice to see the young lad from “The Way Out” again, this time bringing Claire the note from Laoghaire. “Claire, Come quick. Geillis” was all it said, and she took one look and galloped off, completely disregarding Jamie’s warning. That's pretty reckless of Claire -- somewhat more so than in the book, where it's made clear that the message stated Geillis was ill.
I liked the scene between Claire and Geillis, except for the bit at the very end where they put Claire in the 18th century version of a paddywagon. That seemed far too modern, and totally unnecessary in a small village like Cranesmuir. Why not just make the prisoners walk?
The self-satisfied smirk on Laoghaire’s face was just priceless! Great way to end the episode.
On the whole, I think this episode had a lot of enjoyable moments, but in my opinion it strayed much too far from the book at times. The acting and the dialogue were first-rate, though, which probably means I'll enjoy it more on subsequent viewings. And they did manage to set things up very effectively for the witch-trial next week. (The previews for that episode look FANTASTIC!)
What about the rest of you? I'd like to hear what you thought of it.
Here are my previous OUTLANDER episode recaps. Please come back next week for more!
Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"