…here we are, stuck in the middle with Frasers.
Ok, ok, I know it doesn’t have the same ring but it’s true. After all, the Frasers are, once again, moving amongst those who plot and scheme for their own devices. The only difference this time is the locale, the amount of money changing hands and the society around them. Oh and the food. The food is much different.
This episode, ‘Useful Occupations and Deceptions’, is indicative of the typical Diana Gabaldon novel that has numerous storylines and activities going on (no wonder there are Outlander Companion books). In this episode all of these storylines and activities seem to fall under a central theme. Thank goodness for that because, well, as a reader and viewer, it can become extremely tiring trying to keep everything straight.
As this episode opens, we see Claire dealing with her husband’s absence. Having been out all night in a French brothel getting cozy with a self-righteous, megalomaniacal bastard, Jamie returns to change so he can take care of his day job: the running of his cousin’s business, the only job that actually pays the bills. I’m sure that if the Frasers could’ve located a non-profit to finance them during their Jacobite endeavor they wouldn’t have relied upon his cousin but, sadly, there wasn’t really time. Or that many non-profits when you think about it.
Claire is clearly worried but sometimes it’s very difficult to read series!Claire. At least with book!Claire, we have the benefit of her thoughts. With this visual medium, I can’t tell what she’s more worried about: stopping the rebellion; her frivolous days spent with Louise and Mary; her husband’s late night forays; or their current lack of a sex life.
Meanwhile, lack of sleep and an overdose of cheap perfume and lively spirits later, Jamie is a man more than willing to talk about what he is doing and his opinion on those around him. Claire, making sure to point out just how that cheap perfume is making her morning sickness just that much worse, tries to get him to slow down and take a deep breath. Interesting because she’s the one pushing him into this covert operation in the first place. She becomes annoyed (but, thankfully, she doesn’t express this annoyance with Jamie) because he asks her if she’s going to tea with Louise then rushes out the door. It’s clear she doesn’t want the trappings of the world around her because she laments that they aren’t her ladies.
Kids Say the Darndest Things
We next cut to the aforementioned tea and cards, with Louise and Mary Hawkins. Poor thing; my heart goes out to the young girl so innocent. Paris is a hard city to remain innocent.
“I can’t marry a Frenchman!”
“Why, is there something wrong with Frenchman?”
“You don’t know about Frenchman?” To pose this question after Claire’s is just asking…no BEGGING…of Louise’s attention.
After all, if you’re in a drawing room, drinking tea and playing cards, gossip is the perfect after tea mint…or during tea mint…or before tea mint… Inadvertently, Little Mary Hawkins got Louise’s snarky attention.
“Your husband is so gentle and so kind. He would never… I know he doesn’t trouble you in…that way.” Oh Mary. You have no idea. He’s troubled her many, many times in that way and I can say just how glorious it was… **takes a drag on cigarette**
“Mary, I believe we need to have a little talk.”
“Well, men don’t do that where I come from.”
“And where is that, the moon?” Oh Louise, we SO need to hang out. You and I must have an Outlander viewing party. Seriously. You bring the summer sausage and I bring the whisky and
haggis frog legs cheeseburgers. (Hey, I don’t live in France or Scotland. I want a cheeseburger!)
“Seaford. In Sussex.” CUE OMINOUS MUSIC. Well, in this case, dramatic zoom in. As we see all throughout the novels, people connect quite nicely and quite extraordinarily conveniently. Makes for a better flowing novel. Remember when Claire wondered where she heard Mary’s name?? Yeah, see, there’s this book she saw in that library back with that odious, and quite inconvenient, first husband of Claire’s.
What a pretty little bow the events are tied together with. Now it becomes…how does Mary end up with Black Jack Randall, especially when we saw her flirting with Alexander in Versailles? And…FINALLY…Claire realized that Black Jack Randall HAD to survive in order to continue family line. It’s ok Claire…we’re not all quick on the uptake.
Love Shack, That’s Where It’s At…
In dramatic fashion, Claire rushes home to find that Suzette, that girl so eager to be of help, suddenly neglects her position. Outraged, Claire barges into her room to find her trusty maid, um, servicing her husband’s godfather. Personally I say more power to you Murtagh. After all, you had to listen to the noises the newlywed couple made; you had to watch nipple dresses without touching; you had to overhear about third ribs and bare honeypots. Why shouldn’t he have a bit of the action himself? Suzette is quite willing and, from our viewpoint, able.
