Episode 103 – The Way Out

I’ve talked a little bit about structure in my past two blogs, and one of the things I find interesting about Outlander is that they keep playing with plot structure and conflict in every episode. The first was flat and then spiked at the end. The second was more like a series of hills and valleys: conflict interspersed with narrative rest. This episode almost perfectly follows the “pyramid” plot model.

(here’s what one looks like if you’ve never seen it)

What’s even more interesting to me is that this episode is written as a murder-mystery, with Claire as the sleuth. Of course the deaths are accidental, and the villain isn’t a murderer so much as an interfering, dogmatic contributor to the deaths. Not complicit, just contributing. But it’s still structured that way. I don’t usually do full recap, but I write mysteries and so I found this episode particularly interesting that way and I’m going to break it down for fun. My usual commentary may or may not appear on this outline. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

  • Framing story (Claire’s series problem, aka “getting back to the stones”)
    1. Flashback to the train station
      1. Claire promises she’ll return to Frank, reminding us of her overarching conflict
    2. Claire interacts with Mrs. Fitz
      1. Daydream about how it’s a very bad idea to tell anyone her secret
        1. This is a foreshadowing of the major episode conflict between science and superstition/religion
      2. Determination that her best chance is to get on Colum’s good side
  • Surgery montage; Claire is working to achieve the above
  • Episode Plot Exposition
    1. Introduction of the mystery
      1. “Wee” Lindsay MacNeill has died after a trip to the Black Kirk
        1. Complication: everyone believes that devils killed the boy; it is now clear that superstition and deeply held religious beliefs will be a major point of conflict in the episode
      2. Tammas Baxter is introduced as Lindsey’s best bud and Mrs. Fitz’s nephew
    2. Reminder of the framing story
      1. Claire treats Colum
        1. This is important, because Colum has not been directly involved with her healing efforts so far. It’s one thing to be told that she’s a good healer. It’s another to have a relatively pain-free evening because she massaged his spine.
      2. Interlude with the romantic subplot
        1. Claire is attracted to Jamie, but happily married and planning to leave. She thinks the easiest solution to him being infatuated with her (which, at this point, I think she sees as a kind of Florence Nightingale thing) is to hook him up with someone else. Thus, pushing him at Laoghaire.
          1. This strategy backfires almost immediately – he treats Laoghaire as a child and ignores her
          2. This strategy will likewise cause major complications at a later date
        2. Jamie asks Claire to remove his bandages; they go to the surgery
          1. Jamie once again is playing a protective role. Book fans know that this is basically his default mode.
          2. Jamie reveals that he is comfortable with Claire, something we already guessed from the level of trust he showed when telling her his secrets in 102. But Claire is surprised at just how comfortable she is with him.
          3. Claire attempts to go back into nurse mode, where she feels most confident. This fails utterly, because it requires her to partially undress Jamie and put her hands on him. His arousal is palpable. The internet has universally decreed this interaction to be “eye sex.” I cannot disagree.
  • The Plot Thickens (aka, rising action)
    1. Claire meets with Geillis in the Castle Garden
      1. Geillis tells Claire about the coming exorcism, and warns her not to get involved. Oddly, this is the scene where Geillis feels least like an interrogator. She still asks Claire pointed questions, but many of them feel justified within the context of the scene.
    2. Claire gets involved anyway
      1. Examination of Tammas indicates poisoning
        1. Side-question: what would the symptoms of demonic possession be?
      2. The villain is introduced
        1. Did anyone else feel that Father Bain was a little over-the-top? He was very stereotypical to me. All he lacked was a black hat and mustache to twirl.
  • The sub-plot distracts our sleuth
    1. Claire sees Jamie and Laoghaire snogging in the corridor
      1. I feel this scene is the direct effect of Jamie getting hot and bothered by Claire touching him the night before. She isn’t available or willing, and Laoghaire clearly is. It’s a bit of a dick move on his part, but is something many of us have done at one point (and felt sorry for later). It isn’t fair to Laoghaire, but as Jamie says in the book, “he was burning.” The problem is, he’s burning for Claire, not Laoghaire, and by snogging the younger lass, he’s encouraging her to build all kinds of dream castles and romantic fantasies. Bad form, Jamie.
    2. Claire teases Jamie at dinner
      1. Footsies! (that’s all I have to say about that)
      2. Murtagh is the best person ever in life. I’m so glad they gave him this bit of dialogue instead of Auld Alec. Also, having seen Laoghaire at fifty (if she’s 16 in 1743, she would be 51 in 1778 when Jamie goes to ‘apologize’ to her at Balriggan) I can say this: no matter who said it, in what context, they are 100% correct. Laoghaire is still a petulant, childish drama queen even in middle age.
  • Another sub-plot becomes an opportunity to return to the mystery
    1. Claire visits Geillis to play with herbs
      1. More interrogation…sigh. This is not the Geillis I’m looking for.
        1. Side note: It was after this episode that my husband “guessed” that Geillis was also a traveler. Way to throw all of your cards on the table, writers.
      2. Crime and Punishment in the 18th century
        1. Arthur Duncan is a disgusting human being who is only in this story to be a living potty joke.
        2. If the choice is between ear-nailing or losing a hand, I choose “get me the hell out of here and back to the 21st
        3. Jamie arrives to save Claire from the Scottish Inquisition.
      3. In which our heroes make a very good team
