Last week left Claire in quite the predicament. Having earned Dougal”s tentative trust, he was now willing to put her into more danger. But that also meant she”d finally get out of Castle Leoch and closer to the standing stones that might take her home. I assume she figures there are IKEA-like instructions carved somewhere to get the stones to work at will AND transport her the correct direction in time?
So it was with that level of optimism, Claire loaded up with Clan MacKenzie to go collect the “Rent.”
Over a gorgeous vista of a quiet lake between two distant peaks, our heroine recites a passage from “Absence, Hear Thou My Protestations” because reciting verse from a not-yet-born poet would render the time/space continuum asunder. For a moment I wonder why Claire has taken to speaking aloud, but oh it”s to give us an excuse to meet a new character.
Enter Budget Ben Franklin, the tax collector. Budget Ben – also known officially as Mr. Gowan – is also a fan of 17th century wordsmith John Donne. Sadly the real author of “Absence” will have to wait until the 21st century to reclaim his poem.
Okay, that was a Google rabbit hole I didn”t mean to trip and fall down. Focus.
The academic discussion is brought crashing down as the boys of Clan MacKenzie create a ruckus. In the downtime between tenants, they choose to wrestle. Scottish Santa is on hand to pass out hard liquor instead of gifts. And Budget Ben let”s Claire know they”re all goading one poor kid by implying he should engage in relations with this sister. Is her name Cersei?
Sensing an intellectual equal, Claire chooses to ignore the testosterone laden fisticuffs and follows the tax collector. He gives us some exposition about how the 18th-century Scottish IRS works but I can”t focus because all I want is for Claire to give me her coat! It”s gorgeous and if Starz has a lick of sense, they”ll be rolling out an official line of clothing and accessories post-haste.
Throughout Budget Ben”s explanation he is coughing so hard I assume he has consumption and should head for the Moulin Rouge but wait, no it”s just asthma. Claire gives him a pipe full of thorn apple to relive the symptoms, which obviously draws Dougal”s attention. And ire? He seems way too pissed off that she”d ease an old man”s discomfort. WHY DO YOU HATE CLAIRE FOR DOING THE JOB YOU KIDNAPPED HER TO DO?
On the road, Claire sticks by her new BFF Budget Ben because at least he”ll talk to her and seems to have a grasp on words with more than three syllables in them. He regales her with tales of how the highlands used to be more dangerous when he was a young lawyer. He craved adventure in a time when men were men. He actually says this, “When men were men,” because I guess daily fearing for your life from the British army is child”s play. So the longing for the legendary nonexistent ‘wild west” of our ancestors is centuries old?
Oh my God, we”re camping again. This is too much. Claire is a saint. And a magician. It”s the only explanation for how she”s dressing herself, doing her hair, and staying clean without any help. It took Mrs. Fitz like an hour to get Claire presentable, but somehow she”s been using fashion witchcraft to change outfits alone.
Not that anyone notices how she looks. Claire was invited along but is now being shunned like she invited herself. God, this clique is worse than The Plastics. At least the Mean Girls have the decency to throw shade at you in a language you can understand, so you”ll be properly insulted. How is she supposed to know how much you hate her? Oh, I guess giving her the rabbit version of the Crypt Keeper to eat will suffice. At least Jamie took pity and gave her edible bread.
Look, I”m not gonna tell the MacKenzie”s how to haze their new toy, but if you suspect this chick of being a British spy, maybe don”t piss her off in a place where she could poison you all and no one would find you until spring?
Claire huffs away from the group because, honestly, her tenuous grasp on not just murdering them all in their sleep is slipping. Jamie follows her and I think he”s going to give her a pep talk on how to deal with men several hundred years before the advent of feminism. He tries but, bless his heart, fumbles at the one yard line. He basically says the men don”t trust her and why should they? He knows she obviously tried to run away. Jamie, honey…does Scottish nobility adhere to the Disney”s Beast school of “guest” definitions? Because if you”re going to invite her to be your “guest” at least have the common decency to break out the dancing silverware.