Well, this doesn’t sit well with the lady of the house and she storms off in embarrassment and shock. Murtagh appears in his rumbled and, quite frankly, yummy self, only to be castigated by Claire. I swear, Duncan Lacroix has an eyebrow that says more than all the flapping that Bonnie Chuckie says. Those tall, dark and silent types. To her benefit, Claire quickly apologizes and confesses that BJR is still alive.
Murtagh then has the best line of the entire show… “Jesus wept. Randall really is the Devil’s spawn.” Yes, yes he really is. Both instantly agree to not tell Jamie but…I have a feeling that won’t last long.
Meanwhile, as Claire is dealing with Downton Abbey down at the homestead, the man of the house is beating the crap out of Pepe LePew (or Minister of Finance Joseph Duverney but Pepe LePew is fitting) at chess. As they play Jamie plays the earworm and tells Pepe that the King Louis has no intention of helping the Jacobite cause. They can’t talk about it because, oddly enough, Duverney actually seems to hold his title with a bit of respect (seems a bit out of character but ok, I’ll go with it). Jamie suggests a meeting at the office…err…Maison Elise. After all, the men seem to get the most work done while getting lap dances from the hoors. Duverney, the love monster that he is, hasn’t been in awhile because his wife forbades him. The spirit is willing but Duverney’s flesh is oh so weak.
The Importance of Safe Sex (Or…How I got a job at the local hospital)
Like the good mistress that she is, Claire goes to Master Raymond’s shop to pick up something for Suzette. I should’ve known something bad was happening when the blood began weeping down my living room walls…
Le Comte is just leaving the apothecary shop. Well, this ruffles the mistress’s feathers and she calls Raymond out for cavorting with his enemy (hmmm…yeah Claire. It’s not like you’ve never done that. Hello Pot. I’m Kettle. Can I call you black?). Raymond, who really seems to know Claire better than she knows herself, reminds her that it’s sometimes necessary. (I feel I must say that, while the Comte is a bad man…he’s HAWT. I mean, seriously. Who can rock that powdered wig any better? Call it my soft spot for baddies.)
While discussing the best herb used for contraception, Claire admits that she’s becoming more conventional and she’s losing herself. Honestly? This seems like such a contrived reason just to segue to the hospital. Being conventional, in that time, isn’t a death sentence. Granted, it’s boring, trivial and unfulfilling but…Claire needs to think about what she’s trying to do. They’re trying to covertly stop a rebellion. As she later says, any little thing you can gleam could help the cause. I’m starting to get a bit peeved by Claire thinking she can do whatever she wants without having to follow her own rules. That’s just my opinion though; I’m hungry and ready for lunch so I may be a bit grouchy.
Hey, I Thought It Was Mountain Dew
Murtagh, with misgivings, takes Claire to the hospital mentioned by Raymond. There she meets with Mother Hildegarde, the matron of the charity hospital, and her faithful Cairn terrier, Bouton. Even Bouton’s name is awesome, really. Or maybe I just like the sound of it.
Anyway, Hildegarde, at first, thinks Claire is simply a lady of fashion but, once she diagnosed a woman with diabetes, she was given better tasks than the emptying of the bedpans she was doing when she first started. Incidentally, the tasting of the urine would’ve made me more squeamish had I not seen it done on a House, M.D. episode. See what you can learn from Hugh Laurie (that’s a whole ‘nother discussion)? The more you know.
I Shall Call Him Benedict Arnold
While Claire is off drinking urine and drawing blood (sounds like the beginning of some bad vampire fanfiction), Jamie is drinking and trying to negotiate a meeting between Chuckie and Pepe when…
…it would seem that Chuckie has enlisted the aid of several wealthy and highly influential members of the British aristocracy with just enough money to broker his promised revolution. This, of course, being news to Jamie, tries to hide his droopy dog expression from Chuckie but Pepe, clearly surprised, intrigued and knowing he will have to speak with his young chess prodigy later, leans over and asks for more information. That might have been the end of it but when Chuckie claims that should France support the Scots in this rebellion and they are successful, England will ally with France. Well, that seems to overrule all of the reasons Pepe was siding with Jamie in the first place and, like the Benedict Arnold that he is, Pepe looks interested as he agrees to go to the King with his information. Jamie, just trying to save face, goes along with the happy feelings at the table though he’s scrutinizing as he’s watching the proceedings.
