Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Outlander” Season 1, Episode 10, “By the Pricking of My Thumbs.”
There’s never a dull moment on Starz’s “Outlander” — no sooner had Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) recovered from their first fight (and Claire’s subsequent spanking) in last week’s episode than our heroine was confronting a jealous Laoghaire (Nell Hudson) over the ill wish she left under Claire and Jamie’s bed, a showdown that only made the entitled young Scotswoman more resentful of her English rival this week.
By the end of Episode 10, Laoghaire had concocted an elaborate and dastardly scheme that resulted in both Claire and her friend Geillis (Lotte Verbeek) being arrested for witchcraft and carted off to Thieves’ Hole to await trial. Even worse — Claire’s husband Jamie was sent away to accompany his uncle Dougal (Graham McTavish) back to his own estate after it emerged that Geillis was pregnant with Dougal’s child (and may have had something to do with the death of her husband and Dougal’s wife, in an attempt to clear a path for the two of them to be together), meaning that Jamie won’t be around to notice Claire’s absence at Castle Leoch.
“The relationship between Geillis and Claire is very complicated, and that’s why I love that we finally then devoted a full episode to it,” Balfe told Variety of this week’s installment. “It was just fantastic, because obviously she’s noticed that Geillis has done something to her husband and that’s not only shocked her, but horrified her, because here is someone that she considered a friend. She knew that there was a wall up between them, and as much as Claire was holding secrets, she knew Geillis was too — but this is bringing it to a whole other level. Claire is a healer — as a doctor you have the Hippocratic Oath, and to see someone take someone’s life, it’s shocking for her and it really rocks the foundation of [their relationship] — ‘Oh my god, can I still be friends with this woman?'”
Despite Claire’s feelings about Geillis’ actions, she still wanted to warn her about Colum’s (Gary Lewis) suspicions regarding Arthur Duncan’s death, a good deed which Balfe describes as “an instinctual thing. She still knows that there’s something about Geillis that she needs… and despite everything, Geillis has been her only friend, so for her to go and warn her, I think she felt like it was her duty. She’s not going to be buddy-buddy with her, but she’s going to give her friend a warning.” Unfortunately, that warning resulted in Claire and Geillis heading towards a potential date with the stake, with Laoghaire determined to remove Claire from Jamie’s life entirely.
Elsewhere in the action-packed hour, we finally met the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow), the patron and protector of Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) who could also hold the key to securing Jamie a royal pardon for the murder he didn’t commit — a pardon that would remove the bounty from his head and allow him to return home to his family estate at Lallybroch.
Knowing of Black Jack’s alliance with the Duke, Claire took the opportunity to blackmail the nobleman into helping Jamie — a dangerous gamble, but a risk that Balfe believed Claire had to take: “She knows that she has this information. She knows that it’s worth something. She’s not 100 percent sure what it is, but she knows, even from seeing Black Jack’s reaction in the room, she’s on to something. She just doesn’t quite understand the full scope of it. I think she feels like she has to do what she can to protect Jamie and help him, and she sees how important this is to him and how important it would be to their life to be able to [go home to Lallybroch]. She also feels guilty that now she’s further put Black Jack on the trail of Jamie. She’s added to the list, so she feels a responsibility to do something to help him.”
Episode 10 also built on the foundation laid down by the midseason return, which followed Jamie’s perspective for the first time. In this week’s installment, we saw Jamie’s storyline diverge from Claire’s more overtly, putting him in the middle of a political battle of wills between his uncles, Colum and Dougal, and their conflicting views on the Jacobite uprising.
“Because we had decided to shift the point of view to Jamie, it gave us an opportunity to go do that. The stuff about the Jacobites and the split in MacKenzie clan was in the book, but because it was told from [Claire’s] point of view you couldn’t spend a lot of time with it,” executive producer Ron Moore explained. “I thought that was fascinating territory and I liked the idea of seeing the conflict between the brothers and talking more about the political situation, because it will continue. The Jacobite rising plays a major part of the story as we go on and it felt good to get back to that to really give in to that aspect of it. The point of view shift just made that possible.”
Heughan relished the chance to see Jamie evolve further, especially as he starts taking a more active role in the political machinations of the show. “Before, he was just a pawn in the whole thing, and then he actually steps up and says, ‘You know, if you do this, here’s a way…’ and he’s not just sitting on the outskirts and not being involved.”
He added, “He’s going on a new journey now — suddenly with the arrival of the Duke of Sandringham in the area, it’s like, ‘Here’s an opportunity for Jamie to have some purpose in his life.’ Obviously until now, until Claire appeared, he had pretty much nothing going on. Now suddenly he’s got responsibility, and he’s also got a chance to build a life for himself and for his family, and that’s what he wants. Suddenly, it’s attainable. And I guess he’s like any guy growing up — eventually you start going, ‘I need to start making choices and decisions,’ and that just leads into the next episodes.”
“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
What did you think of “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”? How do you think Claire and Geillis will escape their latest predicament? Weigh in below.