        1. The “rescue” of the boy in the pillory is the first time Claire has trusted Jamie enough to ask him to do something for her that might be risky or get them into trouble. This action, more than anything, cements their growing friendship.
        2. Things work out well, and Jamie is game to help her again, even though Claire was busting his balls the night before.
  • “Will You Do Something For Me” part two, AKA: The Sleuth Finds a Clue
    1. Jamie reveals details of his misspent youth
      1. We find out some important things about Jamie in this scene, and there is a nice level of tension between Claire and Jamie. On the one hand, Jamie wants to show off and make her see him as worthy, but he’s also a proud man and is every inch a Highlander. The “Hieland Man” parts of Jamie will continue to be both attractive and exasperating to Claire for the rest of her life, even into the final scene of the latest book.
    2. Claire finds the poison
      1. I am somewhat dubious about the botanical similarities between wood garlic and lily of the valley, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.
      2. My favorite part of this scene is the way Jamie cannot take his eyes off of Claire, even when she’s spouting Latin names for things. And he is NOT talking about flowers when he repeats, “Lily of the Valley?”
  • The Germany slip is probably my favorite beat of the entire episode. I need to find out if the German language was, indeed, called that in the 18th century, or if people were said to speak Prussian/Bavarian/Hanoverian etc.
  • The sleuth confronts the villain
    1. side note- Father Bain isn’t really a villain. In storytelling terms, a villain is someone who does “evil” things. Or, if you don’t like the word evil, they do things that are against the established moral paradigm. Father Bain isn’t evil and he pretty much represents the established moral paradigm. What he is, is an antagonist. An antagonist obstructs the protagonist. These two creatures are not mutually exclusive, as many villains are also antagonists. But some “hero” characters function as antagonists, too.
    2. For science!
      1. Claire proclaims her cure – Father Bain tells her “No way, sister.”
        1. Claire spouts off a lot of reason and facts, but the only thing that really gets through is the word “poison.”
        2. Father Bain takes offense; apparently he doesn’t believe in poison?
      2. “This Is My Sister’s House”
        1. Fitz stands up to Father Bain.
        2. What is interesting to me is that Claire is offering hope, and it is that, more than anything, that causes Mrs. Fitz to defy Father Bain on Claire’s behalf. I’m not sure what it is about some very religious people who forget or choose to overlook that Jesus was all about love, hope, and forgiveness. He could throw down when he needed to, but in general his message was peace and promise, not damnation and death. I tend to agree with Claire that it’s St. Paul who messed a lot of things up. All of that doctrine in the epistles is where the Christian church starts to skew away from the Jesus whose friends included prostitutes and dirt-poor fishermen, and who was friendly with liars, cheaters, thieves, and lepers. But I digress.
  • “I Smell the Vapors of Hell on You”
    1. Claire has just made an unfortunate enemy.
      1. This scene is taking the place of the changeling from later in the book. That isn’t conjecture- Ron Moore said they cut that bit. And it makes sense to stretch the story out a little bit here at the beginning, and to build into all of these early episodes the little anachronistic behaviors that will one day pile up into the word “witch.” Once Jamie and Claire return to Leoch, the story has already gained momentum, and it wouldn’t make sense to slow the story down then. Although I very much hope they do the scene with the wild dogs. There’s just something over-the-top theatrical about a festering wound, especially when our heroine can’t help herself and shouts, “you need to let me treat that or you’ll die!”
      2. But, luckily, TV magic does its thing, and Tammas recovers within a few seconds.
  • Return to the framing story via a chat with the romantic subplot. I mean, Jamie.
    1. I love the way this little scene establishes the fact that Claire just goes to hang out with Jamie every day. They’re friends, and circumstance has made them allies. They are both outsiders, and have now shared trust. Jamie’s trusted her with his secrets since the beginning, but now they have shared secrets, too. And nothing is in any way sexual about this scene, which is another awesome thing. They are comfortable together, and Claire feels safe enough to blurt “I’m never getting out of here!”
    2. Claire spirals down into a depression. I can’t remember when she worries about the stones not working in the book, but it makes sense that she would start doubting that at this point, when she’s despairing about everything.
    3. Jamie is super cute, like a little puppy dog. “Didn’t you see me waving? I nearly re-injured my arm!” Then he translates a suspiciously appropriate song that some people have speculated might be based on Claire from an earlier time. In the book, there are lots of stories about fairy hills and women in the stones, and 200 years. The “Wife of Balnain” is in there, but it isn’t so “beat the audience over the head” perfect to Claire’s situation. I thought that was a little bit of hand-holding on the part of the show.
    4. Apparently the coincidences are a little much for Claire, too- it pushes her right over the edge into terrible melodramatic cliché. “I must get to the stones – or die trying!” Sigh. Just seeing the huge smile on her face would have been enough, people!

 

And there we have it. This was a very satisfying episode for me, as a mystery fan. It wasn’t chained to a mystery format (we do have some asides for subplots), and didn’t have the breakneck clue-to-clue pace that you see in mysteries, but it was still fun to see Claire as a sleuth. Mysteries often show up in the books, and I love the references that our modern characters make to Miss Marple and Holmes. That’s going to be a lot of fun once the TV series gets there. 🙂

Later today I’m going to draw up a plot diagram using this outline, and I’ll scan it in and update this post.

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