Ep. Review: Outlander 2.3 “Useful Occupations and Deceptions”

I’m tempted to simply post this photo of Claire’s amazing color here, but, I can’t stop at just one sentence or one image! I’m the queen of too-long-posts! I have a duty to uphold!

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But, SRSLY, this dress and cape?!?! And, this episode aired right around Beyoncé’s Lemonade… and I’m sure (hope) you’ve all at least seen the now iconic images of Beyonce doing her patented strut down the street with a baseball bat (named Hot Sauce) in a dress of the same shade.

I just want them to be like, best friends, and walk down the street together, kicking ass and doing what they do!

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Claire & Bey. Regal as fuck. Know how to work a yellow/gold/mustard/saffron dress.
Victoria and Albert Museum - inspo for costumer via her blog
This dress was included on the costume designer’s blog as one aspect of her inspiration. (It’s on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.)

Anyways!

We start with Claire rocking that lush robe again, and givin’ Jamie some face. Poor Jamie, out all night with prostitutes and the Prince!? Your life is hard! But she’s being fairly chill about it all.

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But Jamie details his to-do list, which is long and varied, but you can already tell Claire wants her own to-do list that is more than simply taking tea or playing cards with ladies.

Again with the dress. I’m just entranced by it!

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I can’t decide what color I’d call this, though. And in terms of natural dyes used in the eighteenth century, I think it could be anything like tumeric, calendula, goldenrod, amaranth, marigold, mustard, or even a dash of saffron, which can range from gold to orangey-red. Anyways.

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Claire goes to play cards with with Louise and Mary Hawkins, but appears painfully bored.

 

At least, until she is tickled by Mary’s despair and worry about sex with French men, and confusion over the process.

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But the important “plot” point for all of this comes when Mary reveals that she is from Seifert, Sussex—which triggers Claire’s memory. Lo and behold, Claire recalls what Frank told her about his lineage, which could be traced back to his several times great-grandmother, one Mary Hawkins, who was the wife of Jonathan (Black Jack) Randall. At this time (in the 1700s), Mary is engaged to some random French dude, but was seen flirting with Jack’s little brother, Alex Randall.

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But, as Claire now realizes, by the 1940s, it somehow turned out that Mary and Alex started the line that led to Frank. This, naturally, is disturbing to her (along with her knowledge from last episode that Jack is still alive).

She returns home, and not in the best of moods. A minor household issue (an as yet un-mended bit of lace) sets her off.

Looking for her maid, she walks in on Suzette and Murtagh getting it on (at which point Suzette, ever aware of her social rank, makes a sort of half-bob/courtesy while naked and riding astride Murtagh, which… respect).

Definitely in a snit now, she sits on her lush velvet couch, like a mo-fo painting, and angrily sews, until Murtagh enters.

 

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Can we also just take a second and admire the set here, fully lit?

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Decadence, be mine!

 

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I’m so enamored of Murtagh, all undone like this. Anyways, they bicker, but she quickly apologizes and explains that she has other issues weighing on her. She finally tells Murtagh that she learned Jack Randall was still alive, and didn’t know whether or not to tell Jamie. Murtagh says that they should keep it to themselves, because they didn’t want to risk Jamie running back to seek vengeance immediately. It’s a nice bonding moment that reminds us of their bond and shared love for Jamie. (She obviously can’t unburden herself about her worry over Frank continued existence in the future.) She concludes by assuring Murtagh that she’ll pick up something for Suzette to prevent any conception.

Meanwhile, Jamie is playing chess at Versailles. As one does. He and Minister Duverney chat and Jamie plants the seeds about politics, chess, and friendship. Jamie asks for a favor, and asks him to tell Prince Charles that the King isn’t inclined to fund Prince Charles’ plan. Jamie acts like he’s still a loyal Jacobite, but a cautious one who doesn’t want to lose lives in a failed rebellion. Blah, blah, blah.

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So, Claire heads out to her new bestie, Master Raymond, to pick up some birth control stuff for Suzette and Murtagh. Before entering the shop, she has a brief run in with Comte, though nothing besides a good glare really happens.

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She confesses to Raymond that she feels bored and lacking purpose, so he suggests that she use her medical knowledge and skills at the local charity hospital. This seems to buoy her emotions.

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Claire immediately convinces Murtagh to accompany her to the hospital, an activity Murtagh warns her will annoy Jamie. Claire continues heedlessly, as she is wont to do.

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And she is wearing a fetching outfit for this charity work!

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The head woman running things, Mother Hildegarde, is skeptical of Claire’s dedication and so sets Claire to emptying bedpans. Feeling thirsty, Claire drinks a little. 

Her ever-present voiceover says, “It was urine, undoubtedly…” Hmm. This feels like something that didn’t need to be explained, right? Like, yes, undoubtedly, this yellowish liquid under the patient’s cot is urine. The more useful information is that this was a real thing.