Sometime later, Dougal and Co. have entered Hobbiton. I mean, the first village from which they will collect rent. Claire is still hanging around Budget Ben because he”s the nearest thing to a gentlemen for 10,000 miles. It doesn”t take long for her to get bored. So she”s off to explore.
Tweedle Dumb – now properly ID”d as Angus but the moniker stays because honestly just look at him – is absolutely terrible at guard duty.
It doesn”t take Claire long to find her people. And by her people, I mean the village women. They aren”t exactly friendly, but after traveling for weeks with a posse of men carrying an undercurrent of menace and distrust, it”s a step up. At least Claire can relax her guard for a minute. Side note, why do 18th century dresses have more practical pocket than 85% of the clothes in my closet? This is an outrage!
The village women invite Claire to help set the dye in a newly create swatch of fabric…using hog piss. Well, when in Rome. Or Scotland. Claire doesn”t even blink. She might not know the words to the Pig Pee working song, but she”s been covered in worse bodily fluids. Joining in wins her the tacit approval of the other women.
After a hard day”s work pulling the curtain back on the disgusting process of fashion, Claire and her new friends settle in for a drink. The men might think they”re the only ones who can handle their alcohol, and that”s just the way the ladies want to keep it. The drinking finally loosens enough tongues for Claire to get some pertinent information about Craig Magoon. According to local legend, the fairies live up there and it”s at least three days away as the crow flies. But since Claire is human, and not a warg, I”m guessing it”s more like a week of walking. Drat.
Just when Claire is about to refill the bucket for round two of arts and crafts, Tweedle Dumb barges in. He is super mad she managed to sneak away under cover of afternoon by getting up and walking away like a normal person. He”s so mad in fact, he”s pushing Claire and grabbing her arm. You can see the hard lines of the women”s mouths as they watch; they know it”s a part of everyday life to watch a woman get manhandled and what can they do? Rise up and beat the shit out of the men? Well, yes. But they don”t.
Even tipsy – seriously what do these people make their alcohol out of? – Claire is having none of his guff. In a flash of rebellion, she unties a goat that was given away as rent, determined to return it to it”s owner to feed their baby. The whole village gathers to watch as Dougal and Claire exchange words over whether or not Scottish Santa is heartless enough to let a baby starve. Just when I think Claire is about to go looking for another chair to beat his head in with, a stranger appears.
A young blacksmith, speaking without a Scottish accent, attempts to stand up for Claire. He wants to know if she”s all right but he”s decidedly outnumbered and it only takes a moment before Clan MacKenzie are touching their guns and getting their snapping fingers ready to take on the Sharks. The blacksmith backs down and returns to his hovel where – IN LINE OF SIGHT OF EVERYONE – he puts on his British red coat. Dude, no. Patience is a virtue.
That night, everyone gathers in the village town hall for some sort of meeting. Dougal is speaking in Gaelic and riling everyone up about something and just when Claire and the audience have stopped paying attention, Dougal rips open Jamie”s shirt to expose his scars. What in the name of sweet Christmas is wrong with you, Dougal!? RUDE.
Oh. It was a ploy to get more money out of the peasants. The peasants that already gave away the goat that was feeding their children. Classy move, guys.
The next day, Claire sits by the river while the men break camp. How many outfits did she pack for this trip? And where is she keeping her trunk? Does she have a bag of holding somewhere? No time to wonder because Budget Ben has joined her. But the honeymoon is over. Claire knows he”s helping Dougal skim money from the tenants to line his own pockets. WHICH SHE TELLS TO GOWAN. Girl, no. You have to stop letting potentially dangerous people know that you know their darkest secrets. Do you want to lose your head? Because this is how you do it.
