‘Outlander’ Review: Reality Bites For Claire and Jamie As They Get Reacquainted

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[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 3 Episode 7, “Crème de Menthe.”]

Requited Love

Much of last week’s episode was spent redeveloping the relationship between Jamie and Claire and reacquainting those characters, a decision that executive producer Ronald D Moore noted was important in terms of letting things breathe and in allowing audiences to reconnect with that love story.

As a result, this week focused more on the reality of Claire and Jamie’s situation, as each character adjusted to what their potential new life together could mean. Claire, who has had more time to think about such things (knowing of Jamie’s existence longer than he of hers), figured that meant she could set up shop and become a healer, while he potentially focused on the printing business. Given all of Jamie’s illegal activities, that eventually proved impossible. Claire comes with lots of inherent drama too, though, something many of the periphery characters noted when Claire killed the man who attacked her (by accident and despite her best efforts to save him). With a dead body, a fire, and politicians out to get Jamie and bring him to justice for failing to pay the proper bribes, a life of peace and quiet will never be in the cards for these two. (Besides, that would be boring to watch.)

Crème de Menthe

We’ve never ordered a drink involving any of this creamy, minty substance, nor do we plan on starting to now that we know what a great coffin it can make. As far as morbid episode titles go, this one takes the cake.

Return of the Witch

Outlander Season 3 2017

Claire isn’t spending her time in ditches and waiting to be burned at the stake this season, but Fergus’s explanation of how people in this century viewed a progressive female and her ability to heal were pretty dead on. It’s that kind of thinking that would make Claire wanting to set up shop a dangerous proposition in the first place, and what gets her in trouble so often in this overall story.

Regardless, this week we were introduced to one of Claire’s would-be clients, Margaret Campbell, whose brother Archibald ran into Claire at the apothecary and took advantage of her services. Deemed a “prophet” by her brother, Margaret foretold something to Claire, who saw only mental unrest. At this point in the story Archibald was clearly only looking for a magical tonic to keep his sister quiet during the tough sail to the West Indies, where he was hocking his sister’s predictions for a wealthy client. But these two will turn up again. Otherwise, what was the point of their introduction in the first place? And more importantly, what was it that Margaret saw in Claire’s future?

Ian Senior Returns

The cat is officially out of the bag that Claire isn’t dead after all, which means a return to Lallybroch was always imminent. Sure, you can’t blame Claire for not wanting to set up a home in a brothel, but then again she doesn’t know about Jamie’s wife the way viewers now do, thanks to that little reveal at the end. Next week’s return to Jamie’s former residence will inevitably cause strife, first because of that juicy tidbit and second because Ian Senior didn’t know that his son had run off to help his uncle do illegal and illicit things… like bed a server in the back of a print shop or hock bootlegged booze with dead bodies inside.

The Brotherly Duo

There’s tons to love about Fergus and Ian’s relationship, especially when you consider that these are two characters that grew up together at Lallybroch. Although the scene between the two of them discussing bedding tactics was a little dry considering the subject matter, it was a refreshing change of pace from the Claire and Jamie dramatics and helped audiences connect with both adult versions of the new(ish) characters. In the case of Ian it also established that he has a certain talent for bartering, something he certainly couldn’t learn at Lallybroch. That makes Jamie hiding his nephew’s whereabouts from his parents slightly more palatable, even if it’s a choice that’s easy to disagree with (ahem, Claire).

Outlander Season 3 2017

A Blaze of Glory

One of the more interesting aspects of watching a period show like “Outlander” is being reminded of just how much we take technology and social advances for granted. That was true during the fire scene, in which manual water pumps and volunteers worked together to take down the blaze, but it was also true in the dialogue between Jamie and Claire as they discussed Brianna wearing a bikini. For someone like Jamie the thought was appalling, but for Claire, the suit was an everyday thing; a normal part of that time period. Bringing the photo to the past may have been an error in judgment, or perhaps it was Claire’s inner feminist wanting to prove to Jamie that things do change. Whatever the motives, the photo led to some of the episode’s most interesting discussions, which still feel relevant today.

By the Book

It’s at this point in the season that many small yet subtle differences are coming out between the series and Diana Gabaldon’s third novel in the series, “Voyager.” Most of these departures are done for the sake of time and to avoid lengthy exposition, such as the case of Claire’s altered visit with Margaret Campbell or with the setup of Jamie’s wife by the episode’s end. There were other differences in the episode as well, such as Ian attempting to make a man out of himself with the server (rather than a prostitute) or Ian Senior actually discovering his son working for Jamie after the fire. Meanwhile, one of the biggest departures was in Claire killing the man in her room rather than Willoughby coming to aid as in the novel, further establishing Claire as an independent character who can take care of herself. That setup also allowed Willoughby and Claire more bonding time, as he stayed by her side during the subsequent “surgery.”

It’s also worth noting that the entire storyline with Jamie trying to evade the Crown during a routine booze run on the ships was cut, as writers have opted to focus more on the core relationships rather than those extraneous details. We still met Sir Percival, but with entirely fewer complications such as the introduction of Jamie’s “new wife” or talks of fake warnings and double crossings.

With so many characters and lots of great stories coming up, we’d say the episode succeeded as a result.

Grade: B+

Next week: Claire and Jamie return to Lallybroch but don’t receive the warm welcome they had hoped for. “Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz and on W Network in Canada.