Outlander broke with the books this week with an entirely original B-plot that ramped up both Claire’s healing skills AND her notional association with the devil. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s start right at the top: with Frank putting his wife on the train to the front lines as he prepared to hold down the fort at home.
This was exactly the kind of beige supporting-player nonsense we’ve come to expect from Frank, an exasperating “conflict character” who exists only to give Claire a sense of urgency with regard to going home. If she didn't feel like Frank was being inconvenienced, why would Claire bother leaving her current situation/Jamie, especially considering her sweet gig as a cozy castle doctor who’s a good 200 years better at her job than everybody else on the planet?
Then again, Claire probably didn’t have to give a thorough butt massage to any of the soldiers she treated on the front lines. It’s not all mead and bannocks at Castle Leoch.
In return for Claire’s healing touch, she got invited to listen to the bard whisper and strum his auto-lute in the great hall, where she had a little too much Rennish and started trying to play matchmaker with Jamie and Laoghaire.
This is such a uniquely female impulse, to “place” a guy you’re interested in into a relationship with someone else. I can remember my own intense ferocity in trying to set up my own hubs with a college roommate a decade or so back—and really, what was I thinking? Probably whatever Claire was thinking, as she all but mashed Jamie and Laoghaire’s lips together during the zither recital. But despite Claire’s best efforts, Jamie only chatted with Laoghaire and then asked Claire to go change his bandages in the castle cellar.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: These two have hotter chemistry than a million periodic element charts crackling in the flames of a billion Bunsen burners.
From there we segued into a storyline that never happened in the book: A kid who went up to the “Black Kirk” got sick. Everyone said he was possessed by the devil, but Claire was like, “Or we could try to figure out what’s actually wrong with him?” She hastened to the village to see the lad—who, like everybody, was related to Mrs. Fitzbibble.
The mom and Mrs. Fitzpibble were like, “The Priest has got this. Continue with your regularly scheduled program, Nosy Buttinsky.” Claire went home heavy-hearted, and on top of feeling like she could do nothing to save a dying child, she ALSO glimpsed Loaghaire and Jamie making out in a corridor. BUMMER!
Claire later tried to passive-aggressively tease Jamie about what she'd seen, and his gruff stable boss Angus unleashed an Ann Landers column of relationship advice on her: “Stop teasing the boy about Loaghaire or he’ll be pressured into marrying her, when in fact he needs the partnership of a wife who is a grown woman, not a light-minded teenager, considering the fact he is an outlaw dealing with a lot of personal trauma. He needs an older, knowledgeable, possibly professionally driven doctor-type woman. You see what I’m saying, Claire?” I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically what he said. It was like, "DAMN Angus, let’s take you back to the 1940s and set you up as a marriage counselor." Who knew rugged Highlander warriors had such searing insight into each other’s romantic needs? So cozy.
Still, Claire took in only the admonishment, and in a fit of pique escaped to the castle gardens to have a good cry. The voiceover told us she was jealous of Jamie and Loaghaire’s intimacy and she missed Frank. Okay, sure, that’s it. Whatever you have to tell yourself, Claire.
Claire was cheered up the next day by a visit to Geillis Duncan, the wise woman who serves as a primitive Walgreens to Castle Leoch. The party abruptly stopped when Claire looked out the window to see the 18th century happening in full force: A child who’d stolen a loaf of bread was about to get his hand lopped off.
Luckily, Geillis was married to a textbook Falstaffian buffoon who happened to be presiding over the child’s case. Gyllis performed a wee bit of a lap dance and her husband was able to lessen the boy’s punishment to a mere, “Nail his ear against the stocks and he can leave whenever he feels like tearing his head free.” Naturally, Claire was horrified. When Jamie arrived to escort her home, they cooked up a little plan: She would distract the ghoulish mob that was watching the boy cry, and Jamie would remove the nail so the kid could leave the ordeal with only a medium-sized gauge in his ear. The plan worked beautifully, although if i were a villager and had an excuse to stare at Jamie, no amount of toppling Sassenatches would pull my attention away from the gingery planes of his face.
On a roll, Claire then asked Jamie to take her to the Black Kirk. This was another scene that didn't happen in the books, but it was delightfully picturesque (did you enjoy the visible breath as they spoke?! It must've been FREEZING when they filmed!). When Jamie told Claire that kids who visited the Black Kirk liked to eat the “wood garlic” that grew around the ruins, she realized Mrs. Fitznibber’s nephew was suffering from plant poisoning and somehow threw together an antidote from Geillis Duncan’s curative essences, then hastened back to the village to show up a beastly priest.
When Claire’s hastily-thrown-together medicine actually cured the boy, the village priest was weirdly angry about it (if you are a Black Adder fan, maybe you recognized this glowering cleric as the otherwise-delightful actor Tim McInnerny, who played Lord Percy). Clearly, there will be a reckoning, but in the meantime, Claire is suddenly the castle’s new “Miracle Worker.” Speaking of working miracles, Claire was also apparently able to whip together a passable curl cream from Geillis Duncan’s essences before the next evening session of whispery lute-playing.
The episode closed with Jamie translating the ballad to Claire; it was a folk song about a woman who was torn from the man she loved at the standing stones and ended up in a faraway land, but then returned to the man she loved by going back to the standing stones. Claire, on a bit of a Nancy Drew tear, decided then and there that she was done earning brownie points from Collum and the other Scots in the distant hopes of them one day taking her back to Craigh Na Dun. She was going to sneak there herself or die trying! Guess a little folklore and seeing your crush make out with a teenage airhead will do wonders for your motivation, eh Claire?
... Have you or someone you’ve known ever set up a guy you sort of liked with someone else?
... Gyllis’s husband: exactly right or a little overdone with all the farting?
... Book fans: What did you think of the new storyline? Does it make you more excited for new material going forward, or uneasy about potential inaccuracies in upcoming plot points?