Claire & Science: 1. Priest & Fanaticism: 0.
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Outlander’s third episode is another solid entry to the Starz drama. This week we see Super Nurse Claire face down a rigid, orthodox priest. Science: 1. Fanaticism: 0. Often people hear the adage of “oh, the old days.” No thank you. The starkness of the reality in 1743 become even more difficult for Claire to navigate. At every turn she comes face to face with deep-rooted superstitions that make her existence in the age that much more difficult. But what Outlander has done better than anything else is the realization of Claire as a character. She commands her own, can hold her liquor, and fuck off the town priest in one episode. In other words, I love her. The Way Out as a title is still very on-point, but in this case it can apply to a plethora of characters who are trying to escape their respective situations. That’s good thematic storytelling.
Plot-wise The Way Out is a getting from Point A to Point B type of episode, which is perfectly fine. But the character moments like the ones I mentioned above are what truly make an episode stand out. At the early going, Claire reveals to Mrs. Fitz that she traveled through time and Mrs. Fitz throws a “Stay away from me, demon!” fit. Thankfully that was a dream sequence that clearly established what pretty much everybody would think of her if she said something along the lines of “Hello! I’m a time traveler.” The bond between Claire and Mrs. Fitz is a charm and I love how it deepens by the episode’s end. The other prominent female relationship in the series is between two fellow healers, Claire and Geillis. A lesser series would have them both ripping each other’s throats out in rivalry but Outlander is far too smart for that to occur. They develop an intense, intriguing friendship and I can’t wait for more of it to play out. The scene where a boy is going to be punished for stealing a loaf of bread is a great one that might have been cut out if the series was less than a lengthy 16 episodes. The village priest is considering removing the boy’s hand, but Claire is aghast at this barbaric display of cruelty. Geillis turns on her charm and convinces a village official to have the boy nailed to the pillory instead – better than amputation, she reasons. The boy is nailed and Claire faints as he tries to pull himself off of the nail by the ear. But before she faints at this barbarism, she convinces Jamie to remove the nail himself. Geillis watches this display and smiles. Some might say that it is odd for a war nurse like Claire to faint here, but hey, we’re all human and the mere thought of a young child having to pull himself off a nail by his own ear is enough to induce vomiting and or fainting.
On the romance front, there has never been more sexual tension in a scene that revolves around itching bandages. The young girl that Jamie saved from a beating has a huge crush on him, which I’m sure has to do with his looks and how he took her punishment. She’s sullen when he pays more attention to Claire than her (Oh honey, we’ve all been there, trust me). And then later she’s making out with him, something that doesn’t go over well with everyone. But the scene where he requests Claire look over his bandage just is brimming with sexuality and it’s handled in a brilliantly mature fashion. But before we get too into Jamie + Claire, the episode opens with a flashback to Frank dropping Claire off at the train station so she can go to the front of the war. He mentions the reversal of roles and how it makes him feel guilty, but Claire assures him with “Welcome to the twentieth century” and promises to return to him.
The crux of the climax arrives when Mrs. Fitz’s nephew becomes sick by eating a poisonous leaf that is easily confused with a benign one. But no one knows that and they just assume that he’s been possessed. Claire stubbornly seeks him out, sure that it’s nothing of the sort and that there has to be a medical reasoning behind the sickness. The priest vehemently blocks her. Threatened by the potential loss to his own power, he shouts that he would never take orders from a woman. Mrs. Fitz in her awesome power moment refuses to bow down, taking Claire’s side and thundering that this roof belonged to her family, not the priest. Claire con cots an antidote and the boy is cured. Mrs. Fitz tearfully hugs her and dubs Claire “The Miracle Worker” according to Jamie. It’s powerful and sweet.
The ending is a shocker, even if the beautiful song by the Gaelic musician is a little too-on-the-nose. But the script is fantastic and the direction is as always tremendously reliable. The framing of the shots in Mrs. Fitz’s house are tense, showing the priest’s height as an initial advantage but belittling him in the very next shot. Scotland I swear grows more gorgeous by the day and it’s absolutely wonderful to be mesmerized in this world to such an extent. As the third episode’s credits rolled, I recalled a great line of Claire’s (outside of her “Fuck you” response to the priest telling her that “I smell the vapors of hell on you”) when Geillis asks her if superstitions were that different where she came from. “In that regard, I suppose not,” she replied solemnly, a not of sorrow in her voice. It’s a great moment and a telling one. In some regards, we really haven’t made as much progress as we like to think we have.
Episode Title: The Way Out
Writer: Anne Kelley
Director: Brian Kelley
Image Courtesy: Zap 2 It, Outlander TV News, Seat 42F, Outlander TV Show