Thelma & Louise
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Search is an unusually busy episode of Outlander, bursting with a plethora of story and character work that risks along until it reaches that inevitable cliffhanger, but one that this week is indicative not of dread but a cautionary hope. Outlander’s episodes have largely been defined by a singular storyline, perhaps even two at the show’s earlier onset between the modern era and the eighteenth century. Each of the vignettes in tonight’s episode could have structurally been its own episode, but stringing them together through the offscreen presence of Jamie provided for a powerful hour that never seemed to waste a single moment while barreling forward. It’s exactly the kind of episode that is to be expected an episode before the season finale and by not stretching out its stories, it made the urgency so prevalent throughout the hour feel utterly palpable. The Search as an episode whose thematic unity is tied to the central question of the power of love prevailing over everything else. Sure, it can sound corny to do so, but love, whether or not we want to admit it, is one of the most powerful forces within an individual’s life. So much of it in popular culture is represented so poorly that the very idea of addressing love properly in a story has become a joke, an object of cynical scorn. But there’s something unabashedly beautiful about looking into someone’s eyes and feeling that the entirety of life’s joys and happiness lies within them. To see it reflected back, there’s simply no emotional response that is as powerful.
It is the power of that emotional response, whether romantic or not, that drives all of our characters this week. Laura Donnelly commented that her and Claire made a great team that was evocative of Thelma & Louise and that comparison is apt. Ian is hellbent on gathering the townsfolk to go and fight to save Jamie, a suggestion Claire is quick to shoot down with the reality of the Redcoats’s inevitable retribution on Lallybroch. Jenny, never one to give up on a fight, gets ready to go with Claire despite the latter’s consternations that she had just given birth. Quickly they capture a wayward Redcoat, who simply calls them harlots, convinced that these women were going to do him no harm. To say so in front of Claire and Jenny was a mistake, the latter of whom wastes absolutely no time in torturing the man with a burning hot rod from her bayonet. He reveals the piece of information they require and the conversation changes to murdering the man. Claire wants to bandage the man’s feet but Jenny makes the case that if they let the man live,the people of Lallybroch would have to live with the consequences. Murtagh arrives out of the woods, slitting the man’s throat and being done with it. As Claire confesses to Jenny, she wasn’t judging her for advocating that the soldier die. She was afraid to acknowledge that if Murtagh hadn’t come along, she would have murdered the man herself for the sake of love and protection. The two share a look of understanding before Jenny returns to Lallybroch to be with her newborn.
Claire and Murtagh’s journey begins on a lighter note after the news is broken that Jamie had managed to somehow escape his British captors. Their plan is to use Claire’s fame as a healer and Murtagh’s notably less impressive skills at dancing to draw Jamie out. It doesn’t work as much as they had hoped, although Claire’s healing skills were basically a godsend at all of the villages she stopped by. Noting Claire’s sweet signing voice, Murtagh dresses her up in drag with a sweet-ass hat and they travel through the countryside as “The Sassenach,” hoping that the song dear to Jamie’s heart being sung by a Sassenach draws his attention. It isn’t long before a band of Gypsies steal Claire’s song, continuing to sing it despite their leader’s word that they wouldn’t. Murtagh had predicted that they would do so, but Claire lashes out, stinging him with the accusation that he never knew what it felt like to lose someone. As it turns out, he did. He had fallen in love with Jamie and Jenny’s mother, but she had had another suitor. He had never found anyone else that he could love as much as her and as time had gone by, he had grown to think of Jamie as a son. He’s as motivated by love as Claire is. If the Gypsy leader openly double-crossed Claire for the sake of profits, he at least comes back with information about a message of where she and Murtagh could find Jamie.
Instead it’s Dougal MacKenzie, who has always been sort of a question mark, an exceptionally sleazy one at that. As the younger brother in a system that holds all of the rewards and responsibilities for the eldest son, Dougal has always held at least a slight feeling of bitterness towards Collum. The feelings of unrequited sacrifice formed the cruz of that bitterness, with him having children for Collum and the affair with Geillis being fuel that was added to the proverbial fire. His true intentions come more into the light here, with him eyeing the Fraser lands so he can have something of his own. Hence he kept Jamie away from home as deliberately long as possible and spread the rumors of Jenny being pregnant with Captain Randall’s child. Claire is notably disgusted with Dougal, but she strikes a bargain. If Jamie is dead or they are unable to rescue him from his imminent hanging at Wentworth Prison, then Claire would marry Dougal. Notably she doesn’t say anything about Dougal’s ideas of becoming the War Chieftain of Lallybroch, nor does he force the ten men with him to go and aide Claire, either. The men are hesitant to storm an English prison, despite Claire’s accurate pleas that Jamie would do the same for them. Murtagh is disgusted at their cowardice, before a young lad named Willie agrees to go, saying that if he were in prison, Jamie would surely come to his aide. The others, not wanting to upstaged in their manhood by a young lad, volunteer right after him. They ride off through the Scottish Highlands towards Wentworth Prison with Claire leading them, stopping at a hill from where the forbidding fortress could be seen amidst the glum horizon. Claire and her loved ones have pulled heaven and earth together to find her love, but as Murtagh somberly notes, that was the easy part.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Jenny as a child kicking her brothers’ asses and doing the same to a grown Redcoat
+“If you break that seal…”
+“There’s no room for sentiment like that here.”
+“Love forces a person to choose.”
+“You two are natural outlaws.”
+Claire telling Jenny about a famine in two years and how she ought to plant potatoes to have some food and to be safe, she should sell off her productive land for gold now before it’s too late. Jenny was told by Jamie that if Claire made any prophetic statements, she should do exactly as she says and to see her accept that advice before embracing Claire was a great moment.
+“God go with you, Claire. I can leave knowing you’ll do whatever it takes to bring my brother back.”
+The shot of the puppets singing to the tune of the titular Skye Boat song
+“Stop quoting the Bible. It doesn’t suit you.”
+“Your singing is like lighting a beacon on a dark night.”
+The tusks Jenny gave to Claire were Murtagh’s gift to Jamie’s mother
+The beautiful shot of Claire leading Murtagh on the beach
+“What about Geillis?”; “We won’t talk about Geillis today.” WHY NOT?
+“You’re being clever, not wise.”
Title: The Search
Written By: Matthew B. Roberts
Directed By: Metin Hüseyin
Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV, Outlander Online