Claire narrates and the caravan moves on. Somehow, despite gaining Dougal”s trust, it has now eroded. But why? Oh, I don”t know. Maybe if you hadn”t told his cronies you knew they”re coercing money out of people, they”d still think you were dumb enough to trust? I swear…
Suddenly, a fire. The group comes over a hill to find bandits attacking a homestead. Only it isn”t bandits, it”s the cops. The local gossip said these people were helping the British, so obviously that is clear-cut evidence and they should be robbed blind and left destitute. Surely Dougal will put a stop to this obvious police corruption…or he could just demand his cut of the profits and move on. Scottish Santa is on his own naughty list, y”all.
Back at camp, which looks suspiciously like the camp from earlier in this episode, the boys are enjoying their ill-gotten spoils. When Tweedle Dumb offers Claire stolen foodm she declines with all the haughty judgement he deserves. Immediately the gloves come off and the crazy comes out. Who pulls a knife on someone for saying they don”t want anything to eat? Insanely insecure men who are just waiting for a reason to hurt someone, that”s who.
Once more, our heroine huffs off and once more Jamie follows. Claire says Angus can kiss her English ass. Jamie says the men don”t trust her. This is starting to feel like the world”s most futile Möbius loop. To add icing to this misunderstanding cake, Jamie finishes by saying Claire shouldn”t judge things she doesn”t understand but then proceeds to walk off instead of, you know, explaining the situation to her.
It”s almost as if he WANTS this comedy of errors to continue until Claire kicks someone in the junk.
Another day, another village. Only this one is in a blue filter so we know they”re on hard times. But in case the visual clues aren”t enough, Budget Ben keeps sadly shaking his head at the pitiful amounts of rent. But in case the audience still isn”t sure, the last peasant bring his child who is either on the verge of death or zombie with him to plead poverty because the British have taken everything. Dougal, in a surprise turnaround, gives the man a bag of grain and declares everyone will eat well with Clan MacKenzie tonight.
Claire is disgusted by this blatant bait-and-switch to get their money. With more righteous indignation than self-preservation, she confronts Dougal to let him know he isn”t Scottish Santa…more like Scottish Krampus. Dougal looks super confused and Budget Ben breaks in to explain in slow, small words. Which is a red flag that Claire has something wrong. I mean, he might as well have done a wink and a nudge and said, “Ladies, am I right?”
That night, Claire FINALLY get”s her “13th Warrior” on and begins to parse some of the Gaelic. All she understands is “Long live the Stuart” but that”s all we need to be forcibly flung forward through time where Frank is waiting for us with exposition. Oh Frank, don”t ever change.
Remember back when Claire was still in the 1940s and the priest was talking about Jacobites? Yeah, turns out we”ve been traipsing around the highlands with them for weeks. Dougal isn”t fleecing the locals to buy an expensive beard trimmer, he”s gathering funds to raise an army. A doomed army.
Dun dun duuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnn.
That night, Dougal and Jamie get into a fight. Our heroine sneaks over to spy. Basically Jamie is like, “Can you stop ripping my shirt? Or at least get me a trick shirt so I don”t have to mend it every night? Or, you know, stop humiliating me in public every damn night?” To which Dougal replies, “Naw.” and leaves. Jamie takes his aggression out on a tree.
The tables have turned. Now it is Claire who comes to futilely comfort Jamie. They”re both stuck in unfortunate situations that could be remedied by Dougal having an untimely fall into a gorge but neither of them seem willing to take the obvious step. Cowards. The two quietly eye-sex each other before going their separate ways. If I might suggest? Orgasms mitigate stress, you guys. Just saying.
Still undecided if she should warn the Scotsmen, or if they”d even believe her, Claire”s rumination are interrupted the next day by two decomposing farmers strung up on makeshift crosses. Lovely. Each man has a “T” for traitor cut into his stomach and I half-look to see if they”re pointing the way to Meereen. Scottish Krampus sets his jaw; collecting taxes will have to wait, these men need a funeral.
