Sunday, April 24, 2016

Outlander 2x03 Review: “Useful Occupations and Deceptions” (Bouton the Wonder Dog) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“Useful Occupations and Deceptions”
Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Claire wakes up alone in her bed. That image alone should have told me there was trouble between the couple who normally can’t stay away from each other in the bedroom. But Claire and Jamie are finding out that being spies is not as sexy as it sounds.

Jamie spends all day working at the winery and all night working his sources at a brothel. It seems like he hasn’t slept in days, and he’s been spinning his wheels with Prince Charles for so long that the prince is starting to notice his meeting with the finance minister keeps getting delayed.

Meanwhile, Claire is at home, running a household and… having tea. As I said last week, Claire has survived in the world by finding a place for her to work and making herself indispensable. So when she finds herself with nothing to do but spill tea with her new friends, it’s no wonder she is feeling adrift.

While telling her new young friend Mary about the birds and the bees, Claire finally remembers her family history and that, in an unsurprising reveal, Mary is Frank’s great, great, great (I’m not sure how many greats) grandmother. What is surprising is how the shy, seemingly insecure Mary will navigate her elderly fiancé, her flirtation with Alex Randall, and eventually marrying Alex’s brother Jack. Knowing how terrible Jack is, I am worried about little Mary’s future.

As Claire struggles with totally normal household problems, like the fact that her mortal enemy is alive and he needs to stay alive for a while longer so that her first husband can eventually be born, she gets a little moody and takes it out on her household staff. Which includes her lady’s maid, who is banging Murtagh.

Good for Murtagh for finding something good in France! After Claire admonishes him for stealing away the person who could mend her lace, Claire and Murtagh have a very sweet moment where Claire tells him that Black Jack is still alive. Murtagh says that Claire has to keep this a secret, and he’ll keep it a secret with her, or Jamie will run back to Scotland to really kill him dead, and likely get caught and hanged in the process.

This seems a little suspect to me. Do we really think Jamie, who knows he has a price on his head, would leave his pregnant wife to take a ship (which he hates) back to Scotland to face Jack Randall? It would maybe be his first instinct, but doesn’t it take weeks to get back to Scotland? He probably would cool off at some point and remember he has a baby on the way and a woman he loves. To me, this sounded like a stretch to get Claire to keep a secret and create some drama between her and Jamie.

But Claire and Jamie seem to have enough drama between them without having to create extra reasons that don’t totally make sense. When Claire goes to work at a charity hospital to feel useful again and use her healing skills to help people, Jamie is upset. And I get it. He’s been working day and night on a plan that she created. He hasn’t had a second to himself to feel useful or passionate about anything. In fact, he’s been feeling pretty useless because none of his plans are working in his favor. His meeting with the finance minister helped get Prince Charles financing faster, not stop the financing completely. Jamie can win at chess, but that’s about the only thing he’s mastered so far as a political operative.

So when Claire isn’t waiting for him when he comes home with yet another problem he has to solve, he gets mad. And, look, it’s not fair to expect Claire to do nothing but wait around for him – and I’m not thrilled with his dismissal of her healing as playing with potions. But to feel frustrated with their situation is very real and very human.

Claire, bold woman that she is, decides to keep helping at the hospital, even if Jamie doesn’t like it. Everything Claire does is bold, from the first week in France when they got a man’s ship burned to save the town from smallpox, to the very dresses she wears when she’s out and about. The jewel-toned purples and marigolds in Claire’s clothing set her apart from the pastels and natural colors the other women wear. She has always been an outsider, and in France she keeps working outside of conventional systems to get what she needs.

And it’s a good thing she did, or we wouldn’t have gotten to see BOUTON THE MAGICAL DOG. Bouton, the hospital’s pet dog, can smell patients to find their ailments. He is gentle and adorable and perfect, and why isn’t this entire series about Bouton?

Sorry, back to business: Jamie is stealing Prince Charles’ letters – or, rather, hiring a pickpocket to do it for him – and he needs some help to figure out the code the letters are written in. So Jamie turns to the German-speaking nun Claire works with who also happens to love music. She also is BFFs with the composer Bach. If all of this sounds a little convenient, that’s because it is. Just as convenient as everyone speaking English to Jamie and Claire, even though Jamie and Claire can speak perfect French. The rest of the episode is entertaining and beautiful, so these conveniences are less egregious than they would be in a lesser show, but hopefully the writers won’t rely on contrivances for much longer. Claire needs to stop keeping Black Jack a secret, like yesterday.

Un petit mot:
  • Wait, seriously, how did Jamie figure out that code? Starting at the third letter of the end of a section? What?
  • “His name’s Fergus. Actually its Claudelle, but we agreed that was not very manly.”
  • I am loving Claire and Murtagh’s blossoming friendship. I’m so glad Murtagh stuck around this season.


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