Outlander: ‘Crème de Menthe’

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(Original post at The National Student)

It’s back to reality in Crème de Menthe, as Claire discovers the true dangers of Jamie’s illicit activities.

When we left Claire last week, she was struggling to fight off a potential rapist who broke into the brothel to find Jamie’s ledgers. Claire draws a knife on her attacker, but before she can use it, the man trips and hits his head against the stoop of the fireplace.

Jamie arrives to find the thug’s unconscious body, and is astonished that Claire wants to save the life of her assailant. It may be ill-advised, but there’s something admirable in the way she sticks to her Hippocratic oath.

The mysterious trespasser turns out to be the employee of Sir Percival, the snooty English nobleman we met last week. In exchange for a generous cut of the profits, Sir Percival has been turning a blind eye to Jamie’s smuggling. He suspects (quite rightly) that Jamie has been withholding some dividends.

Jamie warns Claire that if her assailant survives, she could be charged with assault. Stubborn as she is, Claire prepares for surgery anyway, earning the reproach of Jamie’s colleagues.

Drilling a hole in the skull of her attempted rapist is just another day at the office for Claire Randall, M.D.

Fergus and Young Ian are tasked with selling off the casks of alcohol from the brothel’s basement. The two young men manage to get a reasonable price for the smuggled goods. Meanwhile, Claire goes to the apothecary for the surgical materials she needs, jumping the queue in exchange for a promise to heal a miserly customer’s sister.

Whilst surgery gets underway, Sir Percival arrives at the brothel and demands it is searched. Despite a brief moment of lucidity from the injured intruder, Sir Percival and his men leave without evidence of the smuggling operation.

Despite her best efforts, Claire’s patient dies on the operating table, leaving her crestfallen but out of immediate danger. True to her word, Claire visits the sister of the apothecary customer, who is clearly suffering from an undiagnosed mental disorder.

The scene feels clunky and slow after the action at the brothel, but thankfully the antics of Edinburgh’s finest sales duo are a lot more entertaining. Aided by Fergus’s advice, Young Ian successfully seduces a young barmaid and takes her back to the print shop.

Whilst Young Ian attempts to lose his virginity, his father arrives at the brothel in search of his missing son. Jamie lies to Ian about his son’s involvement in the smuggling, prompting a furious Claire to call him out on his behaviour.

Their discussion quickly becomes an argument about parenting. Claire insists that Jamie doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a worried parent. Furious, Jamie lashes out at Claire’s parenting decisions and questions the nature of her relationship with Frank.

If Crème de Menthe highlights anything, it’s the widening gap between Claire’s and Jamie’s worldviews.

In the twenty years since he last saw Claire, Jamie has become the kind of morally dubious person who’ll dump a body in a cask of crème de menthe and sell it on without remorse.

From the fate of Claire’s attacker to Jamie’s newfound dishonesty, the couple are butting heads more than ever before. Claire’s twentieth century ideals are thoroughly at odds with the pragmatic man Jamie has become in her absence. The romantic, dreamy tone of last week’s episode is pretty much eviscerated by the argument, and their fight is interrupted by some even worse news.

Whilst the Frasers have been bickering, Sir Percival’s henchman has broken into the print shop in search of Jamie’s ledgers. After he discovers Jamie’s seditious pamphlets, the intruder sets the shop ablaze, trapping Young Ian inside.

Jamie and Claire hurry to the shop, which has been almost completely engulfed in flames by the time they arrive. In full hero mode, Jamie rushes in to save his nephew from the fire, and salvages his portrait of Willie in the process. Outside the smouldering remains of the print shop, Young Ian breaks the news to Jamie that his seditious material has been discovered.

Unable to remain in Edinburgh, Jamie and Claire resolve to take Young Ian back to his parents before they blow this popsicle stand.

In a plot-heavy episode that’s mostly concerned with Jamie’s many secrets, there’s still time for one more bombshell. Fergus pulls Jamie aside and finally reveals what Jamie’s been keeping from Claire: his other wife. It’s not unreasonable for Jamie to have remarried, but it’s definitely the sort of thing that you bring up when your time-traveller wife returns from the grave.

Crème de Menthe is packed full of action, perhaps slightly too much so. Although it effectively conveys the distance between Jamie and Claire, the episode throws so many events at the viewer that their significance can feel diminished.

I’m sure that the reveal of Jamie’s other wife will showcase some great performances, but the Outlander writers should avoid relying too heavily on relationship drama. Jamie and Claire are most compelling when they’re facing threats together, rather than fighting amongst themselves. With a possible sedition charge hanging over the couple’s heads, they need each other more than ever before.

Outlander: Season 3 is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes arriving weekly.

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