Side note: Claire”s white fur-trimmed coat is such a stark contrast to the men”s clothing. I will never not love that visual.
Looking for a silver lining in the tragedy of two dead men? The brutal crucifixions give Dougal a new way to raise funds for the militia, leaving Jamie with his shirt – and dignity – intact at the next town.
That night, Claire awakens to an ominous thumping in the distance. So of course she decides to investigate. Our heroine only has to learn a lesson once though, and promptly arms herself with a candelabra. Wait, was she sleeping in her clothes? In a corset? Girl, no.
I am 800% ready for her to club someone in the face, but no. It”s only Jamie, reenacting his sexy speed bump routine. Turns out he feared a drunken villager might have tried to have his way with Claire and out of concern, decided to sleep in front of her door. And they say chivalry is dead.
Being the modern woman she is, Claire thinks it”s ridiculous for Jamie to sleep outside her door like a dog and invites him in. He is immediately distraught for her honor. Dude, what? She”s been alone on the road with a dozen men for weeks. There”s no honor left to besmirch. Just as I”m thinking this, Claire pretty much says the same thing. Bless her. But no, somewhere in the Rulebook of Honor, it only counts as if there”s a door and a roof, I guess?
Since he won”t come in, Claire at least gives him a blanket so he won”t be cold. The camera closes in on Jamie”s hand brushing over Claire”s thumb and the sexual tension is thick enough to choke on. So of course they just eye-sex each other for 10 seconds before awkwardly saying goodnight. Look, I”m gonna say it. You can”t cheat on your husband if he isn”t even a twinkle in his great-great-grandfather”s eye Claire. Live a little.
In the morning, Jamie and Claire act awkward enough at breakfast that everyone in the village has to think they”re secretly boning. Jamie runs off like a schoolgirl with a crush and Claire drifts back to Budget Ben, conveniently ignoring the Red Kilts™ that are obviously talking shit about her. Claire decides to play Jacobite Cassandra and tries to warn Budget Ben of how terribly this is going to end for them. Claire, no.
Obviously Budget Ben is suspicious of how much Claire seems to know about the British and their army and how the Scotsmen have been raising money for a rebellion to put the Catholic king back on the throne and woman do you not hear yourself!? You couldn”t sound more like a British spy if you actively TRIED.
Just when my frustration levels reach critical mass, bedlam breaks out. Tweedle Dumb launches himself at the Red Kilts™ and the Scottish breakfast equivalent of a bar fight breaks out. The resulting damage is enough to distract Claire into war nurse mode. She is berating the men when they drop a bomb on her: they were defending her honor. Clan MacKenzie follows the playground code. They can talk shit about her, but no one else can…like siblings. Claire is flabbergasted. They like her. They kind of, maybe like her. The revelation is enough for her to make a dirty joke as the caravan rolls out of town, and thus her hazing period comes to a close.
Just when everything is settling down, suddenly a wild Frank appears. He uses Exposition! It”s super effective! Three years from now – now being 18th century Scotland – on Culloden Moor, over two thousand Scottish rebels will be mowed down by British forces and there is nothing Claire can do to stop it. You know, Frank took her to so many plot relevant places I”m beginning to wonder if didn”t shove her back through time for his own reasons.
We end with Claire washing up at the river. Dougal confronts her about her secrets but before she can be like “I”m from the future. Come with me if you want to live,” the British blacksmith from earlier arrives with his comrades. Great. Now it looks like Claire led Dougal into a trap. Ughhhh. Lt. Jeremy Foster wants to know if our heroine is in the company of Scottish Krampus of her own free will. There is a moment of tension and then…BRICK WALL CLIFFHANGER.
So what did you guys think? Will Claire be able to alter the course of Clan MacKenzie history? Does our Column know what Dougal is up to? How much longer can Claire wait before at least going to first base with Jamie?