That night, clearly disturbed by what happened and not knowing what to do, Jamie goes home but can’t find Claire. It’s clear he wants to discuss matters with her but, as she suddenly feels useful, she’s all talk about lancing boils and drinking urine.
I must stop here and consider what is about to happen. It’s clear that an argument is about to break out. This couple, married mere months, really have no experience with BEING a couple, either with each other or with anybody else. Yes, Claire was married but the majority of her marriage was spent separated, fighting a war. They were separated before they could even start growing their marriage. And Jamie had never even had a courting relationship (that thing with Annalise doesn’t count because he dueled someone else in order to get the privilege of courting her) before he married Claire. Suddenly, they have to work together as a couple, these two extremely strong willed people, with different expectations and certainly different viewpoints, and because the marriage doesn’t have a strong foundation of communication between the two, expectations are left undiscussed. He wants to come home and talk about what was happening and she wants to go off, to do whatever she feels she needs to be fulfilled, with him being happy for her. I can see where both parties feel this way. And its certainly part of a healthy marriage, to be able to go off separately then return to themselves afterwards. But the right communication is so vital to the survival of the relationship.
Communication seems to be the central theme in this episode. The communication breakdown between newlyweds. The communication of a den of schemers. The lack of communication between society and young ladies about to be married. The non-verbal communication between from the insightful and the evil.
The observations of a lady’s maid and her mistress’s boudoir.
The relationship between Jamie and Claire is fractured, even further, for the time being.
The Artful Dodger
Jamie escapes to the Maison Elise, where he notices a servant boy with sticky fingers. Chasing him down, he learns his name is Fergus and Jamie suddenly has another idea.
“I’m not interested in your methods but I am interested in you.”
“Hey, I’m no whore.”
“I don’t want that either.”
“I want to offer you a job, ye wee fool.”
I have a feeling this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (I have read the other books but I will leave it right here). I can’t wait for more wee Fergus airtime and, when Claire wakes up find him in her house, the results are pure gold. I think he’s, rather reluctantly, already started to worm his way into her heart. It’s gotta be the huge eyes.
Claire, indignant at first when Jamie’s plan is explained, sees the merit of it. Of course, now it would be considered mail tampering and they could all be sent to Leavenworth. However, right now, that’s neither here nor there.
Mister Postman, Look and See, Is There a Letter in Your Bag for Me
As the days continued, Fergus and Murtagh perfected Fergus’s letter-stealing talents and the boys worked hard in deciphering what the letters said. However, as everything was in code it wasn’t easy to decipher. In one of the letters was what looked to be sheet music and Murtagh, having met Hildegarde when he took Claire to the hospital, mentioned her to Jamie.
The audience finally gets to know Bouton better…and I’m seriously loving this little guy. A terrier with the ability to sniff out infection, he is not only Hildegarde’s loyal companion but vital to the care of the patients. And he’s just pretty darned cute. After correctly diagnosing an infection, Jamie appears with the sheet music. Lying to Mother Hildegarde (tsk, tsk) about the nature of how he obtained it, she sat down to apply her musical prodigy knowledge.
Well, it just so HAPPENS that Johann Sebastian Bach is a good friend of hers and sends her music, err inventions, all the time. (The world of Outlander is really, REALLY small, isn’t it?? **SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE READ ALL THE BOOKS….it is about to get ridiculously smaller down the road). Isn’t this just convenient? So, because Mother Hildegarde spotted the key changes, they were able to apply the key changes to decipher it.
It would seem the little English worm was correct… £40,000 will be made available to the cause. Not enough to fund a war but enough of a bargaining chip to get more. At the end of the letter is an S which Jamie assumes is a signature…
Sandringham. The little turd keeps popping up when you least expect, or want, him. They decide to throw a party to get everybody together. A scheme, if you will. But guess what that means?? That means that Sandringham will spill the news about Black Jack. Murtagh urges Claire to tell Jamie but, of course, in order to keep the suspense, she doesn’t communicate (there’s that central theme again) as they celebrate their discovery of the plan.
I have a very bad feeling that Jamie will learn of Randall’s continued existence the hard way.