Outlander 03×07 Crème de Menthe – by Lenny9987
My immediate reaction to Crème de Menthe upon finishing it was that it was a solid, functional episode. Having rewatched it, it’s come to encapsulate everything I love and hate about watching this show having read the books first. I spend so much of my first watches waiting and anticipating certain moves from the books that it can keep me from really appreciating some of the changes that the show has and is making as it adapts the material. The changes I want to see are obvious and appreciated right away, but others take that second viewing to remind myself that while something might be different from the book, it is consistent with how the show has handled something (or someone) or to grasp the full extent of how something altered plays out; when it’s a change, I might be able to guess at how it will unfold but I don’t know the way I do with the books at this point so there’s still chances to surprise me. Upon rewatching, there’s so much more that I liked and appreciated than just the fact they got rid of plots I find tedious and ridiculous or reworked problematic depictions of characters so they make me cringe less.
Crème de Menthe does a phenomenal job of streamlining the plots from a section of the book where they get thrown at the reader thick and fast. It takes most of the rest of the book to truly untangle them and understand the varying levels of deception and red herrings. I genuinely appreciated the way that the show cut out some of the unnecessary drama and confusion to make elements clearer and less cluttered. Shuffling elements a bit like the fire at the print shop and changing the death of the excise man help give some of these events greater weight and less the feeling of being distractions meant to emphasize the chaos of Claire’s journey back. While I love Voyager and Jamie and Claire’s reunion, most of my interest in it as a reader tends to fall a bit later after the explosive events at Lallybroch because that’s where and when they actually deal with the emotional baggage they each carry. It’s only in my latest reread and in watching the show’s adaptation that I realize just how much the novel relies on Claire telling the reader that she and Jamie had been changed by their 20 years apart rather than actually showing it (until that explosive fight at Lallybroch, anyway). Reading through the Edinburgh chapters, there’s so much else going on, it’s hard to feel that either of them have truly changed that much. Some of that is probably because readers are stuck in Claire’s perspective but I love the way that the show is giving a broader view of the cracks 20 years apart have made in their relationship. Their doubts and fears are much closer to the surface for us to see, in part because the plot distractions have been cleared away and/or bent to serve that tension.
Sir Percival and Jamie’s Smuggling Ring
This is probably the plot from Edinburgh that has been streamlined the best from the book so far. In the book, Sir Percival is much more like the Duke of Sandringham playing games with Jamie and getting other people to do his dirty work. It makes understanding even the basic nature of Jamie’s enterprise difficult until much later. It’s sort of presented as a mystery that’s unfolding but having it played straight for the show (where there isn’t the time to get into so many twists and turns) works infinitely better for me. The threat is more immediate to everything and every one because the connections between events is more direct. The altered death of the excise man and Claire’s attempts to save him also bend that plot towards serving the story of Jamie and Claire’s relationship. They’ve disagreed before on many occasions but this is the first real test since Claire’s return and it shows them both how much harder the reality of being together again while holding on to the selves they’ve become in each other’s absence is going to be. Claire was always a healer but now she has her oath as a doctor weighing on her conscience and driving her actions. She also has a much greater depth of knowledge and experience in terms of how to carry out her healing. She doesn’t hesitate or question herself, she acts on instinct and muscle memory. It’s a level of confidence Jamie hasn’t seen in her to this extent before and there’s a greater weight to it as well. She doesn’t just want to help someone who’s injured because she can or wants to, she is compelled to help them because she feels a responsibility to do so. It’s a change in Claire that throws Jamie at first but he does a relatively good job of adjusting to and when the man dies despite her efforts, he tries to comfort her even though he can’t completely empathize with what she’s feeling in that moment.
On Claire’s side, the failure to save the man carries with it the true limitations she has in the 18th century, not just because of her sex but because of what she has at hand. She’s overcome so much sexism to gain that medical education and earn her place in the operating room and here, even when she doesn’t face as much opposition in terms of being allowed to practice on a patient, she is limited severely by the materials at hand. As she tells Jamie, for fourteen years she’s dedicated her life to medicine and healing; it’s been the dominant part of her sense of self and where she’s drawn most of her strength. But here she is having finally found Jamie and she’s lost the first “patient” she’s tried to treat and she knows it’s not because of a lack of skill or knowledge. Through her visit and assessment of Margaret Campbell and then her suggestion to Jamie that she could open her own establishment or treat patients out of the print shop, it becomes clear that Claire is struggling to reconcile the way her coming back through the stones is impacting that part of herself that has become so important in the 20 years of separation. She doesn’t want to sacrifice an ounce of that capability into which she’s invested so much of her time and energy.
In last week’s episode and this week’s, both Jamie and Claire have talked about how much they are willing to risk, have risked, or are willing to sacrifice in order to be together. Claire’s brush with the reality that some of her effectiveness as a doctor will have to be sacrificed if she’s to stay in the 18th century is one of several tests to those declarations both have made.
