Outlander Recap: Bingeing Never Felt So Bad
With this week’s episode, “The Fox’s Lair,” Outlander has decided to be House of Cards on the Highlands. There is political intrigue, and then more political intrigue, wrapped in a lot of brogue, damp weather, and dim light.
Are you ready? (I’m not sure I am.) Here goes.
This show has always been kind of wonky about time, but apparently enough of it has passed that Jamie’s sister, Jenny, has yet another kid. There’s been a bairn-raising! We’re back in the Scottish Highlands, and I guess, what, a year or so has passed? After weeks of harpsichord and misery, the lush greenery of Scotland should be soothing—but sadly (if not surprisingly) the tranquility doesn’t last very long.
Toward the beginning of the episode, Claire tells Jamie, “They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” While this is the exact same line that countless movies, shows, and games have already used, it’s also the perfect description of watching this show. Everything is either terrible or complicated all the time. The good news, the only good news, is that Jamie and his thighs are back in his kilt.
The gang is hoping that life at Lallybroch will somehow ease the memories of all that transpired in France—but we know better. It might be a plague, or a trebuchet launching severed horse heads at the manor, or an 18th-century version of the Hunger Games, but something intensely dramatic is going to temper the bucolic nature of life at Lallybroch. And lo! Just as the Frasers are settling in to farm and family life, the mail arrives. The Frasers get a letter in which Charles Stuart states his rightful claim to the divine throne and forges Jamie’s signature as one of his supporters. Now, whether he likes it or not, Jamie has to join the Jacobite rebellion. In other words, literally everything they tried in France was an abject failure. There’s just no stopping a would-be idiot king.
It’s time for another road trip on horseback. Murtagh and Fergus, who is now part of the family, head off to meet up with Stuart. Jamie needs to rally the troops, starting with Lord Simon Fraser Lovat at Beaufort Castle, and Claire goes along for the—wait, sorry, who the hell is Lord Lovat? Turns out Jamie’s father was a bastard, the progeny of Lord Lovat and his kitchen maid. The old man is a bastard of the modern kind—philanderer, rapist, scoundrel, possessor of multiple wives. This one time, he tried to have Jamie and Jenny’s mother kidnapped to keep her and their father from marrying. Drama, drama, drama.
At Beautfort Castle, Jamie and Claire run into Colum Mackenzie, though the reunion isn’t exactly joyful—and it’s interrupted by Lovat himself, loud and brash and vulgar. The show tries to position him as an anti-hero, but it’s all very forced and the least plausible part of this episode. He quickly dismisses Claire (“enough breath wasted on women”) so the men can talk politics, and Claire rolls her eyes because old men be trippin’.
While Claire is roaming about the castle, she runs into Laoghaire Mackenzie, the young woman who jealously set Claire up for the witch trial. Laoghaire wants forgiveness; Claire isn’t having it. After some sharp words, she leaves the young woman in tears. I’ll tell you what—Claire is always at the ready to Vaseline her cheeks and take out her earrings to fight for Jamie.
At dinner that night, Jamie continues the politicking, trying to bring folks over to the Jacobite cause with fiery words about overcoming British oppression. Lovat’s son, Simon Jr., is another weakling in the manner of Charles Stuart, with indeterminate facial features and watery eyes. We’ll later learn he loves poetry. (He was born too soon, is all I am saying.) Simon tries to join in the manly war talk but is soon humiliated by his father, and the lad is left simpering into his wine. It’s awkward.
Honestly, the politicking in this episode is too much to keep up with, so here are the CliffNotes. Colum wants to stay out of the rebellion and wants Lovat to sign a neutrality agreement with the Mackenzies, hoping that not taking sides will preserve their way of life and trusting that the British will prevail. Jamie wants Lord Lovat to join the rebellion so they might overthrow the crown. Lord Lovat wants Lallybroch because he’s a greedy bastard who doesn’t really hold allegiances to anyone but himself. I want a nap.
Claire, who cannot ever stop fomenting intrigue, plots to have Laoghaire seduce Simon so Simon will develop a backbone and stand up to his father by taking Jamie’s side. How else can a man find his manhood than through a bit of seduction of a beguiling young virgin? “A woman has more to offer a man than her body,” Claire tells Laoghaire, directly contradicting herself. Girl, what?! Once, we were feminist.
In the end, only some of the endless political maneuvering bears fruit. Lovat signs the neutrality agreement, but Simon also stands up to his father—like, literally. In the wake of this bravado, Lord Lovat allows his son to lead their clan’s men into battle. Lovat gets to play both sides and, he hopes, keep his head. (Like I said, he’s a bastard.)
Despite their half-assed maneuvering at Beaufort Castle, Jamie and Claire are still optimistic, because they aren’t going to Charles Stuart empty-handed: They have a hundred men, and a simpering poetry lover with a brand-new backbone! Maybe they can change the future after all, Claire tells us in signature voiceover. Or not.
Look, I understand a television show needs a robust plot. The viewers must be kept engaged. But it’s time for all of us to admit that Outlander suffers from an excess of it. There is something significant (well, “significant”) happening in literally every scene—narrative decadence, if you will, without any palate cleanser, ever.
Not like we have much of a choice, though. The only thing to do moving forward is to keep on swallowing this surfeit of story. Maybe, at the end, it will all have been worthwhile.
Or we’ll throw up everywhere.
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