Evaluating urine has been critical to ancient diagnostic methods (est. 400 BC), with varying degrees of less-than-scientific methods. By the 14th-century, uroscopy (evaluating the color, density, quality, and sediment within urine) was a major and prominent aspect of medieval medicine.

By the mid-1600s, an English physician by name of Thomas Willis noticed that diabetic urine was characterized by a sweet taste. This led to establishing a principle for diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. So, it is valid that Claire would evaluate urine this way, and medically educated individuals would know something about urinalysis and sugar sickness or diabetes.

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But Claire’s commitment, and knowledge, earns her some favor in Mother Hildegarde’s eyes and she gives Claire a more substantial role. We also see Mother Hildegarde using her dog, named Bouton, who helps to sniff out infection. Bril!

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So, cut back to Jamie, Prince Charles, and Minister Duverney, who are all chillin’ at the brothel. Prince Charles surprises Jamie (and Duverney) by announcing that he has already raised most of the necessary funds, and doesn’t need the King of France to do much. Instead, he can offer an alliance with France if the King merely provided the remaining small amount. BPC, ever-astute, misconstrues Jamie’s distress as mere surprise and pleasure.

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Flummoxed by this turn of events, and undoubtedly weary from all of the shenanigans and long nights, Jamie returns home to an empty house. He is less than pleased to learn that Claire and Murtagh are gone. He waits. And waits. And stews.

Claire strides blithely into the room, riding on a cloud of satisfaction for having done all of the gross-sounding medical stuff she did! She has a purpose! She’s tired in a good way!

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After nattering on for a minute, she realizes that Jamie is upset and tries to find out what’s wrong, but Jamie throws what could be called a temper tantrum.

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On the one hand, I tots see why Jamie is annoyed because Claire has a terrible track record for doing whatever she wants, which lead to negative consequences for her and everyone near her. So, like, her headstrong and independent actions can read as selfish.

But, shit, Jamie also sounds like a needy tool because he has been gone from the house, running hither and thither, leaving Claire alone and bored. So, the one time he comes home and needs her, and she’s gone, so he throws a fit.

She tries to soothe him, and he opens up about the real problem—the Prince doesn’t tell him everything and he just got blindsided.

 

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He leaves—again—to go to the brothel and continue brooding. While there, he notices a young pickpocket working the room.

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After chasing him down (and engaging in some charming banter), he offers him a job to continue as a pickpocket, but this time with a specific purpose of spying on the communications of Prince Charles, in the pay of Jamie. Yea for Fergus!!

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Fergus is adorbs, and works his brothel-honed charm on both Suzette and Claire when Jamie brings him home.

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He goes to work, Jamie and Murtgah copy all the letters, but seem frustrated. Finally, they realize that it’s in code, and the code is hidden within a musical score.

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Now they just need someone who can read music! Enter: Mother Hildegarde, Bad Ass. And it’s time for Jamie to eat a little crow and ask for help. (Ma Hilde also confesses that she’s friends with Sebastian Bach, nbd.)

They figure out the code, and the message, and learn that baby boi da Prince has been promised funds from a high ranking Brit, who… drumroll… seems to be the one and only Duke of Sandringham!

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Sandringham appears to be playing all the sides, so that he comes out on top no matter what. After learning this bit of news, and thinking that they should invite Sandringham over, Jamie toasts Claire in an effort to make amends. Claire and Murtagh share a look as Claire keeps her quiet about the Jack Randall news.

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The end! Not my favorite episode thus far, but an interesting look into the persistent marital issues between Claire and Jamie, which feels authentic. And, we meet some fun supporting characters! And we see Claire test urine! And, never forget that gold dress!


P.S.

Here are my favorite Outlander recaps and sites, for your edification and procrastination.

For the longest, most detailed, most descriptive, literally play-by-play, fandom review, check Outlander TV News.  They also have posts after each episode with recaps of interviews, behind-the-scenes-photos, and more goodies for the truly obsessed, yours included.

For Roxane Gay’s recaps with her (bad) feminist bent and tempered appreciation of the show (without having read the books, I believe), check her recaps on Wired. Here’s a few quotes from her recap, to give you a taste (not of urine).

“What does it mean for a woman to be useful? That’s the question Outlander grapples with this week as Claire, having finally settled in France, searches for something to occupy her ample free time… In the end, I’m not sure this episode offers much clarity on what it means for a woman to be useful. But it certainly highlights some of the challenges 18th-century upper-class women were facing—all while blithely overlooking, of course, the needs of their middle- and working-class counterparts. I suppose we can’t fault Outlander too much. History wasn’t made in an episode.”

Then, as I’ve linked to before, there are the funny and insightful recaps from Connie Verzak (who has read the books, so occasionally has asides related to book versus show narrative). She adds some clever captions to the screen caps, and I’ve used a few of them.

There’s also the solid standbys that are posted to Jezebel’s The Muse by Kelly Faircloth.

Finally, I also occasionally check the recaps at Forever Young Adult and Smart Bitches Trash Books, because I read those blogs anyways!

 

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