We only got brief glimpses of Jamie’s enterprises in Edinburgh during last week’s episode –– Madam Jeanne, Jamie paying off Sir Percival, his conversation with Fergus, the appearance of Young Ian –– but in this week’s episode we see just how tenuous that enterprise actually is, how close it all is to crumbling… and then we watch it slowly crumble as Jamie tries desperately to hold it all together. While Claire let’s her opinion on them continuing to live in a brothel (even if it would save them money on rent) be known, she doesn’t express too much surprise or dismay over the rest of Jamie’s illicit activities… until he lies to Ian about having seen Young Ian. Similarly, the allusions to Jamie’s other wife are heavily present in this episode and his conversation with Ian following his brother-in-law’s disbelief over Claire’s return show how far Jamie’s willing to go to try and hold things together. Lying to corrupt agents of the crown is one thing but lying to the people who mean the most to him is another. Of course with Sir Percival’s suspicions and pressure, Jamie’s smuggling is becoming more dangerous and then with the fire destroying the print shop, Jamie’s enterprises in Edinburgh are pretty thoroughly demolished by the end of the episode. But it doesn’t feel like the willing sacrifice he told Claire he would make to be with her; it feels like bitter disappointment and failure.
The sacrifice Jamie made in sending Claire through the stones –– the opportunity to help raise their child –– is another one that comes up during the fight that begins (but is interrupted) in this episode. That was another sacrifice that was both willing and unwilling. He would lay down his life to protect Claire and their child and that’s the sacrifice he thought he was making when he sent her through the stones. But what he instead sacrificed was the chance to know and raise his child. Claire’s scolding over lying to Ian and her bringing up his practical inexperience as a parent poke at a wound that will never heal. Though Jamie says he’d sacrifice everything to be with Claire again, he’s made sacrifices before that twisted into something he wasn’t prepared for.
They are both struggling to reconcile their expectations with reality. They’ve found ways to suppress the pain they felt during those 20 years and seem to hope that simply being together again will make it go away, but all it’s doing is releasing the hold they have on that pain and letting it reach the surface. It’s something they both long to lay at someone else’s feet and the only person who they can do that with is the other while at the same time, the last person they want to blame is the other, especially when they’ve spent so long clinging to the love they shared and building up their memories of each other. The tension between dismissing the pain of the past 20 years and remaining the people they are because of it is making them both act defensively when what they need is to work together to air and acknowledge their pain so they can move past it (and here’s hoping a healthy chunk of that gets properly dealt with next week and that the show doesn’t decide to really drag this out).
The Best Brother I Never Had: Fergus and Young Ian
While I enjoy the angst of Jamie and Claire being forced to face and navigate their new reality, what I enjoyed most in the episode on the lighter side of things was the relationship between Fergus and Young Ian. I was again completely bowled over by Domboy’s portrayal of adult Fergus and the way he and Young Ian interact with each other that put a dopey grin on my face. I’m not entirely sure what the show is going to do about Young Jamie and Michael Murray, but in book canon, both are a bit more straight-laced and proper while Young Ian is the troublesome Murray lad, always getting into trouble. In the show I get the feeling that Young Ian looked up to Fergus and related to him more than he did his older brothers. Fergus doesn’t have the same background or stake in doing things according to the letter and/or spirit of the law. And of course Fergus learned some of what he knows from Jamie. They’re simultaneously the Three Musketeers and the Three Stooges. I loved Young Ian turning to Fergus for an assessment of Auntie Claire –– and then refusing to believe the rumors Fergus tells him insisting (after only barely having met her) that Auntie Claire wouldn’t kill a man without good reason. It’s like Fergus is giving Young Ian lessons in how to ship Jamie and Claire. Fergus’ advice to Young Ian concerning lasses –– and Young Ian’s earnest and blunt execution of that advice –– was hilarious and soooo sweet. I want to see so much more of this relationship, especially how Fergus reacts to Ian being kidnapped (and then later, how Ian reacts to Fergus’ marriage).
Other Random Thoughts and Squees:
–– I love how they’re adapting Mr. Willoughby for the show. The level of respect between him and Claire already is downright heartwarming. He may not understand all of what she does as a healer or why, but he does understand the how and why of her personal investment in her patients, whomever they may be.
–– Ian meeting Claire again and talking about how he and Jenny grieved for her was the most moving scene in the episode. The disbelief on his face and Jamie’s nod to assure him it is real, then the way he closes his eyes and hugs her back. That single fucking tear! It brought me all the way back to Lallybroch and the way he and Claire commiserated over having to deal with the Fraser stubbornness. I want so much more of this relationship!
–– Seriously, Young Ian’s “tell me what you like/want and I’ll do it” attitude was just the sweetest and cutest thing ever. I also adored his attempts to stomp the fire out before realizing, oh shit this is way out of hand.
–– While I greatly appreciate that they got rid of the serial killer aspect of the Campbell storyline, I still think too much time has been spent on it for whatever the new payoff ends up being down the line. Does nothing for me in the book and was bored through those scenes in this episode.
–– I definitely want Claire to tell Jenny the whole truth in next week’s episode. There have been enough changes from the book so far that I’m not as convinced it won’t happen as I might have been before. I want both Jenny and Ian to know the truth about the stones and Claire (and probably Bree too).
–– Also you can’t name-drop Ned Gowan twice in two episodes if you don’t have Bill Patterson in 3×08. That would just be cruel.
–– I can see us maybe getting a parallel to Claire’s speech in 1×16 but from Jamie sometime soon. If/when Claire expresses doubt, Jamie coming out with something similar to “I’ll have you any way I can, always” or “it’s the only way I can explain how this is possible, why you’re here.” It’ll depend on how they handle the revelation, fight, and reconciliation.
Thanks to Lenny for allowing us to post her wonderful review.